Should Women Train Like Men?

Pole Vault

Today we have a guest blog post from Nia Shanks.  I believe Nia is a real up-and-comer in the industry, and she’s got a strong deadlift to boot!

This piece was originally posted at, and yes guys, I kept the picture just for you 😉

I had a great idea for this post before I started to actually write it up. It’s a popular saying that “women should train like men” for the best results in the weight room. However, women’s strength training shouldn’t necessarily mimic the training of men.

Allow me to explain: there’s only one problem with the statement that women should train like men: most men don’t “train like men.”

In commercial gyms everywhere most men do exercises that aren’t the most beneficial for their physique, health, or goals. For example, if men actually train their legs they use the leg press, leg extension, leg curl, and even the inner and outer thigh machines.

(The strength coaches/trainers I know wouldn’t be caught dead training themselves or their athletes/clients on an inner or outer thigh machine).

Men also use a lot of machines, do tons of bicep curls, lots of weighted sit-ups and side bends, and always make sure there is ample time for the bench press. Furthermore, most men in gyms hardly train their backs, except for the occasional set of lat pull-downs and seated rows.

So, for the most part, most men don’t train properly. They don’t use efficient or challenging exercises, their training is horribly unbalanced (constantly working chest and biceps) and their posterior chain (low back, glutes, and hamstrings) is very neglected. This is not the type of training I would encourage a woman to follow.

The saying should go like this instead: women should train like athletes.

Athletes train to improve their performance. Developing a body with low body fat and a great aesthetic appearance are usually just a great side effect. For more information on training for performance, refer to the article Stop Training for Fat Loss.

Athletes use challenging exercises that help develop a balanced, healthy body. You won’t catch a smart athlete doing nothing but bench presses and barbell curls for their upper body.

So what does this mean? It means that in the weight room women should do the following exercises and their variations:


-squats (bodyweight, dumbbell, or barbell—do not use a Smith machine . . . ever)



-dumbbell/barbell chest presses

-rows (bodyweight, dumbbell, barbell, cable)

-overhead presses



-planks and other core stabilizers

Those exercises will give you the “biggest bang for your buck.” If you only used the exercises on that list for the rest of your training career, you would build a much better body than the average gym rat, and in much less time.

For the most part, stay off the damn machines. You will build a sexier pair of legs with squats, deadlifts, and lunges than you ever could with leg extensions/curls, and inner/outer thigh machines. Furthermore, those exercises will also make you more balanced, healthy, and provide carry-over into the real world.

So there you have it: train like an athlete.

– Nia Shanks


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  1. Nice post and well said! And will the aforementioned men get out of the squat rack for their bicep curls? Some women need to warm up with your max!

  2. Nice post-
    I train and coach our UC Davis Throws squad and do the strength and conditioning for my throwers. 90% of our exercises are done standing up. Squats, Cleans/snatch variations, Box squats from various heights, Neider presses, clean neider presses and push jerks, one of our main lifts and huge circuits. The point is-we train the posterior chain and link the the ground to the throwing implement. Our power development cannot be created sitting down. External loads, overhead, and Neider presses tax the posterior chain and give the added benefits you can't get by a seated pulley machine.
    In my fitness classes I train the class population just like my athletes, just with 3-5 lb dumbbells")…all standing on our feet of course.
    Furthermore; I keep our women on the heavier phases a bit longer than men due to the hormonal responses to resistance training. So I have women training just like men and lifting more most of them.
    Again nice article and I agree 100%
    UC Davis

  3. awesome post me and my mom are starting training tomorrow squat overhead press deadlift
    then squat bench and power cleans the next workout alternating these and adding push-ups and pull-ups and dips as well as an ab workout with them plus cardio

  4. Terrific post! Based on what I see in my gym, both sexes spend way too much time sitting on machines. The only major differences are the guys move more selectorized plates than the 2 plates or so I see the women using, and the guys do more for their arms and chest while the women do more legs and abs. And, when I do see a guy squat, it’s usually in the Smith machine.
    The only good thing is that I rarely have to wait to use a squat rack, pull-up bars, or dip station. From their point of view, however, the good thing is – well, there’s none that I can think of.

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