By Sarah Wagner on July 13, 2016
Touchy subject, right? Ok, let me unpack some baggage here before anyone gets on their high horse about how workouts for women should be exactly the same as men. In some cases, that’s fine. If you have a streak of vanity in you, maybe not so much.
What I mean is this: if you are training for aesthetics as a female and you want to keep a feminine shape, you will need to mold your workout accordingly. Men train for broad shoulders and a “V” shape, while women try to stay pretty hour glass shaped with a heavy dose of glute work. That’s just what’s on the cultural menu these days. Just like there are workouts for women, the other side of the coin exists as well. Guys training for physique aren’t going to hit heavy glute work like women training for bikini will. They’re going to focus more on upper body, like chest, lats, and shoulders. They might even have a day in their split dedicated to just shoulders, just like some women might focus on just glutes one day in their split.
This is even more important to keep in mind if you are bulking. A few months ago I was deep in a cut, eating 1250 calories 6 days a week, and 1450 calories 1 day a week. I was able to gain half a pound of muscle in about a month while also dropping fat. Anecdotally, I can confidently say that recomposition is not a myth. Consider what would happen if I ate a whole lot more while still lifting heavy. No, it wouldn’t be as dramatic as it would be for a guy, since as a female I don’t have the testosterone to gain as much muscle, but I’d still gain some, and it would probably (hopefully) be more than the rate at which I gained muscle while on a cut.
For me this means not training shoulders or obliques in isolation that much, if at all. I’ve capped out where I want both of these to be size wise. Genetically, I have very developed shoulders. No matter how much I neglect them, they’re always there, making my biceps and triceps look tiny. I also don’t train obliques in isolation because I don’t want blocky abs. I do a lot of lower body because when I cut down, I tend to lose fat in my upper body first, but lose muscle in my lower body first. No idea why, but that’s just what happens. I don’t want to lose my hourglass shape, so to counter the tendency to lose muscle in my legs, I try to train them a lot. I think that’s why I was able to see such a favorable recomposition. If I had neglected lower body, I probably would have seen a net loss of muscle on such low calories.
And don’t think this means you should stay away from the weight room as a female! Workouts for women can easily be tailored to suit your goals. I’ve hit upper body and lower body pretty hard for three years now, and my upper body only recently started looking like I lift. I have a nice little tricep pop in both arms. They finally decided to show up to join the party. This took three whole years, and I wasn’t dieting the whole time either. My chest still hasn’t joined the party. I don’t even want to talk about how weak my bench is. Anyway, I was eating enough food to put on weight during this time, so I was in a surplus on and off. If you don’t want to gain muscle in your upper body, then train it less. Or eat less and train it as you would the rest of your body. You’ll still lose weight if you’re consuming less than you’re burning off throughout the day, but some of that fat you might be trying to shed will potentially be replaced with muscle and you’ll look tighter.
Here’s my view on all this: I wear my hard work in the gym on my skeleton. I’m proud of it. If you gain muscle from sweat, iron, and food I think you have every reason to be proud of it. I also think being able to tailor your workouts to suit your needs is a fantastic way to build the body you want.