With the increasing number of females competing in sport across the world, there is definitely a need to look at the advantages for female athletes to include strength training as part of their training. I know a lot of women are afraid of getting “bulky” and “manly” if they start training with weights, but another thing is to understand what advantages strength training can provide on the track, field or wherever you are competing. Just so people know I am today talking about specific strength training for sports like football, basketball, badminton, tennis, athletics etc, NOT power lifting or body building just so we don’t confuse this. So the chances of looking like the "woman" underneath is pretty slim....
|This picture is from http://www.triplem.com/|
It takes a lot and I mean a lot of hard, consistent training for women to get BIG!
From a sports point of view you would never want to train to get big anyway. As an athlete whether you are a footballer or tennis player you need to be able to move quickly, change direction and produce a certain amount of power every time you hit the ball! What I am trying to say is that as long as you train specific to the sport you are playing, which is most likely not going to involve a lot of hypertrophy training all year around (except in the off season and possibly preseason depending on the sport) this will not make you bigger. So please look below for the main big advantage of including strength training in your programs and see if I can convince you!
INJURY PREVENTION (What a surprise I would say that!)
Knee injuries are a subject that is very much related to female athletes. According to a National Collegiate Athletic Association report, female basketball players were six times more likely to incur an ACL tear than male players!! (1, 2 & 3). There could be several reasons why this number is so high, one factor could solely be that so many more females compete in organised sport compared to before like I mentioned above. Other people have suggested more causative factors such as joint laxity, limb alignment, ligament size, hormonal changes etc could affect the observed differences in knee injuries between men and women (1 & 3). No matter what the reason is for all the knee injuries, it is important that we try to strengthen ligaments and enhance neuromuscular control of the knee joint prior to and during sport participation. We can't change the way we are born in terms of ligament size, our joint angles etc, but we can certainly do something about the muscles that keep it all together.
It is a fact that most ACL injuries occurs from non-contact mechanisms such as deceleration, landing, change of direction, lateral pivoting etc. For this reason it is important to take part in a conditioning program that is designed to strengthen the supporting structures around the knee and also increase the neuromuscular control of the knee which may reduce the risk of sports related injures (4 & 5). I think a combination of strength training, balance and proprioception can make a massive difference to this.
For young female athletes in particular it is really important to perform some type of resistance training regularly to increase their resistance to injuries and approach their genetic power and strength during adulthood. So for younger athletes it is important to start preparing their bodies for the demands the sport they are playing will place on them. If I could change one thing about the way I trained when I was younger (not that I am THAT old now!) that would definitely be to train more strength and balance, rather than doing the million running sessions like I used to do. Don’t get me wrong, it was good being able to run solid for 90 minutes, but it would definitely have been an advantage to be stronger than I was when I played. But you learn through experience and hopefully I will be able to help and develop other athletes to improve their performance and reduce their chances of injuries, let’s hope so:)
What’s your view on strength training and women?
1. Arendt, E & R. Dick (1995). Knee Injury Patterns among men and women in collegiate basketball and soccer: NCAA data and review of literature. Am J Sports Med 23:694-701.
2. De Loes, M., L. Dahlstedt & R. Thomee (2000) A 7-year study on risks and costs of knee injuries in male an female youth participants in 12 sports. Scand J Med Sci Sports 10:90-97.
3. Hewett, T (2000) Neuromuscular and hormonal factors associated with knee injuries in female athletes. J Knee Surg 18:82-88.
4. Emery, C (2005) Injury prevention and future research. Med Sci Sports Exerc 48:179-200.
5. Hewett, T., G. Myer & K. Ford (2005) Reducing knee and anterior cruciate ligaments injuries among female athletes. J Knee Surg 18:82-88.