When I walk around the gym and take notice of those who look lost and a little intimidated by lifting weights, nine times out of ten it’s either the elderly, teenagers or women. I don’t mean that in any way as a derogatory statement but just as something I’ve noticed. I haven’t done a lot of research on why this is but I do have some observations.
#1 In my opinion, women aren’t as naturally interested in weight training as men
#2 The larger more muscular men seem to intimidate the smaller less experienced women
#3 Women sports in High School are less about strength training but endurance and agility. So, many women have less experience lifting weights than men who played sports in High School or College.
If these “observations” are in fact true, it’s no wonder why women may be a tad “lost” when it comes to weight training. The fact is men and women’s bodies are about as different as apples and oranges.
Let’s look at some facts on the womans body and then we’ll discuss exercises that are built more for the female body.
- Women are meant to have higher body-fat percentages than men. It’s nature’s design. Eight percent of a woman’s body composition is reserved for essential fat, whereas for men the percentage is five. 
- Men have a greater percentage of muscle mass as compared to women. Muscle also accounts for the higher calorie need for men in contrast to women, and the significant weight difference as well. Muscle is denser than fat. This means that even if a man and woman weigh the same amount, the man will appear leaner than the woman because he has more muscle mass than she does. He also has a higher calorie need because muscle consumes more calories than fat. 
- Because of the differences in muscle and fat composition between men and women, there’s also a difference in water composition. Where body fat contains very little water (25 percent), approximately 75 percent of muscle tissue is made up of water. While it might seem counterintuitive given that complaints about bloating are generally regarded as a “female issue,” water makes up around 60 percent of a man’s body mass as compared to 50 percent of a woman’s body mass. 
- The International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that osteoporosis affects about 200 million women worldwide. Women start with lower bone density than their male peers and they lose bone mass more quickly as they age, which leads to osteoporosis in some women. Between the ages of 20 and 80, the average white woman loses one-third of her hip bone density, compared to a bone density loss of only one-fourth in men. 
- 68 percent of the 44 million people at risk for osteoporosis are women. 
- One of every two women over age 50 will likely have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. That’s twice the rate of fractures in men — one in four.
- 75 percent of all cases of hip osteoporosis affect women.
So given the fact that a women’s body fat percentage, muscle mass, bone structure and their water composition is completely different from a man’s, why would a woman try to perform the same exercises as a man? If your answer is “Just to show you can” might mean you’ve got the wrong mind-set. It’s not a matter of if you can but should you?
So what type of exercises should a woman perform?
Focus more on aerobic exercises that burn calories and slowly build muscle over time. Muscles work like an elastic bands around the bones strengthening them which aides in preventing Osteoporosis. But women don’t need the same amount of muscle mass as a man. So stick to exercises that promote cardiovascular endurance over those that build massive amounts of muscle.
Example: Perform a circuit consisting of Push Ups (at least 15) , Jumping Jacks (1 minute set), sprints, light weight dumb bell curls (at least 12 reps), lunges and squats. Do this Circuit 3-5 times with a 3 minute rest between circuits.
How much weight should a woman lift?
This is really on a case by case basis but I would not suggest any exercise that would be considered “heavy lifting”. Since a womans bone structure and muscle mass is not as strong, lifting heavy could cause strain and may lead to injury. Stick to lighter weights and concentrate on more reps. Don’t avoid squats or leg presses (typically heavy lifting exercises) just reduce the overall weight.
How “hard” should a woman work out?
Since women have less muscle mass than men it means she will have to work twice has hard to burn the same amount of calories. So it’s very important to push yourself extremely hard while working out. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and HIRT (High Intensity Resistance Training) are great ways to burn massive amounts of calories and build muscle as well.
Example: The circuit example above would be a great idea for HIRT and even HIIT. Sprints on a tread mill or on a track would be a great HIIT. (sprint the longs and walk the shorts).
Knowing your body and understanding how to get the best out of it is the key to success. Finally, being a woman doesn’t mean you can’t be as fit as a man, it just means you’ll do things differently.