Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sports Fitness Tips for Girls and Women

Female Athletes Should Train The Same Way As Males

Speed and explosive strength training are the same for both genders. While males do have more physical strength than females, the same biomechanical motions are used by both sexes.

Therefore, females need to train the same way as males while allowing for differences in gender make-up (see discussion below). And women shouldn't worry about getting too bulky. Proper training will allow women to remain flexible (and not muscle-bound) while gaining strength.

Female Muscle Make-Up---Weight Training Guidelines

The source of this information is from the National Strength & Conditioning Association, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Although males and females should basically train the same way biomechanically, there are some differences in gender bodily make-up that should be considered for female athlete weight training:

#1 Females demonstrate a lower Hamstring to Quadricep ratio. This means females typically have weaker hamstrings compared to males.

#2 Females demonstrate different muscle activation patterns compared to males. Females are typically Quadricep dominant athletes. This means females use their strong Quadriceps muscles and do not use their weak hamstrings enough. How does this affect Anterior Cruciate Knee injuries?

The hamstring muscle group acts to protect the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and the Quadricep muscle group places STRESS on the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. Therefore, Quadricep dominant muscle work demonstrated by females places excessive stress on the ACL.

#3 Females demonstrate strength weakness comparing one leg to the other. Studies show that 20-30% of female athletes have one leg significantly weaker than the other leg. If a female has a muscle weakness of 15% or greater from one leg to the other, they are 2.6 times more likely to suffer a leg injury.

#4 Females demonstrate a slower speed of muscle contraction. The typical female takes 3 tenths of a second longer to generate MAXIMUM contraction of the hamstrings. This may seem insignificant, however realize that a sprinter spends less than a tenth of a second balancing on one foot before pushing off and landing on the other foot. If the hamstrings do not contract fast enough the Anterior Cruciate Ligament may be in jeopardy.

As a personal trainer, I take these facts into consideration when training female athletes and females in general.

Young Girls

Girls, of primary concern to you is to begin developing peak bone mass. After graduating from high school, girls have all the bone mass they will ever have--Unless they strength train to increase it.

According to a recent issue in Pediatric Physical Therapy (2006; 18 [1], 19-22), soccer is a great activity for adolescent girls. It combines weight-bearing exercise with repetitive impact from running and jumping. This significantly increases bone density which reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

Nutritional Note to Girls

I do not recommend extreme diets that omit one or more of the macronutrients. The macronutrients are fat, protein and carbohydrates. No doubt, bad fad diets have contributed to diseases such as anorexia and bulimia. Female athletes are at risk when diets are inadequate because of concerns about weight gain.

Ladies, get your game on!

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Other things being equal, a muscular, powerful athlete will outperform a fat, slower or skinny, weaker athlete. Sports Fitness Hut's Fat Blaster Athletic Power Training System will give you your "lean and mean" athletic machine!

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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