Train Smart Around Your Menstrual Cycle
A woman's athletic performance dips and peaks over the course of her monthly cycle. Adapting the way in which she approaches her training can lead to more productive workouts and greater gains.
For example, during pre-ovulation she can perform with much more intensity. Known as the follicular phase, day one of her period up to ovulation provides a perfect opportunity to ramp up training intensity for a number of reasons:
- Time-to-fatigue, endurance, and stamina are at their highest.
- Pain tolerance is at its highest.
- Basal body temperature is ticking over normal so doesn't inhibit thermoregulation.
- Potential for muscle growth is optimized.
As soon as ovulation passes and she enters the luteal phase of her period, she begins to feel more fatigued, her coordination when strength training isn't as good, and her potential to build muscle reduces a bit too.
The solution: Train more frequently during the follicular phase and ease off post-ovulation
New research from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness suggests that rather than maintaining a consistent training frequency across her period, she should "front load" her training to boost strength and lean mass.
In the study, a group of women were split into one of three groups:
- Trained legs 5 times per week during the follicular phase and once per week for the remaining part of the cycle.
- Trained legs 5 times per week during the luteal phase and once per week during the follicular phase.
- Consistently trained 3 times per week. (Control group.)
Each group performed periodized leg training for four months.
High frequency follicular training resulted in better gains. There was a significant increase for squat ability and countermovement jumps in group one and the control group, but not in group two. When it came to lean mass changes, only group one saw significant changes to lower body muscle mass.
Ladies, if your schedule allows it, try front loading your monthly workouts so that you perform more sessions in the first half of your cycle and fewer in the last half. Organizing your strength training in this way might result in a larger gain of lean body mass compared to regular training.
- Wikström-Frisén L et al. Effects on power, strength and lean body mass of menstrual/oral contraceptive cycle based resistance training. J Sports Med Phys Fitness
. Jan-Feb 2017;57(1-2):43-52. PubMed.