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.
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!
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 basics. If 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.
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.