To me, exercises are unisex. But men and women have a different musculature and muscle-to-fat ratio, which definitely makes some moves more important to include your routine based on your gender.
Men have more muscle mass, less body fat and a broader shoulder to hip ratio than women. That’s why we see men jump right into the chest press and women on any sitting leg machines such as leg extensions and hip abductors.
Here’s what happens with these tendencies: Some men have big chest with “chicken legs” and some women have great legs but worry about the “folds” on the upper back and jiggly arms.
To get more of balanced body, I suggest adding to your routine two exercises (one for men and one for women) that will work those areas that need to catch up.
a) For Her:
Replace the leg machines with the Bulgarian. Single leg squat. This exercise taxes the legs like no other. It works the quadriceps, hamstring and butt all in one; plus the core. It can be performed with barbell or dumbbells. Some things to consider: a) the height of the bench should be knee high, b) the farther the rear leg sits, the more that the gluteus works. It’s important that you sit back while reaching a 90 degree angle with the working leg. Advanced: Bend over at the waist and with the dumbbells try to touch the floor by where the front foot is. This will engage more the gluteus and lower back. Perform this exercise in your leg workout for three to four sets of 10-12 reps.
For the upper back and triceps (back of the arms), do the straight arm lat pull down. This exercise will work the back muscles and the triceps at the same time. In particular, the teres major and latissimus dorsi muscles, which attachment to where the axial area is. Keep your arms straight over the bar and bring it down to your top of the thighs where your hands naturally rest. Make sure that you squeeze the scapula together, keep the chest up and don’t shrug the shoulders and brace the core. Perform this exercise in your upper body workout for two to three sets of 12-15 reps.
b) For Him:
Rip the chest by incorporating right after your chest press a regular push-up, after the incline chest press, incline push-ups and same after decline chest press, decline push up. Why? Chances are that you are training with heavy weights (you’re a man!) but not going through the proper range of motion when doing this exercise. So when you do push-ups, even though you hold 75 percent of your body weight, you’ll be able to achieve the full range of motion that will fully engage the muscles that you’re working. And, if you already think that you do it well, these moves will make sure that all the fibers (fast and slow) get a great workout. Do the sets and reps the same that you’ll do for your chest exercises. Don’t rest in between. The idea is to do it right away and to burn it out.
Transform the “chicken legs” with step-ups. This exercise works the hamstring and gluteus really well while the core and the calves gets engaged for stabilization. It can be performed with dumbbells or barbell. Make sure that the bench is at knee height. Step up onto the bench and push through the leg you are working. The exercise should be performed in one move – so take advantage of the momentum. Bring the knee up, too. This will guarantee the gluteus works at its maximum on the supported leg. Your feet should be anchored in place at all times. Do this exercise twice a week as part of your leg workout, three sets of 8-10 reps each.
Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.