Well… should they?

The answer is yes and no.

Yes that’s pretty vague but let us explain.

If you regularly work out at a gym you’ve probably noticed the aerobic classes and treadmills are packed with women while the men mostly stay to themselves in the weight room.

This is interesting because shows how the genders have two very different approaches to achieving what’s essentially the same goal — a better body.

Before we go any further let’s get this out of the way:

The principles of fitness are the same for both men and women. To get the best looking body, both should lift heavy weights (relative to their own strength), eat enough food and of the right kind, get enough rest, and ideally do some form of cardio.

This is if you want your body to be as sexually attractive as possible. If you’re a powerlifter or competing in a sport then obviously your goals will be different and so will your approach to training.

Since we’re all about looking your best, that’s not what we’re going to be focusing on. We’re all about maxing out your sex appeal.

Keep this in mind because your goals are what determine where you’ll ultimately end up. And not just when it comes to fitness but your life as a whole.

A Word of Warning

If you’re a woman reading this, you might be wondering whether lifting weights really will make you look better. After all, you don’t want to get bulky right? Isn’t your time better spent on treadmills and yoga class? And what about those ads on TV and the fitness magazines showing a woman doing curl after curl with pink dumbbells? Isn’t that how you get toned?

Unfortunately mainstream fitness advice for women is mostly nonsense. Whether it’s promoting the latest celebrity fad diet, pushing theories that have been debunked literally decades ago like spot reduction and using other lazy buzzwords like “toning” — it’s all very gimmicky.

Now about the “getting too bulky” issue….

It really isn’t an issue at all. It’s actually a non-issue and one of the most unfortunate fears keeping women away from the weight room.

No, lifting — and not just any kind of lifting but lifting that actually uses heavy weights and not 5 pound dumbbells — will NOT get you big or transform you into some manly looking she-beast with the kind of body you see female bodybuilders have.

The reason is simple. Men and women naturally have different body compositions thanks to key genetic differences. Among the most important of which are your hormones. You know, the things guys abuse with steroids to gain muscle and balloon their bodies into a freakish size fast?

Think of it this way. Do you really think you’d be capable of bulking up like a bodybuilder when the average guy already has plenty of trouble putting on any decent amount of muscle naturally? That’s with about 10x as much testosterone as you, spending years in the gym, and probably eating twice as much protein and food as you.

Gaining muscle isn’t something that just happens overnight especially when you’re starting from a genetic disadvantage. If it were that easy every guy you see walking around would be jacked (and that’s obviously not the case).

But women can still gain real benefits from lifting.

Do you want a butt you can rest a drink on? If you don’t naturally have a Kim K sized behind and don’t want to splurge on a South American trip to get risky implants then squats and other lifts which target the lower body are what will help you reach that level.

Squats For Women
It’s the truth.

So let’s talk a bit more about what your goals are.

The “ideal” female body — in this case the one most attractive to the majority of men — is different than the “ideal” male body. So that means even though women should be lifting weights, the type of body they want to achieve will be different than the type men want to achieve which is where their fitness routines will ultimately end up differing — the specifics.

The principles (lifting weights, getting enough sleep, etc.) will stay the same but the way you get there will be different.

There are also a few differences in nutritional needs which shouldn’t be overlooked.

Now let’s take a closer look at them.

Where The Two Paths Diverge

First let’s cover the nutritional part because it’s simpler. Here’s how the path to your dream body will be different than a guy’s:

  • Women need less calories than men. Even though you should still be eating roughly +/- 500 calories over/under your maintenance level depending if you want to gain or lose weight, the total number of calories will be less.
  • Women need more iron than men. A good percentage of young women are deficient especially vegetarians and vegans because iron from plants isn’t absorbed as well as iron from animal sources. Also the RDI (recommended daily intake, basically the minimum amount you should be getting each day) is higher for women: 15 mg vs 10 mg for men.
  • Women also need more calcium and Vitamin D to help strengthen bones since they’re more prone to developing osteoporosis.
  • If you’re of childbearing age and/or would like to have a child, getting enough folic acid in your diet becomes much more important to avoid birth defects.
Skipping Leg Day, Bad Idea
If you get a meme made out of you nowadays you might as well put that on your resume.

Now taking the goal body thing a little further, it’s pretty easy to tell that most guys place much more importance on their upper body than they do on their legs. The words “Don’t skip leg day” attached to a picture of a guy with two chopsticks for legs isn’t a common sight on fitness pages for nothing. People get memes made out of them for goodness sake. For guys it’s all about getting that V shape — broad shoulders tapering down to a thin midsection.

But most women don’t really want that kind of body now do they? Toned legs, a toned butt, a flat tummy, and arms that aren’t too flabby. Sounds better? By the way toning is just another way of saying less body fat and some muscular definition. That’s all there is to it. If you have those two you’re toned.

Anyways, women will benefit more by training their lower body instead of their upper to get the most attractive physique. Squats, lunges, hip thrusts, glute bridges, deadlifts, and other exercises which target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings will do you good.

But this doesn’t mean women should completely neglect their upper body either. Seriously now, who doesn’t want toned arms? Remember when the media placed a spotlight on Michelle Obama and her well defined arms a few years back? There’s even a tumblr dedicated to the first lady’s arms.

Women naturally have much weaker upper body strength compared to men which is why they also need to start with less weight. Pretty obvious but it’s worth saying. The average untrained guy might be able to squeeze out a few pull-ups and several pushups but the average untrained woman has difficulty doing much of either if any pull ups.

The same goes for any other lift really. Women won’t be able to and shouldn’t be expected to match men’s lifts while starting out. Both genders have different strength standards.

By the way, remember earlier when we said men and women have genetically different bodies thanks to hormones? Since men have more testosterone, it helps them gain muscle more easily and keep fat off. Women have more estrogen which not only encourages their body to keep fat but also deposits it in all those womanly places: the butt, thighs, hips, and breasts. Estrogen also makes it much harder for women to lose those last few extra pounds than it is for men. That’s why a healthy women’s body fat percentage is higher than that of a healthy man’s.

Ideal Body Fat Percentage For Women

Ideal Body Fat Percentage For Men

Examples of Different Body Fat Percentages For Women
Rough examples of what your body might look like at different body fat percentages.

These hormonal differences combined with different goal bodies are what really separate a male fitness routine from a female one.

In Summary…

The basics of a quality fitness routine for men and women are the same — we can’t say this enough times. Everyone should lift weights, get some type of cardiovascular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get 8 hours of sleep to help them get the body of their dreams.

But the specifics of your fitness routine will be different. You’ll focus on different body parts because men and women are working out for two different types of bodies. Thanks to genetic differences, mostly hormonal, men and women also naturally have different body compositions and slightly different nutritional needs.

So that’s it. If you have any questions, comments, or opinions you want to share let us know in the comments!

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