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We all know that men and women are quite different and so in the past, trainers often treated men and women very differently when it came to designing and implementing custom exercise programs for each gender. Nowadays, the wealth of research has created a consensus amongst the most experienced elite coaches.  These elite coaches know that women and men should train using the same basic practices.  Both men and women can deadlift, box jump, sprint, and even press.  As such, both genders will benefit in very similar ways.

Although this has held true – it is important  to note some key differences when it comes to the way that women and men respond to exercise.  Understanding these key differences will impact the results that each gender will experience.

Fat Storage:

Men and women store fat differently.  Men store more visceral fat (the fat around organs), and women store more subcutaneous fat (fat near the surface and just below the skin).  Due to this, it is not uncommon for men to start to look leaner than women when training in similar ways. Women may need to add in some more targeted training and nutrition to tap into excess fat (particularly in the lower body area, as that is where women hold onto more of it)

Equal Strength Potential:

Although men generally have more total muscle mass than women do, their strength per cross-section of muscle is the same.  As such, women can increase their weights in the same proportion that men can.

HIIT:

High Intensity Interval Training is without a doubt one of the most efficient means of burning fat, but research shows that men rely on anaerobic pathways for energy production, whereas women rely on aerobic pathways.  As such, women should practice longer work intervals when sprinting (avg. of 1 min. longer) with a  2:1 work-to-rest ratio.

Fat Loss: 

It has been shown that women use more glucose during rest, and then fat loss increases during exercise.  As such, women use less glycogen during exercise than men do, which in-turn means that women typically do not need as much glycogen replenishment as men do post-training.

Women have also been found to not respond as well to low-calorie diets when it comes to losing fat when compared to men.  It has been hypothesized that this is because women release more stress hormones when they are operating at a calorie deficit.  As such, women respond best to fat-loss when hen they engage in exercise geared at increasing muscle mass due to the fact that it will significantly increase their metabolic rate.

Metabolic Health:

Women tend to have about 70 percent of muscle mass and double the bodyfat that men have – BUT women have better glucose tolerance.  As such, their metabolism typically works more efficiently at rest compared to men and this has to be taken into account when monitoring results.

Power:

Men were found to jump 11 percent higher than women as they are better able to use the stretch-shortening cycle that is involved in jumping with power.  Researchers, however, still recommend that women combine strength and plyometric exercises to maximize force output.  In addition, women (like men) can improve their force output significantly with continual work.

In summary, men and women can and should train in similar ways.  Their results are also very similar when they do – however it is very important to note that when looking at research it is best to not heed advice from studies conducted on men and assume that the exact same results will be seen in women.  Women respond differently to caloric intake, and their body composition in terms of muscle and fat is quite different than men, so these differences have to be taken into account.  Takeaways from studies on men should be applied to men, and takeaways from studies on women should be applied to women.  With this approach, it is easy to see that men and women both respond favourably to similar training and diet methods, but there are key differences that have to be accounted for.

Source: 

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Blaak, Ellen. Gender Differences in Fat Metabolism. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2001. 4: 499-502.

Chimera, N., Manal, K. Sex Differences in Soleus Strength May Predispose Middle Age Women to Falls. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013. 27(9): 2596-2602.

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Edwen, C., et al. Stretch-Shortening Cycle Muscle Power in Women and Men Aged 18-81 Years: Influence of Age and Gender. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2013. Published Ahead of Print.

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Laffaye, G., et al. Countermovement Jump Height: Gender and Sport-Specific Differences in the Force-Time Variables. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013. Published Ahead of Print.

Laurent, M., et al. Sex Specific Responses to Self-Paced, High-Intensity Interval Training with Variable Recovery Periods. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013. Published Ahead of Print.

Lewis, D., et al. Physiological Differences Between Genders. Implications for Sports Conditioning. Sports Medicine. 1986. 3(5): 357-369.

Ratamess, N., et al. The Effects of Rest Interval Length Manipulation of the First Upper-Body Resistance Exercise in Sequence on Acute Performance of Subsequent Exercises in Men and Women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. 26(11): 2929-2938.

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