Do Female Athletes Have To Train Harder To Reach a Particular Physical Fitness Level ?

It is common knowledge that the body of the female athlete differs biologically and physiologically from male athletes. This has implications on training and athletic performance. Women have certain obstacles they have to overcome to achieve a particular physical fitness level depending on which sport they play. Due to differences in body composition, cardiovascular fitness, endocrinology, and bone density women have to work harder in terms of training. The assumption is sports are too rigorous for the female body to withstand. This is not true scientifically. While performance levels are not as high as a male athlete on the same regimen, relative to their starting point women can achieve immense physical fitness gains. The common misconception is that women train more and show little from it. At the cellular level, there is no difference between male and female muscle and bone tissue. Histology has proven this, but myths about the physical limitations of women’s bodies still remain. The only difference is women will have to train harder to reach their peak physical fitness level.

       The reason it becomes harder for women to reach a physical fitness target for athletic performance is related to puberty. Prior to puberty body composition and skeletal structure is not that different for women. Estrogen and progesterone are produced at higher levels resulting in more body fat rather than muscle mass. Girls see their growth spurt at ages 10 to 11. Girls by age 18 have reached their full height, while boys finish growing by age 20. Women do not gain the strength spurt that comes from androgens in males. Total muscle mass and bone density are lower, which means this has implications for training. When the pelvis widens this also effects women’s running speed. As girls mature into women, they may find they cannot run as fast before. However, once the body has done maturing it is possible to reach higher running speeds. Female athletes have to beware of the triad, which can effect health if one over trains. Although it seems puberty increases men’s physical fitness peak, there are advantages to higher body fat levels. Fat can be useful in long distance swimming allowing for more bouncy . When the this stage of the human life cycle is over, the female body will be rounder and smaller.

       Muscular strength is essential to athletic performance. A novice female athlete will have to incorporate weight training into her regimen to gain strength. Women have lower levels of natural strength to begin with, which means it will take longer to reach a particular goal. One would assume that women do not respond to training stimuli, but that is far from the truth. Seeing as the muscular system is the same for women and men, muscle fibers will respond to exercise resulting in muscular hypertrophy. The difference is in extent and initial starting point. Women start off with less muscular strength, but relative to their size they can make significant progress. Men’s absolute strength is higher due to function of testosterone in the body and generally larger size. Women in particular will find it more difficult to build upper body strength rather than lower body strength. The reason is due to narrow shoulders, which means less area to house muscle on the upper body. Sports that require upper body strength, women have to train this area the hardest. Biceps, triceps, and the pectoralis major are areas the female athlete will find the most difficult to develop. Women have a harder time building muscle due to endocrinology. To achieve a certain level heavy lifting is required for a long period of time  and  supplements. Women with mesomorphic body types are at an advantage in building muscle. Women of endomorphic and ectomorphic body types will struggle. This does not mean they cannot increase their physical fitness level. Depending on the sport there are certain types of muscle fibers that are more helpful. Type II muscle fibers are great for sports that require explosive power. Weightlifting and rugby would be great examples. Sports like marathon running type I muscle fibers are more helpful in maintaining the necessary endurance.

There is not a perfect system of training, but there are different methods that can be used. Isotonic training requires both free weights or machines. Doing concentric and eccentric muscle contractions happen during this type of training. Isokentic training involves overloading muscle at various points during a range of motion. The resistance can change on the force exerted. During the process the speed of contraction is controlled. This can either be done at slow or rapid pace. Women’s muscles due respond to training. Overload can cause micro trauma in the muscle and make it rebuild stronger. Metabolism differs for women,but more muscle will burn fat. However, even the most muscular woman still retains a higher body fat percentage. Women can build muscle, it just will be more of a challenge. The training sessions have to be consistent.

When the muscles are not trained they atrophy. This means women who do training irregularly would lose more of their gains strength due to physiological differences. At minimum, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends two sessions a week including 12 repetitions for each exercise. The number of repetitions can increase for a particular exercise, but it is suggested not to work the same muscle group two days in a row. If there is no struggle in lifting, then the muscle is not being challenged. The muscle must be gradually worked up to higher load volumes to increase strength. Women’s muscular potential and training effort  thus depends on several factors. Genetic endowment,  training methods, substances used ( supplements or performance enhancing drugs), and total time in training sessions. Women’s muscles can become stronger, but amount and  body composition are a factor in total strength.

          Cardiovascular fitness is also another challenge in regards to training. Women have smaller hearts and lungs, which means they would have to work harder for total aerobic output. Oxygen is essential to aerobic energy. Muscle cells need oxygen for energy. The heart is a beating muscle and its strength contributes to the delivery oxygen to the muscle tissues. Cardiac output is the product of both heart rate and stroke volume. Stroke volume shows the amount of blood pumped per beat. Oxygen transport can be modified through aerobic conditioning. A training regimen must focus on frequency, duration, intensity, and mode of exercise.

 

There is a difference is VO2max in regards to women. The female athlete must take into consideration certain factors. Body composition effects the VO2max  due to the fact body fat is not active metabolically. This causes more energy to be spent in the total body reserve. Hemoglobin levels are 10% lower in women runners. This protein is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs directly to muscle tissue. This means training frequency and intensity is essential to improving aerobic performance. Women through proper training stimulus could at least a 25% increase in VO2max. Women athletes may have to train at least six times a week to see a difference in aerobic levels. Training more than recommended will not produce better results. This comes down to the level of intensity during training sessions. Intensity describes how hard an athlete exercises. Exercise duration should range from 15 to 60 minutes. It appears in races women may be better at pacing themselves in the longer term. This could men men and women fatigue differently. A study released in 2015 discovered something about women’s fatigue during marathon races. When examining marathon paces women slowed down 11.5 % compared to men’s 15.6 %. The men tended to take rapid pace, while women adjusted to a slower pace causing slower fatigue. The problem is most research on athletic performance has been done on men and there are still discoveries to be made to see how to best train the female athlete.

         Generally athletic training requires the enhancement of  the muscular, cardiovascular, the skeletal system,  and nervous system. Movement requires the nerve cells to produce impulses for locomotion. The body using all these organ systems is out putting energy. Power out put is critical when performing a physically demanding task. This strength and cardiovascular reserve women have to use more of. The difference in javelin throwing is 30% according to Olympic records. Yet the 100 meter sprint is only a 10% difference. This demonstrates in which areas women have to use more of their physical power reserve. The upper body including the shoulders and neck have less muscle. So women would have to work harder to provide the necessary force in that area of the body.

Running would require less of the force output, because this area is only effected by the shape of the pelvis. This also reduces running speed besides differences in VO2max. What this means is that women would have to train their upper body more for sports such as tennis, golf, cricket, boxing, or weightlifting. Maximum physical force is needed to complete the athletic task. Having a reserve of energy, prevents exhaustion and fatigue. Women would have to use more of their physical potential to complete an athletic task. A woman running a 100 metres in 11 seconds would have to use 100 percent of her potential. To hit a gold ball a female golfer would have to use 90% of her maximum force compared to 60% of a male golfer. Given the same task in terms of athletic objective, women must utilize more force.

This means women have to use more energy to produce close results of a male athlete. The gap in physical fitness levels narrows in athletic populations, however sports performance of women does not match exactly that of men. There can be overlap, but is very small given the total aggregate. The physiological, biological, and anatomical differences explain why the athletic performance gap may not be closed. Yet, it could be in the future narrowed if there are not social or cultural barriers preventing women from gaining access to training facilities. Further study is needed to fully explore how to increase women’s athletic performance.

         Training stimuli has a different effect on the male and female body. The response differs sue to the function of the endocrine system. Men produce more testosterone from the testes and the leydig cells present in that organ of the reproductive system. A female athlete can acquire muscle and strength, but will still maintain a higher body fat percentage. One should not assume that men’s muscles are better, its just more present relative to body composition.

This difference also explains the difference in sports injuries. Women athletes have higher injury rates in the knees and shoulder areas. Less muscle and skeletal mass in the upper body makes it more vulnerable. Anterior cruciate ligament tears are common in female athletes. Looser joints may enhance flexibility, but make them susceptible to tears. The more demanding the athletic competition and higher physical demand the higher likelihood of injury for women. That is why weight training and general strength conditioning should be part of any female athlete’s training program. It is essential that bone and muscle mass be built to help with sustaining various forces and impacts from athletic competition. Tendons and ligaments are also strengthened through a weight training regime. Besides these sex specific considerations, female athletes have the same challenges as their male counter parts such as exercise associated hyponatremia, career ending injuries, and keeping motivated under stress.

        Women athletes have to train harder to reach peak physical fitness. Sexual dimorphism effects the physiological function of the body of a woman, which has implications of athletic potential. This does not mean the female body is biologically inferior, but different. As seen by the impressive women who have competed in various sports both internationally and in their native nation-states their bodies are far from frail. While some myths still persist, science has proven them incorrect. For many years it was thought that women were too physically weak to handle the demands of athletic competition. Now it is known that women can benefit from exercise and sports competition. Relative to women’s initial physical fitness starting point, they have more to gain. Physical activity benefits women in terms of bone and circulatory system health. Women may have to work harder, but the rewards are still just a plentiful. When the peak physical fitness level is reached an athlete has to focus on developing skill. When beginning competition certain factors must be taken into consideration. Training regimens should not only be designed in regards to sex specific differences, but tailored to an individual’s unique physiology.

 

References

Gurthie, Sharon. Women and Sport: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Long Beach,

CA : Human Kinetics, 1994 .

Netto, Kevin. “Should Women Athletes Earn the Same as Men? The Science Says They Work as Hard.” The Conversation, The Conversation , 9 Aug. 2017, theconversation.com/should-women-athletes-earn-the-same-as-men-the-science-says-they-work-as-hard-57210.

Netto , Kevin. “Female Athletes Work Harder than Men, and Science Can Prove It.” SBS.com, The Conversation , 1 Aug. 2016, http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/zela/article/2016/08/01/female-athletes-work-harder-men-and-science-can-prove-it.

Do Female Athletes Have To Train Harder To Reach a Particular Physical Fitness Level ?

Can Women Meet the Physical Demands of the Navy SEALs?

When the ban on women in combat was lifted, many were asking if this was to include elite special forces. Eventually, the ban was lifted on the Navy SEALs. This fighting force of the United States military is known for its tough demeanor and aggressiveness. The training is considered extremely difficult both physically and mentally. When it comes to women in physically demanding occupations, there are physiological and biological considerations. The standards cannot be lowered, for this would cause reduced combat effectiveness.Navy SEALS must be proficient in scuba diving, parachuting, close quarters combat, and demolition. The question remains does a woman have the  strength and endurance to meet the physical demands of the Navy SEALs?To answer this question one must look at the problem from the context of the standards and peak physical fitness. That approach will reveal if this can be possible.

        Before examining the physical demands, one should understand exactly what the Navy SEALS are. The US Navy Sea Land and Air teams are a special operations force created in 1962.  The special operations force was created under the John F. Kennedy administration. Its intent was to combat guerrilla warfare being used in Vietnam. Although US troops were not there yet, there were military advisers in South Vietnam. The Navy SEALS saw combat in 1966 in Vietnam mostly focusing on riverine operations. The Navy SEALS were then attached to other American special forces under US Special Operations Command in 1987. The changing nature of warfare has made Navy SEAL roles indistinguishable from other special forces. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have contributed to this shift. The land and air element was more prevalent in these conflicts, rather than water based operations. There were also cases in which the conventional US army was called in to support the Navy SEALS during the 2003 Iraq invasion. The tasks assigned to Navy SEALS involve finding downed pilots, reconnaissance, sabotage, hostage extraction, counter-terrorism operations and counter-drug operations. The Navy SEALS have more rigorous responsibilities compared to other branches.

             The Navy SEALs physical fitness test contains certain measures that a candidate must meet to get selected for combat. There are minimum standards, but it is recommended an applicant strive for the highest scores. This involves a 500 yard swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 1.5 mile run. All recruits go through basic training and from there select a military occupational specialty (MOS).

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500 yard swim – minimum score :12:30 minutes  maximum score : 8 minutes
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Pull-ups- minimum score :10 maximum score: 15-20
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Push ups- minimum score :50 maximum score: 80-100
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Sit-ups- minimum score : 50 maximum score : 80-100
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1.5 mile run – minimum score: 10:30 minutes maximum score : 9-10 minutes

These are examples of the physical screening tests. The target should to get the highest scores to increase the likelihood of successful completion. Competitive scores give an applicant a better  chance also of being noticed for career advancement. There is also an EOD physical and  a fleet diver physical. Some of the exercises are timed. Sit-ups must be done in two minutes ( with two minute rests in between)  in the EOD physical. Looking at these standards, there may be some areas women would have challenges with. If there is a woman applicant who wants to join there are considerations that must be taken into account. Women should seek to go above the minimum standards.

      There are anatomical differences that could make this more difficult for women. The difference in muscular strength and specifically for the upper body could pose problems. Women have less upper body strength compared   to there male counterparts. The difference in strength is in part due to men’s higher testosterone levels allowing for more pronounced mass in the arms and chest. Estimates show that women have 50% less upper body strength in total. It should be noted that with training women still can gain strength. There is also a genetic factor with some women having a mesomorphic body type, which can be an advantage. However, if a woman and a man are given the same training regimen it is likely the man will be stronger. Women still experience muscular hypertrophy, but not to the same extent as a man. Muscle is not the only contributor to physical strength, it is the skeleton and tendons. Women have lower bone density. Their shoulders are more narrow which means a smaller area to house muscle mass on the upper body. This means even upper body development is hard for female athletes.

  The cells of men and women’s muscles do not differ. There is a difference in the amount of type II fast twitch muscle fibers. These are essential for explosive physical force and recruitment. Men have more of these muscle fibers, while women contain more of the endurance based type I muscle fibers.The approach here should be to know the standards before hand and have a high physical fitness level before entry. The only way for women to be successful is to do weight training. This can build bone and muscular strength. Gains however depend on several factors. These factors include age, sex, diet, body type, and fitness program utilized. Women can through weight training can gain at least 40% muscular strength according to the American Council on Exercise. If women have lower upper body strength, they should focus on exercises that increase the muscles of that area. Bicep curls, dumbbell kickbacks,and overhead  triceps extensions are effective at increasing upper body strength. There can be an alternation between weights and machines, because it has not been fully determined which is the most effective. Deltoid  strength is critical to shoulder enforcement. Peck deck machines and help with targeting the muscles of the chest.

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An official chart of standards

 The skeleton strength is also essential. Lower bone mass means women would be more susceptible to muscolskeletal injuries. This has been the case with women in other branches in the military. Injury rates are higher for women compared to men. Soldiers of all sexes are suffering higher injury rates due to heavier armor. Stress fractures can happen while marching under load.Not only does overloaded armor cause health problems, but it decreases mobility. Lower bone mass in women explains why they are more vulnerable to diseases such as osteoporosis. Bone mass can be built and strengthened through weight training. The difference in the male and female skeleton also effects other areas of physical fitness. The shape of the pelvis and angle of the legs mean women’s running speed will be effected. This also makes the possibility of anterior cruciate  ligament tears higher. ACL tears are prevalent in high performing female athletes. Training safely and understanding the musculoskeletal differences can prevent such injuries.

   Women’s skeletons have an increased  Q angle  along with greater spinal curvature. The frontal and temporal bones are smaller in size. Women also have shorter long bones which include the arms and legs as well as the clavicle. The strength factor includes the skeleton, muscular system,tendons, and ligaments. While it is clear that the physical fitness level of these organ systems can be increased, strengthening tendons could be more difficult.

      Men and women may differ in response to loading on tendons. Women can sustain higher connective tissue injuries. This could have roots in estradiol, which does hinder collagen formation. Oestrogen receptor activity is regulated by estradiol. Exercise for a period time should induced tendons to strengthen. Women when they exercise may not see increased hypertrophy in terms of tendon growth. Connective tissue formation could be lower in women on average. Oestrogen could be an inhibitor to collagen synthesis in tendons during exercise. This would mean that total mechanical strength would be lower. This could mean that tendon strength is also related to hormones. Knowing this sex specific difference a solution can be formulated.

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The differences in tendon hypertrophy :The adaptability of tendon to loading differs in men and women

 There are still exercises that are effective and if done correctly can strengthen tendons. Exercise must be done to increase circulation of blood. This also requires some stretching for the health of the tendon. Aerobic exercise should also be incorporated to allow for more circulation of blood. The tendons are not as vascular as the muscles, which can lead to injury during intense exercise regimens. Working all muscle groups ensures tendons will be safe. A small warm-up before stretching will help the muscles and tendons. This also contributes to flexibility . Ten minutes of running in place or using a treadmill will help with preparing for stretching. After work out regimens, there should be time for recovery. Tendons can still grow in women if they follow a consistent regimen.

         Aerobic capacity also should be taken into consideration. Women have smaller hearts and lungs compared to their male counterparts. This means their total running speed would be slower. Besides that physiological consideration, there is an anatomical one. The pelvis is much wider, which reduces speed. This essential if one needs to be in a certain area at a particular time. There could arise a situation that battlefield victory is not in reach and retreat is the only option. When considering hemoglobin concentration, it is critical the transport of oxygen to tissues. Hemoglobin is a protein that resides in red blood cells responsible for getting oxygen to the lungs, then the muscles. Women have 10% lower hemoglobin levels This results in about 10% less lower oxygen transport. The heart’s size also plays a role in cardiovascular fitness. The ratio of heart volume to body mass ratio  in women is 15 % lower. This means maximum cardiac out put and maximal stroke volume are lower in comparison to men. The maximal stroke volume describes the largest volume of blood pumped per beat, while cardiac output reveals the total amount of blood pumped from the heart per minute.

 That means a woman who is a Navy SEAL would have to push beyond their regular physical capacity. The aerobic fitness element may be the more challenging than building muscular strength. Women can experience muscular hypertrophy, but cardiovascular fitness training with not later the size of the heart or hemoglobin levels of women. This means women would have to do overload to the cardiovascular system to see results improve. Jogging, swimming, and cycling are activities that can be done in relation to circuit training.

        Considering this group of elite soldiers involves the Navy, swimming abilities should be examined. It is obvious that women have the ability to swim. Women do seem to perform well in open water swimming. Marathon swims show that women are capable of skilled performance. However, men still are faster in terms of times. Yet, if you look at the women’s records they could easily meet the demands of the swimming standards of the Navy SEALs. Women could have an advantage in distance swimming due to higher fat levels. This may enhance buoyancy and drag in the water. Fat could also insulate a woman’s body better during ultra-long distance swims. Women during swims may be more efficient at the crawl stroke. Their pull was deeper an narrower in comparison with their male counterparts. Arm power was beneficial to males, but longer arm length was not as helpful.

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Looking at these averages women are still behind. The margins are not so astronomically large as one would assume given the biological differences.

Women have shown they can be capable swimmers. Alison Streeter had swam the English Channel 43 times in 2005. Clearly, being female does not limit physical capability. The challenge is it will be harder to reach a higher peak physical fitness level, given certain differences in physiology. There are women swimmers who would be over qualified for certain naval positions.

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These pieces of data only demonstrate averages. Individuals can vary in terms of physical fitness level across the spectrum. Taking into account muscular strength, aerobic capacity, and swimming ability are essential in relation to standards. The criteria should not be lowered. There are women who can meet the physical demands. Lower standards means the quality of the fighting force would be reduced. This would create hostility towards women thinking that the job was just given to them. The women who do make it through will still face physically demanding challenges.

         When a person is in a physically demanding position, overtime there will be physical strain. This comes in the the form of repetitive motion injuries and stress fractures. One argument of keeping women out of combat has been the potential medical costs. Men have injuries being combat soldiers and the effects on women could be higher in special operations. Muscle and bone mass can protect from such problems. This means women who are built are going to have an easier time handling physical demands. The question emerges is what is the attrition rate for a female combat soldier? The attrition rate describes a point in which a soldier can no longer endure the physically demanding tasks. There has not been a specific study in regards to women so the answer is unknown. Although people make conclusions without data as support.

Jessie Jane Duff made a conclusion on CNN in 2015. She appeared on Brooke Baldwin’s program discussing the decision to lift the ban on women being Navy SEALs. Duff is a retired Marine gunnery sergeant and senior fellow for the London Center of Policy Research. While she does state facts about physiological differences, its clear what her position is. She uses the fact that not a single woman has passed the infantry officer course and asks a somewhat rhetorical question of “are we setting them up for failure?” Just because a woman has not passed the infantry officer course yet, does not mean it will not happen in the future. If the standards are lucid and women know how to train their bodies for it, this  should not be an issue. Baldwin’s rebuttal is that not all women are the same. Some will just be naturally stronger than others. Watching the news segment longer one can see that it may not be women’s fault. US soldiers are being overloaded with gear so much that it is causing an increase in musculoskeletal injuries. This does not only harm health, but reduces mobility on the battlefield. So far, there has been improvements to women’s armor and the process is still on going. Her closing statement was “it is not about equality its about biology.” Women have been thrown into combat seeing as there is no longer frontlines  in the wars America currently fights.

Women of a high physical fitness level would have slower attrition rates. Women less prepared for physical demands would have more health issues. 

The Army Ranger school cadets demonstrated there do exist women who can meet certain standards. The unusual aspect of this news segment was that Duff only sighted cases in  the marines and regular army. These branches are not the same as the Navy SEALs. The problem is these are based off of averages. The point is not to get average candidates, but women who are qualified for these positions. This means women who can get competitive scores on the physical fitness examination. The fact of the matter banning women from combat jobs has limited justification if there are women who meet such standards. Jessie Duff makes it seem as if every man is qualified for combat positions. What sense would it make to ban a qualified woman in favor of a less qualified man? The only logical reason is sex discrimination and dated attitudes in regards to gender. The right-wing has a poor record on women’s rights and is known to divide the population against one another on the basis of class and race to win elections. Women in combat will soon become a long standing wedge issue like abortion, gun control, and the tax code. Intense opposition mobilizes the Republican base, even though the party tries to present itself as pro-military. Not afraid of being hypocritical, it shows such low character directing hatred at women who volunteer to do such work. If integration is to work women will have to have a sizable fitness level before entry.

This should be done even before basic training to prevent possible injuries. One should be mindful that men who attempt Navy SEALs training have a high drop out rate. There is talk of “hells week” in which the training becomes the most intense. This is vary dangerous at times if training is not done properly. James Derreck Lovelace died during training and this has been now ruled a homicide reported by CNN. There is not only physical stress; there is also mental strain as well. There is little emphasis on mental health in the military. This must be made a priority with suicide rates and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder increasing. This is why the Department of Veterans Affairs has to be reformed to fix long doctor wait times and a general decline in healthcare for US soldiers. Attrition rates can be reduced by more ergonomic armor, mental health services, and keeping a high physical fitness level.

      The Navy SEALs are an elite fighting force. Many men have tried and the drop out rate is high. Women have the opportunity to become Navy SEALs, but none have attempted the program thus so far. There are women who can meet these demands. The numbers would be small. An Olympic woman athlete is not the average woman. They would seem to have a better chance of passing the physical fitness requirements. This means women would still be a minority in special operations units. A female trainee would have to face unpleasant realities of media publicity, hostility from her male peers, and expectations of failure. There seems to be more negativity generating in the US military against women as new positions open to them. The first harbingers will certainly face challenging obstacles both in environment and instruction. Women becoming Navy SEALs seems to be more difficult. It will take longer for women to have a presence in the  Navy SEALs. This does not seem like an impossibility that a woman can successful join one day. Currently it seems women are gaining more access to combat jobs in the army, air force, and  general navy. The reality is women are now part of combat and it is time to efficiently integrate them into combat occupations. For the women who successfully become Navy SEALs, they are an elite and capable group of soldiers.

References

Spencer, Sharon. Weapon a Visual History of Arms and Armor. New York: Covent Garden

     Books, 2006.

Guthrie, Sharon and Costa Margaret. Women and Sport Interdisciplinary Perspectives .

        Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1994.

Mcdonagh, Eileen and Pappano Laura.  Playing With the Boys Why Separate Is Not 

      Equal in Sports. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Steele, Jeanette. “Navy SEALs: Can Women Cut It?” Sandiegouniontribune.com. San Diego Union Tribune, 22 June 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/military/sdut-navy-seals-women-physical-standards-2013jun22-htmlstory.html&gt;.

Frumentarius. “10 Realities the First Female Navy SEAL Trainee Will Face.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <http://www.businessinsider.com/10-realities-the-first-female-navy-seal-trainee-will-face-2016-2&gt;.

Can Women Meet the Physical Demands of the Navy SEALs?

Will Women Out Run Men in the Future?

It was once predicted that women in track and field would reach or surpass men’s performance levels. These predictions were made in the early 1980s. The examination of Olympic records demonstrates a different outcome. Women’s Olympic records were stabilizing by 1983. After more drug testing it appeared women were reducing in speed. The use of performance enhancing drugs can not be the sole explanation for the increase in performance. Women at this time were still relative newcomers to international professional sport. Women were again gaining higher times by the 21st century, which sparked interest in possibilities of performance in female runners. While it is true women and increase their speed and strength, does this mean they will out sprint men in the future ? Some exercise physiologists have made predictions based on current data. There are claims that women will outrun men by 2156. Predictions can be wrong and many times unscientific. Stating it would never happen also causes some errors. To discover the answer to this question, it must be approached through methods of biology and physiology.

       There is a point in which athletic performance between men and women is equivalent. Boys and girls are at the same level of aerobic and strength capacity. The skeletons and bone structure has not been changed due to the effects of puberty. Puberty in terms of endocrinological changes works in the advantage of males. Men will gain a significant strength spurt, denser bones, larger lungs, and bigger hearts. The changes in women result in more body fat and the development of a wider pelvis. This means girls on a high school track team would see themselves getting slower. Girls who are on high school track and field teams normally seem to peak athletically as  freshmen and sophomores. This differs for various individuals. Average female runners may struggle more with the hormonal changes, than the more genetically advantaged. It has been noted that girls who have low body fat levels and exercise strenuously  may have delayed puberty. With gymnasts and sprinters this could result in a delayed growth spurt between the ages of 17 and 18. Training has to be adjusted to account for these changes. Weight training that concentrates on the hip areas can help prevent possible injuries. Weight management will have to be incorporated to account for the change in metabolism. Estrogen allows for more fat storage and extra weight does not contribute to increased acceleration.

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Despite these changes there are girls who attain higher speeds in adulthood and even go on to international competition. Although endocrinology explains the change in performance, it should not be forgotten that girls still face obstacles in sport. Title IX may not be enforced in certain school districts as it should. This would mean that girls would not have access to training facilities or even a team of their own. Other countries may keep women out of sport completely. Biology is not the sole factor, but environment. Women were only allowed to run in Olympic event starting in 1928. Men entry in running events in the modern Olympics began in 1900. During that time many argued women simply did not have the strength and stamina to run vigorously. This has since been disproved by exercise physiology. Still the influence of hormones on athletic performance cannot be underestimated.

       The legs of the human body allow for running to be possible. Men and women’s legs differ little  structure and anatomy. They contain the same bones and muscles. While men have more upper body strength, women are closer to men in the lower body. This does not mean women by default have stronger legs than men, rather it is easier for them to build strength in this region of the body. This does not mean women cannot build powerful legs through training. Type II muscle fibers would be best for sprinters who require short bursts of power. Type I muscle fibers are best suited for long distance runners. Men have larger muscle fibers, which means this would useful to the leg muscles. A runner uses a multitude of muscles when running.

 When moving the leg in the forward motion the quadriceps are utilized. This muscle is located at the front of the thigh and is responsible for straitening the knee, while bending the hips. The quadriceps also have the ability to absorb shock from impact as one lands on the ground. The hamstrings will straighten the hips and function to lift the knee behind you. Simultaneously, the soleus and gastrocnemius will flex and extend for each foot during launch and landings. The soleus and gastrocnemius contribute to absorbing shock, but also provide the stride in the rum. The gluteus maximus plays a role in running allowing for the stabilizing the trunk of the body. The hip  flexors and extendors collaborate with the quadriceps and hamstrings to keep the legs in motion.  Runners focus on building leg strength mainly to prevent injuries. When one muscle group is weak than the other this could to one over compensating and poor alignment. This could also result in repetitive motion injuries occurring in the knees, hips, and feet.

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plyometrics can be employed to improve performance. These exercises involve using jumping and bounding. These merely use hopping motions, while alternating legs to exercise deeper muscles of the legs. A muscle when exercised will increase in size. Muscular hypertrophy can occur in women through training, but men see a higher level of gains in total muscle mass. The reason is that higher testosterone levels allow for more protein synthesis. This results in a difference in absolute muscular strength between men and women. This even effects the legs.

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The muscles of the legs include the hamstrings, quadriceps, soleus, gluteus maximus, and gastrocnemius  which are essential for running.

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It is not just muscles that are responsible for strength, but the bones, ligaments, and tendons. The skeletal structure is critical when looking at running speeds. Technically, women can have larger leg muscles,but there are other reasons they may not attain the same speed levels.

        Women have lower bone mass compared to men. One factor that causes that explains women’s slower speeds is the structure of the pelvis. The female pelvis is different from that of men. It is wider for the purpose of childbirth. This also creates a level of risks in running . Women are more likely to have knee ligament injuries, due to a wider pelvis which forms a larger angle between the thigh and the shin bones. This means the knee will experience more pressure. The pelvis consists of the hip bones, sacrum as well as coccyx. It connects the lower limbs to the axial skeleton. The symphsis pubis, which is a disc structure of cartilage separates the left and right pubic bones. The main differences between the female pelvis is that it is lighter, more shallow, and the sacrum is much  shorter. Both ilium are less sloped, which means the anterior superior iliac spines are wider apart. The coccyx is more flexible in the female skeleton. The actual hip sockets are smaller and are directed more so to the front.

These differences do not seem to be advantages in terms of increasing running speed. If women’s pelvis’ were even wider they would not be able to walk. Men’s narrower pelvis contributes to faster speeds. Besides the actual pelvis, the bones of the legs are pivotal. The femur, tibia, and fibula are support structures for the muscles of the legs. The extra angling can make women more vulnerable to anterior cruciate ligament tears. Women just like men can also suffer from overuse of tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges. Women ‘s looser joints allow for more flexibility, but in running it could pose problems. Muscles and bones are pivotal to running. There is also the importance of aerobic capacity and its relation to the respiratory system.

      Aerobic capacity differs between men and women. The VO2max is the amount of oxygen that is used during exercise. Women have smaller hearts and lungs which means their total aerobic out put would be lower compared to a man of a larger size. The muscles need oxygen to have it form adinosine triphosphate. The larger the heart means more blood pumping through the body, while larger lungs can oxygenate tissues. Realizing these differences in both the heart and respiratory system means women would require a specific training program. Women’s ventricular hypertrophy may not increase as much as a man’s given duration and intensity. Women do have an advantage in terms of pacing. Men may be more susceptible to muscle glycogen depletion, which women’s fat reserves can contribute to endurance exercise. One would assume this means women, may not be able to run any faster. The conclusion would be to design training tailored to these specific physiological and anatomical differences.

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The human heart can pump up to 80ml of blood with each beat.
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The respiratory system consists of both upper and lower tracts. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that contracts and flattens. The reduction of pressure on the thoracic cavity allows the lungs to expand downward. This will force air out and the lungs go back to regular position.

The heart anatomically and physiologically is the same in men and women. The heart’s structure is that of a muscular pump which is divided by the septum. It is further divided by two pivotal chambers. The upper atrium is the first chamber followed by a lower ventricle in which the blood will be pumped. The Vo2max  capacity is reliant on several factors. The heart’s total capacity to pump blood is essential. The lungs ability to oxygenate blood transported active muscles and other tissues also contributes a role in aerobic capacity. Then hemoglobin levels and the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood effect total aerobic output. Smaller lungs and hearts of women means that oxygen will be slower getting to tissues of the body. An athlete can breath up to sixty times or more per minute. The lungs are cone structured containing a narrow apex and base. There are only two, but the right has three lobes. The left lung has to make room for the heart and only has two lobes in total. The trachea acts as an airway, while the bronchi (left and right), their subdivisions,  and other lung tissues work on gaseous exchange. Besides the muscular system playing a role the cardiovascular and respiratory system are a major part of running performance.

       The anatomical and physiological traits are averages. It is important to this question to examine data of female runners. The samples are limited due to certain factors. The first problem is that women’s participation in sports are lower, which means their could still be women in the global population who would not be counted in data. Then there is the question of performance enhancing drug use. Men account for more of the users of performance enhancing drugs and women have used the same substances as well. The theory holds that women benefited more from performance enhancing drugs. Anabolic androgenic steroids some sports scientists say was the reason certain records were being set in the 1970s and 1980s. That cannot not be the only explanation for these records. It could have been a combination of training and use of performance enhancing drugs. However, if anabolic steroids were so effective women should have closed the difference in performance. The fact is that drugs would not turn an athlete superhuman. Steroids only alter the endocrine system, but will not change the individual at the genetic level.

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Women’s and men’s records as recorded in the 1980s.
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The change in records through the decades.

Testosterone is helpful in muscular hypertrophy, but not the only factor. A woman with a naturally mesomorphic body can develop muscle. A woman on steroids would not have the equivalent strength levels of a male athlete. The reason being is that the testes produce more free testosterone as compared to the estrogen produced in a woman’s body. This explains why when boys grow into men their natural strength becomes higher. The graph below shows some records of boys and girls, then men and women. The dramatic change happens around ages 14 and 15. The teenage boys seem to have higher records to adult women. This is a small sample gathered from women and men from childhood to puberty .Women do not gain a strength spurt, rather estrogen produces more fat. Whiles testosterone is a significant component it is not the only one. There was a slump in records after new testing procedures emerged, but women’s records began to rise a little once more.

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What can be extrapolated from this is that drug use was not the sole reason. The idea that drugs can produce victories without proper and precise training regimens is false. There are periods in which new talents emerge. Then it must be considered that there are attributes unique to an individual’s biology. An athlete would have a genetic advantage, which means other athletes attempting to break their records would find it insuperable.

       There are athletes due to their biology and genetics have an edge in competition. There are women through their performances have demonstrated this. Paula Radcliff finished the London marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 25 seconds in 2003 (running a 26 mile). This was an impressive leap forward. It also shows who records are altered by sports federations. The International Associations of  Athletics Federations declared in 2012 that they eliminated her time from the annuls of marathon records, because she was running with male pacemakers. That means women who run in mixed groups cannot have their times archived. This again is an example of how you cannot get precise data. There could be women like Radcliff running in mixed groups, but are not documented for records.Even though sexist prejudice does not recognize the record, it still is a documented time.  Florence Griffith Joyner was another remarkable talent. If we were to compare her fastest time (10.49 S) to Usain Bolt’s (9.58s). Joyner would still be slower yet the difference is only by 0.91s. That means she would still be close to him if this were a tack meet. Despite the anatomical and physiological differences Joyner was able to obtain a high level of physical fitness.

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Elaine Thompson during the Rio 2016 achieved a time 10.71s. Compared to Joyner’s record it is a difference 0.22s. Assuming that Elaine Thompson can improve her training, it would simple to reach or beat Joyner’s record. Usain Bolt’s record would be more difficult for her to reach. These are not your average track athletes, they a professional Olympic competitors. These women are not average; they are exceptional. What they achieved may not be in reach of every women who decides to compete.

This not only applies to women, but men as well. Every man would not be able to reach Bolt’s level of performance. Joyner, Thompson, and Radcliffe  are a few examples of how genes and training can develop a high performing athlete. Being female is not a limitation in terms of developing physical prowess.  There has to be consideration of biology and the physiological attributes of sex  when training. While it is clear these women can run faster than an average man, they still have yet to achieve speeds of the fastest men. One can assume that women will never do. Yet, just like making predictions it is fast conclusion. Human evolution has show that the body has changed over millions of years. The most dramatic is that humanity became bipedal. developed a more complex brain, and shorter intestines. Assuming that humanity could still be evolving physically, the question becomes more expansive.

       Oxford University produced a study in 2004 stated that in 2156 women will outrun men. This was a study led by a professor of the name of Dr.Tatem. Readers should again question material that they receive. Similar predictions were made in 1992 saying women would be out running men by 2000. The error they made was that performance would follow almost a linear model. The data shows more of a sinusoidal fluctuation. The Oxford study states that women sprinters will reach times 8.079s in the 100m. The authors then claim that 2064 will be the year in which women sprinters shall achieve higher performance levels. Their assessment was that women would not overtake men, but reduce the gap in performance. That seems more realistic, rather than the 2156 prediction of women dominating sprint performances. There is still much to be explored about sports performance. Women are often ignored in exercise physiology studies, because most are designed for men. There are efforts to change this now that women are entering this field. The mathematics of this study may not be as precise, but Elaine Thompson’s 10.71 second record makes it seem as if it is achievable. It would almost be impossible for a human being to reach a time of 4.5 seconds. There is a point in which the body reaches physiological peak. This means that there can no longer be improvements to strength, speed, or endurance because maximum levels have been reached.

         This question has several possible answers. The first could be that women will narrow the gap  and some will even overlap with men. The more conventional answer is that women will not out run men in the future and they have achieved all they can. The third answer may be that women will surpass men either by new training techniques, changes in human evolution, or changes in genetics. The third answer would be difficult to prove due to the fact evolution takes millions of years. There still genes being identified and it is still questionable which ones form a great athlete. Training techniques are revised overtime. There is considerable debate which results in the best performance. The second answer seems to just assume results will stay stagnant. Although looking at the data now shows that it seems unlikely women would out run men, one should never just assume. The situation could change, but not in this period. It was in the 1928 Olympics than many believed women were too weak for running. Now, women are running faster than the men of the 20th century. There is possibility of improvement or maybe women have reached their full physical capability. The reason men could be still improving is that they have not reached theirs yet. Examining performance from that perspective men would be behind. The more realistic conclusion is that women would narrow the gap. It would not be closed nor would women en mass outperform men. However, it it not impossible that individual women could reach male performance levels in the future.

References

Brewer,Sarah. The Human Body A Visual Guide to Anatomy.  London:Quercus, 2012.

Mcdonagh, Eileen and Pappano, Laura. Playing With the Boys : Why Separate Is Not 

   Equal in Sports. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

“UK | Women ‘may Outsprint Men by 2156’.” BBC News. BBC, 30 Sept. 2004. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3702650.stm&gt;.

George, Brandon. “Track Skills Often Decline as Girls Mature into Women | SportsDay.”SportsDayHS. SportsDayHS, 19 May 2010. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/high-school/sportsheadlines/2010/05/19/20100513-Track-skills-often-decline-as-girls-6083&gt;.
Tucker, Ross. “Women vs Men Part II: The Physiology of Difference | Science of Sport.” The Science of Sport. The Science of Sport, 27 Oct. 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <https://sportsscientists.com/2007/10/women-vs-men-part-ii-the-physiology-of-difference/&gt;.
Will Women Out Run Men in the Future?

The Shake Weight

The Shake Weight is a dumbbell with the ability to oscillate. The claim by the company that produces the product is that it has the ability to give more of a work out than a traditional weight. This exercise device was created by Ben Kunz for the company FitnessIQ. There have been many contraptions and machines that are for exercise, but many of them do not work. Then there are products that are minimally effective compared to traditional methods. The reason these products sell well is that advertisements are persuasive and the public has a lack of knowledge about exercise or the human body. Gullibility and a fast solution explains why exercise equipment  such as this sells well. When examined in a scientific manner the shake weight is not effective. There are also some of the common pseudoscientic convictions in regards to female body and fitness. This was originally marketed as a female exercise product, but later release a “male” version. The difference between the female and male version is weight. The female shake weight is 2.5 lbs and the male version is 5 lbs. Again, it seems the frailty myth is presented in a subtle manner. There is no reason that the women’s weight should just be 2.5 lbs. Five pounds is no so immense that women could not handle it. That is about the equivalent of a bag of flour. Anyone who cooks realizes these bags are not that heavy. FitnessIQ claims that the shake weight can tone biceps, shoulders, and triceps. The official comment of the company is ” The product’s technology has been scientifically proven to increase muscle activity more effectively than similar size dumbbells or push-ups.” A general understanding of exercise physiology disproves the effectiveness of the Shake Weight.

         The Shake Weight was introduced to the market in 2009. During its first year being available it sold 2 million units. The following years it reached 4.5 million sales.The Shake Weight is commonly found at Walmart and Walgreens. This exercise product since being introduced has made its way into popular culture. The motions it induces and the way in which it is held has suggested sexual innuendos. Parodies and spoofs have appeared on the Daily Show, South Park, and Saturday Night Live . These references could have increased sales. Exposure is important to the success of a product. The commercials and infomercials are known for their exaggerated claims of effectiveness. They state the Shake Weight can burn calories five times faster than normal weights.  This is simply not biologically possible. Working out with regular weights would require more energy, if done at a longer period of time. The Shake Weight recommends that an individual only exercise for six minutes. They claim six minutes with the product can be more effective than a 32 minute work out. This does not prove to be accurate when testing it in terms of exercise science, physiology, and biology.

          The Shake Weight functions on a series of vibrations. There are spring loaded weights at both ends. The vibrations are designed to “tone ” muscles in a six minute work out. There is a problem with the marketing terminology. The term “tone” is not a real biological process. The fact is toning is building a small amount of muscle. This term is directed at women rather than men, because society still thinks muscles and strength are for men only. The term toning is used to not scare average women away from fitness or ones who are closed minded about muscular women.

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It is dubious that a serious woman athlete would even use this device. Looking at its five and two pound versions its clear that this does not build muscle. It uses high repetitions at lower weight. Immense weight with fewer repetitions promotes growth in muscle. Women are normally discouraged from lifting heavy, but this is a mistake. Smaller weights will not produce effective results. The weights have to be heavy enough to provide at least some resistance. Smaller weights at two pounds or less will not be helpful in building strength or burning fat. Lighter weights could possibly be better for muscular endurance, but larger ones at lower repetitions are better for strength.

 The Shake Weight would only be effective for a person who has not had training or exercise prior physical activity. At best they would see modest or minimal gains. A person who weight trains regularly would not see dramatic gains in terms of musculature. The woman who is either a weightlifter, crossfit competitor, or bodybuilder will not see improvements in performance from the Shake Weight. The average woman considering her exercise and strength levels are lower may see some improvement, but not as effective as free weights. Part of the public relations slogan is that the Shake Weight “allows you to exercise without leaving your sofa.”

   Exercise takes effort and consistency. These two values are something people have lost living in modernized society. The desire for results with limited or no effort is what the American public in particular likes the most. That is why there are consumers that are drawn to this product, that clearly does not produce the effects it claims. There are some who even think that it has the ability to burn fat right off the arms of the body. The American Council on Exercise has stated that the Shake Weight does not provide necessary stimulus to the arms. The 2 1/2 pound weight is too light to be effective the council discovered. The added five pounds may not make much of a difference either. Muscle has the ability to burn fat and this device is not inducing the level of muscular hypertrophy to make that possible. This becomes even more humorous as this is also marketed to men. The image that is constantly used in advertisements for exercise equipment usually features a very muscular man. It is clear that the man or woman in question did not develop that upper body through the Shake Weight.

  It is not possible to just burn off fat in a single area of the body. It does not work like a heat seeking missile. Building muscle or losing weight requires a specific diet or certain strength training exercises  bicep curls, tricep extensions, and push ups. These activities should be enough to reduce weight. At this point, an observer should realize that there would be no need for the difference in weight for the product. There are women who could handle the five pound version. Calling it the “male version” is an attempt to market it as something intense and add a machismo to a device seen as feminine. Fitness advertising wants to tap into that male machismo, thinking the product can transform the male buyer into an Adonis like figure. This fantasy is shattered, because there are women out there who are lifting more than 5 lbs.

Weightlifting - Olympics: Day 7

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It is also recommended at the very least an individual should try to strength train three times a week. The difference in weight size is based on the notion of the frailty myth. It states that women’s bodies are not strong enough for physical activity. There are still myths that women should not train heavy, because they will get injured. Injury only happens when exercises are not done correctly or a person over trains. There should be consideration in the difference in tendon size, which may make women more susceptible to joint injuries. Women can handle a five pound weight whether it vibrating or not. You certainly do not need to be He-Man to use the five pound version. There is no such thing as men’s muscles and women’s muscles, because at the cellular level they do not differ. The design is awkward and the manner in which it is held. One problem is that users of this device did not go through the full range of motion when using it. The only way to see improvement is to challenge the muscle by adding more weight. Exercising for just six minutes will not produce effective results.

           The defenders of this product say that it can at least improve muscular endurance. This requires an increase in training frequency. That means adding more training sessions to your regimen. Simultaneously, training volume should be gradually increased. The number of sets and repetitions must increase for the body to adapt. Static contractions are also useful. This requires doing a full set of an exercise, then holding the in a fully contracted position. This should be done till the individual can no longer hold it. The Shake Weight cannot do any of these tasks. None of these exercises listed would be compatible with the Shake Weight.

The vibrations are not as powerful as straining against the weight of actual iron. Even if there were no vibrations the Shake Weight would be not even be useful for static contraction. There would have to be added weight to the device, but then it would just be a regular weight. Muscular endurance will not be attained through the use of the Shake Weight product.

       If one were to switch a person who exercises with weights and have them use the Shake Weight, they would lose strength. A woman who regularly exercises and then uses this device solely with see a dramatic reversal. Women could lose muscle in just a month, who are already at a higher fitness level. The advertisements use the term “dynamic inertia” to describe the process of the vibration movements. Anyone with a basic understanding of physics would realize inertia can occur during any form of exercise. Matter can continue in an existing state or follow a path of uniform motion until effected by another force. This is the definition of inertia. Dynamics is merely the analysis of forces and torques which is considered a branch of applied mathematics. Adding this term just glorifies the item being sold, making the consumer think it is doing something incredible.This why the knowledge of science, physiology, and anatomy are important. It prevents individuals from making poor decisions. If you are a person attempting to add mass this exercise equipment would not perform as well as free weights. A woman for example already trained would see a loss in results. Muscle atrophy only occurs when one stops an exercise regimen or ceases to challenge the muscles being worked.

         The American Council on Exercise did conduct a study. The alleged study that Fitness QI did never was peer reviewed in an academic journal or produced by an exercise physiologist or scientist. The study done by the University of Wisconsin by exercise scientists . They wanted to see the amount of muscle activation versus a traditional weight compared to the Shake Weight. The volunteers of the study were between the ages of 18 to 30, which included men and women. They continued to use the five pound for men and the two and a half pound versions for women. Electrodes were then placed on the biceps, triceps, deltoids, and pectoralis muscles.  The utilization of electromyography allowed the intensity of the work out to be recorded. The result was fascinating. The findings by Dr.  John Porcari and Dr. Jennah Hackbarth  were not what one would have expected. Muscle activity was greater 88% in the biceps, 65% greater in the triceps, 50% greater in the chest, and 59% greater in the chest. It would appear that the bicep curls, chest fly, tricep extensions, and shoulder presses are less efficient. This is not true. The physical fitness level of the individuals in the study was not recorded. They may have seen results only because they were at the very low spectrum of physical fitness. The study also found that it worked mostly the triceps rather than the entire arms or upper body.

 The thinner or non-exercising subject would probably benefit from the Shake Weight more than a physically fit woman. 

When conducting an experiment one should be careful when considering factors that effect results. The physical fitness level of the subjects is essential to the results. These individuals of the study were of course healthy, but not at a high spectrum pf physical fitness. There was a 66 % EMG increase, but this was not the increase that infomercials have said claiming a 300% increase. The vibrations from the Shake Weight may not even be safe. They work muscles, but could be causing unnecessary soreness.

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The results as shown in the graph are misleading. For a person who does no physical activity anything would induce improvement. Two or five pound weights are simply not heavy enough to cause significant muscular hypertrophy. Subjects of this study did not expect the device to be as exerting. The ratings for perceived exertion were higher for the Shake Weight than it was for traditional weights.

        After explaining the physiological and anatomical basis for the Shake Weight one reaches a conclusion. It is not a useful piece of exercise equipment. This will not target the arms and upper body, but forces the triceps to do more work. Muscle activation was limited in the biceps. The level of resistance is so minimal that a physically fit person would not see any gains in lean body tissue. This would give only diminutive improvements to a person who has never done exercise at all. There are limited benefits to the exercise movement. There are very few times when a shaking exercise is useful, compared to push-ups, sit-ups, and weight lifting. The Shake Weight is something that is a combination of false advertising and hyper-consumerist culture. There are some goals that cannot be achieved by simple short cuts. That means effort, which many people do not want to do. The reason this sells so well is due to the public’s ignorance, lack of consumer advocacy, and the manipulation of human psychology. If statements sound credible enough people will accept it even though it may be mendacious. As long as the consumer knows about basic exercise science, they can make better decisions. The Shake Weight is a product that a consumer should not buy.

Further Reading

Hackbarth, Jenneh. “Does the Mega-selling Shake Weight Live Up to the Hype?” ACE Fitness. American Council on Exercise, 7 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Dec. 2016. <https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/2000/does-the-mega-selling-shake-weight-live-up-to-the&gt;.

Agondoni, Laura. “Can You Get Muscles With the Shake Weight?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 15 July 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/492363-how-long-does-it-take-to-get-muscles-with-the-shake-weight/&gt;.

Wood, Heather. “Does the Shake Weight Take Fat off Your Arms?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 18 Dec. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/421688-does-the-shake-weight-take-fat-off-your-arms/&gt;.

The Shake Weight

Can Women Close the Athletic Performance Gap?

There exists a gap in athletic performance between male and female athletes. Women were relative late comers to the world of professional sport having to deal with restrictive social and discriminatory barriers. While these sociological explanations are apparent for the differences in performance, the biological ones are being further studied. Women’s athletic performance has improved compare to earlier records, but has remained stable since 1983. There were predictions that women’s records would either reach or be equal to men’s by some. It is not impossible that some women may be able to perform equal to a male athlete. As a whole the athletic performance gap is large. The question still remains can women close the gap? This may seem like a simple answer, but it requires a scientific approach. Using biology, physiology, anatomy, and biomedical science can reveal a lucid answer.  Many say women’s bodies are not designed for strength or durability, but it appears that is not entirely true. Exercise physiology has only recently began to examine female physical capability. The question may not be as simple as once thought.

           If this question is going to be approached from the dimension of the scientific method, there are factors that must be considered. Precision should be the goal be may not be reachable in this simulated experiment. More men compete in sports, which distorts the sample size. A large number of potentially athletic women could be excluded from competition  due to certain barriers. Then there is the presence of performance enhancing drugs. Men tend to be using more performance enhancing drugs than female competitors. This will again cause problems in the data. Also, comparisons in the experiment should be based on height and weight. Comparing a 180 lbs male athlete to 130 female athlete would not be accurate. Sports function on weight classes, for the sake of  fairness. There for comparing an athletic female to an average man would not helpful to the experiment. The men and women in the sample would have to have the same training to give  precise information on athletic performance. Boys get a head start learning physical skills early. Girls have to catch up in developing physical skills. Once these factors are established a hypothesis can be formed. Women as a whole may not be able to close the athletic performance gap completely, but individual women could reach the level of some of their male counterparts. The gap could be narrowed, but not erased.

    This would not be a fair comparison. The man does train like Kana Ichikawa. 

Women could narrow the gap that existed between average males in terms of strength. This would be harder for a woman who engages in similar weight training activities. Age and biological sex do play a role in the level of athletic performance.

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 It would not be hard to guess who is the strongest one among these two (top). Margie Martin would have difficulty beating these trained men (bottom).  

With these factors under consideration one can proceed to expound upon what is known about male and female athletic performance. This will then result in a conclusion.

         There is a point in which there is the athletic performance gap is non-existent. Before puberty boys do not have a strength advantage. Boys and girls can compete with each other on sports teams because the changes induced by the endocrine system and pituitary gland have not taken effect. A study by Indiana University conducted a study that examined boys in girls in swimming between the ages 6 to 19. This seems obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of the anabolic properties of testosterone. The sample was large collecting 1.9 million swims. This was done between the period of 2005 to 2010. The study found that boys and girls ages 8 to 12 did not show any difference in performance. However, around age 13 boys started to surpass girls in strength, height  and speed. It seems odd that rarely boys and girls compete in mixed competitions, considering boys do not have the physical advantage at this stage. The study also showed that performance was not influenced by a specific form of training, but by muscle function. Estrogen does not provide the strength spurt that men get during puberty. Women will acquire more fat and their hips will widen. Examining the physical transformation of female teen athletes reveals the influence of sexual dimorphism. Rough estimations show that the strength measure gap widens by age. Girls ages 3 to 10 can have 100% the strength of a boy. Around 11 to 12 it still remains a close 90%. Girls around ages 13  to 14  can have 85% of boys strength. When boys reach their full strength spurt by 16 it will be only 75 %. These estimations are between similar sized male and female athletes.

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It is true that weight training can increase strength in the female athlete. The extent of muscular hypertrophy may not reach the level of males. Girls hearts and lungs do not see a significant increase in size. This therefore limits aerobic capacity. Narrow shoulders means a smaller articular surface. It would seem that the physical maximum is reduced in women upon puberty, but there are advantages. Women gain more balance and flexibility which can help with skilled movements. It looks like at the early stages of childhood and adolescence the sexes are on a physically equally playing field. When look at the changes in female track athletes during high school, it shows physical changes to effect performance. Weight gain and the pelvis change reduces speed. Some girls get discouraged and drop out of competing completely. There are methods used to counter and circumvent changes. Building the hip flexor muscles can prevent injuries and provide much needed reinforcement for the pelvis.The women that continue to the elite level in track make it due to their individual genetics. When girls become women jumping over hurdles becomes more difficult. The average runner would struggle to remain competitive. The women of elite competitive caliber handle the physical changes of puberty better in relation to sports performance. Girls mature faster than boys and experience puberty between the ages of 10 and 14. It should also be understood some boys and girls could start puberty earlier or later . Wrestling also shows the dramatic physiological changes. Boys and girls wrestling shows that females are not at a disadvantage. The strength level is equal at that stage, but by the late teens and early twenties males gain more type II fast twitch muscle fibers.

  There may be girls competing on boys teams in middle school and high school, but rarely at the university level. There are exceptions, but it means they will have to be reliant on technical skill to substitute for the larger male opponents. This means a woman in the same weight class would have less type II fast twitch muscle fibers.

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Deanna Rix wrestled boys throughout high school. She is one of the few that could do this, because of her skills.

  The process of aging effects all organisms. Athletes do age and it effects performance. There is a point in which an athlete will improve and continue to do so. When there can no longer be improvements in strength, speed, or endurance an athlete will reach their physical peak. Men and women reach their physical peak around their late 20’s to early 30’s. Peak accumulation of muscle mass can happen between the ages of 20 to 30. When an adult reaches middle age muscle mass can declines 5% every ten years. As age progresses both men and women can lose up to 40% of their functional strength. This can be reduced by strength training. Athletes now can remain in competition longer by using different training methods. Bones are also critical and continue to build themselves until age 30. Women complete their bone mass development earlier and have a lower bone density. Women can lose a degree of bone mass due to menopause and lower bone mass means a higher osteoporosis risk. Metabolism  changes also effect the body. It can decrease 10 percent  as a result of the increase in fat and the loss of muscular tissue. The heart rate also decreases. Flexibility can also be lost from the hips, lower back, and hamstrings .  These changes are part of the process of senescence.The changes in body composition, the pelvis, and general bone structure do not increase performance out put. Puberty does not benefit girls in terms athletic performance, like it does boys.

           Muscular strength has importance in contact sports. Women have smaller muscles in comparison. Women can respond to weight training, but this leads to what is the muscular potential of women. This is dependent on age, level of fitness, diet, and specific body type. An average person can gain at least a half pound of muscle per week if training is consistent. Women can see at least a 40% increase in muscular strength after several months of consistent training. Women of mesomorphic body type will find this easier to achieve. Men have less body fat, which gives them a higher magnitude in total gains. The average untrained man can in rough estimates be capable of benching 135 lbs, squatting 125 lbs, and deadlifting  155 lbs. There are different stages to lifting which include untrained, novice, intermediate, and advanced lifters. Women could expect to reach the male novice or close to the range of intermediate level of records. Christy Resendes  a strong woman and lifter has a 205 lbs bench press, 405 lbs squat and deadlift.  The average male novice weight lifter can bench 175 lbs, squat  230, and deadlift 290 lbs. Christy surpasses that range and  reaches apart  the intermediate range.  This range for intermediate male weight lifters includes 215 lbs ( bench press), 285 lbs ( squat),  and 385 lbs (deadlift).  Reaching the highest male range 290 lbs ( bench press), 390 lbs (squat) and 460 lbs ( deadlift).

 It appears that men have more absolute strength even when the height and weight are the same. Determining strength depends on what test is given. To measure a specific item muscular strength must be defined. Muscular strength by definition is the total force generated by muscle when performing an action. When measuring tension of the cross section of muscle per square centimeter it shows that men and women have similar strength. When looking at it from the upper as compared to lower body the disparity becomes clear. Women have lower upper body strength even when weight and height are equal to her male counterpart. Lower body strength is closer, but not equal. This means that strength differences between men and women of the same weight are diminutive.  The one method to determine strength is by static and isometric measurement. Dynamic measurement can also be utilized. The one repetition maximum, which requires lifting the heaviest weight one time in perfect form. These seem more precise than an analysis of hand grip strength.

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A study was conducted that examined hand grip strength by The European Journal of Applied Physiology. This was known as “Hand Grip Strength of Young Men, Women, and Highly Trained Athletes.”  The sample was not entirely perfect.  Only 60 female athletes were used including 533 average women with no athletic background. Men out numbered women in the sample at a total 1,654. Already this shows how an experiment has challenges in precision. The conclusion was that the elite female judo and handball players only reached the 50 percentile of the male group ( untrained and specifically trained ). The study claimed that hand size was not a factor. This could not be the case. Men and women have differences in the size of there hands. The hand possesses bones and tendons that also play a role in strength.

The mathematics were correct in data accumulation. The results give only an estimation of strength in one particular part of the body. It becomes obvious that tendon and hand size did play a role in the results. While they selected mostly young people it leaves one to wonder what the results would be with female athletes 25 years and up. If this was about examining strength weightlifters would be better subjects. This only gives a rough estimation. One example would be to compare crossfit records as a more precise measure. This sporting event has men and women lifting weights utilizing all of the body.

0b3381a869fd3875139433818ed83c7f The records show that male values are higher in terms of squats, deadlifts, snatch, as well as clean and jerk. These are values of  a male and female crossfit competitors of the same age. The highest value 225 lbs for squats for our female subject. The male subject has a deadlift of  508 lbs as the highest value. Our female subject would have to lift a total of 635 lbs more to match the male subjects records. Regardless of sex athletes can improve their performance.

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The records above show that women did improve, but did not reach the 635 lbs target. The aggregate reached was 623 lbs. Men did see improvement at a minimal level. Their values still remained higher. The explanation has to do with fat levels. Even the most muscular woman still retains more body fat compared to a man. While basic physics dictates force equals mass times acceleration fat does not contribute to strength. Muscle fibers recruiting one another do. This means that the strongest man would be stronger than the strongest woman. Basic anatomical differences also contribute to this.

  Women on average have 11% more body fat. They store fat more efficiently despite consuming fewer calories. Women tend to burn more fat during exercise, but do not lose as much as men. This seems peculiar because the metabolism of muscle cells is the same in both sexes. The hardest part of bodybuilding is many women reveal, is getting body fat down from the off season.  This conundrum can be explained by human evolution. Fat is critical for child bearing. The nervous system does play a role in muscular power. The nervous system activates muscle fibers for movement. Men can activate the electrical impulse to the fiber faster compared to women. This also relates to neuromuscular efficiency .

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The body fat percentages for women of multiple body types. The lowest is at 8%, where men reach lower than that.

What this also includes is sex differences in metabolism in both the male and female body. Fat is stored in the form of triglycerides  composed of three fatty acid molecules. Gylcerol  has the responsibility of binding them. The adipocytes store most of human body fat. Fat can also be stored in muscle. This stored source known as intramuscular triglycerides. they can contain at least 3000 kilocalories. During a process known as lipolysis triglycerides are broken down. For women adding muscle and strength becomes a longer and more complicated process.

       The skeletal stricture and tendons also contribute to strength. Women’s tendons may not respond as much to training as men’s tendons. Collagen synthesis in women appears to be far less pronounced in women. A study from the Institute of Sports Medicine found in a 2007 study that the mechanical strength of the collagen fascicles was higher in men. This explains why women have higher connective tissue injuries compared to their male counterparts. This provides answers to the high rate of anterior cruciate  ligament tears. Hormones may have an effect. Oestrogen could reduce the total amount of collagen synthesis. Estodial which is a monitor of Oestrogen receptors and can influence tendon hypertrophy. A tendon is a flexible tissue composed of collagen matter connecting muscle to bone.

what also should be taken into consideration is the specific attributes of the male and female skeleton.The male skeleton is denser compared to the female skeleton. The shoulders are broader and add to mechanical advantage. The pelvis is wider in women which can effect running speed. Load bearing activities can come at a risk of musculoskeletal fractures.

The q angle of the legs is wider in women also due to how the legs are attached to the wider pelvis. The reason women have wider pelvises is for child birth. Bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments contribute to body strength.

        Aerobic capacity is imperative to an athlete. Normally, when asking the question of the possibilities of male  and female performance running records are used from the Olympics. Other events are recorded as well. The reason being the Olympics provide the highest number of female athletes in one setting and they are their nation’s highest caliber performers. The utilization of oxygen is important to running. Oxygen allows for the muscles to produce adenosine triphosphate which contributes to muscle contraction. Smaller lungs and hearts mean lower aerobic output. Hemoglobin has to transport oxygen from the lungs to other areas of the body. Women’s hemoglobin levels are 15 % lower than men’s. A woman has fewer red blood cells compared to a man.

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Given what is known about anatomy and physiology one would expect these percentages to be higher. The largest one is in weightlifting. This seems obvious due to the fact men have more upper body strength and more muscle fibers concentrated in that area.
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Being different does not mean being unequal.  There are advantages women have that men do not. Women due to their flexibility have an advantage in gymnastics in figure skating. Keeping these separate would probably be more fair to men.

Our respiratory system is not only important to athletics, but to sustaining our life. The problem with examining Olympics records is it may not give us the fullest sample. One problem is that there are still countries that do not send female teams to the Olympics. Saudi Arabia only recently began to do so. Then there is the problem of unequal resources. Nations that are of lower income may be at a disadvantage, when attempting to assemble teams in sports that require more capital. Women would be effected worse than men in this regard, due to past discrimination. Performance can be a product of both biology and environment.

      When women were entering professional sport and international competition some exercise physiologist assumed that women would reach and even surpass men’s records. These claims when examining runners do not seem to be the present reality. During the 1970’s and  1980’s women were making new records in running events such as sprinting. One theory suggests that it was because of performance enhancing drug use. Testing was not as intricate as it was today. There were also nations that had state sponsored doping programs. East Germany was notorious for this giving athletes drugs without their informed consent. Marita Koch admitted that she did use drugs to reach that record under East Germany’s program. Florence Griffith Joyner’s record had been under suspicion as being wind assisted or drug use. She never failed a drug test and there was no evidence to prove this claim. Women when they do perform at high levels are normally suspect. The only difference Joyner made was adding weight training to her regimen. This was probably improved her performance.

There would be no other explanation for why Carmelita Jeter came close to Joyner’s record. She did not break it, however it leads one to assume that Joyner’s victory could have been partially wind assisted.  If Joyner did use, then the women of the 21st century would not have come close. What it reveals is that individuals may have a unique physiology in terms of athletic performance. Women are training harder and may be getting more powerful, which may explain Genzebe Dibaba. She ran the fastest 1,500 meters of any woman in 2015. This may be unique to their genetics. Athletic ability or potential could  be genetically inherited.

Although the anabolic steroid explanation may demonstrate that their was an increase in performance, women’s records still did not reach males levels. One must account for the fact that more men are involved in sports and also used more drugs than women. Professional athletes are not even the majority users of anabolic androgenic  steroids. It is average people who want a fast solution to weight loss. Testosterone provides huge advantages in terms of muscular strength and steroids are a synthetic derivative from that hormone. A woman on steroids would probably not perform as well as a male athlete.Simply taking drugs will not ensure maximum performance. Anabolic steroids alter the endocrine and muscular system, but will not radically change genetics. The only way for that to happen is by gene doping or genetic engineering. It is said that women benefit more from drugs, but that does not seem to be the case. Men  produce ten times the testosterone due to the testes. Hormones also explain the differences in swimming and running. However, endocrinology  reveals that it is not entirely the total amount of testosterone. It the amount of free testosterone that is not bounded to a non-specific protein or sex hormone binding globin. Men have  a total of 5% available which allows for a higher level of muscular hypertrophy. All these factors influence data.

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A sample of athletic women and men’s performances.

When the 1990’s came to a close it appeared as if women were not catching up to their male counterparts. When examining the records women’s performances were 90% of men’s performances. There is a type of ratio that exists in various sports events. This golden ratio seems to project itself in rowing, swimming, track, and other athletics. The 90 percent ratio seems to hold after the 1983 stabilization. Comparing long distance runners show  a 72.7 average fro women and a 82.1 average for men. The value of 72.7 is 89%  of 82.1 meaning there is evidence of a the 90% ratio.Ira Hammerman  a physicist presented these findings at the 2010 Wingate Congress of Exercise and Sport Science.

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This again appears to be a marvel considering sex differences. The assumption would be that they would fall at least 50% or less. Hammerman examined 82 events in total, which gives more precision. The mathematics are correct which gives this examination  more credibility. Compared to the men of forty years ago, it would appear that women of today would surpass men of the past. There are two possibilities. The first is that women are still not reaching their full potential. The second could be that men have to reached their stabilization rate in athletic performance. Some observers claimed that by 2031 women would be out running  men. The 90% ratio demonstrates there is some room for improvement. If the women’s average record stands lower than .85 then improvements can be made, but men seem to remain ahead.

           There were women who were running faster again after the more strict drug rules. Paula Radcliffe broke records in marathon events in 2003. The fact that such women continue to break records means that drugs cannot be the only explanation for the sudden surge in performance in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It is thought that women would surpass men in ultramarathon events. Looking at the time differences there still is a gap. This results in another question about sex differences in fatigue. Research has suggested that women may manage pacing themselves better in marathons. Fatigue depends on the type of activity being performed. Women could be less fatigue prone than men, but it is still unclear if this is actually true. Type I muscle fibers, which women have more endurance. The trouble with type II fast twitch muscle fiber is that it has power, but limited endurance. This could explain why women are improving in marathon events including marathon swimming.

       There are rare cases in which some athletic women can out perform athletic men. Unique genetic physiology and technique provide an answer. This can happen in swimming and gymnastics. Ye Shiwen’s performance was incredible in swimming events at the Olympics. Her record was faster than Ryan Lochte. Mckayla Maroney  reached a high level in the women’s vault event. This means their biological sex does not hinder them in terms of athletic performance. There are instances that women in tennis even can serve as fast as men.

Sabine Lisicki  gave a serve in tennis at 131 miles per hour. That is faster than some male tennis players. It seems that women may put emphasis on technique to substitute the lower levels of strength. However, there are women who are stronger than others. Sabine Lisicki or Serena Williams are  more muscular and  have longer limbs. That natural advantage contributes to their success. Athletic skill is just as important as the biological and physiological elements of performance. Women would have a better chance of out performing a man in an endurance event than a competition of pure brute strength.

         It should also be understood there is a psychological aspect to performance. Competitiveness is essential to any sport. Some observers are convinced that women are not psychologically as competitive as men in sports. Motivation is also a factor. A study of varsity intercollegiate distance runners revealed that women trained less, having less competitive drive,  and less of a desire to train for an event. Before accusing this finding of feeding into sex stereotypes, consider the sociological dynamics. Prior to Title IX   the model of women athletic participation was to just encourage exercise, not athletic competition. Women were not encouraged to be competitive in school, public life, or get interested in a career. The biological factor is that androgens, which are higher in the male body make men more competitive. This may be a relic from human evolution over millions of years in which our early primate ancestors had to compete for mates. The question then becomes are women really pushing themselves to their full potential? They have come far in just a few decades in the sports world. There are a multitude of talent women athletes in the Olympics and professional arena. What it comes down to is risk. Men are willing to take more risk than women. This can be seen in distance running in which men use techniques that could be harmful in the long term. Although there may be a difference in competitive drive this still would not negate the sex differences in biology.

        The athletic performance gap may not be closed. This does not mean that some women cannot outperform some men. Overlap can happen no matter how small. There is no way to predict the future or how other records will turn out. There could be a possibility of the narrowing of the athletic performance gap. It may also indicate that women have reached their maximum physiological output. Men are still attempting to reach theirs. Their are both environmental and biological factors that work in producing an athlete. It cannot be ignored that girls are not really taught physical skills at an early age. This does not explain all the differences in performance. Biology is never static, because evolution could be constant. It would not be outrageous to say that women of the future could become bigger in stronger. However, human evolution as demonstrated by australopiths takes millions of years. Women are not biologically changing themselves yet. Women of unique genetic ability can compete with male athletes, but they are the rare exception. The great aspect about the human species is that it has genetic diversity and variation. As long as there are differences in biology, physiology, and endocrinology the athletic performance gap will be difficult to close.

Further Reading

Robinson, Meyer. “We Thought Female Athletes Were Catching Up to Men, but They’re Not.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/we-thought-female-athletes-were-catching-up-to-men-but-theyre-not/260927/&gt;.

Robert, Deaner. “Distance Running Is a Perfect Lab to Investigate Whether Men Are More Competitive Than Women.” The Epoch Times. The Epoch Times, 05 June 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1377389-distance-running-is-a-perfect-lab-to-investigate-whether-men-are-more-competitive-than-women/&gt;.

Owens, Timothy. “How Much Weight Can the Average Man Lift?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 08 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/380767-how-much-weight-can-the-average-man-lift/&gt;.

George, Brandon. “Track Skills Often Decline as Girls Mature into Women.” SportsDayHS. Dallas News, 19 May 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/high-school/sportsheadlines/2010/05/19/20100513-Track-skills-often-decline-as-girls-6083&gt;.

Kerlan, Robert. “Which Sex Is Stronger? It Depends On the Test.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 23 June 1988. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-23/news/vw-7049_1_body-fat&gt;.

Sillery, Bob. “Will Female Athletes Ever Beat Their Male Counterparts?” Popular Science. Popular Science, 25 July 2002. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2002-07/will-female-athletes-ever-beat-their-male-counterparts&gt;.

Tang, Kay. “When Do Men & Women Reach Their Physical Peak?” When Do Men & Women Reach Their Physical Peak? | Chron.com. Houston Chronicle, 8 Oct. 2008. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://livehealthy.chron.com/men-women-reach-physical-peak-2652.html&gt;.

Indiana University. “Who says girls can’t compete athletically with boys?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531102201.htm>.
Ridder, Georges. “Hand-grip Strength of Young Men, Women and Highly Trained Female Athletes.” European Journal of Applied Physiology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 5 Oct. 2007. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17186303&gt;.
Kolata, Gina. “Men, Women and Speed. 2 Words: Got Testosterone?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Aug. 2008. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/22/sports/olympics/22women.html&gt;.
Zehner, Emma. “It Took 22 Years for the Women’s 1,500-Meters Record to Fall. What’s the Fastest Humans Can Possibly Run?” Slate Magazine. The Slate, 23 July 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2015/07/genzebe_dibaba_1500m_world_record_what_s_the_fastest_humans_can_possibly.html&gt;.

Can Women Close the Athletic Performance Gap?

Sports Science – Can a Woman Punch as Hard as a Man?

This segment is from the program Sports Science. It asks the question can a woman punch as hard as a man? The program conducted an experiment to answer this question. The subject chosen was Lucia Rijker. She is one of the best boxers around. Rijker has often been called “the most dangerous woman in the world.” Lucia explains that it comes down to technique employed. Using more of your arm to punch is inefficient. To conduct the experiment a male boxer at the same weight ( 140 lbs) and height ( 5’6) was used to compare. Both boxers  punched martial arts trainer Julian Rush . He was blind folded and later asked if he could tell the difference between a punch from a man or woman. Rush could not distinguish from either the man or woman’s punch. The second phase of the experiment required measuring the actual force. This time a crash test dummy was used. The male boxer achieved a total of  710 lbs of force. Lucia Rijker generated 922 lbs of force. There is an explanation for this. Her technique is to accelerate her punches to compensate for lower upper body mass. Phrases like “punching like a girl” or “punching like a man” become irrelevant. Technique is just as important as strength. Men do have 20% more muscle mass, which would be an advantage. Males have more upper body strength, but boxing requires more than just that.

Sports Science – Can a Woman Punch as Hard as a Man?

Do Women Have Stronger Legs and More Lower Body Strength Than Men?

Although women can build impressive legs and lower body strength, men have more strength in the lower body as well. It is less immense in magnitude as compared to the upper body. The reason for this difference is based on endocrinology. Males produce higher amounts of testosterone, which effect the skeletal and muscular system. This means protein synthesis would be active in the lower body . When examining the differences between the sexes women have about 52% of men’s upper body strength and 66% in the lower body. Women have an easier time amassing lower body strength than upper body strength. When examining absolute strength, women can gain at least 80% strong if compared to a male of a similar size. This are only approximations, not exact measurements. The disparity in upper body strength can be related to the fact that men have bigger muscle fibers (more in terms of total mass) and more are concentrated in the upper body. There are reasons why women are closer to men in the lower body.

         The reason for women’s closer lower body strength may be related to child birth. Muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments add to the strength of the body. These anatomical structures work together in movement. Women when they become pregnant  must carry her children in the uterus. This explains why the female pelvis is much wider than the males. The lower body must be able to accommodate the weight of both the developing baby and the weight of the mother.A strong lower body helps more than an upper body strength in this regard. These anatomical attributes are products of human evolution. The result of that biological process was sexual dimorphism. These are the primary and secondary sex characteristics that distinguish both males and females of the same species . This is the explanation for physiological differences in athletic performance in male and female athletes.

           Men and women have the same muscles in the lower body. There are no different cells between male muscle cells and women’s muscle cells. The muscles of the leg and lower body include the  gluteus maximus, gastronecnemius , adductor mangnus, iliotibial tract, semimembranosus, biceps femoris, gracilis, and semitendinosus.

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The lower body consists of the pelvis and legs.

 The only difference between the muscles of the lower body for women is that they have less total lean  mass.Women’s body proportions in terms of upper and lower body do differ in length. Women have on average longer legs and shorter upper bodies.  Women tend to have shorter legs and longer torsos. This does effect athletic performance in some sports. One example is cycling. A shorter upper body means that women would have to stretch more when riding a bike as a cyclist. Although this problem can be solved  by designing a bike to accommodate a female cyclist. The difference in women’s cyclist times do not have to do with muscle quality, but rather bike design and cardiovascular capacity. Bikes with shorter top tubes reduce strain  on the neck and back. Female and male muscle can have high performance quality doubtless of their size. What is pivotal is the type of muscle fiber present in the body. Type II muscle fibers are responsible for greater power.

          Squat records give a clear record of the extent of women’s lower body strength. This exercise is designed to measure total body strength while strengthening legs. Leg press is also another exercise that can build leg muscles.

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This is an example of a leg press.
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This is known as the squat exercise.

When examining  powerlifting records of both professional female and male athletes it gives a more accurate picture of strength levels. Women have achieved 65 % of the male squat limit in powerlifting. So far the all time squat record for a woman is a total of 600 pounds, when men’s level reaches 1000 pounds. This gap can be attributed to certain factors. Testosterone is a major factor in the difference, but not the only one. Women produce less than ten percent the testosterone than the average man. It has been speculated that even when women weight train, it can raise testosterone levels. This means a woman would have to train at least  75 percent of their single repetition maximum. The training would have to be consistent  and for a long period of time. The second major factor is muscle fiber characteristics and the response to training method. Men and women have similar responses to training. Fast twitch fibers in males are larger and are more prevalent . Women contain slow twitch fibers in greater numbers, which have more endurance. Women and men on the same training regimen will still see the gap in total strength gained. The difference in absolute strength is just less noticeable in the lower body.

        The conclusion is that women do not have more lower body strength or stronger legs than men. This is another fitness myth that is commonly spread. Just like the notion muscles turn into fat when a training regime is stopped, or women’s bodies are not designed for strength it can be refuted with physiology  and anatomy. Women have more strength in the lower body relative to the upper body. Women can still build strength, but it will be easier to gain lower body enhancements.

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It’s best you think twice before you let a woman do this to you.

A consistent training program and shrink the gap in absolute strength. Compound exercises with heavy weight and training with low repetition are preferred methods.Muscles of the body will be responsive to overload. Genetics are an indicator of just how much muscle a person can build. A woman with a mesomorphic body type will have no trouble building both a strong upper and lower body.

Further Reading

Brown, Eric. “Do Women Have More Lower Body Strength Than Men?”LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 08 Jan. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/422532-do-women-have-more-lower-body-strength-than-men/&gt;.

Friedrich, Cathe. “Is It Harder for Women to Build Upper Body or Lower Body Mass? – Cathe Friedrich.” Cathe Friedrich. N.p., 11 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <http://cathe.com/harder-women-build-upper-body-lower-body-mass&gt;.

Do Women Have Stronger Legs and More Lower Body Strength Than Men?