Some Training Tips for Women, Revisited

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Another coach sent me an article written by some awesome power lifting coaches to check out and wanted my thoughts on it.

First, I want to start by stating that I happen to love these coaches. They are first chair level bad asses in strength sports and there is a ton I learn from them and I intend to learn more- but basically I can not touch the level of awesome they are up to. I am up to different things.

Second, for me when I read something, especially about training or coaching, generalizations are a red flag.  Unfortunately generalizations are what we respond to. Who's not looking for the quicky 5 tips to get 110% more out of your 6 minute ab thrashing workout of the month man! People love that crap. But I'm often left hanging with thoughts like "What evidence are they basing this on? What resources did they draw these conclusions from? Were is the research, the reference list at the end?!!" This is most likely leftover PTSD from my grad school days. (No offense to serious PTSD sufferers.)

Third, critical thinking people please god/goddess let’s have more critical thinking!  Consider-who is the audience for which this article was written? Maybe a clue lies in answering --who is offering the information?

The Audience—who is this for? Seekers of training tips? Women? People who coach women- all levels of coaches and  lifters from super fool to super freak?

The Offerers—who put this together? Some very experienced coaches? Some who lift COMPETITIVELY, some with maybe less experience coaching  but are super good athlete’s and are studying under really amazing coaches? Powerlifting/Strength athletes?  Doctors with questionable investment and unknown attachments to these coaches and athlete’s?

And me.   I am all about learning what the right answer might be for a certain person or situation rather than guessing or assuming- or stubbornly insisting that I know everything. It's so much easier actually to not to know everything. I can turn to  experts in what I want to learn and have many tools to pick from. I don't need to re-invent the damn wheel! The wheel works and it's awesome and most important I accept the wheel and use it regularly with amazing results. The fitness and strength and exercise industry is bursting at the seams with information--some of it amazing, some not so much-some tried and true, some bomb every time. Yes there are some general wheels out there. But one size does not fit all. I like to gather lots of info and play with it experiment with it apply it to what's real in my life and the people whose lives I impact. I acknowledge that this is mine and that there are many paths and ways to get a result!! Here I am just making some things applicable to my little but ever expanding world. And it is also just plain fun.

So I've chosen a select few of their  "tips" to discuss. There were thirty! I cut it down 50%.

1. Women respond to and need higher frequency training than men.

Okay, maybe.

I think this needs a qualifier.  Novice men and women can recover within a day or two—so higher frequency is good for both. Intermediate and advanced lifters require more stress to drive adaptation  and this takes some more delicate balancing-more complex training.  So in regards to this training stress -- intensity has been left out of this tip as well as the “training age” or lifters experience. It has been shown that women can work at a higher percentage of 1RM (rep max) than men, but this is likely not the case for a beginner because of the inability to fully express strength. Almost ANY training stress will cause an adaptation in a beginner—often frequency and intensity don’t have to be so scrutinized.—until it doesn’t! The rate of adaptation slows down as you train more,  as your strength goes up, and your programming has to get more complex. And regardless, recovery is the key to progress, so here is an individual factor. I would say this “tip”is best suited for in intermediate. But  It’s possible an  advanced female lifter could train with higher intensity per session but train less frequently. As generalizations go for differentiating men and women, boo. Although one more perspective may be that women are less experienced in the weight room and can benefit from more frequent training sessions. I'm out to turn that upside down too!

Abbye Stockton Strong Woman

2. When training female athletes (non-strength athletes) rep maxes in a slightly higher rep range (5-10 reps) are often more beneficial than the 1-5rm you may use with men.

This is close and there could be  a magic range, but we are talking about athletes here! Any athlete has to be strong and the strongest athlete is always better. I’d stick with the 1-5 for the most part—and actually often times the higher rep ranges 5-10 work best for men for strength, and maybe for beginner women. Performance and experience has show that more advanced woman may do better (get stronger longer) on 3 reps.

3. Women are more prone than men to display valgus collapse with squats or heavy pulls from the floor, largely in part to the relative Q-angle differences. Use assistance/prehab exercises, such as resisted abduction (side steps with band around ankles) or body weight squats with a band around the knees as a cue to emphasize better tracking.

There is something to the whole “Q”angle thing. But could this be a strength and stabilization issue?  The key is stability from the center out—floor up. That is the pelvic floor, diaphragm, deep abdominala.  I’d teach proper breathing and bracing techniques because the breath heals! I think progressive loading will have the body system engage-using the resistance of an actual back squat to gain the strength and stability. Then progress as fast or as slow as she goes. Maybe the Q angle is not the real issue—but maybe it’s just too heavy too soon.  If you are  squatting and pulling with the correct technique and progressions, imbalances can often work their way out. So proper squats and proper pulls can potentially fix this! Patience grasshopper damn. And this should be a beginner issue only.

4. Women naturally tend to have upper back weakness and weak glutes/hips. To accommodate, throw in assistance work like a row variation for each training session (upper and lower sessions) and on lower days do assistance work like extra wide squats and hip thrusts.

I totally agree with this. I don’t like wide squats though unless competing—again this was geared more towards a competitive audience —but proper squats and deadlifts do the job well. I say don’t get greedy putting weight on the bar—beginners don’t need a lot of extra shit and weird positions,  these basics work—a lot of reps of the basicsIf an intermediate level lifter has these issues then it's time to add in the assistance work. And what the hell are hip thrusts? No really.

5. When coaching a female, most respond best to positive reinforcement and encouragement, rather than just criticism. Try first pointing out what they did right and then follow it by stating what they need to improve on in a constructive manner.

Yes!  But Duh. And should we belittle and put down pussy men in the gym? Absolutely.  But seriously people respond to measures and tracking and actually understanding what they’re doing. Take all feelings out, clear standards, practice practice practice and measure it up to a standard.  Have them own some responsibility for their progress and coach them how to not take it personal and how to compare themselves to themselves more than to others. A good coach will provide positive feedback and encouragement to everyone and also knows when to lovingly give a swift kick.

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6. Male coaches: never be dismissive of a female strength athlete’s concerns about body image. It may seem silly to you, but it can be a serious issue to them, and if you care about their future in the sport, you should be there to listen and encourage, not to tell them that their worries are pointless.

Hell yes. But it should read " If you care about your future as a coach…”

7. Male coaches: female athletes are tougher than you think. Often tougher than the boys. Though a female athlete may show more emotion on the surface, that doesn’t mean she needs coddling. Respect her space and her need to vent, and she will come back strong.

Yes, ok. It may be easier to keep feelings out of it. I think this is why sports are good for little girls. They will have their feelings and talk the whole damn time but they learn discipline, competition, failure and accomplishment. Some perspective is important here--anyone can get strong! This whole athlete thing is shady sometimes-be reasonable and let the person in front of you progress naturally.

8. Don’t think that males and females need different exercises. Women and even teen female athletes can utilize squats, deadlifts, lunges, sleds, farmer walks, etc just like men can.

Yes! And they can perform better than men at some exercises too.

9. Women tend to respond better to a different coaching style then males. Less intensity and aggression and more encouraging of effort and proper technique.

I think it’s good to have some intensity and encouragement with anyone.

10. Confidence is usually a problem with beginning women. Use rep maxes to find maxes instead of singles early on so they don’t become discouraged. I usually will only have female clients hit a PR if I know they can do multiple reps with it.

Get them under the bar and practice! Confidence is easily built by properly taught technique, progressing slowly, and experience with the barbell. Don't be in a rush. It's better to squeeze all the experience and strength you can out of linear progression than to get greedy. Failure is part of learning but complete breakdowns-injury, fear, burnout- can be hard to recover from.  Proper programming will always separate the fools from the winners and it takes patience, work, and creativity. I never use 1 RM with anyone—it’s always weird. In the words of Dan John--is it a max or a max max or a max max max —I think true 1RM is good for competing athletes. Training for strength—2-3 RM may be a better measure. And PR’s can have any rep range! Play with it!


A tip from a Dr. So and So..

11. We see a lot of anterior shoulder and SI pain. Seemingly due to joint laxity, rather than mobility restriction.

I don’t know the context of this and it is not really a “tip”.   So what? I have to say--getting stronger and using proper technique in pushing and pulling is the best medicine for this!!

Another tip from Dr. So and SO..

12. Less stretching and more cuff/scapular, and trunk stabilization. Especially post pregnancy.

Ok thanks doc. Yes I agree. Do you even lift?  With a barbell?

13. If you are a male, coaching a female athlete and it happens to be “that time of the month”, know that things may be more difficult for your athlete. Be patient, understand that she will be more tired and that she may have more emotional responses to missed lifts. Talk to your athlete and find out her monthly schedule. Don’t make it awkward; It is part of coaching a female athlete.

Ok! I’d add--simply have her track it in her log along with anything and everything she wants to say about that day about emotions, eating, feeling strong as hell, bloated, bitchy, weak—done!  You'll have a record to refer to  alongside her training and can note patterns of turmoil and fame. Easy freebie.

14. Female athletes are easier to coach, technically. Take advantage of the fact that they take positive criticism far better then men, and more often without the ego.

I agree. This is not a bad thing—I believe it might be cultural—most men have done more active things—lifted weights and played sports--and have their set way of doing them. It’s easier to learn something cold and fresh sometimes. There has been many a man ego bruised through the learning of a proper deadlift or squat. But I’m afraid the gap is closing as on one hand -men and women are less active and some people still think mosquito ass thin and weak is fit.  Also, more women are lifting weights and getting stronger than some of those mosquito ass thin and weak men.

15. Female athletes cry. This does not mean they are weak or broken. Some guys throw stuff, some girls cry. Some girls throw stuff and cry. Understand that this is just how some deal with things. It usually has zero impact on how hard they try or even the quality of training. Don’t draw excessive attention to it as if it is out of the ordinary.

Okay yes.  Although I’ve (made) seen some men cry too.

Long Snatch Set Sounds #1

I'm sharing some of my favorite music to snatch by!  My practice snatch sets are always at least 10 minutes long, one hand switch, 5 minutes per hand at 15 reps per minute. I'll mix in lighter sets for 12 minutes and 14 minutes, all one hand switch and sometimes faster reps per minute. I usually snatch 2-3 times a week. Right now my challenge is making 5 minutes at 15 reps per minute with my competition KB weight (20kg) on my weaker left hand. Thanks to Denis Vasilev for the awesome programming tips. This song demonstrates the easy groove you must find yourself in when it's just you and the bell.

West Coast Classic 2014

We had the opportunity to be a part of one of the best kettlebell events this year so far! The West Coast Classic, IUKL Championships at the Ice Chamber Athletic Training Center in Richmond, CA.  Feb 8th, 2014.  Here's a run down of some results!

Mariela Villaverde participated in her first ever competition in 12kg Biathon. She is already a legend in the club for deadlifting more then twice her bodyweight!  She has been training with the 10kg and 12kg bell for months and the work paid off in the way of a personal best. 12kg Biathlon, Jerks-111 reps, Snatch-121 reps, Total-232, Earned Rank 2 IUKL/AKA.

Lisa Hensz is not a new comer to kettlebell sport, having already received CMS(Candidate for Master of Sport) ranks in RGSI and WKC in LongCycle! For this event she decided to kill the 16kg LongCycle. 16kg LongCycle-121 reps, Earned Rank 1 IUKL/AKA.

Coach Joyce Luke also enjoyed a personal best in Biathlon after being short for CMS (Candidate for Master of Sport)  numbers at the WKC Championships last year. She reached the goal of CMS for IUKL! 20kg Biathlon, Jerks-157, Snatch-147, Total-304, Earned Rank CMS IUKL/AKA.

Chris Collins also achieved a personal best in LongCycle, challenging the 28kg bells! He was just 3 reps short of his target goal-60 reps. Chris  also holds Rank 1 Biathlon IUKL/AKA and Rank1 Biathlon WKC!  28kg LongCycle-57 reps

Luke's Barbell Club Jerk Relay team came in first place in the amateur race!

We also got to hang with and watch 11x World Champion from Russia, Anton Anasenko, who matched his competition record in Long Cycle with 80 points.

And Melissa Swanson became the first woman in the world to earn Master of Sport in 24kg Snatch, 24kg Biathlon, and 24kg Long Cycle.

Thank you Maya and Steven, the entire Ice Chamber team and community, and all the incredibly inspiring athletes who shared their love, sweat, and smiles!

Sexy BS

This is my response to this article, Sexy Female Training, shared on the club's Facebook page by one of our many strong women!

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After I read this  someone asked me what it was about. I replied-"Brittany Spears and Jessica Simpson".  What?  "Oh and more evidence of how women's  bodies have been and continue to be and may always be politicized and scrutinized and criticized and sexualized  by the media, and men, and even by women themselves." Boring.

There's also that distortion of reality between what women want, what is actually healthy, not healthy, our perception of fitness and health and happiness. Yuck.

So this guy wants to share his experience as a trainer, stating that he knows exactly what woman want, what they want to look like,  and through his experience and career , he is absolutely sure of this: Women want to look like Brittany Spears (BS forever more here) and Jessica Simpson. Hands down with no doubt and don’t pretend they (or you) do not. Okay. He says that women want to have an athletic look, but not necessarily  be athletic (heaven forbid) Okay. He says we trainers should give them what they want and here’s how to eat and how to train how to look like BS or Jessica Simpson.

First I have to acknowledge that this is his experience and that this article has a  very specific purpose and a very specific audience--How to train women to look like the skinny waist-ed BS.  He interestingly uses all the trigger "key words" that women love to hear--lose fat, get lean, have athletic look—and not build big muscle—which puts most women in that "oh my god but I want my pants to fit" panic alert mode. It’s his experience—he has had lots of woman come to him that want this, and there are women in the world that want this and he gets paid to get them this and that’s totally cool man!

And…..

This is not my experience at all. In all of my 20 yrs experience, not one woman has ever said  to me that they want to look like the skinny waist-ed BS. (however I have had a couple men express this). Maybe it's because of who I am for and in the "fitness" world.  I happen to be a woman, an athlete, a strength coach. And I am not petite at and never was (until I found myself on a professional basketball team!) And in the beginning of my career I struggled to fit in as a big, strong girl among all the small, petite girl trainers.

 I do have experience as a little girl and growing up into a women-wanting to look like someone else.  It may be more insightful to look at why women want to look a certain way? Fro me, I couldn't tell you exactly why. Was it TV? Movies? My mom my dad my 1st grade crush? Whatever it was I have a long history of not liking my body.  I have some clues that all of these play their part in shaping how I saw "me"but what about "me" or is it appropriate to consider my genetics? Is it a mistake to look back and notice that over my entire  lifetime, uh...hmm..well ....I have always had these tree trunk legs (thank you for the phrase grandma!) . Keeping in mind I have had no major event  marking a dramatic increase or decrease in my weight or drastic change in body composition--like gaining  or losing a lot of weight, major illness, pregnancy, injury. i think it is a mistake not to look at the real world evidence. Hell Is it even possible for me or  some women to like BS? I mean all we have to do is take a snap shot sample of junior high. The girls body types ran the gamut—sure there were a few BS's in the making here and there-but what about the bean poles, the apples, the top heavies, the trunk junkies? It may be easy for me to build a big ass and legs but take much more work and drastic measures for a woman with a different body type. Even taking out the obesity issue—the “”fat”girls today are not the same fat girls of of the 70’s 80’s. Is curvy today the same curvy of back in the day? Is this really about women and what they really want?  I know it's possible--we've all seen some very drastic body transformations. But what is the cost? We're not all movie stars or pop stars. And why didn't this guy include pictures of the women he is making into BS?

As an athlete all my life I also have to point out that most female athletes did not look like BS. And I saw athletes at elite levels, many different sports.

I would much rather make me into the best me possible. And help women look and feel like the best them possible.  Your best you.

Well a lot of this guy's plan is very good—science based and right on. But…he dismisses spot reduction, which it true, pointing directly at the abdominals. It is true--women always want to do freaking abs. But women aren't the only ones who think wrongly that they can reduce fat in an area by isolating it.  He contradicts his spot reduction dis by saying only work VL, glutes, and shoulders, so woman don't get big in areas they don't want to get big in. What? Again, he does acknowledge the program is not for performance—just looks. Okay. So this is a way to get curvy. I think it's crap. And he may not know much about how "the waist" really works. And what's really wrong with thick BS? She looks stronger for sure! He goes on to say that this article is  not about nutrition. Cool, but I think nutrition is more important than the gym stuff when it comes to women training for a beautiful body. Period. Especially that tricky waist area.

If you’re a woman who doesn’t want big thighs, cool. Take a look at yourself during the course of your life and ask yourself --hmm, have my thighs always been this way?  Yes or no? This is real evidence of  your body's capacity to change, and a clue as to where to start your transformation. Sometimes it's just a matter of accepting yourself. For me, I found that I would much rather make me into the best me possible.  By my own standard along with some education and re-framing of other "standards." I can also help other women become the best them possible. That's it-your best you.  I know this BS training and it works for some. But I’d much rather build female athletic prowess. It's sexier and much more useful come apocalypse time.

And here's a picture of my ass (oh and small waist and tree trunk legs).  Actually, I really love trees!

Getting Clear

                           Photo by green wheels studios

                           Photo by green wheels studios