Women Naturally More Fit Than Men According To Study

Women Fitter Than Men

The title seems to be some what of a hyperbole. The study conducted revealed that women process exactly 30% more oxygen more efficiently compared to their male counterparts. This has been suspected for sometime,but it looks like it has finally been confirmed. Oxygen uptake is only one element of physical fitness. Women can obviously reach a certain physical fitness level through training and diet. However, men have higher absolute peak physical fitness. This includes attributes such as muscular strength and speed. Women it seems have more muscular endurance as revealed by another study produced this year. The University of Waterloo in Ontario conducted a study involving 18 subjects. All these  men and women were active. They performed treadmill exercise and researchers concluded women process oxygen more quickly. Thus it may seem that women have more efficient in terms aerobic fitness. This does challenge the conventional belief that the male body is just naturally more athletic compared to women’s bodies. Women do have athletic advantages and biological sex does not seem to be a limitation.

        Peak physical fitness refers to how strong, fast, and how much endurance  an athlete can get through exercise and diet.Once an athlete reaches their physical peak, they can no longer improve any further. Men have more muscular strength even when the training regimen is the same. The muscle cells do not differ between men and women. The strength difference is related to several factors . Body size is a factor and on average men are larger. Males have denser bones including larger tendons and ligaments. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association women can produce two thirds the muscular force of a man. This is an estimate of 66% and the remaining percentage has to do with the upper body. Men have more upper body strength.

Women are closer to men in the lower body. Considering the histology of the muscle is similar for men and women, they can gain strength at the same rate through strength training. To do so a person must train to their threshold using progressive overload. Men have higher absolute strength based on endocrinology and body composition. Men have a greater amount of type II muscle fibers and higher amount of testosterone that aid in protein synthesis. Women have a higher estrogen level allowing for more fat.  These biological and physiological differences are not entirely closed by training. What stops women from have equal muscular strength after a training regimen is the difference in skeletal size, body composition, and difference in hormones.

24q7mk1ooecx-678x381
Measuring hand grip strength is not as accurate for determining strength. weightlifting records would be more precise.

 Relative to absolute strength levels a female athlete could be strong as or stronger than the average man. It is rare that women could reach the same level of an equally trained man. However, there can be overlap although very small. Running speed and aerobic fitness is important to sports. Women have smaller hearts and lungs which will effect running speed. This means a woman’s vo2 max is lower in comparison. Lower hemoglobin levels mean less oxygen being transported. Oxygen is essential for the tissues of the body.

man-and-woman-strength
Hand grip strength data from a experiment. The female athletes  are located in the above 50 percentile. Males reached 100 and above.

Women may have more muscular endurance. During exercise they seem less prone to fatigue. It seems in various studies women were able to contract muscle groups over long periods of time. Men still had more strength, but could not keep up with the contract muscle groups as long as women in exercise physiology studies. The title is incorrect saying women are fitter than men. A more accurate title would be women have a physical fitness advantage in oxygen use.

       The researchers conducted their experiment following the regular procedure of the scientific method. The 18 subjects did a treadmill test. Their heart rates were monitored as well as oxygen content in  their tissues. What was also studied was their oxygen levels between their veins and arteries. The total tests were four in total and were moderate intensity. There are some questions that must be asked. Were these subjects longtime or novice athletes or casual exercisers? This can make a difference in results. There obviously is a difference in physical fitness levels between the average person, moderate exerciser, and the professional athlete.

If this study wanted to be very precise it would have to have a larger sample size. This sample size would have to include those moderate exercisers, average people, and professional athletes. Only then could a more lucid picture be given. Nine men and nine women may simply not be enough for an experiment. Also there needs to be a detailed account of their fitness activity. If women in this study trained harder than the men it would distort results. Comparing a fit woman to an unfit man does not reveal much. The men who were in the study one can assume trained just as hard or with a similar method. Science should aim for precision, rather tan just accuracy. The actual test with the treadmill seems like the best method of acquiring data. Only if the results can be replicated can this be regarded as scientific fact.

        The results found that women have a physiological advantage. Their oxygen up take was more efficient resulting in less muscle fatigue. Women’s muscles extract oxygen from the muscles faster. This indicates that women’s aerobic capacities could be more efficient relative to their male counterparts. Normally, the assumption was that men would have the most physical advantages due to biological, anatomical, and physiological differences. Professor Beltrame  even stated ” this shakes up conventional wisdom.” It is still unknown why women have this advantage. This study was published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism . One theory  is it could be related to women being capable of pregnancy. An efficient oxygen transport would be required to sustain a baby during the gestation process. Another possibility is that it is related to human evolution. The hominins of the past may have needed males to have a higher physical fitness capacity to do hunting, while females concentrated their physical functions on child birth. These are only speculations, not facts.

Why do men have higher running speeds if women are more efficient with oxygen up take? It is related to the structure of the female pelvis. It is wider which alters biomechanical function.  The muscles of the legs are the same, but men just have larger ones. This study is still useful even if it has flaws. Analyzing sex specific differences can contribute to designing training programs to improve women’s performance. Women are not physically inferior it is just their total physical fitness capacity is lower compared to men in particular areas of physical fitness. Exercise physiologists and health scientists are just now uncovering women’s physical advantages in athletic performance. Most studies have been done for male athletes and seeing as women are different this did not help understand how to design better training programs. Despite the biological and physiological differences women can develop into impressive athletes.  Being female does not limit physical fitness potential.

Advertisements
Women Naturally More Fit Than Men According To Study

Women Do Have More Stamina Than Men and May Be Beating Them At Marathons

Women’s Stamina

According to a scientific study conducted at the University of British Columbia women have more endurance compared to their male counterparts.  Brian Dalton a neurophysiologist discovered this by examining men and women of the same physical fitness level. They were grouped according to age and athletic ability for precision. There is a growing body of evidence that women could be better suited for endurance based athletic events. Women may soon be breaking records in larger numbers in ultra-marathon events. This study reveals many aspects about exercise physiology. There is still much more to learn about the physical capabilities of women. Training programs have to take into consideration biological and physiological differences for maximum efficiency in physical fitness goals. Although men are more physically powerful, women do have physical advantages.Assuming this finding is scientific fact, the same results should be easily replicated. There also remains bias that has been present. Social barriers have traditionally kept women out of sports, but this has gradually changed. It may be too premature to say that women en mass will be beating men at ultra-marathon  events. However, nothing is impossible.

       Historically their has been many pseudoscientific  myths surrounding women’s bodies. It has been thought that the female body was too weak for physical activity. Then there was also cultural bias. Women who showed physical skill were either viewed a unlady like  or masculine. Other social barriers such as not having a platform to compete. Women only began competing in marathons in 1984. Katherine Schwitzer was the first woman to compete in the Boston Marathon in 1967.

The Olympic Marathon athletes from 1984 to 2016 show that even though women were excluded, they have made progress in a short amount of time.  

Ludicrous arguments were made about why women should not participate in marathons. The argument was that it would damage their health. The only way this would happen is if an athlete did over training or did not get enough rest. The idea of female weakness was discredited when more women became active in various sports. Women’s muscles do not differ from men’s muscles. They respond to strength training regimes, which means the female body is capable of developing strength.

Gender roles and the concept of appropriate femininity are still persistent biases. There are many who believe their are certain activities that women should not do. Sports,even though women have been a part of the culture and activity are still seen as a male only domain. Women who have powerful looking bodies are either ostracized or harassed by the mainstream culture. It is no wonder why many women are discouraged from participating in sports with such negativity. Combined with lack of funding and media exposure the female athlete has to struggle on many levels. Despite these obstacles new talent continues to emerge and perform well. It will take more research to fully end the common myths still prevalent about women’s physical fitness capacities. This will require more women being involved in the physiological sciences and sports.

          Surprisingly there are women who have bested men in endurance events, prior to the study. Lael Wilcox won the Trans AM, becoming the first woman to do so. She was able to beat many male riders in the race. Caroline Boller saw an impressive victory at the Brazos Bend. These performances demonstrate that women are capable of high performance. The ability of the common female athlete beating a man of similar training and or fitness level is questionable.

These two athletes perform on male levels due to their unique genetics and physiology. They are exceptions, rather than part of the mathematically normal distributions. Then it should be considered that their biological differences based on their sex do work in their favor. Women have less type II muscle fibers compared to men, but still have more type I which are more fatigue resistant. Type II muscle fiber has more power, yet it is not as fatigue resistant. This may be the explanation into why women would do well at such events.

tumblr_madpba4oYG1qcj1xb

It seems unlikely that women would be able to match men in sprinting in which type IIA , IIAB, and II B are necessary. They use more energy and have more force. It is not entirely impossible that women could beat men at marathon events in the future.

        The findings from the study revealed many interesting pieces of information.  Women after exercise were less exhausted from physical activity compared to their male counterparts. The subjects were asked to do calf raises for the experiment. Men’s power recordings dropped 15% compared to women during 200 repetitions. This led to the conclusion that women could outlast men in muscular endurance.  The same included nine women and eight men who also were asked to flex their feet against sensors as fast as they could.

The problem with this experiment is that it only studied one isolated muscle group. If this experiment were to be precise it would have to involve more than just the lower body. The question remains would the results would be the same if it were done on the upper body. It is possible that the results would be the same doubtless. Muscle fiber would behave in the same matter no matter where it is on the body. Isometric contraction studies show that women have normally had more muscle endurance. Findings from Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism  suggest women can last longer in dynamic exercise.

While women do not reach the same levels  of strength as a men, they can last longer during exercise sessions. This leads researchers to conclude that if an ultra- ultra marathon event were to be created women may dominate it. This could have wider applications. Exercise programs could be designed to reduce fatigue in physically demanding occupations. This may also open more possibilities in understanding the physiology of the muscular system. If only this year strength genes were identified, there could be a possibility of genes related to muscular endurance. This may vary among individuals regardless of sex. Knowing such differences can make it easier for women to improve athletic performance. This study and other should fully discredit the myth that women’s bodies are not capable of anything the require physical rigor. Exercise physiology will have to do more experiments and study of women in athletics. Studies that use only men will not be helpful, because biologically and physiologically women are different. Realizing this has generated more interest in understanding how to design the best fitness program for a female athlete.

Women Do Have More Stamina Than Men and May Be Beating Them At Marathons

The Frailty Myth: Can Colette Dowling’s Monograph Sustain the Tests of Biological, Physiological, and Anatomical Science ?

The Frailty Myth is a monograph written by Colette Dowling that states two questions “can women be equal to men as long as men are physically stronger ?” and “are men in fact stronger?” Dowling claims that the answer is that “strength and physical skill for all women is only a matter of learning and training.” She states that the strength gap and performance gap can close when ” when women and men are matched in size and level of training.” Her reasoning is not exactly correct. She is right that physical prowess and athleticism is not male only. There have been plenty of skilled and talent athletes that have emerged in various sports over the years. There are sociological issues that prevent women in many ways from reaching higher in the sports world. many women simply do not have the opportunity to do so. It is clear that environment does play a role. This does not mean biology does not play a role. The third wave feminist argument is to base such differences on environment only. Dowling’s  work it states almost women could have sports performance levels equal to men. There are biological, anatomical, and physiological reasons why there is a performance gap. This gap will most likely shrink with sociological barriers and stigmas are eliminated. When that occurs the records may not equal men’s. Unless there is some radical change in human evolution or physiology millions of years from now, there may in our life  times no significant change. If she wanted to make the best argument, her writing should have had more sources from exercise physiology journals. Without them, the text has less cogency when tested against biological, anatomical, and physiological science.

           Dowling states there should be a new way of assessing performance. It does raise a legitimate question. Who and what is being compared ? Obviously the comparison is between men and women at high physical fitness levels. Comparing a female athlete to an out of shape man does not prove the argument. The assessment here should examine both male and female athletes of the same training level. The comparisons must be of women and men involved in the same sports.

Besides the biological, physiological, and anatomical differences there has to be an account for individual variation.  The variation in natural physique can differ among people no matter what their biological sex is. Certain body types people are born with. Other body types are better suited for particular sports. Long distance runners are more on the ectomorphic side, compared to weightlifters. Comparisons should be of women and men who are both the same height and weight. Accurate record keeping is comparatively new to the history of sports. Since it has began, human performance has improved. The reason could be a great understanding of the human body, training methods, and improve healthcare. There is also the factor of performance enhancing drug use, which can distort data. Women too have improved, but there remains a 10% difference in performance. Granted women had to overcome ( and still do) barriers in the sports world their rise has become rapid. It is however doubtful that women would be competing with men in mixed categories in certain sports.

           There are some biological differences that explain performances level variation. These differences are influenced by genes. Men contain XY chromosomes, while females just contain XX chromosomes . The difference can be seen on the 23rd pair. The SRY gene in men produces sex determining region Y protein. This protein is responsible for male characteristics. This causes the development of the testes  in the fetus. This will later have an impact on the physiques of  men. Women do not have this have this happen. They develop ovaries. The gonads will produce different hormones and have an effect on the endocrine system during puberty. The primary biological difference between the sexes is the reproductive system. This is also connected to hormonal differences in relation to the varying levels of testosterone and estrogen. Androgens do provide men an athletic advantage, but estrogen contributes to athletic performance. Estrogen can aid in muscle recovery after work out sessions. Some research suggests that it acts as an antioxidant prevent possible inflammation. Colette Dowling is correct in stating that this sex hormone does not put women at a disadvantage.

  The female athlete has to take into considerations specific health issues. These are related to concussions, ligament or tendon injuries, or menstrual irregularities. If a woman over trains hypoestronic amenorrhoea can occur. This is a condition in which estrogen is low and periods cease. The menstrual cycle itself is not a disadvantage to women athletes, yet their still is an effect on the body. The factors that could cause female athletes to be susceptible to   irregularities  include low body fat, late menarche,  immature reproductive axis, and poor nutrition. Biological differences do influence physical fitness capacity.

         Anatomy the science of body structure also explains gaps in athletic performance. The skeleton has morphological differences between the sexes. Women’s skeleton’s are less dense .Women have a wider pelvis which effects running speed.  The thoracic cage also differs in women. It tends to be rounder and not as large. A larger skeleton means that there is more room to house muscle on the body. The structure of the pelvis also makes the legs of women form what is called a Q angle. This is one reason why the fastest woman would not be able to out run the fastest man. Denser and large bones add to a biomechanical advantage. The muscular structure does not differ. Women have the same muscles, yet total amount causes the difference in absolute strength. Men have less body fat to begin with and a higher percentage of muscle. Women can still build muscle mass, yet retain a higher body fat percentage. Men have more upper body strength and women come closer to the lower body. Some researchers even believe that men’s muscle fibers might even be larger. This combined with a larger portion of type II muscle fibers allow for more power. The respiratory system of men and women also play a role in athletic performance. Women have smaller hearts and lungs, which means total aerobic capacity could be lower.

Oxygen and blood work together to provide the body energy during intense physical activity. The lungs engage in gas exchange taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. The heart technically is a muscle that pumps blood. The tissue of the body requires oxygen for function. The nervous system is also active in the process of movement both voluntary and involuntary. The anatomical structures do influence performance, but function is critical as well.

          Physiology describes the function of and mechanisms of  an organism. The Frailty Myth would benefit from having  greater explanations into sports medicine and sports science. The physiological differences also account for athletic performance gap. Oxygen has to be transported to the muscles so that it can produce adenosine triphosphate. This allows for muscular contractions. Men’s aerobic power is greater due to the fact they have higher hemoglobin levels. This makes oxygen get to the tissues faster compared to the function in a woman’s body. The greater amount of testosterone men have allows for greater protein synthesis. receptors bind to muscle cells initiating the process. This androgen also increase growth hormone which is released during exercise. It should be understood this is only one factor that is involved in muscular hypertrophy. Growth factors also contribute which include insulin, insulin like growth factor 1, heptocyte growth factor, and fibroblast growth factor. The biggest factor is metabolic function. Women metabolized food differently meaning more of it could be converted into fat stores.

Frailty Myth Book Review

Training is critical to any athlete, but diet cannot be ignored. The physiological differences in women must be accounted for  if a training regimen is to be designed for maximum performance. There is still much to be learned, because most of the exercise physiology studies have been done on male athletes. Although the monograph suggest another technique of  measuring performance in terms of biomechanics ( using height ), it still is clear that there is a gap. Ellis Cashmore’s mathematics is correct when measuring relative velocity between Florence Griffith Joyner and Carl Lewis. However, it is unlikely she would have reached  his exact speed or surpassed  it.

Dowling was quoting a ports  sociologist, however the assessments of Per-Olof  Astrand seem more accurate. There is room for improvement in women’s records. Overtime there will be improvement when more is discovered about the human body’s exact physiological functions. The anatomical, physiological, and biological factors are explanations for differences in performance. Yet its should be realized that other factors are playing a role in outcomes.

        If the idea that women could reach physical performance levels equal to men were to be experimented, some conditions would have to change. Colette Dowling provides a great explanation of how performance is effected by sociological factors. There has been many medical myth surrounding women’s bodies and exercise. Psuedoscience  from  19th century Victorian medicine was designed to discourage women from using their bodies. During that period women were thought to need a rest cure, before they entered puberty. Too much exercise was though in some circles of the medical community to cause “genital decay.” The medical community, eugenicists, and physical educators believed the only purpose a woman had was to reproduce children. The idea the female body was too weak for strenuous activity was common place. When this was disproved there were still efforts to exclude women from the sports world.

While today it has become better. it is not an equal playing field. Girls are not taught physical skills to the same degree as boys at a young age. Physical education is not taught the same way to girls. Skills such as running and throwing are not normally passed on to girls. Besides strength and speed, skill is also important to athletic performance. Boys do not naturally throw better at a young age, they are taught to. Girls rarely get that type of training from their fathers. From ages one to thirteen there is no difference in physiological capacity between girls and boys, yet the physical education standards are different. As girls mature into women, they face extreme body image pressure. The woman who wants to pursue athletic endeavors may not have access to the best training facilities. The goal of an experiment is to have the most precise measurements. These sociological factors effect measurements. Until this changes, records will only be accurate. Women have come far considering in just a short period of time. The question how much they can improve athletically is still a mystery. It would be too presumptuous to say that improvement  never happen.

           The concept of physical equality that Dowling proposes is a peculiar one. She states that” strength and physical skill for all women is only a matter  of learning and training.” The physical capabilities of individuals vary. There are obviously men stronger than other men. Using the term physical equality implies that women are by default in a state of physical inferiority. Nature does not create organisms that are inferior. According to such logic, certain organisms should not be extinct. Neanderthals were much stronger than the homo sapiens, but failed to acclimate to a rapidly changing environment. Thus using physical strength as a basis of measuring “superiority” or “inferiority” has no scientific basis. How strong a woman can get depends on certain factors. Genetics, body type,diet, and training method account to the extent of total strength capacity.Men just on average have the ability to be physically stronger.

Sexual dimorphism is the result of millions of years of primate evolution. It has been theorized that it developed out of the specific needs of the environment and the process of sex selection.  The average size and height difference between men and women relates to an emphasis on male competition for females in the human evolutionary past. If  there was not such an emphasis, men and women would be of a similar size. That does not mean there cannot be variation within the human species. There is phenotypic and genotypic combinations that make individuals unique while still being part of the same species. Height, weight, and skin color vary among human populations. Being female does not automatically mean weak. Women have to train harder  to reach a particular physical fitness level. This means if a woman is attempting to perform on the same physical level as a man she would have to use more of her physical power reserve.

Image134
This is a test done by NASA for physical fitness capabilities  in relation to space travel  it sates:”Female strength as a percentage of male strength for different conditions. The vertical line within each shaded bar indicates the mean percentage difference. The end points of the shaded bars indicate the range.” Human Capabilities

Strength is harder for women to attain, but it can be done. It is still debatable whether or not women should train like men or have a program tailored to them. The best approach is to load bearing exercises to allow for enough micro-trauma to cause muscular growth.  Smaller weights may not be as effective.

A 132 pound woman untrained should be according to rough estimates able to bench at least 64 pounds. If training remains consistent in a few months could reach 82 pounds. Jennifer Thompson who is an elite weightlifter benched 300 lbs only weighing a total of  132 herself. The average male weightlifter novice’s bench press can be 135 lbs. Women can reach a male novice lifting strength level or intermediate. Others like Jennifer Thompson could  possibly overlap ( 290 lbs is the highest range for bench press). The conclusion that could be drawn follows a model of  Gaussian distribution. This graphically shows the function of probability. The middle of such a graph shows the common average ( men are stronger than women )  while there are opposite ends of the graph showing showing other variables ( women stronger than men or weaker men ). Normal distribution is a useful too in statistics and analysis of data.

height
An example of overlap in a population.
1dbcc5a80e3fb541aa4678fcff58bb26ca717902
The representation of normal distribution sometimes referred to as a bell curve.

 What can be drawn from this is that women at elite levels will not perform exactly like their male counterparts. The strongest woman will not be as strong as the strongest man. The weakest woman would be weaker than the weakest man. Through training a woman can at least reach or come close to average male strength.

An Experiment that measures hand grip strength. Looking at the pictures below it gives an idea of where men and women would fall in terms of physical strength. 

The strongest women and the weakest men. Obviously them being male does not  automatically make them stronger. 

The strongest men and the weakest women. Men have a higher potential at gaining more strength. 

It is rare that women surpass men in strength given the same training regimen. There are unique exceptions that can exist. Here is another problem with Dowling’s concept of physical equality. There are women who have surpassed men in physical strength already. The goal seems to have been reached when comparing a man of a low or average fitness level. Colette Dowling’s approach to her argument is not based on a scientific method.

        The scientific method functions on particular methods to reach facts. She states her hypothesis the first step in the process. The athletic performance of both men and women is both testable and observable. It does not have compatibility with other hypothesis, although it is a newly investigated question. The claim that the strength gap will close can go through a process of experimentation. The women would be the independent variable. To get precise data one would either have to examine  Olympic records or make this a controlled experiment among selected subjects. Observation has been an important part of the sciences. A controlled setting can reveal more than attempting to do this at an actual sporting event. After observation the data must be analyzed then possible conclusions can be made. The experiments must be done again to prove that the hypothesis is correct. Only then can it be called scientific fact. Men and women of the same height and weight are not equivalent in all areas of  body strength. Women who are the same height and weight of a man can be estimated to have at least 80% absolute strength. What accounts for the difference is upper body size. This explains why men’s records are higher in weightlifting and shot put. Women’s records have remained stable since 1983. There remains a 10% difference in athletic performance.

 CAN WOMEN CLOSE THE ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE GAP?

When’s performance falls with in the range of a 90% ratio. This indicates that their is the possibility that women’s athletic performance can increase. There are athletic advantages women have in terms of flexibility and the utilization of fat. Looser joints aid in figure skating and gymnastics. Women may have an advantage in distance  swimming due  fat. This may allow for higher bouncy and reduce drag in water. It has been theorized that women may have more muscular endurance compared to their male counterparts. Women have physical advantages, it is only now that they are being examined. The conclusion is very different from Dowling’s. Women will not close the performance gap, but narrow it. It is correct to say that the female body is not biologically inferior or frail. Peak physical fitness levels  are higher in men based anatomical, biological, and physiological factors. However, this does not stop women from achieving high levels of performance. As more women enter the exercise physiology field and sports science there may be new discoveries into the extent of women’s physical fitness capacity. Dowling’s work only partially withstands a scientific investigation.

The Frailty Myth: Can Colette Dowling’s Monograph Sustain the Tests of Biological, Physiological, and Anatomical Science ?

The Sociological Factors That Effect Women’s Athletic Performance

It is obvious that there are reasons for differences in athletic performance between the sexes. The first one is biological. Sexual dimorphism does have an effect on athletic performance.  There are some sports physiologists who claim this is the sole reason for the difference in performance. The problem is that this ignores sociological factors that could effect women. There are many issues that the male athlete will never have to confront. The challenge of gender bias and concepts of femininity still hound women in this profession. Access to equal training and talent development is limited. At an early age women are not taught to be physically skillful. Economic factors also play a role in how much time women can devote to sport. There have been instances in which women have been banned from a particular sport when they upset the gender norm order. It has only been recently that women have been allowed to compete on a professional level. The fact is performance has both biological and sociological factors working in conjunction. Biological determinism fails to realize this and reduces everything solely to the genes. The other end of the spectrum focuses on environment. It is not one or the other, but both. Examining the sociological factors reveals legacies of discrimination and lack of opportunity. While these challenges have been addressed, they are still present and effect women’s athletic performance.  Sociological factors cannot be ignored, even though they are not immediately detectable.

      Body image has at some point effected women’s lives. The ideal  standard of  beauty is obsessive over the image of  thin body type. Even female athletes are not immune from this social and cultural pressure. Fear of violating the dated gender norm hinders women’s chances for improved performance. The trepidation of getting too muscular holds women back. Femininity has been defined in terms of delicateness or frailty. Muscle, strength, power, and skill were traditionally thought to be male only. This is not true, but when women display this they are criticized as being masculine or unfeminine. Skill and a level of aggression is necessary in sport, yet these attributes are praised in men. Women are forced to sometimes walk a tight rope in terms of body image, even though they have sculpted impressive physiques. There is subtle message of being toned, but not too muscular. Women’s bodies vary in size and shape depending on the sport they play so it is strange that their remains body image conformity. This also projects itself in eating disorders, which female athletes are also susceptible to. Some female athletes will not train as hard for fear of becoming more muscular. Weight training can dramatically improve performance, but some female athletes avoid it to prevent becoming muscular. It should be understood that women come in all shapes and sizes. The athletic body is not always a muscular one. It could larger or lithe.

different-body-types-olympic-athletes-howard-schatz-1

different-body-types-olympic-athletes-howard-schatz-2

The modern fitness industry does not help with improving body image. Most marketing is directed at weight loss and diets. It does not emphasize other workout routines in a serious manner in men’s magazines. There is an emphasis on tone for women and building strength for men. There has been a shift which has emerged from a movement against body shaming. Yet, this movement seems to be solely focused on women who are “curvy.” There is also a movement in the fitness community that believes “strong is the new skinny.” The problem with these movements is that they could just be swapping another body image conformity standard with another. The only solution to this is for women themselves to define what version of beauty is acceptable, rather than having it dictated to them. Body image seems to be a tool in which women are controlled. Female athletes violate this standard, by offering an alternative. It becomes a threat, because it challenges the old convictions about women’s roles and false notions of biological inferiority.

There are men who see a strong woman as a threat or an aberration. This to a great extent is influenced by mass media representations that people are exposed to during childhood and adulthood. If one image is presented as how all women should be, this creates a level of prejudice against people who do not fit such a paradigm.  Women who are very muscular have to deal with negative  commentary form the public and the media. Serena Williams has been attacked unjustly about her body built form hours on the tennis court. Female bodybuilders are also attacked and ostracized for large musculature. They have the largest musculature of all causing trepidation in some.  Such behavior shows that body shaming is a bullying tactic to isolate women who do not submit to the cultural body ideals.  Body image goes beyond just having a preference is is linked to sexist attitudes.

 Women in sports and their supporters believe that there is no contradiction between women’s muscular strength and femininity. There is not a contradiction, but it demonstrates who limited a woman can be defined in a sociological context. Body image pressure continues to be a persistent problem that could harm women’s athletic performance. Competition is just not a physical task, but a mental one. Stress and an uninviting atmosphere can cause issues. Men do not have to deal with such body image pressure in the sports world.

        Barriers exist for women in terms of sexist discrimination and misogyny. When one views sporting events, one question that comes up is why are there not more female athletes? This relates back to socioeconomic status, cultural attitudes, and how girls are raised. There could be talented women out there would just do not have the opportunity to compete. There are nations that still view women as being merely property or just wives and mothers. There roles should not extend outside the domestic sphere. Culturally, girls are not taught physical skills like boys are. One of the bonding experiences between a father and son is  teaching is child how to throw. Rarely do fathers do this with their daughters. Rough and tumble play is not considered appropriate for girls. This has changed in some countries. The US passed Title IX, which in many ways changed the way girls and women viewed physical activity. It is not strange for a girl to show interest in or want to play a sport. There is a gap in the amount of physical skills taught to girls. Physical education may to an extent be watered down for girls. The fitness targets and exercises are lower for girls, even when the physiological changes from puberty have not occurred. That means their ate no distinct physical advantages so sex segregated physical education classes would make no sense. This indicates their is a bias, but a process of socialization into  cultural based gender norms. Women when examined in the context of the history of physical education were not expected to play games or sports in the same manner. The female model was to be less competitive and more of moderate level of activity. Women should not in this pedagogy of physical education not strain themselves or become competitive.

1-pi4KAGvuJp3bYA4s4XQeQw.jpeg
A physical education class with female students from 1956 shows students listening to the teacher’s directions. Women who did have talent would have limited opportunities at this time to participate in professional sports or be a part of fitness culture.

   Girls in other countries may get the least amount of schooling, which explains some of the gender inequality globally. Obviously, not being school means they would not have physical education. Some countries have only just begun to offer it to girls. Saudi Arabia has done so as part of its Vision 2030 program. Conservative cultural convictions prevent women from becoming active participants in sports and fitness. Socioeconomic barriers also hinder both sexes. Poverty means less resources to participate in sports that require more equipment or related materials. Playing sports is a leisure activity, which is out of reach for the working poor. This doe not mean a person can not work their way to competitive ranks, but it shows how class has a major impact on life even in a society in which social mobility can be attainable. Women have been a part of sports since the ancient world. Women athletes have been documented in Ancient Greek civilization and indications of female participation in Ancient Egyptian civilization.

 Women faced the same type of prejudiced attitudes and sometimes to an even larger extreme. Women were banned from watching the Olympic games and could be executed if they attempted to do so in ancient Greece. Even if women were athletes, there has been a long tradition of  prohibiting or excluding women from sport. To say that the female athlete is an anomaly or a new phenomenon is incorrect. The peculiar dynamic is why sex discrimination has persisted for so long. While the numbers of women in sports are still lower compared to men, there has been a dramatic increase in total of women athletes. Sex discrimination exposes itself in a number of ways through unequal pay or limited media coverage. Another problem is just not having a venue or platform to compete. There are no professional  leagues for women’s baseball or limited opportunities for women’s tackle football. There are some sports that remain limited for women. because the opportunity is not there.

Women have never  been welcomed in sport and there is a culture of misogyny. To a more closed minded individual sports should be male only and women athletes are by nature “abnormal.”  Women who perform at high levels are either accused of being mannish or having their sexuality questioned. This mix of homophobia and hetero sexism discourages women from being active in sport. The culture of exclusion  is designed to alienate people of different sexual orientations, races, or religions. This type of  exclusion does not only seek alienate, but erase history. It is common in sports historiography and entertainment to ignore non-white peoples. When discussing sports history the discourse mainly focuses on a Western narrative excluding other areas of the globe. China during the Ming dynasty had women as players in Cuju. The Nuba peoples of Sudan have a long tradition of wrestling dating back to the ancient world.

 There have been women athletes all over the world. It is just now they have more venues to compete both at the amateur and professional level. There is a reason why women’s numbers are lower in sports and it is not always unintentional. Women traditionally were expected to give up personal ambitions for the sake of motherhood and marriage. Women had to present themselves as being lady like in the context of a conservative culture. This meant being passive, demure, and responding to male demands. Sports involve a level of confidence and assertiveness that at one time was seen as male only. This has changed over the years as more women challenge ridged gender roles. Sexism extends to a homophobia as well. Women who play sports well are often have their sexuality attacked. They are accused of being lesbians or masculine, because the wider culture has narrow definitions of what men and women can be. Simultaneously people of different sexual orientations are excluded and ostracized. Racism also intersects with exclusionary behavior. Normally white is considered the default presentation in media of the athlete. It ignore the fact that different races and women are part of the sports world. Black, Asian, and South American women have to deal with not only the burden of sexism, but race prejudice. White women do not have to deal with such a challenge. There are social as well as cultural barriers, but there are also institutional challenges.

           Sex verification tests are an example of  institutional barriers harming women’s athletic performance. These tests are given to women and not men which demonstrates a double standard. Slowly they have been eliminated, however they have remained in the form of testing testosterone levels. Women who are deemed to have “too much” testosterone in their system are expected to take hormone therapy to reach what is considered an acceptable level. There is a problem with this. The first is that if a woman’s natural level just happens to be high that just an advantage unique to her physiology. The other possibility is that the athlete in question is either using a performance enhancing substance, which can be tested for. The other case relates to a condition known as hyperandronism in which high levels of testosterone are produced in the body. This condition is rare occurring in about at least 5% to 10% of women. The regulation in regards to unique physiology demonstrates the  IAAF  is uncomfortable with women competing in sports. It was not until 1992 that the IAAF ended sex testing. Sex verification tests have for most of their existence been unscientific. They do not account for genetic variation among women and fail to understand the nature of intersex people. The IOC and IAAF  claim sex testing is done to protect women form men posing as women in contests. To date their has been few men captured posing as a woman in the Olympics.  The only case of this was Dora Ratjen  in the 1936 Olympics.  Dora was actually a man in disguise hoping that he could win more medals for Nazi Germany. Sex verification became more prevalent when women got more involved in sports. International athletics officials standardized gender testing by having athletes present themselves in nude parades. Female athletes would be examine by doctors (specifically their genitalia)  for male organs. This was a violation of privacy and then another test was created that examined chromosomes. This also created complications because human genetics and sex are more complicated than thought. The ruling on testosterone levels is another means of policing gender in sports. A natural physical advantage should not exclude women from sport. The argument is about fairness, however women with such advantage are discouraged form competing. Caster Semneya and Dutee Chand were either forced to take sex verification tests or be banned from competition.

 After legal action, both athletes were able to return to competition. They have talent and a natural advantage, so there is no reason to exclude them based on endocrinology. Detractors claim that they are not “real” women and if they compete it is unfair to other athletes. If it were true that their bodies were more male like, then their performances would match that of male track athletes. They do not seeing as they still have women’s physiques in the structural and physiological sense. Wider pelvises, smaller hearts, and lungs means that their performances would not match a male track athlete. This exposes the problem with sex verification tests. Gender is a social construction and used in this context sex verification is in a pseudoscientific manner is defining what a proper woman should be. Biological sex is the product of millions of years of human evolution with genes interacting with the environment by means of natural and sex selection. The genetics of women can vary. The only purpose of sex verification is to create an uncomfortable atmosphere for women and humiliate them. It is impossible to ban women from sport, but there are mechanisms at the institutional level to stop progress.Sex verification tests are a symbol of that problem.

        One challenge involves the science of exercise physiology. The problem is that most studies focus on male athletes, yet there are few done on female athletes as a whole. When women want to train seriously for a sport, they have limited information. Methods and techniques are still debated. Women are obviously physiologically different from men and in some case may have to have a training regimen adjusted to meet there physical fitness targets. It may still be more to discover about women’s full physical capabilities. There are few women in the exercise sciences and kinesiology , which exacerbates the the issue of lack of information. Sports medicine is slow to catch up in the study of effective training for female athletes. There has to be consideration in terms of endocrinology, the musculoskeletal structure, and metabolism. These vary between men and women including between an individual’s unique physiology. Studies have shown that carbohydrate loading may not have the same effect on women as it does on men. According to a study conducted by the University of Massey at the Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Human Health women utilize only half of the carbohydrates in their muscles. The experiment was examining recovery after exercise having subjects engage in cycling. The results were different for men and women, but this was only one study produced in 2010. There needs to be more done with female athletes, rather than using males as the default for exercise science investigation. Doing so can help discard incorrect myths about women’s performance during menstruation, physical capability, and biomechanics.

       Access to training facilities is also critical to performance. Gyms or tracks are beneficial to an athlete trying to maintain fitness and improve performance. Women were for a long time denied access to particular fitness facilities. The reason the Soviet Union’s women athletes  were outperforming the US in 1956 was  because they provided them with training facilities. The only schools at the university level that did that in America was the Historically black colleges such as Howard University and Hampton University. It was not until Title IX did women in the US get access to gyms and training space. Normally when women entered these spaces they were faced wit intimidation and common sexist prejudice. This is also tied to class. Women who are in a lower socioeconomic bracket do not have the same opportunities to enjoy sports activities. A gym membership can be expensive. The cost to compete depending on what sport can be immense. The income of the female athlete is lower and many may have to have several jobs just to keep playing the sport they love. The financial struggle may cause some to quit. Access to particular facilities could be a problem coming from a country with limited resources. Nations that are unstable, war torn, or economically unstable put women in horrible situations. While biology, anatomy, and physiology demonstrate whay there is a difference in athletic performance, sociological factors are also important. Barriers and discrimination or conservative cultural attitudes still hold women back in sports. Once these issues are challenged, women can truly excel.

 

References

 Reynolds, Gretchen. “Phys Ed: What Exercise Science Doesn’t Know About Women.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 June 2010, well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/30/phys-ed-what-exercise-science-doesnt-know-about-women/.

Markula, Pirkko. “Is There Feminine Muscularity?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 29 Mar. 2017, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fit-femininity/201703/is-there-feminine-muscularity.

Markula, Pirkko. “Muscle Tone Is Sexy, But You Don’t Want To Look Too Buff.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 12 Nov. 2016, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fit-femininity/201611/muscle-tone-is-sexy-you-don-t-want-look-too-buff.

Padawer, Ruth. “The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 June 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/03/magazine/the-humiliating-practice-of-sex-testing-female-athletes.html.

East, Susie. “Should a Woman’s Testosterone Level Matter in Sports?” CNN, Cable News Network, 12 Aug. 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/12/health/testosterone-and-hyperandrogenism-in-female-athletes/index.html.

The Sociological Factors That Effect Women’s Athletic Performance

Can Women Build Muscle Mass ?

It is commonly believed that women cannot build muscle. This does not seem to be accurate when examining the matter for an exercise physiology perspective. Women can in fact build muscle, because muscular hypertrophy does operate in the same manner in the female body. The level compared to men would be less in relation to size. There is a fear that some women have of “bulking up.” This term bulking also is not accurate either. The word bulky can be defined as ” taking up much space typically inconveniently” or ” a person that is heavily built.” This description  could be used for various body types if applying these definitions. A person who is overweight could be bulky according to that definition. The best terminology would be muscle mass gains. It seems what is bulky can vary depending on what a person’s aesthetic preferences are. The term bulky just like the term tone has limited scientific basis. These terms are either used to deter or encourage women specifically in their fitness goals. There is a taboo against women with muscular or strong looking bodies. Ideas about women’s physical capabilities are still based on dated notions that the female body was not designed for strength or endurance. Popular fitness literature states that women cannot “bulk up” through heavy weight lifting. Basically this is saying that women cannot build muscle. Fitness literature does correctly state the health benefits, but denigrates the muscular look on women. The ability to gain muscles mass does not only depend on sex, but factors such as body type, genetics, exercise regimen, and age are also factors.

         Muscular hypertrophy is the process in which skeletal muscle will increase in size including the associated cells. This does not only increase muscle mass, but the cross sectional area. Individual muscle fibers increase in size. Cardiac muscle can even adapt to increased work load. The heart can become more efficient at squeezing blood out of the chambers of the heart and the skeletal muscle can push more force through the tendons of the body. Skeletal muscle must contract to produce body movement, but also functions in maintaining body posture. When doing progressive overload intermittent levels of stress is applied to the skeletal muscle. This allows for the muscle to adjust for the enlargement and amount of contractile proteins. This effects the myofibrils in each muscle fiber.

Women have the same muscles as men. Anatomically and physiologically the muscular system of women is similar to that of  males. To understand the nature of muscular hypertrophy one must examine satellite cells, growth factor proteins, and immune system responses.   The satellite cells are responsible for repair of damaged skeletal muscle tissue and they are facilitators of growth. Their location is on the surface of the muscle fiber between the sarcolema and basal lamina.

 muscle1

These cells contain one nucleus which has most of the cell volume. They are only activated in the case of injury or trauma. Resistance training only cause some micro-trauma. The daughter cells respond, while there is an increase in satellite cells. The daughter cells merge to the damage site. This results in the increase in myosin and actin proteins. Simultaneously the daughter cells will donate nuclei. Muscular hypertrophy can be induced by high intensity anaerobic resistance training. The changes it causes result in neural adaptations, muscular endurance, and strength. The total amount of satellite cells differs depending on the type of muscle fiber. Oxidative   fibers have at least six times the satellite cells. These muscle fibers are in use more frequently. They have an are larger blood and capillary supply which explains this function. This physiological process is the same for people, but potential varies when considering other factors. The initial fitness level and natural strength capacity are critical. People of ectomorphic body types will struggle to build muscle, while mesomorphic bodies can easily gain. Endomorphic body types would benefit in terms of weight loss, because muscle burns fat.  This means that women can vary in the level of muscular gains they can make depending at their starting point before hypertrophy.

Somatotype plays a major role in physical fitness potential in terms of muscular gains. Proteins actually have the ability to govern growth rates.

      Growth factors include hormones and cytokines. Growth factors maintain division and various characteristics form the original cell, which are acquired . This process is known as differentiation .  The major growth factors of skeletal hypertrophy include insulin growth factor, fibroblast growth factor, and heptocyte growth factor. Insulin growth factor regulates protein synthesis including insulin metabolism. This growth factor appears in two forms which include IGF I and IGF II. IGF I must proliferate the cells as well as cause differentiation  IGF II must spread the satellite cells. IGF responds to progressive overload during resistance exercise causing it to increase in level.

Fibroblast growth factor is present in the skeletal muscle. FGF has nine forms, but only five cause the proliferation and the differentiation of satellite cells. The amount of fibroblast growth factor is proportional to the degree of trauma or injury.  Hepatocyte growth factor has numerous cellular functions and is also a cytokine. The role of HGF is to get the satellite cells to migrate to the areas of trauma. Besides cytokines, the endocrine system and hormones also contribute to the growth of muscle.

         The endocrine system has the function of directing hormones in the body. Hormones are a group of chemicals, which are designed to regulate activities in organs or cells through out the body. Hormone function can be effected by nutritional status, food consumption, and lifestyle factors. Life style factors include stress, amount of sleep or rest, and general state of health.Testosterone is an androgen that also contributes to muscular hypertrophy. The sex hormone is produced more in males which effects the nervous system, skeletal muscle, bone marrow, skin, hair and sex organs. Women produce more estrogen, which effects the body composition to produce more fat. The endocrine system contains ovaries in women which is responsible for the ripening of eggs and the thickening of the uterine wall. The reason men find it easier to build muscle or lose weight is because they are producing more androgens  in the testes. Testosterone has anabolic effects on the body and can generate more protein synthesis. This explains why it is harder for women to build mass. Even when the training regimen is the same for both sexes male absolute strength is higher.

  However,  it is not the total amount of  testosterone in the body. The amount of free testosterone that is not bounded in the body.  As confusing as this can be it explains that a woman who trains can be stronger than a man, even though their is a hormonal difference. Hormones are not the only factor involved in muscular hypertrophy. It should also be understood that other hormones such as growth hormone and cortisol contribute to the endocrine elements. Growth hormone is classified as a peptide, which causes stimulation in IGF. It has been suggested that GH is more responsible for enforcing connective tissues. Growth hormone also needs to be involved  in the process of activation, proliferation, and differentiation. Cortisol is categorized as steroid hormone, produced in the adrenal cortex and kidney. This stress hormone causes gluconeogenesis. The process allow for formation of glucose from other areas such as amino acids and free fatty acids. Cortisol has the ability to stop the use of glucose by cells of the body. Protein catabolism can be caused by this, which allows amino acids to focus on more protein production. If this process happens too much it can inhibit skeletal muscular hypertrophy. Steroid hormones are critical because they have a nucleus than can transport through the cell membrane without a receptor.

 The endocrine system is a combination of glandular tissues and glands within organs that manipulate hormones to regulate the body. The endocrine system and the interactions of hormones do plat a role in muscular hypertrophy. These hormone interactions are complex and simply saying women cannot achieve muscle gain would be incorrect. Testosterone does provide an advantage, but IGF and GH add to the anabolic role to compensate for lower levels in women. Estrogen may also be helpful in some regards. Studies have shown that estrogen can aid in muscle repair and may have the ability to protect joints and bones from injury. Estrogen and testosterone are both important to the health of the human body.

       Women have the same muscle fibers. There is a belief that there are “men’s muscles” and  “women’s muscles.” The force than can be produced from muscle fiber is dependent on size and particular composition. Slow twitch and fast twitch fibers are different in terms of metabolism, contractile velocity, neuromuscular activity, glycogen stores, and capillary density. They do respond differently to hypertrophy. The fast twitch type II fibers are capable of more force production. Type IIa fibers are oxidative glycolytic fibers, which can be a combination of type I and IIb fibers. They need both need anaerobic and oxidative metabolism to support contraction. This type of fiber can be the product of both endurance training and resistance training. Type IIb fibers have the ability to convert into type IIa fibers. Fast twitch glycolytic fibers require anaerobic metabolism for energy needs. Contraction in this circumstance requires an amount of glycolytic enzymes. The reason this type of fiber generates more force is due to the enhanced size of the nerve body, axon , and the muscle fiber. The conduction of velocity of alpha motor nerves becomes higher, while simultaneously causing more of a response in terms action potential. Although this type of muscle fiber has more power, it has less long term endurance.

 Depending on the sport there are muscle fibers that are more helpful than others. Fast twitch fibers would be more helpful for weightlifting and slow twitch would be useful in running. The slow twitch muscle oxidative muscle fibers contribute to maintaining skeletal support and body posture. These fibers have more endurance and can generate tension for longer time periods. Slow twitch fibers have the ability to use fats and carbohydrates better compared to fast twitch fibers. The require less excitement for the sake of muscular contraction. The explanation is that oxidative metabolism provides an efficient means of breaking down fuels from energy with the help of oxygen. Type I fibers can grow with progressive overload including resistance training. Aerobic exercise to a small extent can cause hypertrophy in type I fibers. There is no difference in structure and physiology of the muscular system of women. Men have can develop larger muscles in terms of total body composition. Muscular development comes from a training regimen and the result of that particular stimuli.

        The type of exercise and training method also influences how women gain mass. There are numerous types of exercise. Weight training is the most effective method to building muscle mass. cardio vascular exercise, while still good for health will not cause mass gains. This is also true of aerobics, which does not aid in significant strength increases.

CFL
The muscular system of women contain the same muscles as men.

   Women either avoid weights for fear they will “bulk.” Basically, it is a fear of becoming muscular, which is very possible. Looking like a professional athlete or female bodybuilder takes decades to achieve. Thinking that such strength and power can be acquired with minimal effort is ludicrous. Such athletes have a genetic advantage unique to their physiology, a strict diet, and train over a number of the years. Some athletes resort to performance enhancing drug use to reach fitness or performance  targets. There still is a huge amount of cultural bias against women who do not fit a societal body image paradigm. Women have various body types and the ability to enhance physical fitness capacity. There still continue to myths about women’s bodies that were based on 19th century eugenics and pseudoscience. The female body was thought to be too weak for vigorous activity and  exercising would cause infertility in women. These concepts have been disproved, but research is still needed in terms of training of the female athlete. Exercise physiology has not examined female athletes as much as men, so it still may be a mystery about women’s total physical fitness capacity. This makes it more difficult to figure out what is the best training method for women. There are two factions that emerge in this debate. The first claims women should not train like men and the other advocates similar methods between the sexes. The one reason some argue women should not train like men is due to endocrinology. Estrogen can help women recover faster from training and reduces fatigue. Women would need more isolation work in the upper body to gain strength in that section of the body. Adding muscle to the upper body would be the most challenging element, which means there may need to be adjustments in exercises. When women do bench presses they use more of their triceps compared to their shoulders and back. Seeing as women are closer to men in lower body strength, they respond just as well to a mix of high volume and high intensity squats.

Other advocates say that women should follow the exact same regimen as men. That means lifting heavy and doing this at high intensity.  Both positions have their well argued positions, but may be there are some deeper considerations. The choice may not be either selection, rather a combination of both methods. Individuals vary in somatotype and this will effect on the results of training stimuli. The only way to find out the best training program is to determine your body type and experiment with a regimen. The only practical way would be to document or record changes to see if it is fully effective. Training should be tailored to the physical characteristics and attributes of an individual.

      Nutrition and diet are also critical to building muscle mass. For women, this becomes more complicated due to differences in how food is metabolized. If one is to consume more calories activity level should be high enough to utilize them or else it could become extra fat stores. An active woman should consume close to 2,400 calories per day to maintain mass. A diet should consist of protein and carbohydrates. Protein is required for muscle growth and repair. Foods that should be consumed for required carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. It is best to consume carbohydrates prior to and after workout sessions. This diet must be consistent to be effective in producing results. This may be the mot challenging aspect, other than the training itself. Dietary proteins can be found in meat, chicken, fish, eggs,whey, and dairy products. There is another limitation here in terms of knowledge. It is not entirely clear how much protein an active sportswoman should consume. The recommended suggestion is 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This may require a level of modification. Besides food, there are supplements that can gain in strength and muscle mass gain. Creatine  has been shown to be very helpful with women in their training regimens. Supplements and diet can allow women to build muscle mass.

        Genetics plays a role in how muscular a person can get. There is not one gene responsible for a single attribute, but a combination of genes. Eye color can be affected by  15 different genes. A gene is a single unit of DNA required to form a protein. They consist of sections of DNA that code for all the amino acids of a particular protein. Lengths of DNA are referred to as introns and exons, which transcribe  to form immature mRNA.

ADN gene

The mRNA has sections that are made from introns, which will be removed. After the removal the mature mRNA  will remain for the purpose of translation. Regulatory DNA sequences code for their own proteins and this affects the gene transcription rate. Introns can be sliced out, leaving the exon section. That remaining section will allow for protein production. Relevant to muscular hypertrophy, the MSTN gene plays a significant role. This gene provides directions to the protein myostatin. Myostatin is part of the transforming growth factor beta super family. This protein is active before and after birth and is found mostly in the skeletal muscles. It has the function of  regulating muscle growth. Athletes with low myosatin could therefore find it easier to build muscle compared with individuals with higher levels. The often used phrase ” they have great genetics” actually does have credibility. A natural physique suited to a particular sport does provide an edge in certain competitions. Genes are not a compete explanation either. Organisms interact with their environments and it can also influence biological states. There could be an athlete with great potential, but they do not work as hard. There could be women of high potential that do not have the opportunity to enhance physical skills.

 Humanity is a combination of genes and environment. Muscular potential from a genetic standpoint is inherited to a degree. Whether it can be extended further is determined by dedication, access to certain facilities, and nutrition. As science continues to uncover the nature of the human genome and gene interactions,  there still are unanswered questions.

        Age also does play a role in how much mass can be gained. The muscular system like other organ systems is effected by senescence. The aging process changes the skeletal and muscular system at different stages at life. Girls  during puberty attain their full natural skeletal and muscle mass growth faster than boys. The growth process for most people ends by age 25. Men may be slower to grow, but when it is done they are taller and have more total body mass. Muscles can change depending on use and level of exercise. Muscle will reach its full potential in size, strength, and contraction rate by the mid-20s of the human life cycle. When the muscular peak reaches a certain level, it will decline with age. Body fat  will increase throughout life. Muscles by middle age become weaker and stiffer, which can affect voluntary and automatic body movements. Bones have a more difficult time with reconstruction, leaving people more vulnerable to osteoporosis. Age causes muscle mass reduction. Between the ages of 45 to 70 muscle strength declines about one third. However, exercise can prevent muscle mass and bone loss.

 Linda Wood Hoyte started to compete in her 30s  and in her 70s still has a good physique. 

Load bearing exercises can build strength and bone mass. Besides those benefits, it might also aid in keeping a  healthy circulatory system and controlling blood pressure. It is true it would be difficult for an older person to build muscle, but not impossible. Doctors once believed that the elderly should not engage in vigorous exercise,because it could be too much for them. Seniors should be physically and mentally active to improve the quality of life. Seniors can see an increase in strength and bone mass.

        When examining these factors the question becomes to what extent are women’s capabilities? Growth rate in muscle gain for women does not differ. Women respond to training stimuli, but the difference is starting point. Men will appear that they grow more, because they have more lean body mass to start with. This may not be the case , because appearances can be deceiving, without precise measurement. Studies conducted show that women can enhance their physical fitness over a number of weeks.

Rate of Gain.png
Both male and female subjects gained 10 lbs of muscle.
TRA012-B
Women saw dramatic increases percentage wise in squats and bench press. Arm curl percentages were lower because of the vast difference in upper body strength.

Women seem to see higher percentage increases. This does not mean they go beyond men in absolute strength, rather they gain more because the have less natural strength to begin with. It seems that women have more endurance than men when doing an exercise session.  Studies suggest women can utilize fuel reserves better and are less reliant on carbohydrates during training regimens. Women can burn more body fat relative to their size. Understanding these biological and physiological differences can contribute to making a training program more effective.

          There still is unscientific and incorrect ideas about women gaining mass. Some of these views are simple misconceptions. The term “bulky” is nothing more than a colloquial term that does not accurately describe the athletic or muscular female body. The athletic female body can come in numerous forms being either smaller or larger.

Their bodies look a particular way depending on which sport they compete in. A gymnast will not have a body of a weightlifter. A track and field athlete will not have a body like a swimmer’s. Women are still scrutinized more about appearance and body image. Even athletes have to be subject to such ridicule and derision. The irrational fear about becoming “too big” or looking “mannish” still plagues women in sports and fitness. The fitness industry promotes mostly weight loss plans to women, rather than programs that enhance physical conditioning. There are guarantees of “you can never bulk up from weight training” or “its simply impossible for women to build muscle.” There is a bias against women of different sizes. Muscular women or physically strong women face these biases. Critics either call it unnatural or unattractive. Most of these sexist claims are based on pseudoscience from 19th century  Victorian Age  medicine. Women were thought to have naturally frail bodies and rigorous exercise could harm their health. At  this time, women’s sole purpose in the eyes of Victorian society was to direct all her energy to childbirth. Getting an education, working, or doing physical activity would according to medical professionals would take away body energy for childbirth. This was false, but these myths were designed to control women’s bodies and deny them reproductive rights. Women developing their bodies to the highest physical condition has become a major statement about what a woman can be and achieve. Although the concept of female biological inferiority has been proved false, prejudice remains.

          The women that are commonly referred to as “bulky” are female bodybuilders. This should be interpreted  from a point of height and weight differences. The women who appear on stage are not as large as they seem. During contests their body weight is lower depending on what weight class. The off season is a rest period in which body fat levels will go back up. The stage body is different from  the out of contest body. Fat levels are low to show as much definition and vascularity  as possible. This condition can only be maintained for a short period of time. When body fat levels get too low it can cause problems for the cell membranes. Specific to women it can cause issues with the menstrual cycle. That is why competitors do not remain in contest shape year long.

A combination of tans and low body fat produce a body uniquely sculpted. The look is different from any other female athlete. Depending on the category, muscularity, size, definition, and conditioning vary. There are numerous weight and height classes in the physique, bodybuilding,  figure, fitness, and bikini classes. These women sculpt their bodies to a particular aesthetic. Bodies can either be lithe with some muscle, a middle range, or the hypermuscular version. While to an extent their is a level of acceptance of some muscle on the female body, there remains a bias in sports and in the whole of the fitness industry. Most fitness magazines for women encourage diets and weight loss rather than specific exercise programs. The fitness industry even blamed female bodybuilders and weightlifters for making women fearful of lifting weights. This is not true, because many publications promoted the thin body as an image of health and beauty. They were the first women to lift and spread this activity. The industry they contributed to now wants to disown them. There is a change with a the rise of crossfit and more women wanting to use weight rooms in their local gyms.

Seeing women in other sports the spectrum is much bigger. On average women are shorter than men and adding muscle to a smaller frame makes it seem as if they are gigantic. Women of this physique are often criticized as being as large as men, but this is not necessarily true. As revealed previously men have more muscle mass and larger skeletal frames. Also depending on which man you are comparing a muscular woman to she may obviously be bigger. Somatotypes vary between men and women. Comparing a muscular woman to a thin man, she would obviously look bigger. Men with endomorphic body types would be larger in terms of total body mass. The mesomorph however would be larger than most women depending on their height and weight.

The one who would be considered  bulky according to the denotation of the word would not be the muscular woman. 

Terms like bulky and toned are gender based fitness constructions. The only utility it serves is to present what types of bodies are acceptable to a dominant cultural perspective. The another myth that needs to be challenged is that some how muscles turn into fat when training or competition ends. Muscle only goes through atrophy meaning they decrease in size. Hypertrophy as discussed earlier is the opposite of this process. Maintaining a muscular physique requires high calorie consumption. Women have to work harder to achieve higher physical fitness levels. Looking like a bodybuilder or fitness model take an enormous effort. For the average non-athlete, how one looks could be completely random. The fitness industry tries to present a claim everyone will look a particular way after a training regimen, but this has no scientific basis. Their main purpose is to sell a training program, not realistic expectations.

1 (4)
Looking like either one of these women  may not actually happen. However, weightlifting can improve health.

 There are women who think touch a heavy weight will make them a Lenda Murray and the others who think they can look like a smaller fitness model. It is clear that these women are professional athletes who have talent and genetics to produce such appearances. The diligence and number of years required would certainly deter a majority of people. Women who see some muscle develop and do not want it become fearful that it is permanent. Obviously it is not. The body does change when exercise is  either stopped completely or adjusted depending on goals. Muscle atrophy when it happens in women may theoretically go at a faster rate, due to body composition. Former competitors are not as large as they were when in contest. That is because the body is no longer being challenged by exercise stimuli. The only way excessive weight gain happens is when calorie consumption is still high, but physical  activity level is still low.

The photographs above show former competitors Dawn Riehl and Laura Creavalle in their post athletic career stage. Their muscles did not transform into fat, they merely shrank in size compared to when they were competition. The general public has a weak comprehension of science, especially the anatomy and physiology of their own bodies. Having a grasp of basic exercise physiology would make many understand why bulky is really not a precise term to describe a muscular body.

      The term as one can see is relative to a perspective of an individual.Another aspect that should be realized is that the claim women with muscle look like men is false. Simply having muscle does not make women look like men. This is distorted logic, because it assumes that all men have physiques that are like men on the cover of fitness magazines. Another problem is that it ignores the fact that women’s muscular systems can be developed through training. The only reason a woman would exhibit male secondary sex characteristics is from long term anabolic androgenic steroid abuse. This type of performance enhancing drug alters the endocrine system, which can enhance strength and aid in workout recovery. Virilization and other negative health consequences can be a result of use depending on the type of steroid, dosage,  and length of use.  However, it should not be assumed that all muscular people are on some drug. Training and diet are more effective in comparison. Drugs will not produce a quality athlete if training and diet are inadequate.  Women do have the ability to build muscle mass depending on age, type of exercise, somatotype,  and genetics. While much has been discovered, there could be more to learn about the full extent of female muscular physiology.

References

Parker, Steve. The Human Body Book. New York: DK Publishing,2013.

Kravitz, Len. “The Mystery of Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy.” Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy, University of New Mexico , 7 Mar. 2006, http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/hypertrophy.html.

 

Henselmans,  Menno. “The Muscular Potential of Women .” Bayesian Bodybuilding, Bayesian Bodybuilding, 12 Jan. 2015, bayesianbodybuilding.com/natural-muscular-potential-women/.
Jacob Wilson. “Are Women Stronger Than Men?” The Muscle PhD, The Muscle PhD, 25 Sept. 2017, themusclephd.com/are-women-stronger-than-men/.
Samuels , Mike. “How to Bulk Up for Females.” Healthy Living, Healthy Living , 8 Dec. 2007, healthyliving.azcentral.com/bulk-up-females-4067.html.
MSTN Gene – Genetics Home Reference.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 7 Oct. 2017, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MSTN.
Chee April 01, 2015, Rosie. “Muscle Building: Hypertrophy And Physiology – How To Lift Weights To Maximize Mass!” Bodybuilding.com, Bodybuilding.com , 1 Apr. 2015, http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/muscle-hypertrophy-physiology-how-to-lift-weights-maximize-mass.htm.
Can Women Build Muscle Mass ?

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).

a8e506e3dcdc7d5b2b4627516bdb88fa
500 yard swim – minimum score :12:30 minutes  maximum score : 8 minutes
DOWELL CRAMER
Pull-ups- minimum score :10 maximum score: 15-20
e8e88d6bf5074b6029a89f11ee40e5f2
Push ups- minimum score :50 maximum score: 80-100
abdominal-crunch
Sit-ups- minimum score : 50 maximum score : 80-100
a663023e2b4f5bd20a4e0cbb1608b602
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.

screen-shot-2014-09-09-at-2-51-56-pm
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.

iep0088-0237-f1
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.

ExhibitC
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.

Simone-Manuel-WD-11-12-16-118.jpg

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?