Lauri Braun : I Don’t Want to Get Too Big (2011)

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Don’t Get Too Big

Lauri Braun the founder of Female Muscle.com wrote about a common phrase that women work out commonly hear. The warning is do not “get too big.” For too long women have been dictated how to behave or what to do with their lives. Even more nauseating is the comment “you should smile more.” It is worse enough that someone demands that you look a certain way, but to feel a particular way is more infuriating. Braun calls her discussion a rant, yet it is just an observation of a known double standard. Strong women are constantly criticized for the muscles and power they have gained. The odd aspect about this is that women internalize this subtle form of sexism. They do not lift anything heavier than five pound dumbells. There still is a misconception that they overestimate their ability to gain muscle. Such a process takes years along with specific training and diet. Lauri Barun being a personal trainer herself had to explain on multiple occasions that this would not happen. It is like saying if you hand a woman a tennis racket, they will gain the skills of Serena Williams.  Much of this fear stems from ignorance of the sport, the women, and basic human anatomy. The phrase “don’t get too big” should be retired from fitness discussion.

           Often the phrase “too big” is used for women with the highest amount of muscular development. Female bodybuilders are targets for such ridicule. Unwanted commentary is either expressed as insults, bullying behavior, and sexist abuse. The double standards are so obvious, because men with muscular physiques are not subject to such ostracism. Women should have the right to look however they want to regardless of society’s expectations. It seems so perplexing in an age that is seeing more women rise to positions  of power that this concept has not been accepted. There is a body positivity movement, but it seems to exclude athletic bodies in favor of larger ones. It really is not inclusive as it sounds. Muscular women are either absent or not visible in this social movement. Then again it really is not an organized mass movement, rather a loose association. Women are partially to blame for body image conformity. This is mainly through being involved in the beauty and fashion industry. Businesses like that are kept alive by women focusing on their appearance. The beauty industry is estimated at being worth $532 billion dollars. If consumers had a positive body image, sales would decline. The muscular woman challenges notions of female weakness and passivity. A woman’s beauty in this view should be defined by being dainty and frail. Thankfully, women can define femininity on their terms rather than some dated ideals.

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Bulky

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The “too big” or “too much” is a matter of taste. A woman who is a track athlete my be too big for some. Having an opinion is not the problem; disparaging people who are different is. Even people who may not advocate the muscular development on a female physique can at least admit it is impressive. There are also a portion of people who appreciate the aesthetic. The lugubrious element of this is that there is a demand for people to look alike and think the same. Getting “too big” is more about perception not anatomical reality.

       Women being too big is not anatomically possible. The only way that could happen is if a woman reaches a body weight that would be classified as morbidly obese. At this stage the ability to walk and have a healthy circulatory system is not possible. The strain on the skeletal system is so great joint issue can occur from being overweight  or obese. Women who are muscular are called bulky. That implies colloquially being of large size. The women on a bodybuilding stage or just muscular women in general do not weigh that much. The average man or an out of shape woman could weigh more. Comparing a muscular woman to a muscular man their is a difference in the morphology of the physique. The upper body of women is smaller, compared to men. The pelvis is wider giving women a distinctive shape. When muscle is added to the female frame it enhances the form. The irrational fear for some women is that their body will become block like. The reality is that the torso of the male is more block like than women. Female bodybuilders still aim for a version of the hour glass figure although they used different methods to attain it. By developing a muscular upper body and lower body  the waist on women appears smaller. Detractors claim that they are attempting to emulate men, but what they are really doing is developing a new aesthetic of female beauty.

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Although women do have big muscles, bodybuilding is more than just about size. Symmetry, conditioning, and definition are what contribute to quality physiques. This is where the body becomes a living art piece. This may be hard to understand if you do not admire sculpture or physique sports. The women are not large massive blobs of flesh. Examining the weight of various bodybuilders from the past to present only further demonstrates the point. Rachel Mclish weighed only 135 lbs., while Corey Everson was 155 lbs. Kim Chizevsky was 160 lbs. The body weight of these three Ms.Olympia champions is less than what would you would think by just looking at their pictures. Few women have reached the over 200 lbs mark, which a vast majority of male bodybuilders reach. Two of the greatest athletes Iris Kyle and Lenda Murray would not be considered bulky simply based on weight. Iris was 165 lbs of muscle and Lenda was 153 lbs.

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The biggest female bodybuilders do not even compare to men of the same fitness level and size. There can be overlap, but it is not possible for a woman to get man size. Lesa Lewis competed at 193 lbs during her athletic career. Maria Wattel has a weight of 198 lbs. The reason why Lesa and Maria are bigger is due to their height. They are both tall with Maria being 5′ 7” and Lesa being 5′ 10.”  The skeletal frame aids in size. The bigger the skeleton the more muscle can be housed on a frame. Muscular hypertrophy is regulated by myostatin and the MTSN gene. This explains why muscles do not continue to grow endlessly. Getting to the size of the Incredible Hulk would not be possible in relation to human morphology. Women have to work harder to build muscle and strength due to how the endocrine system influences physiology. Reaching this level of muscular development takes much time, effort, and an intricate understanding of nutrition.

       The perplexing problem about the “too big” concept is that women utter this more among themselves. Lori Braun observed that some overweight women do this. The reason for such unwanted commentary could be jealousy, envy, or closed mindedness. Harsh critics could be internalizing some of the messages of body image conformity. The negative response from some men one would assume would be obvious. Coming from other women remains a conundrum. Women being physically strong seems to bother a number of people, yet this would not apply to other areas. If a person said to a woman gaining higher education that she has become “too smart” it would immediately be challenged. Women’s bodies society believes need control. A woman can never be truly free until she has complete control of her body. This remains the last bastion for women achieving equality. Education and employment are essential measures,but control of one’s physical self is imperative. One step is to have reproductive rights strengthened. What should also be part of the process is women being allowed to look like whatever they want to without insults or harassment. The first step requires women to stop sabotaging one another.  Lori Braun describes an instance in which a client insulted a picture of one of her friends competing. Lori  rationally explained that her friend weighed less compared  to the woman making the offensive remarks. Women should not be insulting each other’s appearance. This only aids the system of misogyny based around a single beauty standard.

         The ignored element of this discussion is the false idea that people do not like the image of strong women. The argument is that if a woman gets to big men will not like them. There are men who have a vast variety in what is attractive. Muscular women to some men are the greatest thing ever. The exact number is not known. Many men hide this love due to fear of what friends and family might say. Fans might collect pictures, books,videos, and then hide them. The internet and by extension social media has exposed that there is a bigger following than previously thought. Even if this was not the case, some people just enjoy something that is not mainstream or widely accepted. Female muscle does have more exposure compared to the past considering there is more media. Yet, it started off as a small group of fans of female strength sports.  The irritating claim by detractors is that no man likes a muscular female physique. The growth of divisions in strength sports and the increase in women’s athletic participation just demonstrates there are fans. There also is a potential for  growth. The conversation about women being “too big” just needs to end. Doubtless of what people think, the women will continue to compete, train, and challenge prejudiced assumptions.

Lauri Braun : I Don’t Want to Get Too Big (2011)

Cathe Friedrich : Strong Versus Skinny and Why Strong Is Better

 

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Strong Versus Skinny

Weight loss has been directed at women as the sole means to maintain health. While it is important to manage weight, losing too much can be unhealthy. This could negatively effect musculoskeletal mass of the body. The methods of weight loss that some women have done range from reduced calorie restriction, excessive aerobic exercise, or use of weight loss supplements. Thankfully, more women are using healthier methods. Weight training and a diet that meets the body’s needs can both maintain health as well as improve physical fitness. Women gaining physical strength and muscle is a positive development for women’s health. Muscle can actually improve women’s health. There is a new maxim “strong is  the new skinny” but the goal should not be to replace one body image with another. Women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes so there should not be one set standard. There are some women who may not like the idea of developed muscle on their body, but when they try weight training they want more. There are five essential benefits that come with developing strength.

        Functional strength is about being able to do daily tasks. Moving furniture, groceries, or shoveling snow are just a few examples. Some women say that is work for men to do. However, there may not always be a man to  help. You may live alone or there just are not big strong men around to solve your problems. Training for strength differs from training for aesthetics. Both use weights to meet different objectives. Strength training along with compound exercises can induce muscular hypertrophy. The body can then generate more physical force. Bodybuilding is about molding the muscle to look a certain way. Both activities can enhance bone and muscle mass. The major target area of exercises should be the core. This is an important center of physical strength generation.

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Mere weight loss has some negative consequences. Too little calories, limited nutrition, and aerobic exercise only weakens the body. A person who is too thin may struggle doing basic physical tasks. Becoming to obsessed with thinness could put a person at risk for anorexia. Strength training can be a healthy way to maintain body weight. Weight loss only does not enable the building of extra bone and muscle tissue.  This means a person will have less functional strength. The impact can be larger on women who have less natural strength to start off with. Maintaining physical strength is pivotal to health as we age. Having functional strength aids in muscle and bone health.

         Body weight can become a concern if it exceeds a certain level. Cathe Friedrich incorrectly uses the term “skinny fat” when no such thing exists. This is more of a colloquial term that people use to describe people who carry some body fat, while to fitting the definition of being overweight. There are multiple body types which in include ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs. Some people can be in between these categories. Obesity and being overweight are not the same medical terminology. An overweight person may be carry more weight then they should, but are not obese. Obesity can be defined as weight higher than what would be considered healthy for a person’s height. The risk of type diabetes becomes a concern with increasing weight. A thin person with high amounts of sugar in their diet can still get the disease. This can be managed and controlled with exercise. Strength training can benefit anyone, no matter what age or fitness level. The protection of the circulatory system also needs attention. Heart disease and stroke become health concerns the longer people live. Being active can prevent chronic illness related to the muscular, skeletal, and circulatory system.

          Thinness is not an indication of health. Being malnourished can pose a threat. The body needs food as fuel and exercise to maintain organ systems. Getting too thin may pose a greater burden on women’s bodies. When fat levels decline to such a limited amount estrogen is effected. This may result in osteoporosis or infertility. Thinner people could be at equal or the same risk for diseases that effect the obese. Poor eating habits, smoking, and drinking are practiced by large segments of the population. This is not a concern during youth, but as age progresses the effects of poor health decisions emerge.

You cannot determine someone’s health by just their body type. Only medical exams can determine health condition. However, thinness is equated with health due to a beauty standard. 

The issue here is that people equate a beauty standard of body image with health. The concept has eugenic roots and was based in physiognomy, yet never really disappeared. Beauty has nothing to do with health. That depends on a person’s perspective and the culture in which they are raised. The unfortunate aspect is that it has caused women much distress. The mental toll of attempting to reach an unrealistic body ideal can harm psychological well being. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Strength training does have a mental health benefit.

          Self-esteem is essential to a person’s sense of worth. When women do strength train their is also a mental change that occurs. Women report feeling more body confidence not just how their bodies look, but what they can do. This new sense of self and confidence does not only relate to a sports field. It spreads to other aspects of life. Too many girls and women are discouraged from being ambitious or confident. This restricts their potential and  opportunities in life. Learning discipline, consistency, and goal setting is connected with strength training principles. Feeling like a stronger person gives women a larger boost in confidence. A study from  McMaster University demonstrated that women were more satisfied with their bodies after a twelve week training regimen . They were very pleased that they became physically stronger than before.Women’s mental health can benefit from a strength training regimen.

       Women will live longer on average. This means they have a higher chance of either getting diseases related to age, if they do not monitor their health. If a person does not exercise, the body becomes frail. Sacropenia causes muscles to decrease in power and strength. When a person reaches the age of 30, muscle mass gradually declines. Around the age of 50 the process becomes more dramatic. Bone density is also effected increasing the likelihood of hip fracture. Falls and the fractures that follow can be life threatening. This effects women worse seeing as they have less muscle mass and bone density. Strength training can protect women’s bodies from sacropenia and osteoporosis. The elderly can still benefit from some exercise. A woman that is too thin could be at risk of losing functional strength.

        Making yourself thin is not the most health path to take. The intent is to have enough physical activity and calorie consumption to manage weight. Calorie restriction will only harm progress. Diet should be managed and consist of vegetables, proteins, as well as some fruit.  Thinner people may not have as many health problems as an overweight person, but they are at risk for chronic illness. Losing the ability to do simple tasks become a challenge for older people. While a thin body may be seen as ideal  for women, it is not healthy. Being naturally thin does not pose a health risk, but attempting to be underweight is. Building strength is insurance against disease later in life. Strength training can be done by anyone. It is never too late to start. Women can gain more from a strength training regimen. Improved health, weight management, and higher levels of confidence are what women can gain.

Cathe Friedrich : Strong Versus Skinny and Why Strong Is Better

Alisha Valdes: Are Men Actually Stronger Than Women- You Betcha (2012)

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Manly Monday – Are men actually stronger than women_ You betcha

Alisha Valdes is a journalist, author, and film producer who wrote “Fearless and Freaky ” a blog that featured some of here written pieces. The now defunct site would feature what was referred t as “Manly Mondays.” It was her personal opinions about the sexes and sex politics. At first the title asks a question are men stronger than women, which does not seem like a controversial statement. To an extreme social justice warrior this may cause them to be triggered. The more rational people see it as a general statement of biology, however the problem with Valdes is that she takes a perspective that would actually justify women being subject to a secondary role. The opposite end of the spectrum from  the social justice warrior  is the culture warrior. These individuals dream of a period in which traditional gender roles are rigidly imposed, race relations reverted back to the 1950s era, and religion plays a larger role in public life. These two extremes have polarized every area of American society from entertainment, politics, and even general discourse. There has been a movement to discredit social sciences as leftist propaganda driven by the far-right. History, sociology, and political science can tell us much about why human civilization developed the way it did. The problem related to this topic of biological sex difference it not between nature or nurture. It is how much do these two factors work together to produce an individual. Before addressing this, the concept of equality must be explained.

            Equality by definition is ” the state of having the same worth in terms of rights, status, and opportunities.” The person who either believes in racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other type of intolerance thinks equality should not exist. Their world view is tainted by the ideology that there is a superior group and a group of inferiors that either need to be enslaved or exterminated. Nations that value human rights, freedom, democratic institutions, and the regulation of political power tend to hold equality as a value. The reality is that most societies are pyramid structures with a hierarchy that is unequal. This pyramid structure can be seen in both authoritarian and democratic governments.  There has been progress in terms of improving the rights of citizens in certain countries. However, the more progressive branch in the left take an entirely different view on equality. Alisha Valdes describes this as equality meaning being the same. The context here is in sameness feminist views men and women women are not that different. This ignores both biology and psychology. The concept does not start with second wave feminism as Valdes claims, rather it got more mainstream with third wave feminism in the 1990s. Every individual is different physically and psychologically different regardless race, sex, sexual orientation, or nationality. People are the same in regards to being the same species. The argument is a flawed one, but the sameness concept is what some progressives and feminists have adopted. Looking at men and women you can see they are not physically the same. When discussing size and physical strength this is the first attribute of sexual dimorphism that can be noticed. This does not mean one sex is superior than the other, rather physical differences that developed from human evolution. The sameness feminist argument ignores that true definition of equality.

            Biology and physical difference has become a topic of debate among feminists. Some argue that focusing on biological difference only encourages placing women as the other. Others view discussing men’s greater physical strength as embracing the idea of male superiority. Certain power feminists believe they should challenge men in all things and strength should be another area. They ignore the fact that physiology and anatomy play a role in physical strength difference. Girls and boys are equal in terms of physical strength. The ratio to bone and muscle is not the great in total amount. Puberty strengthens the male body to a higher degree with an increase in bone density and muscle mass. It is not just the muscle mass that is strengthened. Ligaments and tendons are reinforced. The male body produces more androgens, which enable a lower body fat composition.   The upper body has more strength in males with broader shoulders. The female body has narrower shoulders and wider hips. Males tend to be taller than females on average. A larger skeleton means more room and support for muscle. Muscle fiber type dictates physical strength. Type II muscle fibers are the most important for explosive strength. These are more prevalent in men’s bodies and the fibers themselves are larger.

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Testosterone dramatically effects bones and muscles of boys during puberty.Girls do not gain a strength spurt.
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Through exercise and diet women can increase their physical strength.
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Men experience a higher degree of muscular hypertrophy from a weight training regimen

The average man has more strength than the average woman. However, this can vary depending on the individual’s size, height, health, and physical fitness condition. Training does not completely  negate the difference in strength. The strongest man could have more strength than the strongest woman. The National Institutes of Health study demonstrated that women can have an estimated 66% of strength of  a man of similar fitness level. That still a good amount considering men have more to start off with. A woman can certainly be stronger than a weak or average man. Unlike the facial hair analogy used by  Alisha Valdes, this case makes more logical sense. Humanity can manipulate its own biology, which means it is not impossible for women to gain strength. Equality does not mean equality in ability. While women may be able to have higher records in sports, this does not mean women cannot excel. Some people will juts be better at certain things. A scientist would be better at explaining natural phenomena than playing soccer.

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This astronaut has many skills that the strong man does not.
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He can lift more than the female astronaut. This is the only sense in which they are unequal.
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She is stronger than many men.
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This man is weaker than most women, but that does not mean he’s beneath them.

People are different, but they are the same in the sense they all have value. The issue related to sex politics is that women were not given the same rights or value. The erroneous remedy was the idea that women either were consider the same or should try to imitate men. The influence of biology is very powerful and trying to eliminate or ignore these difference could have devastating consequences. Is it unfair that there exists a physical strength difference between men and women? Not really seeing as this trait can vary when we look at individuals regardless of sex. There are people who are smarter and stronger than others, but that does not mean they have the right to dominate or rule over the masses. Humanity is a wonderful mix of different people.   The emphasis on science  should not be misinterpreted as biology is destiny. The environment can influence how a person develops.

     The difference in physical strength may not be entirely biological. Girls and women for a longtime were discouraged from developing themselves in terms of physical fitness. Professional sports were seen as male only and women who were athletes were constantly the subject of ridicule. Mass media and body image conformity disparaged women who did not fit the paradigm. Even today women athletes are criticized for having muscular bodies. The same body type on a man is not treated in the same way. It is seen as something natural. For women, it generates feelings of trepidation or abnormality. Lack of physical activity can also be detrimental to women’s health. Heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis become major concerns as people age. Fad diets and weight loss is marketed directly at women. This is not designed to improve health and fitness, rather make women as physically small as possible. Thinness to an unhealthy degree is promoted. The result can be psychological disorder . Anorexia has a higher rate in women compared to men. A woman constantly trying to make her self thin is not increase body strength. If young girls are bombarded with the image and concept that making yourself unrealistically thin is necessary the cycle will continue. Part of the reason strong women my invoke such negative reaction is because they could challenge most men on a physical level. Just the image seems like a threat to the notion that men have all the power. Women who demonstrate they can be strong are indirectly asked not to display it. They are told “don’t get too big” or “they are too much.” Even with the strong is the new skinny maxim women are not suppose to get so strong that they could overpower a man.

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The more muscular woman can be seen as a threat. If women are “toned” like the one on the right it is considered acceptable.
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Body image issues can also effect men. Muscle dysmorphia has become more common among young males. 
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Women are now defying the narrow definitions of  what it means to be a woman. There is a movement to embrace women of different sizes and shapes despite mainstream culture.

These irrational fears or hatreds are a metaphor for society’s suspicion of women’s growing political and social power.  Roles are have changed between men and women. The more traditional minded will struggle to adjust to these changes. Children growing up may not react badly to them, seeing as it is a new social environment. There is still gender bias demonstrated at an early stage of life. Physical education courses are modified for girls. This does not make sense seeing as the changes of puberty has not created the difference in physical fitness capacity. Women still have to fight for equality in the competitive sports arena. From a perspective of sports science, women have not been examined as much compared to their male counterparts. Therefore women may be using training methods that do not unleash their full physical fitness potential.   Gender roles do change with culture and transformations within a society. To a degree women’s bodies and health are controlled by this.

        There were some elements of traditional gender roles that did benefit women. Chivalry was one aspect that was more of a gain to women’s comfort than men’s. Alisha Valdes almost laments that such behavior is extinct. If there was some activity or chore that required strength or an element of danger men were expected to do it without question. It did not matter if it would harm their health or mental well being, just as long as the reward of female companionship was a possibility. This idea of men and women forms a common stereotypical images  of helpless damsel and heroic he-man. This dated notion of chivalry still remains present, even though it does not fit well in the modern world. If the expectation is that the sexes be treated equally, there should be no reason for a man to do extra for women. This also means that women do not owe men anything.  However, women still have the expectation that men should do everything for them while claiming to believe  in equality. Men are still expected to pay for dates, alimony, be drafted, and be the main provider all while acting like everything is fine. Men have limited emotional expression outlets, which may explain odd behaviors or extreme outbursts of violence. If true gender equality is to be established then both men and women should be treated the same way. That means having the same obligations and responsibilities.

       There is another reason why physical strength could be a concern for feminists. Exalting male strength would ignore strong women and promote a weaker sex stereotype. This may seem harmless, but it can effect people’s behavior. Women who enter traditionally male dominated occupations such as firefighting, law enforcement, construction, or the military are viewed as being less capable. The most common argument used against women in combat jobs is that they do not have the physical strength. Detractors normally make the claim standards will be lowered to accommodate women. The women who are successful are still perceived as being given the job on the basis of their sex or an unwanted presence. The weaker sex stereotype also makes it possible that more women are discouraged from entering such fields. If a young girl is told she cannot excel, she will never try to advance as an adult. Alisha Valdes initial statement about men being stronger is not wrong, but she comes to an incorrect conclusion. Waiting for a knight in shining armor to assist women is a dangerous path. The irony is that this was written by a woman who claimed to be a feminist. To a degree women did have a level of security under a traditional household, however their freedom was severely restricted. A new era has emerged. With the #Me Too movement, gender neutrality, and a developing fourth wave feminism it is uncertain what sex politics will be like in the coming decades. One change is clear is that women are gaining more power and they did not need to out muscle men to do it.

Alisha Valdes: Are Men Actually Stronger Than Women- You Betcha (2012)

Hieu Truong: So You Want to Pick Up and Lift a Man Overhead?

 

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Pick A Man Up Overhead

There are many fitness goals that both professional athlete and casual exerciser attempt to meet. Rarely do you hear a woman say her goal is to lift a man overhead. The internet  has shown us many feats of strength coming from women. The question is how would a  woman go about actually doing this? Hieu Truong provides her expertise in weightlifting to give an answer. Truong asked this question of her friends and associates who coach and participate in weightlifting, strongman,  and powerlifting. Although it may seem like a ludicrous question it is a fun scenario to ponder in regards to exercise physiology. There are factors that determine if this is possible. The size and weight of the man being lifted should be taken into consideration.  Hieu Truong  provides insight : ”  I was also reminded multiple times that I should not expect to ever pick up my husband and press him overhead. ” She is a weightlifter her self but she explains ”    unfortunately, they’re right: my husband weighs twice as much and is over a foot taller than I am. ” Truong then goes on saying she does not expect to do this with her husband or any man. Although her husband is large, with some effort she may be able overhead lift a man of smaller size. Possibly she could do it to a man of her size. Height would not be a factor rather total body mass. The second factor relates to if the man is resisting being lifted or not. The size of the woman is also a factor. Then there are the use of push presses and is there a set way to lift a man off the ground. The program Hieu Truong  has never been tested, yet it is fascinating to see how a training regimen is devised.

          Before any lift is attempted the size of our subjects needs to be clarified. For these tests the weight of 185 lbs is used for a man. The reason they use that weight is because it is the closest measurement to a standard  Olympic barbell. According to the CDC the average weight for the American male at 5 ‘8” is 200 lbs. This comes  down to weight lifting a man who is obese or extremely musclebound one  would be the most difficult. Muscle does not weigh more than fat so if it were a muscular man and a fat one they could weigh the same.

Knowing that a man could be around a 185 to 200 lbs weight range, this gives an idea about how strong a woman’s body would have to be to deal with the weight.Lifting a man overhead would be nearly impossible for an untrained woman. These actions require a good amount of upper body strength. Then the woman lifter’s muscle to fat ratio becomes a factor. Her weight and muscle fiber type will determine if she can lift overhead a man. Type II muscle fibers are the most important to explosive strength . To hoist a man in the air, it would mean that more type II muscle fibers would have to be concentrated in the upper body. The woman lifter faces two physiological and biological challenges. The first is that total body mass is less and the amount of type II muscle fibers is lower. The endocrine system produces more estrogen in women, which has an effect on body composition.  This means a woman would have to work harder in achieving a high level of strength. Training and technique can negate some of the  physical differences.

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All women are not the same. Some have greater strength potential than others.
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The upper body is the hardest area for women to gain strength.
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Women’s bodies do experience  muscular hypertrophy through long term weightlifting.

This does not close the gap in physical fitness capacity. It should be noted that Hieu Truong proposed two scenarios. The first is if the man is resisting being picked up. That would be challenging for anyone seeing as a person would be actively moving. The other case involves a man who is compliant with the lift. From this a hypothetical training program can be developed to see if a woman can lift a man overhead. The two training programs both utilize back squats, push presses, bench presses, and sandbag cleans.

          The attempt to lift a man without his assistance requires movement patterns from the legs and hips. This is very helpful, because the lower body is easier for women to add strength to. Also the man who is being lifted must be in a particular position. The goal is to get them upon the shoulders of the woman so she can lift him in the air. The technique here would be the Steinborn squat. Knowing that most likely the woman weighs less than the man being lifted her strength reserve would have to be higher than the weight being lifted. If the strength reserve is only equal to the weight being lifted the woman would not be able to successfully execute the feat. The Steinborn squat puts more force on the back and knees, which means such areas of the body must be strengthened through progressive overload. A woman would have to reach a target squat of 225 lbs. The upper body strength still is a requirement so a 225 lbs bench press is recommended by Phillip Stablien. The weightlifting coach also suggests a 205 push press, which may actually mimic the lifting of a person.

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An athlete doing a log press
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The overhead lift being done by a female bodybuilder.
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An athlete must have a high strength reserve in comparison to the strength that they use for the action.

The challenge is asymmetry when holding the human body compared to a weight. There are other exercises that can be used to attain the required strength levels. The sandbag could be another close imitation of the human body being lifted.  The biggest problem with lifting or moving a person is limited options for holding. Then there is the shifting center of gravity. Sandbags basically a more like dummies that can be used as a test run for this exercise experiment. The log press is an exercise part of training for strongman and strongwomen  events. It is part of the competition, but it can be applied to lifting a man overhead. Holding the log is much easier compared to the sandbag. The benefit is that it allows the person to focus more on building brute strength, than applying balance with center of gravity in mind. Adding the total amount of weight required for a woman to move it would be 655 lbs. It would be harder for a woman of ectomorphic body type to attain this level. Women with more natural strength and muscular body structure could do this. There are videos that show women lifting men overhead.  The first video shows a woman who is in shape using What appears to be the Steinborn squat. However, she does struggle to execute it. That is an indication that she needs to work on building her strength reserves. The other two videos show the overhead lifts of a bodybuilder and strongwoman.

Dawn Riehl was able to lift the man in the video easily because of her high strength reserve. During her competitive years her squat was 345 lbs and a bench press of 315 lbs. That means she can move a total of 660 lbs, which is over the 655 lbs marker. She was a bodybuilder meaning she trained for aesthetic purposes, rater than strength. Dawn if she trained like a strongwoman could have gotten much more powerful. The last video shows strongwoman Aneta Florczyk lifting men overhead multiple times. Her bench press was 220.5 lbs and 456.4 lbs squat. Her total weight lifted would be 676.9 lbs. That means she would be stronger than Dawn and it explains why she was able to toss those men so easily in the video. Aneta Florczyk’s weight was 165 lbs and Dawn Riehl’s 132 lbs. Women can do this even when they come in different sizes. It may be difficult to determine which method is the best, but it is known lifting a person without assistance is harder.

     Lifting a person who is a willing participant or conscious is easier. Mike MsKenna says ”  Assuming you’re working with a man within the realm of your strength–say, 100-150% of your weight–then you could put him over your head at some point. ” His directions are more specific compared to other approach. There should be certain days in which front squats and back squats should be done. There is an overlap with suggestion of using sandbags. Deadlifts and heavy cleans are also advised in this method. This technique functions on a four day a week training split. What was extrapolated from this hypothesis was a chart of exercise and their intensity level. The training schedule goes as follows. The fist day requires snatch balances, back squat ladders, Turkish get-ups, T bar and bent over rows. The second day will involve cleans, deadlifts, front squats, and bench press. The third day requires back squat, overhead recoveries, arms, and Romanian deadlifts. The last day will involve log cleans,presses, sandbags, and yoke carries.

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Weights do not have limbs like a human body.

There seems to be more attention to detail compared to the other hypothetical method. Practice makes this work. The man being lifted has to be practice with as many times as possible. First when in the air or on the ground. The biggest factor is the man being able to hold the plank position. The method presented in scenario two seems more meticulous in approach. This is a very unconventional fitness goal, but there are women who can pick up men. Fireman’s carry, over the shoulder, and cradle carry are what women can do with strength training. Women can lift men overhead with either of these methods or scenarios. Which technique works the best has not been determined.

       Lifting a man overhead would be no simple feat according to  Hieu Truong. The man being lifted determines the success of the feat of strength. A smaller or thinner man could be no problem lifting overhead . Around  the 132 lbs to 149 lbs range would not be too much weight. If a man exceeds  195 lbs range women would require a huge amount of strength. A woman of  larger size could lift many men seeing as bone density would be aiding her. Beyond just a simple fitness entertainment theory, this could have important applications. Women are entering physically demanding occupations, which require a certain degree of muscular power. The military and firefighting departments could benefit from the use of sandbag exercise and strongwoman training to improve women’s performance. The US Military is now implementing a set standard for physical fitness for both of the sexes and women can benefit from functional fitness training.

lA6y8lLjobc The argument used often is that women should not do these jobs, because they do not have the strength. Detractors claim that it would be impossible for a woman to carry a man out of a combat situation or rescue them from a burning building.  Training and diet can make a difference in physical fitness capacity. The point is to have an objective. The lifting a man overhead scenario can be retooled to evacuating an injured coworker or comrade. If women were to be given the proper instruction, then questions about physical competence would be resolved . The lift a man overhead scenario is more controlled compared to the situations of soldiers, firefighters, and police. However, it may make for a good simulation and training of the body for physical demands. Seeing as women have to train harder it may take some time to do an overhead lift of a man. Months or possibly years it can take to build the physical strength necessary. Consistency, time, and training can eventually change the fitness capacity of the human body.

Hieu Truong: So You Want to Pick Up and Lift a Man Overhead?

The Conversation : Why Do We Find Muscular Women So Perplexing (2014)

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Why Are Muscular Women Perplexing

The topic of body image has  been discussed before on women’s sports sites. Rarely, is it discussed on mainstream media outlets or digital platforms . The Conversation breaks the tradition by reporting subjects not discussed by other news organizations. Muscular women and accomplished female athletes can either induce feelings of shock, confusion, disgust, or in extreme cases hatred. The question asked in the title is more so  rhetorical. Sexism,prejudice,  misogyny, and double standards are the reasons  why muscular women are viewed as strange or anomalies. There is irrational fears of the other or people that are different. Society even reacts negatively to people who do not share the same opinions or thoughts. This article explores aspects of both sociology, sex politics, and human behavior. Even women who have become prominent in the sports world still face a high amount of disrespect and sexist abuse. While the article focuses on the negative aspects of culture surrounding  strong women, it forgets that there is a level of support. Fans are also harshly ostracized for their support. This only shows how conformity stifles free thought and control behavior in a strict fashion. The views expressed by some may even be implanted at an early age, which explains why it is difficult to understand other perspectives. Change or discovery never came by people doing the same things or thinking alike. The muscular woman may have a deeper meaning about women’s growing power both socially and the wider society.

         The argument is that women of such physical strength and development are “unnatural.” Women somehow when they gain such strength lose their femininity. While this is false, it should be realized that gender roles are based on a culture and society in which people live. Biological sex is a product of millions of years of human evolution. The muscular woman in the context of gender roles disrupts the traditional views of “real men” and “real women.” As stated in the text ”     It challenges the assumption that all men are big, strong and powerful and that all women are smaller, weaker and dependent.” The female athlete  not only challenges this notion; they completely make it a fabrication. There is a female athlete that goes a step further developing the body to its highest degree: female bodybuilders. Muscular strength has for a longtime been associated with masculinity. Many men do not fit this narrow paradigm of the ideal masculine image. To a degree men are not as pressured to look a certain way, however that may be changing. Young men are now suffering from muscle dysmorphia in a manner that parallels women’s body image issues. Women who seek to challenge body image conformity are faced with more harassment and unwanted commentary. The muscular woman may induce fear in some.

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Although such a fear may seem comedic or just illogical, it is rooted in the unknowns of women attaining huge amounts of power. When women obtained suffrage, there was a fear that their new found right was going to be used to harm men. The argument of against women entering the workforce was that they would take away jobs from men. Basically, there was a paranoid fear of female take over. The accusation was that feminists did not want equality, rather a society that benefited women only. These were conspiracy theories, yet there are some men who see women’s participation in sports in the same manner.Women’s entry into politics, science, and business has caused a reaction from certain men who believe men should have all the power in society. Seeing as it is difficult to stop women’s rise some resort to controlling certain activities. Sports seem to remain a space in which men want absolute dominance. Physical strength was seen as a marker of male superiority over females, but seeing as women can be strong it calls into question the sense of masculine identity. The breadwinner and head of house hold role has gradually been broken down by neoliberal capitalism, unemployment, and changes in family structure. Physical activity, sports, and exercise may have become a space in which men can cope with an undefined role and the decay of society. The reaction could  result in unhealthy behavior which could include more hostility directed at women or projecting through acts of extreme violence. There is more to being a man than looking like Hercules. Sadly, men may not be able to explore alternatives while women still have to challenge a stereotypical gender role expectation. The muscular woman does not fit into such culturally accepted notions of what women should be.

           Double standards and prejudice  are so ingrained in relation to the sexes, few recognize the problem with it. Bodybuilding was seen as a male sport, but it is for everyone. Women have presented physiques that are both unique and have a new aesthetic. Men who are athletes get respect, yet women receive scorn : “muscular women are often accused of taking steroids, being deviant, sexually confused or deliberately trying to offend others.” These accusations reveal prejudice not only about female athletes, but women in general. The prejudice directed at women is that they are less capable, over emotional, and are only fit to be mothers. When women  go out of  the domestic role, then somehow that is a violation of the natural order.

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There is of course nothing natural about women being in a subordinate position or being second class citizens. It can be fair to say that the look may not be to one’s taste. The issue is that people may value women only for their appearance or sexual capital. Insults and pure abuse are directed at them: ” they’re frequently told they’re unattractive, man-haters, selfish mothers or transvestites.” The double standard is apparent seeing as men never have to confront these harsh comments. Praise or condemnation is determined by one’s sex. Prejudice does not only come from the uninformed or uneducated; even the most progressive minded people have bias they rarely acknowledge. Some may say they respect a woman’s right to do what they want.However, the articulation of their opinions do not reflect that. Women when participating in certain fields may either reach a class ceiling or regulated to a structural limitation. Women have shown the can be great bodybuilders in what incorrectly is called a male sport. The IFBB made fitness and figure competition to as a way to regulate the muscular appearance of women. The Conversation explains“Femininity is linked to a female body that is slender, neat and sexually attractive. Because the muscular female form is so challenging, sports such as body sculpting use femininity as a buffer to counter the fact that women also have muscle. (We don’t judge male bodybuilders on their masculinity, their “maleness”.).”While there were attempts to halt women’s development and progress they only thing these new classes did was get more women involved. The bikini division was the latest addition, which has drawn controversy. That is even going to change. The physique division has transformed itself into a lightweight female bodybuilding competition.  All these achievements from women in sports one would think that acceptance would come with it.

           The question asked is there a problem? There is, yet it needs to be correctly identified. Muscles on women’s bodies is not the issue and its not femininity. It is the more insidious sexism and misogyny that shapes the public’s views and culture. Femininity is viewed as a characteristic that is one dimensional. There is no reason to think that strength, power, and independence cannot coexist with femininity. If the boundaries of restricted space are to be broken, then it should be acknowledged that femininity is not a culprit. The only alternative would be to either completely condemn it or favor some form of gender neutral ideology. Doing this is basically saying if women resemble men more, they can achieve equality. That is not a solution nor is it practical. Sexism preaches a doctrine that men are superior to women. Men are just better is the philosophy, which has a basis in the false notion they are biologically stronger. When a woman demonstrates physical strength it discredits men’s monopoly on it. The hatred of women stems from the idea that they are manipulative, need to be controlled, or if they get power will abuse it. Women gaining strength has not resulted in a matriarchy.

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Seeing as women have made a rapid rise in sports, there is little basis to refer to them as inferiors. The sexist and misogynists become vexed, because their psuedoscientific explanations are discredited.   There are ideas still spread among laymen. Besides cultural attitudes, one should examine the structural problems related to sports institutions. The unequal pay, limited sports coverage, or limited platforms to compete remain barriers to women in sports. The lack of female coaches and sports teams owners only exposes a larger sex segregation in the sports world. Attitudes must change along with institutions. If not women will be subject to a secondary role or have limited visibility.

     Since the publication of this article, there has been a change in thought. There are fans who support women’s athletic endeavors. There are also male fans who not only are interested in women’s athletic accomplishments, but the new version of female beauty that has emerged from intense training. Although some would condemn this as sexual objectification, this goes beyond mere desire; it is admiration. Male fans may marvel of the sight of a woman’s impressive physique. The reality is a muscular physique on a woman can be just as attractive as a smaller or larger one. The text incorrectly calls fitness and figure competition body sculpting. The term is one of mass marketing in fitness which encourages women to lift weights. The concept is that if it was called weightlifting women would reject it due to it having a masculine association. Exercise can be done by both men and women. When a person lifts a weight that is bodybuilding, which in a sense is sculpting the flesh to look a certain way.

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There were muscular women in the past. Strongwomen, acrobats, and street performers were women who showed developed musculature. They were limited by their time seeing as women had few platforms to compete or develop their physiques to the maximum. Within half a century the modern professional sports woman presented a body that was stronger and bigger than ever before. This is a unique event in history that few observers take notice of. Women created an entirely new aesthetic body mage. The reason why some may find this perplexing is due to the fact the image is new . People either fear or are puzzled by what they do not understand. There are women who still focus  on weight loss   and thinness as a goal. Other have experienced a paradigm shift wanting to improve their athletic performance and get stronger. Such bodies on bodybuilding stages and Olympic podiums would not have been conceivable 112  years ago. It will take some time for people to get used to a woman of such physical power. It is not clear how this evolution of women’s physicality will progress. Women’s bodies and what they are capable of will be the subject of much discussion in the field of gender studies.

The Conversation : Why Do We Find Muscular Women So Perplexing (2014)

Female Supremacy : A Sub-Genre of The Female Muscle Fetish

The female muscle fetish has more elements than many realize. There can sometimes be overlap with other fetishes. Normally,the association is with mixed and fantasy wrestling. There is another aspect that is part of the female muscle fetish. Female supremacy is both an ideology and  a fetish genre that has emerged on the internet and private spaces. It is the idea that women should have complete control of society and civilization. Women are presented as the superior sex.  Female supremacy originated from the radical feminism of the 1960s and 1970s. It was then adopted by dominatrixes in the BSDM  fetish culture. Female supremacy then made its way to the female muscle fetish culture. Female supremacy can now be identified as a part of the female muscle fetish. There are BSDM aspect present to it,but it cannot completely fall into that definition. The emphasis is on women not just having social and political power rather being physically powerful. The female muscle fetish presents female supremacy in either art, writing, or video. This is not a serious political or social movement for women to dominate or take over. Rather it is a fantasy that can be both sexual or entertaining. Schmoes who are more so focused on wrestling and muscle worship are not all followers of the female supremacy genre.  The total numbers remain a mystery and there still little known about the female muscle fetish fandom.

            Female supremacy stems from a hypothetical concept about what society would be like if  it were female dominated. This idea has appeared in both science fiction literature and popular entertainment mediums. Matriarchies have never existed in human history. Literature, film, and television  have explored what society would be like without patriarchy. The trope is that women have all the power,while men are second class citizens. Sometimes the genre even advocated separatism as a solution to sexism and discrimination. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland  (1915) describes a society ruled by women free from war and social ills.They have no men and reproduce asexually in this novel. The assumption is that a female dominated society would mean that men could be an underclass. Women would be the political and business leaders. The only way that would occur would be that women would have to become more competitive.

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Star Trek the Next Generation (1987-1994)  had an episode “Angel One” in which women were the dominant sex in society. The women had all the political power and sexual dimorphism was reversed with the women being physically stronger.
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The female supremacy genre loves to make materials that dabble in exaggeration.
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When some think of dominance they associate it with physical power.

Women being physically stronger would not mean a female take over. There are plenty of men who are not strong,but hold enormous influence over society. Real power comes from finance,politics, and land ownership. Women were traditionally excluded from these areas, however there were a few that were able to navigate the restrictions placed on them. The study of matriarchy has been regulated to anthropology. This is not the same thing as female supremacy. Matriarchy can have multiple definitions. It can mean a system of government ruled by women. Another description can be a system of social organization in which descent and relationship can follow through the female line. The problem with this definition is that it sounds too similar to matrilineality. The last definition describes a role of being a powerful and older  female member  in a family and group. Female supremacy is about women’s complete control of the power structure. It goes a step further claiming women are superior to men and society should be structured around belief. Considering that this idea came from more radical feminist roots, its comedic that it evolved into a fetish genre.

          During second wave feminism, the radical faction did espouse concepts of female supremacy. Extreme radical feminists preached ideas of society being run by women only. Valerie Solanas articulated that men should be eliminated and the government should overthrown in the SCUM Manifesto . Radical feminists did not distinguish between men who were misogynists and men who condemned sexism. Andrea Dworkin went further by attempting to get pornography banned on the belief it condones the sexual assault of women. This brought her into conflict with sex positive feminists who saw sex expression as part of human nature. Mary Daly believed destroying patriarchy was more important than focusing on equal rights. Her views on transgender people were prejudiced, expressing they were aberrations attempting to imitate women. Monique Wittig wanted to dismantle gender roles completely. The radical faction of feminism also had another branch which included lesbian feminism which attacked homophobia with in the movement itself. Gender roles and human sexuality the major figures had problems with. Once they were a small faction, but some of their ideas have been adopted into mainstream feminist thought. The comedic irony is that the female supremacy concept has become a part of fetish culture that they would have condemned as oppressive to women.

           Mixed wrestling  came into existence around the 1970s. Simultaneously, the first female bodybuilding competitions came into existence by the end of the decade. Mixed wrestling was a part of professional wrestling. During the 1990s and early 2000s it did gain some resurgence. Intergender matches still occur today, yet television network censorship is imposed with restrictions to the depictions of violence against women. The matches are staged and scripted so this seems pointless. The fights are fake, so it really is not violence against women. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 allowed more girls and women access to sports and fitness than ever before. What emerged was a female body more developed in strength and power.

When female bodybuilding emerged what eventually came was male fans. The hyper enthusiastic male fans are known as schmoes. They formed a groupie culture in which muscle worship and session wrestling  became common place. It it more so an open secret in the female fitness culture. Seeing as women were paid less even in female bodybuilding’s golden age women got creative with how to generate income. By providing session wrestling and muscle worship then allowed them to continue athletic pursuits. The development of the World Wide Web in 1989 allowed individuals to communicate with one another all around the globe. This was the perfect medium to enable subcultures to emerge on the internet. Female muscle fans began to produce websites, speak on forums, start blogs, and share pictures. Mixed wrestling was given wider distribution and seen by millions across the world. The fantasy wrestling genre got a significant following and with it came female supremacy.

           Female supremacy appears in some literature and art of  female muscle fandom. The noticeable theme is the projection of women’s power that is not just physical, but also mental.  Often most of the storylines revolve around women using their physical strength to dominate or control men. Centered around an alternate history or distant future women are physically stronger than all men, even the fittest ones. This goes far beyond mere role reversal in some art and writings. The female characters could be presented as antagonists or oppressive in nature. Sometimes art and stories can get too violent for some fans. Others may just be to embrace the fetish. These do not have long or intricate plots compared to other female muscle fandom art or writing. Not all female muscle related materials are female supremacy. It is just a smaller section of the female muscle fandom.

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The materials are mostly just for the sake of an erotic thrill. There are also cases in which they are more so meant to be comedic. Entertainment could be a goal as well, rather than just sexual arousal. The idea of a female dominated global society may be a turn on to some men. Although they may not want this in reality, a temporary fantasy is just fine in written or artistic renditions. The  expansion of the internet allowed this to be more accessible.

      The female supremacy genre is a small section of the female muscle fetish. It could possibly expand into new genres of the wider female muscle fandom. The existence of female supremacy tells us much about the complexities of gender and the roles assigned to them by a culture. Men are expected to have all the power and women should be subordinates. This obviously can no longer be the case in a freedom loving society in which a person has a choice in aspects of their life. Gender roles have dramatically change due to historical and social circumstances. Women all over the world are fight for equal rights and have been successful to an extent. While there still is more to be done, its clear that women have attain more social and political power than in past centuries. Female supremacy may be a goal of some radical feminist, but really it has become an aspect of fetish culture. A matriarchy or female supremacist  type of society could emerge under extreme conditions. War or a general collapse of civilization could in the aftermath be more favorable to women if they seek to monopolize power. It would not last because there is one aspect that keeps women from doing this. There is an expectation that men either do everything for them or be providers. If  total gender equality were to be realized most women would not favor it. Alimony, the draft, and divorce demonstrate how women even under sex bias still have an advantage.  Keeping female supremacy just fantasy is fine for most fans. Many would rather see a socety in which  the sexes are equal.

 

Female Supremacy : A Sub-Genre of The Female Muscle Fetish