The difference between men and women – Part 2: how to train?

In the first part of the article, we saw that men and women are different in several ways thanks to hormones, but also more surprisingly by the socio-historical context. However, in terms of muscle hypertrophy capacity and strength, the gender gap is smaller. However, you cannot schedule the same type of training for women as for men.

The training frequency

Estrogens, present in large quantities in women, help muscle recovery: women need about 24 hours of recovery between each workout for a given muscle group, when men need at least 48 hours. They also have better resistance to neuromuscular fatigue and metabolic stress. In other words, it is possible to train each muscle group more regularly. This is why split training (programming that separates muscle groups between each session, for example Monday: pecs / arms, Wednesday: shoulders / quadriceps, Thursday: back / abs, Saturday: ischios / back of shoulders) is not the most efficient type of programming. A woman who can train each muscle more regularly without hindering their recovery between sessions can perform fullbody (each group is trained per session), or halfbody (several possible distributions, for example alternating between lower body day and upper body day , or between pull day (back, biceps, hamstrings) and press day (pecs, triceps, shoulders, quads))

Examples of distributions:

► Fullbody

  • Monday: Fullbody session 1
  • Tuesday: Fullbody session 2
  • Wednesday: Break
  • Thursday: Fullbody session 1
  • Friday: Fullbody session 2
  • Saturday: break
  • Sunday: break


  • Monday: Fullbody session 1
  • Tuesday: Fullbody session 2
  • Wednesday: Fullbody session 3
  • Thursday: Break
  • Friday: Fullbody session 1
  • Saturday: Fullbody session 2
  • Sunday: Fullbody session 3

► Halfbody

  • Monday: Lower body
  • Tuesday: Upper body
  • Wednesday: Break
  • Thursday: Lower body
  • Friday: Upper body
  • Saturday: Break
  • Sunday: Break


  • Monday: Sweater (draw)
  • Tuesday: Push (press)
  • Wednesday: break
  • Thursday: Sweater
  • Friday: Push
  • Saturday: break
  • Sunday: break

Of course, these are examples, lots of other distributions are possible.

The fact of training in fullbody or in halfbody makes it possible to increase the volume of training over the week, thus to make each muscle work more intensely, therefore to optimize its results. Being able to recover faster is therefore very useful!

Indeed, it is easier to do 12 sets for the quadriceps in 3 days a week (so 3 × 4), than to do them in one session per week. If you had to do 12 sets for a single muscle group at once, you will be exhausted much faster, which will result in reduced performance, mental fatigue, more recovery time … while only performing 4 sets per muscle group per session, you will always be operational until the end of the sets to be performed, which will optimize muscle growth because recovery and performance will be better. And yet on the total for the week, we will have performed the same volume!

However: the more experience we have, the faster our recovery will be; on the contrary, beginners need more recovery time. Including for women, it is a good idea, when starting weight training, to do split workouts.

Another parameter to take into account: if you really don’t like fullbody and halfbody, it is still better, regardless of level, to practice in split. Indeed, what counts above all is the regularity and the constancy of the efforts. If you don’t like a program, you may quickly drop it, reducing your chances of progress to zero.

Training volume

Not only can women train more regularly than men, but they also support a higher training volume, which translates into the ability to perform more sets per muscle group than men: generally 2 to 4 more sets per muscle group per week.

The repetitions forks

Women generally have more type I fibers (slow fibers) which respond better to endurance training. As part of weight training, it is best to train in higher rep ranges than men (up to 30 reps per set for hypertrophy is possible). This should not of course justify the use of ultra light loads. If the program indicates a set of 20 reps, the last reps should be close to failure (note, however, that training to fail for both men and women is not recommended. We recommend 1 instead. or 2 repetitions of reserves (RIR), in other words it would be possible to perform 22 repetitions before failure in the example given here, but it will be necessary to stop at 20. Pushing each set to failure has no benefit extra, wears down the nervous system and decreases performance on the following series, which is totally counterproductive).

Since women are naturally more enduring, they are able to perform a higher number of reps than men with a heavy load. To set the optimum rep range, it is often sufficient to simply perform the maximum number of reps (within a few reps of failure) with a weight percentage between 60% to 85% of 1RM (1RM = maximum weight for one repetition). on a given exercise). For beginners, it will rather be around 60%, for the more advanced it will be between 70 and 85% depending on the type of exercise (85% will be more for polyarticular exercises). Typically, this looks like a range of 10 to 20 reps.


Women have better lipid metabolism (easily burn fatty acids for energy), so they can handle high fat diets better than men. At the same time, women can more easily develop carbohydrate intolerance, and they store carbohydrates less easily in the form of muscle glycogen (in return, they spare more muscle glycogen and proteins). This does not justify systematically switching to a low carb or ketogenic diet, as carbohydrates are important for many metabolic functions; it is best to increase carbohydrate tolerance when it is low, which will have positive effects on metabolic rate and thyroid function. The fact remains that women can get by with higher lipid: carbohydrate ratios than men, which is beneficial to them on the hormonal level (more estrogen, IGF-1 and testosterone). ). In addition, lipids are more satiating in women than men.

Menstrual cycle

To put it simply, it is possible for women with a natural menstrual cycle (I mean without hormonal contraception) to increase the number of sets per muscle group during the follicular phase (between menstruation and ovulation, otherwise said, the first about 14 days after the start of your period), for example one set per exercise. In fact, during this period characterized by higher estrogen and testosterone levels, recovery and hypertrophy capacities are increased, which means better volume tolerance. In addition, it has been shown that for the same volume of training, women gain more muscle and strength during the follicular phase than the luteal phase (between ovulation and menstruation). As the strength, hypertrophy and recovery capacities are therefore higher during the follicular phase, you might as well optimize your training according to your cycle!


Finally, I add to all this that estrogen allows better flexibility because it makes the tendons and ligaments more lax (which is very useful during childbirth). This greatly reduces the risk of injury due to over-stretching when performing an exercise (for example when the bar is on the torso during the bench press). Be careful though, this is no reason to seek excessive stretching that could still cause your muscles to tear. In addition, it is not wise to do a stretching session after a weight training session: the muscles being shortened by the muscle contraction induced by the exercise, a stretch at this time is more likely to result in a stretch. tear that outside of workouts. If you want to improve your flexibility, do it at least a few hours later.

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