General Considerations for Training Female Lifters

The most requested topic of discussion on my IG poll is how to train men and women differently, or what considerations do you need to make for women. I hesitate to answer this question because I don’t like generalities becoming rules. But I’ll appease the masses on this one and talk about general considerations to consider when training a female athlete.

The biggest and most obvious consideration in training women is their testosterone levels. Testosterone is rocket fuel and allows men to do dumb stuff and get away with it, and Testosterone also allows men to have a much higher reach from their base. However, women also have Testosterone, and understanding how it effects women’s training will bring us to our first major difference. Women, on average, can handle more volume than men of the same level, age, training background, and weight class. Rocket fuel burns hard and fast, but women are diesel. They can train at a consistent level for a longer period of time in their workouts and can train slightly longer before needing a deload week.

Women, also, can handle more volume at a higher percentage of their max. It’s not unusual for a woman to be able to double 90% in the clean or clean and jerk, but with most men, especially 96 kg or bigger men, doing a true double at 90% probably isn’t going to be a regular part of their training.

The biggest practical difference I experience in training women versus men is that truly accomplished and long term female athletes tend to come from a gymnastics or dance background and have excessive mobility, while males who are accomplished athletes tend to come from a wrestling, lacrosse, or football background and have more limited mobility.

What matters most, though, in training women or men is coaching an individual and not making wholesale assumptions about them because of a generalized pattern you’ve seen before. While generalized patterns are valuable and can inform your macrocycle or mesocycle, we want to train the individual and see their movement patterns and specific strengths and weaknesses at the microcycle level. The variables of volume, strength, and recovery depend on an individuals preparation and must be addressed by the coach on an individual basis.

Michael McKennaComment