Overspeed Training
The Influence of Weightlifting on the Woman's Body - Part II

by Prof. Angel Spassov, Ph.D., D.Sc.


Though certain authors assert that the working capacity during the menstruation cycle is not reduced (A. B. Handelsmann, K. M. Smirnov, H. Noak, and K. Tittel) the following regularity can be observed: the working capacity curve is lowest, during pre-menstruation and the first days of menstruation. Then it goes upwards to reach its peak in the first days of the post-menstruation period (S. A. Jagunov, L. N. Startseva). Our work with competitive women athletes, in weightlifting, swimming, track and field athletics, tennis, fencing and rowing, doing weight training showed that the approach to women athletes' working capacity during menstruation is quite individual. Within the competing experience of sportswomen we came upon some cases in which their positive emotions placed them in such a position that in spite of the side effects of menstruation, they achieved results higher than their personal records. Regardless of these cases however, most women, athletes included, consider menstruation as an obstacle to their preparation and participation in contests. On the basis of the aforementioned, we can make the following statements and recommendations concerning women's special weight training methods:


1. Weight training is quite necessary. It favorably influences the general functional condition of a woman's body, provided a progressive beforehand preparation has been executed in conformity with all peculiarities (morphological, functional, psychical) of a woman's body.


2. The prolonged loadings connected with large concussions of the internal organs are to be avoided. Exercises of this nature must be of short duration followed by longer breaks. An individual approach is to be applied during the menstruation period - the weight exercises for some women have to be substituted by other ones that would not cause great resistance in the abdominals. The women that will go on with their weight training have to decrease the loading and to execute the exercises lying down - mainly for arms and calves. 


3. The weight training is to be preceded by a prolonged preparation of the supporting and motor apparatus. Progressive resistance exercises are to be executed with the aid of a great variety training facilities.


4. Weight training has a favorable influence in the post-menstruation period, when the exercises with a barbell can reach 60-70% of all the strength exercises. Most often, in this period, maximum weight is achieved.


5. In view of the physiological characteristics of a woman's body it is essential to emphasize that women more easily accept, and have better results in, the disciplines involving power endurance, than in those that require maximum strength or explosive power. In this relation swimming is a good example. The performance of the best women swimmers is not inferior to men's and even the national records for men in some countries - renowned for their sports traditions - are less than the world records for women.


6. When we have a goal to develop women's maximum strength we must give preference to work up to refusal or 2-3 repetitions of 90-95% of the maximum weight.


7. Special attention is to be paid to squats with barbell at the back of the neck. Being of particular importance to sports practice it is included in the exercises of all training regimens. It is necessary to train both squat and high squat regardless of sport discipline exercised by the athlete. In this case, it is important that the legs and the pectoral girdle, where large muscular groups are found, increase their strength very quickly; it means they can undertake and overcome considerable weights. The main thing to be taken into consideration is that the connection between the pectoral girdle (that undertakes and maintains the weight) and the legs (that perform yielding and overcoming work) is the lower back. Its relatively weak muscles characterize the latter: its bone support being the spinal column only. These conditions are insufficient for the low back to correspond to the strength level of the legs and pectoral girdle. Besides, the technique of the squat itself suggests big difficulties: when we start the squat the muscles perform yielding work and the weight moves downwards. When the end position is reached the legs start the overcoming work of raising upward. Very often this is accompanied by the so called "shaking", so that by striking each other the hip and the calf ensures the "spring", thus helping the raising upwards. In this moment, the inertia of the movement of the 'weight downwards must be eliminated and the upward movement be started. The meeting of the two forces in the low back area where they are mainly applied result in a tremendous compression - several times bigger than the weight with which the squat is done. As a consequence the internal abdominal resistance and the load to the spinal column are increased sharply. No doubt the resistance on the whole body is very big, but we focus our attention on one unit of the body that has shortcomings of an anatomical and physiological nature. The construction of the spinal column consisting of vertebrae, separated by gristly discs, though very strong, in cases of light staggering implies danger of a sharp increase of the load between two vertebrae only. Since the ability to make compensating movements in the squat is limited, heavy injuries can occur. Certainly we consider a case when the squat and the raising upwards are done with a barbell of a maximum or a sub-maximum weight. In the remaining cases (weight of 80% or less) with the required attention, concentration and proper beforehand preparation the injuries will be almost excluded. Nevertheless, it is obligatory that the exercise be performed with a belt, which has the supplementary advantage of maintaining the required heat in the low back area. We recommend the following exercises: for the abdominals - leg raises, sit-ups and bent-arm pullover; for the oblique abdominal - side twists and side inclines; for the back - "good morning" exercises and deadlift. Should all these conditions be observed, we recommend that about 50% of the leg exercises be other than a squat with a barbell at the back of the neck. Recommendations are leg presses on a leg press machine, carrying a partner on your back down an incline etc.


8. After the execution of weight training, women athletes have to spend not less than 20-30 minutes for relaxation. That aims at both quicker recuperation and meeting aesthetic requirements. As a result of a heavier workout muscle hypertrophy occurs: since the muscles are filled in with blood, their length having been decreased after the heavy work. This state of the muscles reduces the joints amplitude as a consequence to which woman's movements become clumsy and awkward. The many repetitions of this state transform the woman's figure, it acquires the manners of a man. This has an impact not only on the woman herself but on the sport she trains also. That is why relaxation exercises have to be attached with the same importance as to loading ones. In this relation, both water massage and swimming are considered to be most suitable. It is desirable that each workout ends with relaxation exercises, followed by one of the three suggested forms of intercourse with water. Bathing after the weight training is to be done with hot water for a prolonged time and be finished with contrast bath (alternating hot and cool water).


Besides the above-mentioned smaller strength capabilities compared to men, women have several advantages that have to be taken into consideration:


• In general, women are more flexible. Flexibility helps them in the technical performance of the movements, most often with amplitude close to the required one. Our experience showed that women execute easily and more correctly the classical heavy athletics exercises - the snatch and the clean and jerk.


• Women benefit from their greater flexibility; they are less likely to be injured in sports-related activities.


• Weight training is welcome and arouses the interest of sportswomen not only for the possible benefit with regard to the discipline they train. It also enables them to satisfy their natural striving for emancipation and equality, suppressed in them in the course of thousands of years. Entering an area of strength that until recently has been of interest only to men - they are very careful and concentrated, what makes work with them pleasant and fruitful.


• No other but weight exercises achieve the overall toning of every muscle of the physique and exert a positive effect on spirits. For women, who are usually more emotional than men, it is of vital importance to progress in their sports discipline.


• Generally women are more diligent and disciplined. This is particularly important to meeting the main requirement of weight training progress - the regular workouts. It brings about important conditions that characterize the woman's training process, the latter being balanced and advantageous even in training with weights, which until very recently has been considered to be purely a men's activity.