Yes, it’s true that there are physical and physiological differences between men and women. Men, for one, carry more muscle and have higher base-level strength. But that doesn’t mean women should train any differently from men. In fact, modern day women are increasingly showing men a thing or two about being strong and fit, and can hit it just as hard as they do. We speak to TripleFit Personal Trainer Cheryl Loh, who shares some smart fitness tips that the ladies can steal from the other sex.
1. Try strength training
Most men gear towards strength training because they are keen to build muscle mass, but this is an area women traditionally shun because they are afraid to grow ‘big’ or ‘bulky’. The truth is, women have much lower levels of testosterone which means bulking up is unlikely. Looking like a bodybuilder also requires a specific training with a strict diet to match, so there shouldn’t be any reason why ladies should shy away from strength training, says Ms Loh. In fact, the muscle mass gained can even help boost women’s metabolic rate. Resistance training also increases bone density and therefore decreases the chances of women developing osteoporosis later on in life. So if you’re looking to tone up, be healthy and lose some fats, give this a go!
2. Be adventurous
Photo: Cheryl Loh
Stop making a beeline for the treadmill and assault air bike every time you go to the gym! Start paying attention to the other equipment, such as the Rowing Machine, SkiErg or even barbells. While barbells look intimidating, they are actually easy to use once you get over your fear of them. In fact, they can help you work on your balance and take the load off your hands, wrists, and forearms so you can focus your weight-lifting efforts on the muscles you’re trying to work. Here are some exercises you can do with this handy tool that are beneficial for building a toned, sculpt body:
- Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts, and Hip Thrusts for a toned and round booty
- Military Press to get rid of flabby arms
- Bent-over Rows to get rid of that ‘back bulge’ especially when wearing bras
3. Embrace pull-ups
Photo: Cheryl Loh
The pull-up is no longer a ‘guy thing’. Being able to lift your own body-weight is a fundamental milestone of fitness. While we know pull-ups are tougher for women than for men, mainly due to differences in upper-body strength, it’s still a doable exercise with practice, so don’t be daunted, says Ms Loh. Plus, by engaging your back, arm and abdominal muscles, and shoulders, you get to strengthen, sculpt and tone your upper body. Start with assisted pull-ups with the machine, resistance bands or get a partner to assist you.
4. Try whey protein
Most ladies avoid protein shakes because they, once again, fear they’d end up ‘bulking up like the guys’. But whey protein can actually be pretty helpful in muscle growth, maintaining muscle mass when losing weight, post-workout recovery and even boosting metabolism. As long as you do not drink more than your body needs, whey protein can be beneficial. It can also fill nutritional gaps to ensure a complete and varied diet. Recommended intake is 1.6g to 2.2g of protein per kg of body-weight, depending on individuals’ activity level and physique goals.
5. Load up on protein for breakfast
A protein-packed breakfast is par for the course for men who are gym rats, because this meal can fuel their workouts and ensure they start off the day right. Getting a high-protein breakfast can also help keep their appetite in check — it makes them feel more satisfied and less hungry later in the day compared to a carbohydrate-filled breakfast. Take a leaf out of their book and go for a hearty meal that can include eggs, meat, oats and nuts. It can power your workout and help you lose weight too.
6. Keep things simple
Sometimes, less is more. Lay off the pressure on yourself — you don’t necessarily have to cover a lot of ground each time you hit the gym. Plan your workout before every session and focus on an objective per training session. It could be ‘Back and Abs Day’, ‘Cardio Day’, or simply High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Day. When you set objectives, you’re more likely to concentrate better and ensure that you’ve nicely worked a part of your body without jumping from exercise to exercise. This can also help if you have any specific areas that you want to target.