Strength Training for Female Athletes
consideration is also required with regard to female athletes,
concerning the more pronounced pelvic width and inward
femur angle, or "Q-angle," in females, and its contribution to knee injuries.
First, let's identify the differences between males and females when considering
muscle groups. There are 4 main muscular differences which directly affect
training and sport.
Females demonstrate a lower Hamstring to Quadricep ratio. This means females
typically have weaker hamstrings compared to males.
Females demonstrate different muscle activation patterns compared to males.
Females are typically Quadricep dominant athletes. This means females use their
strong Quadriceps muscles and do not use their weak hamstrings. How does this
affect Anterior Cruciate Knee injuries? The hamstring muscle group act to
protect the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and the Quadricep muscle group
places STRESS on the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. Therefore, Quadricep dominant
muscle work demonstrated by females places excessive stress on the ACL.
Females demonstrate strength weakness comparing one leg to the other. Studies
show that 20-30% of female athletes have one leg significantly weaker than the
other leg. If a female has a muscle weakness of 15% or greater from one leg to
the other, they are 2.6 times more likely to suffer a leg injury.
Females demonstrate a slower speed of muscle contraction. The typical female
takes 0.3 of a second longer to generate MAXIMUM contraction of the hamstrings.
This may seem insignificant, however realize that a sprinter spends less than a
0.1 of a second balancing on one foot before pushing off and landing on the
other foot. If the hamstrings do not contract fast enough the Anterior Cruciate
Ligament may be in jeopardy.
Using these 4 differences we would have to place the emphasis on functional
strength training with special consideration in
the sport, or activity movement patterns. In the case of a Track athlete
exercises including Squats, Lunges, Dead-Lifts,Hamstring Curls,Single Leg
Squats, Single Leg Extensions and Core Stability should be the basis of any
training is important to the female athlete. Women need to balance upper and
lower body work to achieve a balanced overall body strength. Weight lifting
programs that are done 2 or 3 times a week increase bone density, decrease fat,
and improve muscle definition. They can improve sports performance, as well.
Because of the much lower levels of testosterone in their bodies and the smaller
muscle mass, the problem the female athlete has, is on cessation of strength
training she will lose her strength very rapidly in comparison to a male
athlete. When I attended a BMC weekend 1994 with Dr. Norman Poole stated that he
had kept weight training going with his female athletes while in the Olympic
Camp in Barcelona.
This highlights the fact that a female athlete is better to continue with a
strength maintenance programme right through the competition season.
Graham Smith B.A.F. Senior Coach
Level 4 Performance Coach
4 Strength & Conditioning Coach