In a culture where people believe that gender is just a social construct that doesn't reveal any inherent differences between men and women, it's easy to understand why so many of the diets and workout routines delivered to us are made by men and made for men—and yet we're told that they'll be successful for women. But the fact of the matter is, men and women have completely different hormonal and physiological responses in the body, so what might work great for your brother or boyfriend probably isn't the right fit for you.
Men function on a 24-hour hormonal cycle, meaning their hormone fluctuations are the same every day no matter what. Women, on the other hand, function more on a 28-day hormonal cycle (give or take a few days), so every day of the month we are experiencing something different hormonally. It doesn't make sense for us to follow the same schedule, diet, and workout routine as men have because we simply don't function the same way they do.
After working in the fitness world for 10 years, I've seen what happens when women adopt a men's routine without modifying it to fit their body. I myself used to do CrossFit, Barry's Bootcamp, and various types of high-intensity workouts. I genuinely enjoyed doing them and I wasn't even doing them with aesthetic goals in mind; rather, I just wanted to feel strong and perform well athletically. But it became clear to me a few years ago that these workouts were causing adrenal failure, fatigue, and even insomnia. When I switched over to different types of workout programs that were more suitable for women, I felt much better and my physique even changed for the better. Many of my clients have experienced the same thing after giving up the constant flow of high-intensity workouts that are made by men, for men.
Below are five workout options that are great for women to follow. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't ever do high-intensity workouts again; it just means that there is a time and place for it, and that time and place certainly isn't 3-5 times a week. Hopefully these alternatives will be helpful to you and your fitness goals.
1. Bret Contreras Glute Workout
I'm always a fan of traditional strength training, as it has a list of benefits that help women live healthier, happier lives. But not all strength training programs are created equal. Bret Contreras, PhD, is a well-known trainer who many know as the creator of today's barbell hip thrust. He coaches many women who do bikini bodybuilding competitions, which is not exactly a healthy process, but his programs are not only for women on that path. Whether you're new to strength training or you're a veteran who is looking to build up your glute strength specifically, Bret Contreras has a program that will likely work for you.
Building strong glutes is about much more than just looking good, although having a bigger, juicier butt is a great bonus. Functional glutes help relieve lower-back pain, strengthen the posterior chain, and prevent injury. There's a lot you can learn from Bret's page, and he has many success stories to share.
Admittedly, I used to scoff at Pilates for not being a tough enough workout, but there are a lot of days in a woman's menstrual cycle that are perfect for a solid Pilates workout. Not every workout has to be high-intensity and leave you dripping in sweat for it to be effective. In fact, you might find that exhausting yourself every single time you workout doesn't have the same benefits for you as it might for your husband. There are many different types of Pilates workouts that you can try. The app Glo has some great Pilates classes (along with wonderful yoga classes, meditation sessions, etc.) and there are some online teachers like Bryony Deery who offer remote classes you can try out. You might be surprised at how energized—and even sore—you feel after a Pilates session. Give it a try before you make a judgment call!
3. Tracy Anderson Method
She's best known for training celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracee Ellis Ross, but Tracy Anderson also offers an online studio where you can take virtual classes. Her method is unconventional and may look silly at first, but her workouts will strengthen you in many different planes and positions, mixing it up to keep your body guessing and keep your mind interested. You can choose from dance classes, restorative stretches, light resistance training, etc., leaving you with many options throughout the month. Many women claim that their svelte figure was sculpted from doing the Tracy Anderson Method, so try it for yourself and see if it works for you.
If you're looking for an app that can track your menstrual cycle and suggest workouts and even dietary choices based on where you are in your cycle, you've come to the right place. 28 is a great resource for women who want to get acquainted with cycle-based wellness. It will tell you what kind of workouts are best depending on your hormones, whether it's HIIT or yoga or resistance training. Not only will this make your workouts more effective, but it will allow you to work with your cycle, not against it.
5. Kayla Itsines Sweat
Australian trainer Kayla Itsines first broke into the fitness space with her BBG (bikini body guide) workout, but she soon transformed that into an app called Sweat, which has a wide variety of different workouts that are created by women, for women. You can do classic strength training, bodyweight cardio, low-impact strength, post-partum recovery sessions, pregnancy workouts, HIIT cardio, etc. The possibilities are endless and you can tailor your workouts to fit wherever you are in your cycle. There are many different trainers to choose from as well.
6. Ido Portal Method
Ido Portal is a brilliant movement philosopher and teacher from Israel who has built a fascinating community of people who are interested in the general practice of movement. His online platform features seasoned coaches who create a tailored program for each student, depending on what their interests and focus are. His movement practice includes everything from gymnastics strength training to mobility to handstands to locomotion to parkour-like material. Much of his practice looks intense (and it can be), but a lot of is soft and cerebral, allowing you to better understand the capabilities of your body and mind. Many women practice with Ido and love his teachings, and there's a lot of content that is perfectly suitable for women.