Women Closing the Strength Gap in A Big Way

Women and the Strength Gap

This article published online for Women in the World. com was discussing a physical fitness measure between the sexes discussed in a Washington Post piece produced in 2016. There was an analysis of hand grip strength between average men and women. This is used as a measure of strength, but is not the most accurate. The study reported that women between the ages of 30 to 34 had the hand grip strength equal to men of the same age. The right hand was measured for men and women between the ages of 20 to 30. It was compared to data collected in 1985. The average woman compared to the sample could produce 79 pounds of pressure compared to the 117 pounds of pressure of men. The results from 2016 show that women produced 98 pounds of pressure. That is the current male total pressure as well in the 2016 sample group. There was a decline in male grip strength. It should be questioned how accurate hand grip strength measure is as a predictor of physical strength. It has been suggested that it is an accurate predictor cardiovascular disease and life expectancy. These claims need verification to be considered fact. Women are not becoming overall stronger than men, but have improved their physical fitness. Men as indicated by this sample have declined in terms of that element of physical fitness. There are environmental factors that could explain this including changes in health condition. Women have been getting stronger, but closing the strength gap has not happened.

         The subjects used were 237 full time students attending universities in North Carolina. Pinch strength was also measured. The problem with this is that the sample is small compared to the rest of the population. If the study included a wider selection of the population the results would have been different. The results may have looked different. It may still would have shown that a portion of the population in the US is unfit. Obesity and weight related health problems are gradually becoming a public health crisis. The methodology could also be flawed. The 1985 study was conducted in Milwaukee from students who participated in the experiment. This took one cross section of the population. At best this only shows that the average male university student has lost strength. Then one must consider the attributes of subjects used. If it is a test for the average man and woman, students with athletic backgrounds may have to be excluded. This may have distorted the data. Obviously, the female athlete has a physical fitness capacity beyond an average woman.

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Today’s Men Are Not Nearly As Strong As Their Fathers  is the original article in the Washington Post. If a woman like Elizabeth Akenwale was used in the study it would distort data.

  If all the women had athletic or fitness backgrounds it would alter the data to make it seem like they acquired immense strength rapidly in two decades. Also the male subjects the studies used could also result in data that is exaggerated. If some of these subjects were student athletes, their activity levels would be higher. This would result in them having a higher physical fitness capacity relative to their inactive counterparts. The 2016 showed that younger millennial women scored lower in grip strength compared to older ones in the 30 to 34 age range. This resulted in the total average of grip strength of women being 75 pounds. The 20 to 30 age group may have done poorly because the body still goes through physical changes during this age range. It is possible for people to still grow up until the age of 25. Muscles reach their full potential in strength, contraction speed,   and size also by the mid-20s. Muscle mass will  plateau and then will decline with senescence. Bones and muscles can change depending on the amount of stresses and strains they have to endure. Muscles can respond quickly to changes  and patterns in use. This means that if younger women are going to be a part of the study, they would need to be a least 25. This is the stage in the the human life cycle that growth is fully complete and the body is at its physical peak.

Age does have an effect on fitness through the human life cycle. Prior to puberty girls and boys are at the same physical fitness level. The changes in endocrinology alter the bodies of men and women. The male body has more type II muscle fiber and the female body stores more subcutaneous fat. This results in differences in strength. Physical strength is not solely determined by sex, but genetics, somatotype, and exercise regimen. The subjects used in the 2016 study were described as healthy. This could have many connotations. If they all were disease free, that would mean they were healthy no matter what their fitness level was. One could be slightly overweight and be disease free, if one follows the exact definition. Knowing the exact body types and activity levels of subjects could have provided more insight. This experiment if scientifically true, should be able to replicate the same results. If not, it cannot be considered fact.

         There is a problem using hand grip strength as a measure. This method only is an approximation. The text reveals that it is not the same as functional strength. Testing hand grip strength only demonstrates relative strength. This is the force generated by one muscle group or area. Only a measure of absolute strength can be a more precise assessment. This examines the entire muscular force that can be generated from the body. It is not impossible that a person could lift more weights and still produce minimal hand grip force. Weightlifting uses more muscles of the body and would be a better measure of strength.

hand-finger-tendon-injury

Such an activity uses multiple parts of the body rather than just one. Hand size could be a factor. It could be possible that difference in hand size could make a difference in the grip data. Absolute strength is the culmination of both the upper body and lower body. This gives an idea about estimated strength ranges in body. Women can have an estimated 50 to 60 percent strength level in the upper body compared to a man of a similar weight and height. The lower body women are closer ranging from 70 to 75% in terms of absolute strength.

 These estimates could not be extracted from a simple hand grip measuring test. It is not that men have better muscles. Their muscle fibers are larger. This results in a major difference in power. Doing work and generating force is what power is. It is critical in sports such as sprinting or long jump. Examining weightlifting or crossfit records show the differences in strength between the sexes in a more precise manner. As seen in the charts above, men still have higher performances compared to their female counterparts. These measures are better than hand grip testing. Approximations are not helpful in a scientific inquiries.

        Besides problematic methodology, there may be an environmental  reason for this result. The article describes it as work habits. When the first study was produced in the 1980s more men were involved in manual labor. This meant they were getting more exercise hence the hand grip generation. Factory or construction work has been gradually disappearing ever since. Globalization and a knowledge based post-industrial society has caused such laborers a struggle to find work. For those who have transitioned into it, it has had some negative consequences. Sedentary lifestyles and excessive consumption of junk food has caused health problems. Obesity, heart disease, and cancer resulted in this shift. Rarely do Americans get the recommended amount of exercise by the CDC. A materialistic and work obsessed culture causes mental stress as well. Increasing rates of anxiety and depression have become prevalent. Over consumption of alcohol also has increased among the young. Limited life work balance has produced poor physical and mental health. There are some changes being made in workplaces. Standing desks help prevent employees from sitting too long. Some Americans even get gym memberships. It may be too late to reverse such a trend. This will eventually cause strain on a healthcare system already under strain. Environmental factors do influence health. It is not solely biology. Everything cannot be reduced to biological determinism.

            It should be clear that women have become stronger. The measurements in strength show that women are probably doing more physical activity, which resulted in the increase.  Women were less likely to do manual labor jobs in the past. Now that has changed with women working in construction, firefighting, law enforcement, and the military. Some men have become weaker and women have become stronger due to their activity levels. This does not mean women have closed the strength gap. It reflects that women are either getting in better shape or men are becoming less active. It is rare that women who train with men reach the same level of strength. There of course can be overlap in the population. The indication  is that to extent social policy did help women’s health. Title IX gave women opportunities at young ages to become active in sports. Since then the numbers have increased. It is not just the professional female athlete that is becoming more active; average women are exercising and becoming a part of fitness culture.

 There has been to at least a small degree a change in attitudes. Strength may no longer be seen as a male only attribute and women are not afraid of building it. Women seem to take better care of themselves compared to their male counterparts. American women tend to keep up with doctor’s visits and engage in lower levels of high risk behavior. The men who scored low on the strength test may not all be obese or have a weight problem. They could just be out of shape or at a lower fitness level.

The American man has not become a puny weakling or a gluttonous blob, rather just more inactive. American women seen either stabilization or improvement, because historically physical activity and sports was not considered gender appropriate. Now that such barriers are gone and attitudes have changed women are full participants.  Biases remain,yet this does not stop women from pushing their bodies to their physical maximum. There is a revolution going on yet it is a small one. Women who are not afraid to display or demonstrate physical power. There are women who are in various divisions of bodybuilding, crossfit, weightlifting, powerlifting, and numerous sports. This is not just happening in America. The year 2012 and 2016 saw more female participation in the Olympics. Women have become stronger, but en mass not so. It seems to be the age of the amazon. American women have entered the world of law, business,science,  and politics yet there still is a general taboo against women enhancing their physical strength. There is a small shift in cultural attitudes, but more progress has to be made. The excellent development is that some women are embracing strength and fitness.

The rise of the modern fitness woman is a phenomenon. It has not been recognized or studied seriously. There has up until now no point in history in which women have developed themselves physically to this extent. There muscular women prior to the rise of modern fitness, but they did not have an outlet to display their talents. The boom of physical culture from the late 19th century to early 20th century did involve women to a lesser degree. Strongwomen either performed in circuses, vaudeville acts,  or smaller venues. This was not the athletic competition they craved. The rise of the feminist movement and the challenge to institutional sex discrimination  opened the path for the female athlete to get mainstream exposure. From the 1970s  to present there has been an increase in women’s participation and women have gained notoriety as sports stars. While this rise is impressive some made erroneous predictions that women would be out performing men in the 21st century. Some even said women would become stronger than men in the future. This is disputable when examining the biological, physiological, anatomical dimensions.

            Women are not closing the strength gap as a whole. Certain women are able to do so. It is not impossible for a woman to be strong as a man. A man who does not exercise would most likely not be as strong as a woman who does. However, that depends on body type. The mesomorphic somatotype is prone to building more strength compared to ectomorphic and endomorphic body types. Men of ectomorphic and endomorphic body types would not exceed the strength of the female mesomorph. Even

though the men are producing more androgens they are limited by the genetics of their body type. When comparing these body types in a sense women have closed the strength ( or rather exceeded )gap with average men and men of a lower physical fitness level. The strength gap is wide even when male and female ectomorphs are compared. The weakest male would still have more strength than the weakest female. This relates to body composition. If estrogen and progesterone produce more fat, compared to muscle this changes total strength capacity. The thin male has limited body fat and although their little muscle, the few fibers present can still generate force. Fat does not generate the same force as type II muscle fiber.

 Simply having large muscles is not an indicator of strength. There is a difference in training for strength versus training for muscular hypertrophy. The first is the desire to lift more without the goal of developing muscles. Training for hypertrophy is designed to make the muscles larger, doubtless of what the final strength result will be. A weightlifter could be stronger than a bodybuilder because they have trained for different goals. This relates to two different forms of muscular hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy causes the growth of contractile parts of the muscle fiber. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy causes growth of organelles, plasma,  and non-contractile proteins. This increases muscle volume, but does not grow the fibers to their maximum extent. This could be an explanation why a less muscular weightlifter could lift more than a bodybuilder.

Women can see at least a 40% increase in physical strength from resistance training if the intensity is high and the diet is adjusted. The muscular system is the same for men and women the difference is in body composition. Testosterone plays a major role in protein synthesis.  This explains why men are more likely to gain more mass compared to women on the same training regimen. it also has to do with starting point. Women have more body fat to lose relative to men. It is however not the total amount of testosterone that accounts for the difference.

 It is the amount of free testosterone that  is present in the body. The majority of testosterone is either connected to sex hormone building globulin and non-specific proteins. A thin man could still produce more testosterone and not be stronger than a female athlete. This reveals that there are other factors besides endocrine function that contribute to strength. The MSTN gene dictates directions to the myostatin protein. This regulates muscle growth and individuals who have low levels can build larger muscles.

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The location of the MSTN gene

Being female does not limit strength potential. Men have some physical advantages which just means their physical fitness capacity will be higher. There are obviously exceptions to the general rule, simply because genetics vary among individuals. Charley Craig and Naomi Kutin were lifting heavy weights when they were children . it is clear they have a natural advantage which aided them in their athletic endeavors. As they mature and if they decide to continue they will have impressive athletic careers. It would not be a shock if they will be seen in the Olympics years form now. Strength does not just involve the muscular system. It related to the actions of the nervous system as well.

It seems that men are destine to get easier  stronger just from the difference in hormone function. The testes allow for greater testosterone production making this possible. The gonads in both men and women perform different functions.  The testes produce sperm and the ovaries produce eggs to allow for sexual reproduction. This requires a surge in sex hormones that change the bodies of girls and boys. The effect is more dramatic in men. Bone, tendons, ligaments, and muscle tissue will gradually increase causing a strength spurt. This also causes an increase of about 40% more heart muscle in the male body. The male growth spurt happens at the end of puberty, while women reach their full growth earlier. As boys mature the amount of free testosterone increases in the bloodstream. Bone density increases and the chest as well as shoulders become broader. This is done by age 20. Women do not see an increase in physical strength during puberty. Muscle fibers do not increase in number, they widen and extend to a greater length. Ligaments are thinner in women compared to men, however they are relatively lax. This means women can be more flexible, but makes them vulnerable to joint injuries.

Women’s hips widen which effects total running speed. Other than that, there is no significant growth in the lungs and heart to the extent of men. Testosterone also increases the amount of hemoglobin in the blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to the muscles. If men have more that means they get more oxygen to the muscles during exercise. This means the average male would have a higher fitness level with little or no training assuming they are in good health. There is obviously a reason for the difference in athletic records between male and female athletes. The idea that women are closing the strength gap en mass is not correct. Despite the physiological differences, there is the possibility that  the strength difference can be narrowed. There has been calculations that  if the average sports records of women stay below .85 percent women van make more improvements in accordance with the 90% ratio.Training can not eliminate all of the differences in physiology. The average woman’s muscle weight without training is 35% compared to men’s 50%.

So far, it is clear that women are not closing the strength gap, but are becoming more fit. The article’s commentary seems to either have a vague or limited understanding of exercise physiology. It was fascinating that it did not expound further on contents of the Washington Post article, because it gave a lucid picture. This article was written for Women in the World an organization that promotes live journalism events.It has third wave feminist leanings, which may explain why the title of the article is such a hyperbole. If one were to read the article with limited knowledge of human anatomy or physiology, they would believe that women were as strong as men. This is not the case, but there are some very strong women. The third wave feminist movement would benefit from learning science rather than branding it a tool of patriarchy.

           The topic regarding sex differences had been a controversial issue. It has been complicated further by those who still promote and believe pseudoscientific biological sexism of the past. The opposite end of the spectrum is faction of third wave and power feminists who think that sex differences are entirely sociologically based. To them the differences in strength among the sexes is nothing more than an example of patriarchy. The reality is that on average men are stronger, but that does not mean men are stronger than all women. Biology is not patriarchal or sexist. It is a science, but it seems that this small group of women want to wage war on it. Ignoring or pretending that differences do not exist is irrational. Differences are not evidence of inferiority. Misogynists normally use the fact men are stronger as a justification men should have more privilege and power in society. This argument is ludicrous, because that would mean a stronger woman should have more rights and privilege than a weaker man.

As seen previously, strength is not male only. Arguments that truly to prove biological inferiority have no basis in scientific fact. The reason power feminists and factions of third wave feminists focus on this is because it is an area in which they cannot not fully compete with men in .  They claim to want equality, but rather they seek power and an abnormal amount of influence in various spheres of society. There is nothing wrong with women being a part of areas in which their numbers are low, but there is the problem of conducting it as an invasion of male space. An example is that of the electronic entertainment and video game industry. While women do not play as many video games as men a small group of third wave feminists are attacking video games. This was started by Anita Sakeesian of Feminist Frequency, which presented the gaming community as sexist woman haters. Sexism is a problem in the industry just like other areas of society, yet the trend now is to focus in on a particular section or group as a root cause. There seems to be a desire to demonize attributes or activities traditionally considered masculine by this faction of feminists. If  it is not condemnation its third wave feminists entering a sphere and using it as a vehicle to advance their  agenda.   The mentality is compete with men and promote gender antagonism. The only reason this has not occurred in the sports world is that women’s participation is low and there are biological obstacles that make it a challenge.

They claim that  their is sex segregation in sports and that there should be an integration. This is not segregation, but making competition fair. If men are stronger and faster than women having a separate division is just like a weight class. Women if there were no divisions would be pushed out of contact sport. Men weight more and are taller giving them a physical advantage. The only way this would constitute discrimination would be if it were separated when there was no physiological or anatomical advantage that favors men. There would be no need to have separate archery or equestrian teams for example. There are women who just want to challenge men for the sake of promoting gender antagonism. There may also be another reason for this concern about strength and physicality. The fact that men are stronger than women may induce a level of trepidation in some women considering the rate of domestic abuse. While one does not need to strong to be  physically abusive, it makes it simpler for a person to inflict damage.

 Some feminists erroneously believe that if women were as strong as men this would end oppression. That is not true because oppression is reliant on control of resources and property. The reason women were held back in human history was due to the fact they did not have property rights and were denied education . Employment was limited and healthcare was of low quality due to restrictions on reproductive rights. Regulated to the domestic sphere they had limited access to politics or the affairs of state. This was reversed in the 20th century. Although some nations lag behind in terms of women’s rights, women have become more powerful politically and socially. Many women are enjoying opportunities that their great grandmothers could only dream of. Women are getting power politically and socially so the obvious next step is to develop the mind and body. The problem this the power feminist is that they want to use a new found power as a tool of vengeance against men.That should not be a goal. The point is for women to enjoy sports and fitness not demonize men. Recognizing that sexual dimorphism exists is not sexism. It is the result of millions of years of evolution. However, the influence of environment cannot be ignored. Women at a young age are discouraged from the use of the their bodies and body image conformity has a negative consequence on health. There is a reason anorexia and bulimia are higher among women compared to men. The idea of a single body image for women is being challenged in America and it is a welcomed change. It is imperative that men and women have a healthy perspective about their bodies. Physical activity should not be done for the sole reason of cosmetic purposes. Maintaining health should be the goal. The strength difference is a combination of nature and nurture. If one examines the number of women in physically demanding occupations this demonstrates interactionist  theory. If women on average have less strength it means their numbers would be lower. That is not the only reason, because discrimination has kept women out of certain fields such as these. The numbers still will not be equal even if social barriers are removed.

        unless biology and physiology of women change dramatically, law enforcement, construction, firefighting, and the military would remain mostly male. Biological determinism is not the only reason. It also comes down to behavior. Men take more risk and are raised to be more competitive. These jobs do require a level of risk that many women may try to avoid. The challenge therefore is not solely biological, but social behavior.  This probably is the major obstacle to reaching actual equality. It will not be realized with the current version of feminism that is visible in American public life.

       Although hand grip does not give an exact measure of health it is obvious that American health is declining. The decline in hand grip strength is an indirect indicator of low levels of physical activity and fitness. American life expectancy has declined reaching a plateau when this article was published in 2016. There factors could include high fat, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar based diets. Making no time for exercise can have major consequences on health. Children are even having health problems with an increase in unbalanced diets. The cuts to public education have also harmed physical education in schools. There also has been a disparity in healthcare. The US is one f the few nations that does not have a government program for healthcare, but instead relies on private companies. Most Americans get their health insurance through their employers. Those who are unemployed or could not afford a plan had to pay out of pocket costs. The Affordable Care Act was suppose to be a means for which all Americans could get healthcare no matter what their socioeconomic status. This needs to be developed into a universal healthcare system in which all citizens can be covered. Now with a Trump presidency it is being dismantled and medicaid as well as medicare will soon be under attack. The removal of such programs will ultimately cause a public health crisis.

It seems like the study only demonstrated that women are taking better care of themselves. Men are neglecting their health. 

This would impact men worse in particular. On average the male life expectancy is lower even when conditions are favorable. A woman with a particular health aliment may survive longer compared to a man. This also depends whether or not a citizen lives in an urban or rural area. Urban areas have more hospitals, while rural areas are dependent on health clinics. Hospitals located in rural areas may require long distances to travel to. Health clinics in rural areas are shutting down due to lack of funding, while simultaneously there is an attempting to dismantle government healthcare. There must be a drastic revision in public policy to reverse years of neglect of these populations. Women’s longevity does come with a price. The longer you live the more likely it is to have more health aliments related to age. Cancers and dementia become a threat to seniors. If elder care is not funded or functional this will add to the mass public health crisis induced by poor diet and inactivity. Social security, medicare, and medicaid will not be able to handle the medical costs from advanced age related illnesses. This can be prevented, but it starts with a change in eating habits, lifestyle, and a new attitude in regards to exercise.  It can be concluded that women have not closed the physical strength gap, rather they have closed the durational strength gap. Women’s life expectancy exceeds men’s even in countries that have the lowest average. When compared  in this regard they do have greater strength.

Women Closing the Strength Gap in A Big Way

Dayana Cadeau

Dayana Cadeau is a personal trainer and former female bodybuilder who competed from the 1990s to the early 2010s. She was born in Haiti in 1966 and at the age of seven moved to Quebec Canada. Cadeau is fluent in French, English, and Creole. The strange aspect about her was at first she did not find the bodybuilding physique attractive. Dayana has stated ” I didn’t like bodybuilding physiques before I started competing.” She had the common closed minded view of most of the public explaining ” I didn’t find them attractive or pretty.” However, her mind was changed when she attended a bodybuilding show with a person she knew at a gym. Dayana then revealed that ” when I saw those women I was surprise to see they could be pretty, even with big muscles” She even had the ludicrous notion that ” being pretty and having large muscles was unattainable before watching those girls.” Dayana Cadeau proved that big muscles can suit the female frame if you train the right way. Her inspirations were Corey Everson and Lenda Murray. Dayana has said that ” when I saw Corey Everson I found her very beautiful not too big , but a nice figure.” Dayana Cadeau also has immense respect and admiration for Lenda Murray. She has even admitted that she wanted to follow her example. Her philosophy about bodybuilding is she articulated “having muscles and staying pretty was my goal.” She advocated the Corey Everson model of physique compared to the larger size that was ushered in the mid to late 1990s. Her strategy was to balance the larger size with a shapely figure. This allowed her to be a successful lightweight Ms.Olympia winner. She remains one of the most successful Canadian bodybuilders to date.

Dayana puts an emphasis on aesthetics. Expounding further : “since I’ve been competing I have never changed my image.” Her goal was to bring back the Corey Everson version of physique . When she competed bodybuilding for women was under going a transition in judging standards. This was also the era of stiff competition. Iris Kyle and Lenda Murray were still active on IFBB stages. Dayana at first competed as a heavy weight, but then competed as a lightweight when weight classes were introduced in the year 2000. She may have competed as a lightweight, but that body was monument of muscle. Standing at 5ft  4.5 in she competed at mighty 150 lbs. Her first bodybuilding contest was in 1992 in which she won the Quebec Metropolitan. This was followed by another victory in 1993 at the IFBB Quebec Provincial. From 1992 to 2012 she would be on stage. Dayana became a pro in 1997 winning the IFBB Canada Cup. Her best wins would include the Ms.International in 2001, the Jan Tana Classic in 2003, and the Ms.Olympia in 2004 under the lightweight division. When physique became a class in the early 2010s Dayana switched to that division in 2012. The previous year she retired from the bodybuilding class. Dayana was presenting another type of physique that was along her ideal Cory Everson model.

Her competitive longevity was remarkable and her ability to an impressive physique was just as stunning. Photographer Bill Dobbins described her physique best writing in 2006 : ” Lately, I’ve been more impressed with  Dayana …. she has the most voluptuous and sensuous physiques in bodybuilding.” This look she created between voluptuous fullness and powerful muscle made her popular in female bodybuilding publications. She appeared in issues of Women’s Physique World and did modeling. She also did videos in which she tested her wrestling skills against male challengers and fellow athletes for Premier Productions.

Although Dayana was fitness modeling, mainstream fitness publications according to Bill dobbins did not want to buy his photos of her. There still was a prejudice against the hypermuscular woman. Thankfully, the internet was a means to by pass the corporate gatekeepers, who still hold traditional views about women involved in the fitness industry. Through her personal website and association with online publications she was able to do modeling and promote her bodybuilding career. Besides just being a competitor, she started her own contest known as the NPC Dayana Cadeau classic. It features bodybuilding, fitness, figure, and bikini. She was involved in this contest’s development from 2009 to 2013. Dayana continues to serve as a NPC judge. Dayana once revealed that her best features of her physique were her legs and that her biceps as well as abs were her weak points. Training her upper body she claimed was the biggest challenge.

Dayana’s Twitter Page

Dayana also is a promoter and owner of her own company. She is the founder and CEO of Bodygift Fit which operates in Miami, Florida where she resides. Her athletic achievements make her one of the most successful Haitian bodybuilders.  Dayana’s training philosophy as she articulated ” Every time I’m training I’m not thinking about gaining more muscles.” She expressed it as she was only targeting weak areas and by doing so, she could improve balance of her physique. Dayana admitted staying a lightweight was difficult due to her genetics, because she put on muscle easily. Expressed in an interview : “the thing is for me I can be a lightweight, middleweight, or heavyweight .”  Around 2005 there were judging changes. Weight classes were dissolved so this altered the situation. Dayana had to compete against Iris Kyle and Yaxeni Oriquen . These were some of the best competitors on stage. She placed in the top three, but could not beat them. Considering, she did very well when seeing a stage of tough and experienced competitors. Her desire was to replace Lenda Murray and show that muscles on women can be beautiful. Dayana’s advice to competitors is to train hard and treat your body like an art form. The development of muscle on the female form should follow a specific aesthetic paradigm.

 Dayana believed that the sport had changed radically compared to when she first started in 1992. Her opinion was expressed in a Bodybuilding. com interview : ” These girls have changed from years back- all they think about is being bigger and more muscular, but that’s not the beauty of the sport.” A balanced physique is what makes the competitor. Symmetry, conditioning, and definition must be given proper emphasis. Size is not the only factor in building a physique. Dayana also has many hobbies when she is not involved in her personal training business or a practicing aesthetician. She enjoys reading, watching movies, and doing yoga in her spare time. At one time Dayana was pursuing a career in acting and was contemplating moving to California. She was on record that she would continue to compete until she gets busy with her acting. This did not come to fruition and instead from 2009 onward continued to be seen on IFBB contests. The interesting aspect of her training is that she would do cardio first, followed by a rest then train with weights. Dayana’s last competition was in the physique division in the 2012 Tampa Pro. She has no plans to return to stage, but left an impressive competitive career.

 

Dayana Cadeau

Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups

Pull-Ups

The need for scientific  literacy is important. The mains reason is to discredit information that is either false or erroneous. This article in the New York Times  claims that women cannot do pull-ups. The irony is that the article was written by a woman. It seems that there is still strong belief in the frailty myth in regards to women’s bodies. This does not negate the fact there are physiological differences in regards to the sexes. The difference or disparity could be the result in training methods. Also there is the difference and upper body volume. The article questions whether or not pull-ups are an accurate measure of  fitness. The statement women cannot do pull-ups is false. The article based the statement on an experiment from the University of Dayton. A total of seventeen were given weight training  and aerobic exercise. To practice they were using an incline to see how this would effect their results. This was done over a period of three months. The subjects trained only three times a week. Only four of the seventeen women were able to do pull-ups. This reveals several aspects about the experiment. It is possible that training just three times a week was not enough. The training method may have to be adjusted to accommodate women’s anatomical and physiological differences. One part of this study did not state is what was the physical fitness condition of women prior to testing. Having experience can make a difference in physical tasks.

          It must be realized that early on girls and women are discouraged from learning physical skills. More boys are active, while girls are encourage not to be. If girls are not taught basic exercises, it is rare that they will develop them in adulthood. If so, it will take some time to catch up in the physical skills they did not learn. The relation between women and fitness is either based on weight loss or achieving a thin body type. Becoming thinner is not raising physical fitness capacity. The majority of exercise or fitness related to women is either about fad diets or simply reducing fat. This does not increase strength, stamina, endurance,  or speed.  The study had women do aerobic exercise, but this would not be useful to building strength. It reduced their fat levels by 2 %. They were losing fat, but that does not mean it was being replaced by muscle. If they did this without weight training to their regimen there would have been no change in physical strength.

The article even acknowledges there is a difference in physical standards in the government’s physical fitness tests for children. Boys who are 14 get the highest award for doing ten pull-ups, while girls only have to do two. This seems ridiculous, because at this stage of youth the physiological differences induced by puberty are just beginning to develop.The male strength spurt begins at 13 and gradually boys’ bodies with gain more muscle mass. Bones , ligaments, and tendons are also effected during the change. Boys grow slower than women. Eventually with the increase in androgens boys will increase in height and weight.

 It is pointless to have different standards, when girls and boys have the same physical fitness capacity. There is a bias against girls and women in regards to fitness, sports, and exercise. While it is acceptable for men to demonstrate physical prowess, for women it remains taboo. Gradually this has changed with girls the rise of the modern female athlete. There is some acceptance to a degree, but prejudice remains. Girls have more role models in sports that can change attitudes relative to women being physically active. Women are scrutinized for their appearance and body image pressure seems to effect them more.

FullSizeRender
A young girls looks at a statue of the Williams Sisters. A positive image may inspire her to follow in their footsteps.

 The will effect how women feel about exercise. Many physical education and fitness related programs still function on the notion that the female body is biologically inferior or naturally weak. Myths that were born from 19th century Victorian Age medicine still persist. Exercise physiology over the past decades has begun to examine women’s physical performance seriously. Prior to this, mots studies were conducted on male athletes. This can contribute to creating programs that are best tailored to women’s physiological, biological, and anatomical attributes. If there is to be a change in performance, women must learn physical skills just like boys.

           There is the claim that even fit women cannot do pull-ups. The problem with this statement is that it failures to recognize physical fitness markers. These markers include muscular strength, aerobic capacity, and endurance. The women is the study may be in shape, but they have not developed their physical fitness marker of muscular strength. If one is attempting to improve total fitness levels all of these markers should be given attention in a training regimen. There is a tendency to focus on one of these markers for some gym goers. This may also explain why the subjects in the study were unable to do more. They did focus on exercise that strengthened the biceps and latissimus  dorsi. It would seem pointless to add aerobic training if the goal was to increase upper body strength. Athletes for example tailor their training to their sport.It would make no sense for a gymnast to  focus on swimming or a weightlifter to do mostly cardio vascular exercise. Relevant to those instances they emphasize the physical fitness marker they will best assist them in their sport.

Aerobic activity just reduces fat levels, it does not build strength. The University of  Dayton study could have removed that from the regimen. Reducing fat does have a benefit. It does not contribute to physical strength. Excess fat only increases mass, which does not generate force like particular muscle fibers. The main reason for the gap in physical strength in equally trained men and women is the result of endocrinology and body composition. The most muscular women or the thinnest women will still retain higher body fat percentages. Estrogen and progesterone create this difference in fat to muscle ratio in women.

Physical fitness markers are important to measuring progress. While women saw a 36% increase in strength it would be interesting to see what the result would have been if they continued. The fact that four women able to do them indicates that it is not a physical impossibility that women can do pull-ups. It seems that it is an exercise and a physical fitness marker they need to focus on. The last statement of the article seems somewhat comedic in its scientific assessments: ” I look at a volleyball player I so not expect her to be able  do a pull-up , but I know she is fit.” This assumption is wrong for several reasons. Fitness cannot be estimated by merely looking at a person. There are indications that come from appearance what type of training a person does. A volleyball player may not do pull-ups simply because the exercise may not help with their performance. Flexibility and adroit movements seem more critical in such a competition.

Training method is just as important as the physical condition of the subject. There is difference between the sexes, but also individuals. This is why training must be designed specifically.

        Sexual dimorphism does play a role in fitness performance. Men have more type II fast twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are not have as much endurance, but allow for more explosive power. Men have a large concentration in their upper bodies. This would aid in the men having an advantage in pull-ups. Women have 40% less muscle mass than men. This means their upper bodies can only be 60% as strong as a man’s. These are rough estimates if the height and weight are the same. Broader shoulders allow more muscle to be housed on the male body. The skeletal system does contribute to strength. The bones act as a support for the muscle tissue. The clavicle, rib cage, sternum, scapula,  and spine form the upper body skeletal structure. Pull -ups do not just use the latissimus dorsi and biceps, but the rhomboid, pectoralis major, minor, teres major ,  subscapularis, and coracobrachialis. and triceps. The study siad they conducted exercise that focused on two muscle groups prior to the pull-up test. The problem is that other muscle groups needed to be worked for the test to be successful. Lifting weights and not doing the practicing the pull-ups may have altered this data.

A common myth is that women have stronger legs than men. This is not true, female lower body strength is only 90% of men’s. There is no difference between male and female muscle at the cellular level. As a result men and women can respond to weight training. Contrary to popular belief, women can build strength. The increase in strength was demonstrated by the subjects.If  the female subjects were  lifting heavy and using progressive overload then results should have been better. The study did not reveal whether or not they use light or heavy weight for their exercise regimen. The most efficient method is to train to the threshold limit, which will increase strength. The process challenges the muscle and induces microtrauama  to the fiber. After rest this will allow for muscular hypertrophy. Lifting smaller weights may not be as effective, because it does not cause microtrauma at the same rate.

 The average man has more natural strength compared to the average woman. However, if a woman exercises she can see improvements to her strength levels. If done consistently women can see improvements. Although training does not negate the total physical fitness capacity difference. Examining the records of elite male and female athletes shows their is a 10% difference in performance in sporting  events.  Considering the biological and physiological differences this seems to be small. One would suspect it to be much bigger. This means a woman and even an elite female athlete would have to train harder in comparison to a man. It is possible that there could be overlap, however it is rare that an elite female and match the performance of an elite male athlete.

handgrip-typical-elite
Hand grip strength comparison of men and women. This included elite female athletes. These were mostly handballers. A more precise measure would be to examine weightlifting records.  

Women’s tendons may not respond the same way to training. This also explains why there is a disparity in injuries. Thicker tendons can contribute to strength. The women used in the study were university age and could have been at various fitness level prior to the experiment. One factor that was acknowledged. Simply being tall and having longer arms can effect pull up performance. A person with shorter arms would have an easier time lifting themselves above the bar.

           It should be apparent given known facts that women can do pull-ups if instructed properly. When women were allowed to apply for combat units in the United States, there was controversy over the pull-up requirement. Most of the women in the US Marines failed to reach the three pull-up minimum. While conservatives claimed that this was evidence that women were not suitable for such military occupational specialties, there was another reason for their failure. Women were allowed to do the flexed arm hang as a substitute fitness requirement. This exercise does not seem effective at building upper body strength. When the requirement changed and women did not receive the correct instruction it resulted in test failure.

 When the fitness standards were changed and women trained the right way there was improvement. Exercise physiology has shown women are not physical inferior; they are different. That is why training must be designed to accommodate such biological and physiological sex based differences. To say women cannot do pull-ups is false. The experiment conducted did not produce an accurate assessment. What one could assume without analysis is that all men by default should be able to do pull-ups. That is erroneous, because there are men who are either out of shape or have a weight problem.

This woman can do pull-ups. 

The only logical conclusion is that women will have a harder time mastering pull-ups. The difference in upper body mass contributes to this. While women are closer to men in the lower body, this makes exercises like squats and luges easier in comparison. Tara Parker-Pope wrote this article in 2012 for New York Times Magazine. The article does not only recycle dated concepts of the frailty myth, it is scientifically inaccurate. If there was to be a full assessment of women’s physical capabilities, the sample size would have to be larger. I would be fascinating to see a comparison between a sample of athletic women compared to average women. The same could be done for a group of men to get a better understanding. If they are given the same instruction then this would be more than an approximation. Men may still do more pull-ups in total compared to women. Yet, women’s performance could improve. Doing this exercise is more than just about biology. Women at a young age are discouraged from the use of their bodies and as adults are less physically active. Physical strength, power, and prowess are still perceived as male only attributes. This can be changed. If the University of Dayton study is correct it should be able to survive the test of the scientific method. Meaning if this were to be done again the same results would have to be replicated from the experiment. It is dubious that it could reproduced even with a larger sample size.

Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups

Physically Fit Recruits Are Hard To Find

Not Fit Enough

A recent study has shown that a large portion of the American population is not physically fit enough for military service. Obesity and lack of exercise are culprits in this health and military issue. The interesting discovery is that the people with the worse fitness were in the South. This has been traditionally the largest area of military recruitment. Compared to other parts of the country, it demonstrates a disparity in health. Unfit recruits are more at risk for injury. The report done by the US military ( by researchers at Citadel Military College) wanted to determine if certain states could be a burden in terms of military readiness. They used body mass index as an indicator, however this measurement can be misleading. Cardiovascular measurement seems to have more precision. Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured with incidents in relation to injury during training. The examination used Spearman correlations. While it is true the US has a weight problem, this can be reversed. Doing so will solve high injury rates in military recruits.

       The use of the body mass index for the study may not be the best measuring tool. BMI can classify people who are muscular as being overweight. It also can classify individuals who are thin as being underweight. The study was unclear about the morphic body types of the populations surveyed. The southeastern region which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia ,Texas, Tennessee, North and South Carolina had people who were in worse shape compared to other regions of the US. Some of the people in the data may not have a weight problem. People with endomorphic body types are not technically obese. Their body fat levels are higher, but it is not enough to have a deleterious effect on health. Knowing this it means that some of the data is more of an approximation.

Adding weight to the body will not always result in poor health. Women who are now joining the  military understood that they needed the strength to do certain task. However, when doing weight training they added mass in terms of muscle, which pushed some women out of the weight range. The Marines reversed this decision and women can be at a higher weight. Using the calculation of BMI its flaws can be seen.

 Margie Martin and Colette Nelson’s BMI provides an inaccurate picture. Margie would have a BMI of 27.4 and Colette stands in the 29.11. Both values are in the overweight range of the chart. They are not overweight, because they just have more muscle mass. The BMI scale does not account for different body  types.Although the BMI is not a great clinical tool it is obvious that Americans are suffering from obesity and weight related illnesses. According to the CDC there  is a 35% rate of obesity in the South. This increase is dramatic compared to previous decades.  America now has a poor diet that consists of sugar and high fat. Simultaneously, Americans are getting less physical activity. These are contributors to a growing public health problem. This explains why the injury rate increased 28% among the least fit states.

        The problem is that the military does not examine the issue from a physical fitness perspective. Besides just being overweight, many may not be in shape. Men and women who are not active, but do not have weight problems would probably have injuries. This is proven by the fact the report shows that even the recruits from fit states had injuries increase by 22%. Physical fitness capacity varies depending on health condition, genetics,Somatotype,  and sex. A person who is obese or overweight is going to have circulatory or skeletal joint issues. Strenuous work would be difficult and it makes it harder carrying excess fat on the body. The opposite end of the spectrum is the ectomorphic body type. Thinner people would have trouble doing tasks that require large amounts of physical strength.

 The man pictured is not overweight, but may not be in the best of physical shape. The lady however is at a high physical fitness level and would have an easier time meeting physical demands. 

Sex becomes another factor in military physical fitness. Due to biological and physiological differences the total physical fitness capacity is higher in men. Men are on average stronger than women due to endocrinology, body composition, and difference in body size. Men have more skeletal and muscle mass. Testosterone allows for a higher rate of protein synthesis. Protein is essential for muscular hypertrophy, but that is not the sole factor. Insulin growth like factor 1 and human growth hormone play roles in muscular hypertrophy other than just sex hormones. Aerobic capacity differs due to the fact men have larger lungs and hearts. Women would run slower due to the shape of their pelvis and the difference in the rate tissues are oxygenated. The difference in hemoglobin between men and women is also a factor in physical fitness. What this means is that there will probably be more men in combat jobs, even though more are open to women. Women’s numbers may continue to remain smaller. Lowering standards is not a solution. It means women will have to train to meet the physical fitness standards. If the average woman has lower physical fitness capacity, that means she will have to train harder to reach a particular level compared to a man.

These men and women shown are fit, but the average American does not exercise as much as they do. 

Women would have to train before attempting basic training to prevent injury. Women’s injury rates are higher due to the influence of sexual dimorphism. Relevant to obesity women are at higher risk and would find it more difficult to lose weight. Women have higher fat percentages due to estrogen and progesterone. Despite these differences weight training can increase a woman’s strength. During World War II only 50% of young men were qualified to join. Today even with the expanding roles of women in the service it has dropped to 23%. The number may also be a dramatic shift due to the fact it includes people without a high school diploma and a criminal record. It seems that allowing women in combat is a wise decision if the recruitment selection becomes low. While physical fitness is important, a woman or a man does not have to be Rambo or GI Jane to become a soldier.

The mental aspect is also a pivotal element. Then there is translation onto the battlefield. Collaboration and coordination are keys to a successful fighting unit. This means each soldier pulls their own weight and fulfills obligations as needed. There is also the factor of leadership and tactics. Soldiers even though some armies have the benefit of modern technology still need to be in an optimum health condition .This does not mean just being fit and strong will win wars. There were many powerful nations, states, and empires that should have won conflicts, because their armies were strong. Germany by examining its military strength could have won World War II. The United States from the strength of its army should have won Vietnam. The Roman Empire did not fall because of military defeat, but due to internal corruption and a series of weak emperors. The barbarian invasions were just another small nail in the imperial coffin.The US could have a military of the strongest men and women ever, but that does not guarantee victory.

Just being strong and fit does not produce a high quality soldier. It takes the acquisition of numerous skills in combat and survival to do so.  Maria Anderson is a major general  and  matched against Kristy Hawkins , kristy would not be prepared because she does not have military training.  

It is an exaggeration to say America’s lack of physical fitness is a national security risk . The US military will have to get recruits to enjoy physical activity and learn to control eating habits. There is also another factor that should be considered. If there were to be a draft of women they would need an extensive physical training program. The average woman’s upper body strength is lower and doing exercises that target those muscle groups is essential. The obese and overweight would have to go through a weight management program to meet before going into basic training. Drafting women would have challenges simply because of differences in physiology. It would most likely take longer to get the unfit into shape. Although it would be longer, there would be more soldiers at the end of the process.

The average woman would struggle to meet physical demands. The female athlete would not have such problems. If women had programs specifically designed to increase their physical fitness levels this would reduce complications of a draft of women. 

The portion of  people eligible for the selective service may decrease unless a new policy is implemented. The US military should employ personal trainers who task is for focusing on soldier fitness and health. Educating recruits about diet and exercise may help reduce  the amount of injuries. The task will be difficult. Physically demanding occupations do have an attrition rate for employees. Age and strain will eventually take its toll on the body. That is why it is preferred to get younger recruits between the ages of 18 to 49. As seen from higher performing athletes men and women reach their physical peak in their 30s. Training can reduce age related decline to an extent. Understanding fitness can prevent permanent or short term injuries in basic training.

        A improvement in the American public’s health must start at an early age. This includes putting an emphasis on physical education, healthy diet, and a new attitude in regards to exercise and physical activity. Many may be turned off at the thought of physical activity, because a sedentary lifestyle is all they know. The first step involves improving physical education. Children will start to develop their attitudes in regards to exercise first in a PE class. Making PE fun and amusing will get children moving as well as developing a positive attitude in relation to physical activity. Doing this would make the children who become adults maintain health, if these habits are reinforced.

Mark Herling a retired three star general stated that “recruiting challenges are going to get tougher for the military.” 

Making a gym class an unpleasant atmosphere will influence children for life. They will associate exercise and physical activity with something negative. There also needs to be another issue addressed with physical education. Girls are not encouraged to exercise as much as boys. Even at a young age their standards are lower. At this point there are very little physiological differences prior to puberty, so having lower standards in terms of physical activity makes no sense. The sexist notions about women’s physical capabilities still remain present in physical educator’s minds. This can impact women worse. If women have lower bone density and rarely do anything to build it they risk higher rates of osteoporosis. Simultaneously, there remains a cultural bias in terms of women’s roles. The backward notion that women developing strength and physical skill is unfeminine must be discarded. Exercise, sports, and fitness are viewed as a male only pursuit. While this has gradually changed with more women involved in sports and the passage of Title IX  there is more to be done. Besides obvious bias and discrimination, women will have to change their attitude as well. There are some women who shun any form of physical activity. They do this even with simple tasks such as opening a jar or shoveling snow. The idea that there will be a man there to do something for you will not always be the case. Women should learn to embrace exercise and develop physical competence. A dramatic shift has to be made in terms of attitudes toward exercise. This must be done, because it appears that American society is beginning to see obesity and be overweight as normal. The strange element is that fat acceptance has evolved into a movement. The reason this probably emerged is because of the weight loss industry presenting another unhealthy image of  extra thin body type.

 Body size is not the sole factor in determining health, but carrying excess weight can cause health problems. The skeleton will suffer extra strain combined with a circulatory system vulnerable to heart disease. Depending on the individual’s diet, there could be a risk of diabetes. Fat acceptance may not be the best for health. When living in a country of abundance it is simple to over indulge. Food, smoking, and alcohol are commonly over consumed. People must learn restraint and self-control to solve weight issues. There is a psychological element to changing habits. It must be done with the encouragement of friends, family,doctors, or fitness professionals. Shaming or scolding a person will only result in failure; positive reinforcement and motivation will be a pathway to success. There should also be a revision of goals. The sole purpose should not be only loss of weight, but rather improving physical fitness capacity as well as maintaining an active lifestyle. Clients may go on diets lose weight, then regain it. They may become discouraged attempt multiple times or simply quit. The only way improvement in health can remain permanent is that behaviors and lifestyle changes are persistent.

    Rather than just losing weight one should seek to improve overall physical fitness.

The most difficult part of this is maintaining a healthy diet. The nation is filled with fast food restaurants and supermarkets filled with junk food. To say that it is entirely  an individuals fault for weight related problems is not true. Healthy food such as fruits and vegetables cost more compared to junk food. The high obesity rates in the South could reflect the dire economic situation of that region of the USA.  Poor families would not be able to afford healthier food. The combination of poor diet and limited access to healthcare or reasonably price insurance means life expectancy could decrease.

If affordable healthcare is under attack and could be dismantled it will have devastating consequences on public health in the future. 

If obesity and weight related illness becomes so immense the government will have to act. The conservatives and far-right Republicans claim to be pro-military, but rarely do anything to address this issue or veteran’s needs. The only solution to a population that is less fit is to encourage exercise. This will have to be done at the state and federal level. Building better sidewalks to encourage walking is a start. The construction of recreation centers and parks may also encourage physical activity. The UK has experimented with putting taxes on drinks high in sugar. Office buildings are adopting standing desks. The data gathered from this study was accumulated between the years of 2010 to 2013 and  ever since there has not been any major change to policy.  It was reported in 2005 each soldier lost to attrition cost the government up to $31,000. If ignored expenses will only increase. The wider population may become a financial burden with mass decline in health.  The Department of Health and Human Services should take this matter seriously. Only a public policy based solution and address the rapid decline of health and fitness.

Physically Fit Recruits Are Hard To Find

The New Pin-up: Why Gentlemen Prefer Buff

Gentlemen Prefer Buff

This was an article published in 2013 documenting the rise of fitness women and their popularity on social networking sites. For fans who have been familiar with female muscle, this is nothing new. What is interesting about the news piece is the mainstream media treatment about it. The text cannot be considered completely full of praise, but it is not negative. This is rare considering how the subject of muscular and athletic women are viewed by mainstream society. Normally the media in both print or on television present something different as bizarre or deviant. The case with the New York Post article  is that it profiles the women and gives their perspectives. The men also are given reasons for their love and support of muscular women. It seems in a way that female muscle is going mainstream or that the idea of the muscular woman is not subcultural. The peculiar element of this is that female bodybuilding has been struggling, but more women are either lifting weights or becoming part of the culture. The power of social media demonstrates how fan bases can be joined together and that it is a great tool for self promotion. It also demonstrates that there are more admirers of female muscle than previously thought.

         The average American man may not favor a woman who has a muscular body. However, there is a growing fan base of social media users who are discovering the the beauty of female muscle. The thin body type has been presented as the ideal, but subsequently has been challenged by a body positive movement embracing women of larger size. Simultaneously, there is a new zeitgeist that is embracing the idea ” strong is the new skinny.” Although there are different ideas and views about what is attractive, there are a large number of men who are loving the look of a physically strong woman. The article presents this as a recent development. The lovers of female muscle were around since the inception of women’s strength sports and fitness.

Gentlemen prefer buff

Female bodybuilding dates back to the 1970s and with it came a unique subculture. Male fans would not only buy tickets to contests, but would buy magazines and videos of their favorite athletes. The real hardcore admirers are schmoes and they have had a presence since the start of the sport. The article cites quotes from male fans. Johnathan Montes who is an amausement park worker stated : ” I’m specifically into the more bulky professional female bodybuilder type — there’s just something about a massively built woman that I find very attractive and alluring.”Amare Stoudemire basketball star athlete explained his love as follows : “It reflects you worked hard for it, no money can buy it. “Steve Rivers a radio personality quoted ” there is nothing more attractive than seeing an attractive woman working out.”  The men surveyed for the article were mostly in their 20s or 30s. It seems the idea of the muscular and physically strong woman appeals to younger men more. This may be a result of being raised in a generation in which women are seen as equals and that women can doing certain activities that were once thought to be male only. A more progressive attitude in regards to women and the change in body standards may explain this sudden shift. There is division among supporters.

The larger female bodybuilders may not be included in the category the article is talking about. The mainstream acceptance of muscular women has shown the image of the toned woman or woman with some definition , rather than the bigger female bodybuilders. Fans of female muscle disagree about aesthetics.There are four camps that fans fall into. The first is that women should have some muscle, but not “too much.” The second perspective is one in which there should be some moderate level ( figure or physique division build). The other favors the traditional bodybuilding with an emphasis on size. The fourth perspective is that any level of muscle is suitable for women. Lita Lewis, Massiel Aris, and Sohee Lee fall into the first two aesthetic paradigms. They are not bodybuilders, rather fitness models. The bigger female bodybuilder would have difficulty getting mainstream acceptance and the moderately muscular female body is just getting it currently. There may be an acceptance of muscularity on a woman to a certain extent, but not to the degree that gender appropriateness deems unsuitable. This demonstrates there still is a long way to go for women in fitness.

The problem is that people still retain the view that women with muscles are not feminine. While the fitness industry likes women who are in shape, they do not promote the image of the very hyper muscular woman. The female bodybuilder of a particular size is absent from mainstream fitness magazines. This does not mean there are not large portions of fans. Schmoes go as far as to book private sessions that involve wrestling or posing demonstrations. Gentlemen preferring buff is hardly a recent development. There was a point in which the only way for the female muscle fan to see a muscular woman was to go to a contest, possibly see them on TV, or go to a gym. There were magazines such as Women’s Physique World and Female Bodybuilding Magazine that provided many images. The rise of session wrestling and muscle worship actually came about from devoted fans wanting to see more muscular women up close and women’s need to finance their sport. Although schmoe has negative connotations and some may view them with disdain, they make the shrinking division of female bodybuilding sustainable.

Even during the golden age of female bodybuilding women were still paid less. It is an expensive sport, but women were and continue to generate money for the fitness industry. Fans keep consuming, while publishers, supplement companies, and the producers of exercise equipment continue to make large profits. Women do not get the full benefit of revenue generation, because they are blocked by corporate gatekeepers. Fans and athletes were circumventing them in a way by organizing their own activities and culture. Mixed wrestling videos have been a source of entertainment which has been pioneered by Bill Wick. Art ranging from realistic renditions to cartoons are produced in the form of female muscle growth (fmg).

commission_tinyfmg_06_by_ritualist-d65o0n7

commission_tinyfmg_15_by_ritualist-d76jaat

These cartoons are classified as female muscle growth. 

Artists like to do realistic renditions of their favorite athletes.

Mixed Wresting and session wrestling are common practices in the female bodybuilding subculture. 

Forums and websites are areas in which fans discuss contests and the performance of competitors. This fan base consists of men who have been following muscular women for a longtime or younger men who have just dis covered it. The stereotype is that they are all fetishists and have some form of perversion. liking muscular women  is not a perversion or paraphilia. The mainstream media attempts to present it in that manner, but it does not fit the clinical definition. Paraphilia can be defined as ” abnormal sexual desires that express themselves through extreme or dangerous activity.”Sthenolagnia has been classified as a paraphilia, but hardly can be considered severe condition. It is a fetish and to a degree everyone has one. It hardly counts as one if defined by a strictly psychological definition of disorder. No one ever says a person has a thin woman fetish. There is a level of bias that female muscle fans face from the general public that does not understand the women or culture. The mainstream tends to sensationalize elements or subjects that are not general knowledge. There is a world of female muscle fandom and it has gotten some mainstream media exposure. The men who form this fan base are neither intimidated or repulsed by women’s strength. Such a paradigm shift reveals that there has been ( although small ) progress in terms of what women can be and do. There still is backlash within the fitness industry, in the public, and online.

An example of the sexist beliefs some still have directed at women who have muscular physiques. 

This does not seem unusual. When ever an oppressed group gains power there has been backlash from the conservative or traditional elements. Women who are in sports and fitness are clearly making their presence known. Detractors claim that women only do this to invade or disrupt male spaces. That is not the objective of the female athletes. They want to enjoy and make the culture flourish. It is difficult to say just how large the female muscle fandom is. There could be a large portion of men who hide their support or love. The internet allows one to be anonymous so it remains a mystery. There is no doubt that their is a following of fit and muscular women of all types through social media.

        The internet and social media demonstrate how female athletes can use a platform to their advantage to promote their sport. If television or magazines do not cover women’s sports , social media could be a better solution. It is obvious that print media like newspapers and magazines are struggling to keep up in a world of rapidly changing information. Sources that are fast receive more attention. Television will most likely become like the radio. It still is present, but not as powerful as an entertainment medium when television was made widely available. Relevant to the the discussion of female muscle, it gives users access 24 hours and a huge mass of content. Up and coming athletes can introduce themselves to fans without having to go through the fitness corporate structure. There is the threat that the FCC poses which stuck down Obama administration era net neutrality rules. The power was given back to the service providers rather than the users. This means service providers could block particular websites or slow down speeds in certain areas. Net neutrality must be preserved to maintain a free and open internet. Without it, many female athletes would not get any exposure. Mainstream media outlets fail to realize the economic potential of women’s sports and fitness. There is a claim that the muscular woman is not marketable, but the existence of athletes’ pay sites contradict such pronouncements. There is the challenge of online piracy, which may effect sales. Online piracy has not stopped sites from selling content or gaining profits. it may actually just be free advertisement. To those who honestly purchase materials such as videos and photographs they become dedicated collectors.

Social media and the internet have also allowed fans to connect with each other more so than just attending sporting events. This technology is the wave of the future and some companies are slow to adopt it. The athletes are more savvy by doing self-promotion rather than depending on the traditional corporate structure of the fitness industry. This a positive development because women gain some control of the industry or and circumvent people who are an obstruction. There have always been men who like muscular women, now they can be appealed to as a demographic. Athlete’s producing their own content prevents entertainment from being stale and repetitive. This explains the sudden phenomenon of popularity on social media sites of female fitness personalities.

         The rise of the muscular woman is in a sense a type of silent revolution. There have been muscular women in the past, but nowhere in history have women developed themselves physically to this extent. People cite women’s rise in business and politics as a remarkable paradigm shift. Yet they forget that women are also making progress in particular areas. The muscular woman changes and challenges the perception of the female body. It is not long seen as soft, weak, or inferior. This new paradigm of muscular female body is new. Strength and physical power were thought to male only attributes, but this is no longer the case. There are multiple forms of beauty, but here women are defining it form themselves. The women who pursue fitness with high enthusiasm are not afraid of the ostracism of the society in which they live.

images

The image is a powerful statement. It does have feminist overtones, however third wave feminist hardly give the fitness woman any serious investigation. There are also women who engage in the same amount of criticism of the muscular woman just like men. Instead of being supportive they either internalize society’s sexism or cling to the notion of strict gender roles.  It is not uncommon for women to say “I would never want to look like them”  or state that the muscular woman is “mannish.” Women do not help women as a whole if they are putting each other down. Women come in different shapes and sizes so there is no reason to be pejorative to women who do not fit in to a person’s concept of beauty. The problem is that women are valued more for their appearance, rather than their character or accomplishments as individuals. These attitudes must change. Even though their are some who do not like or approve the look of female muscle, they can at least respect the women as accomplished athletes. Such a development is a positive step in the right direction.

Women do not only want to look strong, they want to demonstrate it. Exercising with weights is no longer considered a male only activity. Women are using them and absorbing the fitness culture. This is not confined to one country either. Women who live in Africa, Latin America,  and Asia are now becoming involved in fitness and strength sports. Fitness has taken a global perspective. This has also been enabled by the internet, in which communication across continents is faster than ever. The fitness culture has also disseminated into larger areas of the sports world. Female athletes who compete in track, weightlifting, rugby, or other sports incorporate weights into their training. Doing so increases performance and prevents injury.

The emphasis is not about appearance, rather what the body can do. Women who are serious athletes and fitness enthusiasts have found a competitive drive. They not only want to become stronger they want to be the best at their sport of choice. The life style of hard training and heavy lifting seems to be more popular with women than in previous generations.   Women who are no athletes are lifting and older women are becoming engaged to improve their health. The most significant element of this movement is that it is perfectly acceptable to be strong and a woman. Although there is embrace, there are also complications that come with promotion of this image.

        There is a sex symbol stereotype that has emerged from the rise of social media fitness personalities. Women who are not competing, but train become popular not for their athletic accomplishments rather, their image. This relates to issues of sexual objectification and what is the line between compliment or admiration. Some do not see it as an issue, however it does become one if their is online abuse. The rude comments are one dynamic, but sexual ones are another problem women face. Sohee Lee states :”I’ve seen crude comments on the pages of other fitness models.” She expounds further ” I just think that if you’re flexing in booty shorts you could be kind of asking for [that kind of attention],” says Lee.”There is a problem with this view point. It seems to blame the individual, rather than the conduct of the sexual harasser. Athletes would probably still have such comments directed at them even if they did not display their bodies.

These statements seem strange considering the point of social media is to interact. Sohee claims she wants to keep things tasteful, but looking at her websites and social media it is clear she does similar behaviors. Being a bikini, fitness, figure, physique, or bodybuilder competitor means you will be displaying your body. The sport is attention based when on stage and off stage. Women who pose in limited amounts of clothing are going to generate attention. That is no excuse or reason to behave in an uncivil manner. Few would harass women or catcall them on stage,but would write such feelings on their social media. Men may feel they can do something like that online, because there is no chance of it having immediate repercussion. Behavior must change and a code of online etiquette must be promoted. Like every technology, social media has a negative aspect. It has become a place in which users project their insecurities, prejudices, and hatreds. It also has become an area that promotes controversy when an event is not that serious.

'Fit mom' Maria Kang recreates infamous 'What's your excuse' photo five years later

Maria Kang another fitness personality was criticized on social media for her advertisement of  “what’s your excuse ? ” Some how a portion of users convinced themselves this was an example of fat shaming. The illogical conclusion and overreaction to a simple phrase or sentence causes flame wars across social media. Kang later posted another ad on her website saying “what’s your reason?” Granted from a public relations perspective a more motivational phase could have been employed. It could have been “this can be done with the right plan”  or “with enough focus all things are possible.”   Encouraging women or other people to exercise is not fat shaming. The rise in obesity in the US has become a serious health concern. The logic according to social media is to exaggerate a claim or statement and somehow force an apology. Social media’s negative consequence this that it has created a place for people with extreme views or distorted thoughts or reasoning. There are the arm chair activist social justice warriors and the far-right racist conservatives. Between these two groups are people who focus on cultural or social issues. These user may discuss race, sexual politics, or media. Pseudo-feminists ( preach the ideology, but have no understanding of its true meaning) fall into this group claiming any criticism of women is sexism. They claim to support women and proceed to attack those they deem oppressive. Kang was criticized by this group, however you never see them involved in body positive image promotion in regards to the muscular woman.

The movement that promotes women with curves, does not seem to be very accepting of the strong woman. There is nothing wrong with larger or curvy women, but its seems contradictory if the same women fit shame. The issue is that to an extent social media has made it so that some people see themselves as perpetual victims. This should not be a mindset to organize around. Hashtag movements will inevitably fail, because people have not come to a state of philosophical, social, and political consciousness. The positive body image movement could fall into this trap. Change will only come when women change their behavior in regards to one another and come to a new sense of self. A new beauty standard should not be the objective, rather there should be an acceptance that women all look different. That could be a solution to the sex symbol stereotype that is present in the fitness social media realm.

           There is a difference between admiration and obvious online sexual harassment. The unfortunate reality is that some female athletes can not distinguish the difference. The reason being it may be difficult to do so with thousands of messages either being negative or ambiguously suggestive in nature. The best way to understand what admiration is. Compliments or congratulating an athlete is an example of admiration. The user is showing respect for their accomplishments. Sexual objectification or harassment projects itself in crude and or lascivious comments. Actions such as sexting are examples of inappropriate conduct. Objectification happens when a viewer only focuses on the appearance of the athlete rather than her athletic accomplishments. Such attitudes imply women only exist to be attractive to men or be servants to them. Such attitudes are repulsive, yet remain prevalent. Men and male fans must have a code of internet and social media etiquette to combat these sexually charged comments. Most social media sites have blocking mechanisms to comment sections, but it remains a constant irritant. The attitudes some men have in regards to women must change.

       The athletes also have a responsibility to be mindful of what they post. Nudes or any other materials may not be a wise decision to post online. There are some athletes who may leave the fitness industry completely and may not want it to be known they had done particular photo shoots. Information can spread rapidly on the internet and what is posted can be seen by millions of people. Employers even search social media pages. Although they should be looking at the qualifications you have for a job, a social media presence could effect their decisions. The photographs posted or what you say could be used against you. Being reckless in this regard could cause problems. Donald Trump writes messages on Twitter before consulting his secretary of the press, resulting in diplomatic and political backlash. This is a catastrophe from a public relations view, because Twitter becomes the White House’s area of official statements. Poor image management can be detrimental. Users must understand when they post, they present an image. It may not represent complete truth, but to readers it may be. Athletes being public figures should be mindful of these facts. Doing so can prevent issues.

         There are gentlemen who do prefer buff. However, it is based to a certain degree. Some enjoy a woman with some muscle, others women who are considered in shape. That is a broad definition or description. Women face criticism for bring “too big” or “too much.”  This is relative based on preference and culture. Women and men even go as far as to use different terminology to describe the muscular physique. Women rather “tone” or men would rather “bulk.” This is nothing more than gender based terms for muscle. There is a double standard when it comes to women and strength. The maxim among the fitness circles is for women be strong, but not too strong.

There is no reason why women of various muscularity levels cannot be accepted. Whatever level a woman wants to take their bodies, they should be allowed to. No one demands of a painter to produce less art or a writer to produce less novels.An athlete should strive to reach their highest level of potential. It does not matter if there are detractors who disagree to what women are doing to their bodies. There may be condemnation, yet there are a good portion of supporters. It can be disputed that the fitness woman is a new pin-up. To some men who have followed women’s strength sports and fitness they were already pin-ups. What started out of the bodybuilding subculture expanded into various branches. Fitness culture infiltrated sports, health, and popular culture. There are celebrities in Hollywood that have their own personal trainers. The difference now is that the muscular woman has more exposure compared to the past. What might have been considered rare or an oddity is gaining normalization. The mainstream is gradually catching up to the subculture that had existed since the 1970s. That was the period of female bodybuilding’s birth and it progressed from there. There now is crossfit, powerlifing, weightlifting, and a multitude of bodybuilding divisions women can compete in. The past four decades has seen a revolution in terms of women’s involvement in physical culture. The amazing aspect of this cultural evolution is that the legion of male fans continue to increase. This is a remarkable paradigm shift because it is being aided by technology and changing attitudes of younger men.

The New Pin-up: Why Gentlemen Prefer Buff