What I Know About Women

About the Author: Eric Cressey

I’m opening a big can of worms with this subject line… The truth is that I really don’t know anything about women; I just know how to train them and am relatively observant. I actually got the idea for this newsletter when my girlfriend and I returned from our trip to Ireland on Tuesday. On the plane ride back, we were reviewing the photos in our cameras. She had taken hundreds of pictures of everything from sheep, to waterfalls, to rugby matches, to the training we did, to my seminar – and even four photos of our plane ride to Ireland last week. When we had tapped out her camera’s memory card, we turned on mine. I had one picture. It was taken at the Guinness Brewery on the sidewalk – and likely only because we were waiting for the tour bus to pick us up. I guess pictures just aren’t my thing. Anyway, it got me thinking about the differences between men and women in the gym – so I thought I’d throw some out there. Enjoy.

Women generally don’t do well with spring clamps for barbells because many of them can’t put them on with a single hand because their hands aren’t big enough (and they’re actually more awkward to put on with two hands). Muscle clamps are a better bet. Men, on the other hand, forget to use clamps altogether. Women will not add a 2.5-pound plate to the bar until you tell them to do so. With men, you’re constantly telling them to check their egos and take weight off the bar in order to perfect their form. Women respond differently to diets than men in a few ways. I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg here, but first off, they tend to be smaller absolutely, so fat loss comes slower. Second, my experience has been that while they do quite well with lowered carb intakes, these reductions don’t work quite as well as with men in all cases. Cassandra Forsythe does an awesome job of outlining different nutrition strategies for women in The Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet. Women do not handle comparisons to others well at all, whereas men almost always respond well to comparisons. Alwyn Cosgrove discussed this phenomenon in a previous interview for my newsletter; check out Part 1 and Part 2.

At Cressey Performance, we have a high school male record board – but not a female one – for this very reason. Women will attempt to complete hour-long training sessions in 30-35 minutes, whereas men will drag their heels and attempt to slow things down as much as possible. With women, we often program in more “filler” movements (low-level flexibility/activation/soft tissue drills) between sets to slow them down. With men, we usually just yell at them. Women will wear high heels even if they know they are absolutely horrible for lower extremity health – and even in spite of your desperate pleas for them to lose the heels. If a male athlete wants to wear high heels, though, chances are that he has more pressing concerns than ankle mobility – and this one might be outside your scope of practice. Women typically need more soft tissue and activation work, but not necessarily as much mobility work (ankles being the exception).

Men, on the other hand, are tighter than a camel’s a** in a sandstorm, and need soft tissue work, activation, and loads of mobility drills. Women will generally require a bit more cybernetic periodization – “rolling with the punches” programming-wise – than men at the advanced level. You’d be surprised at how much the menstrual cycle can affect things. Speaking of the menstrual cycle, women need to be cognizant of getting enough iron in their diets, whereas men need to be cognizant of giving blood every so often to control their iron levels. Women are at risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears for a variety of reasons, including an increased Q-angle, quad dominance/hamstrings weakness, differential gastrocnemius recruitment strategies, and a host of other factors. Would you believe that women are also at more risk at certain times of the month because there are estrogen receptors on the ACL? This newsletter was inspired in part by Steph Holland-Brodney, a CP client who is running her second marathon and raising money for Boston Medical Center in the process. If you have a few dollars to spare and want to do something nice this Easter weekend, you can show BMC and Steph some love HERE.

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That’ll do it for this week. As a little aside, yes, I know this is my 100th newsletter. Unfortunately, given that I just got back from an overseas trip and the baseball off-season just wrapped up on Sunday, I wasn’t in much of a position to throw an extravaganza with clowns, balloon animals, shadow puppets, magic tricks, or even a corny joke or two. I would, however, like to extend my thanks to all of you for your continued support; I’m looking forward to the next 100 installments and beyond.

All the Best,