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Training the Female Athlete Carmen Bott MSc. C.S.C.S.

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Presentation on theme: "Training the Female Athlete Carmen Bott MSc. C.S.C.S."— Presentation transcript:

1 Training the Female Athlete Carmen Bott MSc. C.S.C.S.

2 Workshop Goals Create an awareness of some physiological similarities and differences in genders Give you some practical strategies that you can apply to your own personal training setting

3 Workshop Overview Physiological Adaptations to Training Neuromuscular & strength adaptations Cardiovascular adaptations Metabolism and Body Composition Biomechanical Issues and Potential Injuries

4 Part 1: Physiological Adaptations to Training

5 Section A: Adaptation to Resistance Training

6 Gender Differences in Strength The notion of dichotomous populations results from: Differences in the endocrine system Cultural and participation factors Based on opportunities to become engaged and the encouragement to pursue...

7 Strength Differences Females possess 40-60% of upper-body strength and 70-75% of lower body strength of men (7). It should not be viewed in absolute terms because it is NOT consistent for all muscle groups

8 Strength Differences Corrected for muscle mass, strength was no different and... Based on strength to lean body mass ratio, women are about equal in strength to men – when strength is calculated per X-sectional area of muscle

9 Conclusions & Implications Well-trained females often resemble athletic males MORE CLOSELY than their female peers! And muscle tissue has the same force development capability independent of gender.

10 Fiber Type Distribution Is also similar between genders, but males may have a greater % of FT fibers and a larger Type II to Type I fiber ratio. However, it has been shown that women may be able to use a greater proportion of stored elastic energy during activities in which the muscle is pre-stretched (SSC vertical jump) (7).

11 Long Term Strength Adaptation Is the same.. while, gradually increasing muscular hypertrophy contributes to strength development primarily during the later weeks and months of training (9), the nervous system contributes to further strength development.

12 Long Term Strength Adaptation Px ~ When female athletes are exposed to two training sessions of high intensity and short duration per day versus one session of longer duration per day, they improve their max strength and max voluntary neural activation of the trained muscles (9).

13 Muscle Fatigue and Functional Power Loss New research suggests well-trained females actually lose less strength than males during the course of a rigorous work-out and recover their muscular prowess more rapidly after an exhausting bout of exercise (3).

14 Truths, Myths and Misconceptions

15 R.T. will cause females to become larger and heavier Truth! Women with : a. a genetic predisposition to hypertrophy b. who participate in high volume, high intensity training will see substantial increases in limb circumference.

16 Women should use different R.T. training methods than men Myth! No evidence that women are more likely to be injured from RT than men All participants should follow the same principles of training (overload, specificity, individualization & variation) regardless of gender – rate of progression is individual not gender dependant.

17 Women should avoid high intensity and high load training Myth! In fact, training loads that are substantially below those necessary for physiologic adaptations absolutely will not help women achieve strength and/or muscularity goals This seems to be less of a problem with men ~ why?

18 Hormone Influences Women with higher FTES levels have greater potential for muscle strength and hypertrophy GH can be influenced by training protocols that elicit high levels of blood lactate (eg 4x10 reps, 1 min off, large muscle groups) = muscle development over time

19 Section B: Cardiovascular Response and Adaptation to Training

20 Characteristics of Blood Adults have 5 litres of blood Consists of plasma and blood cells Plasma is clear and yellowish Red blood cells make up 40-45% of total quantity of blood – this is called the hemotocrit


22 Hematocrit (Hct) The % of red blood cells Normal Hct Males 40-54% or 41-55% Females 37-50% or 36-48% (24) Red colour of blood is caused by a ferrous (iron-rich) protein called Hemoglobin (Hb)

23 Males versus Females Hb binds to O2. Men have avg 15.6 g/dL per 100 ml of blood, women have 13.8 g/dL grams due to menstruation losses, lower blood levels of androgenic steroids and diet. Therefore womens O2 transport is lower because of the lower levels of Hb

24 Performance Implications of Low Hb EG: If Hb decreases from 10 to 9 millimoles per litre, the blood will be capable of transporting 10% less oxygen. VO2 max then decreases by 10% Body switches to anaerobic system and lactate is formed earlier

25 Also... When Hb decreases HR increases Because the heart must circulate more blood to maintain the same level of O2 transport (24)

26 Heart Rate and Stroke Volume HR max is generally the same in both genders But… Women have a lower stroke volume which is a result of: 1. Smaller heart, small ventricles and lower testosterone 2. Smaller blood volume

27 Cardiovascular Adaptation CV response is generally the same for men and women Dependant on the intensity and duration of the exercise Adaptation is due to changes, both centrally and peripherally, which facilitate oxygen delivery to the working muscles

28 Capacity for Aerobic Power: Men vs. Women (before menopause) Before puberty there are no differences (11). After…there are 3 basic physiological differences between men and women that affect the capacity for aerobic power

29 These differences are because Females have: 1. a higher % of body fat 2. A smaller O2 carrying capacity 3. A smaller muscle fiber area

30 Differences Body fat and weight are corrected mathematically (per kg of lean tissue), the differences are lessened to approx 5% The remaining % is either still a difference in conditioning or more likely a sex related difference in the ability to transport and utilize oxygen.

31 Less Muscle Mass In endurance trained women, they have 85% of the muscle fiber area of endurance trained men (11)…

32 Part 2: Metabolism and Body Composition

33 Fat Metabolism Fat is stored in the form of triglycerides (TG) TG are made up of FFA molecules held together by a molecule of glycerol Body fat is stored in fat cells called adipocytes 50,000–60,000 kcal are stored in fat cells

34 Fat Metabolism 2,000-3,000 kcal are stored in muscle (IMTG) and blood. During exercise TG (FFA) in fat cells, muscle and blood can be broken down (lipolysis) and used as fuel by the exercising muscles.

35 Storage Women have higher % fat than men 20-25% is healthy for non-athlete women and 10-15% is healthy for men. (13) 10-13% is essential for female athletes Mobilization refers to the process of releasing fat from storage sites in the body.

36 Enzymes 2 main enzymes that regulate mobilization of FFA: hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) lipoprotein lipase (LPL) Epinephrine stimulates lipolysis; it binds to receptors and activate HSL

37 Enzymes HSL responsiveness to epinephrine is enhanced due to an increase in body temperature and a greater concentration of epinephrine blood vs at rest An endurance-trained individual, HSL responsiveness is enhanced, HSL can be activated by a lower concentration of Epinephrine

38 Enzymes Therefore a metabolic training effect of aerobic exercise is: enhanced receptiveness to mobilize and break apart TG for energy. *Obesity (>35% bf) blunts this responsiveness

39 Enzymes LPL is the gatekeeper that controls the distribution of fat in the various storage depots of the body Research has shown that abdominal adipocytes are more sensitive to receptor stimulation and are therefore easier to mobilize than fat located in the hip & thigh area.

40 Storage Because there are more alpha receptors in females around the hip and thigh region, this would favor the storage of fat as opposed to the mobilization of fat in this area. Women also have a greater LPL concentration & activity in the hip and thigh region

41 Estrogen and Lipolysis Estrogen may aid in the mobilization of fat from adipose tissue 1. Inhibits the hormone LPL 2. Estrogen has been shown to enhance epinephrine production 3. Been reported to stimulate the production of growth hormone

42 Growth Hormone Growth hormone inhibits the uptake of glucose by active tissues and increases the mobilization of FFA from adipose tissue GH inhibits insulin production from the pancreas and stimulating HSL This would decrease glucose metabolism & increase FFA utilization during exercise

43 Intensity As exercise intensity increases, so does total energy expenditure Even though % from fat is less, TOTAL fat calories are GREATER because there is a greater absolute energy expenditure (13)

44 General Px for Optimizing Fat Metabolism 1. LSD will mobilize fat but this method takes way too long! 2. High intensity training burns more calories 3. Cross train to avoid overuse injuries = ability to do more work 4. LT approach ~ Improve structural integrity to do more work over time

45 Specific Px Moderately heavy, low repetition training - increases a womans metabolic rate more than light weight, high repetition training Bodybuilder routines have too much volume and hypertrophy may occur – the tension stimulus is of long duration and the rest periods are too short (60 sec) = hypertrophy

46 Specific Px Superset OPPOSING exercises (exercises that do not contribute to fatigue of the other) Use bodyweight exercises (forces women to work harder)* compare a push-up to a chest press Prescribe intervals ONLY – no LSD CARDIO! Yes, I repeat NO CARDIO! Go for the afterburn

47 Specific Px Keep the program consistent for exactly 4 weeks Replace volume (multiple sets) with more total body exercises *remember: total volume per muscle group equals hypertrophy!

48 Specific Px No crunches, no curls - Remove all isolation exercises, even prehab work Select 4 multi-joint free weight exercises: A squat, a push or press, a pull and a lunge Cycle through in a circuit versus a horizonal Px

49 Specific Px 3 sessions per week, All F.W.T.B.E. (no body-part training workouts) Expect 90% commitment (anything less will not get results) Download free fat loss workouts at

50 PART 3: Biomechanics & Potential for Injury

51 Gender Anatomy Differences Wider Pelvis, increased Q angle = Excessive genu valgus, Which may result in excessive lateral tibiofemoral contact forces and higher tensile stress (21)


53 Q Angle The angle at the knee between the thigh (femur) bone and the shin (tibia) bone. Males – 9-13 degrees Females – degrees


55 Gender Strength and Reactivity Differences 20-30% of female athletes have one leg significantly weaker than the other leg If diff is 15%, they are 2.6 times more likely to suffer injury Typically demonstrate a slower speed of muscle contraction (RFD); average takes 3 tenths of a sec longer to generate maximum contraction of the hamstrings

56 Gender differences cont Females demonstrate different muscle activation patterns compared to males, they are typically quad dominant (places stress on ACL**) ~ postures in high heeled shoes Females demonstrate a lower hamstring to quadricep ratio

57 Importance of Hamstrings Hamstrings activity can reduce ACL loading. At >20 degrees of knee flexion, hamstrings co-contraction is effective at countering the anterior drawer of the quads (More, 1993, 21) Also increases support against external valgus, varus and IR/ER forces

58 Knee Ligaments: ACL and PCL They cross each other and are the primary stabilizers of the knee They maintain rotary stability of the knee and prevent the lower leg (tibia) from moving either too far forward or backward on the upper portion (Femur) of the leg at the knee.


60 ACL and Hamstrings function When the foot is on contact with the ground, the ACL stops the femur from sliding forward on the tibia. With the foot planted on the ground, the hamstrings ALSO contract to prevent the femur from sliding forward on the tibia.

61 ACL Injury - Statistics Females have 2-6 times the risk of ACL injuries as males (Moeller, 1997, 21) Over 1.4 million women in the USA have suffered an ACL injury in the last 10 yrs An estimated 38,000 per year (2004) Ankle sprains have decreased by 86%and knee ligament injuries have increased by 172% (Lobo, 2000, 21).

62 Statistics 70% are non-contact injuries (Ramus, 2002) Age range : Untrained females have a 3.6 times higher incidence of knee injury and 4.8 times more likely than males

63 ACL Tear Mechanisms From planting and cutting 29% The loading on the ACL during quick change of direction maneuvers is 2 times higher than during normal running

64 ACL Tear Mechanisms Straight knee landing28% Landing with hyper-extended knee 26% ** Women landing from a jump generate higher peak impact forces than men over a shorter period of time and also generally have less neuromuscular control ** 7 times more likely to tear in games vs practices!!!

65 Prevention: Neuromuscular Learning Study by Beiser (2000) on cutting maneuvers that muscles can reduce the varus/valgus moments applied to the ligaments by up to 90%, which is largely the result of generalized ham/quad co-contraction

66 Neuromuscular Modulations from Stability Training RT on machines does NOT require stabilization in the varus/valgus and IR/ER directions at the knee Athlete learns to maximize activation patterns to generate flexion and extension ONLY This leads to a decrease in co-contraction

67 Strength and Power Plyometric training programs have been shown to enhance muscle voluntary reaction times and peak time to force torque (Hakkinen, 1986; Sale, 1988; Wojtys, 1996) Heavy RT increase strength but not reaction times

68 Stability and Balance Improvement in hamstrings voluntary reaction time and time to peak torque also improved in subjects who have undergone stability and balance training (Ihara, 1986)

69 Exercise Prescription Women cannot rely on ligamentous structures to prevent injury Balance training: stationary and dynamic Jump training: techniques, linear, vertical, lateral, two-one leg *get off the BOSU* Strengthening: power, specific for hamstrings, dynamic balance

70 As a personal trainer ID female clients that are more susceptible to knee injuries Understand the biomechanics that can lead to increase joint stress Know the effect of muscle and limb imbalances Know how to design a program that addresses these issues

71 Thank-you! Carmen Bott, Vancouver, B.C. Canada

72 References 1. Low-Volume circuit versus high volume periodized resistance training in women. Marx et al. Med Sci in Sports and Exercise 2001 (33) 2. Strength training the female athlete 3. The rap sheet on female athletes says they dont recover from hard training as well as males do – neuromuscular fatigue and Recovery in male and female athletes during heavy resistance exercise. Int J of Sports Med (14) Age-related differences in metabolic adaptations following resistance training in women. Melancon et al Sex Differences in maximal oxygen uptake. European J of Applied Physiology (54) 6. Influence of RT volume and periodization on physiological and performance adaptations in college women tennis players. Kraemer et al Am J of Sports Med. (28).

73 References 7. Strength training for women: debunking the myths that block opportunity. Ebben et al. The Physician and Sports Med (26). 8. Muscle hypertrophy and fast twitch fiber type conversions in heavy resistance trained women. European j of Appl Phy (60). 9. Distribution of strength training volume into one or two daily sessions and neuromuscular adaptations in female athletes. Electromyo & Clinical Neurophys (34). 10. Muscle Hypertrophy and fast fiber type conversions in heavy resistance-trained women. Staron et al. Eur J of Appl Phys (60).

74 References 11. Cardiovascular Responses to Exercise. OToole. 13. Gender Differences in fat Metabolism. Vella and Kravitz, How endurance training helps women keep their weight down Am J of Phys 279, E Supercompensation works for women – but better for men J Appl Physiol Ironman triathletes; gender differences. Int J of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2002 (12) 17. Effects of Menstrual Cycle on Exercise performance. Review. Sports Med 2003 (33) 18. Menstrual Dysfunction – the energy drain for female athletes. Sports Med 2002 (32). 19. Growth Hormones Responses to an acute bout of resistance exercise in weight trained and non-weight trained women. Journal of S&C research 2000 (14) 20. Unborn babies cope well with intensive workouts. Ostet Gynaecol 2000 (96). 21. Evaluation and Training of the Female Athlete to prevent serious knee injuries. NSCA Conference. Tyson & Cook

75 References Knee Joint Laxity and Neuromuscular Characteristics of male and female soccer and basketball players. AJSM 1999 (27) abstract 23. A comparison of Knee Kinetics between male and female recreational athletes in stop-jump tasks AJSM (30) 24. Jump landing strategies in male and female college athletes and implications for ACL injury AJSM (31) 25. The effect of neuromuscular training on the incidence of knee injury in female athletes AJSM (27) 26. Secrets of Female Strength and Conditioning., Lactate Threshold Training. Peter Janssen Exercise Physiology, 2 nd Edition. Brooks, Fahey & White

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