Why women should do "men only" workouts

Written by marta montenegro
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You don’t want to look like your boyfriend. So why should you exercise like him? Turns out there are four reasons trying his workout routine can lead to a breakthrough in yours.

Why women should do "men only" workouts
(Getty Thinkstock)

No "Barbie" dumbbells

Strength training is important for weight loss and a strong body. Most women know this, but many still avoid weights. “Women often shy away from the weight room, believing that heavy lifting will result in bulky muscles,” says Lopez.

But if you want to redefine your body, you need to lift heavy weights. “Muscles have no impetus to develop unless they are sufficiently challenged,” says Brad Schoenfeld, the 2011 NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year and author of The MAX Muscle Plan. “Using very low intensities simply won't get it done. Not only does adding some muscle help to provide a firmer appearance, but it actually helps to increase metabolic rate and as a result, reduce body fat.”

Women who do lift often work in a good rep range for hypertrophy – 8 to 12 reps. But the weight they’re using is so light, according to Lopez, that when they reach the 12th rep, they show little evidence of exertion.

And don't worry about bulking up: the vast majority of women don't have the genetic capacity to add substantial amounts of muscle to their frame.

The takeaway? “Stay away from the pink dumbbells and lift weights that are challenging,” Schoenfeld says.

Do more upper body work

Women tend to accumulate more fat around the hips before menopause, so many try and tackle this areas specifically. Here’s the thing: Spot fat reduction doesn’t work, so regardless of how many reps you do on the adductor machine, you won’t burn fat in just the hips. To lose fat there, you need to lose fat across your entire body. That means working the area north of your beltline.

By working out the upper body – particularly the back and chest muscles- you will actually increase the chance of changing the way your lower body looks—and works. It’s not just because aesthetically you will have better posture, which shapes your overall physique. The caloric burn of incorporating upper-body work with lower-body moves (such as squat-to-shoulder press) will ramp up your metabolism, helping reduce body fat everywhere.

Speed up

The fat burn obsession still keeps many women plodding along through long, slow sessions of cardio. And while working within the fat burning zone (around 60 percent of your max heart rate) does indeed accomplish just that, it requires you to sustain the activity for a long period of time.

Crank up the intensity to around 80 percent of your max heart rate, and your body switches to a higher energy giver – glycogen, the glucose storage in the muscle and liver. You’ll burn more calories in less time. And better yet, your metabolism remains elevated even after you complete the workout. Women tend to use more fat as an energy source at rest and during exercise, and a study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism shows that at higher exercise intensities, women tend to burn more fat when compared to men.

So rather than gliding along on the elliptical, try some power and agility drills such as jump squats, box jumps, or sprinting through a ladder or around cones.

Get gritty

Men tend to be more motivated by measurable results – such as increasing their bench press numbers --so they tend to give 100 percent effort and fully focus on the task, rather than just go through the motions, according to Mark H. Anshel, Ph.D, professor of Health and Human Performance at Middle Tennessee State University.

“Men tend to be a little bit more competitive with themselves,” he says. “They know more about their previous bests, making them more focused and efficient on working on their own objectives.”

Try keeping a log of your workouts, aiming to better your previous sessions as you build strength from week to week. Because women have more estrogen and less testosterone, they tend to be less aggressive and competitive. But when it comes to changing your body, a little extra madness and motivation can be helpful.

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