Men do UFC Fit because it’s tailored for men’s bodies, the same way women go to jazzercise because it’s made for female fitness, right?
Misinformation — and the mountains of money it provides — fuel the fitness industry’s reluctance to admit this one fact:
There is no difference in how men and women get fit.
Minor differences make the experiences different for women and men, and we’ll get into those below, but the path they should walk is exactly the same.
The first step toward being fit is acknowledging this truth, and ignoring the fitness industry’s sexist marketing that keeps telling women they can only handle aerial yoga.
Don’t Let Fitness Myths Keep You from Your Ideal Physique
Every woman’s ideal physique is different, but the common traits I hear when I talk to women seem to be “lean, toned, and not too muscular.”
Women want definition in their arms, shoulders, and legs without looking like a bodybuilder.
The good news is that it would literally take a decade of weight training for most women to have the kind of bulky body type they all fear.
The majority of women you see who look bulky are simply carrying too much body fat. They’re fat jacked.
Bottom line — getting serious about fitness isn’t going to transform you into the Incredible Hulk.
When it comes to getting fit, women would do well to forget everything they’ve heard or read online since most of it is misleading or flat out wrong.
Women don’t need lots of cardio to get lean, nor should they avoid lifting heavy.
If your personal trainer is having you combine some crazy juice fast with high reps of low weight dumbbells, they’re leading you down the path to being skinny fat.
Most fitness certifications aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on anymore, plus it’s good business for personal trainers to cycle between programs and keep you coming back to the gym.
If they give you the sustainable results you’re seeking, they’ll lose you as a customer.
Call me a bad businessman if you want, but Hack Your Fitness is going to hand you all the tools you need to get lean, build new muscle, and stay that way the rest of your life.
I’m going to put myself out of business with this system, and that’s my goal.
Getting Lean is the Universal Starting Point for Fitness
The fitness goal for men and women is the same: A low body fat percentage and consistent muscle gains.
The process of burning body fat while simultaneously adding muscle is called body recomposition. This holy grail of fitness can be difficult to attain, which is why most people opt to either cut down or bulk up.
Whether you’re a woman looking to get toned, or a man looking to bulk up, the first step is always to shed body fat and get lean.
These are the body fat percentages each gender should achieve before focusing solely on building muscle or “bulking”:
- Men: 10% or under
- Women: 15–20%
Notice that body weight doesn’t factor into this equation at all.
Both men and women are guilty of worrying too much about the scale. Mainstream media has beat it into our heads that weight is the most significant marker of health and fitness.
That’s bullshit. Body composition — how much lean muscle you have versus how much body fat you’re carrying — is the only metric you need to worry about.
I’m not saying that your weight is irrelevant. I’m saying it’s just another data point.
Training Differences Between Men and Women
As I mentioned up top, there are no differences in how men and women should train.
If the goal for both genders is the same — low body fat percentage and consistent muscle gains — then it is clear that the path to that goal will look the same for everyone.
That said, there is a difference in the rate at which men and women build muscle.
With 1/16th the amount of testosterone a typical man has, the typical woman is going to add new muscle at a slower rate than her male counterpart.
If you’re a woman and you’re still worried that lifting heavy will make you look bulky, that should put your mind at ease.
The most effective way to get the physique you desire is by progressively overloading on compound lifts. Notice the way supermodel Kate Upton is choosing to work out in the video below:
Kate isn’t “toning” or “shaping” with light weights and high reps. She’s not doing cardio. She’s doing trap bar deadlifts with celebrity trainer Ben Bruno and building real muscle.
Progressive overload — lifting more weight over time — on lifts like the squat, overhead press, and deadlift is especially important for women because they tend to have weaker bone structures. Bone is living tissue and can be strengthened over time with weight training.
Hormone Differences Affect Diet Composition
We’ve already talked about testosterone, but it’s also worth mentioning that women’s bodies typically carry more fat than men’s bodies because of estrogen.
Estrogen is the reason the ideal body fat range for women is 5–10% higher than men.
Higher levels of body fat mean that women can have more fat in their diet than men and “get away with it” because the higher levels of fat don’t decrease their insulin sensitivity.
Women are less reliant on glycogen, which is what you get from carbs.
Men, on the other hand, rely more on glycogen and therefore can eat more carbs than women.
- If women ate the same level of carbs that men should eat, their insulin sensitivity would be affected.
- If men ate the same level of fat that women should eat, their insulin sensitivity would be affected.
If you’re a man who enjoys fat, or a woman who loves carbs, blame estrogen and testosterone!
Piecing it All Together
Men and women, but especially women, need to forget everything they’ve heard or been taught about fitness and embrace this fundamental truth:
Getting fit starts with getting lean, then building muscle from there.
Women should train and diet the exact same way that men do:
- Compound weight training with progressive overload
- Operating on a caloric deficit (burning more calories than you consume)
- Getting enough protein, fat, and carbs (macronutrients)
Before you start, I encourage you to do a Google search and find a picture of your ideal body type.
When you find it, save it somewhere you’ll see it often, like your desk at work or as your phone background.
Seeing it will remind you, “This is what I want to look like at the end of all this.”
If you can’t visualize success then you’ll never reach it, and that photo gives you a target to hit.
Last but not least, ditch the scale. Weigh yourself once a week at most.
Use waist measurements around your navel as a gauge of your progress. Don’t get into this thing where you’re weighing yourself on a daily basis and freaking out over minor moves.
Measure your success by looking in the mirror, not down at the scale.
A disclaimer to any pregnant women looking to get fit: Consult with a doctor before beginning any kind of exercise regimen. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, I wouldn’t recommend a caloric restriction.
Originally published at medium.com