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Thread: Male vs Female numbers: does it matter?

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    ljubljana. slovenia
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    Keep the reps the same - in crossfit there's typically a 30% weight reduction for women compared to men.
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  2. #12
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    I think in things like pullups and muscle-ups, you are seeing the difference in number of reps at a high percent of 1RM. If you tested them differently--for instance adding weight until the person failed to complete the movement for one rep, instead of adding reps to failure--you would likely see something quite different. The men would be pulling a higher percentage of their body weight than the women for one rep. Trained men are stronger than trained women pound for pound, especially in upper body lifts, because women just can't add as much muscle mass to their upper bodies as men can. But, and this is a big but, women's muscles fatigue differently than men's, and this allows them to move more reps at a given percent of their 1RM before failure. I am guessing this is the effect you are seeing at Crossfit competitions. Women are completing the same number of reps as men because their muscles don't fatigue as quickly at high percentage of 1RM, while men are completing the same number because they are lifting a weight at a lower percent of 1RM than the women are.
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  3. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    My understanding was always that:

    1) Men had more upper body strength relative to weight than women
    2) Women had more endurance and pain tolerance than men (obviously, extremes at both end of the sprectrum excepted)
    3) Men just plain have a higher muscle/fat ratio than women (moderate bodyfat % on a man can be unhealthy on a woman)

    Now the whole bodyfat thing is potentially protective when it comes to things like pregnancy, giving birth, nursing and fluctuating hormones, so those might be the evolutionary reasons behind it.

    Though I absolutely stand behind the idea that men and women are equally valuable, I'm also a huge fan of how different we are.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Coral Gables, FL
    When it comes to matters of strength and muscularity, most of it has been covered already. But you mention creating programs for female clients. I'm not an expert by any means, so that's why I tend to defer to the knowledge of people who do know...

    Jason Ferruggia Uncensored: Effective Training Programs For Females

    While many of the principles of effective weight training are exactly the same for males as they are for females, there are a few differences that need to be pointed out. These differences are not of major concern and the fact is that many females could get great results doing the exact same workouts as their male counterparts. But since I brought it up, here they are:

    • Females seem to achieve better results with a slightly higher rep range than males- While most males build muscle most effectively in the range of 5-10 reps, females often tend to do better while working in the range of 8-15 reps. Notice I didn’t say 15-50 reps. Remember, that stuff is useless nonsense. Heavy sets of 8-15 reps to failure or near failure are the way to go for most females looking to build muscle and burn fat.

    • Females can tolerate a slightly higher training volume- Because they are usually weaker and have less overall muscle mass than males; females recover more easily and quickly and for this reason can tolerate a greater number of sets in their training. For males I usually recommend an average of 12-18 hard sets per workout but for females I prefer to stick with 16-28, sometimes even higher.

    Just because they can tolerate the higher volume, does that mean that they actually need it? This is a question I have often pondered but have never really experimented with because of the mental and emotional aspect of training females (trainers and coaches pay attention). Most females have been conditioned to believe that a good workout consists of sweating their asses off and nearly needing to be carried out of the gym when it’s over. For this reason you simply can not tell a female to do ten hard sets 5-8 reps on squats, rows and presses with long rest periods and expect her to be happy about it. If I had a female do one of my workouts with me that consisted of two sets of squats, two sets of deadlifts, two sets of glute hams and a few shrugs, neck extensions and grip work she would hate it with a passion. It is mainly because of this that I always prescribe more sets for my female clients than I do my male clients.

    • Females require less rest between sets than males- This is very similar to the rule about training volume. Because they are weaker, less muscular and recover faster, females don’t need to rest as long between sets. While most males will need at least 3-5 minutes between a brutally heavy ten-rep set of squats before they will be able to repeat the effort, most females can do so in just a minute or two; sometimes even less. If they are extremely weak, they may actually be able to repeat the effort in as little as 30 seconds. If you give them a workout that calls for the same rest periods that males use they will be bored to tears. This goes along with the mentality that females have been brainwashed into having; that an effective workout must leave them rolling in a pool of their own sweat and puke.

    Take note of this if you are a trainer because prescribing shorter rest periods for your female clients can eliminate some uncomfortable situations for you. When a girl is not slightly winded from a set yet you decide to give her a 90 second rest period like you would a guy, you are going to be in for a lot of awkward silence while frantically searching for something to talk about after about the 15th set.
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  5. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by elainevdw View Post

    You could always check out the fitness requirements for the military. They have different classes based on gender and age, and I'd assume they're probably pretty accurate as far as what each gender is capable of.
    In some countries, the zealous equal rights in everything group, along with a bureaucratic fear of breaching human rights legislation has led to those militaries introducing gender equality to their fitness testing. The effect of this has been to lower the overall fitness levels of these services.
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  6. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Edmonton Canada
    As some posters have pointed out there is a difference in muscle composition and women do tend to do better with higher reps.
    As for things like chin-ups being done by a fit male and a fit female of equal weight due to bodyfat percentages the man will have more muscle for the body weight they are moving.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by Anivair View Post
    In a lot of fitness resources i see a delineation between what a man is expected to be capable of and what a woman is expected to be capable of (even in terms of body weight percentages on a lift, for example). This happens even in the Primal Blueprint by our own Mark Sisson. Often the male numbers on things like bodyweight pull ups or push ups are higher than female numbers. Pullups are the best example, since at the primal movement level the female numbers are less than half the male numbers.

    I know we live in a world where the reality is that women are generally less strong and often that woman are less interested in getting strong because they fear muscle bulk.

    I also know that we are smarter than that and that we recognize that women can be strong and lean and not bulky and, in fact, that it happens all the time.

    But what about those numbers? Is there any legit reason for a woman to be doing less reps on upper body work, when we're comparing BW exercises? Is she not already, on average, moving less weight? Are less reps required? Based on what I know, if anything the female anatomy is better at multiple reps than the male anatomy (and most of the differences really are cosmetic when you get past that).

    I'm designing a workout program for local use and I'm trying to set goals, but mark's numbers scare me. Am I going to be accused of being sexist? Am I being sexist? Or am I being unrealistic in assuming that women should be doing the same number of reps as men?

    Ladies? Do any of you strong grok chicks have experience here? I'd love some support.
    When I was in the military and we did our PT tests...for women we had to do 1 pullup to pass and 12 to max out the score (if you couldn't do a pullup as a woman you had to be able to do the flex arm hang for 1minute - I'd rater do the pullups), men had to do 15 to pass and 30 to max out. sit ups were the same (50 to pass 100 to max out), long jump was different (don't remember by how much), push ups women had to do 25 to pass 50 to max out points, men had to do 40 to pass and 65 to pass

    Why not have each individual you're training do a MAX rep session of each exercise - then you have a starting point. Say trainee A can do 5 standard pushups as her max. so when she does her pushups the next LHT session - you could have her shoot to get 5 standard pushups - then when she can't do anymore - have her drop to her knees and try for 2,3, 4, 5 more (what ever works) Thats what I've done...and I've found its helped me build strength quickly just using body weight.

    as for pull ups - now I can barely do 1...when 20 yrs ago I could bang out 25 w/o a problem or assistance and I'm not offended by Mark's LHT goals for women... establish the benchmark (MAX REPS) then trainees know if x# of pullups/pushups is out of my reach - but I want to get there...can you help me and then the plan builds/tailors around the skill set.
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  8. #18
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by adamm View Post
    Physiologically, men are different. I read, I believe it was Rippetoe's Practical Programming for Strength (don't remember), that women's max strength is generally much less than men's in proportion to body weight, but that they can do significantly more reps of 85% 1MR than a man and have less fatigue afterwards. I wish this didn't sound so vague, but I can't remember where I read that.
    It sounds more like something from The Poliquin Principles by Charles Poliquin:

    At any given percentage of their maximum for one rep (1RM), a woman will perform more reps than a man. Take the arm curl, for example. At 70% of their 1RM, a woman should be able to perform 17 reps, while a man should only be able to complete 12. Also, because there is an inverse relationship between sets and reps, this difference in neurological efficiency means women should do fever sets at a given intensity.
    When someone like Poliquin says that there's a neurological difference between men and women, and that it's not just a matter of how much lean body mass they each carry, then there's probably something to it.

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