Should Females Train Differently Than Males?

by Joe DeFranco, Owner, Performance Enhancement Specialist
DeFranco’s Training Systems

When people ask me what are the biggest differences between designing strength-training programs for females compared to males, my answer usually surprises them. That is because the basic principles should be the same for both genders: train bodyweight exercises before using external resistance, train the core (abs & low back), favor multiple-joint exercises instead of isolation movements, and focus a good deal of their training on the “posterior chain” (hamstrings, gluteals and low back).

Despite the many similarities of male and female strength training, there are subtle differences to consider. First of all, females mature earlier than males. Therefore, in general, females can begin strength training earlier than males. Also, since females have less muscle mass, on average, than males, they are also more susceptible to deconditioning. That is why a female strength-training program should have the athlete continue to train during the competitive season. This is because the drop-off in strength is more dramatic for females when strength training is stopped.

Overall, strength training offers female athletes the same benefits that it offers male athletes! Regardless of their sport or gender, any athlete can benefit from increased sprinting speed, strength, balance, decreased body fat levels and a reduced incidence of injuries – all of which a properly designed strength-training program can provide. Also, studies have proven that strength training can have a positive effect on bone density, which will decrease your risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Even with all of the positive research out there with regards to strength training and female athletes, I still get asked the same question all of the time, “Will I end up looking like a man if I lift weights?” The answer is, “Absolutely not!” Much of the difference in muscle mass between males and females is attributed to hormones, specifically, testosterone. On average, men produce ten times more testosterone than females. Unless you’re a female who is taking anabolic steroids or other male hormones, lifting weights will NOT make you look like a man! Also, there is a difference in muscle mass distribution between men and women, especially in the upper body. So it is important to remember that male hormones and muscle mass distribution are the two main reasons that men usually carry more muscle than woman. These are 2 of the main factors why men who strength-train look more “bulky” than females who strength-train.

Females can still train like Tarzan, yet look like Jane!

The bottom line is this: Females can still train like Tarzan, yet look like Jane!


  1. I am a product of the '60's mentality. Many times I tried to lift weights with the boys only to be told that females had no business lifting. Thankfully the female athletes of today have the opportunity to be all they can be. As a certified athletic trainer it excites me that girls are now being required to train like boys.
  2. This is a great article that people need to read especially the female population!
  3. love this article man..... I train for bmx racing, so i focus strictly on compound power and strength movements. Recently started having my gf train with me, after her disappointing results from a local trainer, who took everything from a bodybuilders perspective, (low carb, each body part once a week and 45min. cardio)............ she is now eating way more, yet clean, and has leaned out incredibly. Just thought i would through that in there, because i become frustrated with these so-called trainers, who treat every client as if they are on a lean out bodybuilder diet and weight program for competition....... thanks for your time man, love your articles, Ray Broxterman, UC exercise science major

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