Workouts for Women: Should women exercise differently than men?

As a female fat-loss and hormone specialist, I have learned over the past 15+ years that men and women require different nutritional needs as well as exercises. I’ve also learned the importance of these key differences and how a proper exercise program will drastically help with weight loss, hormone health, and energy levels.

Women are designed to be more quad and glute dominant than men.  Therefore, they need to perform exercises that will slim down as well as tone and tighten their lower body.  While training their lower body, women should not only focus on developing great quads, but also focus on training their hamstring and glutes as well. This will prevent injury and muscle imbalance.

Some great exercises for the posterior chain (hamstring/glutes) are Deadbugs or Bulgarian Squats, and hip thrust or hip bridge. Check out the Physique Forty Instagram page to view these free exercises and more! 

Here are just a few gender differences that I’ll break down and will teach you the key female-specific information you NEED to know:

  • Hormones
  • Physiology
  • Insulin Sensitivity
  • Fat Oxidation Rates (how much fat your body burns every minute)
  • Metabolism
  • Muscle Mass
  • Body Structure (plays a key role)

A well known fact is that women tend to have much less lean mass in their upper bodies compared to men making exercises such as; shoulder presses,  push ups and pull ups a challenge. This is why women should spend time training their upper body with appropriate variations of these exercises (e.g. incline push ups, band-assisted chin ups) than men, this will help increase strength and stamina.  

Even though men and women generally have very different goals in regards to the aesthetic of their body; they will most likely use similar workout programs. Women tend to want to tighten, tone and shape their bodies, whereas men want to be ripped and muscular. However, you can’t have toned, shapely, sexy, or muscular anything without developing lean muscle. Lean muscle boosts your metabolism, burn off calories and causes your body to burn more fat and gives you that beautiful shape.

During exercise, women use fewer carbohydrates than men, yet burn more fat at the same exercise intensity (Tarnopolsky, 2008). However, on average, women have 6 to 11 percent more body fat than men.

How do women have more body fat if we burn more fat?

Unfortunately, this paradox is caused by our bodies natural hormones. Studies show oestrogen reduces a woman’s ability to burn energy after eating, resulting in more fat being stored around the body. Which is why hormonal health is essential to fat-loss!

Women need to exercise 3 – 5 days a week using a wide variety of exercises, such as: High intensity interval training (HIIT), body weight exercises, compound movements, lifting weights and/or using exercise bands, kettlebell exercises and metabolic resistance training: squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull-ups push-ups, bent over rows, and overhead presses. This will help a woman’s body to build lean muscle and help to promote effective fat-loss.

Just take a look at the physiques some of my female clients achieve by doing bodyweight training ONLY 3-5 times per week with my tailored At-Home Bodyweight Workouts! CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Discover the key differences you NEED to know!

Now, we will begin to dive into the key differences between and man and woman’s body, and learn the FEMALE SPECIFIC information that you NEED to know:

1. HormonesHormones are the body’s chemical messengers and are part of the endocrine system. Endocrine glands make hormones, which travel through the bloodstream to tissues and organs, and control most of our body’s major systems. The endocrine system regulates our heart rate, metabolism – how the body gets energy from the foods we eat – appetite, mood, sexual function, reproduction, growth and development, sleep cycles, and more.


  • Hormones play a key role in our body’s chemistry, carrying messages between cells and organs.
  • Hormones affect our body’s functions, from growth and sexual development, our moods, how well we sleep, how we manage stress and how our body digests foods.  
  • When they are in proper balance, hormones help the body thrive. Hormone imbalances (hormone levels are too high or too low) can occur any time regardless of age and may lead to serious health issues.
  • Men are naturally much stronger and can build muscle easier than women. This is due to the fact that men have much more testosterone (hormone)  in their bodies compared to women.
  • Strength is also affected by hormones but men are typically stronger due to their bodies design; longer limbs, hip width, bone density, etc..

Unfortunately, as we get older, our hormonal health begins to decline due to our decreasing supply of estrogen. This causes our hormones to be extremely vulnerable to other dangers like environmental toxins, and poor dietary habits. This can cause an extreme imbalance in our bodies and result in:

  • Difficulties Losing Weight
  • Feeling Tired & Anxious
  • Low Energy levels
  • Mood Swings
  • Difficulties Sleeping
  • Sensitive Skin & Breasts
  • Low Sex drive & Libido

If you are negatively affected by any of the symptoms above, it is BEST to give your body the cleanse it needs by healing it of any damages that have been caused by toxin build up.  To do this, you NEED to ensure you are DETOXIFYING your body & FLUSHING AWAY BUILT UP TOXINS!

CHECK OUT the blog post BELOW for more information on why detoxes are so important

2. Insulin sensitivity  – Typically women are more insulin sensitive than men.  Insulin sensitivity is the relationship between how much insulin needs to be produced in order to deposit a certain amount of glucose. You are insulin sensitive if a small amount of insulin needs to be secreted to deposit a certain amount of glucose, and insulin resistant if a lot of insulin needs to be secreted to deposit the same amount of glucose.

Insulin sensitivity is seen as good as the opposite, insulin resistance, is a major risk factor for the development of Type II diabetes.

3. Metabolism  – Your metabolism is a collection of chemical reactions that takes place in the body’s cells. Metabolism converts the fuel in the food we eat into the energy needed to power everything we do, from moving to thinking to growing.

Here are some of the key differences in a woman’s metabolism: 

  • A woman’s resting metabolic rate can be 20 – 40 % less than a man; meaning women need to intake fewer calories.
  • They require a lower dose of protein or lecuine to stimulate Muscle Protein Synthesis.
  • They likely have smaller glycogen stores, so even though they tolerate carbohydrates well, they probably need a smaller amount of carbs, daily or per meal.

As you can see, women should not follow the same diet plan as their male counterparts. Along with adjusting calories, the macronutrient composition of their diet must also be tailored.

One of the biggest contributors to your metabolisms health is your hormonal balance. If your metabolic rate is slow and you have a hard time losing weight, that may be a HUGE indicator that your hormones need repair! 

With hormonal health playing such an important factor, it is BEST to know if your hormones are healthy. Which is why I challenge you to take the first step and TAKE THE HORMONE QUIZ BELOW!

4. Muscle Mass –    Both men and women can benefit from compound exercises such as;  squats, deadlifts, and shoulder presses, chest presses, etc… These exercises can be done on a flat bench or an incline (to make the movement more challenging).  It’s also a good idea to do come isolated exercises such as: bicep curl, tricep kickback, rope or cable pushdowns, However, compound exercises like weighted squats and deadlifts burn more calories than almost any other move, therefore your exercise program should consist of 80%compound exercise and 20% isolated exercises.  Although differences in hormones between men and women affect muscle size both sexes will get stronger with muscles overload. influence men and women’s size,

The differences in hormones between men and women will affect their physiques and performance. Resistance training:  like weightlifting, can help men get muscular/ripped and will help women tone and shape their body. Resistance training slows down the aging process by stimulating growth.

5. Body structure Women start to lose bone mass in their 40’s while men tend to have good bone health until they’re well advanced in years. Therefore, women, at any age, should incorporate weight lifting into their exercise routine. Lifting weights help to maintain bone density, which is extremely important to women over the age of 40 as they start to go through peri-menopause and even menopause.


Do NOT worry about bulking up, as it’s impossible for women to gain the muscle mass men do.   Women simply do not produce enough testosterone. The only way a woman can get as muscular as a man is if steroids are involved.   

6. Muscle Fiber – Men tend to have more type 2 muscles fibers (the strength fibers) and women tend to have more type 1 (endurance). This is probably why men are more drawn to lifting weights and women prefer cardio. A typical man is structurally built with wider shoulders and different muscle attachment lengths. This allows men to gain a mechanical advantage on something like a bench press. On the other hand, women tend to have proportionally bigger legs and are way stronger in lower body lifts instead of upper body, compared to the same ratio in men.

Women recover faster than men; this is why women tend to prefer faster-paced workouts with less rest time between exercises. Although ladies often prefer higher reps (10-15+), doing some heavier weighted lifts for less reps (4-8) can also be beneficial to activate fast-twitch muscle fibres that are only stimulated with heavier types of lifts.

On the other hand, men naturally have more strength and muscle than women, enabling them to put more power into each set, which often requires them to need more time to recover (rest) between exercises. So it’s not that women should do more reps than men, it’s that they can often tolerate a greater training density within a given workout because they’re less able to put as much energy into each rep as men, due to the strength differences.

Men do much better with longer workouts where they do a single set or superset pairs of two strength exercises and then rest, while women may be just as productive doing sets of mini-circuits of 3-5 strength exercises.

So, it’s important to understand that although men and women can do the same exercises, it how they’re applied and structured in a workout program that can determine its effectiveness, along with how much a man or women may enjoy their workouts.



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About Debbie Bertie

My name is Debbie Bertie, leading fat-loss specialist for women over 40. As a 57-year-old, single mom with two kids and a demanding career, I understand the struggle of maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle. Which is why I have developed simple, easy-to-follow workout plans and nutritional guides to help you get into shape and shed away stubborn body-fat with minimal effort.

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