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The easy answer is HELL YES. Women and men should train the same for fat loss. BUT this is a very broad answer and something that we need to dive in to in order to explain why men and women shouldn’t be training that much differently at all. Many women are very very intimidated by the idea of training with weights. They’re afraid of being too bulky from building muscle. I’ve said before that it is VERY tough to do this because women don’t have the testosterone in their body to build the kind of muscle a male can. So, how do women get bulky?
- They’re eating in big a calorie surplus
- They’re taking anabolic steroids
Both of these things cause women to gain muscle (and fat if in a large enough calorie surplus) and give them a look that they may not be in the market for. Not to say that this is wrong either. I know plenty of women who love being bigger and stronger than other women and this is AWESOME too!
But just because you are strength training doesn’t mean you are going to get “bulky” and lose your hourglass figure. So, what is the answer for women trying to get toned and lean versus big and bulky? What exercises should they be doing? Do I have to lift in the gym 6-7 days per week?
The answer can be slightly different for everyone based on experience, goals, lifestyle etc. But generally speaking, women should be training like the guys do in order to lose body fat. Yes, lifting weights. Challenging weights. Not just the pink dumbbells. Instagram/Magazines have popularized High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for women as the best way to get toned. HIIT has its place for fat loss, but it SHOULD NOT be the only thing you rely on if you want consistent fat loss and a lean toned physique year-round (check out my post about HIIT HERE). Two things we know about traditional strength training (these go for men and women):
- It builds muscle. The signal you send to your body when you train with weights is an anabolic signal. When you break muscle tissue down, protein synthesis increases to repair those muscles making them bigger and stronger over time.
- It speeds the metabolism. How? The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn at rest. Muscle is an expensive tissue that your body has to work hard to keep on.
Again, although you will build muscle as a female by lifting weights, you don’t have the genetic makeup of a man (women have less testosterone) that will make you appear “bulky” unless you’re eating in a large enough calorie surplus and/or taking anabolic steroids.
I know. Training like the guys can sound scary. But I invite you to trust me (and the many other great coaches/trainers) on this and apply some of these training principles to help you lose more body fat. Most women are either doing HIIT training for the majority of their exercise or low intensity cardio on machines like treadmills, bikes, elliptical etc. If you read my post about HIIT, you can see the negative side of HIIT. You can also see the positive. Typically, most of my clients do 1-2 days of HIIT weekly for 15-20 mins. NOT 5-7x per week. The issue with doing only low intensity machine cardio is that you are not stimulating muscle growth (remember this is imperative for calorie burn and fat loss over time). Do these forms of cardio burn the most calories? Sure. BUT this is an acute way to burn calories. Strength training burns more calories OVER TIME.
What should be your main emphasis instead is strength training 2-4x per week, and doing 1-2 days of HIIT (again, check out my HIIT post to see the benefits of doing this properly). This means 2-4x per week you are squatting, deadlifting, rowing, pressing etc. and trying to get progressively STRONGERon these exercises. This will impact your body’s metabolism and hormonal system like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Total body training on a 3 day per week split is by farmy favorite split to use for fat loss in men and women. With women in particular it’s the best because what do women want most (besides toned arms)? Toned legs and a firm butt! By performing these big lifts like heavy squats and deadlifts 3x per week, you send a consistent signal to grow these muscles. These are also the biggest muscles on your body so you will burn more calories in the long haul. You can also add in more volume (exercises, sets, reps) for leg exercises and less for upper body if your goal is to specifically have better looking legs/butt. Strength training is also incredible for women as they age. As women get older, their bones tend to become weaker (osteoporosis is more prevalent in women) and you become susceptible to being injured doing daily activities. Strength training actually strengthens your bones as well making this less likely to be an issue as you age.
Remember, everyone is different and has different goals. Men’s body’s and women’s bodies are different. Women have to bear children, so they have naturally wider hips/pelvis. This could mean that you have to change exercises slightly to better fit your frame. And like I said before, most women want toned legs and a firm butt. This might mean that ladies do more lower body training, and less upper body training than their male counterparts.
Here are the big take home points:
-Men and women should train the same for fat loss.
-You will not get bulky from strength training, unless you’re eating too many calories or taking steroids (Fill out THIS FORM to find out how many calories YOU should be consuming for fat loss).
-Your emphasis should be strength training 2-4 days per week, and 1-2 days of HIIT for optimal fat loss results over time.
-Strength training also strengthens your bones. Meaning you put yourself in position to live a longer, higher quality life.
-Men and women have different goals. This is perfectly fine. Most guys want big arms and chest. Your girlfriend probably doesn’t. It would benefit women (and men) to train lower body with more frequency and volume for fat loss.
-LASTLY, the most important point of all, if you’re confused or need help with ANY of this, HIRE A COACH!A coach can provide an individualized training program based on your goals/needs/lifestyle. If you’re interested in making the world’s best investment in your health/fitness/wellness, fill out my online coaching application HERE.