I had a great idea for this post before I started to actually write it up. It’s a popular saying that “women should train like men” for the best results in the weight room. However, women’s strength training shouldn’t necessarily mimic the training of men.
Allow me to explain: there’s only one problem with the statement that women should train like men: most men don’t “train like men.”
In commercial gyms everywhere most men do exercises that aren’t the most beneficial for their physique, health, or goals. For example, if men actually train their legs they use the leg press, leg extension, leg curl, and even the inner and outer thigh machines.
(The strength coaches/trainers I know wouldn’t be caught dead training themselves or their athletes/clients on an inner or outer thigh machine).
Men also use a lot of machines, do tons of bicep curls, lots of weighted sit-ups and side bends, and always make sure there is ample time for the bench press. Furthermore, most men in gyms hardly train their backs, except for the occasional set of lat pull-downs and seated rows.
So, for the most part, most men don’t train properly. They don’t use efficient or challenging exercises, their training is horribly unbalanced (constantly working chest and biceps) and their posterior chain (low back, glutes, and hamstrings) is very neglected. This is not the type of training I would encourage a woman to follow.
The saying should go like this instead: women should train like athletes.
Athletes train to improve their performance. Developing a body with low body fat and a great aesthetic appearance are usually just a great side effect.
Athletes use challenging exercises that help develop a balanced, healthy body. You won’t catch a smart athlete doing nothing but bench presses and barbell curls for their upper body.
So what does this mean? It means that in the weight room women should do the following exercises and their variations:
- Deadlifts (sumo, conventional, trap bar, from a deficit, etc)
- Squats (bodyweight, dumbbell, or barbell—do not use a Smith machine . . . ever)
- Dumbbell/barbell chest presses
- Rows (bodyweight, dumbbell, barbell, cable)
- Overhead presses
- Parallel bar dips
- Planks, ab wheel rollout and other core stabilizers
Those exercises will give you the “biggest bang for your buck.” If you only used the exercises on that list for the rest of your training career, you would build a much better body than the average gym rat, and in much less time.
For the most part, stay off the damn machines. You will build a sexier pair of legs with squats, deadlifts, and lunges than you ever could with leg extensions/curls, and inner/outer thigh machines. Furthermore, those exercises will also make you more balanced, healthy, and provide carry-over into the real world.
Other than that, add in a couple sessions of hill sprints each week and you’re good to go.
So there you have it: train like an athlete.