The average woman has just two-thirds the muscle mass of her male counterpart, and yet we suspect some of these seemingly ‘ladylike’ training routines will leave most fellas panting in the dust (or, the water, in some cases).
From Ballet Barrecore to Aqua Aerobics, here are five traditionally female fitness activities worth signing up for. If you’re man enough, that is.
Thanks to the Kardashians of this world, it’s probably unsurprising that a great deal of ‘girly’ fitness classes concentrate on building a bigger butt. But working on your glutes has many benefits aside from getting dat ass.
“Glutes are underused, but they are part of your core,” says Vinny Lewis-Jamerson from Ten Pilates in central London. “The stronger and more stable your core, the more power you can generate.”
Piling the pressure onto neglected muscle groups is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, dipping into Pilates to focus on muscles used less frequently improves flexibility, builds core strength and helps aid concentration with breathing techniques. Plus, it’ll also boost your sex life, as regular Pilates gives greater control of your pelvic floor.
For men who lift, yoga should top the list of fitness to-dos. Tight muscle groups – usually hamstrings, pecs, shoulders or glutes – limit your ability to train your whole body. Tight shoulder joints, for example, stop you from stretching your pectorals fully, which will reduce your ability to build chest mass. Yoga opens up movements to be more about quality than quantity, boosting your ability to train once back in the gym.
Into cardio-heavy sports like running, football or rugby? Yoga’s focus on breathing teaches you to control lung capacity, allowing the body to take in more oxygen from fewer inhalations by training it to oxygenate more efficiently.
One of the challenges of being a committed fitness fanatic is figuring out how not to waste rest days. Yoga will be more challenging than expected, but demands only a brief recovery time and will loosen tight muscles to maximise your rest period.
Despite the name, tutus are not necessary for Ballet Barrecore, currently one of the hottest female fitness trends. Only 2 per cent of Barrecore attendees are male – and perhaps with good reason. Niki Rein, who founded the movement, says: “A lot of men who come to the class don’t make it through as they find it so tough. They need more breaks and find it quite humbling.”
Isometric static squats form the basis of Barrecore. Lifting repeatedly shortens and lengthens muscles, but isometrics are about holding the contraction in one spot – something that men are less likely to do. They’re proven to give superior strength gains and have a lower risk factor than lifting, but they won’t build big muscles.
While this is often seen as a benefit for women, when men are looking to add mass, they often opt for short-term bulking. Counterbalancing the shortening of muscles that comes with lifting is key to maximising gains, so the elasticity that Barrecore can provide is a shortcut to maximising results.
Created by Colombian dance guru Beto Perez, Zumba takes the fundamentals of salsa dancing and combines them with aerobic exercises that improve not just your rhythm but stamina too – and guess where those two come into their own?
If you usually do cardio on the elliptical or treadmill, Zumba can mix things up by activating the brain at the same time. Learning the routines is less about nailing them Timberlake-style, and more about loosening the hips and shoulders to achieve more fluid movements.
Zumba covers a wide range of movements, using muscles that you otherwise wouldn’t use, so soreness is surprisingly common after a class. For anyone looking to start strength-training, an hour-long class provides a solid foundation for muscle memory and developing flexibility.
Not just for OAPs, Aqua Aerobics classes are popping up all over trendy fitness venues. Vigorous underwater exercise burns through around 500 calories an hour, but without the impact damage – making it a great rest-day activity.
Plyometrics – or power building explosive movements – are a major component of Aqua Aerobics, plus large, sweeping movements and lunges combined with water resistance tax areas rarely worked out in the gym, and your core will be working overtime keeping you balanced in the water.
Because Aqua Aerobics is a low-impact alternative to on-land activities, it’s also a great back-up during injury time that will still push you.