Essop Merrick produced videos giving an analysis of women’s strength training. These are mostly instructional with some exercise physiology in the content. While his knowledge is extensive, there are some elements that are critical that are missing from the videos. It is true that men and women can learn from one another when it comes to training. Method is critical when designing a training program. Also anatomical and physiological differences must be accounted for in certain approaches. Simply acknowledging differences does not constitute sexism. Essop stresses that point, but makes general statements about feminism. Not all feminists are power feminists or sameness feminist. The problem as he points out is that they think sameness equates to true equality. Everyone is different and this is not an indication of inferiority or superiority. It is not a stereotype that men are stronger than women; it is biological and physiological fact. That being understood physical fitness capacity can vary among individuals regardless of sex . There are numerous factors that determine physical strength and the video makes the mistake of saying it is primarily testosterone. Genetics, body type, body composition, and muscle fibers play essential roles. If a person is to be scientific in their analysis, one should do more research. It is not about “defining strength in a different way” or “being strong in a different way.” It it is about reaching maximal physical fitness capacity. When men and women train on the same regimen male physical fitness capacity will be higher. This does not mean women cannot reach a level that is high relative to their size and anatomical structure.
There are multiple factors that contribute to physical strength. Age does play a role in muscular strength. The best period for maximum growth is between the ages ten to 20. As a person ages their muscle mass will decrease if they do not exercise. obviously, as children grow into adults, there strength level increases due to larger body size. Puberty is the period in which males have a dramatic change in endocrinology. Testosterone levels increase causing denser bones, ligaments, tendons, and more muscle mass. Women do not get a strength spurt, rather estrogen and progesterone allow for more storage of fat.
However ,somatotype is also important. While a man may produce more testosterone a man with an ectomorphic or endomorphic body type may struggle to build muscle like a mesomorphic woman. This is independent of endocrinology and sex. Male and female muscles do not differ in terms of histology. Male and female muscles can respond to training and function in a similar manner. There is a difference in the total amount of muscle mass even with highly trained female athletes. Women have a higher body fat percentage even when reaching upper levels of muscular development. Fat does not contribute to strength generation.
Sexual dimorphism effects physical fitness capacity.
Then there is also the factor of muscle fiber type. This must be clarified before discussing muscular hypertrophy. There are different types of muscle fibers. Fast twitch muscle fibers generate more power, but have less endurance. Slow twitch fibers do not have the same level of power compared to type II fast twitch. Although the type of muscle fibers vary among sex, men on average have more type II muscle fibers compared to women’s more endurance based type I muscle fibers. If an athlete is training for pure strength, type II muscle fibers would be the most helpful. So it is possible for a woman with more type II muscle fibers to have more strength, even if a man is producing more testosterone. Strength and power training is the most effective method for recruiting the most muscle fibers for strength.
The skeleton also is a factor.Bone density is higher in men. The skeleton acts as a support system for organs and houses muscles connected by ligaments and tendons.Limb length also can aid strength. People with shorter limbs can have an advantage in lifting due to leverage factors. Longer limbs mean more space for muscle compared to shorter limbs. Tendons can provide biomechanical advantage relative to point of tendon insertion. There also remains a difference in upper and lower body strength between men and women partially influenced by skeletal structure. Men have broader shoulders, which means that there is more area for muscle. A woman can build significant strength in the upper body, but smaller shoulder width and size would not allow for muscular levels of the male upper body. Men have an estimated 50% greater upper body strength. There is even a strength difference in the lower body estimated at 30%. Women are closer to men in the lower body.
Genetics and the function of the nervous system also have major roles to play in physical strength. There have been genes that have been identified associated with strength. These genes include PEX14, ACTG1, TGFA, and SRYT1. These genes are responsible for muscle fiber function and the nervous system communication between them. Women are also the carriers of these genes. There are most likely more genes that contribute to muscular strength. The MSTN gene provides directions to myostatin a protein responsible for regulating muscular growth. If an a person has low myostatin levels, then building muscle would be easier. These factors are independent of biological sex and endocrinology. Sexual dimorphism can be flexible in this regard. Neural adaptation is also important to strength. If the motor cortex can be trained to efficiently recruit muscle fibers, this means the body can reach a certain strength potential. The motor neurons are classified as efferent neurons which working through the spinal cord produces muscle contraction producing proprioceptive sensitivity. The nervous system has to be included in this discussion of strength.
Neuromuscular efficiency has to be considered when making strength assessments. This explains why someone who appears to be bigger may not be as strong as someone who has trained differently. Testosterone is a major help in protein synthesis, which allows for more hypertrophy. Yet.it is not the sole factor in physical strength.
Strength depends on which training method is used and the type of muscular hypertrophy it causes. Exercise increases physical fitness levels. There are no women’s exercises or men’s exercises. If the muscular and skeletal system are similar in terms of physiology any exercise should work to produce stimuli.
Even using the term “women’s strength training” seems somewhat inaccurate. Strength training is strength training no matter what a person’s sex is. The major factors related to it come down to sarcoplasmic and myofibular hypertrophy. The video gives a general explanation of both. Myofibular hypertrophy requires high intensity, low reps, and medium sets. Myofibrils are formed from bundles of myofilaments. Each muscle cell contains these myofibrils and they are responsive to load stimulus. This means micro-trauma must be applied to the individual fibers inducing repair during a recovery period. Overload must be maintained to see muscular hypertrophy occur. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy involves medium intensity, higher reps and sets. Sarcoplasm is the energy sources that encase the myofibirls. This includes ATP, glycogen, creatine phosphate, and water. This involves scaroplasmic expansion. The problem is that it would be premature to say which type of hypertrophy favors women. Other factors involved in strength must be realized when considering this.
It may appear that sarcoplasmic hypertrophy favors women more in terms of the disparity in intensity, but there has never been an experimental basis for this. This question relates to whether or not women should train like men or try another method. The best answer is designing a program specific to a person’s unique physiology. There are women who are at various fitness levels and will see more results compared to others. While some methods are not interchangeable with men and women it can apply to various individuals regardless of sex.
There is a difference is total absolute strength gains. The chart that was made for the presentation gives a least an general estimation of physical capabilities. However there has to be a level of precision. Weightlifting records show the the total aggregate of fitness capacity. Crossfit records also provide a more accurate assessment. Weight and height add an advantage. The performance range differs between novice lifters and advanced ones.
Strength level wise women can reach the level of an untrained male. Their strength could be slightly more than an untrained male given the trained woman’s size and total weight. This also depends on training method. If a woman only does cardiovascular exercise, this will not dramatically increase physical strength. The act of getting strong is not sexist. The process from going from weak to strong is the increase in fitness. As data shows, women can improve their performance like men if they train, consume the proper diet, and focus on periods of recovery. The major challenge is that for women it is a trial and error method, because very few exercise physiology studies focus on women. The majority of these studies are conducted on men. This causes confusion about how women should best train for maximum performance. Also interpretation of data is important. These are totals of each athletes’ performance. This could mean that there may be a level of overlap in performance when comparing individual male and female athletes. Women’s athletic performance should not be considered as poor, rather a representation of weight class. Weight class was designed to give smaller people and extremely large people opportunities to compete in sports on an equal basis. Seeing as women are smaller their performance is a representation of their weight class. No one ever says that smaller male athletes are inferior. They are admired for their skill, yet women do not get such accolades.
Women can improve their performance, but they have a harder time reaching higher fitness levels. Less muscle means more work has to be done. The difference in metabolism means that women have to be careful with the diet. Activity level most be high enough so that food does not metabolize into fat. Calorie intake needs to be the right amount to provide energy and feed the growing muscles. It is not just biology that influences athletic performance; there are sociological factors.
There has been for a longtime sexism in sports. The problems does not stem from ignoring the differences or “celebrating the good in one of the groups.” Discrimination stems from bias and prejudice as well as the conviction that certain groups do not deserve the same rights or opportunities. Such thought believes that certain groups should not have access even to the same leisure activities. The reason so few women are present in serious strength training gyms is because they have been excluded in the past. Although women’s numbers have increased in sports it still is below the participation level of males. Cultural standards of beauty and restriction to training facilities kept many women out of sports. The passage of Title IX changed this allowing girls in school the opportunity to play sports. From 1972 onward there would be a dramatic increase in female athletic participation. This a demonstration of how public policy can change a social ill if implemented correctly.
There are many who want to reverse such changes. Claims of “reverse discrimination” or attempts to bring down other groups of another are made by conservatives. This is nothing more than an attempt to reimpose the old order. It is too late to keep women out of sports, but there are numerous attempts to undermine it. Limited television broadcast, lack of sponsorship, or sex discrimination are the most notable methods. Gender verification tests, no competitive venues, and public ostracism made it difficult for women to compete professionally in sport. When the modern day Olympics came into existence in 1896, it was a male only event. Although women participated in sports since the ancient world 19th century cultural sensibilities rejected the idea of a physically strong woman.
It was not until 1991 that the IOC ruled that any new sport introduced to the games had to include women. Despite these gains, women around the world do not have the same opportunity for athletic competition. Women may be faced with extreme poverty, lack of reproductive rights, or limited education. If a ruling group does not want to share power and continues to oppress, then it must be taken down. So far, certain institutional structures have changed for the better for women competitors. Considering the past women’s advancement in sport is impressive. These obstacles demonstrate why many are still trying to catch up in the sports world.
Exercise does not differ between men and women. There are no “girl exercises” or “men’s exercises.” This can be described best with the squat and the deadlift. Essop articulates it as a movement pattern. Training with correct form and avoiding injury can create a safe as well as effective workout. The notion that strength and physical prowess was a male only attribute has created a bias against women. The frailty myth was created by 19th century pseudoscience with the conviction that the female body was biologically inferior. Many thought that if women became too strong this would harm their ability to become pregnant. This was proven false in the 20th century and women began to enter the world of sports and fitness.
Strength training is strength training no matter who does it. So saying there is a “women’s strength training” makes no sense. Exercise like the deadlift or squat can best be seen as a movement pattern. Men can even learn many techniques from women in terms of lower body strength training. Women have an advantage in terms of deep squats because of their pelvic structure. Knowing differences between the sexes allows for a more efficient training program that can meet an athletes needs. Intensity and volume can be inversely proportional. That means the heavier the weight, the less time one can lift it. The lighter the weight the more time you have to lift it. Volume can either be adjusted to promote growth or more physical strength. This can to an extent be fluid rather than a set quantitative value. There may be a way theoretically to reconcile the difference in maximal strength between men and women Essop suggests. The approach may be by increasing volume. Splitting such a task into sets reduces the labor or possible strain. This may counter the intensity by equalizing the workload. The variety of exercise can also effect performance outcomes. Women’s looser joints and flexibility also provide an advantage in particular ranges of motion. Squat, bend, and lunge are the movement patterns for the hips.
There are also three planes of movement which include frontal, transverse, and sagittal. Other exercises also involved in the movement pattern include step ups and hyper extensions. Variety when done will challenge the muscle and allow for significant increase in total amount of weight lifted. There is the question about whether free weights or machines are better. To date there has not been a conclusive study to prove which one is better. The conjecture is that both are best to use, but there is no official verification of that. Women’s recovery from training gives them a benefit, which men do not have. While male absolute strength allows for more intensity, this means recovery periods would be longer. Doing high intensity workouts in such a manner also increases the risk of injury. Women can build immense core strength if they understand that the nervous system is stimulated by the activation by that section of the body. It is not by isolation.
Using this particular approach can help athletes avoid over training. This still does not eliminate the absolute strength difference between men and women on a similar program. Sexual dimorphism is flexible in particular aspects. Core strength demonstrates through training that some elements one show a small physical performance difference. Elite men and women it is bigger in absolute strength. Becca Swanson is stronger than many men, but would not be stronger than the strongest man.
Her range of strength would even surpass trained males. What can be extrapolated from this information is that being female does not limit athletic potential. Women are neophytes to the professional sports world and developing training programs is an experimental process. There are numerous training programs and fitness advisory websites, but this can be confusing to a person just starting. There has to be a framework to follow for success.
Essop reduces the process of strength training regimen to certain steps. The first step requires stimulating the muscles. That would be the exercising process that follows after that . This follows recovery allowing the body to repair and get ready for the next training period. Super compensation is the diet and rest in total. This should be repeated and be consistent.
Essop’s view is that it should be retrospective in function rather that a set schedule. The problem with being set on one exercise, then correct form, and then progressive overload. This may not work for everyone and may just be too restrictive. The objective should be to enhance the body through variety and challenge it. The standard operation of the personal trainer system may be too limited for higher physical fitness targets. The problem is being too focused on one exercise. The emphasis should not be the form its self rather the movement pattern and its particular features. The squat can have the neutral neck, thoracic extension, as well as external rotation of the hands and feet. The femurs of the body will be going back and the hips will be lateral during the hip hinge.
Generally, Essop calls this women’s workload training. It involves several steps. The first step involves selecting a movement pattern. This can either be the squat, lunge, or bend. The second part involves either the two foot, one foot, or split stance. Then comes the question of adding weight loads and which part of the body should this be done to. Starting off one should learn the basic patterns. When the basics are mastered, then one can move on to more advanced movements. This can result in simple training progression. Having higher range in motion can lead to more activation of muscles with less weight. This will result in muscular hypertrophy just the same as lifting heavy. The only difference may be is that this method would be less strenuous and efficient compared to a longer training program. There are simple exercises that one must remember that exist on a spectrum. These include the bend, squats, and, lunges. These exercises are dependent on which joint is moved first and ultimately effect total activation. The exercises as the video argues is that it functions on a spectrum. The movements are part of this spectrum and doing them a specific way in a rigid fashion may not be the best approach. Having correct form can prevent injury, but it should be understood that exercises are more similar than previously thought. Essop makes cogent arguments, but it must be realized women still need to be studied more in terms of exercise physiology. It cannot be stated with complete certainty what is the full extent of women’s physical fitness capacity.
The article “Squeeze Play” was written by Amy Sohon in 1996 and was archived on their site in 2014. What may seem like a common article to a fan of female muscle, brings it to a mainstream audience. This may actually be the first mainstream publication to discuss session wrestling and muscle worship to a greater extent. The special element about it is that it takes commentary and interviews from the women and men who participate. Normally mainstream publications or media outlets are judgmental about activities or practices they do not know of or understand. The article states that session wrestling and female bodybuilders have become a popular fetish. Session wrestling was already popular prior to the New York Magazine article. Lori Braun the founder of femalemuscle.com is mentioned. The website has for the past decades booking sessions, posting articles, and producing videos of muscular women. The site has been around since 1994 and continues to produce content. What Sohon’s article exposes is the expansion of the love and acceptance of some men of the strong female form. The New York Magazine does not present session wrestling as bizarre or abnormal. Rather, it is a curious pursuit. The writing does not display negativity that is commonly associated with commentary on female bodybuilders. This is unusual fro the time period in which it was produced. The problem is the article only gives a few aspects of the session wrestling world.
There needs to be an understanding of women’s motivation as well. The commentary from a bodybuilder named Michelle is interesting, but it only relates to the clients she has wrestled. She stated ““One guy wanted me to wear my posing suit and sit on his face with my glutes. ” Another client loved to be headscissored until he passed out. When this article was written female bodybuilding was in a different state. It was not in a decline, but a silver age. Women’s sports are underfunded and women are paid less. The women athletes of female bodybuilding began to to enterprising by doing sessions. During this time sessions could be up to $500 dollars just for an hour. Women could make more money from this than competing. The extra income could be used to go for competing expenses and travel. Finance is not the sole reason for women doing sessions.
Women also get a level of thrill out of this. The article mostly focuses on the men, but its the women who make it possible. Women may also have fetishes, even though it has been commonly believed that men have more. The women who do this may find it a turn on to physically dominate men. This role reversal is something women do not experience in their lives. Women who gain this much strength and physical power say it has a positive effect on their lives. They have more self-esteem and more body image confidence. Power is an attractive quality. Physical power was traditionally seen as an attractive quality in men, but has gradually become somewhat acceptable for women. The image of the female athlete has made this concept more widespread. Some session wrestlers say they enjoy doing this because they get to travel around the world. Many female bodybuilders who offer sessions travel around their own country or others meeting different people. This aspect is what female athletes seem to like the best. According to Lori Braun in the article women prefer muscle worship, because it takes the least amount of effort. There may also be another reason. The women may like the attention. Sadly, female athletes do not get the same respect or attention within the bodybuilding and fitness world. The admiration and enthusiasm can be refreshing in atmospheres of negativity. Session wresting is not exclusive to female bodybuilders. Many session wrestlers come from various backgrounds. Some women are not as big as female bodybuilders, but very athletic.
The motivations vary widely for women. Being athletes having a competitive nature is common.Some women like the idea of competing with a man in a wrestling contest.These women are normally stronger than the men they wrestle or at least evenly matched. Such activity can be a serious workout for some. For both men and women this could just be simple fun. This phenomenon is growing, but it is uncertain how many participants are involved. There may be few men or women willing to admit they do this out of embarrassment. There is no reason to be ashamed. The ostracism comes from a public or groups that are closed minded about anything that is different. Biases are normally projected even more on media outlets and popular entertainment venues. People still seem to have a problem with powerful women and women of this type in particular.
If one can accept women in business,politics, and the wider public sphere there is no reason a physically powerful woman should be an anomaly. Nor should having an attraction to them. Women who do session may actually have a fetish themselves. It has been thought than men have more fetishes, but this may not be entirely true. It seems that it is plausible that women have fetishes considering they have a sexuality as well. For a longtime, this was suppressed and only with the sexual revolution did this change. Women have sexuality and have sexual expression just like men. Cratolagnia and sthenolagnia can be present in women as well. Power can be attractive. Mental and physical power can be very enticing attributes. It just now that men and women can see these are positive attributes in both sexes.
There is both a sex bias that distorts the public’s view about muscular or athletic women. Women who have participated in strength sports often say they enjoy the transformation their body goes through. Muscle to them is the extension of the aesthetic of the female form. Some women want to take this beyond mere looks and want to see just how strong their bodies can get. Women’s motivations are just as wide ranging as men’s, but there is no way of documenting every reasons individuals participate.The only records and data that can be gathered is from statements of individuals.
The article provides statements of men who regularly have sessions. Statements and commentary come from a lawyer named Matt. This is unique that a client would give their identity when discussing session wrestling. Many men are afraid to reveal their love of muscular women. Other would be too bashful to admit they participate in sessions. For female muscle fans this is a deep personal secret. However, other rather be open than be furtive about it. Matt the lawyer interviewed says that the thrill comes from a change in power dynamics. He describes it as ” then I realize, either in fantasy or reality, that she can take me, and that’s the buzz.” There always is a moment in which a client realizes that they like muscular women. Normally this starts at a time in youth. Matt the lawyer stated that seeing a room mate playfully wrestle a girl stuck with him from college. Sometimes this attraction can happen as early as childhood.
There tends to be a moment or experience that gets men to be lifelong devotees to such a body type. The article does make that point from the commentary it collects. Experiences vary from person to person. These men come from various class, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. There are common misconceptions about clients who participate in sessions. Some are stereotypes and others are exaggerations based on limited knowledge. Schmoes are normally depicted in the subculture as socially inept nerds or more threatening sexual predators. The reality is that these men could be doctors,lawyers, or your neighbors. Some are married men or have girlfriends that do not even know about their fetish or their session wrestling participation. Schmoes and the general female muscle fan differ in some regards. The general female muscle fan likes any muscular woman. Schmoes love the strongest and most muscular women. Their focus is on the female bodybuilding sport itself. The female muscle fan’s range likes any woman of various levels of physical development. It seems that it would be odd that men of power and high paying jobs would enjoy this. The idea is that they would like being in control all the time, however doing this provides some what of a form of stress reduction. For a moment the responsibilities of power can be cast aside. Not all female muscle fans participate in sessions, but rather watch videos. The men who participate in sessions are not all the same.
There are certain wrestling sessions both clients prefer. Muscle worship is what women seem to like the most, because it takes the least amount of physical effort. Wrestling multiple times in a day could be exhausting. The majority tend to favor fantasy wrestling and semi-competitive wrestling. Competitive is least preferred due to the risk of possible injury, but matches like that do happen.
Clients like certain wrestling holds the most. Many are ones that involved the use of legs. Headscissors and bodyscissors are the most popular moves that clients favor. Many websites are devoted to women doing this wrestling move. Some video productions just focus on a single wrestling move. The video productions are more for viewer entertainment. A private and personal session has another dynamic within the subculture. Session are controversial even in the female bodybuilding culture. Detractors compare it to prostitution, other just see it as a frivolous activity. The claim that it is like prostitution is an exaggeration. Physical intimacy is not part of sessions, however this does not mean it does not happen. There really is not enough information to know exactly how many times such acts occur. The average session merely is wrestling or muscle worship. The other criticism does not take issue with women doing sessions, rather that it brings a comedic image to the sport. Some feel that if female bodybuilding is going to survive and rejuvenate itself, it needs to improve its image and something ludicrous looking will not help. This claim also seems to lack cogency, because sessions are not widely known to the public and there are many times in which sports and be silly. Women wrestling men is not going to harm the image of female bodybuilding. The only reason that female bodybuilding has a negative image is due to the fact the fitness industry does not promote them in media and the public relations element is mostly controlled by men. With session wrestling women are at least in control of their financial gains.
Some athletes just become wrestlers more so than competing. Women from fitness, bikini, physique, and figure also engage in wrestling sessions. Those categories are in comparison doing better than the traditional bodybuilding category. However, they are still paid less by the IFBB. Doing session allows them to compete and get the financial gains that should be offered by the corporate structure. Sessions were around during the earliest stages of female bodybuilding. Bill Wick polarized it with his VHS tapes in the 1980s and 1990s. The rise of the internet cause an explosion of mixed wrestling material and muscular women. Clients had easier access to sessions than ever before.
To mainstream observers there is the perplexing question of what is the appeal of such women. While there is no exact reason, there are some common ones that are shared among female muscle fans. The idea of power can be attractive. Power can have many connotations . It could mean leadership, influence, or a high status position in society. There is also another connotation that relates to mental and physical power. The muscular woman demonstrates great physical power,but also mental power.
It takes much diligence and will power to reach such a level. The time, energy, and dedication are an indication of a strong mental fortitude.Another way in which women who do this sport show mental fortitude is how they deal with constant ostracism. It is not as terrible as it was in the past, but muscular women are targeted for insults and closed minded attacks. It takes inner strength to handle such intense harassment. This quality seems admirable. While it seems more acceptable to admire women’s mental strength, the physicality aspect seems more taboo. Women and muscle does not seem like two elements that would mix to some people.but it has a unique appeal and aesthetic. Women have often been cast as the weaker sex, but this notion is challenged with the image of the physically strong woman.
To a degree such an image challenges the traditional gender stereotypes. If women can be in politics, business, the arts, and other occupations why can’t a woman develop her body to a physical maximum. Women who seek to develop their bodies to this degree are still attempting to enhance the female figure. The female bodybuilder attempts to create an hourglass figure with a developed upper body and lower body. The female bodybuilder aesthetic still values the older elements accept on a bigger frame. The female form is accentuated.
There is nothing wrong with liking such an image. The problem is that society and some people believe beauty only comes in one form. There are multiple forms of it. When understood from this perspective the love of female muscle does not seem strange. No one ever makes the claim someone has a fetish for thin women. The female muscle concept has reached the mainstream to a degree. The article mentions WWE and magazine, but since the time of this article’s publication there has been rapid expansion of the image of female muscle. Websites, blogs, and social media have pushed the image further than what could have been done with magazines. The rise of crossfit and the presence of female athletes have contributed to having muscular women more visible. There has been some level of acceptance, although detractors and some backlash is present. While female bodybuilding may be small it was the sport that brought the image of the muscular woman to a wider audience. The sport does struggle, but there is a plethora of muscular women. Women’s embrace of physical fitness has been in many ways a silent and growing revolution.
Femuscleblog wants to celebrate women of color who represent various sports and fitness fields through photography. These photo collections feature women throughout the African Diaspora. Femuscleblog wants to thank the women who represent their sports and the motherland.