Posts & Resources

Nine Training Considerations for Females

One of the more welcome trends around mainstream gym use in recent times has been the closing gap in gender participation rates, and a rising surge of females moving towards strength training to support their aesthetic, athletic, and health endeavours.

While on the surface there don’t appear to be many training approach differences, we have sought to outline with this brief article some of the key gender specific considerations relating to training that perhaps may not be so well known.

 

1. There are no significant differences between genders until the onset of puberty
After puberty onset, there are changes in mass, structure, and tissue distribution. Males tend to carry more muscle mass, have greater bone mineral density and skeletal integrity, and females tend to carry greater relative amounts of adipose tissue (similar absolute amounts, spread across a smaller frame). Post puberty onset, there also appears to be a trend in females for quadriceps strength to increase relative to body mass while hamstring strength remains largely unchanged. This can lead to muscular imbalances, quadriceps dominance and relative weakness in the posterior chain.

2. Females have up to 9x times greater risk of non-contact ACL tears
Predisposing biomechanical factors such as wider pelvis (Q-angle) which increases rotational forces at the knee, greater quadriceps dominance, ligament laxity and generally lower physical strength exposes females to increased risk of non-contact ACL tears, and patellofemoral pain. A balanced strength and movement skill training programme has proven beneficial in reducing the risk of these common injuries.

3. Many of the primary differences in performance and metabolism are related to differences in size and body composition, rather than gender alone
Most of the true gender specific variances can be attributed to differences of muscle fibre type and sex hormone production.

4. Females and muscle growth
Testosterone is one of the primary hormones responsible for muscle growth, and post exercise repair. Both men and women produce the same hormones but differ in the amounts. Producing approximately 20 times less testosterone as males and higher amounts of estrogen, it is difficult for females to gain appreciable amounts of muscle mass.

5. Females have approximately 2/3 total muscle mass compared to males,
consisting of ½ upper body mass, ¾ lower body mass, and are on average 10% shorter. When factoring in total muscle mass per unit of height, a similar amount of total muscle mass would reduce relative strength (the measure of maximal strength in relation to body mass) level differences considerably between sexes.

6. Females benefit from similar resistance training responses as males
Although females tend to carry less muscle tissue, females can gain proportionally the same amount of strength and size as males in response to a resistance training programme, relative to mass. This means that females will gain the same percentage, of a smaller relative total mass.

7. Females tend to exhibit better metabolic health.
Despite having 2/3 muscle mass, twice the amount of fat mass as males and typically slower metabolisms, females tend to exhibit better metabolic health, specifically:

– Elevated fasting blood glucose rates are lower
– Whole body blood glucose clearance is faster
– Faster rate of glucose uptake into muscle

The hormone Estrogen is also thought to play a role in the healthier metabolic profile of females, linked to improved glucose usage.

8. Females exhibit a lower inflammatory response to resistance training
and will sustain less muscle damage than males in response to a sufficient overload stimulus. This may be one of the contributing factors to lower muscle hypertrophy levels in comparison to the training response seen in males.

9. Females are less suited for explosiveness, but are more fatigue resistant, and recover faster between bouts of effort
Females have slower muscle contractile capabilities, due to a lower concentration of Type II muscle fibres compared to males, and a lower storage capacity for anaerobic substrates and enzymes. Females however do have a higher proportion of fatigue-resistant Type I muscle fibres, and a greater capillary density, making women more suited for oxidative efficiency or aerobic work, and sustained lower-intensity muscular work. This means that overall, females tend to be less capable for short bursts of high-intensity effort, and more suited to sustained sub-maximal efforts.

Note: While females may have a lower anaerobic efficiency than males, anaerobic pathways incur a greater metabolic cost, producing more metabolic waste and fatigue. Females also metabolize a greater proportion of fat for energy at any given exercise intensity and rely less on glycogen stores, all of which contributes to females being less fatiguable. 

 

Takeaway training considerations for females: 

-Many of the main gender differences revolve around fibre type and sex hormones.

-Certain biomechanical factors can expose females to greater risk of non-contact knee injuries.

-Have similar relative strength as males, and respond similarly to resistance training.

-Have lower absolute strength and power, lower relative power.

-Do not hypertrophy to the same extent as males.

-Are less suited for short explosive bursts of activity, and more suited to sustained sub-maximal efforts or volume.

-Have greater work capacity, have better recovery after bouts of effort and sustain less muscle damage.

-Have better metabolic health: Greater insulin sensitivity, and utilise more fat for energy at any given exercise intensity (also contributing to females being less fatiguable).

Have you heard about HERo, our Women’s Strength and Conditioning Group?
HERo is a group training program dedicated specifically to meet the exercise needs of active women & female athletes.
Contact Sophie, at Sophie@centralperformance.com.au

 

References and further reading:

Gender differences in strength

Upper to lower body muscular strength and endurance ratios for women and men

Sex differences in strength and fatigability

Muscle size responses to strength training in young and older men and women

Response to resistance training in young women and men

Sex differences in muscle strength in equally-trained men and women

Age and sex effects on energy expenditure

Comparison of upper body strength gains between men and women after 10 weeks of resistance training

A comparison of maximal power outputs between elite male and female weightlifters

Sex Differences in Strength and Power Support the Use of a Mixed-Model Approach to Resistance Training Programing

Endocrine profiles in 693 elite athletes in the postcompetition setting

Direct and indirect effects of leptin on adipocyte metabolism

Gender differences in muscle inflammation after eccentric exercise

Variability in muscle size and strength gain after unilateral resistance training

Gender differences in strength and muscle fibre characteristics

Gender differences in skeletal muscle substrate metabolism – molecular mechanisms and insulin sensitivity

Sex differences in exercise metabolism and the role of 17-beta estradiol

Gender difference in circulating leptin level and leptin sensitivity

A longitudinal evaluation of maturational effects on lower extremity strength in female adolescent athletes

Age and gender comparisons of muscle strength in 654 women and men aged 20–93 yr

Males have larger skeletal size and bone mass than females, despite comparable body size

Are gender differences in upper-body power generated by elite cross-country skiers augmented by increasing the intensity of exercise?

The metabolic significance of leptin in humans: gender-based differences in relationship to adiposity, insulin sensitivity, and energy expenditure

Higher skeletal muscle α2AMPK activation and lower energy charge and fat oxidation in men than in women during submaximal exercise

Physical exercise and menstrual cycle alterations. What are the mechanisms?

Effects of menstrual cycle phase on athletic performance

3 Tips on training today’s female athlete 

Non-contact knee injuries in the female athlete

 

Advertisements

Why We Don’t Do ‘Girl Push Ups’ and What We Do Instead

Main Points:
1. The push up is not only a foundational upper body strength exercise, it is also a dynamic core stability exercise.
2. If you cannot perform full-length push ups, there are better alternatives than the kneeling push up that are safer and have a much higher return.
3. Appropriate exercise selection + consistently excellent technique + smart work is key to progressing safely. 

Gabriella O’Grady

The push up is one of the most universally recognised bodyweight exercises around, which when performed correctly demonstrates not only fundamental upper body strength and stability, but also one’s ability to generate whole body tension and core stability.

That’s right, push-ups are essentially a core exercise too.

The function of the outer core muscles is to resist movement of the spine. That is to absorb and transfer force. It provides a robust platform from which movement of the extremities, such as pulling, pushing, carrying, throwing, striking, jumping and catching, and running can occur. In the push up, the function of the core, particularly the anterior wall known as the rectus abdominis is to provide an anchor for expressing pushing force, and to resist movement of the spine into extension.

Unfortunately push ups are rarely performed correctly. This can often be the result of improper instruction and technique, inadequate upper body pushing strength and control, but more commonly the main culprit is a lack of sufficient core strength.

Firstly, here are some examples of improper push up technique:

1. Head Back, Flexed Hips, Chicken-Winged Arms
2. Poking Head, Rounding Upper Back, Sagging Lower Back
3. Combination of Errors

 

One of the more traditional approaches to addressing the inability to execute a push up is to regress to a kneeling position, as you can see in pictures 1 and 3. This makes the exercise easier as this set-up cuts the body in half, shortens the lever and reduces the load. Unfortunately there are a few problems with this version of the staple exercise. Firstly, the kneeling position with knees slightly bent tensions the tissues at the front of the thigh that cross both the hip and knee joints, namely the rectus femoris muscle.

Much like a pulley system, in the bent knee set-up this increased stretch can pull at the attachment site of the pelvis and effectively pull it into an anterior tilt. This forward rotated pelvis reduces bracing and tension capabilities of the anterior core musculature and glutes. Since quality push up repetitions require the ability to generate a strong bracing strategy with your abs and glutes to maintain the position of your pelvis and spine, performing the push up from a kneeling position is not ideal.

Further, the sagging low back position at set up can cause compressive stress to the lumbar region of the spine as it is driven into excessive extension, which is exacerbated with the increase of pushing force through the arms. The shoulder could also be at risk due to the forward weight shift that can occur and subsequent increased support load if there is also poor scapulohumeral rhythm and stability to handle it. This could lead to some of the more delicate structures in the shoulder having to take up much more of the slack.

When you have all of these other areas of passive restraints take up the workload of mitigating forces, at best you fail to actually target the intended movement, make little progress if any and may simply have to recover more. At worst you might get hurt.

The push up is one way to challenge and develop the skill of whole body bracing and torso control, which helps to distribute load across more area, and performing them from a long lever position is how we do it.

Here are a couple of the progressions that we use, along the way to performing full-lever push-ups from the floor:

1.Hands Elevated Push Up (gradually lower the height of the bar as you progress)
2.Band Assisted Push Up (band thickness and tension while determine the amount of assistance offered)
3.Push Up (this was Gillian’s first ever set of full push ups)

While we are working our way through the push up progressions we will also supplement with direct pillar work. Here are some of the progressions that we use to enhance anti-extension strength of the anterior core:

1. Front Plank
2.Ball Rollout
3.Wheel Rollout
4.BodySaw

As mentioned earlier, the key to training that improves movement quality and  quality of life is appropriate exercise selection + consistently excellent technique + smart work.

 

 

 

Danny James is the Head of Personal Training and Strength and Conditioning services at Central Physio and Performance Fitness located in Surry Hills, Sydney. danny@centralperformance.com.au

 

Danny James is the Head of Personal Training and Strength and Conditioning services at Central Physio and Performance Fitness, located in Surry Hills in the Sydney CBD area. danny@centralperformance.com.au

 

 

Bookmarked 3: Charlie Weingroff, Danny Camargo and Mike Boyle on the FMS, Developing a High Performance Program, All Things Olympic Lifting and Coaching Kids

Highly recommended viewing from three of the best Coaches in the world.

CVASPS Podcast-Episode 67: Charlie Weingroff, A Case For The Functional Movement Screen
Never have I heard a more reasoned position for using the Functional Movement Screen.

quote:
”There is value in understanding if the joints of the body, can get into the ideal positions to absorb and adapt to stress of your training.”

Developing a Full, High-Performance Program from the Ground Up, with Charlie Weingroff | NSCA.com
A high-performance program brings a team of rehabilitation and performance professionals together under a common set of principles directed toward success. In this session from the 2015 TSAC Annual Training, Charlie Weingroff discusses how to create a high-performance program that can be highly successful and valuable.

The JuggLife | Danny Camargo: From Athlete to Coach | JTSstrength.com
Danny Camargo once one of America’s most talented Junior lifters, now he is one of the most talented Coaches in the World. Danny’s discusses his career as a lifter and coach, his gym Oly Concepts and his philosophies on programming.

Mike Boyle – What I Learned From Coaching Kids, Again
Pioneer Strength Coach Michael Boyle talks about the lessons he learned from coaching kids again.

quote:
”Big lessons? Small goals, small victories. Rome was not built in a day. The big key for me was to not get frustrated and to keep the girls improving and engaged. I had my eyes on the off-season.”

Enjoy.

Bookmarked 2: Frans Bosch and 2016 Debrief

bosch-220x165

I’ve spent the better part of the year revisiting the work of Frans Bosch, biomechanics and motor control, as well as more personal and professional development books within the realms of Simon Sinek and Daniel Pink. It is my aim for 2017 to revisit the simpler concepts, or rather the fundamentals within the scope of Strength and Conditioning as well as actively synthesise what I’ve panned out of 2016’s continued education efforts. I will also endeavour to be more active across social media (including this site) for the purposes of sharing information and ideas for the collective growth, but more importantly, to celebrate the consistent efforts of the good people who I am fortunate to work with and am so very proud of.

Below are some of the online articles that I’ve recently saved relating to the above topics. You can also find some other reviews of Frans Bosch’s work and a huge selection of other good reads in a previous post here.

I hope you have all had a fruitful 2016 and wish you and yours a safe entry into 2017, and wellness and prosperity throughout.

Regards,

DJ

Training Monotony: How This One Factor Can Reload or Ruin Athletes

A Review of Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach and
20 Best Tips of 2016 for Sport Professionals
from Carle Valle at Simplifaster

4 Things I learned From Frans Bosch
By Martin Bingisser

5 Important Points From My Trip To Holland To Meet Frans Bosch
by Dave O’Sullivan

The Less-Traveled Road: Frans Bosch’s Path to Contextual Strength Training
by Ken Jakaslsi

Review: Frans Bosch Clinic
from Pat Ward

Random Thoughts on the New Frans Bosch Book and More
by Mladen Jovanovic, members only

frans_bosch_sprinting_ppt-2
PDF

Best Books of…2016
by Stu McMillan of Altis. Stu offers his thoughts on Bosch’s methods and I tend to agree with his sentiments.

Coach stuart McMillan’s Best Books of 2016

What the Top Fitness and Rehab Experts are Doing Differently This Year

Storytelling Enhances the Influence of Science-Based Writing

https://altis.world/news/coaches-are-not-mind-readers-the-art-of-the-daily-debrief/
from Kyle Hierholzer at Altis

The Art of The Debrief
By Michael Bungay Stanier

”The hard work is behind you. The project is over, and everyone is breathing a sigh of relief. But, how did it measure up?”

The Benefits Of A Pre-Activity Movement Screen

 

Once the athlete or client’s training goals have been established it is important that we as coaches identify potential limitations and risks that may impact our chances of success.

Simple logistical constraints such as availability of training time and equipment can be a limitation and need to be considered, however these are of lesser importance than reducing the risks that are inherently involved with training in the weightroom or practice.

Before seeking enhancements in fitness, the Strength and Conditioning professional’s primary concern is injury prevention. If a client or athlete is hurt through the training process it will be necessary to place restrictions on their program which may slow the rate of improvement towards the goal. For the athlete or client, an injury can mean diminished movement capacity and quality of life. Injuries can lead to missed practice and missed games, lost opportunity and income, and perhaps the end of a career. These are all very possible scenarios and all parties involved should be leaning as close as possible to the side of prevention.

In order to attenuate the likelihood of an injury occurring we need to be aware of the factors that heighten risk. As it relates to endeavours of physical activity, it is documented that the main contributory factors to injury, in order of greatest to least are:

1. Previous injury
2. Right vs left side asymmetry
3. Motor control deficit
4. BMI
5. Poor training Choices

Knowing the evidenced predictors it is imperative that we use a system of screening and assessment that identifies these factors before implementation of a proposed training solution. Such a process would be highly influential toward addressing an individuals needs, maximising the return on our efforts and minimising future risk.

We use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) as the first step of our appraisal process. The FMS is a system to evaluate current movement quality for people who wish to increase physical activity. It is designed for those that do not have pain or injury as a way to prioritise further assessment where necessary, and help decide the appropriate entry point for an individual onto the training path. It is simply the beginning of the information gathering process.

FMS what

The screen is composed of seven fundamental movement patterns and three clearing tests that require a balance of mobility and stability and place the individual in extreme positions where deficits in these areas are noticeable. The FMS aims to set a minimum standard of movement competency, provide insight into potential movement problems if the baseline is not met, and guide appropriate exercise selection and progression. If an individual can not display an easy access of fundamental movement availability as per the FMS criteria, then the training program becomes dialed to match the outer reaches of the individuals current ability. A low FMS score does not necessarily exclude an individual from the training process. It simply means that our exercise selection is directed towards not exploiting those areas where limitation is present. Advancing into higher-stage activities with a movement foundation that is poorly prepared incurs a greater training cost and if the athlete is not injured, at best there will be a higher need for recovery to offset the increased physiological price and a reduced level of preparedness can result.

Low Score = You can still go, you just might need to go a little slower for now
Low Score = You can still go; you just might need to go a little slower for now

The screen is an objective, reliable and repeatable baseline standard of movement, that filters out many of the contributing factors to damage risk such as poor movement quality, right-left asymmetries and presence of pain. The FMS is not a diagnostic tool, however, presence of pain while undertaking the screen is a red flag that requires treatment by a medical professional until it is resolved.

As Strength and Conditioning practitioners, we would like to know if joints can get into trainable positions that we need to meet our end goal – where training those positions only contributes and does not impair movement or system, and produces a more robust and prepared performer. In under fifteen minutes, the FMS can provide an answer. It is a first stage audit of our exercise choices and a guide for best practice.

DJ

Lauren and Bella