I can’t help but notice when I enter the gym, that the cardio section is primarily filled with women, and the men occupy the majority of the weight room. From the outside looking in, it may seem as though there is a fundamental difference in the way men and women should be training. This; however, is not the case. When it comes to cardiovascular exercise or strength training, both men and women can benefit substantially. According to certified personal trainer, Danielle Vindez, “Training, no matter the sex, has to do with the goal and present physical condition.”
Many women believe the myth that lifting heavy weights will result in a “bulky” or “manly” appearance. The truth is, women do not have the levels of testosterone men do, and thus cannot “bulk up” without the help of steroids and years of serious dedication. This fundamental difference in hormones makes it easier for men to put more muscle on their frame. Vindez explains, “Because men have more circulating testosterone and women have more estrogen availability, the results of training can be different, with men building greater muscle mass and bone density.”
Both men and women can benefit from compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and pressing movements such as those done on a flat bench or incline. Both sexes will also see results using more isolated exercises such as curl variations, pushdowns, and kickbacks (to name a few). Compound exercises like weighted squats and deadlifts burn more calories than almost any other move. Vindez states that although differences in hormones influence men and women’s size, “Essentially the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments respond similarly to the stress of exercise. Cells in both males and females adapt to ‘overload’ by getting stronger.”
Just as there are no limitations with resistance training based on an individual’s sex, both men and women can perform cardiovascular exercise as well. Vindez explains that a person’s health history, exercise history, injuries and personal desire contribute more to limitations on cardiovascular exercise than sex. She notes that cardiovascular exercise can promote heart and circulatory health and mood enhancing benefits for everyone.
As with any exercise program, it is advisable to check with a healthcare provider first. Vindez advises individuals recovering from an injury be cautious about starting an exercise program until having discussed it with a doctor. According to Vindez, “In general, apparently healthy individuals can perform resistance training without fear of injury, assuming proper technique and progression is followed.”
As you can see, there are distinct differences in hormones between men and women affecting their physiques and performance. Resistance training, like weight lifting, can help men develop more musculature and women “tone up”. Both men and women can significantly benefit from a resistance-training program. Vindez contends, “Resistance training slows down decay by stimulating growth, do it regularly, do it properly, and stay vital.”