Women’s Hormonal Cycle and Weights

Group of women training in gym, with hands on hips and legs outstretched

Hello women of Witness The Fitness!

I recently asked our female clients what was important to them, what their goals were and what I could help them specifically with in and out of the gym – fitnesswise.

..More than one mentioned the hormonal cycle.

And I am so thankful. It is so important to talk about!

But naturally, as a man, I never have.

Let’s begin..

One week, you may be smashing it in the gym, lifting heavier than ever and feeling on top of the world.

The next week, suddenly those dumbbells seem impossible, and your energy is nowhere to be found.

Sound familiar?

Naturally, we start second-guessing your pre-workout snack or blaming it on that one glass of wine from last night, but let’s uncover the hidden player here.

It’s not you; it’s your hormones! They’re riding a monthly rollercoaster that us men can’t even fathom.

Your Cycle, Decoded:

For many women, there’s a roughly 28-day cycle (though it varies for everyone).

  • Follicular Phase (Days 1-14): Starts with the first day of the period. As the days go on, energy levels rise! This phase sees a surge in estrogen, like nature’s pre-workout. Most women will likely feel their strongest around here.
  • Ovulatory Phase (Days 14-17): Peak estrogen time. It’s a prime time for pushing boundaries in workouts.
  • Luteal Phase (Days 17-28): Here’s where it can get tricky. Progesterone takes the stage, potentially causing an energy dip and bloating.

Tailoring Your Training:

What if we could plan our workouts around these phases?

  • Follicular Phase: Go big or go home! Strength is often at its peak, so it’s prime time for heavy weights and challenging compound movements. If safe to do so. If you nothing else may be telling you to slow down of course.
  • Ovulatory Phase: This is when many can really push those limits. High-intensity training, plyometrics – it’s go-time!
  • Luteal Phase: This might be a time for de-loading. Drop your weights by 20-30% and focus on technique and activation. It’s essential to listen to the body during these days.

Cycle Specific Nutrition:

A woman’s body has fluctuating nutritional needs throughout the month. Carbs and proteins during the follicular phase, and perhaps more magnesium-rich foods during the luteal phase to help with cramps and mood shifts. And yes, a little dark chocolate can help.

But I’m not a dietician or nutritionist so I’m not going to say anything on this topic.

Need a good recommendation? Text ‘Dietician’ to me on 0416590110 and I’ll refer you to a goodie!

The logistics..

All of the above is awesome to know and all.. But how do you actually go about it in the gym, or more specifically in group training!

Days 1-14: No changes needed. Go hard if you’re up to it.

Days 14-17: No changes needed. Mindfully push the limits, put more weight on the bar or squeeze out a few more reps than normal knowing what’s coming up..

Days 17-28: If you’re feeling it.. Drop the intensity by reducing speed, reps and/or weight. If someone asks, all you need to say is ‘I’m not feeling 100% today, going to focus on activation/depth/technique today and smash it next week’. ANY good coach out there will commend, nay, will praise you for focusing on either of those. And you don’t even have to explain why!

That’s all..

Ladies, the main message here? Your body, with its hormones and cycles, isn’t a roadblock. By syncing with its rhythms, weight training can become more effective with attention to all of the above.

Training hard non-stop leads to injury or decreased performance. In some cases, both!

Even for us recreational athletes, we need ‘off-seasons’.

If any of you ever want to dive deeper into this topic or need advice on training during certain phases of your hormonal cycle, drop me an email at achieve@wtftpc.com.au

Keep lifting, and always embrace the power of your body. It’s an incredible thing.

Catch you in the gym!

Tristan M. Forbes