Training in accordance with our menstrual cycles has become increasingly popular on social media. The idea is to modify and prioritise different aspects of your training depending on which phase of your cycle you are in, with the end goal being superior adaptations to training when compared to more traditional methods.
What does training in accordance with your menstrual cycle look like?
Training with your cycle would have your 4 week program broken down into 2 fortnightly meso-cycles. Weeks 1 and 2 would coincide with days 1-14 of your cycle, counted from the first day period to ovulation. Then weeks 3 and 4 would coincide with days 15 – 28, from post ovulation and into the Luteal phase.
Training during the Follicular Phase of your cycle – Days 1 to 14
During this time we see a steady increase in the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is our steroid hormone and plays a major role in functions such as protein synthesis, fat oxidation, nerve conduction, increased bone mineral density and blood glucose control, which are all critical for positive adaptations to training.
Due to estrogen being high during weeks 1 and 2, it is theorised that women will be able to:
- Lift heavier – due to increased motor unit recruitment
- Recovery faster – due to increase protein synthesis (muscle building)
- Be more fatigue resistant- due to the cortisone lowering effect of estrogen
- Increase training intensity
- Increases endurance- due to increases in fatty acid availability
Therefore weeks 1 to 2 is where we hit the gym hard! Prioritizing our heavier lifts and high volume, utilizing the amazing impact of estrogen.
Table 1. Example of Week 1 and 2 of training block
|FOLLICULAR PHASE (period)
|4 x 5 @ 80% 1RM
|5 x 5 @ 85-90% 1 RM
|FOLLICULAR PHASE (period)
|5km @ 7 RPE
|20 sec @ 120% MAS x 10
Training during the Luteal Phase of your cycle, after Ovulation
Roughly between days 12-15 in your cycle is when ovulation occurs. Post ovulation is when our luteal phase begins, day 13-15 until your next period. After we ovulate, estrogen levels drop significantly. This is when we enter the luteal phase of our cycle and progesterone levels are at their highest. Progesterone is responsible for maintaining pregnancy, but in relation to training it can have some undesirable impact, such as:
- Increased body temp
- Reduce fat oxidation
- Reduce insulin action
- Increased body weight
- Increased fluid retention
- Reduced stress resilience
Due to the changes in the body caused from raised progesterone levels, weeks 3 and 4 of this method is when coaches would begin to taper their athletes. This means, reducing volume and intensity of sessions and prioritizing recovery, mobility and technique.
Table 2. Example of Week 3 and 4 of training block
|3 x 5 @ 80% 1RM
|High box Squat
|5 x 5 @ 70% 1 RM
|Run – 3km @ 6 RPE
|30 min walk
But does this method actually work?
Unfortunately, there is no short answer to this question, it’s not that simple. Current industry research has found conflicting results regarding training in accordance with your menstrual cycle, compared to traditional programming which doesn’t include hormone level considerations.
However, there is very minimal research that has been done thus far and when we look at the results at the individual level, anecdotal evidence suggests strong positive benefits to females training with their cycle in mind.
So, how do you know if training around your cycle is for you?
We are of the firm belief that being aware of your monthly mood, energy, hunger, and hormonal fluctuation is something we can use to our advantage in all aspects of life, but especially when it comes to our health. The individuality of each woman’s cycle is what makes this theory not applicable to every woman, and is most likely why the evidence collected is conflicting.
Summary of training around your menstrual cycle
On an individual level, understanding your own menstrual cycle, or your client’s, can help you understand performance and preemptively change aspects of programs to suit the time of the month. For example, many women find at least the first 3 days of their period very uncomfortable and will not want to train at all, let alone at a high intensity, but others may feel great and want to smash a tough training session with no issues.
Tracking your monthly changes with Apps like Flo or Clue can also allow for you, and your coaches to be more understanding and kind during times when training is feeling off. It can also allow for an improved relationship between you and training as well as coach and client. Logging symptoms, period start dates, energy levels, sleep and water intake in these Apps can provide huge advantages to finding patterns in your own cycle. Being able to identify what weeks are high or low energy for you will mean that you can forecast better around your training cycle, and potentially add to your performance progression. Training with a qualified EP hugely beneficial to improve female physiological health, booking a Women’s Health consultation with our EPs would be your best place to start!
Still feeling stuck or want extra support training around your menstrual or hormonal cycle?
Book in for an initial Exercise Physiology consultation with us at Motus Health and Performance here, and we can start to track and analyse your own cycle around your training goals.