Popular opinion outside strength training circles would say yes. Most people would wonder why would a woman train the same as a man, when she doesn’t want to have the muscles of a man.
Because of the physiological difference between the two genders, females will not build as much muscle as men even though they are training the same. Women have 10 times less testosterone than men and it is this hormone that causes men to bulk up. And add in the fact that women build muscle at half the rate of men and it is easy to see women have nothing to worry about strength training the same as men.
Men and women have very different goals in most cases; men want to get big muscles and that inverted “V” look while most women prefer to get toned and shapely. However, both goals are achieved by building muscle and to do that, it takes lifting heavy weight and recovering adequately.
Lifting 5 to 10 pound dumbbells 20 times per set and doing set after set, after … well you get the picture, doesn’t build muscle. This kind of training does have its place in that it builds endurance, but if a woman’s goal is to get toned and shapely, this is not the training method to get there. It takes an entirely different amount of effort and muscle to lift a weight 20 times per set for two or more sets then it does a significantly heavier weight 3 to 6 times to failure (unable to lift one more time).
So just what should a training program look like? Basically exercises that work the abs and target the hamstrings, gluteal and low back using compound muscle exercises. Three good examples of these are lunges, deadlifts and bench presses – all done using weights. These exercises work both the upper and lower body.
Because of muscle distribution differences between men and women, the later may have to tailor their strength training program to include more isolation exercises that target specific muscles, especially the upper body. Pressing movements using heavy dumbbells tend to do a good job of isolating the shoulders. Typically, women have smaller muscles upper body and larger lower body; muscle structure in men seems to be more equally divided.
As far as basic training principles, women train the same as men. However, a women’s strength training program will have to be slightly tailored to make up the difference in muscle distribution. Now go lift to your heart’s content to get the sexy lean body others only dream about!