2 Healthy Chicks- “Women “not strong enough for combat?”

Women “not strong enough for combat”

This blog post was originally published in 2013. The author congratulates the fact the US ban on women in combat was finally lifted. Really, women were already in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there was no frontline. As these states collapsed under US invasion insurgencies arose using irregular warfare. While the writing does point out the fallacy in stating no woman has the strength for combat, it ignores biological and physiological facts. The author states that she is a feminist, which to some has negative connotations. Equality is needed for a functional society, but it should not blind us to differences. Men and women are physiologically and anatomically different, it does not mean one or the other is inferior. Understanding women’s physiology can allow for a physical fitness program to make them worthy combat soldiers.If gender integration in the US military is to work, there are certain training regimens women will have to perform. This depends of the military occupational specialty. There are two extremes of this new wedge issue. The conservative perspective is that no woman can be successful and they are too weak. The liberal perspective is that any woman can be combat soldier and borrows some extreme feminist overtones that all women are super women. These two notions are not realistic. The author seems to hold the second view point. These extreme positions must be examined objectively.

              Tom Cotton a Republican representative form Arkansas stated that ” It’s nature, upper body strength and physical movements and speed and endurance…” It is true that men on average have more upper body strength and aerobic capacity, however women can increase their physical fitness level. The question of endurance is a bit harder to answer when comparing men and women. Muscular endurance describes the action of a muscle group contracting of long periods of time. Men can have more muscle mass, but this does not mean they have more endurance.Blood flow and metabolism play a role. Women fatigue less quickly in muscular endurance exercises due to less restriction of capillaries .Women may fatigue less quickly do to more recruitment of synergistic muscle groups. Cotton does not have a grasp of exercise physiology or basic science. He is part of a political party that denies human evolution and climate change. There is a way for women to acquire physical strength.


Women must have work out regimens tailored to their biological make up. Weight lifting can add strength to muscle and bone. There are two types of methods of muscular hypertrophy that can be utilized in an exercise regimen. Myofibrillar hypertrophy can be induced by lifting heavy weights and performing sets between two to eight repetitions. The lower amount of repetitions combined with heavy weight allows for the increase in size and quantity of muscle fibers. Exerting muscle this way allows for testosterone to be released  resulting in microtrauma. The muscle fiber will respond with repairing the tears with stronger tissue. Other exercise regimens sacroplasmic hypertrophy can be a method of building muscle strength. This increases fluid in the muscle cells. Circuit training involves twelve to fifteen repetitions per exercise. It requires a minute or less between exercise. Three or four exercises can be used which include incline dumbell chest press, dumbell side raises, bench dips, and chest fly. These exercises do not cause muscle fatigue and result in the body producing more growth hormone.


Besides training method diet is also a component. Rest is just as important as exercise.  It has been recommended that there be at least 48 to 72 hours between workouts. Consuming food before and after a work out session helps with muscular hypertrophy. Proteins and carbohydrates are essential to a diet. Bananas and peanut butter are examples of foods with a good source of protein. Food contributes to feeding muscle. Women do run slower than men, but that does not mean women cannot run fast. Tom Cotton must have never watched a track and field event. Carmelita Jeter  track and field athlete was able to run 55 meters in 6.84 seconds. Her running speed could very well surpass the male standard on the Army physical fitness test . It is a two mile run designed to test cardio respiratory fitness   and leg muscle endurance.

The men’s standard for the U.S. Army :

Age (17-21) – Minimum (15.54 minutes) — Maximum (13.00 minutes)
Age (22-26) – Minimum (16.36 minutes) — Maximum (13.00 minutes)
Age (27-31) – Minimum (17.00 minutes) — Maximum (13.18 minutes)


Women’s legs are closer to men’s in strength. It would be easier to add it on that section of the body compared to the upper body. Women have smaller hearts and lungs which means their aerobic capacity is lower. This is an average; it does not mean any man can just out run someone like Camelita Jeter. What also effects women speed is the structure of the pelvis. A wider pelvis alters the movement of the attached bone. However, the muscles of the legs are the same and can be responsive to weight training exercise. Tim Cotton deals in absolutes, rather than examining the entire spectrum. Depending on genetics as well, some women will be more responsive to training.

lisa bickles
This is Lisa Bickles  when she was a marine. That was before she took up weightlifting activities.  I think the after version would be the more capable soldier.

A woman who is naturally mesomorphic in body type can see more strength gains compared to one of thinner build. The assumption that the female body is inferior is false. Still there has to be consideration for physiological and biological differences

         The author’s feminism implies that of sameness feminism. This ideology believes that biological differences are “social” constructions and if we realize we are all  similar, equality will flourish. This notion seems ludicrous, because being different is not an indication of inferiority. Some even ignore basic anatomical and physiological facts. Men are physically stronger.  The author states : ” from my experience, some men enter the military as fairly scrawny men, but come out looking like they’ve been lifting weights for years.” She then states “why can’t women do the same?” to follow up. Men and women on the same training regimen result in men attaing higher levels of physical strength. Before puberty and the effects of hormones male and female strength is close to equal. Past age thirteen boys testosterone levels increase increasing muscle size and bone mass. Growth hormone activates in both sexes including insulin growth factor I. They have assistance from the sex hormones. The sex steroids will then effect physical fitness potential of the sexes. A boy 11 to 17 years old can go from 15 kg to 35 kg of muscle. Women by the age of 17 have a lean body mass of 22kg.  Reaching adulthood a male would have 150% the mass of an average female and twice the muscle cells. Males do still have fat, but women gain more due to the effects of estrogen. The skeletal structure is important to strength. Bones, tendons, and ligaments work with the muscle to produce movement and force. Men after full growth are normally taller and weigh more than women, which means they have more natural strength. Natural strength is the force the body can generate without a training regimen.

Between the ages 11 to 14 the change in body shape are developing. Men’s shoulders broaden and the upper body becomes more pronounced.

Women will have to work harder and train longer to gain substantial strength. Besides larger and more type II muscle fibers, larger bones contribute to greater male strength. Longer and larger bones means a mechanical advantage. Increased articular surface means more leverage and a larger frame to store muscle. Ligaments act as a reinforcement, which are also more robust in males. Men have more upper body strength  and  it is estimated that women can have 52% of a man’s upper body strength. Other estimates put women’s upper body strength being 40% less than a male’s. Often people make the claim women have stronger legs than men. That is not exactly correct   women are closer to men in the lower body. If it is a man and woman of a similar size a woman can have at least 80% of a man’s physical strength. Building lower body strength could be easier for women in a fitness regimen.

Contrary to popular belief women do not have stronger legs than men. Looking at Lenda Murray’s legs it is easy to make that assumption.
This does not mean women cannot build strong legs. This is Korney Olsen squeezing a water melon in half.

Endocrinology does effect training. Muscle mass volume and tendon size are basic indicators of sex hormone influence.  Smaller tendons could make women more susceptible to injury. This can be avoided by training in correct form and doing so under an experienced individual. A new trainee should not immediately do lift the heaviest weight. It should be a gradual process in which you add more overtime. This explains why women suffer higher rates of musculoskeletal injuries during combat training. While males do get them as well, they are protected mainly because of  larger size and more natural strength. Marching under load can effect the body of a woman more so. Women’s shoulder length is smaller in comparison and  total bone mass is less. That means less body support for gear that could weigh over a 100 pounds (45 kg). If the body cannot handle it it will cause a stress fracture. The fact is women would need more training before attempting to do such physically demanding tasks. Another solution the US military is working toward is reducing soldier load for the sake of health. The problem is too much load on a soldier will hinder mobility, when it is critical.


The differences in the muscular and skeletal system means that women could not just be the same as men. She almost implies  that just about every woman could do this. While it is ridiculous to say there are none that can, her example almost disproves her point. Jessie Hillenberg  is far from average. She is an IFBB pro figure competitor who has been involved in weight lifting for years. Her strength was built over a period of time and she has acquired a high level of fitness. The picture displayed in the article is an old one. Looking at her now it appears she made even more progress.

1365680821e1b3c Jessie Hilgenberg - fitness beauties - fitness female Her chances of passing the fitness test are higher than that of the average woman. She is exceptional . For the women with limited athletic talent, it will be a challenge. It showed it self in the female marine pull-ups issue and the constant debate of if a woman can carry a full grown man if injured in combat. The reason women were having problems with the pull-ups were part biological and sociological. Women were taught to do the flexed arm hang, which was in many respects pointless. Women have lower upper body strength, so that means it will be more of a challenge. It requires the force of the latimissus dorsi, biceps, triceps, and the muscles situated on the shoulders. Many women failed to do three. Proper training and practice allowed for improvement. focusing on upper body exercises changed the situation. Then there is the question of removing an injured soldier. Women are on average a smaller, which means they will have to use more of their maximum strength to carry the wounded. It’s not impossible for a woman to pick up a full grown man.

As you can see here this woman is carrying a large man multiple times. She does not even have much muscle. 

The firemen’s carry can be performed by a woman and if she has the strength it will not be a problem. If taught properly the fireman’s carry is simple to do for moving a large person. Sliding the person on to the shoulders and lifting them up is fast and efficient. There is a mechanical challenge still. Men who have broader shoulders will have more room for muscle. Even a muscular woman’s upper body strength could be lower than her male counterpart in a battlefield. This means women will have to push themselves to their physical maximum. The author should understand that women may need to train longer to adjusts their bodies to rigorous physical demands. Feminism does not eliminate biology. This does not mean women make horrible soldiers. It means that training must be developed to target the upper body. If the author is such a feminist, then she would have no problem having women register for the selective service. This topic has been debated in congress, but there are some women who are preaching equality when they do not mean it . You cannot be for women in combat and reject them not registering for the selective service. While the majority may have difficulty passing the fitness portion, there are ones who would not. Equality means treating everyone the regardless of their sex, religion, background, or race. The author points out that Israel has women in combat, so there is no reason why it cannot work in the US. Understanding the biological differences will help, not hinder women’s progress in combat performance.

                  These two opposing view points  are extreme, but they never consider an important factor. What makes a good soldier? Women have appeared in combat throughout history, so there is nothing revolutionary about this development. Women fought in the Soviet Union during World War II, North Vietnam under the NLF during the Indochina wars,  the American Civil War disguised as men, and in The Eritrean Liberation War. There was another fighting force  in Dahomey  ( now Benin)  composed of women known as the Mino warriors. They were known for there skilled battlefield prowess. Dahomey’s warriors were able to keep their kingdom independent until 1890, while surrounding states were invaded by the French. They were able to hold out longer in the face of European invasion.  These women have past conflicts did not have the same training as the modern US soldier. Skeptics about women’s capabilities need to only examine the past.

The Mino Warriors, who were sometimes called the Dahomey Amazons.
Soviet women served as snipers and flew combat missions.
Eritrean women fighting in the independence  war.

Devotion to a cause and the resilience to complete a mission ultimately make a great fighter. Being fearless and willing to sacrifice yourself for that cause also makes a quality soldier. A that stage there is a paradigm shift . This means a soldier system shifts to a warrior system. Warrior cultures have a long tradition in Japan and Dahomey for example. They have a Spartan mind set in which it is glorious to go to battle and if you come back you did not do something right. Modern warfare became more brutal with more lethal technology. The rise of tanks, drones, airplanes,better guns, and nuclear weapons has drastically altered warfare. Physical fitness still is important to the health of a soldier, but technology seems to be beating human muscle power. Wars are not won by physical strength. Technology and tactics are essential to military success. Women have been a part of warfare, only now has society began to acknowledge it. If this current phase is to be successful there must be practical actions and assessments when integrating women into a combat force.

2 Healthy Chicks- “Women “not strong enough for combat?”

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