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Training the Female Athlete

Training the Female Athlete

Athletic performance has improved dramatically in recent years with the advancements in training. The effects of weight training are as beneficial to female athletes, as they are to males.

I’ve worked with female athletes on a daily basis for over 30 years, on the collegiate level in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 and at the high school level. Female athletes have a strong desire to focus on performance goals. This makes it easy for me to treat them like athletes and not take a softer approach. Coaches commonly make the mistake of believing that female athletes need to train differently than their male counterparts. I can remember back in my high school days when P.E. classes were different; what boys and girls did was never the same.

 

That’s old school thinking and is not true today. The training methods and programs used with female athletes should be organized around sound principles of training, just as they are with male athletes. Female athletes today have a tremendous amount of self-esteem and mental toughness that helps them develop with greater confidence. Much of this progress comes from being exposed to proper technique, resistance training in the junior and senior high school levels. This is highly recommended and more common today.

 

Studies have demonstrated that strength levels of female athletes diminish more quickly than those of male athletes. To maintain strength levels, during competitive seasons, use lifting sessions from the 80 – 90 % load with some weeks of training scheduled with a variant, one workout being at 90 % and one 60 % workout loads. These percentages are workable, valid ways of maintaining the strength levels of female athletes. Each female athlete needs to have the training philosophy to squat, push, pull and hinge.

Emphasis on building upper body strength is important. Generally, most female athletes have less upper body strength. Another good idea for the female athlete is to have more multi – joint exercises included. These exercises should be introduced to the athlete early in their development period with weight training. Female athletes are capable of handling both higher volume and intensity of resistance training than was believed just 10 years ago. High standards for performance need to be set, as the present day female athlete is reaching for the higher bar and training with a higher purpose.

 

A major point to address is the higher risk of ACL injuries with the female athletes. It’s critical to focus on progressing the athlete into single leg exercises, proprioception and force production variations. Doing periods of ACL preventive protocol is a must to teach the athlete what is correct as far as body position, landing mechanics, deceleration, and COD are concerned.

 

Athletic performance has improved dramatically in recent years with the advancements in training. The effects of weight training are as beneficial to female athletes, as they are to males. Due to the similar physiological responses, males and females should train for strength in the same basic way. Coaches should stress the needs of each athlete, male or female based on their needs and developmental stage, rather than on their gender. In fact, there may be more differences between individuals of the same gender, than between males and females.

 

In the 19th century women were believed to be frail and weak. We know this is untrue. The passage of Title IX in 1972 provided the huge push for the growth of strength and conditioning of female athletes. Female athletes have a strong desire to focus on performance, achievement of goals and have proven to be strong and capable of responding to training, just as their male counterparts do.



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