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For Women Only

When it comes to training men and women, most coaches believe they should not be trained any differently. I happen to believe the situation is not that simple, as physiological differences between the sexes require different training strategies. The main concern is that of menstruation.

Most coaches fail to consider how a woman’s body responds to resistance training during her 28 day hormonal cycle. To be fair, not all women are affected equally during menstruation. Take for instance, two of my clients, “Lisa” and “Mary.” Both are Division 1 track and field athletes, and their response to their menstruation cycles are as different as night and day. During certain phases of her cycle, Lisa cannot resistance train due to the painful cramps she experiences. At times they can be severe that her doctor prescribes her a mild sedative to ease her discomfort. Mary however, can train throughout her 28 day cycle and rarely experiences any discomfort.

Here’s a graphic I refer to when designing a training program for women:

Each phase of menstruation has unique physiological and psychological characteristics which require specific changes to a training program.

Days 1 to 5
Higher perceived exertion and fatigue
Increased risk of injury due to joint laxity and lack of focus
Increased low back pain

 Days 6 to 13
Ideal phase for hard strength training sessions
Hardest training sessions of the month should be planned during this period

Day 14
Testosterone peaks, ideal time for a maximum effort training session

Days 15 to 21
Maintain the same high intensity and training volume

Days 22 to 28
Reduction in reaction time, dexterity and agility
Higher perceived exertion and fatigue
Increased risk of injury due to joint laxity and lack of focus

It’s also important to note the changes that occur to body composition, such as water retention. It’s not uncommon for women to gain an additional 5-10 lbs of water during her cycle. This fact is important to remember, as a trainer (male or female) without a solid understanding of female hormonal issues, may believe the weight gain is the client’s fault.

The training programs I design for my elite female clients are dynamic and reflect what’s occurring to their bodies hormonally. To do otherwise, would be denying them the ability to reach their goals safely and in a timely manner.

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