Is There Such A Thing As A “Best Exercise Program For Women”? – Part 1

By on January 1, 2013

By Jonathan and Nancy Risworth –

To be straight up – whatever exercise program works for a guy is going to work for a woman – We may seem to be from different galaxies at times, but when it comes to our bodies, we both have muscles, joints and body parts generally in the same places…

So Are There Any Differences Between Women And Men Worth Knowing – Besides the Obvious?

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Women Carry an Extra Layer of Fat – for a very good reason!

One difference, and the reason men can get that highly chiseled look when they are very lean, is that we carry an extra layer of fat. Why is that? It seems so unfair! Well, it’s there to help us survive the times when there isn’t much food to eat. This extra bunch of stored energy lets us focus on making sure our kids can survive. I guess nature isn’t all about just looking good?

Testosterone Builds Muscle Which Burns Fat

Men also have loads more testosterone that gives them the ability to pack on more muscle. And the more muscle you have, the easier it is to burn fat.

So, as women we have to eat selectively to minimize our fat layers. Plus we have to exercise at crazy levels of intensity to get anywhere near creating a defined chiseled look – if that really is what you want to do???

Women’s Leg Power – A Key To Fat Burning!

It is good to understand that even though women have a lot less upper body strength than men, when it comes to the strength in our thighs, glutes and hips, pound for pound we have 2/3 the strength of males. Why? Because when you are giving birth you need all that strength! So what! You may be thinking… Think about this – muscle mass burns fat. Your quads are a very big muscle. If you exercise your legs as much as your upper body you will burn fat faster!

“But I don’t want big muscly legs!” you say. The good news is that unless you are taking steroids you aren’t going to grow massive thighs. Also, by keeping your leg exercise repetitions in the 12 to 15 range your thighs will become more defined and look more athletic, and burn the fat!

Let’s Look at a Real Life Example of a Female Athlete’s Exercise Routine

I can’t get any closer to home than talking about our daughter, Laura. She’s a serious athlete and her workout routines are the same as her male counterparts.

Laura is a world class surfer. In 2010 she was New Zealand’s National Woman’s Surfing Champion and came ninth in the World Surfing Games held in Peru in 2010.

In the gym she follows intense boxing routines, performs pull up sets, heavy squats and deadlifts. Her intensity is kind of scary if you aren’t used to being near someone who is pushing themselves to the maximum limit during their workouts.

A Typical Lower Body Workout for a Female Athlete Wanting to Build Power and Strength (Twice a week)

Leg Press      4 sets x 8 repetitions (Heavy as possible, getting close to failure)

Squats            4 sets x 8 repetitions (Heavy as possible)

Deadlifts        4 sets x 8 repetitions (Very heavy)

Dumbbell Lunges            4 sets x 8 repetitions (Moderate to Heavy)

A Typical Upper Body Workout For A Female Athlete Wanting To Build Strength (Twice a week)

Bench Press                       4 sets x 8 repetitions

Incline Press                      4 sets x 8 repetitions

Pull Ups / Press Ups (Supersets)  10 Pull Ups followed immediately by 15 press ups 4 sets of this combination

Note that all these exercises are compound exercises – they involve more than one joint movement. The reason for this is because compound movements tax the body a great deal more than simple exercises, which involve only one joint moving. (For example a squat is a compound movement, (hips, lower back and knees) while a leg extension involves moving only the knee joint. If you want to build strength, stick to compound movements, but be warned – they will get you great results but they are much tougher to perform!

Now I am not suggesting you should train as hard as she does, unless you too are aiming to be a top athlete in your chosen sport. What I want you to get is that just because you are fortunate to be a woman, doesn’t mean you have train differently from a male. Laura’s training and that of top male surfers only differs due to what each athlete and their coach believes they need to be working on.  What works for women works for men and vice versa.

Remember that exercise form is essential for your health and safety, especially for compound exercises. If you are training intensely do not sacrifice form just to lift heavier. Good form is essential at all times!

But Aren’t There “Silver Bullet” Exercises For Women?

Hopefully by now you get it – women don’t have to train differently from males! The exercise principles that apply to men also apply to women, despite what some marketing hype may try and sell you.

How To Exercise To Lose Fat

The exercise program set out above will build great strength if that is what you are after, and if that is your goal, give this a go – but if you are keen to lose some fat read Part Two of this article.

Exercising for fat loss is a different goal to wanting to win a sporting event. Different goals require different exercise routines. In Part Two of this article I am going to talk about what you need to do differently when you exercise depending on what you want to achieve.

Until next time – enjoy life to the max with life-long fitness routines and healthy choices.


Nancy’s passion is health and fitness with over 25 years’ experience helping others to improve their quality of life. As a qualified Naturopath and Personal Trainer Nancy has an in-depth understanding of how nutrition and exercise needs to be tailored to suit her clients. Now in her fifties she knows first-hand what it takes to remain in good shape and what a gift being fit and healthy is as the years fly by. With such specialist knowledge Nancy’s purpose is helping others in their forties and beyond to be vibrantly fit and healthy so they can fully enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Jonathan has been training for over 30 years, to remain fit and healthy and to allow him to surf until he’s 90. He is a qualified fitness instructor, has managed both commercial and club gyms, read and studied many books on health and fitness, especially on weight training. He is a CEO and looks for a life balance that allows time for family, community, work and play. He continues to train at home, plus trains in martial arts twice a week, and surfs whenever the waves and time allows. As a male in his fifties who has seen too many colleagues either die too young, or age too quickly he is passionate about the benefits of exercising and nutrition to enjoy life to the fullest.

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Is There Such A Thing As A “Best Exercise Program For Women”? – Part 1