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.


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.


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.



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.


   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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.


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

Why Strength Depends on More Than Just Muscle : Neural Adaptations Could Account For Differing Strength Gains Despite Similar Mass

Neural Adaptations

There is still more to learn about the human body and its relation to sports performance. The science of strength exposes a link between the muscular system and the nervous system. A study conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln revealed that a portion of strength does come from exercising the nervous system. This  was the explanation for why the subjects who lifted heavier weights enjoyed more strength than low load lifters regardless of similar gains in mass. Simply stated larger muscles do not always equate to more strength. That had been the common assumption, but this study challenges it. There should also be considerations to how experiments were conducted. There are other factors that influence strength that could distort the study. If the experiment is to be conducted again it should produce the same results to be considered fact. Exercise physiology has become an important field with applications for sports performance and health science.

          The experiment selected men only. These subjects trained on a leg extension machine loaded with either 30 to 80 percent of the maximum weight they could lift. This was done three times a week and subjects did this until they could no longer do repetitions. Nathaniel Jenkins and his colleagues then discovered that the high loaded group gained more strength compared to the low load group. They were able to increase strength by ten pounds worth. The subjects were making similar gains in terms of muscle mass, yet still there was a disparity in strength. If this is actually a fact of exercise physiology there should be a diverse sample of subjects. It would be fascinating to see how this experiment would work on women. The average woman does not have as much strength as the average man. Therefore if similar results were produced for women it would show which type of  load bearing exercise is most effective. A comparison between athletes and non-athletes could also be done for extra verification.

Researchers also supplied an electrical current to the nerves of the quadriceps . What was stimulated was the muscle used in the leg extension. It was not physiologically possible for subjects to generate 100 percent of force their muscle could produce. Thus the method of measurement  was done by comparing the unassisted kick and examining the voluntary activation. Voluntary activation refers to the capacity an individual has reached. The data showed a difference in low load groups and high load groups. Voluntary activation increase from 90.07 percent to 90.22 for the low load group ( 0.15  percent during the three weeks ).  The high load group saw an increase from 90.94 to 93.29 percent ( 2.35 percent during the three weeks).

What was extracted from this was that voluntary activation of motor neuron units during maximal contraction is beneficial to physical strength.  Jenkins wanted to be more precise and tested his hypothesis by another method. Subjects were asked to kick 10 percent of their baseline strength. This was done from a period of  three to six weeks. If high load training is better than the low load training a smaller portion of absolute strength should be used. This would mean the same force would be generated, while fewer motor neutrons are activated. If more motor neurons are activated that indicates less efficiency. When the electrodes were placed on high load subjects there was a drop in electrical activity during the exercise session. The data revealed that voluntary activation decreased for the low load group from 56 (baseline )  to 54.71 percent . The high load group dropped from 57 (baseline) to 49.43 percent. The conclusion from these experiments demonstrate that the nervous system and motor neurons play a role in strength. Lifting heavier may be more efficient compared to lifting lighter weights. It is possible subjects could gain the same mass, but not have the same strength levels.

           What should also be taken into consideration the other factors that contribute to strength. Bones,ligaments, and tendons also are a part of physical strength. Muscles rest on the skeletal frame. Ligaments attach bones to other bones. Tendons are responsible for attaching muscle to the bones of the body. Besides those considerations genetics also has a role in physical strength.  People with ectomorphic and endomorphic body structures may find it more difficult to build strength compared to more mesomorphic body types.

Although it is not impossible to increase physical fitness capacity depending on training, a part of potential is determined by particular genetics. Sex also plays a role in strength. Up until puberty, there is no difference in strength levels between the sexes. The shift occurs during the changes in growth. The hypothalamus will release gonadotropic releasing hormone, while the anterior pituitary gland forms  luteinizing hormone. This instructs the testis to produce more androgens. Testosterone contributes to protein synthesis causing a strength spurt in the male body. The difference related to to body composition in the sexes is related to endocrine function. Women produce higher levels of fat, which means less muscle for total body force recruitment. However, there is no difference between muscle cells between the sexes. Both men and women can experience muscular hypertrophy.  Relevant to this experiment  it should be asked if these other factors of bone, ligament, and tendon strength were accounted for. Then another question arises was this a measure of relative or absolute strength? If only one exercise was performed, it would most likely be relative strength.


Isometric training was utilized.  The measurements were also obtained by means of an isokinetic dynamometer. These devices are designed to resist applied forces,while controlling the speed of exercise, The rate is predetermined and maintains a record of applied force. While experiments can have multiple methods of measure, this does not completely eliminate mathematical error. The study when published in Frontiers of physiology  recognized this and notes some of the difficulties in the experiment.


Relative strength only measures cross sectional area of muscle and body mass. Absolute strength is the total sum of  possible body force generated from the upper and lower body. This experiment would be more precise if other exercises such as squats, bench press, or bicep curls were incorporated. The results would probably be the same, but it would reveal more about total absolute strength gains during a heavy load based weight training regimen. There are also muscle fiber types that are best suited for more power. Type II fast twitch muscle fiber has less endurance, yet more power.

      To fully grasp this study, one must understand what a motor neuron is. The motor neuron are efferent neurons that have origins in the spinal cord and perform synaptic functions with muscle fibers. This association produces muscle contraction with muscle spindles to also form proprioceptive sensitivity. The central nervous system is the reason the body can move. Nerve impulses ( action potentials ) carry information. These nerve impulses are the same containing 100 milivolts.

This is a diagram   of how the nervous systems functions with both upper and lower motor neurons.
motor cortex
The motor cortex has involvement in human locomotion.

These cells have the task of controlling voluntary muscle activity. This would include everything from speaking, walking, breathing, swallowing, and for the skilled athlete numerous skilled movements during competition. The upper motor neurons stationed in the brain link through transmission to the lower motor neurons of the brain and spinal cord. The upper motor neurons are the directors and the lower neurons are the subordinates producing the movement of the body. Lower motor neurons would be involved in movement of the arms and chest. Walking would be a function of upper motor neurons. The nerves are branch like for the motor neurons almost resembling telephone lines. This explains when there is a spinal cord injury paralysis can occur. It essentially cuts off communication with other parts of the body. The branches when extended to other areas attach themselves to motor plates of a single muscle fiber. Thus, locomotion is a physiological function.

The neurons of the spinal cord are referred to as anterior horn cells. The upper motor neurons are also called corticospinal neurons. There is more auxiliary support for such specialized neurons. Motor circuits also contribute to the process of locomotion. If there is some form of disturbance with motor circuits this could cause serious health issues. The causes of spinal muscular atrophy and amytropic lateral sclerosis have a direct link to motor circuit dysfunction in the nervous system .  Further explorations into cytology could produce a possible cure in the future. This also could reveal methods at enhancing strength to higher degrees with an understanding of nervous system function. Through training there is a changes neural adaptation. Impulses can be received from other neurons. Neurons are also capable of producing its own wavelike movements of ions. Impulses then transport from one neuron to the next at junctions called synapses.

       Which training method is best depends on  specific goals. Low load exercises would be best for individuals who want to build mass without putting straining on the joints. This would be suitable mainly for older people and people recovering form injury. Building mass does not always equate to more strength. A weightlifter for example could be stronger than a bodybuilder. They are training for two different objectives. One wants to lift more weight while the other wants to gain more mass. Larger size of the muscle does not mean the person would be able to lift more. The weightlifter trains for functional strength rather than aesthetic presentation.

There is also the factor of how much of the body is composed of type II fast twitch fiber. It is possible that a person could have large muscles,but not be as strong as a person with smaller ones. This once more relates to training. Heavy load based training would be more effective in terms of time comparison with light load based lifting. Theoretically lifting light weights still could build muscle; it would take longer amount of time.  The study does show this. Age is also a factor in strength and that is why subjects were selected between the ages of 19 to 35. This was done because around this age that is the body’s physical peak. The subjects did not have any previous weight training experience and were free from musculoskeletal conditions or diseases. Diet is also important factor in strength. Participants completed a three day dietary log. This documented what subjects consumed and allowed for an account of daily energy intake. What one eats only contributes to the effectiveness of the training. This experiment could allow for the design of more efficient training and fitness programs. Depending on the objective a training or fitness program should take into consideration neural adaptation.

            Neural adaptation is the alteration of the sensory system in response to a stimulus over time. It can be classified as either slow or fast adaptation. When the response happens immediately after the stimulus presentation this would be classified as fast. The rate of slow adaptation is gradual. Weight training would be classified as fast adaptation. The experiment conducted proved this through the using electromyography. This is a technique used by medicine to document electrical activity in the skeletal muscles. This study only confirms what many have suspected for a number of years. The nervous system and motor neurons are important to strength building. Heavy loads are a more effective means of producing a desired response from a particular stimulus. Multiple theories have been developed which include the increased firing rates of motor neurons, motor unit synchronization, and decreased muscular co-activation agonist-antagonist muscles. If nerve impulses and motor neurons could be manipulated in a particular manner this could improve sports performance and lead to cures neurological diseases. Strength does not only come from the muscles. Evidence suggests that it is also neurologically based.

Why Strength Depends on More Than Just Muscle : Neural Adaptations Could Account For Differing Strength Gains Despite Similar Mass

Why Getting Physically Stronger Will Help You Live Longer

Strength and Health

As the body ages it goes through a number of changes in its organ systems. The muscular system, skeletal system, and nervous system do change with senescence. Disease and age related conditions can be common, but there is a method that can maintain quality health.  Strength training can help maintain a healthy body. It is more than just a training method for elite athletes. This is more than a fitness fad, but a possible method to avoid chronic illness. The changes that occur in the human life cycle. Seeing as the average life expectancy will increase, it is pivotal to be mindful of health. This is important for women who on average will outlive men. There are normally more women who reach old age compared to males. There are health differences among the sexes, which have implications for the future. Biological and physiological differences must be accounted for when examining health. Women often would avoid strength training for fear of getting bigger, yet this has changed. Women can still see benefits form training.  Strength training should be a major part of a person’s fitness regimen. There has finally been a scientific investigation into how building strength is critical to general health.

      As the human body ages it loses its physical strength. The majority of people reach their physical fitness peak between the  ages  of 20 to 39. This also is influenced by a number of genetic factors and health habits. Some of the decline can be reversed with doing weight training later in life. It is never too late to start. Ectomorphs compared to mesomorphs would probably see a larger loss in muscular strength. Starting out with less means loss in muscle mass would have a larger impact. Those with endomorphic body types may struggle to maintain a healthy weight. The other  factor is diet. The prevalence of  high amounts of sugar and fats is contributing to poor health. Extreme declines in strength happen in the octogenarians and nonagenarians. There comes weight loss and frailty which effects the body as a whole. Decreased mobility, loss of balance, and possibly disability can occur.  Elderly people are at risk of falls, which could result in major bone injuries. Fatigue and slower walking are also symptoms of physical frailty.

Physical activity is not just for the young. Older people should incorporate exercise into their daily routines. 

Gerontologists and biologists have suspected that aging is the result of  particular factors. Mitochondria as the human body lives become weaker with the passage of time. This organelle in the cells of the human body is a valuable power source. Cells are the building blocks of organ systems. A change in mitochondria would mean as we age decreased levels of stamina, strength, and endurance. The body goes through metabolic changes with age. Chromosomes are also effected with age. The enzyme known as telomerase is responsible for repair and maintenance of caps on the ends of chromosomes. This plays a role in cell division and when telomerase can no longer be produced in the same amount, mitosis is effected.

info_telomeres     Telomerase has to build telomeres so that it can prevent shortening by adding DNA each time a cell divides. There are mechanisms in place to maintain and control cell growth throughout a life time. This also provides an explanation into the production of cancer cells. Tumors that appear on the human body occur when telomeres are too active. Cells replicate alone with no supervision. Each time a cell divides telomeres become shorter, which lead to cell death. There are only so many times that the body can do this over long life span.



It is hard to image that the body is made of a multitude of cells. The human body functions like an organic machine. 

There are changes that occur both on the genetic and organ system level. The endocrine changes with age means that testosterone will decrease in males and estrogen in females. Testosterone plays a role in muscular hypertrophy so the strength loss would be more dramatic in males. The endocrine system difference in terms of hormones has an implication for physical fitness between males and females. Men have greater strength due to higher levels of free testosterone. Women produce more estrogen and progesterone which allows for more storage of fat. This means women would have a harder time losing weight or fighting obesity. Muscle has the ability to burn more fat. Besides this difference in health, the skeletal system changes with age. The effects of puberty increase male bone density, where this spurt of strength does not occur in females. This means women would be at higher risk for osteoporosis. If women have lower bone density and bone mass decreases with age this becomes a serious health risk . Strength training can be a means of maintaining  and building bone mass. Women need weight training because of this biological and physiological difference.

Women have more durational strength. This means they can live longer compared to males even when the environment is perfectly stable for both sexes. While women do not have the same physical strength levels as a man who engages in the same activity women can build strength. The article claims that “bulking up is a myth.” Women are capable of muscular hypertrophy it is not to the same extent as a man. The term “bulky” does not accurately describe the transformation of the body through weight training. Women respond to training stimuli, however the difference is in starting point. If men have a different body composition it would seem as if they gain at a faster rate. This is not true, it appears that way because the amount of muscle in their bodies prior to training is higher. Women who have less to start with gain at a similar rate. Some muscle may be good for the female body. Strength training can prevent skeletal diseases that could effect mobility. There is still more to be learned about these developments in health science and biology, but studies and data are providing some clues.

         Two studies from the British Medical Journal revealed that lack of  muscular  strength could be a strong indicator of mortality. It claimed this even when other health factors were adjusted  as well as for cardiorespiratory fitness. A total of 30 studies were conducted using people who were in their 70s. Only five people under the age 60 were used in the study. Researchers measured bench press strength, grip strength, walking speed, chair rising speed, and standing balance. What they concluded was that poor performance in any of these categories increased the possibility of early mortality. Before one takes the study as fact, these results would have to be replicated. Another problem arises when sex differences are not factored into the experiment. It should be clear that women’s performance on upper body tasks would be considerably lower. Hand grip strength does not seem like the best measure to be using. If that measure were to be included, by obvious logic men should be living longer than women. Male hand grip strength is on average greater than women’s.


man-and-woman-strength col1

This does not translate to functional strength. Although it does suggest provide a basic estimate of physical strength capabilities. The weakest woman is still weaker than the weakest man. The strongest woman does not reach the highest levels of male strength. The charts above are not as accurate at measuring absolute strength. While it did produce a result that was expected with the female athlete having close to or equal strength of an average male, it is possible that men could generate more force simply because their hands are bigger. A woman who participated in the study may have more functional strength, but may have failed to generate more force in the study conducted by the Journal of Applied Physiology. That study used handballers rather than weightlifters. Looking at weight lifting records may be more accurate compared to grip strength. While the studies from the British Medical Journal do use bench press as a measure this also causes another problem. Men have more upper body mass and a larger skeletal frame. That means the data would be distorted, because even physically fit women cannot not match the upper body strength of a man who is on the same training regimen. Women who could be of various fitness levels still live longer than men. The study referenced to only examined men, but did not do the same for women. It is possible that a man who is physically weak could outlive one that is very strong. There are many factors that influence longevity which include genetics, general health condition, diet, environment,  and the amount of physical activity an individual gets.  This can also hold true for women.

It would be hard to predict which one of these women would live the longest. Using strength solely would not provide precision. 

Factors related to environment can be just as essential. Access to reliable healthcare and a healthy diet can increase health outcomes. Men’s health outcomes may be lower due to sociological factors. On average, the male suicide and homicide rate is higher. This is another factor related to surroundings rather than biology. Muscular strength may not be the best indicator of future morality. Standing balance, chair rising speed and walking speed seem to be better in that regard. They give better measurements of functional strength and movements. The British Medical Journal could be rushing to conclusions. At worse it making a generalization based on a sample. Simply being strong and building strength does not automatically mean a person will live longer. What getting stronger can do is improve quality of life and physical fitness condition. Implying it can be some form of life extension is a bit of an exaggeration.

       There is no doubt that weight training can improve health. There is the claim mentioned that weight training can add six to seven years on to one’s life, but this should also be questioned. Everyone does not respond the same to a particular training regimen. Health condition varies among people. Genetically inherited diseases or other conditions can effect human life span. However, it seems that exercise is capable of mitochondrial rejuvenation. Resistance training can induce the activation of satellite cells. This initiates gene shifting in which can revive mitochondria. It appears the even older muscles if worked can be turned back physiologically, genetically, and biochemical. Telomerase  production can be maintained by exercise. There is also a link to production of antioxidants. These are molecules that stop the damage that could be done by free radicals. They are mostly found in fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C. E, Lycopene, selenium, lutein,  beta-carotene  and many other molecules. There is also indication that exercise can stop cognitive decline. The reason may be that a healthy circulatory system can protect the brain. Stroke, heart disease, and high cholesterol can cause major health issues across the  body. When there is a disturbance in the arteries of the brain, this could cause dementia. Specifically multi-infarct dementia develops from blood clots that cause blockage in the blood vessels of the brain. The result is reduced oxygen to the brain causing death of tissue.

Brain arteries


The circulatory system functions like a highway. If there is a clot, that is the equivalent of a traffic accident. The problem is that there is no alternative route. If cars were to just keep piling up it would be a chronic mess. The blood supply being moved does not have an alternative path adding to the complications. Maintaining a healthy circulatory system is essential to overall health.  Heart disease and high blood pressure become more of a health risk  if one’s diet consists of fat and sugar based foods. Inactivity contributes along with poor diet. Exercise is not only important to longevity, but also quality of life. Weight training is just one type of exercise that can improve health.

     It should be realized that these studies do not mean weight training is the best form of exercise. The articles suggests that all forms of exercise are not equal. Yet, any amount is better than none at all. A training regimen depends on what one wants to accomplish in their fitness goals. This does not mean weight training should be the only form of exercise performed. Walking, aerobics, or running could be options. Although too much of one form or the other could cause problems or the possibility of over training. Doing aerobics does not increase muscle. Doing cardio does not burn fat as effectively. If a person is sticking to one exercise, they are neglecting other elements of physical fitness. There are some misconceptions that need to be addressed. Healthcare and medical professionals suggest that seniors avoid strenuous activity, yet seniors should exercise with in their limits. An exercise session does not have to mimic an Olympic athlete’s. Elders benefit from gene shifting, which means improvements in health. There are also benefits to mental health, which fight depression. While physical health is important, mental health biomedical science has now realized is just as critical. There is a link between exercise and the release of endorphins, which can improve a person’s emotional state.

Women have the most to benefit from strength training. There remains a fear of looking “too muscular” which prevents women from engaging in weight training. Appearance is a matter of preference and its should not be dictated by society’s standards. Women should not fear having some muscle on their bodies. No one just looks like a professional bodybuilder by just lifting weights casually. It also is the same for any other sport. Giving women basketballs does not automatically turn them into SKylar Diggins Smith , There are women with the capability to gain more than others, but this is not a characteristic that should be condemned. The point of exercise is too improve health, not for the purpose appearance. Women must learn to overcome body image issues for the sake of their mental and physical health.

The great aspect about a new emphasis om fitness and physical activity is that it is now acceptable for women to be active. While its been proven weight training can improve elements of health and fitness it is still questionable that it can make people live longer. If this were so, there would have to be an experiment conducted in nations with either  high and low life expectancy. There are numerous reasons why life expectancy increased globally since 1970. Medical advancements such as the end of defeat of smallpox and the development of the artificial heart  as well as organ transplants are few examples. State healthcare systems and improved public health measures have contributed to improving world health. Yet, there are challenges such as global pandemics like AIDS or antibiotic resistant bacteria. Many countries around the world do not have the economic resources to provide a functioning healthcare system or adequate hospitals. Socioeconomic status also effects health, with people in poverty struggling to afford medical care.


Japan has the highest average life expectancy, with the the highest portion of centenarians. If the hypothesis is correct, if weight training was part of the average Japanese citizen’s life, the life span should go beyond the age 100. The study would not just involve males, but females. They should be study closely, seeing as on average women tend to live longer. Knowing this, it would mean a change could be seen if such an experiment were to be conducted. If the average life expectancy of a Japanese woman citizen is 86.1 years, that should increase if the assumption weight training can make a person live longer. Then a comparison should be made with countries with the lowest life expectancy.  Afghanistan and Chad have some of the world’s lowest life expectancy which is calculated below fifty years of age. Here is the trouble with making an experiment. Certain aspects would have to be controlled to get a precise set of data. Environments would have to be favorable meaning the same level of public health, be free of warfare, and functional medical facilities. The subjects would have to be of a similar health condition. South America’s nations have life expectancy that is either high or low. Conducting the experiment on this continent  may produce a result that may give a precise answer.  Weight training may improve health, but how long you live also depends on other factors. Genetics can be an element including environment. Then lifestyle choices and health habits can alter the condition of health over a lifetime. An individual that engages in smoking, excessive drinking, or overeating is increasing their risk factors for chronic illness. While it can be debated that  simply getting stronger will increase your lifespan, it is a method of preventing diseases of the skeletal, muscular, circulatory, and nervous system.

Why Getting Physically Stronger Will Help You Live Longer

Self-Defense : Physical Differences Regarding Training

Physical Differences Regarding Training

Self-defense for women is critical. Just learning techniques is not enough, but understanding how sports performance can be applied to a person’s protection. There are physical differences in biology, anatomy, and physiology that must be considered when embarking on a training program. There has to be practical considerations if women are to successfully defend themselves against an attacker. Prevention is important, but this sometimes is out of an individual’s control. If the average male has a higher physical fitness capacity, it would be best for women to incorporate other forms of fitness training to ensure personal safety. The text explains the differences from a perspective of kinesiology and biomechanics . While author does mention the differences in the skeleton and muscular system, the respiratory system is also essential in physical activity. The sports performance element should be considered when developing training programs for women.

            The major difference between male and female bodies is the skeleton. Men have greater bone density and this contributes to strength. The pelvis is wider due to being equipped for gestation. This explains why the sacrum is much larger. This makes the distance between the right can left hip greater. This cause the femurs in the female body to be more angled. This explains why women  genu valgum pathologies. Knee and ankle problems are common among female athletes. this had implications on women attempting to do kicking motions.

Men seem to have more genu varum issues. Any one with such issues should develop an exercise program that does not strain joints to an extreme degree. Puberty also changes the bone structure. The female body becomes more lax in terms of joint stability. This limits neuromuscular control of lower extremities. The knee joints will rotate inward when weight is applied adding more pressure to ligaments and tendons. This puts women at risk at higher rates anterior  cruciate ligament tears. What this generally means is that differences in the skeleton produce a unique female hip and leg mechanics. However, some differences come later in the human life cycle. Girls until age nine have more lumbar flexibility. This ends when males gain more lumbar extension and women acquire more lateral felxion.

 This cannot account for all of the disparity. It seems that women are using more of their internal hip rotation. Male joints are not reliant on flexion and extension. The reason the human walk is different between the sexes is different to the skeletal structure. Women walk with more more pelvic movement and reduced width in step. This explains why women run slower than men is due to the shape of the pelvis. Mechanically a large pelvis is not the best for running speed. The differences in q angle also create the difference.

Knowing that a large portion of power comes from the core and the hip, this has implications in women’s total power out put. The text does make an error. Women’s throwing ability is not entirely related to body structure. Girls on average, are not taught to throw like boys. The only difference in female throwing is that it would lack the force of a man. The reason being is that males have more upper body strength. A larger upper body means more space for muscle mass creating the difference. Boys and girls could theoretically be taught the same technique and throw  in a similar fashion at least until the changes brought on by puberty. The concept of “throwing like a girl” may not even exist.

gender throws
This may not be entirely biologically based.  Assuming this example is of children prior to the age of thirteen, there should not be significant differences in the skeleton. This seems to be technique based because the girl is one using her forearm, rather than the boy who uses his whole body.

Inward knee rotation makes the base of the female body more unstable. A strong core and hips contribute to striking power. A power strike originates from the hips to the core and follows to the shoulder. The final product will be the punch that is generated. If the body is not ground like a root, the legs will just act as shock absorbers. The skeleton is the base for the human body. This means that women’s punches and kicks would have to be performed in a manner that is effective without causing injury during execution. One consideration that the author does not mention is the difference in hand size. Men have larger hands on average compared to women’s. If this is the case women have smaller fighting tools to work with. Punches can still hurt depending on where you are hit. Striking spots are critical to remember is such a dire situation arises. The differences in biomechanical function must be recognized in developing an effective training program.

            Muscular strength also can contribute to self-defense. There are differences in body composition, metabolism, and speed of muscular contraction. Male muscles have greater power out put and in terms of anaerobic metabolism a higher capacity. The difference in muscular strength may make it more difficult for women to defend themselves. Men’s larger size and endocrinology means they are on average stronger than women. The muscle cells of men and women do not differ; the amount of muscle fibers make the disparity vast. The weakest male could still have more strength than an unfit woman. Men have more type II muscle fibers, while women have more type I. Training can reverse some of this, but it does not close the gap entirely. A woman and man who train on the same regimen will not see similar fitness results. While women do increase in strength, they still retain higher levels of body fat. This difference may be the largest obstacle the only solution is to incorporate some weight training into a self-defense program.  The article makes a excellent point stating ”   women can pack a very powerful punch this way they still will not match the physical strength of men.” There should be a level of caution and thought when in a dangerous situation the author reveals : “standing toe to toe and duking it out with an enemy larger and stronger than them is just plain stupid.” The idea is just to defend one’s self, not pulverize them similar to an MMA match. There are other factors to consider. Every attacker will not be a hulking brute or have the same level of fighting skill. If the male attacker is physically weaker it would be simple to defend one’s self. If the attacker is stronger, the best method is to figure out a means of escape.

If this man was attempting to attack, this woman’s best defense would be to run or escape.

An attack from this man would not be successful.

Skill is also important, because simply just being strong does not mean you can defend yourself automatically. Certain martial arts disciplines such as judo do not require immense amounts of strength. What it does is it uses body weight and gravity against a bigger opponent. Depending on what martial arts disciple is learned, it is possible to overcome larger opponents. There are multiple fighting forms which include karate,  aikido, ju jitsu, and kick boxing. If trained in these fighting styles it may close some of the gap in the strength difference in terms of self-defense. If an attack had the same training, then this could be problematic.

Training in body motion and developing strength can alter the differences that are based on anatomy and physiology. Women must train on a regular basis to see effective results. This require the use of proper drills and instruction. Women are not at a complete disadvantage. Their muscular endurance is higher compare to men. Although there is a difference in power generation, their function under work can last longer. There are other factors that are involved in muscular strength. Genetics, health condition, and somatotype play a role. Women vary in this physical fitness spectrum. There may be women who find it easier to be a fighter simply, because they have their unique physical advantage on their side. Women with ectomorphic body types find it difficult to make significant strength gains. This should not discourage them from making efforts to learn self-defense.

Having some strength would not hurt. To ensure maximum protection a combination of both skill and strength will help. Women’s bodies on average carry 35 % muscle compared to the average male’s 50%. This varies depending on health, the function of the MTSN gene, and size. A larger woman will have more strength than a smaller man simply because her skeleton can house more muscle. It is not impossible for a woman through training to boost physical strength and muscular levels. A woman can see an increase in physical strength to at least 40 % if weight training is consistent. Muscular hypertrophy functions in the same way in the female body. The muscular system of women is the same, but some differences make it harder for them to reach a particular fitness level.

If the core essential to fighting muscles of that area must be trained. This can negate some of the upper body disparity. It does not completely make it disappear. A man can still have slightly more upper body strength even if the height and weight are the same. The estimate is that women are 63% weaker in the upper body and 27% weaker in the lower body. Women are closer to men in the lower body. A large portion of men”s muscle fibers and androgen receptors at located in that area of the upper body. This has implications when fighting with your fists.

Punches may not be as powerful compared to a man’s,but they can still hurt of done correctly. Women would need to build upper body strength, This would be more of a challenge considering the differences between male and female physiques.Women’s punching techniques need to be modified to be more efficient to maximize damage. Men put more power in using their opposite lead foot.This allows men to utilize the core more and have a stable base to work with.  Seeing as the female skeletal and muscular structure has some difference biomechanics must be approached form another manner. Punching the same way as a man would cause women’s hips to lock at the moment peak power could be used. Thus more effort is put in without the pull power projection. The best way as explained by the author is to step in on the same side as the leading foot, thus preventing a possible knee injury. Technique and a strong body can be useful, but there is one physical fitness element that should not be forgotten.

      Aerobic capacity is a fitness element that should be focused on. If the only option in a perilous situation is to run, cardiovascular fitness is necessary. This is one aspect of fitness more difficult to close a gap. The reason has to do with the size difference of the heart and lungs. Women’s smaller hearts and lungs means they have less oxygen reaching the muscle tissue. That means the average woman will run slower than the average man.

Women can improve running speed with the right training. Cardio exercises should be a small part of self-defense training. It seem rather odd that the text did not mention the respiratory system in regards to physical differences. The muscular and skeletal system are obvious points of examination when discussing self-defense. Women’s total VO2max is lower. Women also have lower hemoglobin levels. It may seem that there are limited advantages in terms of women’s respiratory capacity, yet evidence suggests that women have more endurance. It was reported in 2017 that women processed oxygen faster according to a study conducted by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. This means women have possibly more endurance. Running slower may be a better trade off when running for long periods of time. Sometimes the best solution to an attack is to escape if possible or plot a route to safety.Fighting may not be the best response to every incident.

       There should also be an understanding about the mental aspects and situational considerations. It has to do with reactions and prevention as well as a particular mindset. there must be a level of confidence in movements when fighting. Being hesitant can cause a situation to be reversed. The problem the text suggest is that women may tend to think they can reason their way out of a violent situation. This is a mistake. Reaction time critical in such a situation and it make a difference. If one is being attacked it should be noted that it is a fight for survival and that anything should be done to keep safe. Biting or eye gouging can be effective. It is pivotal to know which areas of the body to strike If an attack is happening. Negotiation or  minimal attacks will only aggravate the assailant. Being as aggressive as possible ensures damage and success. Finding a skilled and qualified instructor who realizes that women have to be trained based on their sex differences can improve effectiveness.

Then there should be an emphasis on prevention. Many third wave feminists claim that teaching “men not to rape” is a practical solution. This notion is ludicrous, because violent aggressive  individuals are not so easily rehabilitated. It goes off the assumption that all men are predators and that it is only women who are sexually assaulted. Men and children can victims of sexual assault or rape. Custodial rape is common in US prisons and the Catholic Church remains  silent about the abuse of boys in its institutions. Using common sense can be the best key to protection. Walking alone late at night or in an unlit area is making yourself a target. Going to a party with the intention of becoming intoxicated also increases chances of attack. While the common counter argument is that women should be able to do these things as free individuals, it must be understood the world is a dangerous place. Having awareness of your surroundings and avoiding possible situations is imperative. Getting the proper instruction from a self-defense professional who understand the sports performance elements can help women learn how to defend themselves more effectively.

Self-Defense : Physical Differences Regarding Training