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Old 12-09-2011, 12:49 PM   #1
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Default Observations from a female perspective

Observations at the gym.

I wanted to put this together for several reasons, firstly and primarily to give a female perspective on the gym in general and secondly to give food for thought where it may not have otherwise occurred to people in relation to weightlifting and females.

Having been to a commercial gym, a few times now, several things have intrigued and disappointed me…mileage may vary, as the saying goes, depending on the gym and the equipment available; though these observations are based purely on the gym that I have attended.



The squat rack with its non-adjustable safety bars makes some exercises absolutely impossible to do for both females and for short males. Since there is only the one, that means rack pulls and many other exercises are out of the question because there is nowhere suitable to perform them, if a shorter person wishes to do so…although not gender specific, in terms of height, females are generally shorter and therefore more inclined to come across this particular problem.

On the subject of height, it was also pointed out to me, by the trainer, that many weight machines are manufactured for people of around 5’ 6” (5’ 7”), or something along those lines, making many machines either difficult or downright impossible to use; the lat pulldown being one such machine because short females cannot reach high enough to grab the bar to even begin the exercise. For the machines where after a slight struggle a female can get to the start position there is then the issue of the shoulders being too far back for the exercise to be safe for the shoulder structure.

Children’s versions of the machines exist, so this is nothing new for the manufacturers but it is not addressed and children’s sized machines are not seen in gyms.

The 7ft Olympic barbell holds its own set of problems for a female starter lifter: females tend to have narrower backs and little trap size making the balancing of the 7ft barbell a challenge in itself…it’s the difference between balancing a drinking straw across a pencil (female analogy) and balancing that same straw across the flat side of a ruler (male analogy)…for a female the extra barbell length can cause issues that have to be addressed along with dealing with the weightload and form of the lift in question.

Weight progression can be problematical in gyms where the smallest loads are 1.25kg since this means that a minimum of 2.5kg has to be added to any lift; though that does not sound much, if a female is lifting 20kg, adding another 2.5kg is a substantial increase in contrast to someone lifting 60kg and only needing to add that same 2.5kg. Smaller loads make for easier progress where people that are lifting substantially lighter loads than most are concerned but some gyms do not allocate for this scenario.

One very interesting thing I have noticed at the gym (that I attend) is that the lightest barbell is 20kg which means warming up for a barbell press of which my maximum might be only 28kg necessitates using 2/3 to of the maximum that I already lift; though a warm-up could be accomplished via dumbbells, it would not be the same since the barbell exercise is different, albeit in a small way.

There’s not much else I can think of, but to add one last point and this is in relation to posts seen on other forums where members have stated “My girlfriend can’t even press an empty bar!” as if that’s a bad thing…not all, but some females are in the lighter bodyweight range, some as low as 97lbs, taking the bodyweight into consideration, a female lifting a 20kg barbell (bench press or otherwise) is pressing very close to 50% of bodyweight which is not really a good starting point for a beginner, very few would be able to do so from the first session.

In addition to the above observations, there is the issue of hormones which needs to be considered and taken into account, meaning that females need to understand that their bodies may not be able to tolerate the same workout at two different points in their menstrual cycle; an important aspect to be considered for longterm joint and tendon health.

http://muscleandbrawn.com/forums/gen...ing-heavy.html






This is just based on observations and is in no way meant to offend anyone; some of it is food for thought and some is to highlight the issues facing shorter people (though written from the female viewpoint).
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Old 12-09-2011, 12:54 PM   #2
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Excellent read Babs. I learned quite a bit from this; many things I would never have thought of previously.
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Old 12-09-2011, 12:58 PM   #3
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Interesting. Admittedly much of that hadn't even crossed my mind for some years, since I was a beginner and had similar issues.

Quote:
In addition to the above observations, there is the issue of hormones which needs to be considered and taken into account, meaning that females need to understand that their bodies may not be able to tolerate the same workout at two different points in their menstrual cycle; an important aspect to be considered for longterm joint and tendon health.
On this, I have read accounts where Coaches had female lifters on something similar to what Steve and myself are doing whereby they lifted 3 weeks heavy and 1 week light, matching this as best they could to the menstrual cycle. The week of menstruation would basically be a week off, they would continue back with a light week then proceed to hit it hard for two weeks. Giving them a nice monthly plan which jived with their bodies.

Week 1: OFF completely
Week 2: Light week
Week 3: Heavy
Week 4: Heavy
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Old 12-09-2011, 01:03 PM   #4
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On a somewhat amusing side-note; while men typically do well on a 2 week heavy, 1 week light schedule those same coaches have made comments of married men eventually doing better on a 3 week heavy, 1 week light approach similar to their partners!

Interesting hormonal response there.
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Old 12-09-2011, 01:07 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fazc View Post
On a somewhat amusing side-note; while men typically do well on a 2 week heavy, 1 week light schedule those same coaches have made comments of married men eventually doing better on a 3 week heavy, 1 week light approach similar to their partners!

Interesting hormonal response there.
Could be the PMT stress spilling over to the partner; with each female handling the issue differently, depends on the extent to which the partner will have to deal with those same issues, not forgetting that PMT may increase or decrease as the years pass etc, so yeah, that makes sense above. I have also heard that mentsrual cycles of women living/working together seem to fall in line as well, very odd indeed.
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Old 12-09-2011, 02:09 PM   #6
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Interesting read, I hear a lot of similar stuff from my girlfriend. She trains in a commercial gym and I know that non-adjustable squat racks really annoy her, it means she has to walk the weight right out passed the spots to get depth. Being told that she'll "start looking like a man" if she carries on lifting heavy weights is definitely towards the top of her list too.

And the whole olympic bar thing I know frustrates her, for her bench and military she still only uses dumbbells although she wants to try barbell benching. It can be very intimidating though, especially seen as it's usually the most used piece of equipment in a commercial gym.

I'll pass the article on, sure it will make interesting reading for her.
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Old 12-09-2011, 03:09 PM   #7
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Babs,
Thanks for writing all this out. I really made me think about a lot of things. I'd never really considered the gym in terms of shorter or female trainees.
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Old 12-09-2011, 04:02 PM   #8
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great article BaBs..... excellent read
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Old 12-09-2011, 04:26 PM   #9
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Interesting read Babs, I thought this was going to be about the attitude the general public have towards female gym-goers (shouldn't use weights! etc.) so this was a refreshing change and a nice look at the specifics of training as a female that one wouldn't regularly consider.
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Old 12-10-2011, 09:55 AM   #10
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I've thought a lot about the issues women have in gyms over the years. Depending on the demographic, and the gym, I've seen some women experience a fairly crappy time:
  • personal trainers practically humping their legs
  • being made to feel that they don't have a right to use the equipment
  • sometimes surrounded by sweaty, swearing blokes banging the weights around
  • men leering at them or making overly familiar comments
  • equipment left loaded up (e.g. leg press machines) in such a way that they have no hope of unloading it without help

Things have moved on in the last fifteen years and it's getting a lot better, but I still think there's a tendency for guys to act like an alien species has suddenly annexed their little kingdom.
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