Influence of Weightlifting on the Woman's Body |
Prof. Angel Spassov, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Recently, more and more women have
become interested in the sport of weightlifting. A considerable number of women
in many countries have been working out and participating in contests. This article
is to provide further information regarding the influence of weight training on
There are few coaches of woman athletes who do think of the
essential difference between the female and male body's endurance to weight training.
In most cases, only decreasing the weight loading for women compared with men
differentiates the approach. Here arises the question if this condition only is
enough to provide for the conditions of qualified and highly effective strength
training of women athletes.
Nowadays, most of the sportswomen apply
various forms of weight training in different periods of their annual training
cycle, and some of them even throughout the year. Nevertheless, the capabilities
of the women's nervous and muscular systems and their aptitude to weight training
have not yet been studied completely. We will, therefore, try to survey what the
specialists have established until now, using also the results of our work with
women competitors in swimming, rowing, track and field and volleyball.
As a result of one study comprising 272 women and 253 men, Tittel established
that the maximum strength of women is by 40% less than that of men. Hettinger
discovered that 19 to 45 year old women possessed a lower training ability than
men of the same age. He found out that women's muscular strength grew considerably
slower than men's. In a word, placed and compared under the same conditions, women
have smaller capabilities of displaying strength than men. We will clarify the
most important reasons for these differences that are of significance to women's
According to V. Korinevsky, R. Motiljanskaja, and
T. Hettinger it is obvious that men have a better ratio of the active muscle mass
to the adipose tissue (fat) than women, whose body fat percentage is higher. Women
are of smaller height and have a relatively longer trunk. The difference of height
in standing and seated position is 12-15 cm for women and 9.5-10.7 cm for men,
and because of this the center of gravity in the woman's body is found lower than
in men. Woman's pectoral girdle is less developed on account of the pelvis, the
latter being of a particular structure.
These proportions in the
woman's body structure provide for the greater stability of the legs, but limit
the speed of walking and running and the height of jump. As was noted above there
are differences concerning the mass of the developed muscles - muscles provide
for not more than 35% of a woman's bodyweight and 42% of a man's. Even if we assume
to compare a man and a woman carrying the same muscle mass, the strength of the
woman will be less because of the bigger fat layer. The general dynamometrics
gives the following indices - 53% of a woman's bodyweight and 72% of a man's;
deadlift power - 135 (woman) and 187.6 (man); average strength of the two arms
- 50.5 (woman) and 83.1 kg. man). Due to the lower tissue consistency and the
height differences women's average bodyweight is less than men's (67 kg). In order
to ignore the height and demonstrate the lower consistency of women's tissues
we will note that each centimeter of women's height weighs 366 grams, while men's
- 385 grams.
When untrained women and men are concerned the difference
between men's and women's muscle strength amounts to 20%. Should the woman and
man perform the same weight-training regimen for a week the man will achieve growth
of 5.8 percent, while the woman - only 3.9 percent. Should weight training be
applied for a prolonged period of time, women's strength will constitute 45-47%
of men's strength.
The results achieved by women last for a shorter
time than those achieved by men. Woman's training condition is lost more quickly.
For that reason she has to train systematically and regularly. Since women's growth
stops earlier and hence their trunk remains relatively longer, weight training
causes greater strain on the spinal column, wherein exists the danger of intervertebral
disc injury. The structure of the pelvis is inconvenient for the execution of
some exercises, as it is broadened in its lower part, its outlet being closed
by a muscle barrier, formed by muscles of the pelvic bottom. With the strain on
the higher-located muscles the internal abdominal pressure is increased, whereas
the lowest muscles are most loaded. For that reason it is better to look for such
exercises to develop the different muscles that would provide women, beginners
in particular, with the possibility to train in a lying position.
complete interruption of workouts during the menstruation period is not recommended.
It is normal to reduce the loading, however, exercises are to be continued, provided
the menstruation takes its normal course and no gynecological changes occur. Certain
physical exercises even ease the indisposition usually felt by women in this period.
Weight training normally increases the blood flow in the abdominal and pelvis
areas and could cause prolonged bleeding and injury to the whole cycle. That is
why light training is recommended: arms to be trained by lighter weights at a
An important feature of the characteristics of the
woman's body is that the absolute and the relative share of the adipose tissue
is bigger than that of a man's - 28% against 18% accordingly. The fat is found
predominantly in the areas of breasts, pelvis, and thighs and is a reserve required
in the great energy consumption periods of pregnancy, giving birth, suckling and
In contemporary training great loadings, to speed and
power in particular, put requirements not only on the supporting and motor systems,
but on cardiovascular and respiratory systems as well, in which some anatomic
and morphological differences are noticed too. For example, the diaphragm of a
woman is normally placed higher and therefore we have the relatively transversal
location of the heart. The weight of a woman's heart is 10-15% less than that
of man of the same bodyweight and height (U. N. Novoronnikov, S. P. Letunov).
The same applies to its volume (U. N. Arhunski). The smaller size of the woman's
heart stands for the smaller number of heartbeats. That is why the larger minute
capacity is achieved through the higher frequency of contractions. Nevertheless,
studies have shown that the female blood-minute capacity is lower than that of
men. It is noted in the table below (data by G. A. Goncharova) that there is an
essential difference between the functional indices of the cardiovascular systems
of men and women at a rest.
Research results show that these differences
are most obviously manifested in the speed and weight loads when the woman's body
reaction is expressed mainly through the pulse frequency, while men's contractions
are slower but more powerful. Similar differences are noticed in the recuperation
period, especially if the loading implies higher strain for a longer time.
are differences in the respiratory system's operation. The number of breaths in
women is larger. According to data of A. G. Dembo the vital capacity of women's
lungs is 2500-5000 cm3, while that of the men's lungs is 3200-7200 cm3. This peculiarity
influences the lungs ventilation (3-5 lt. for women and 5-7 lt. for men at rest).
Hence the oxygen intake is different (150-160 cm3 for women and 180-250 cm3 for
men). With high intensity physical loading the percentage of growth of women's
oxygen consumption is bigger and, to a certain extent, compensates the lower percentage
of its utilization.
The prolonged studies of M. V. Elkina, C. A.
Jagunova and I. N. Startseva, and E. Zaharieva, show that heavy training loading
does not influence the menstruation cycle negatively. However, menstruation has
a considerable impact on working capacity (especially strength resistance). The
pulse becomes quicker, the arterial blood pressure is lowered, and the beats and
minute capacity of the heart is reduced (mainly during the first days of the menstruation
period). There exists data on the decrease of the vital capacity and the basic
metabolism. In the first days of the menstruation cycle the erythrocytes number
and hemoglobin percentage is reduced. Therefore, the physiological capabilities
of the oxygen supply to working muscles in these days are reduced. That is why
the reactions of the cardiovascular system to bigger resistance are expressed
mainly by the following: quickened pulse and a prolonged time of its recovery,
small increase of maximum blood pressure and large increase of minimum blood pressure.
In fact this is an extremely unfavorable reaction of the body that brings about
undesirable sequences sometimes.