Everyone assumes men and women require the same personal training, boot camp, and sports training programs, however  men and women are different in many ways. To demonstrate this large difference, women didn’t compete in a number of power events, including weightlifting and the hammer throw, until the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Knowing this suggests that women have only been considered for strength and power for the past 15 years!

The past research on strength and conditioning training mainly focused on just men (or men and women clumped together), despite many obvious differences between sexes.

Luckily, a recent study looked at only women, analyzing what type of periodization was best for strength gains during female personal training.

What is Periodization?

Periodization is the systematic planning of training. Simply put, it means thinking of a plan a head of time and documenting a plan, what all elite personal trainers perform, but many female personal trainers ignore…

Bartolomei (2015) contrasts the two training styles as the following of periodization:

  • Weekly undulating (WUD) model is characterized by a “wave-like” workload distribution over time achieved by frequent variation of the training contents within each mesocycle. In this model, each week presented a specific training goal and each mesocycle is often characterized by a gradual transition from a period of high volume and low intensity to a period of low volume and high intensity.
  • Block periodization (BP) was first proposed by Verkhoshansky at the end of the 1970s after having used this model for several years with Soviet jumpers.  In this periodization model, the macrocycle is divided into several phases, called blocks, each with a unique goal and a duration of 2–6 weeks. Each block is focused on developing a few selected abilities using concentrated training stimuli. The blocks should be planned in a logical sequence to achieve a cumulative effect of the training workloads.

Personal Training Program

Bartolomei (2015) had seventeen recreationally trained women serve as subjects. Nine women were assigned to a block periodization group and the remaining eight comprised the weekly undulating perdioization group. The first group performed a 10-week BP training program with a relative constant training volume throughout each mesocycle. The second group followed a 10-week WUD composed of varied training volume and intensity within each mesocycle.

Personal training was carried out 3 times a week for 10 weeks. Exercises were the same for both groups.

Bartolomei (2015) outlines the programs as follows:

“The BP program consisted of two 5-week mesocycles, the first was focused on muscle hypertrophy and was characterized by a high training volume and low relative training intensity. During the first mesocycle, participants used loads between 70 and 75% (5 series of 8–10 repetitions) of their 1RM strength with 1-minute recovery time between sets. The second mesocycle focused on maximal strength; subjects used 88–93% of 1RM (5 series of –3–4 repetitions) loads with 3-minute recovery time between sets.

The WUD program also consisted of two 5-week mesocycles. During each mesocycle, training load progressed from a high volume and low intensity toward a low volume and high intensity. The first week of each mesocycle focused on muscle hypertrophy. During the second week of training, the total training volume was slightly reduced. The third and the fourth weeks of each mesocycle focused on maximal strength, and participants performed a low number of repetitions using heavy loads. The last week of each mesocycle for both groups was dedicated to recovery and only 3 light load workouts, consisting of 3 sets of 6 repetitions at 65% of 1RM, were performed. Figure 2 shows the “wave-like” pattern of workload distribution characterizing the WUD model.

Jumps were included in both BP and WUD programs after the squat exercise. Participants performed 4 sets of 6 body weight countermovement jumps (CMJs) with maximum explosive intent.”

What Periodization is Best for Female Personal Training?

Results of this study indicated that both WUD and BP strength training programs were effective in stimulating performance improvements in recreationally resistance trained female participants. Significant increases were seen in both groups on 1RM deadlift and squat and muscle mass. However, lower-body maximal strength and hypertrophy increases were significantly greater in the WUD group. Specifically, the WUD group increased 1RM squat by an average of 27.7% after the training program, whereas the BP group increased 1RM by an average of 15.2%. In addition, the WUD group showed greater increases in lower-body muscle area by an average of 5.8% compared with an average of 1.6% in the BP group. All are solid improvements from female personal training.

Why Do Men and Women Respond to Personal Training Differently?

Once again, female personal training and male personal training are different! Women appear to respond better to a weekly undulating program for increasing muscle size and strength in the lower body. Why women respond better to this undulating program is not well understood. Perhaps this occurs because women have a greater overall body strength in their legs compared to their arms (Women’s upper bodies are much weaker than those of men – lower body strength is around 70-75% of men, whereas upper body strength is around 40-60%).

Reference:

  1. Bartolomei S, Stout JR, Fukuda DH, Hoffman JR, Merni F. Block vs. Weekly Undulating Periodized Resistance Training Programs in Women. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):2679-87. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000948.