9 Reasons why women should not train like men

Since my article on the natural muscular potential of women went viral with over ten thousand Likes and shares across social media, my inbox has been flooded with the question “How should women train and diet?” Here’s the answer.


But first, to put many of the differences between men and women in context, it helps to understand the evolution of gender differences. Throughout evolution, a classical division of labor between men and women has existed. While this may bring to mind a stereotype of women as inactive, just-stay-at-home mothers with no physical prowess, this is completely unjustified. The activities of hunter-gatherer women would in our modern times be seen as heavy manual labor. To quote a review on this topic:


“…walking sometimes for hours to find, retrieve, and carry home items such as food, water, and wood. Women would also help to carry butchered game back to camp. These foraging efforts often demanded digging, climbing, bending, and stretching and frequently involved carrying heavy loads back to camp.
In addition, these hunter-gatherer women often had to carry their children for long distances. The average forager-mother carried her child until he or she was about 4 years, covering upwards of 3,000 miles with the child in her arms or on her back during this interval of time.
Other routine female responsibilities included shelter construction and butchering.”


The more endurance type tasks women did for millions of years resulted in significant differences in what the genders are best adapted to. Here’s how you use these differences to your advantage.


Female fitness model


1. Women don’t need as many carbs

Women burn more fat, less carbohydrate and less protein than men at the same exercise intensity. They also don’t store as much glycogen during carb refeeds (because they don’t need it).


Both differences in the nervous system and the hormonal system, including estrogen, are responsible for women’s lesser reliance on glycogen. For example, the fight-or-flight hormone adrenalin burns more fat in women than men. A more obvious is explanation is that women simply have a considerably higher fat percentage, not only on their body but also within their muscles, so it makes sense to use this as the primary energy source.


Basically, women have a glycogen and protein sparing metabolism. This means women don’t need as much carbohydrate or protein in their diet as men to fuel their exercise sessions.


The lesser need for carbohydrates frees up calories to consume as fat. Fats have very positive effects on the hormonal and cardiovascular health of women. In general, the more fat women eat, the more estrogen and testosterone they produce. Testosterone and estrogen are both anabolic hormones, in spite of the broscience you often hear about estrogen.


Low fat diets even reduce breast size, in part likely due to the low sex hormone production, since estradiol and IGF-1 levels are significantly correlated with breast size in women that aren’t on the pill for birth control.


Some research also finds that women find that dietary fat is 15% more satiating in women than in men.


Andreia Brazier


Women also have less to fear from potential negative effects of a low carb, high fat diet (which are already rare, but I’ll save that for another article). Fats don’t decrease insulin sensitivity as much in women as in men. Estrogen plays a large role here. It helps to keep inflammation in check, burn fat and preserve insulin sensitivity. Lower inflammation means polyunsaturated fats in particular are less susceptible to being oxidized, so they can exert their anabolic effects. Women in general have much better metabolic health than men and have a healthier body fat distribution.


By the way, if you’re worried about breast cancer, the relation between fat intake and breast cancer risk is found in poor epidemiological studies of inactive, overweight women eating processed junk fats, like processed red meats. Even then the relation is weak and controversial. Fats like olive oil actually seem to protect you from cancer. If you’re lean, you don’t smoke, don’t go binge drinking too often, eat a healthy diet and you exercise, research has found time and again and again and again that you have nothing to fear.


Back on topic, several studies have found that women with polycstic ovary syndrome lose more fat and less muscle on a low carb diet compared to a low fat diet, even when protein and energy intake are tightly controlled. Several studies by Jeff Volek et al. have found similar results in overweight and healthy women, but these studies were confounded by more protein in the low carb diets. Soon-to-be-published research found that women with more fat in their diet burn more calories during exercise, have higher bench press strength and are leaner. In my experience with my female clients, the benefits of fats vs. carbs depend on the woman’s carb tolerance. However, I can say with confidence that the popular very high carb, almost zero fat diets are a very bad idea for most women.


Jamie Eason


2. Women do better with higher reps

Untrained men and women have the same fiber type distribution. This changes with training: in strength training women, muscle fibers are converted to type I fibers or don’t convert at all, whereas in men they generally change to type IIa fibers. [Ref #2] Women also have proportionally larger type I fibers than men.


The result is that women are more resistant to fatigue than men, even when women and men with the same strength level are compared. I test the muscle-fiber type profiles of all my clients and women can generally do more reps at a given intensity than men. (If you don’t know the difference between the different muscle fibers, read my guide to muscle-specific hypertrophy training.)


Because women have more slow-twitch muscles, they should train their type I fibers more than men to grow to their full potential. This can be done by performing more reps per set.


Female fitness model


3. Women can handle more volume

Having larger and more type I fibers allows women to handle more volume than men. That’s not the only reason. In my article on the muscular potential of women, you’ve seen how having more of the female sex hormone estrogen gives women an advantage over men. Estrogen is an anti-catabolic hormone that aids in muscle repair, reduces protein break-down during exercise and protects you against muscle damage. This allows women to train with a higher training volume without becoming overtrained. We don’t have any direct research on this (gender interaction in the dose-response curve of training volume), so we have to compare different studies.


If you’ve read my article on the effect of range of motion (ROM) on muscle growth on Bret Contreras’s blog, you should now understand the discrepant findings from the research team of Massey et al. They found that training the bench press with a greater ROM did not result in statistically significantly more strength gains in men. When they replicated the study in women, the results became significant. Women can tolerate the higher training stress of full ROM training better than men, so it was easier to demonstrate the superiority of training with a full ROM.


The same trend appears in other research. Paulsen et al. and Rønnestad et al. didn’t find more strength or size gains in the upper body when performing 3 compared to 1 set in men. New, still unpublished research from Vikmoen et al. from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences has replicated this research in women. This time the 3 set group gained significantly more strength than the 1 set group. The women training with more volume also gained 62% more muscle mass on their arms, but this difference failed to reach statistical significance.

Vikmoen et al. 3 vs. 1 set in women

Another line of research supporting that women can handle more training volume is the research where women respond better to training than men. This is found in research with heavy negatives. Heavy lengthening muscle contractions cause a great deal of muscle damage. Women can tolerate this training stress better than men.


Jamie Eason


4. Women should do less explosive training

The superior work capacity of women disappears when training with weights close to their maximum strength (1 RM). While female muscles have great endurance, the female nervous system is not as efficient as that of men. Men are more explosive than women: they can generate force quicker. The area in the brain that controls movement (the motor cortex) is in fact literally larger in men, even after correcting for height. During explosive exercise at very high training intensities, like powerlifting, men can perform more reps than women.


A more efficient motor cortex is the reason why men tend to do better in explosive sports. However, the difference becomes very small after serious training. Sports scientist Renato Manno and his team have compared the strength and explosiveness of 840 elite male and female athletes across 31 sports in research that hasn’t been published in English yet. They found that relative to bodyweight, women were just as strong as men and only a few percent less explosive. This makes sense given that women have the same relative natural muscular potential as men. Social differences probably explain why we don’t see more women in high level athletics.


Men are only more powerful during explosive, dynamic contractions, not during heavy negatives or isometric contractions, even at a high intensity. So it’s not true that women should never train heavy. However, women should train to their strengths. Explosive exercise does not allow women to exercise with as much volume as men. Women also recover less well after explosive exercise like sprints. In contrast to women’s generally greater recovery capacity, high volume sprint training can take over 72 hours to recover from in women. This results in worse training adaptations for explosive exercise in women. For example, women don’t build as much muscle protein after high intensity sprints as men. This is striking, because after regular strength training women build just as much muscle protein as men.


Lindsey Renee


5. Women respond better to steady state cardio than HIIT

Since women don’t react as well to high intensity interval training, steady state cardio works better for them. And not just physically: mood improvements from aerobic exercise tend to be greater in women than in men.


Other than the above, I’ve already discussed cardio for women compared to men in detail during my roundtable discussion with the Martinez brothers (point 4), so I won’t go into that again here.


Strong woman


6. Women do better with a slower lifting tempo

Since women are less explosive than men, women can perform more reps with a more controlled, less explosive lifting tempo. Forcing women to use a fast, fixed tempo does not take advantage of their higher endurance.


Female fitness model


7. Women tolerate metabolic stress better

Another reason women have better endurance than men is that women suffer less from metabolic stress than men, again even when women and men of the same strength level are compared. Women have lower arterial blood pressure during exercise, so they can get more blood and oxygen to their muscles than men. Less metabolic byproducts like lactate, which causes ‘the burn’, accumulate in the blood, so the muscles are capable of functioning for a longer time under stress than in men. This advantage disappears during blood flow occlusion training (KAATSU, as the Japanese inventors originally called it). So KAATSU training should be used more strategically in women than in men.


Andreia Brazier


8. Women don’t need as much rest between sets

The following graphic from Hunter (2014) summarizes the reasons why women don’t fatigue as much as men. With all of this in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise that women recover faster after a set than men. In my scientific review with Brad Schoenfeld on the best rest interval for muscle growth we also discussed this. Women don’t need as much rest as men to complete the same relative training volume.


Women are less fatiguable than men


9. Women can train with a greater training frequency

Women not only recover faster after a set. They also recover faster after a training session. This again shouldn’t be a surprise by now, since women have better nutrient delivery to their muscles, they don’t suffer as much muscle damage and they repair their muscles faster.



Most women are intuitively aware of their strengths in the gym, but they are either repressed by society or they are told to be like men. As a result, they don’t fulfill their athletic potential. Strong male trainees often instinctively do high intensity training and consider anything above 5-12 reps cardio. Women are naturally much more inclined to do cardio, lift with a slower tempo, do higher reps, not rest as long and do more total work (the serious women at least). These are good instincts. Through millions of years of evolution, women have become better adapted to training that is closer to the endurance spectrum than men. Use it to your advantage.





  1. Baas says:

    “Untrained men and women have the same fiber type distribution. This changes with training: in strength training women, muscle fibers are converted to type I fibers, whereas in men they change to type II fibers. Women also have proportionally larger type I fibers than men.”

    This is actually eveyrthing you had to say right? All the points down here are related to a different fiber type than men. Arguably even 8 and 9… Not saying youre wrong, its just that you had one point and made it like 6 points.

    2. Women do better with higher reps
    3. Women can handle more volume
    4. Women should do less explosive training
    5. Women respond better to steady state cardio than HIIT
    6. Women do better with a slower lifting tempo

    • It’s more subtle than that. If fiber type was the only difference, women could also do more reps at higher intensities. But the general trend is indeed that women are more endurance adapted.

      • Darren Moriarty says:

        What about type IIx which are adaptive? Even if women have more type I fibres it still doesn’t make sense to limit their rep ranges to just the endurance range. People train for specific goals and not according to their genetics, If those goals are strength and power related, then it is going to be type II being recruited regardless of the amount of fibres that they have. Likewise if an olympic sprinter decides they want to now train for endurance, Type I will be recruited.

  2. Menno,

    Thank you for another great article, well researched and very informative!


  3. Sarah says:

    While your article seems based on science and the natural abilities of the female body all the pictures have surgically or photographically enhanced women leaving again a very confusing message. So what can women really expect to look like? Where is the reality?

    • kristen blair says:

      Great point, Sarah. Furthermore, every single female shown in this article is clearly on steroids. Again, what is the message? I feel that the thinly veiled attempt to pass-off modified women as a “natural” ideal (and a backdrop to exercise-science arguments) undermines the whole thing.

      Honestly, I stopped reading after the first few photos. Get real, people!

      • Abi says:

        Kristen, what makes you think these women are on steroids? I have trained with heavy weights for about 15 years, and gradually over that time, I gained around 7kg of muscle – I look very much like these women, but have never taken any remotely unnatural supplement.

        I am a competitive powerlifter and I compete in a drug-tested federation (IPF) which bans all steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. I am completely 100% clean, always have been, always will be. The look of these women is absolutely achievable naturally through years of hard training and strict diet, just as I have done.

        • ABI says:

          You are absolutely correct, as a long time athlete, I have a much more toned and defined physique, not quite as defined as Pauline Nordin or Jamie Eason who are the women pictured in the article( and are not artificially generated or on anything). My body has been shaped and formed by years training, my sport and my food choices. I take no supplements to “enhance”, it is training consistently and really being diligent about what you are eating.
          I think all individuals need to be thoroughly educated and informed on what you can and cannot achieve naturally in terms of health and fitness before they post and make snap judgments.The reality is, dedication to training and eating the best to fuel your body is key to a healthy lifestyle. I am given one vessel to live in why would I sabotage it with chemicals or anything that would be harmful. Keep up the hard work Abi! thanks for posting!

          • Michelle says:

            Sorry to burst your bubble, but Pauline Nordine, Jamie Easton, and 90+ % of the models in their class ARE using something. That’s not natural. Not at that body fat % and muscle mass. It’s gorgeous. But not natural. Just do a little googling and you’ll find out the details. Sad because again,new women are being given unreakistivpc expectations!

          • If you can’t attain Jamie Easton’s muscularity as a woman, you’re likely doing it wrong…

      • See my post on Facebook about this. I won’t let your insecurity demotivate serious training women.

      • myron says:

        Sorry but those women aren’t on steroids. I’ve lifted around women who were and they didn’t look like that. Any woman can look like those women in article with proper training and diet. Irritates me when people see someone who looks great physically and automatically assume steroids. Maybe you should take a look at yourself and question what you are or aren’t doing that may be stunting your progress

      • You two are dumb says:

        These women are clearly NOT on steroids, but I don’t expect a couple of morons to be able to spot such an obvious difference between natural and unnatural

      • Lexi says:

        I’m sorry, but your thought of these women being on steroids is extremely ignorant and definitely false. I guarantee you none of these women are on steroids whatsoever. If you don’t think a woman can achieve these looks without steroids you lack a ton of knowledge in the sport(s) and need to reconsider what you’re studying/putting your thoughts into. I honestly can’t believe I just read that comment. Wow.

    • Abi says:

      The only unnatural aspect of these women’s physiques that I can see is that some have breast implants – I don’t but that’s each woman’s individual choice – otherwise, my physique is very similar, and just the result of years of heavy weight training and strict healthy diet

      • sarah says:

        Menno, Kristen, Abi-
        I am not looking for a debate about breast implants, steroids, or fitness models. What I am asking for is photographic evidence supporting the claims of this article. My point about the pictures was they are all enhanced. Lighting, camera angle, photo shop, (heck, the guy paid to add just the right amount of mist to the model) and surgeries. All are not the result from the text here. As a woman who read this and my interest was peaked I couldn’t help but think to myself, I work out at the gym 6 days a week for years now and I’ve never seen one woman that looks like these pictures.

        In reality. Real day to day life. What does this really look like?

        • There’s no such thing as an ‘objective photo’. Lighting alone makes such an enormous difference you can make an Olympian look out of shape. Look at the instagrams or Facebooks of top level fitness models if you’re interested.

          • Abi says:

            Agreed Menno. Sarah, if you’re interested, follow Pauline Nordin on Facebook – she is the woman featured in most of the photos on this page. She has some great little videos where she shows you exactly what difference lighting makes (it does matter a lot), and what she looks like in just every day lighting conditions (she looks great, but less ripped than in these photos).

            And she shows you what difference posture makes – she gives herself a skinny-fat pot-belly in one video just by relaxing her abs and slouching a bit.

            She also demonstrates the difference when she flexes her muscles or when she doesn’t flex. Again, a big difference.

            She always looks great, but she comments about some of these photos that to get this dramatic and impressive photographic result requires lots of factors to be right: to be in great shape (which she always is, i.e. great muscle and low body fat), to be in exceptional condition (I.e. particularly low water retention – a combination of careful preparation plus a bit of good luck on the day), to have great lighting, be a bit pumped (do some weights just prior to the shoot to bring blood to the muscles), flex the muscles, pose well, and get a good photographic angle.

            So, check out her Facebook page, she’s very honest and open about all that stuff :-)

        • Rikochan says:

          The other really interesting point is that Pauline Nordin, who is in more than half of the pictures here has said that she doesn’t agree with this article. She was a trainer in the Swedish version of biggest loser, fwiw. She writes a lot about the fitness photography industry and actually explains how those pictures get made. Very interestinf straight shooter. She also points out that it’s ironic that the author stole these pictures, given that she doesn’t agree with this article. And developed her physique by lifting like a guy.

          • Interesting *opinion* indeed.

          • Sway says:

            I believe it! I’ll switch to her blogs and find other women athletes to follow. Women know what their bodies can do, and science cannot tell us we’re wrong!

          • Chris says:

            1) There wasnt a single line in the article that gave an absolute limit how women can look. So there just isnt any discrepancy.
            2) However, if you in general or specifically here think that personal opinion trumps science – then youre not only wrong on this site – but wrong for more than one hundread years since the scientific method revolutionized our lives. Even yours, even if you dont believe that: You probably wouldnnt even be here, but you surely wouldnt be able to write uninformed posts with a thing called “computer” on a medium called “internet”. Definitely not. :)

    • Abi says:

      The only unnatural thing about these physiques that I can see is that some of these women have breast implants – I don’t have implants but that is every woman’s own choice – other than that, my physique is very similar and is just the result of 15 years of heavy weight training and strict healthy diet. Not many women have done this, but if they did, then many would look like this, it’s quite achievable naturally. Achievable, but not necessarily easily achievable – years of consistent work is required.

    • You should be concerned with what you look like now and next week. That’s all that matters. Don’t be intimidated by fitness models. They’re models for a reason.

    • Sway says:

      These women are not even that built – The claim by the blogger is that women of the same height of a man can achieve what said man can in physique appearance as muscle development and its clearly demonstrated here to be complete UNTRUE. Women cannot be as muscular as men without steroids. These women are very fit, but do not have muscles the size of men even though they have been in the gym for years. They will not get as big as men naturally. (a rare few women with hormonal differences might, but that’s not the average woman.)

  4. Jegar says:

    Hi Menno,

    Another interesting and well written article. I love this blog!

    Regarding the red meat and breast cancer link, I ran a meta-analysis on this which was published in this chapter:


    We had intended it to be a paper, but put the results only in this chapter for institutional reasons. You will see that we found a relatively significant link, as well as a dose-response relationship. Our focus in the chapter is on the methods, but you may find the content interesting as well.

    • Interesting, I don’t have access to the book though. Did you control for processed vs. unprocessed meat? Most research finds that’s the crucial effect that determines all the negative effects of red meat.

  5. Alicia says:

    For a women taking hormonal contraceptives, would these recommendations change at all? Would they change again depending on whether the contraceptive was progesterone only or a combination pill?

  6. JC says:

    You’re assuming that women want to train for aesthetics… I train to be strong only. I could give two fuks about aesthetics. All i care about is having a strong bench, deadlift and squat. Low reps. None of that high rep fluffy crrap. Are you mad brah?

    Stop assuming that we all train for aesthetics.

    I don’t train for general fitness; I train to be the strongest, most badass woman in my gym.

    • CS says:

      Are you aware that this site is called bayesianBODYBUILDING? I think it’s safe to assume that the general target audience is people interested in aesthetics. He also states at the start that it is written in response to readers’ questions on his “natural muscular potential of women” article. If you couldn’t give two fuks about aesthetics why bother? Are you mad?

      Stop imposing false assumptions.

      It’s great that you train to be strong, but maybe you should work on your intellectual strength too. No need to get so offended.

  7. Great job on this Menno! I’d also argue that women tend to have different goals in terms of areas they’d like to hypertrophy. For example, I’ve never trained a woman that desired trap growth, but nearly all of them desire glute growth. Due to their goals, they shouldn’t train like typical male bodybuilders and have a chest/tri day, a back/bi day, a shoulder day, and a leg day. I believe that they do better with full body training so they can hit their thighs/glutes more frequently while still getting in ample upper body stimulus. Just my two cents though, a woman can certainly see great results on a split routine. I always like hearing your take on various topics and appreciate the research that you reference. Keep i up!

  8. 2 says:

    You say I’m general women should eat lower carb higher fat diet but that completley contradicts what Greg Nuckols says for women in his article you referred to on your Fb?

    Also isn’t (unless special circumstance) youa high fat lower carb what you recommend for men also? So it’d actually not that different

    • Greg never said women should eat more carbs than fats to my knowledge, just that they have better insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is not very interesting as a sole measure. You want to look at glucose dynamics and here it’s clear that women preferentially use fats as fuel during exercise.

  9. Cecilia says:

    I am quite new to gymtraining. Been dancing, doing yoga and climbing a little before and never thought about what will be the best for me as a woman. Though I have great interest in health and keep my self updated about everything. This is the first time I’ve heard about LISS being more efficient than HIIT for women. I’ve heard that HIIT makes you burn more fat even after your session is over than LISS and that it increases growth hormones that makes you stronger. Maybe they refer to men but felt the need to ask about this :) I don’t feel the need to look like these gorgeous women in the article.. I am a youngish 40 year old mother who just want to be healthy and strong so I can play a lot in my life :) and maybe try something like Tough mudder before to long.
    Thanks in advance!

  10. Kate says:

    This is the most misguided article on women’s fitness I’ve ever read

    Not even remotely true I’ve been doing weights and I don’t have a single problem I eat low carb and increase my weights as needed I’m in the best shape of my life

  11. aj says:

    Can I ask why you use photos of women without crediting them who also do not agree AT ALL with what you’re saying? Every person is different and I dont see your references listed for this information you believe to be correct. I am a female whom trains naturally with guys and like guys and body responds much better than this in which you’re attempting to represent. Mostly I’m disturbed by not crediting these women and more disturbed that you didn’t at least try to take a woman’s picture who trained they way you’re trying to say is correct. You may have wanted to think about that before stealing photos.

    • I don’t care how anyone in anyone of the picture I use on my site trains. That’s what the scientific references you’re apparently all missing are for. The photos are there simply for motivational purposes. If anyone wants me to credit their photos, I do. I take photos that are all over the internet and don’t have a copyright on them.

  12. Mars says:

    Dear Menno,

    you claim women can handle more volume than males and profit from more volume. While this might true, you referred to two scientific articles where untrained men were the test subjects and one study on women which wasn’t published yet. We don’t know whether or not the female test subjects where untrained or not. Furthermore, we don’t know whether the authors used comparable protocols for their testing. Your claim seem very strong for the amount of evidence you can provide. This might not even be true, at least the amount of supporting evidence is really insufficient to back this claim up.

  13. TravisRetriever says:

    “over 9000 Likes”
    I see what you did there. :P

  14. Rob Haas says:

    Would anything change for women peri-menopausal or menopausal? There are allot of women out there who’s kids have grown and want to get back in shape now that they have more time on their hands.

    • Meghan O'Connell says:

      Really interesting article; thanks!

      I’m also curious on training with the reduced estrogen.

      I hit early menopause, and I’m starting to transition from boxing, running, and kettlebells into powerlifting. I still box once a week and aim for 2-3 runs; mostly just doing kbells as accessory work now. It’s interesting trying to figure out the rest and recovery required. At this point, I’m aiming for 2 full rest days a week, which means some double-workout days. I have been messing around with learning some Olympic lifts too but nervous with snatches in particular due to recovering more slowly than I used to.

      I also don’t want to drop any more of the “cardio” style now that my metabolism has slowed. Any input would be welcome!

    • Post-menopause, the differences between the genders decrease, as should therefore the difference in training and nutrition.

  15. Fredrik says:

    Do you think that woman should train with lighter weights and higher volume for strength (such as powerlifting) as well, or is this only for hypertrophy?

  16. Nuray says:

    Dag Menno,

    Dit artikel is zoals je andere artikelen ook erg interessant.
    Zou je dit artikel ook in het Nederlands kunnen schrijven.

    Alvast bedankt. Mvgr Nuray

  17. Heikki Kultala says:

    The text in our article seems to be very good.

    But could you please post the text without putting an image about ass between every 5 lines?

    Would make it much less disturbing to read.

  18. TravisRetriever says:

    1) It sounds like female carb hyper-responders are extremely rare.

  19. Alan says:

    You mention in several of your articles women benefit from High Fat, Medium Protein, Low Carb.
    Do you think Post Workout Whey and a banana are still a good way to go for women?
    What aproximate percentages do you think a woman should have (fat woman trying to loose weight?

  20. John says:

    Just came across this post while surfing and I can tell you that this post of yours will create awareness among females and will guide them in doing proper workout suitable to women. Thanks for sharing this post.

  21. Meh says:

    I like how all the pics of the women used train the opposite of what the article says.

  22. Saif says:

    Is recovery time only defined as the time it takes to regain muscle strength, or are there other factors? If women follow the advice of the referenced study and benchpress at 1RM every 4 hours, is it safe to say that they wouldn’t be over-training as long as no loss in strength is observed?

    • There are many more factors involved in ‘recovery’ and I certainly wouldn’t recommend training the bench every 4 hours, no.

      • Saif Mazhar says:

        You’re saying women can train with greater frequency because they “recover” faster, and you are referencing a study that measures “strength recovery” and not “recovery” as a whole…

        If it takes a man 48 hours to recover from a workout without over-training, how long would it take a woman to recover from that same workout?

        • What would you say is ‘recovery as a whole’?

          The recovery time for any person is highly individual. There is lots of research on this. Nutrition, sleep, stress, the type of workout you’re doing, etc. all strongly influence total recovery time.

          • Saif Mazhar says:

            I guess I’m looking for general guidance on frequency of training for women compared to men, and the referenced article only considers strength recovery when advising women on how much time to put between workouts.

            I realize recovery time is highly individual regardless of sex, but there’s still room for general guidance. For example, the HST method recommends that men rest each muscle for 48 hours. What would that 48 hour rest period translate to for women if they performed the same routine/exercises? 24 hours? less? more?

          • Abi says:

            Indeed – we really need to define what we mean by “recovery”.

            It could mean the time it takes before you no longer feel sore.

            Or the time it takes before you no longer feel fatigued from the workout.

            Or, the time it takes before we will benefit from training again – which could actually be when we are still tired *and* sore.

            As a powerlifter, I train 4-5 times a week. Full body (e.g. Squat/deadlift plus bench) every session. This is quite common for powerlifters, both male and female. I am much stronger training 4-5 times a week than 3.

            Also, *very importantly* the recovery rate is dependent on how often you train!!! If you get used to 5 sessions a week by first starting with them all quite easy and gradually increase the work and difficulty of each session, you then start to feel ready to train nearly every day, with almost no pain after training and not much fatigue. Only training once a week often makes people very sore.

            But if you suddenly start training 5 days a week without initially being gentle about it, then yes, you will not recover, it’ll be pretty destructive.

            Finally, recovery depends not just on how many sets you did, or how many exercises, but *how hard those were for you on that day*. If you stay one rep away from failure on each set, that will require very little recovery. But a session of training to failure on each set could require a great deal of recovery and may not benefit you much either.

  23. Lisa says:

    Great article Menno!

  24. dmitry says:

    Hi there Menno,

    As always, great article….youre the man!

    ps. I wonder when would be the next article coming out again for women?


  25. Derek says:

    Hey, quick question on this, what’s your best guess for why so many women “seem” to get jacked doing crossfit which is often composed of intervals and explosive movements?

    • Women that do Crossfit generally just train harder than most other women in commercial gyms. Plus, the paleo diet they’re often in is often better than the average diet too. Crossfitters generally don’t have impressive physiques by bodybuilding standards though.

  26. Kim Iwantmoremuscles says:

    The women in the images look amazing! And I want to get more muscle like them, I have been training for a few years to build muscle (always been ahtletic participated in sports), but never had the bug to lift super heavy, but, now I want to. My goal is to keep getting stronger and keep playing hockey.
    But, weird what you say about explosiveness and women. That is my strength, I LOVE sprinting and skating fast. Love sprinting when road biking up hills. I tend to be the opposite of the female described, endurance has never been my strength. Just curious about that… are there different types of women – like sprinter types vs endurance types. That is what I have found, just like in men, I know a lot of men who I wouldn’t call “explosive”.

    • There is interindividual variability in women just like in men with respect to how explosive they are, yes, and certainly there are very explosive women. They’re just more rare than explosive men. Have a look at the introduction from my guide to muscle-specific hypertrophy for a primer on muscle fiber types to see a mechanism for this.

  27. Impressive images of Women bodybuilders and Nowadays women are also taking part in any kind of Bodybuilding competition. They do not think they are not equal to men, they can’t handle weight, or this field is not suitable for Women’s. its not right about women they are performing much better than men in Body building with Best training and Diet.

  28. AC says:


    This is a great article. I have a question. For women who want to gain strength, what would be your recommendation on a range of reps and sets to stay between? From your article I assume more than 5 reps and probably no more than 15, but about how many sets and what percentage of weight should be used?

  29. Whitney says:

    Who selected these stock photos for this article? If you want readers to take the content seriously, you might have toned down the sexy. There’s a time and a place but the pictures in this article are ridiculous! Very sexy and beautiful, but out-of-place. Holy crap.

    I didn’t read the article.

  30. CL says:

    Excellent article. I shared it with my husband. I have been lifting for years and I know my body extremely well. I hate it when male trainers presumptuously claim that men and women should train the same.

    The way my husband and myself train are completely different. One example is he completes 10 reps in no time at all and rests for what seems to me like forever. I take forever to complete 10 reps and immediately go to my next set. This and several other differences have led me to wonder which of our training styles was more effective, since we are both muscular and strong.

    Your article clarifies and reaffirms everything that we have both been doing. Your article needs a greater audience.

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