Do men and women have different fitness needs? Our contrasting characteristics, communication styles, behaviors, and desires can be so pronounced at times that it can feel as if we are from separate planets entirely. But both men and women can relate on this vital necessity: a well-rounded workout for good health.

While there are specific biological factors that may favor men’s fitness abilities, such as having more testosterone to help with muscle growth, the disparity between genders and their exercise essentials has less to do with physical needs than with behavior and motivation.

Historically, society has created gender norms that have men being considered the stronger sex. Women are expected to focus their fitness ambitions on light aerobics and pumping up with puny weights. Meanwhile, fitness magazines and blockbuster films featuring such superhuman-looking stars as the Rock, have put pressure on men to have bulging biceps.

The result: Motivation for women tends to be concentrated on appearance, weight loss, and light toning exercise to lean out, while for men it includes competitiveness and building muscle.

These gender-based biases have created gaps in most people’s gym game. Men and women could improve their fitness plans if they united their toning tendencies to form a complete, well-rounded routine that has men engaging in more aerobics and stretching, and women including more weight training days in their workout.

Let’s learn from each other. Here are beneficial stretches and weight training exercises that should be a part of everyone’s fitness routine.

Stretches

To stay loose and improve your weight training efforts, tend to common tension traps in the body with therapeutic stretches. By adding flexibility work to your week, you can safely grow stronger muscles. Here’s an example of a good total body stretch that also strengthens.

Downward-facing dog

Stretches + strengthens: hips, shoulders, hamstrings, arms, upper and lower back

  • Begin on your hands and knees with fingers extended wide for support.

  • Press through your hands to lift your knees off the floor and straighten your legs. Carefully walk your hands forward and feet back to help lengthen this pose. If this stretch feels too intense, bend your knees slightly. Relax your head between your arms, gaze at your feet, keep your core engaged, and spine extended. Hold for 20 seconds.

Weight training

Weightlifting helps to bolster bone density. This is especially important as density declines for women as they age and can make them more susceptible to fractures and breaks. You’ll also burn more calories, feel stronger, and improve your overall physique. Here are two powerful compound exercises to try. These exercises are great for the guy or gal on the go because it incorporates multiple muscle groups in a single drill. You will need a set of free weights.

Squat press

This exercise strengthens the quads, hamstrings, core, glutes, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and back.

  • Hold a weight in each hand at shoulder height with palms facing inward.

  • Hinge back at your hips, keeping your body weight in your heels, and lower into a squat.

  • Push through your heels, and as you stand, drive your arms up to extend above your head. Hold for two counts then return back down into a squat. Repeat 10 to 12 times.

Reverse lunge lateral lift

This exercise strengthens the quads, hamstrings, calves, core, glutes, shoulders, back, and chest.

  • Stand tall with a weight in each hand.

  • Take a step back with your right leg, and as you lower into a lunge, simultaneously extend your arms out to your sides until they are at about shoulder height. Your weight should be distributed between your front heel and back ball of your foot.

  • In unison, step your right foot forward and bring your arms down. Now repeat on the opposite leg. Continue alternating for 16 counts (8 per side).

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. Learn more about her virtual training program at ashleyblakefitness.com.