In a recent article in Applied Metabolics, I discussed the differences in training techniques for men and women. What I found when doing the research for that article was that while most of the training techniques that men use can also be used by women, there are a few differences that need to be taken into account. Much of this has to do with structural differences between men and women, as well as a few notable hormonal differences. Men tend to be larger than women and this plays a role in their training. Men are also capable of developing more muscle mass than women, mainly because of their larger bone structure. Even the response of muscle fibers tends to differ between the sexes. For example, women tend to show more muscle growth through hypertrophy of their type-1 or slow-twitch muscle fibers. For years, it was thought that these muscle fibers were "endurance fibers"not particularly amenable to muscle growth. But more recently, new studies showed that the type-1 fibers are capable of far more growth than was previously believed.
Other obvious differences between men and women include body fat distribution and the metabolism of fat. For example, women store more fat in their hips, upper thighs, and buttocks. This type of fat is known as essential fat because the body is loath to oxidize it or break it down. The lower body fat in women serves as an emergency source of calories in case a woman suffers from starvation. That fat is used to support pregnancy and lactation in order to perpetuate the human species. Of course, this is small solace to most women, who bemoan how difficult is it to remove fat in the lower body. The fat cells found there has a preponderance of alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, which makes them recalcitrant to the mobilization and oxidation of stored fat. That fat can be lost through diet and exercise, but it takes a lot of patience on the part of women to do so. Before making inroads into lower body fat stores, a woman must first decrease most of her upper body fat.
A woman's hormonal profile both helps and hinders her efforts at losing body fat and building more lean mass. Women have higher estrogen levels than men, and this affects both the distribution and oxidation ability of body fat. Women's higher body fat levels are responsible for their pelvic curves as well as their softer skin in comparison to men. That latter effect is caused by estrogen promoting an increase in subcutaneous fat or fat just under the skin. This promotion of subQ fat is the bane of most male bodybuilders since increased SubQ fat obscures both muscular definition and vascularity.
But there are also a lot of misconceptions about estrogen. For one, estrogen plays an important role in exercise recovery . . .