Q: I’ve got a female workout partner and I’m wondering if there’s anything wrong with the two of us doing the exact same program. We both want to put on muscle while stripping fat, so there shouldn’t be a problem right?
A: Your right on track with a female workout partner – it’s a great psychological motivator. As far as doing the same routine goes, there are really no gender specific programs or weight training exercises that are better for one or other of the sexes. Our muscles are made the same and will, therefore, respond, similarly to the same exercise stimulus. Of course, there are a lot of hormonal differences that will affect the outcomes of training but muscularly we are alike.
The different changes that take place at puberty between the sexes will have an impact on how we train. Girls will experience widening of hips, breast development and fat layering around the hips and thighs whereas boys will develop more muscle mass and bone density during puberty, they will get taller, their chests will widen and their fat will tend to store on the abdominals and back.
The adult male is normally about 40% muscle mass as opposed to 24% for the average female. This is a result primarily of higher production of testosterone in males. It’s interesting to note, however, that females are, in relative terms, as strong as men in the lower body. Upper body strength, though, favors men. Women are more prone to orthopedic and postural injury due to the fact that their pelvis is wider than that of a man. This has implications for exercises, like the squat, that involve flexion at the knee. A woman may find the relatively narrow stance that a man uses quite uncomfortable and difficult. She should typically use a wider squat stance and make sure that the knee is tracking over the second largest toe during the upward push. A woman will also want to avoid heavy squats or other basic movements during her menstrual cycle. This is because the hormone relaxant has a tendency to cause joint laxity.
Another thing to be aware of is that women who regularly wear high-healed shoes may have developed an exaggerated inward curve of the spine. This may predispose her to injury if following the same back routine as a man and certain corrective movements (i.e. hyperextensions) may need to be added.
Take the above considerations into account and, where appropriate make adjustment and allowance for them in your program and the two of you can happily sweat together.
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