Back in the day, there were all sorts of rules about training female athletes. They were deemed fragile and you had to adjust your training accordingly. In fact, one of my female wellness clients told me when she was younger, gym teachers told them lifting was dangerous for girls because their vaginas could fall out.
That is not a joke. That is what she told me. I think it is safe to say we’ve come a long way from that kind of thinking.
That being said, the simple answer to the question posed whether there are differences between training a female and male athlete is no.
But, you know me. We can’t have a blog post with a simple two letter, one word answer to a question.
When it comes to absolute strength women aren’t as strong as men. This means how much total weight an individual can lift.
But, pound for pound, women are close to lifting as much as men. Here’s how it breaks down. With the legs, pound for pound women are just as strong as men. In the upper body, women don’t have as much muscle as men do, thus pound for pound they are not as strong as men. It is something like 70% to 80% the strength of men.
Do you have to treat them any differently when it comes to lifting weights then?
Once again, no. The only differences I have noted with females and males is that females seem to pay a little more attention to the technique of the exercises while males focus more on how much they are lifting.
So, you could put females and males on the exact same training cycle and it should warrant the exact same training results. Any differences should be based on the sport training for rather than gender.
The “elephant in the room” with this topic is this, what about when girls are on their period?
I have talked with female coaches and athletes and once again, you shouldn’t train females any differently.
My sister-in-law, pro Ironman athlete Meredith Kessler, has competed in Ironman events on her period. She discusses this in greater detail in her book, Life of a Triathlete: Race Preparation, so I’m not going to elaborate on her experiences in this area.
Essentially, her point is that as an athlete you are going to have times when your period falls at the same time of your competition whatever it may be. That competition is not being rescheduled, so the female athlete needs to get used to performing on her period.
As a coach, you can be cognizant that your female athlete is on her period. But, you can’t completely change the training because of it. You aren’t doing her any favors by doing this.
What about females being more emotional than males and needing to account for some things that don’t affect males as much?
I say hogwash to that.
Here’s what I’ve noticed in my 20 plus years of training females and males that could account for altering a workout, but not necessarily because of gender:
- There are just as many males who gab as females.
- Males get just as affected if not more to boyfriend/girlfriend issues as females.
- When it is exam time, once again stress hits males just as hard as females. This might not be the best time to do testing for either athlete.
The psychology of coaching athletes doesn’t change based on the gender of the athlete, but the mental makeup of that athlete. I can yell at certain athletes both female and male and they can process it accordingly. There are other athletes I have to handle a lot differently and that is the same whether it is a female or male.
Basically, what I’m telling you is I think there isn’t any difference training female or male athletes. I’m not altering a training style due to gender. I’m going to alter their workout like any other athlete based on the individual athlete, the sport’s demand for that athlete, and that athlete’s makeup.