One of the biggest changes in modern gym use over the last few years has been the increase in strength training by females. Whereas as a few years ago you’d only see one or two of the more hardcore females in the weights room, you’ll now see many more.
We’re at a point now where the benefits of lean muscle tissue for females are no longer secret, and this has led to more women deciding to pick heavy things up in their spare time. This has led to many females seeing improvements in their athleticism, aesthetics, and health.
With the increase in female lifters though brings about new considerations – is gender-specific exercise programming an irrelevance, or are there specific physiological differences that we need to bear in mind when training a female client?
In this article, I want to outline what I consider to be some of the main differences in exercise prescription between genders and why you need to consider them when developing and progressing exercise programing. If you don’t already adapt your exercise programs based on gender then this article will be of use to you.
Up until puberty, there aren’t really any physical difference between genders other than girls are slightly shorter at all ages until the onset of puberty. Until then, both genders are equally as strong, fast and exhibit similarly competent motor patterns. However, during adolescence and from the onset of adulthood we start to see differences in shape, mass and tissue distribution.
On average, grown males can be up to 30 lbs heavier and carry much more fat free mass – around 30 or 40 lbs. This means that males tend to be more muscular. They also have a structurally denser skeleton with higher bone mineral integrity.
They also carry less relative adipose tissue (similar absolute amounts, just distributed throughout taller, broader frame) meaning that total body fat percentages are typically higher in females. Even in elite athlete populations, men tend to have lower body fat percentages on a sport-by-sport basis.