A lot of couples train together for a while, but most don't find this to be ideal and eventually begin to do their own thing in the gym. There's a reason for this. Several, in fact.
Boys vs. Girls in the Weight Room
Women and men aren't that much different when it coming to lifting weights for strength or muscle gains. But the more advanced a woman gets, the more she'll want to fine-tune things. Here are the generally accepted differences:
- As Christian Thibaudeau has noted, women don't have the capacity to recruit as many motor units as men do. So, generally, they'll need a couple more reps per set to fully stimulate their muscles. If a woman's training program was written with a man in mind and says to do 10 reps, then 12 reps is better suited to her physiology. If strength is the goal, a female will benefit more from doing 3-6 reps compared to a male's 1-5 reps.
- To get the same degree of muscle stimulation as a man, a woman will generally need 1-2 more sets of a given exercise.
- Women need less rest between sets. And this is the big one for couples who train together.
The Rest Factor
Here's what most couples notice. Let's say that Bonnie and Clyde decide to do seated rows. Bonnie goes first. While she's resting, Clyde does his set. After a couple sets each, the problem begins.
Women generally recover faster between sets. As coach Charles Staley has written, women have better endurance-capacity than men. So Clyde isn't ready to do his next set by the time Bonnie finishes. And Bonnie is probably ready to smash her next set before he's finished with his.
Clyde isn't getting enough rest and that will affect his strength from set to set. And if he DOES get enough rest, then Bonnie gets bored, begins to cool down, and might even lose focus.
Frustrated by the whole gym thing, Bonnie and Clyde say "screw it" and begin a life of crime. (True story.)
Why Does This Happen?
A new study out of the University of Waterloo tells us that women can process oxygen more quickly than men. It all comes down to oxygen uptake and muscle oxygen extraction.
The women in this treadmill study "...outperformed men with around 30% faster oxygen handling throughout the body." Basically, girl muscle extracts oxygen from the blood faster than boy muscle.
Now, if you're both new to lifting weights, this isn't going to be all that noticeable or make a big difference. But it certainly will for more experienced lifters.
Go the gym together, shower together afterward, but don't do the same exercise at the same time with the same rest periods. You'll both get short-changed.
- Thomas Beltrame, Rodrigo Villar, Richard L. Hughson. Sex differences in the oxygen delivery, extraction, and uptake during moderate-walking exercise transition. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2017; 42 (9): 994 DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2017-0097