top of page

Should Men and Women Train Differently? | Balance

Well, no, but also possibly yes. It would be most accurate to say that "it depends".

For decades there has been somewhat of a camp divisiveness between men and women gym-goers; men are “supposed” to use weights, women are “supposed” to do cardio. It’s pretty archaic but even to this day that’s the general stereotype and many people still believe that men and women are inherently different when it comes to how they should be training.

So, is this the case? Absolutely not.

How our muscles adapt to exercise does not differ between men and women. When we train, microtears in muscle fibres occur and in between training sessions our body will repair these fibres. This can ultimately lead to adaptation of the muscle, either leading to its growth or ability to produce force / move more load / perform more reps.

The sex hormones

The more nuance differences in how men and women should train arises when we consider the impact of our hormones; more specifically, our sex hormones, as they distinguish us physiologically as a man or woman. In relation to exercise, the sex hormones can impact musculature, bone structure, how we perform and also how we recover.


Testosterone is considered the major anabolic hormone with multiple physiological functions within the human body. Testosterone is also the dominant hormone when considering the male hormonal profile.

Despite being universally recognized as the “male” hormone, it actually plays pretty important roles in exercise and body composition for women too (having around 200 different processes it contributes to).

Testosterone binds to receptors on the surface of muscle cells and stimulates protein synthesis to build the muscle after damage during resistance training. Testosterone increases levels of growth hormone which the body produces in response to exercise. Growth hormone also plays a part in protein synthesis and muscle growth.

Men generally have more muscle mass than women simply because they have higher testosterone levels.

Consequentially, men tend to be stronger too for this very reason. But does this mean women should train differently?

Estrogen and progesterone

The hormonal profile of the two genders more or less reflects how we approach life; women tend to be more intelligent based on more challenging circumstances whereas men go at life like a blunt object.

Hard-headed resiliency and an approach that wouldn’t quite fall into the “calculated” category.

Even when it comes to training, women do face additional challenges. This is thanks to their menstrual cycle; a continually changing hormonal profile which can impact a female trainer psychologically and or physiologically. A constantly shifting set of “goal posts” that women have to be wary of when considering how they program their training.

There are two primary hormones in the menstrual cycle; estrogen and progesterone. A woman’s primary sex hormone, estrogen is the single biggest thing that differentiates a woman from the aforementioned hard-headed chap who has been training his biceps every day for several months now.

Estrogen influences everything from metabolism to muscle glycogen storage to bone and even mental health.

However, estrogen can be highly advantageous for a female trainer; whilst men may be able to move more maximal loads and generate greater power output (particularly when it comes to upper body focused exercise), thanks to estrogen, women actually recover faster.