What Happens To Our Muscles During Spaceflight And When Living on Mars

What happens to our muscles during spaceflight and when living on Mars?

When humanity reached the moon in 1969, this opened the door to space exploration. The possibility of human colonization of outer space has become a reality in the 21st century. However, there are challenges in this endeavor of space exploration and settlement. Space could be a harsh environment to human health. Specifically, the muscular system could be at risk in a microgravity environment such as the Moon or Mars. Physical inactivity poses a risk to astronauts in space. A study by The Journal of Physiology  reached this conclusion when conducting a 21 day simulation. Living on Earth which has a higher gravitational field has made the body unaccustomed to microgravity environments. This could also effect other organ systems, which include nervous, skeletal, and cardiovascular system. There is also the challenge of hypoxic stress. There could be solutions to some of these problems, but long term spaceflight and human exploration could pose significant health risks. If this were to be done, astronauts would have to have a vigorous exercise program or an environment that could generate a gravitational field similar to that of  Earth.

       The experiment only used 11 subjects. What was examined was the specific mechanisms in which tissues were getting energy by means of sugars and fats by means of oxygen. The 11 active subjects would have the knee extensors examined from the exercise session. Mitochondrial respiration was determined by biopsy from the skeletal muscle tissue. Another section of the group examined whole body exercise, producing a fascinating result. The whole body exercise group result in the discovery that hypoxia could be more pronounced during whole body exercise when stress on the cardiovascular system is present. The trouble with this study is that all the subjects were male. There could be a different result for female astronauts that is not accounted for. There are going to be more female astronauts in the future and sex differences should be accounted for.

 The mitochondria and muscles of men and women do not differ. However, body composition and physical fitness capacity is significant. The potential for muscular atrophy is high, Men have a higher muscle mass percentage compared to women. If muscle loss during space travel is high in them, it would be more severe in women. Musculoskeletal mass compared to males is lower in women, which means weight training or load bearing exercise is a necessity. Astronauts must have high level of fitness to survive and  maintain health in space. The whole body exercise portion would be more of a precise assessment compared to examining knee extensions. The reason knee extensions were probably used is it would provide information even if you did not have female subjects. The problem with that is that men also carry more muscle in the legs as well. The physiology of oxygen transport behaves the same, but not the physical fitness capacity.

Fitness levels and an optimum health condition would need to be a requirement before going on a long terms space journey. So far, research has revealed much but more has to be discovered. The research and experiments were conducted by University of Udine, University of Pavia,  University of Munich, the Swedish Aerospace physiology Centre, University of  Trieste,Milano Polytechnic, and the German Aerospace Center. That impressive number of collaborators are taking the next step into space exploration. The chief investigator Bruno Grassi stated ” this research will help prepare astronauts for spaceflight and it improves our understanding of how muscles respond to long periods of inactivity in association with hypoxia.” While these gives some indications a sample size should be larger to include women. From that point other considerations should be made if space colonization becomes realized.

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Spaceflight and exploration can effect women as well as men differently.

Women may be more likely to get struvite kidney stones, more urinary tract infections, and orthostatic intolerance. Men do not have as much of  the immune system response compared to women. Being in space can also effect hearing and sight. The experiment conducted is needed to assess possible solutions to maintaining optimal health in outer space and other planets.

         Hypoxia becomes a concern in space and other planets. This condition is when the tissues of the body do not have adequate amount of oxygen. The tissues of the brain, liver, and other organ systems could be damaged if they do not receive oxygen. The study indicated that inactivity is most likely more harmful to the musculoskeletal system in space. Oxygen is essential to the human body. Which explains why hypoxia is a major concern for long term space travel. Cellular respiration requires oxygen to break down sugar for adenosine triphospahte. The by products are CO2 and water.  Oxygen can be considered the fuel of life. The Earth contains 21% oxygen in the atmosphere. Oxygen is one of the most abundant elements on Earth. Knowing this is essential and that the human body had adapted to gravitation this poses a challenge in attempts to create colonies on the Moon or Mars.

          Mars  does have a harsh environment. The atmosphere is 95.7% carbon dioxide, 2.7 % nitrogen and 1.6 % argon. The surface temperature ranges from 125 degrees celsius to 25 degrees celsius  . The planet does contain frozen ice caps, which demonstrates extremes of weather. Mars has volcanoes and networks of canyons. The major hazard is ultraviolet radiation.

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The air of Mars is thin in comparison to Earth. It is only 0.6 % of Earth’s atmospheric pressure, but it has enough density to allow for weather on the planet. For a space explorer dust storms pose a risk. High winds enable go through the planet moving the red sands causing both regional and planet wide sandstorms. The axial tilt of Mars is similar to Earth’s. This means Mars has similar cycles of seasons. The ice caps of Mars grow in the winter and shrink during the Martian summer. If astronauts were to go to Mars it the poles would not be a safe landing site. There would also would have to be a consideration of the danger of dust storms. If astronauts were to entering Mars when a planet wide storm happens this could mean serious peril.Mars would most likely be more harsh than some of the deserts on Earth. The planet at one time could have been Earth like and may have contained water on its surface. The evidence could be the scars seen in beds in sedate.

Physical fitness and health condition are essential to any astronaut or space traveler. 

It may be possible if Mars was similar to Earth, that over a number of years it could be made habitable with human engineering. A water supply and an agricultural development would have to develop to make this viable. The planet Mars is in a current state harsh to life that attempts to settle there. Reaching Mars is the biggest challenge at the moment. According to an experiment conducted on the International Space Station, the muscles of astronauts lost 40% of their capacity to do work. This experiment had astronauts up in space for a total of 180 days. Even astronauts in the best shape experienced muscle atrophy. NASA has made a conjecture that it would take at least 10 months to reach Mars, with an intention of a one year stay. The return home would require an other 10 months. If the rate of muscle atrophy is high then this means astronauts would not have the strength to be ambulatory or mobile. The current exercise machines in ships would have to produce more loads to prevent muscular atrophy.

Holding on to muscle mass would require a high weight and low repetition workout. There are two devices that hold the solution to the issue of musculoskeletal heath. The Interim  Resistive Exercise Device and the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device are new technologies that could provide the exercise needed to maintain strength. Machines that contribute to cardiovascular fitness are effective, but more is needed for maintaining the health of the bones and muscles. If this is not done, long spaceflights could be a hazard to health. If people were born in environments that have gravity going to microgravity will be an immense adjustment.

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Advanced Resistive Exercise Device

The skeleton and muscles need gravitation. There also is another question related to the circulatory system. While it is clear what can happen to both the muscular and skeletal system it has not been fully elucidated what living in a microgravity can do to the cir circulatory system over an extended period of time. If circulatory system health is not optimal, this will negatively impact the entire body. There either has to be a way to reduce the time of spaceflight or make the human body adjust to the tough environment of outer space.

        The Moon would be the best candidate for possible colonization. Unlike Mars, it does not have intense sandstorms. There is the issue of solar radiation and no atmosphere containing gases. Covered in craters and remains of what was likely to be volcanic eruptions. The surface gravity of Earth’s satellite is only 0.17g compared to Earth’s 1 g. The same problem with musculoskeletal  could occur if one were to stay on the Moon for a long period of time. Spaceflight exercise equipment would still be a requirement. There needs to be more studies  in regards to full body changes due to exposure of radiation or other matter in space. Animals or microorganisms could either be helpful or harmful to human space travelers.

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Bruno Grassi stated ”  the results obtained on skeletal muscles, moreover, will have to be interpreted in conjunction with those deriving from other studies of the PlanHab project, dealing with the cardiovascular, respiratory, immune and central nervous systems and metabolism.” There may even need to be an examination of  various cells of the body during spaceflight. Once these problems of physical condition can be solved, travel can be made safe. If a mission to Mars is to happen, the Moon should act as an experimental terraforming site. Spacecraft will have to be more durable if it is to go on extended missions. This means its size will need to expand to accommodate housing needs, exercise space, a work area, and sanitary facilities. Such missions will require huge amounts of finance. This project should not be the task of one nation; it should be a collaborative effort among the world’s astronauts, engineers, astronomers, and astrophysicists. Space should not be militarized, but made into a place of habitable settlement for all. It will only be a matter of time before humanity is able to travel among the stars. The biggest obstacle is getting physically prepared.

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What Happens To Our Muscles During Spaceflight And When Living on Mars

New Research on the Muscles of Elite Athletes: When Quality is Better Than Quantity

Quality versus Quantity

A study conducted by the University of Southern Denmark in 2016 revealed interesting information about athletes’ muscles at the cellular level. Endurance athletes showed a change in mitochondria. Athletes who participate in soccer or skiing demonstrate that muscle quality could be better compare to mass quantity. Larger muscles do not equate to a better athlete. The mitochondria provide energy to the cell and allow people to engage in long periods of exercise . Exercise physiology has reached the conclusion that the more endurance exercise done the more mitochondria increase in the muscles. This may explain why endurance athletes have more compared to non-athletes. Muscle fatigue happens after physical activity. The study also shows that endurance is not only determined by the number of mitochondria, but their structure. Such a discovery can contribute to making more efficient training programs and possible medical applications.

      The study conducted by the Swedish and Danish team found that the mitochondria of athletes was structured to generate more energy. The human body seems to adjust to various demands depending on a particular stimuli. It was stated by  Joachim Nielsen professor of muscle physiology : ”  our measurements have shown us that these mitochondria can generate around 25% more energy.”  This provides an advantage to marathon runners, cross country skiers, and soccer players.

The involved comparing non-athletes to athletes. A muscle biopsy was then conducted. Biopsy is a procedure in which tissue is removed from the body for examination, normally for the purpose of detecting a disease. The sample size included 15 elite athletes and 29 non-athletes. While it would help that the sample size was bigger, there was no indication of sex distribution. Women are now serious athletes, however many times the biological and physiological differences are not accounted for in    training and exercise physiology studies. This still should hold the same for women, seeing as there is no difference in mitochondria between the sexes. The muscles tissue between the sexes do not differ either. Muscle cells are the same between the sexes, the only difference is in the amount and particular fiber type. Men have more type II muscle fibers compared to women having more type I.

Women can build muscle. Sex should not have an effect on the outcome if this study was only done with female athletes. When the muscle tissues was viewed through a microscope, changes could be observed.

        Research indicates that such an endurance advantage may not be inherited. There is no substantial evidence to suggest that a mitochondrial athletic advantage can be passed through generations. There could be an indication that longer periods of exercise could change the mitochondrial structure for the extended term. According to   Joachim Nielsen : “we took detailed measurements of each muscle fibre and saw that those muscle fibres that are typically most active during extended periods of physical activity are also those with the most significant changes in mitochondrial structure. ” This may also suggest that these changes may be more so epigenetic changes. The DNA sequence would not be altered like that of a mutation. Athletes are changing themselves through training. The only way to know for sure is to observe how their offspring would be like.

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It seems the cellular function in relation to sports performance is more complex than previously imagined. Training will certainly become more sophisticated and scientifically based in the coming decades. Many times training took a more trial and error approach to methods. Pure science mainly focused on observation, which in many regards athletes used that system in their training methods. There now seems to be a framework to follow based on a scientific method.Long term exercise may induce some form of permanent change at the cellular level  if done for decades. If this was to be made it into an experiment it would be difficult to test for. If mitochondrial advantage is inherited it is probably a combination of genes. The misconception is that it is one gene responsible for various traits. The function and actions of gene expression operate more intricately. Then environment can also influence how such genes are expressed. An athlete may have genetic advantage , but a poor training method could hinder their full potential.

This would require a longer study of athletes to see if there was a genuine genetic  athletic connection. Science is far away from engineering a superhuman athlete, but it appears to be getting closer.

       Such studies also offer other applications in biomedical fields. There are diseases that harm mitochondria which can result in impaired muscular and metabolic function. This may also hold the key to improving the lives of people with metabolic disorders. There are  a number of mitochondrial diseases that people can have. Normally such diseases are genetically inherited. Not all mitochondrial disease is inherited. Some can be classified as chronic. Other disease can induce mitochondrial dysfunction. Severe mitochondrial disease has particular symptoms. This could include muscle weakness, exercise intolerance, poor growth, Respiratory problems, Thyroid problems, Nervous system or brain disorders, heart, liver, and kidney health issues. The symptons depend on the cells effected. Mitochondria is very important to human health and the body. If disease can be understood at a cellular level, the possibility of cures become that much greater. Rather than just having medical treatments, particular mitochondrial issues can be eliminated through genetic engineering.

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Research has suggested that major diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, forms of cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and various autoimmune diseases have a link to damage of the mitochondria. If Mitochondria fails to produce energy, this will have deleterious effects on human health. The lack of critical energy harms metabolic function.  This may explain the cause of obesity or diabetes in some individuals. It has been theorized that exercise can protect the mitochondria. Free radicals if produced in a large number can create oxidative stress. The mitochondria have antioxidants, which focus on reducing damage to the cells. It is possible that antioxidants decline as a person ages. Having a diet in which the require minerals and vitamins could improve cell health.

If this is scientific fact, then there could be a means of reversing the aging process by means of manipulating the mitochondria. If immortality was to be achieved this would generate much bioethical controversy.  The secret of life is hidden in the genetics and organelles of cells. Cells and organelles can also reveal much about the history of human evolution. People inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mother. This is why biologists and  paleoantropologists are able to trace human evolution millions of year ago. The body is like a puzzle and each part fits somewhere. Mitochondrial function may be the holy grail of biomedical advancement.

       The only way to fully grasp the significance of the study is to have an understanding of mitochondria’s structure and function. The mitochondrion has an inner membrane folded shaped like shelves with incomplete partitions. This allows for an increased surface area so that fats and sugars can be released. The outer membrane of a mitochondrion is smooth with limited features. Mitochondria can be found in most eukaryotic cells. The Mitochondria must generate energy in the form of adensosine triphosphate. The number of mitochondria vary depending on the type of  cell. Muscle and liver cells can have to thousands of mitochondria. Red blood cells do not have mitochondria. The outer mitochondrial membrane is permeable  to transport small molecules with particular channels for moving  large molecules. The inner membrane is less permeable only allowing small molecules to enter the matrix. The matrix has the DNA of the mitochondrial genome and enzymes associated with the tricarboxylic cycle. This will then metabolize nutrients into by product for the purpose of energy production. The conversion happens in the inner membrane.   Cristae  house the protein components. The electron transport chain induces a series oxidation reduction reactions which move electrons from one protein to the next. The free energy produced enables the  phosphorylation  of  adenosine diphosphate to ATP. The final result is the powering of cells through  chemiosmotic coupling of oxidative phosphorylation, which allows for the fueling of various cellular activities. This also include the generation of muscular movement. Mitochondria and its properties may hold a key to more efficient athletic training.

New Research on the Muscles of Elite Athletes: When Quality is Better Than Quantity

Exactly How Strong Are Female Bodybuilders Compared To Men?

Exactly How Strong Are Female Bodybuilders Compared To Men?

Female bodybuilders train for muscular hypertrophy and aesthetics. The present an image of strength, yet the question  is what is their strength compared to men. This article from Spot Me Girl attempts to answer this question. There are women could can be stronger than men, however their is a different outcome if both men and women are on the same fitness program. The reason is due to sexual dimorphism which is shown in size, weight, and body composition. Potential between both sexes in terms of fitness capacity can vary vastly depending on health, somatotype, genetics, and method of training. There is a range of strength levels that can be documented. While physical strength is not the goal of the female bodybuilder, the development of more type II muscle fibers may result in them gaining strength. Microtrauma occurs in the muscle causing hypertrophy. This process happens to women who engage in serious weight training for such a sport. The difference is in degree and extent. The average woman could gain some strength,  who trains on a regular basis. The female bodybuilder who trains for years or decades could reach a strength level either equal to or slightly above the average man. The untrained man probably would not depending on their weight or height be as strong as a woman who trains regularly for strength. Other exercises are useful, but some are more effective at amassing strength. A Female bodybuilder would probably not reach the same level of mass or strength as a male bodybuilder. This does not mean there cannot be overlap, but this is an exception unique to a woman’s individual physiology and physical fitness capacity. Female bodybuilders would thus be stronger than average men, but would have less compared to their fellow male competitors.

         It should be clarified that endocrinology as plays a role in sports performance. The text states that testosterone does not play as big a function in muscle building as one would presume. This contradicts the following statements about initial strength. The reason that this natural strength disparity is present is due to the difference in testosterone. Prior to puberty there is no difference in physical strength between the sexes. Boys and girls have roughly the same physical fitness capacity. Girls will grow faster and end their growth spurts sooner. Boys are slower to grow having two stages. The first growth spurt could happen as early as 10 to 11 years old. The major change comes around age 13 when testosterone production increases and the testis become larger. Between these two growth spurts, males will have a strength spurt. The spurt in strength is the result in increase testosterone production. Estrogen creates more fat storage on the female body when the ovaries produce it. Sex hormones also effect the bones, ligaments, and tendons which also contribute to body strength.  A majority of girls reach their adult height by age 15, while men continue to gain more. Women do not gain a strength spurt form puberty due to the endocrinological changes related to estrogen and progesterone. However estrogen does have benefits. It can contribute to muscule repair, protects joints as well as bones, stops muscle loss, and aids in metabolism. Testosterone aids in protein synthesis which changes the rate of how muscle reacts to exercise. It also effects growth factors. This explains why it would be harder for women to build strength and muscle when starting a training regimen.

The image above shows children and at this stage in life, there is limited physical capacity difference. The adults on the right would show the aftermath of the physical changes from puberty. The athletes at the bottom have to work harder to achieve these physiques. 

It should be understood that it is not the total amount of testosterone that produces greater strength . The amount of free unbounded testosterone in the body makes part of the determination.The majority of testosterone in the body is either bound to proteins or sex  hormone binding globlin. Endocrine function does have a significant fact in strength, yet it is not the only one. There are also considerations at the beginning that has to do with a woman’s body structure.

        The upper body region differs for males and females in terms of structure. Men have broader shoulders meaning a larger frame to store more muscle on. Women can have an estimated 40 % to 70 % upper body strength level compared to a man. When men train they can add more upper body strength. A female bodybuilder’s shoulders would not increase in size. The muscle would develop relative to her frame and size. The skeletal structure including  clavicle, scapula and the rib cage would be denser in the male body. That means an average man would have an upper body advantage over the untrained woman. Assuming the female bodybuilder had enough muscle for forceful recruitment and contraction her upper body strength could be close to or equal the average male, even if the bone density was not equivalent. There would not be a way for her to challenge a male bodybuilder because the bone and muscle mass is greater.

The female bodybuilder compared to the male bodybuilder would not reach his level of strength and mass. The less muscular women would not have the same strength as the men they are next to. The average man at the bottom would not be in the same strength range as the female bodybuilder. 

Tendon and ligaments have to be factored in when discussing functional strength. Women have looser joints, which allow for greater flexibility, but this comes with the added problem of possible injuries.The lower body women tend to be closer to men in body strength. This is probably easier for women to build up compared to the upper body. These estimates in body strength can be represented in estimated percentages. Women are 27% weaker in the lower body and 63% weaker in the upper body in terms of averages. Greater upper body strength can be essential to sports like weightlifting or boxing. The difference in upper body strength only gets more pronounced with training. If women were to match the upper body strength of men it would require more bone mass and broader shoulders. Narrow shoulders mean that there is a decreased articular surface. Before considering other biological and physical factors to answer the question, there has to be a precise method of measuring physical strength.

         There are ways of measuring strength. There are methods that are more precise than others. Hand grip measure would not be the most precise measure. The chart used in the article only used women hand ball players and judo martial artists. The study conducted by The Journal of Applied Physiology . They used a total number of 1,645 men and only 533 women. This data could be distorted considering women’s numbers were small in the sample. While hand grip strength can be an indicator of manual lifting and the ability to carry loads this does not give a full assessment of absolute strength. The subjects they used were not training for physical strength, like weightlifters. Only with precise measures can a determination be made. Looking at men and women’s weight lifting and powerlifting records shows more.

Weightlifting World Records (men and women)

Powerlifting World Records (IPF)

The records demonstrated the difference in  absolute strength between men and women . The difference calculated in weightlifting is 120kg  compared to 327.kg in powerlifting. There still remains a difference in absolute strength. Bodybuilders do not train the exact way as powerlifters or weightlifters. So, if one wants to get specific about strength levels it would be best to collect data on some of the lifting records of individual athletes. When Kristy Hawkins competed in bodybuilding her lifting stats were 205 lbs (92.9 kg) for incline bench, 315 lbs (142.8 kg ) for squats, and deadlift. She could also do 245 lbs (111.13 kg) barbell rows. When she became a powerlifter her lifts became significantly larger. She broke records with a deadlift of 650 kg and a 225 kg squat.  Kristy had strength as a bodybuilder,but gained more of it through powerlifting techniques.

A person can gain some strength from bodybuilding, yet powerlifting and weightlifting provide a greater potential in terms of absolute strength gains. The goal of bodybuilding is not too bench the most, but to present a physique that has definition, shape, symmetry, size and conditioning. It is rare that women reach the strongest trained male range.The comparison of how strong a female bodybuilder is also depends on the man she is being compared to in terms of strength capacity. The average male lifter can roughly squat  125 lbs (56.7 kg), benchpress 135 lbs (61.2 kg), and deadlift 155 lbs ( 70.3 kg). Compared to Kristy Hawkins the average man would not be as strong. This is based of the Lon Kilgore strength standard. Another comparison could be made with Desiree Ellis during her career. She was able to perform 225 lbs( 102 kg ) bench press and 315 lbs squats (142.8 kg ).

The average novice male  lifters weighing 198 89 kg) pounds with several months of training could reach a 230 lbs (104.3 kg) squat, a 175 lbs (79.4 kg)  bench press. These gains are modest, but still not in the range of a female bodybuilder. Several years a male could reach the intermediate level which could see a 215 lbs (97 kg ) bench press and (129.3 kg) 285 lbs for squats. The intermediate level range of male strength is normally were women reach their maximal strength. Advanced male lifters can reach 290 lbs (131  kg ) for bench press and 390 lbs( 176.9 kg) for squats. Kristy Hawkins deadlift is higher compared to advance male lifters, but this is a notable and rare exception.

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This comes down to body size. women weigh less than men and on average are smaller. Examining deadlift data from a small sample of athletes show the difference in body weight. The smallest males weigh in  at  is 114 lbs (51 kg ) compared to the smallest woman at 97 lbs (43 kg). The largest woman would only reach 199 lbs (90 kg )compared to the male 320 lbs (145 kg )  and over. Female bodybuilders often seem bigger than they actually are. One of the biggest female bodybuilders to compete was Lesa Lewis who competed at 193 lbs (88 kg). Phil Heath the 2015 Mr.Olympia weighed about 240 lbs (108 kg). The biggest  women are comparatively small to their male counterparts.Other female bodybuilders may even weigh less than an average man when in competition. The average weight of the American man over the age of 20  is at least 191 pounds. Female bodybuilders rarely reach this weight even during the off season.

These weightlifting statistics are more precise than a basic hand grip study. While lifting any amount of weight can induce change there is a training technique that is more efficient in building strength. Strength increase can happen from bodybuilding,but powerlifting and weighlifting can increase strength even more.

       Another factor is body composition and somatotype. This is an estimation of possible muscular strength gains that can be made. Many female bodybuilders have a mesomorphic body type prior to starting their sport. Having that base can enhance the body further through training. For people with ectomorphic and endomorphic body types this poses more of a challenge. Muscular gain would be more difficult for naturally thin or larger people. When related to body fat percentages it makes a difference. A thin man would still have less fat compared to a thin woman. Fat does not add to strength, rather it can add to mass. Although from basic kinematics the more mass the more force can be generated, having more fat does not correlate to more functional strength. This explains why a the weakest man would still have more strength than the weakest woman. The male body has more muscle composition compared to the higher fat composition in women’s bodies. Muscle fibers generate more force compared to fat.

Both the men and women in these photos are very strong. However, the women are carrying more body fat compared to the men. It is hard to tell my just looking. 

Normally a female bodybuilder can reach at least 8% body fat. Men can reach as low as 3%. These low body fat levels are only done for a contest. Keeping the body under such conditions could be harmful. Body fat levels need to be low enough to show definition . Fat is necessary for the cell membranes. The recommended body fat levels for men are around 15% compared to women’s 21%. Seeing as athletes are pushing their bodies to a limit, they would actually have more physical strain during contest time. This is tougher for women, because if body fat levels become to low it can disturb the menstrual cycle. This can be avoided as long as there is recovery during the off season. Body composition also has a role in strength.

         Another consideration is muscle fiber type. Simply having large muscles does not equate to more strength. There are weightlifters and crossfit competitors that lift more compared to some female bodybuilders. The reason is based on type II muscle fiber distribution. This muscle fiber type is designed for more explosive power. Type II muscle fibers can either be classified as moderate IIa  or fast twitch IIb. If one is looking to increase strength and muscle mass these fibers are essential to the body. A bodybuilder may have large muscles, but depending on their type II to type I ratio a smaller person could be stronger.

At first this can be confusing. it only becomes clear when comprehended from the perspective of full muscle recruitment. Each of the muscle fibers must contribute to the physical task at hand. Men tend to have more type II muscle fiber, while women contain more type I fiber. Although such type I muscle fiber is not as strong, it is more fatigue resistant. The amount of muscle fiber type can vary among individuals, yet it is clear that sex is a factor in muscle fiber expression, which results in distribution.

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The general muscle fiber classification demonstrates power and energy levels.
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The type IIa muscle fiber expression in hindlimbs of a man and a woman.

Type II muscle fiber has the ability to contract rapidly. There are case when both type I and type II are used during physical activity. Type I muscle fibers are used first and when they reach their limit there is a switch to type II. The muscle fiber types act as an auxiliary support for the body under physical activity. Men and women have the same muscular system. The difference is that men have a grater amount concentrated in the upper body. The more fibers available in that area means the greater chance for more force from recruitment.

Blood supply is also different for certain muscle fiber. Slow twitch muscle fiber has more blood supply compared to fast twitch. A large blood supply enables more oxygen. As a result their work out put can last longer due to the blood difference. Fast twitch muscle has a lack of blood, which means less oxygen delivery to the tissue. Fast twitch muscle fiber has less mitochandria. Mitochandria is responsible for energy production by means of adenosine triphosphate. This explains the secret to type I muscle fiber’s endurance it utilizes blood supply and adenosine triphosphate more efficiently. Type II muscle fiber has a bigger diameter compared to type I fiber.

Strength can come in various sizes and body types. 

The challenge for type II muscle fiber is the lactic threshold. ATP uses glucose as a fuel source when under physical activity and work. Activity that goes from a range of 10 seconds to three minutes ATP is formed from incomplete breakdown of stored glucose known as glycogen. Lactic acid is produced as a result. Lifting weights requires energy faster than the body can deliver oxygen to the tissues. During this process glucose can be metabolized into  pyruvate. Pyruvate will then be converted into lactate for energy production to continue. The lactic threshold almost acts as a defense mechanism telling our bodies to stop strenuous activity. Lactic acid is not responsible for muscle soreness after work outs. Metabolites have been thought to cause such soreness, but it is unclear which ones. This explains why an athlete cannot exercise non-stop.

During exercise intensity levels are a factor in fatigue and lactic acid build up. Slow twitch fibers are reliant on a mixture of fat and glucose. Women who have a higher fat percentage can use some of that for energy. When intensity levels rise for slow twitch fibers fat metabolism will subside, while the carbohydrate metabolism increases. This induces assistance from fast twitch fiber.

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The muscle cell types
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Basic muscle fiber structure

What can be extrapolated is that not all muscle fibers are the same. The muscle cells also differ.  The three types include cardiac, smooth, and skeletal muscle. It is skeletal muscle that contributes more to strength and type II fibers that make it physiologically possible. The motor neurons are bigger in type II muscle fiber. The difference relative to size means that more fibers are activated during muscular contraction. Sarcomere length also contributes to maximal force of the muscle. Filament length if too short or too long will not produce the highest amount of force. Sarcomeres are the smallest units of contractile sections of muscle. The thin and thick filaments overlap one another when producing action. There is an estimated 600 muscles in the human body which requires the myocardium, voluntary, and involuntary muscles to collaborate. Women contain the same anatomical structure, however the difference is in body composition and total muscle fiber type.

       The nervous system is a factor in strength. Neural activity and its function translate into motor skill movement.The nervous system transmits impulses to the muscles. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. Strength level can be effected by the total number of motor neuron units and the rate of activation. This process is known as rate coding. When an athlete reaches a high level of rate coding they reach a classification known as explosive.

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The motor neuron and muscle fiber link as displayed anatomically.

There are certain methods employed to increase strength training wise. Lifting heavy weights can cause a change or lifting light weights at fast intervals. There are also factors of coordination and synchronization. Inter-muscular coordination refers to how efficiently multiple muscle work together to perform a task. Intra-muscular coordination requires the firing patterns of individual muscle fibers for a particular physical task. The process functions similar to gears working together in a clock. The gears will move to get the hands of the clock to move. This collaboration in action results in a synchronization. Motor neuron units will fire in accordance to the training load. Synchronization describes how particular muscle fibers are used depending on the physical task. Neural adaptation also is just as important as muscle fiber type. Technically, if a female bodybuilder has mastered this neuromuscular efficiency she could have considerable strength.

Some bodybuilders actually do have powerlifting backgrounds that contributed to their success. Bev Francis was a powerlifter before competing in bodybuilding. Her training in that sport gave her a great base to compete. Her maximum lifts were 335 lbs bench press 501 lbs deadlift and 500 lbs squat. Becca Swanson has been considered by many to be the strongest woman who ever lived. Her statistics include a 600 lbs bench press, 683 lbs deadlift, and 854 lbs squat.  Jill Mills also competed in bodybuilding before becoming a World’s Strongest Woman competitor.

If there were to be a comparison of strength levels, they would probably be stronger competing as powerlifters than when they were bodybuilders. That is due to the fact that the nervous system, just like the muscular system is responding to stimuli. The neural adaptation develops new pathways for the purpose of functional movement. This indicates that lifting higher loads would be more effective than lighter ones. If  any one wants to gain strength weighlifting would be the best method to reach that physical fitness target. Bodybuilders do lift weights, but the intent is not to gain the most strength. It is designed for body sculpting.

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The nerves and neurons serve many functions in the human body. Voluntary movement would not be possible without the effort of the motor cortex. The nervous system is a network of nerves and sensory receptors working to provide the brain with information. The nervous system is divided into two parts : the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system contains the brain and the spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves responsible that transport impulses from to and from the nervous system. During exercise or sporting competition the nervous system is diligently working with other organ systems. The muscular system, endocrine system,and nervous system contribute to physical strength, but it goes beyond that. Physical strength can also come from the genes.

          There are genes that are linked to physical strength. The genes that are responsible for muscular strength ACTG 1, STY 1, PEX 14, and TGFA. Genes are just units of deoxyribonucleic acid. ACTG 1 provides instructions for the formation of gamma y actin proteins. There are six types of actin and four of them are present in the muscle cells. This contributes to muscular contraction. TGFA also has involvement in protein coding.Genes can be expressed in different ways depending on various factors. There are multitudes of genes that influence body structure and their is a possibility that there are more. Actin alpha 3 and ACE influence muscle fiber type and even endurance. Alpha actin 3 is found in mostly fast twitch muscle fiber. This protein is essential to the fast twitch muscle fiber. ACE instructs the production of angiotensin-converting enzyme. Angiotensin I becomes Angiotensin I I, which may contribute in some manner to skeletal muscle structure. The ACE gene can have variation resulting in the ACE I/D polymorphism. Having two copies of this version of the gene could result in the D allele. This may result in a greater portion of fast twitch muscle fibers in the body.

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Genes and environment can influence an individual’s physical capabilities. While it is true genes are important, this should not mean that genes determine everything. Training method is important. A woman who spends more time doing cardiovascular exercise or aerobics probably would not see a dramatic increase in strength compared to a woman doing weight training. The physical fitness potential could vary immensely among individuals.

        There is an exact answer to this question if approached from a perspective of biology, physiology, and anatomy. Then one must have precise measurement. If one wants to be exact, this is an essential part of the experiment. The use of the hand grip measure was not as precise as weightlifting or powerlifting measures.  The conclusion that can be reached is that men are stronger than women, however a physically fit woman has a strength level either equal to or beyond average men. The Spot Me Girl  article does come to an incorrect conclusion. It states “even if we are biologically the weaker sex regarding muscle, at least we have some pretty good conditions for lifting because of our physical resilience!” There is no such thing as a biologically weaker sex in regards to muscle. The real difference is in maximum physical fitness capacity. Men’s fitness levels are just higher due to differences in genetics, anatomy, biology, and physiology.

    What can be  gathered from this information is a rough estimate of strength levels. An untrained woman would have less strength than an untrained man. A female bodybuilder would be stronger than both an untrained man or untrained woman. However, the female bodybuilder would not have a similar physical fitness capacity of a male on her same training regimen.

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The depiction of strength levels from weakest to strongest going from left to right. 

These women have achieved considerable strength that clearly would surpass a man less active.  

The article is correct in the fact that women require less time for recovery and have an advantage in endurance. The full extent of women’s physical capability may not be known. A majority of exercise physiology research focuses on male athletes. Thus women may not be training in the most efficient manner tailored to their biology and physiology. This makes questions such as these more difficult to answer. A prediction which may be correct can be made. The exact answer could be that female bodybuilders could be stronger than many men depending on the man’s weight, size, health, and physical fitness level.  The female bodybuilder is stronger than the average man, but the weightlifters and powerlifters could achieve strength levels much higher. While men’s physiology allows for greater physical fitness capacity, this does not automatically make them better athletes. Skills, training, and experience can make the difference in athletic competition. Female bodybuilders can be very strong depending on their genetics, training method, and diet.

Exactly How Strong Are Female Bodybuilders Compared To Men?

Study Proves ‘Muscle Memory’ Exists At A DNA Level

Study proves ‘muscle memory’ exists at a DNA level

The study produced by Keele University states that muscles have memory of earlier growth at the DNA level. There are periods of skeletal muscle growth that are remembered, which allows them to grow later in life. This has many implications. This may help understand muscle wasting diseases and the other functions of the muscular system. This may also indicated that performance enhancing drugs could still effect the body even if use is stopped. Anabolic androgneic steroids could make long term changes imply that short term bans for use in sports organizations may not be adequate. This has not been fully tested with anabolic steroids, so it may seem speculative. Obviously drugs will effect each individual differently. Humanity is discovering the full magnitude of genetics and its roles in health as well as sports performance. Strength athletes now have a strong scientific basis for training. The key is in the genes.

         To understand the significance of this study, one must know of muscle memory. Muscle memory is that act of doing a physical task using less effort from the brain. skilled movements can be done more efficiently . Athletes from training develop a high level of muscle memory. The term is somewhat of a misnomer. There is not literal memory in the muscles. The brain stores information and memory. A tennis player remembers how to use their racket and the proper motion for serves. A weightlifter or bodybuilder knows how to properly do a particular motor movements. Physical repetitions are the key for developing muscle memory. Even if a person takes some time off from a sport or physical training, it would simple to do the motor movements they learned.

When the muscles are in motion they activate proprioceptors. They communicate with the muscles, tendons, and joints giving feedback to the central nervous system. What happens is a feedback loop between the brain and the muscles. The central nervous system then produces pathways which allow certain movements to be automatic. Knowing this gives an idea about exercise physiology’s relation to the nervous system. Exercise seems to trigger changes in the cells themselves and the neural impulses. There exists possible a DNA blueprint to form new muscle and the newly formed nuclei could remain even if an individual stops a training regimen.

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It seems strength is more than just the muscles. The nervous system plays a major role in strength. For health it has other implications. As people age they lose muscle mass. Building some can be helpful preventing aliments associated with age related changes in the musculoskeletal system.

        The research process of this study involved using genome wide techniques. It also enlisted the help of Universities of Liverpool  John Moores, Northumbria and Manchester Metropolitan. A total 850,000 sites on human DNA were studied. Genes were either marked or unmarked with special chemical tags. These marked or unmarked genes when muscle grows returns back to normal after exercise. Once exercise is initiated the reactivate later in life. What these marked and unmarked attributes are epigenetic modifications. These tags and markers give the genes instructions whether to be active or inactive. While the function is almost like an on and off switch the DNA is not changed. This process should not be confused with a mutation.

ADN gene Epigenetics will not effect the DNA sequence , however activity of particular genes can change. Gene activity is sometimes referred to as expression. Chemical compounds can also cause modification.  Methylation   is the common form of epigenetic modification. Molecules of the methyl group will attach to the DNA sequence. This can consist of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms. This can explain some genetic disorders related to cancer, metabolism, or degenerative disorders. Epigenetic errors can result in serious health problems. Epigenetic changes also control protein production in particular cells of the body. They also direct where such production is to take place. Epigenetic modification varies among individuals. It can even produce variation among tissues of the body and even single units of cells.

A mutation is a permanent alteration to the DNA sequence. Mutations can have an immense or diminutive  range. That could include an alteration in a base pair or a larger segment of a chromosome. There are also different types of mutations. Hereditary mutations happen by means on inheritance from parents. This mutation can be present through out a person’s life. Somatic mutations can occur at various points in life. This is based around particular environmental factors. Radiation exposure for example could cause a mutation. All mutations are not harmful. Polymorphisms are the reason people have different hair color, eye color, or blood type. Dr. Adam Sharples revealed ”  in this study, we’ve demonstrated the genes in muscle become more untagged with this epigenetic information when it grows following exercise in earlier life, importantly these genes remain untagged even when we lose muscle again, but this untagging helps ‘switch’ the gene on to a greater extent and is associated with greater muscle growth in response to exercise in later life — demonstrating an epigenetic memory of earlier life muscle growth.” The human body even at a genetic level is sensitive to stimuli. The memory of the change is present.

         This new information means training programs for athletes could become more efficient. It is possible that genes could be manipulated to increase muscle memory. Injury and recovery is normally a problem for athletes. Dr. Sharples articulated this finding as : ” if an athlete’s muscle grows, and then they get injured and lose some muscle, it may help their later recovery if we know the genes responsible for muscle ‘memory’. “Certain exercises may be more effective at activating muscle memory, but gene expression would have to be documented to determine that.

A possible experiment could see which exercises cause the most epigenetic change in terms of muscle memory. The muscle memory genes may hold the key to advancing human physical performance. Genetics continues to uncover more about the human body than what could be done through physiology or anatomy.

          Seborne raises a possibility that anabolic androgenic  steroids could provide an athlete permanent advantage after use is stopped. If muscles retain a form of memory form previous growth an athlete that uses could have a longtime advantage. This mat not be entirely true. When use is stopped the gains form it decrease. Steroids alter the endocrine system, but do not change a person genetically. Seborne also has a level of skepticism stating : ” more research using drugs to build muscle, rather than exercise used in the present study, is required to confirm this.” Before life time bans are introduced this should be examined. If this is truly the case an experiment should be conducted with women. Anabolic steroids have a greater effect on the female body considering their lower production of testosterone. If athletes using still show signs of physical enhancement years later, than this can be called fact. The wave of the future may not even be with anabolic steroids. Genetic engineering would be more effective compared to the traditional performance enhancing drugs. Gene doping has become a possibility not science fiction. Such scientific advancements may even make drug testing futile and obsolete. Whatever the case, drugs have been a part of sports. As humanity leans more about DNA, there are more methods in which we can control our biology.

Study Proves ‘Muscle Memory’ Exists At A DNA Level

Women Run Faster After Taking Newly Developed Supplement

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds Combo of minerals and other nutrients might boost performance

According to a study conducted by Ohio State University women saw an increase in running speed with a nutritional supplement. This experiment involved women who took this new nutritional supplement  and another group of women who took a placebo. This was a great way to devise the experiment rather than telling the placebo group that they were not taking anything special. Such findings indicate that there is a possibility that women’s athletic performance can be greatly improved, if tailored to their biological and physiological structure. The major problem is that exercise physiology studies or experiments mostly use men. Women are not the same as men, which is why if they are to get the best training and nutrition programs, experiments must used female subjects. Women are now serious athletic competitors and they need supplements to meet their competition and performance objectives. The results were published in the Journal of The International Society of Sports Nutrition . Such studies are going to change women’s athletic performance by fixing deficiencies in nutrition. While training is essential, diet and nutrition have proven to make a difference in athletic performance.

        The minerals that were given to women included forms of iron, zinc, copper and  carnitine. The supplement also phosphatidylserine, which was derived from both fatty acids and amino acids. Carnitine was also derived from amino acids. phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid responsible for the health of human cells. The omega 3 fatty acids that are in it called EPA and DHA. The role it fills is to maintain healthy cell membranes. Phosphatidylserine can be produced in the body, but can also be found in particular foods. This phospholipid contributes to cellular function and also provides help to other tasks. Phosphatidylserine  is responsible for bone matrix formation, heart beat coordination, hormone secretion by the adrenal glads, and testicular function in men. The phospholipid also may play a role in maintaining neuron health and cognition.  Carnitine can be found in most cells of the human body. It is involved in energy production. It must transport fatty acids to the mitochandria, while removing waste compounds formed out of the organelles. There are carnitine supplements, yet the evidence that it can improve athletic performance is inconclusive. It seems that it is better when combined with other minerals as the study demonstrates. Carnitine has a variety of compounds which consist of L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine, and propionyl-L-carnitine.

Professor Robert Disilvestro the lead author and of the study stated : “I decided to start with minerals that are commonly low — or thought to be low in many diets — and brought in some of the supporting cast.” This reasoning appears to be correct in the formation of more efficient supplements. This also has implications beyond athletic performance. The reason many people may not be in great health is that they are not getting the proper nutritional requirements. Knowing this, some individuals could be doing the proper amount of exercise, yet are having deficiencies in diet.

Understanding phospholipids and other amino acid derivatives can be more beneficial to women seeking to improve their performance.  Robert Disilvestro discusses that there are some nutrition problems women have as serious athletes. This supplement also holds an economic opportunity. Disilverstro is seeking to develop this supplement for commercial use and was supported by Gatorade Sports Science Institute. They are not involved in commercialization efforts, but is possible they will be. This is an example of applied science. What applied science does is take the research and knowledge discovered then uses it for practical purposes. Relevant to this experiment the supplement will at some point be used for athletic performance.

          There are problems that the female athlete faces in terms of nutrition. Young women according to Disilverso have micro-deficiencies in nutrients. This will effect cell function during exercise. This means women’s full potential in terms of performance is being reduced due to the lack of such nutrients for the cell. The cells are the building blocks of the human body, so if they do not function properly this could result in major health issues. Young women in particular face these nutrient based deficiencies.

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A nutrient is by definition a substance required for growth and the maintenance of life. Fatty acids and amino acids would be classified as micro-nutrients. The essential nutrients of the body are carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, protein, water,  and minerals. This can be acquired through the consumption of food or supplements. Another problem is that women tend to consume less meat than men, even when doing high amounts of physical activity. Meat can be an important source of protein and women need that just like any other athlete. Food is fuel for the human body. If women eat less they are not getting enough fuel. Consumption should be adjusted relative to considerations of endocrinology. Women would metabolize food into fat stores due to higher production of estrogen and progesterone. However, building muscle has the ability to burn fat. Eating enough of the right foods and having the correct amount of physical activity can make a difference in athletic performance.

There is also the consideration of how mensuration can have a role in mineral loss. This effects women differently ranging from severe cases to moderate levels of mineral loss. Mineral loss during mensuration can be countered with the consumption of vitamins A, C, E, and B. Vitamin A is essential to diet due to the fact it promotes growth of skeletal tissue. Bone health is essential for any person, especially an athlete doing an immense amount of physical activity. Once these issues are addressed women can have improvements in their run times. Designing supplements and training programs to women’s physiology and biology will make them more efficient athletes.

          The experiment’s conclusions revealed fascinating discoveries. The subjects did three mile runs and saw their run average drop from 26.5 minutes to 25.6 minutes. That calculates to a difference of 0.9 minutes. Stationary bikes were also utilized in the study. The distance covered was from 6.5 miles to 6 at the start of this study. There was also a step test that was done. the results from that part of the experiment showed women increased from about 44 to 40. These changes were not present in the placebo group, indicating this supplement could be effective. The first experiment only used 28 women and the following one used 36. A lower does of nutrients was used  and resulted in a 41 second average decrease in run times. The women used in these experiments were described as recreational athletes between the ages of 18 to 30 years old. They either done some form of aerobic exercise a least three hours a week for a minimum of six months. The reason for not using moderately in shape  women was that according to Professor  DiSilvestro “we wanted people who could already run three miles without it being a terrible burden.” The problem with this is precision. If this supplement is truly effective, the best way to see so is to test it on non-athletic women. The athletically trained women would gain from this, but they have already reach a fitness level in which it does not appear to be a dramatic change.

A more precise experiment would be to train women of lower physical fitness levels. This would take longer, but if their performance is significantly higher than their starting point it can be assumed that the supplement is highly effective.  The same process should be used. The subjects first ran three miles, biked, and the ended with the step test. The reason the stationary bike was used was to see if such a supplement could be used for more than just running. This could only be done if women in the study reach a high point of physical activity.

Men who are vegetarians may struggle with a nutrient deficiency. Protein is one of those nutrients that is harder for the vegetarian to get.Other methods of getting dietary requirements would have to used instead of consuming meat for the vegetarian  Although nutrient deficiencies are less common in men, they are not completely imperious to it. Supplements may not be a substitute for eating food with them in it, but can help people who have such issues in deficiencies. There also is another factor that may skew the data. This experiment was only done for 30 days and that may be too early to say that it very effective. At minimum a month would have been better. There is also the possible problem of side effects. So far, there appear to be none. Professor     DiSilvestro only added minimal amounts of nutrients when it was produced in capsule form. If measured correctly and the right dose is given this new supplement can be safe. The supplement will need further testing for safety and effectiveness. There are many supplements that claim to improve performance. These pronouncements are not always scientifically confirmed. This new supplement seems to be effective, yet must be able to produce the same results in accordance with the scientific method. These first experiments may only give approximations, rather than precise measures of effectiveness.

 

Women Run Faster After Taking Newly Developed Supplement

Sports Medicine Weekly : Strength Training

Strength Training

Sports Medicine Weekly is a radio program and website associated with ESPN  presented by Dr. Brian Cole with Dr. Steve Kashul. They expose readers and listeners to topics regarding sports performance, training, and exercise physiology. The topic discussed in this presentation is strength training and its benefits to performance. It was once thought that strength training would hinder performance, but science proved that notion incorrect. The fear of unnecessary bulk was more of a myth than anything else. This does not stop an athlete from performing a skilled movement of the body. When the term strength training is used there is the assumption is that it is just lifting heavy weights. There is more science and method to training regimens such as these. Sports Medicine Weekly provides a simple explanation about the elements of such training. The strength training program can be describe by five elements : muscular hypertrophy, maximal strength, explosive power, strength endurance, and periodization. If these elements are followed an athlete can increase their physical fitness capacity.

        When the muscle goes through a training regimen it will experience hypertrophy. Muscular hypertrophy only constitutes one aspect of sports specific strength training. This should be done for a specific group of athletes. Football and rugby players need it because their sport is contact. Bodybuilders want hypertrophy to shape the body’s muscles in a particular way.

The significant mass that these athlete acquire acts as a protection from aggressive body contact. The text states that too bulk can be a hindrance to most athletes. This is not true in certain cases, however it depends on what sport an athlete is competing in. Muscle mass would not be helpful curling or race car driving. Extra mass would be useful in wrestling, but that depends on which weight class the athlete is aiming to compete in. Muscle mass can contribute to force generation. Muscular hypertrophy can happen in both men and women. The difference in total mass gained is related to body composition and endocrinology. Muscles do get bigger from a strength training routine through adaptation. What causes growth includes the increase in actin and myosin  which are contractile proteins. There is also an increase in enzymes and stored nutrients. Myofibrils and connective tissue increases. Muscular hypertrophy can either be chronic or transient. Chronic muscular hypertrophy is the long term increase in the size of the muscles. Transient hypertrophy is experienced during exercise.

Protein synthesis stimulates muscle growth. During recovery periods from exercise protein synthesis increases. It is at low levels during exercise. More muscle does not mean more strength. It is related to the fiber type. Type II muscle fiber has more power while type I muscle fiber is more endurance based.A weightlifter would have more type II fast twitch fibers compared to a marathon runner. Athletes train their bodies specifically for a particular physical task. Strength is no solely about the size of the muscle, but the nervous system response to stimulus. Studies have suggested that motor neuron function and its efficiency also aid strength.

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It should also be understood that type II muscle fibers have two classifications. Type IIA fibers are fatigue resistant, oxidative,  and fast. Type IIAB are notably glycolytic, oxidative  and are still fast but have an intermediate fatigue level. Type IIB is the most powerful having more force and more energy. There is a price for power in regards to endurance. Recovery is slow in type IIB muscle fiber. It is a possibility athletes could have a blend of both type I and type II muscle fiber. Hormones and    cytokines are essential contributors to muscular hypertrophy.

         The second element to strength training programs is the accumulation of maximal strength. Maximal strength ( sometimes called absolute strength) is the total force an athlete can generate from their body. The importance of this strength training element is based on the specific tasks of the sport. The more natural strength an athlete has the more potential to expand it further. Natural strength is the force than can be generated with no training at all. Through training natural strength can be converted into endurance or explosive power.  The peculiar aspect of maximal strength training is that it may not produce the same level of muscular hypertrophy. This may explain why a thinner person who trains in this manner may become stronger than a person who trains for the sake of aesthetics.

 This does not mean that hypertrophy would not happen to individuals who do maximal strength training. It is possible through genetics. The MTSN gene dictates the instructions for the production of myostatin. This protein regulates the growth of the musculoskeletal tissues. If an individual has low levels of myostatin this makes their potential of muscular hypertrophy greater. People do not use their total strength for simple tasks. Lifting a book would take less effort than lifting a weight. Even athletes when in competition may not use 100% of their maximal strength. There is an obvious reason based on body structure.

The muscles and skeleton when put under intense pressure and strain can be subject to injury. Muscle tears occur when the tissue is pushed far beyond its limit. Athletes may reach a maximal strength level, but they have not tapped into the total reserve of strength. Besides maximal strength, the body contains relative strength. This measures the force produced from a cross sectional area of muscle mass.Maximal strength can be translated into explosive power.

        Explosive power requires more than one action. Powerlifting requires one instance of explosive power to move weights. Other sports have to incorporate skilled movements  that are rapid and need the high power output. Physical power under a strength training program must be designed specifically for the functions of the sport. If this is not done, then maximal strength training will not be as effective in the long term. The basic foundation is the potential to add more strength, which can therefore be converted into explosive power. Power training although related to strength training has a major difference. The goal is to produce the largest amount of maximal strength in the shortest period of time. A person or athlete may have immense strength, but may not generate full power potential. The muscles must contract at a fast rate to improve power out put. This can be reversed by plyometrics.

Plyometrics is a method and system of training attempting to make muscular contraction more efficient by moving from muscle extension to rapidly producing power.  Other athletes such as martial artists, long jumpers, and sprinters have found this method to be the most useful for their performance. There are few guidelines for optimum training methods relative to plyometrics. Athletes who did this training have seen improvement. A quality strength program incorporates the methods of plyomentrics and power training. Strength has to be combined with skilled motor movements of the body. There is also another critical factor that is a part of strength training. Endurance has to be part of the general calculus.

      The other two elements of a strength training program include strength endurance and periodization.   Strength endurance refers to how long a person can last under strenuous activity. The amount of maximal strength also effects strength endurance. The larger amount means more left in terms of reserves. The goal is to maintain strength for a prolonged period. There is a point in which the body will fatigue and cannot to anymore. Athletes that focus on strength endurance include cyclists, swimmers, long distance runners, and rowers. The intent is to have a longer duration of activity.

This explains why circuit training is another method combined with a strength training program. Circuit training uses low weights and high repetitions. The problem is that many of these programs in circuit training  do not condition the nervous system adequately enough. A set of 15 to 20 repetitions would not produce the results an endurance athlete would desire. Circuit training does have benefits. That regimen has the ability to improve flexibility and coordination. The last element of strength training is periodization. A training program must be divided into phases. Doing this allows strength to peak at the right period, producing the desired outcome. Proceeding this way, it will allow for the reduction in possible over training. While it is important to be consistent with a regimen, rest must be valued as well. A period of recovery is required for the body to repair itself and allow muscle fibers to grow. Progression does not occur in  a week by week basis. When the program is broken into periods this allows for variations in exercise volume and intensity. This enables performance enhancements for a certain time.

There is a science to strength that involves cytology, biology, endocrinology, biomechanics,  and nervous system function. What ultimately is the best training method depends on what specific sports an individual is involved in. Explosive power for a marathon runner would not be as important as endurance. Pure strength will not be helpful unless fine motor skills are emphasized. What sports medicine and exercise physiology has done is allowed for a scientifically based method of training, rather than simple trial and error attempts.  Such topics can be complex when examining it from the physiological dimensions. Sports Medicine Weekly provided a lucid explanation for the general reader not familiar with the science of strength.

Sports Medicine Weekly : Strength Training

Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women

Prior to crossfit or bodybuilding muscular women did exist. There were women involved in physical culture in the past, but there stories were not told. Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women reveals to readers an unknown history of women’s sports and physical culture between the years of 1800 to 1980. David L. Chapman and Patricia Vertinsky  wrote this monograph. The primary source material contains images, cartoons, and magazines that Chapman had collected over the years. Physically strong women have existed prior to the 19th century, yet this book gathers evidence of their participation in strength feats and physical culture. Chapman spent 30 years collecting these images. His interest in muscular women really started late in life. It was 1987 when he began to do research into women’s involvement in fitness and bodybuilding. Chapman being a writer for numerous bodybuilding magazines was able to meet bodybuilders of the golden age era. He met Abbye Stockton and realized this was an interesting development that emerged among women, especially in a period in which their rights were limited. Another athlete that sparked further interest in this rarely studied element in sports history was Laurie Fierstein. She was a bodybuilder who also was the curator for the New Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit “Picturing the Modern Amazon.”  Chapman was invited to lecture at the museum discussing the iconography of the strongwoman in art and photography. Fierstien gave Chapman more insight into what motivates women to compete and push their bodies to the physical maximum. His discussions with Stockton and Fierstien led to some questions. These questions pondered how women struggled in the past in the physical fitness culture and the meaning of femininity. Female muscularity was more controversial in the past than in the 21st century. There has been a cultural shift, even though the more narrow minded attitudes still are present. The rise of the female mesomorph is a story of  advancement and repression. It can go in cycles. Through images and primary source material Chapman shows how sex politics and sports interacted. The muscular woman can mean many things to people : they can be seen as beautiful to others, threatening, or abnormal.

             The introduction describes the mixed feelings and messages that the muscular women gets from observers and proposes its main thesis . Negative reactions were worse in the past. Outlets for athletic competition were not widespread for women. The only place the strongwoman could display their talents was in variety show stages or vaudeville performance. Circuses also provided another platform.

venuswithbiceps  The text and information mostly focuses on women’s physical fitness participation in Europe and America. It is not known in other areas of the globe if women participated in some form of physical culture. Today it is not a surprise to see a female athlete or a woman who engages in rigorous exercise. More women are competing in the Olympics and in numerous sports compared to a century ago. The are presenting highly developed physiques. The impressive aspect of this is that such improvements are enhanced by new training techniques and pharmaceutical means. Chapman states in the introduction : “with the advent of steroids, hormones, supplements, and other artificial growth stimulants female muscularity has multiplied exponentially, and as female bodies transform themselves into something bigger, bolder, and different from what had been idolized in the past, the same old uncertainties and sexual ambiguities keep society bubbling away with loud,but hardly new controversies.” Women have pushed their bodies in athletic competition to new heights. This is not solely the work of performance enhancing drugs or supplements from a GNC store. Exercise physiology has in the past decades began to seriously examine women athletes. Most studies were done on men and it is clear the physiology is different in regards to sex. Having more resources and information at their disposal, women can enhance their athletic performance in an efficient manner. Old myths about women’s bodies and capabilities have been discarded. Even with these developments, the sexist and misogynist convictions still remain.

There are the common statements echoed by those who believe that certain activities are unladylike. The idea of the “mannish woman” was present in the past to an even more extreme degree. Patrica Vertinsky co-author of the monograph is a professor of  history with a focus on physical education, fitness, and physical culture. Throughout the text she describes this sexist prejudice as a way to dehumanize and undermine women’s accomplishments. There is an over reaction to female muscularity that does not happen with men. Women have to live with double standards and this is just another item on the list. This double standard and ostracism is nothing new to the female athlete. This is the primary foundation of the monograph’s thesis. The muscular woman had a presence in certain venues and in popular culture. The image presented of the muscular woman had influenced certain perceptions. Most were negative projecting anti-woman sentiment or homophobic feelings. The text describes this prejudice : ” over the last 100 years the image of the strong, confident, muscular woman has been the object of derision.”  The portrayal is either sexy dominatrix, sexless mannequin, or sideshow freak in the words of the thesis. However, it is a recent phenomenon that women of such as body were either placed into one dimensional images being presented to the public as monstrosities, lesbian man haters, beautiful living statues or sex objects. Such ideas are based off of hatreds either against women or people of different sexual orientations. It does not represent reality. Just like any other women their experiences vary vastly depending on class, ethnicity, and nationality.

The monograph also states that women had to fight ( and still continue) to reclaim the image and perceptions of the muscular woman. The reason negative attitudes were so pervasive about muscular women or female athletes was that men were producing certain images and ideas distorting public opinion. while the thesis is cogent, there are some debatable proclamations made in the introduction.

          The introduction claims that “sports as we know them were invented in England.” This is not true. All around the globe, various peoples had some form of sport. Sport dates back to ancient civilization. Women were also participants. The Greeks, Minoans, and Egyptians had sporting activities. It has been theorized that sport has its origins in military training. It may have also had a religious significance considering some Greeks had games revolving around the worship of gods or goddesses. Africa had a longtime tradition of wrestling among its peoples. The Diola, Yala, and the Njabi had women wrestlers. The Diola were known to use wrestling as a way to have arranged marriages. The male champion wrestler would marry the female champion wrestler. The issue with such a statement made by Chapman is that it excludes other non-European  civilizations. Doing so presents an ethnocentric perspective of  history, which is extremely limited. Examining the female muscularity phenomenon from a larger international perspective adds to support to the argument. Women were active participants in CuJu during the Song to Qing  dynasty in China. Amerindian peoples were also involved in stickball and footraces. Although met with the same ostracism as seen today, the female athlete is certainly nothing new.

This should have been expressed better in the text. Modern professional sports began in the West , but the sporting tradition had international roots. This should be obvious to any sports historian. Yet, this is a relatively new field of study and the study of the female mesomorph more so. When the industrial revolution occurred labor habits changed, including what was done during leisure time. It can also be disputed that in the words of  Chapman : ” in an age when machines became stronger and more efficient than their human operators, it became necessary to measure one’s peers in another way, and for many physically minded people, athletic competition was the answer- at least for men.” There had already been a system in which people measured one another and that was by class. Most civilizations throughout history have functioned on a pyramid structure with a ruling class controlling the majority. There is a pyramid structure present in democratic societies, which threatens the system itself. Sports provided the working class a brief escape from the agony of economic exploitation. It was more than just the physically minded people seeking an outlet, it was an a stress reducer in a world that was not changing for the better. Chapman should have done more research in this regard to sports history.

           David Chapman does describe the hysteria surrounding women engaging in physical culture. These objections to women’s participation came from religious organizations and traditionalists. The 19th century moralists condemned women’s advancement in any aspect of life saying too much education or exercise would harm women. They used religion as a cover to justify the control of women. They were challenged by others who believed that at least some exercise and education was good for women. Calisthenics, dancing, and rhythmical drills became acceptable in the 1800s for women. Yet, it was still advised not to take it too far. This language is similar to attitudes in the contemporary fitness atmosphere. Women are told often not to get “too big” or “cross the line.”

The physically active woman caused fear in some men and the muscular woman even more so. A strictly conservative society had a level of fear in regards to women’s bodies and sexuality during the Victorian Age. This is why the popular imagery of muscular women was either contradictory, confused, or negative. Men did not know what to make of or how to understand these women. Chapman explains that the reason there are not more photographs of muscular women prior to 1980 was due to moral codes about exposure of the female body. A woman could not simply have her torso exposed during the Victorian Age. Swimsuits were even generating an outcry. This even continued into the early 20th century in which Bernarr Macfadden was arrested in 1905 for holding a women’s physique contest at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The founder of Physical Culture magazine was one of the early advocates of women getting exercise beyond just improvement of figure. To traditionalists and religious advocates exposure of the female body was immoral. Women could be arrested for wearing a bikini in some US states. This was also a crime in Australia, Italy, and  on some French beaches up until the mid -20th century.  The moralists of the past would most likely be more shocked by the bodies and exposure of them are in the 21st century.

There were also arguments that muscle was bad for women’s health. The idea was that women would destroy their reproductive system and this had no basis in biomedical fact. There also an argument that was based purely on aesthetics. Muscles were “unfeminine” and would “unsex” a woman. Such claims represented gender bias and a desire for strict gender roles. Another reason muscular women in popular media may have been rare at the time was that many were not ready to see them. This may explain why producers of various forms of content did not put them in their works. Women who were muscular also may have not been willing to display such physiques for fear of ridicule. Chapman explains that even muscular women who posed for photographs did so in a glamour shot format, rather than the physique posing. The truth is that the glamour element has been a part of women’s posing and physique photograph. While female bodybuilders and physique athletes pose traditionally on stage, they pose differently in individual photographs. The glamour element is there combined with traditional physique posing.

The co-author should remember that bodybuilding was in its infancy, so women probably would not have posed in the same way as modern bodybuilders. To say the early photographs of muscular women are not authentic  physique pictures lacks cogency. It would be ludicrous to say women bodybuilders  who are not flexing in their off stage pictures are not authentic. There was a process of evolution in terms of presentation of the muscular form. The image of the muscular woman was getting wider exposure  compared to other periods of history.

              The female body as the book explains was susceptible to various fads and changes in beauty standards. Just like styles of hair and dress changed, so did ideas about the feminine body ideal. The ideal of the hour glass shape was enforced by the rise of the corset. The came the concept of the S shape as a beauty standard. Bustles were worn by women to enhance the female backside. During the late 19th century there was a paradigm shift in regards to women and exercise. There was the concept that they should do it to improve appearance. The few muscular women in these societies were pioneering such an idea. One of the ways photographers and artists avoided controversy about muscular women was to have them presented in a living statue pose. This would show that they are not a threat to male viewers and that there was no lascivious intentions in its production. This small movement of women into physical culture seemed to expand between the years of 1900 to 1914.

4366315_f1024 There are more images from this period of strongwomen. The reason for this had to do with the increased popularity of circuses, fairs, music halls, and vaudeville stages  .When World War I broke out, this stopped many entertainment venues from functioning especially in major war zones of  Europe. The rise of other mediums like radio and television also contributed to the end of the old forms of entertainment. Muscular women then lost mainstream exposure to an extent.  The strange part of this is that the muscular woman some how got separated from mainstream sports culture. Women getting involved in cycling, archery, and croquet during the 19th century. However women were still be held back at the Olympics Games. Strongwomen were athletes with out a place to compete or show their skills. Their training techniques would later be used by female athletes in various sports from the 20th century and beyond. If it were not for them, such sports and physiques on women would not exist. The real shift came after World War II with Abbye Stockton who demonstrated there was no contradiction between muscles and femininity.

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   She revealed an impressive musculature, which at the time was not considered gender appropriate. Chapman revealed that female acrobats and trapeze artists  had more room to navigate in terms of the world of muscularity. The atmosphere of circus performance was more open and therefore less strict. David Chapman referred to it as a “hidden world of female strength.” There was once more a change in beauty standards. There was the diversification of the female form based on particular models in the fitness community. A firm female figure was preferred. This would eventually lead to a more muscular female body. It is not a surprise that female bodybuilding emerged during the 1970s at an important time of women’s liberation. The excellent part  of Venus With Biceps is that  was not afraid to discuss feminist hypocrisy in relation to the muscular woman. The feminist positions on beauty standards are often filled with contradiction and sometimes illogical conclusions. Chapman states that feminists harbor suspicions of muscular women as ” either beauty queens in disguise or that women physique athletes are simply trying to become alternate or inferior versions of men.” The falsehood of feminism is that they believe in a sisterhood and support all women. This simply is not the case when examined from class and race lines. They criticize beauty standards, but continue to support it by being large consumers of fashion and make-up products.

Chapman’s rebuttal to feminist claims is that a beauty pageant just reinforces one standard of beauty, while the physique athlete is developing another image based on individual convictions rather than cultural norms. The ludicrous claim that women are trying to be like men is nothing more than a recycled statement made by sexists, they claim to be fighting. If anything the muscular woman represents a feminist symbol. It shows that women can be strong and be successful in  once male dominated domain. The only reason that a feminist would think that a muscular woman would be imitating men is that strength is a male only attribute. That is incorrect as the female athlete has demonstrated. Men have used the ridiculous argument that because they are stronger they have a right to rule over women. When arguments of biological inferiority are proven mendacious, detractors resort to ostracism. There is a reason for such extreme reaction as Chapman articulates : “physically powerful and heavily muscled women have always been upsetting to the status quo because they reversed the “natural” dominance of the male.” Feminists should be their natural allies. The problem with such monographs is that they normally fall into preaching feminist rhetoric, rather than being a work of academic research. Venus With Biceps avoids this blunder , but occasionally  the illogical feminist reasoning emerges. Beauty standards have changed throughout history,but i may be the first time in which women are developing their own concept of aesthetics.

         The monograph also provides readers with an essay “Muscularity and the Female Body.”  Patricia Vertinsky shares her knowledge of sports history and the female body. Traditionally muscularity was associated with male power and beauty. Women were associated with weakness and frailty. This did not represent reality. Many notions of the body were based on pseudoscience and eugenics. The female body according to Vertinsky’s essay was cast as biologically inferior and designed for passive nurturing. From this emerged the concept of “natural bodies.”  Women’s bodies according to this concept were not meant to be strong. Men were the strong ones. Some scholars link this concept of muscularity and masculinity to the rise of modern celebrity culture and sports. It roots are much earlier according to Vertinsky going back to ancient Greek civilization. This association is more of a Western phenomenon and it can be seen in the art of the Greeks. Iconography shows that the ancient Greeks valued the muscular form as an aesthetic ideal  and this European tradition continued through the ages. Sculptors such as Polykleitos and Praxiteles created their works based on proportions that were numerical based systems  with an emphasis on symmetry. Beauty had been conceptualized as a mathematical quantity.

The female form has been depicted as soft in most Western artworks. The female bodybuilder presents another model of the female body not seen in a iconographical context.  

This was the harbinger to antropometry  and pseudoscientific biological racism. There was some contribution to credible fields such as physical anthropology. The idea of muscular man and soft curvy woman was a product of ancient Greek art and was sustained by pseudoscience of the 19th and 20th century. Women and men have various body types so the idea of “natural bodies” had no scientific basis. Crainometry, phrenology, physiognomy, and comparative anatomy believed that physical characteristics could describe the character, behavior, and intellect of a person. Unproven claims by pseudoscience were used to enforce much held prejudices about race, class, and gender. This would have devastating consequences during World War II when countries like Nazi Germany used eugenics to justify mass murder. Relevant to the discussion of women’s bodies it was believed that their main purpose in life was to produce babies. Other theories suggested that women were just too frail for physical activity. When strong women showed this was not truth they cast as anomalies. People would rather cling to mendacious beliefs rather than accept people who are different. Some theories were so bizarre, even for the eugenicists themselves William Sheldon began a system of body classification that equated body type to personality.

The three somatotypes as described by William Sheldon. Mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph are still terms used today in fitness terminology. 

The terms ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph were developed from his theories. Being a psychologist it it was obvious that there is not correlation between body type and personality. What his ideas and theories were suggesting that the mesomorphic body was a superior type and such individuals would run the world. This thinking has racist overtones similar to Hitler’s concept of a master race. His book The Atlas of Men (1954)   featured anthropometrical measurements of men proclaiming what were the superior body measurements. There was to be another book that would have been called The Atlas of Women , but Sheldon never finished it. Although his theories were not credible he got significant funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and his ideas were adopted by physical education departments in the US.  Barbara Honeyman Heath an assistant to Sheldon was gathering data and photographs for The Atlas of Women. She would work with numerous physical education departments who wanted to see women improve posture ,health,  and fitness. Heath came to the conclusion that these methods and ideas were fraudulent then repudiated Sheldon. She would later work with Margaret Mead using the somatotype system while studying the peoples of Papua New Guinea. This tale of junk science and prejudice reveals how perceptions of women’s bodies are based on distortions. The “natural bodies” were based on ideals that were not grounded in reality. When this was applied to health and beauty it was to the detriment of women.

            Beauty during this period of eugenics became associated with health. These two concepts are not related, but became linked together. Beauty can have various means or paradigms depending on who is asked to describe it. It varies among cultures, individuals, and societies. One can be healthy and not meet the societal standards of beauty. What the muscular woman does is define a new form of beauty. The problem with Vertinsky’s essay in the second portion is that it uses Naomi Wolf’s theory of the beauty myth. This has numerous flaws. The text states “Wolf attributed the rise of photography an important historical role in disseminating models of idealized femininity and beauty where the female body was expected to look dramatically different from that of a man.” Photography was not responsible for women’s poor image. It was the product of a society that valued women only as reproductive units or instruments for sex. The images of female beauty being weighed cruelly on women can be debatable as well. Unlike arranged marriage, employment discrimination, or lack of access to education no one is forcing women to focus on their appearance. Women buy and sell make-up, hair care products, and are more focused on fashion.

Women profit off of other women having insecurities about their bodies, yet feminists never acknowledge this. Men they state are the ones who promote the beauty myth. The problem is that Wolf’s analysis and claims ignore the fact women have a choice in the contemporary period; the woman of the Victorian Age did not have such a luxury. The issue also revolves around the fact many women have low self-esteem, which leads them down a path of body obsession. This makes women and girls with such issues of self perception more vulnerable to certain images propagated through various types of media. Victorian Age women were more restricted in most areas of life. Areas such as medicine, fashion, and beauty ideals were used to justify women’s subordination to men. The corset was an example of this subordination. This type of clothing was designed to squeeze a woman’s waist to make it appear smaller. Like most clothing for women during this time period it was designed to restrict movement. It was believed that women should not overexert themselves. Physicians were convinced that physical weakness was a woman’s natural state.   There was another camp that emerged in this debate about the female body. Women should at least have some health conditioning for childbirth. Women involved in some form of physical activity would not harm the as some health reformers ensured. Catherine  Beecher was one of the early advocates for women getting exercise. This was not for the purpose of appearance, rather a eugenic purpose in mind. The major shift came when women wanted their physical exercise to become more than just for the basis of appearance.

        As Victorian prudishness disappeared women began to become more in touch with their independence. During the late 19th century cycling became a popular pastime for women. The beauty concept developed the notion that women needed exercise for their beauty. Body ideals began to fluctuate. The Gibson girl was the voluptuous type. When the 20th century arrived the flapper depicted a thinner female body. The rise of film and popular entertainment venues presented the public with new images of the female body. The muscular woman actually did have a venue in popular entertainment.

 From Corsets to bicep curls, it seems women have gone through a political, social, and physical transformation. 

Circuses, music halls, and vaudeville was a popular form of entertainment during the late 19th to early 20th century. Strongwomen performed in these venues. There were instances in which strongwomen gathered a following. Charmion was a trapeze artist who was filmed in Thomas Edison’s short film “Trapeze Disrobing Act .” The 1901 short film demonstrated that men were getting interested in the a strong female physique. Women were performing strength feats just like the men. This was the period in which modern bodybuilding was being developed. Eugen Sandow and Bernarr Macfadden were pioneers in physical culture and modern bodybuilding.  To them the built physique had to be displayed on a stage. However, the new physical culture movement did receive backlash from medical professionals and physical educators. They though developing muscles to a high degree would reduce body efficiency and pose a health risk. This was not true and advocates of physical culture challenged such claims. Macfadden was revolutionary in the sense he advocated exercise and strength for women. He once stated that “there can be no beauty without muscles.”  Physical Culture magazine was read by both men and women. The magazine would reach sales of  over a million copies by 1955. There was another shift in the body ideal for women. The new woman was athletically active. Charlotte Perkins Gilman feminist, novelist,  and sociologist advocated that women have full control of the bodies, which included developing themselves physically. Her 1915 novel  Herland  emphasized this idea through a book in which women lived independently, were self-sufficient, and were active physically. This was a work of utopian feminist fiction in which men did not exist and the characters resembled the amazons of ancient Greek myth.

The fitness culture has a long history. One of the ways ideas were spread were through magazines and this continues to some degree today. Internet publications are now overtaking traditional print media. 

William  Blaikie produced a popular book called How To Get Strong and How to Stay So. This work of physical education was advocating that women and girls train to build strength so they can maintain good health. It seems some were not seeing a conflict in relation to muscularity and the female body. Vertinsky then explains that during the interwar years some still saw the contradiction between a strong body and femininity. The press was harsh in particular in the criticism of women. Much of it was either sexist or homophobic. While the author does not focus on the fact that non-white female athletes had to deal with both racism and sexism. African American women athletes were normally ignored by the mainstream American press. The text should have mentioned this more in a wider context, because it only focuses on the experiences of mostly white or European women. This limits the scholarship. Women were by the 1930s becoming more vsible in the sports world, yet there were objections to them. Most were based on their appearance. Athletes such as Babe Didrikson  were described as “muscle molls”  meaning they were manly or unfeminine. Women’s strength is often condemned when it is not needed, but in times of peril it becomes a necessity. During World War II women had to take the jobs of men fighting overseas, which required manual labor. Women had to be strong so that the war effort was successful.

After the war, there was a sharp turn in conservatism in terms of women’s roles. Women were expected to return to the domestic sphere. This was happening when Pudgy Stockton was making a larger impact on women’s fitness, which would not be realized until later in the century.   She popularized the idea that women could lift weights and still remain feminine. The odd contrast was that the ideal of beauty was shifting back to a slimmer body type. Vertinsky  cites the rise of the fashion industry, weight loss industry, and even toys like Barbie as a reason for the shift back. It could also metaphorically symbolize some men’s desire to control women and maintain the status quo. Stockton and the women who were inspired by her began to find an alternative. Lisa Lyon would be inspired to build her body and she would later become one of female bodybuilding’s first pioneers. This came from looking at photographs of Stockton.

The essay does do a great job of explaining how body image conformity was and continues to used against women. Yet, incorporating the beauty myth concept into such an argument  makes it lack credibility. Niomi Wolf’s theories and ideas have either been contradictory or at worst not entirely accurate. There is a tendency for feminism to cast all men as oppressors; this seems strongest in modern day third wave feminist rhetoric in academic analysis. The reality is that no one is forcing women to submit to body image pressure like women are forced into marriage or particular economic sectors. Feminism is often uncertain or contradictory on the analysis of the female athlete or muscular woman. It shifts between praise or scorn. Sometimes it takes an extreme route of the notion that women should just enter areas for the sake of  being antagonistic to men. These ideological conflicts can not be solved with a simple answer. The essay does provides a lucid explanation in regards to the connection between sexism, eugenics, health, and beauty. Yet, the small amount of feminist rhetoric weakens that strength of an otherwise rational argument. The  Patrica Vertinsky’s analysis provides also an clear synopsis of the history  in terms of were the muscular woman fits in a wider historical context.

      The rest of the monograph proceeds to show primary source material starting in a chronological manner. The muscular women of the past had more of a struggle supporting themselves with their athletic talents alone. Some professional women made a living being street performers. Strongmen did not have it better and would often work with strongwomen to increase audience attraction. Such performance acts could be seen in carnivals, fairs, and theater houses. Although the strong woman acts are considered to be a development of the 1800s, it is possible that it began earlier. The book in the first chapter shows five engravings from 1783 that depict women performing strength feats. They show women from Leipzig, Germany doing strength feat acts with anvils and horses. There is a possibility that these act were done by means of chicanery or the product of someone’s imagination.  These women could have been real people, but is clear that the strength feats are exaggerated. Strongwomen predate the rise of physical culture and heath fitness fadism in the 19th century. They benefited from this phenomenon. While health professionals were just beginning to embrace lifting exercises, strongwomen were doing this for a century. From the visual materials that remain, their are names of the foremothers of iron. The earliest documented name is that of Elsie Luftmann. She was known to do cannonball juggling acts and lift large weights. Luftmann toured mostly in central Europe.

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There could have been more strongwomen active, but Elsie Serafin Luftman  is the only name so far remembered from that era in the early 19th century. This illustration is dated at 1830.

Although it seems that this was the activity of mostly European and American women, women of other ethnic groups were involved. Miss Lala  was a African Polish strongwoman born in 1858. She was also an acrobat, trapeze artist, and did other stunts . She became are very popular strongwoman in Germany, France, and much of Europe. This was not unusual. There had been an African presence in Europe for quite sometime. Her real name Anna Olga Brown and she was active through the 1870s to 1890s. Little is known about the rest of her life.  What is remembered is that she would perform iron jaw acts. Allegedly she would hold a cannon with her teeth as a strength feat. This may be another trick that circus acts would do. However, the other acts she would do were genuine.

strong woman
Miss Lala was so popular that she was the subject of the painting “Miss La La At The Cirque Fernando”  by Edward Degas in 1879.

 The era was known for producing many posters and visuals advertising strongwomen. The graphic art is a delight to look at for a reader. Graphic design is often under appreciated, but has a major impact on culture and visual arts. The most important element in terms of history is that it leaves primary source material.

 Changes and transformations can be documented. This allows scholars to see possible patterns in ideas or commonly held perspectives. Women staring in the 1830s began as strongwomen and by the 19th century were becoming professionals in this profession. They were doing this in an atmosphere that was hostile to women’s advancement or freedom. The reason women may have had more room to navigate this field was because it did not prove to be a threat to the social and political order. As long as this was just simple entertainment with no definite statements on sex politics, there were no repercussions for women involved. While strength and brawn were essential to their acts women were still constrained by social mores about gender roles. Even successful strongwomen like Athleta would do the most to cover up their bodies. The reason was not to be a threat to male members of the audience . Another reason was that it would have been considered inappropriate at the time for women to expose or display their bodies in a particular manner. Some women were willing to challenge  that. Frances Rheinlander  who was know as Athelda was known to do poses that are common on bodybuilding stages today.

Women also had trepidation about displaying such musculature. The fear of looking masculine or violating gender norms was a challenge.  Then came another paradigm shift. Strength was no longer seen as harming a women’s feminine qualities. Strongwomen themselves began to present an image of strong and beautiful woman. Louise Leers, Kate Roberts, and Katie Sandwina ushered in a golden age of strongwoman performance. This as between the 1890s to early 20th century. Audiences were amused and fascinated with women who could lift object twice their own weight.

 There were interruptions that occurred that brought the golden age of strongwomen acts to a period of hiatus. World War I devastated the world order. The world came back to a sense of normalcy to a degree, but by 1929 the Great Depression hit. The 1920s did still have strongwomen performing yet that period of  prosperity did not last. Muscular women obviously existed prior to the 1800s. The text merely shows that they were not documented until that century. The monograph also clarifies that not every muscular woman was  a circus performer or professional strongwoman.

    The following chapter “pumping wood” reveals a fascinating change in terms of women and fitness. Regular women and female athletes wanted to build muscular strength for the purpose of just staying in shape. Early women’s physical culture literature discouraged exercise, due to the concept of the frailty myth. There was the mainstream conviction that women just did not have the physical constitution for strenuous exercise. A consensus was later reach that women needed at least some form of physical activity for their health. Calisthenics and working out with wooden dumbells was advised. Regular women’s motivation for working out was different from that of the athlete or professional strongwoman. The goal was not to build a strong physique, rather maintain health. Many health conditions at the time that were plaguing women were related to the corset. These tight garments could dislodge organs and pinch the lungs.

Just like today every woman who goes to the gym does not have the same fitness goals in mind. 

The chapter contains illustrations from newspaper articles showing women how to do proper exercises from Harper’s Weekly . Women would eventually discard their corsets so that they could have more free movement during an exercise session. Women could join exercise clubs, but this was extremely rare. Women interest in exercise and physical culture did spark a backlash. Even though women were few in number in physical culture, social conservatives and sexists condemn women’s participation. The muscular woman was made into an object of ridicule and contempt. The text has printed a series of valentines cards which mock female athletes from 1900. These were known as vinegar valentines and normally ostracized groups of people the producers found unappealing. Postcards would also ostracize athletic women and women who decided to engage in physical culture.

sexist postcard
This postcard dated  1905 states that women should not waste time on exercise. Postcards and valentines normally depicted the female athlete as vain, ignorant, or egotistical.
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This is a booklet from 1900 produced by Lydia Pinkham Company . It features a woman doing a double biceps pose. The Pinkham Company booklet is a demonstration of positive depictions of the female athlete at the time.

Chapman explains that many times men did not know what to make of the muscular female. One method to deal with such a different concept of womanhood was to insult and shun a woman who did not meet societal gender expectations. All the depictions were not negative. Magazines as this chapter demonstrates sometimes had women on the cover. Fitness, exercise, and sport were at onetime considered male only activities. Women gradually entered the world of fitness culture. Women during this period also used Indian clubs and took up cycling. There was a new woman emerging that was more independent and was no longer willing to be regulated to the domestic sphere. As women were demanding voting rights on both sides of the Atlantic men were becoming threatened. This explains the exaggerated reactions to women engaging in sports and physical culture. There are complaints today that female athletes and fitness personalities do not get enough coverage, but during this period of 1900 to 1914, it was rare that women were present on magazine covers. Sometimes there were cases they were visible regardless of public reaction. Booklets also appeared giving advice on women’s health. Women who were seeking heath improvement rather than athleticism or physical development. The following chapter notes several paradigms that emerged.

       The chapter ” Pursuing The Healthy Life” demonstrates how rapidly body ideals changed. The hourglass figure went out of vogue in favor of the s shape. The Roaring Twenties saw  the rise of a woman with more independence. This was not equally distributed among the various classes and ethnic groups of America. Women did obtain the vote, but African American, Native American, and Asian Americans still had to struggle for equal voting rights. Women who were of the upper class had more time for leisure and sport. The fitness world at this time was developing a space for women. Health and beauty clubs would emerge in the US. The taboo about women in exercise had been lifted. There were some problems in this new paradigm. Mass media and popular culture of the era encourage exercise  for women for the sole purpose of making them look attractive to a particular standard. There were multiple models of the female body presented. There was the tomboyish flapper, the traditional lithe woman, and the female athlete. Although female athletes  of the interwar period  were training just for there sport, they did develop impressive strength. Alice Marble and  Babe Dickerson Zaharias were making women’s sports notable to the public, with their magnificent performances.

The public was at least to an extent getting used to the idea women could play sports or be involved in fitness culture. Advocates such as Mary Bagot Stack established the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in 1930 to encourage women to be physically active. This was one example of many clubs that emerged in both Britain and the US. Women there would practice gymnastics, dance, and calisthenics. The reason such organizations did not generate condemnation was they stayed in line with traditional gender roles. Women were not seeking to be athletes or build their muscles. Lifting weights was not part of the exercise regimen. There were women still around in the 1930s will to display a female body with muscular development. Ivy Russell was a weightlifter and wrestler who developed an impressive physique. She was born in the British Empire and many historians of  bodybuilding consider her to be the first woman to create such a physique. This can be disputed, because there may have been others yet she was probably    the first to enjoy displaying such muscular strength.

The muscular woman and the female athlete in general got limited exposure. Ivy Russell was willing to flex her muscles during a period when that was inappropriate for women. Many photographs of muscular women from the 1800s to mid-20th century show them not flexing their muscles to prevent challenging gender role boundaries.Even women with significant development were discouraged from doing so. This does not cause issues when women athletes flex today. Russell was a foreshadowing of what was to come by the late 20th century.

 There seems to be a cycle of advancement and backlash. There was some room for negotiation  to an extent in society. Women began taking advice from other women rather than the majority male medical professionals, who had limited understanding of women’s bodies. There was a fitness culture developing, but it put emphasis on machines that in the contemporary period would seem ludicrous. Weight reduction machines were popular forms of exercise equipment and the shake weights of their day. Vibration belt machines were common in gyms promising users they could lose huge amounts of weight.

contraption9
Women using vibrating belt machines in the 1920s.

The rise of modern consumer culture also produced fitness fads. As women had more free time , it was only natural that it was occupied with such leisure activities. Some fitness fads even evolved into movements. The Life Reform Movement which developed in Switzerland and Germany advocated humankind’s return to nature by embracing healthy living, fitness, a return to nature, and an embrace of sexual liberation including nudism. This movement was more of a reaction to a rapidly industrialized and technological world as well as the rejection of the traditional conservatism of Europe. This movement spread throughout Europe and embrace outdoor physical activity.  It was at its height between the 1920s and 1930s. It was prohibited in Germany when the Nazis came to power.  There was one element that remained in the totalitarian state: the embrace of physical activity and naturism. The Nazis believed good health would make the nation stronger and produce better Aryans. Nazis and the Fascists did not encourage physical  exercise for women’s sake, but rather to make them fit mothers who would produce future soldiers. Italy was more more advance in this project, because there had been a long history of women being involved in exercise there.

Propaganda
This magazine from Fascist Italy was encouraging women to exercise so that they could be better mothers. The totalitarian fascist governments wanted large populations that so that they could build large armies.

The coming of global conflict in 1939 brought about social and political changes. Women were just like in World War I asked to contribute to the war effort by working while the men went off to battle. There was also a pop culture transformation as well. The idea of  physical strong women appeared in comic books such as Wonder Woman and Sheena. When fascism was defeated women were forced from their jobs in factories. The 1950s gave way to more social and political conservatism.

          There were a number of strongwomen and athletes becoming notable during the wartime era. Dorcas Lehman, Relna Brewer, and Pudgy Stockton.The 1940s was a time in which even women who played other sports were popular. The All American Girls Professional Ball League became popular with the public. With males being drafted and fighting in the war, many teams were losing their star athletes. Owners formed this baseball team with women and it filled stadiums. Women’s professional baseball existed from 1943 to 1954 in America. Sadly, it ended for women when men came home and owners no longer promoted it. Attendance dropped and this meant the end of women in professional baseball.  Some women were actively trying to make sports, fitness, and weightlifting appeal to women. Siegmund Klein a major figure in fitness at the time was opposed to women using his gym. The famous strongman and bodybuilder was convinced that athleticism was a male only affair. He was soon changed his position when he realized women could be great customers to his gym establishment in New York. Some men were getting used to the idea women could be strong.

Stockton
Pudgy Stockton poses with  her husband Les Stockton.  These two athletes were known to do various strength feats on Muscle Beach in California.

 The monograph does  provide a great explanation why Stockton was important. She participated in the first women’s weightlifting meet in 1947. It was held in Los Angeles and had various weight classes. This was a significant step in the history  of female physical strength. Stockton also became an advocate for women writing in Strength and Health  promoting the idea women could lift and still be feminine. The texts also mentions women’s professional wrestling was emerging in the mid-1940s to early 1950s. The book contains a photograph of Mildred Burke and the Fabulous Moolah who were the harbingers of women’s professional wrestling. While there was some progress for women in fitness and sports culture, after the war there was a return to traditional gender roles.

The 1950s saw a return to tradition. All of a sudden women being strong and flexing their muscles was no longer considered acceptable once more. Venus With Biceps describes the period between 1950 to the mid-1970s as a time in which muscular women disappeared. They literally did not vanish, but their mainstream exposure was gone. This also could be seen in the fitness culture in which magazine merely put women on the cover not for their athletic feats, rather a decoration. This was a major reversal in terms of women’s progress in a male dominated arena. Gone were the days of  strongwomen having mainstream platforms. This would be temporary, because another change would happen in the form of second wave feminism.

strongwoman

There have been muscular women as long as there have been strong men. During this period of limited exposure photographers would seek out trapeze artists, acrobats, and  aerialists during the 1940s and 1950s to document female muscle. Although these women had athletic potential they had no outlet or platform to display it. Two decades would have to pass until the most radical stage of this transformation would come.

         The last two chapters explain the shift to just mere figure improvement to the development of muscular strength. This process would result in the creation of modern day female bodybuilding. Muscular women had been excluded from magazines, gymnasiums, and other public venues  during the nadir period of the mid-20th century. The problem with Venus With Biceps is that it misses on crucial point in this historical discourse. Title IX was pivotal in the increase of women in athletics. That legislation gave many girls the opportunity to play sports and go on to be champions in both national and international competition. Many female bodybuilders of today got their start in other sports before coming on stage. This is a vital link that binds the fitness culture to the sports world. Lifting weights was once thought to harm athletic performance. When this was proven false athletes from various sports began weight training and seeing their performance improve. During the 1950s the only way women could get close to bodybuilding culture was to be in a beauty pageant. It was common at the time to have beauty attached to them. Men objected to this they did not want to be seen as male counterparts to beauty queens. The feminist revolution of the 1960s and 1970s did give women more freedom in terms of employment, education, and reproductive rights. Sports was a low priority compared to more pressing issues. All this political and cultural change was happening during a period when women were entering the sports world en mass. The first female bodybuilding competition would be held in 1977 under the auspice of Henry McGhee. This was not a beauty pageant; women were judged on their muscular development. Following this  Doris Barrilleaux began running contests of her own.  Female muscularity would be pushed to new heights with the arrival of various contests.

Rachel Mclish would go on to become the first Ms.Olympia in 1980. The last photograph is of her in the book. The way it is organized and written readers can see how over the past two centuries women’s athletic physicality developed. The general public who were exposed to this may have thought this was a new phenomenon. Those with a knowledge of the historical background would understand it is a much longer tradition. The difference in the late 20th century was that women were pushing their bodies to the physical maximum. The strongwomen of the past were not making muscular development their goal. The women of the late 20th to 21st century involved in fitness were seeking their highest level of development. The author notes as more contests opened the more muscular women became and the more they appeared.

There was an evolution in the female physique on stage with women becoming more muscular than people thought was possible. Lisa Lyon although she only competed one time was a contributor to the early version of female bodybuilding. She won the World’s Women Bodybuilding Championship in 1979. Like Pudgy Stockton she was prompting the idea of women’s bodybuilding and weightlifting to women. She was inspired by Stockton. The monograph mentions the early pioneers, but is curious it does not mention the later champions like Cory Everson, Lenda Murray, or Iris Kyle. It makes it seem as if the evolution stopped at 1980. While readers would obviously know that there are muscular women in existence and are active in sports new comers may be confused.

       This journey into female strength and muscularity is not over. The author states that the female body was altered to a higher degree with performance enhancing drugs. Drugs have been a part of sports for a longtime, but that is not the only contributor to the new physique presented. Women became serious about training and more competitive as competitions grew. There was another shift in consciousness. It was acceptable for women to have a certain level of  fitness or even tone, just as long as it was not “too much.”  Such descriptions of what is excessive are relative and opinion based. It can be disputed that the claim as Chapman articulates ” unfortunately, the introduction of drugs has meant that once again, many people regard female bodybuilders as freaks.” Prior to the existence of performance enhancing drugs this attitude was present as the earlier chapters of the book demonstrate. This is not based on drug use or the side effects, but on sexist prejudice and a narrow definition of what a woman should be. The reason people have not gotten used to the idea of a muscular woman is that society hates women with power. The oppressive structures can be removed, yet the hateful attitudes still remain within a society.

There has been a distortion about women’s bodies. The difference now is that they are beginning to reject to particular societal beauty standards. There is an irony that the monograph articulates. It has been close to 200 years of the public appearance of the female muscular form and people still cling to the idea it is not proper.  Although Venus With Biceps does not discuss other developments much has happened since its 2010 release. The last Ms.Olympia was held in 2014. This was a major blow to female bodybuilding, but it was brief. The Rising Phoenix Competition became a replacement when the IFBB terminated the Ms.Olympia. This does not resemble the nadir period of the 1950s to 1970s. More women are competing in physique sports such as figure, fitness, physique, and bikini. The female bodybuilding category although struggling has not phased out completely. Former athletes such as Lenda Murray continue to promote and hold contests for athletes.

The women continue to survive in the bodybuilding culture despite various obstacles. The biggest change has been aided by technology. Women who are fit, but do not compete are active on social media and are seen by millions of internet users across the globe. Compared to the past two centuries, it is easier to find material related to or focusing on muscular women. There are women who are active in professional sports to a larger degree compared to the 19th and 20th century. Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women is a great documentation in regards to a rarely studied element of women’s sports history.   This primary source material is perfect for anyone doing research or wanting to learn more. The monograph’s analysis related to particular subjects can be debated. Not mentioning Title IX seems to be a flaw in the book’s historical discourse. These minor imperfections do not effect the overall presentation. These photographs, advertisements, and visual art show that the muscular female did exist and was part of the pop culture consciousness. Although the same negative attitudes remain, many now see there is no contradiction between strength and femininity. It may take another 200 years for the majority to accept such an idea. The wonderful part about the contemporary period is that there are more strong and muscular women compared to the past.   Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women is a must have book for fans of history, female muscle, and sports. It is unknown what this evolution in women’s physique will become, but there is past documentation that its has been occurring for some time.

Venus With Biceps A Pictorial History of Muscular Women