A study conducted by the University of Ohio performed an experiment about what was the best method for women seeking to build muscular strength and endurance. What was confirmed in this 2008 experiment was that traditional strength training was the best method. To many women athletes and consistent gym goers this is not a surprise. Normally, exercise physiology experiments are conducted on male athletes. This one was different, because it wanted to see specifically the changes in women’s bodies and how they react to training stimuli. Low velocity routines may not be as effective as strength training. A total of 34 women who were of college age were examined. Over a period of six weeks they were to perform a training program. It was once though that the female body was not designed for strength. As exercise physiology progresses, the frailty myth has been proven false through scientific evidence. Doing studies that take into account women’s physiological and anatomical differences can best allow for a more efficient training regimen to improve athletic performance. The study was published Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research .
Sharon Rana associate professor of exercise physiology with her colleagues conducted the experiment with a particular approach. The traditional strength training group lifted heavier loads with fewer repetitions. The low velocity group was to lifted lighter weights with more repetitions. Professor Rana stated “what made the research a little different is that we put the various methods of resistance training all in one study and added a control group, which hadn’t been done before. The endurance group also hadn’t really been studied in conjunction with low velocity type training,” This allows for a through examination of changes over a period.
Participants performed a number of exercises including leg presses, back squats, and knee extensions. The traditional strength training group was able to lift 499 lbs for leg presses and 121 lbs for squats. There was a 117 lbs for leg extensions. Compared to the traditional endurance group the lifts were lower. Their maximum lifts were 341 lbs for leg presses, 64 lbs for squats, and 48 lbs for knee extensions. The low velocity group produced 365 lbs for leg presses, 79 lbs for squats, and 55 lbs knee extensions. The subjects did three sets of each exercise during the session. A rest period for a total of five minutes was given between each set and exercise.
The women had their absolute strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and body composition measured. What the experiment demonstrated was that the traditional strength training group gained the most physical strength. The data showed the traditional strength group increased to 61.8 % in total strength for the leg press. The low velocity group saw a 26.9 % increase and the endurance group was at 23.4%. However the traditional strength training group did not see a dramatic change in the squat exercise total. The traditional strength training group saw did see a 51.3 % increase in the knee extensions.
There should be some considerations for possible factors that effected the outcomes of the experiment. The first is the physical fitness level of women who participated. If the women who participated were either athletes or had experience with weight training exercise, this would effect the outcomes. Women with high fitness level my make the strength gains larger or more exaggerated. The only aspect about the subjects is that they were all devoid of serious health problems. A mix of ectomorphic, endomorphic, and mesomorphic body types would produce different results. The best subjects would be women with the lowest physical fitness levels to document the effectiveness of training.
Women with more natural strength prior to the study could have caused some distortion in data. There would be a clear difference between the average woman and physically fit woman. Both would be able to gain strength, but to what extent depends on genetics and somatotype.
The experiment showed a small decrease in body fat. This was not as significant in number compared to physical fitness improvements in muscular endurance and strength. Body composition would not dramatically change mainly due to endocrinology. Women produce more estrogen and progesterone which allows for more fat. Women need a certain level of fat to ovulate.
Fat does not contribute to strength or muscle power. This has implications on physical fitness between men and women. The reason men have more absolute strength is due to higher free testosterone production in the testes. This hormone allows for greater protein synthesis. The thinnest woman or the most muscular woman would still carry more body fat percentage compared to a man of similar physical fitness level. The difference in body composition means women have less total muscle mass.
Gonadal differentiation happens to developing fetuses. They appear by the sixth week not defined. The change happens by the seventh weeks when the gonads are either testes or ovaries. While this does not have an influence over the physical fitness capacity of boys and girls the shift happens during puberty. The change in endocrinology does not give women a strength spurt compared to males. Knowing this means women would have to train harder to build significant strength. This may take longer compared to men who are following a similar regimen. An approach tailored to women’s physiology and anatomy will be the most effective training regimen.
The experiment also demonstrated that cardiovascular endurance did not increase significantly. Neither group saw an increase. Professor Rana stated her reason for focusing on this element of physical fitness : “we tested cardiovascular endurance because a lot of the lay literature, the articles you might read in magazines, said it would improve.” The experiment revealed that such claims may not be accurate. Merely lifting weights would not improve cardiovascular endurance. While strength gains would improve the power of the leg muscles, running involves the heart and lungs. This means cardio exercise would be a better method for aerobic endurance. The comparison can be seen with sprinters and marathon runners. Sprinters have more power compared to the higher endurance of the marathon runner.
Large muscles do not automatically mean a person can be skilled at any sport. This depends on the nature of physical activity and specific biomechanics involved. Kinseology is critical to understanding movements of the body and essential to developing effective training programs. It seems this assessment is correct that traditional weight training would not improve cardiovascular endurance. Although to be sure an experiment would have to be conducted to further verify. One control group could just do cardiovascular exercise, while the other engages in traditional strength training. They will then run a specific distance and the times will be recorded. The marathon results will show which group was had the most endurance. The obvious prediction is that the subjects that did the cardiovascular exercise would have the best times.
Low velocity training is not a pointless activity. It builds better muscular endurance. Low velocity training does provide strength gain, but it is limited compared to traditional strength training. The question depends on whether the goal is to build more strength or endurance. Sports that depend on strength like powerlifting, weightlifting, or shotput traditional strength training would most likely be the best.
Low velocity training could have better application to endurance sports like ultramarathon or Olympic marathon events. The selection of method depends on the particular sport. The experiment made this conclusion by Professor Rana : the low velocity training obviously helps you,” Rana said. “You can gain some strength and muscle endurance, but the traditional methods are going to do a slightly better job for those two things.” This does not only apply to the athlete trying to improve their performance. It can be beneficial to the average person. Any amount of exercise can be good for physical health. A sedentary life style can have negative effects on the circulatory system. Muscle mass gradually declines with age. Being at least moderately active can reverse some of these changes associated with aging. Women can gain more benefits from building strength. With more exercise physiology studies focused on women, female athletes can have a means to enhance their performance in their sport of choice.