Feministing: Women in Sports- Why Can’t Women Compete With Men ?

Men and women
Why Can’t Women Compete Against Men in Sports?

Feministing was an online community website that discussing women’s rights and ideology. It ran from 2010 to 2020 covering topics from politics, popular culture, and contemporary issues. The online community was targeted at a younger demographic. The site also encourage grassroots activism. Users could also contribute to the community blog. There was one short post that by Vicky Chatwin that is of interest. A simple question is proposed : why can’t women compete against men in sports ? The author even notes the most obvious reason. The impact of sexual dimorphism influences physical fitness capacity. There are obviously exceptions and cases of overlap. Chatwin’s argument is that by having women’s leagues this constitutes sex segregation. The second case is that it is denying women equal opportunity. Then there are some feminists who think that sex differences are nothing more than sociological constructions. Biology is not a sociological construction, yet third wave feminists want to dispute known facts about sexual dimorphism. Women can compete in mixed competitions if they have the skill and physicality to do so.  Having women’s divisions is not discriminatory nor is it excluding women.

          The most elite women in sports would not be able to physically challenge the elite men. Physical strength differences and body size give men in advantage. Sports such as boxing, weightlifting, or powerlifting require certain amounts of muscular strength. Studies have shown that women may have advantages in muscular endurance and oxygen utilization.  It has been theorized that women may have an edge when it comes to running in marathons. Sprinting which requires more muscular strength, women do not perform the same as men. Depending on the sport, there is a different level of skill and fitness required to master it. The skills of tennis differ from that of soccer. Being just strong and fast does not automatically make a person a great athlete. Men have more muscle and bone mass making their physical fitness capacity higher than women on the same training regimen. Women’s bodies can experience muscular hypertrophy, but not to the same degree as a man. This is related to endocrine function and the amount of natural strength prior to exercise. If men have more muscle to start off with training adds to their strength.

Pelvis shape, lung and heart size have an effect on total running speed.
Men and women 6
On average men weigh more and are taller.
Women’s records at the highest level reach the 250 kg range.

Women still retain more fat mass in comparison to their male counterparts. The structure of male and female bodies differs. Men have broader shoulders and more upper body strength. Women have wider pelvises. That makes running speed slower.  Heart and lung size are smaller in women which effects VO2max. Accounting for body size, women weigh less. These sex differences in physiology and anatomy would make it hard for the vast majority of elite female athletes to keep up with males on their level. This would mean there would be fewer women competing in sports being a part of men’s divisions. Chatwin states ”   I know the usual arguments – men are bigger and stronger, it’s not fair to women – but how true is this?” in the opening paragraph. She then provides a personal anecdote that she has seen women who beat men easily at sports. Oddly, She does not mention which ones. The biological factor is a big one when discussing sports performance. There is truth to this up to a certain age. Women competing with men in sports also raises safety concerns.

     Women competing with men in sports raises safety concerns. If male bodies are bigger and stronger, women could get seriously injured. Contact sports from this perspective would be difficult for women to compete with men in.   For younger children its not an issue because their bodies have finished developing. Boys and girls can compete in mixed competition. The physical changes brought about by puberty is what causes the strength gap. Women’s skeletons and muscles do grow, but they do not experience the dramatic strength spurts of men.  Around age 13, the strength gap appears between the sexes. This is why it is ludicrous to keep girls off of boys sports teams. Boys and girls between the ages of 1 to 12 have no difference in physical fitness capacity. What some third wave feminist fail to realize is just how wide the difference in physicality can be after the physiological changes during puberty. The average man has more strength compared to the average woman. A woman how trains seriously can either attain the strength of a man who does not train or be close to it. The strongest trained male could possibly be stronger than most  women.

Samantha Gordon plays football at age nine. At this stage she would have no trouble competing with boys, because puberty has not effected the musculoskeletal system.
Strength Suprise
This really is not much of surprise if a person has a basic understanding of anatomy.
Man and woman 3
Women have to train harder to attain a certain physical fitness level. Even with all this effort the results are not the same.

Rugby, football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, wrestling, lacrosse, and roller derby are sports that involved huge amounts of body force.  If women if at their highest level of fitness can have the strength of an average man or slightly above, the risk for injury could be higher. Boxing would be impossible for women to compete with men considering the difference in upper body strength. The only way such matches in contact sports to work is if men were restricted from using their full physical force. All sports are not contact based. Race car driving or equestrian sport does not reliant on muscle power. Semi-contact sports may see a few women able to compete.

       Having women’s sports divisions does not constitute sex segregation. Unlike Jim Crow America and apartheid South Africa these governance systems were designed to oppress. It was not only to control a population based on because of their race, it was also to isolate them from the wider society. Women’s divisions and sports teams are the opposite. They allow more women to compete. The differences in speed and physical strength between the sexes is the reason there is separation. Looking beyond sex, this is why their are weight classes between athletes. Boxing does this with lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight athletes. Wrestling also has weight classes. This is not segregation of smaller athletes, rather giving them a platform to compete. Otherwise, the biggest and strongest people would always dominate sports. The separation is more of a matter of weight class. This does not mean smaller athletes or women are inferior. It is an attempt to make competition fair. The only way discrimination could occur is if a skilled female player is qualified to play on a men’s team is denied. If a woman can handle the physical demands and has the talent, there is no legitimate reason to deny her an opportunity to play.

Stephanie Labbe was banned from playing on the Canadian men’s soccer team. This would be an example of discrimination.
Clearly a weight advantage requires different divisions.
Katie Lee Versus man
Overlap is possible depending on the woman’s physiology.

There also is another counter argument to this. If women can compete on men’s teams then can men play on women’s teams ? The question becomes complex if one wants to make competition fair. The reality is that competition is not completely fair because each person may have a unique physical advantage. If a person is devoted to full equality, then it should function the same for both sexes. Title IX ensures that girls get access to sports in schools and few states have restrictions on boys playing on girls teams in America. There are no restrictions on women competing in men’s divisions in the Olympics. The only restriction is the ruling on the amount of testosterone a woman’s body produces. This ruling has been debated and criticized in terms of its scientific foundation. Such a ruling must be discarded altogether, considering athletes cannot help the way they were naturally born. Women’s teams are not an example of sex segregating, rather an expansion of women’s participation in sport.

    Women have already competed with men in sports. Mixed sport is more of an integrated model of  competition. Tennis, badminton.  korfball. mixed pairs bodybuilding,  and swimming  have done pioneered this. Pairs of men and women compete in what is a perfect example of inclusion. This should be what third wave feminists support.  Power feminists however take a less harmonious approach. Competing with men is not about equality, rather they just want to attain more power.Some want all the power and influence in particular areas. This does not appeal to the majority of women who rather see men as their equals and partners. Excessive girl power has become more confrontational, rather than celebrating women’s achievements.




Mixed sports may become more prevalent in the future. Mixed relays are going to make a debut at the Olympics. This seems like a significant development in terms of promoting equal exposure of athletes regardless of sex.  The third wave feminist narrative as men being all antagonist falls apart, when some men see women’s participation as a positive development. The biggest problem for women in sports is not that they are in separate leagues. Unequal pay, lack of media exposure, and sex prejudice are the biggest concerns.

       There is nothing really stopping certain female athletes from competing with men. Sports organizations can ban them from doing so. This is an obvious act of sex discrimination. There are cases in which girls have to compete with boys seeing as there are no girls teams in certain schools. Wrestling and football have some girls playing with boys in elementary and middle school. Their competitive years could end by high school seeing as boys are experiencing the increase in fitness capacity from puberty. Girls would not be able to keep up seeing as they do not make significant strength gains. The only solution would be to build a girls team, so female athletes could continue to compete. If women had to try out for teams with mostly males, it would reduce the total number of women competing. It could be done with sports that do not require an immense amount of brute strength. Race car driving, equestrian sport, gymnastics, and marathon running could be sports in which women could compete directly. Certainly, there are women who can compete with men. The system that is place is more about placing athletes in a weight class, rather than their sex. The growth of more women’s teams or leagues is not hindering women. It enables them to be on a competitive platform.

Feministing: Women in Sports- Why Can’t Women Compete With Men ?

Cathe Friedrich : Strong Versus Skinny and Why Strong Is Better


Strong Versus Skinny

Weight loss has been directed at women as the sole means to maintain health. While it is important to manage weight, losing too much can be unhealthy. This could negatively effect musculoskeletal mass of the body. The methods of weight loss that some women have done range from reduced calorie restriction, excessive aerobic exercise, or use of weight loss supplements. Thankfully, more women are using healthier methods. Weight training and a diet that meets the body’s needs can both maintain health as well as improve physical fitness. Women gaining physical strength and muscle is a positive development for women’s health. Muscle can actually improve women’s health. There is a new maxim “strong is  the new skinny” but the goal should not be to replace one body image with another. Women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes so there should not be one set standard. There are some women who may not like the idea of developed muscle on their body, but when they try weight training they want more. There are five essential benefits that come with developing strength.

        Functional strength is about being able to do daily tasks. Moving furniture, groceries, or shoveling snow are just a few examples. Some women say that is work for men to do. However, there may not always be a man to  help. You may live alone or there just are not big strong men around to solve your problems. Training for strength differs from training for aesthetics. Both use weights to meet different objectives. Strength training along with compound exercises can induce muscular hypertrophy. The body can then generate more physical force. Bodybuilding is about molding the muscle to look a certain way. Both activities can enhance bone and muscle mass. The major target area of exercises should be the core. This is an important center of physical strength generation.


6f823c1328453015 2-exercise-608x500

Mere weight loss has some negative consequences. Too little calories, limited nutrition, and aerobic exercise only weakens the body. A person who is too thin may struggle doing basic physical tasks. Becoming to obsessed with thinness could put a person at risk for anorexia. Strength training can be a healthy way to maintain body weight. Weight loss only does not enable the building of extra bone and muscle tissue.  This means a person will have less functional strength. The impact can be larger on women who have less natural strength to start off with. Maintaining physical strength is pivotal to health as we age. Having functional strength aids in muscle and bone health.

         Body weight can become a concern if it exceeds a certain level. Cathe Friedrich incorrectly uses the term “skinny fat” when no such thing exists. This is more of a colloquial term that people use to describe people who carry some body fat, while to fitting the definition of being overweight. There are multiple body types which in include ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs. Some people can be in between these categories. Obesity and being overweight are not the same medical terminology. An overweight person may be carry more weight then they should, but are not obese. Obesity can be defined as weight higher than what would be considered healthy for a person’s height. The risk of type diabetes becomes a concern with increasing weight. A thin person with high amounts of sugar in their diet can still get the disease. This can be managed and controlled with exercise. Strength training can benefit anyone, no matter what age or fitness level. The protection of the circulatory system also needs attention. Heart disease and stroke become health concerns the longer people live. Being active can prevent chronic illness related to the muscular, skeletal, and circulatory system.

          Thinness is not an indication of health. Being malnourished can pose a threat. The body needs food as fuel and exercise to maintain organ systems. Getting too thin may pose a greater burden on women’s bodies. When fat levels decline to such a limited amount estrogen is effected. This may result in osteoporosis or infertility. Thinner people could be at equal or the same risk for diseases that effect the obese. Poor eating habits, smoking, and drinking are practiced by large segments of the population. This is not a concern during youth, but as age progresses the effects of poor health decisions emerge.

You cannot determine someone’s health by just their body type. Only medical exams can determine health condition. However, thinness is equated with health due to a beauty standard. 

The issue here is that people equate a beauty standard of body image with health. The concept has eugenic roots and was based in physiognomy, yet never really disappeared. Beauty has nothing to do with health. That depends on a person’s perspective and the culture in which they are raised. The unfortunate aspect is that it has caused women much distress. The mental toll of attempting to reach an unrealistic body ideal can harm psychological well being. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Strength training does have a mental health benefit.

          Self-esteem is essential to a person’s sense of worth. When women do strength train their is also a mental change that occurs. Women report feeling more body confidence not just how their bodies look, but what they can do. This new sense of self and confidence does not only relate to a sports field. It spreads to other aspects of life. Too many girls and women are discouraged from being ambitious or confident. This restricts their potential and  opportunities in life. Learning discipline, consistency, and goal setting is connected with strength training principles. Feeling like a stronger person gives women a larger boost in confidence. A study from  McMaster University demonstrated that women were more satisfied with their bodies after a twelve week training regimen . They were very pleased that they became physically stronger than before.Women’s mental health can benefit from a strength training regimen.

       Women will live longer on average. This means they have a higher chance of either getting diseases related to age, if they do not monitor their health. If a person does not exercise, the body becomes frail. Sacropenia causes muscles to decrease in power and strength. When a person reaches the age of 30, muscle mass gradually declines. Around the age of 50 the process becomes more dramatic. Bone density is also effected increasing the likelihood of hip fracture. Falls and the fractures that follow can be life threatening. This effects women worse seeing as they have less muscle mass and bone density. Strength training can protect women’s bodies from sacropenia and osteoporosis. The elderly can still benefit from some exercise. A woman that is too thin could be at risk of losing functional strength.

        Making yourself thin is not the most health path to take. The intent is to have enough physical activity and calorie consumption to manage weight. Calorie restriction will only harm progress. Diet should be managed and consist of vegetables, proteins, as well as some fruit.  Thinner people may not have as many health problems as an overweight person, but they are at risk for chronic illness. Losing the ability to do simple tasks become a challenge for older people. While a thin body may be seen as ideal  for women, it is not healthy. Being naturally thin does not pose a health risk, but attempting to be underweight is. Building strength is insurance against disease later in life. Strength training can be done by anyone. It is never too late to start. Women can gain more from a strength training regimen. Improved health, weight management, and higher levels of confidence are what women can gain.

Cathe Friedrich : Strong Versus Skinny and Why Strong Is Better

Alisha Valdes: Are Men Actually Stronger Than Women- You Betcha (2012)


Manly Monday – Are men actually stronger than women_ You betcha

Alisha Valdes is a journalist, author, and film producer who wrote “Fearless and Freaky ” a blog that featured some of here written pieces. The now defunct site would feature what was referred t as “Manly Mondays.” It was her personal opinions about the sexes and sex politics. At first the title asks a question are men stronger than women, which does not seem like a controversial statement. To an extreme social justice warrior this may cause them to be triggered. The more rational people see it as a general statement of biology, however the problem with Valdes is that she takes a perspective that would actually justify women being subject to a secondary role. The opposite end of the spectrum from  the social justice warrior  is the culture warrior. These individuals dream of a period in which traditional gender roles are rigidly imposed, race relations reverted back to the 1950s era, and religion plays a larger role in public life. These two extremes have polarized every area of American society from entertainment, politics, and even general discourse. There has been a movement to discredit social sciences as leftist propaganda driven by the far-right. History, sociology, and political science can tell us much about why human civilization developed the way it did. The problem related to this topic of biological sex difference it not between nature or nurture. It is how much do these two factors work together to produce an individual. Before addressing this, the concept of equality must be explained.

            Equality by definition is ” the state of having the same worth in terms of rights, status, and opportunities.” The person who either believes in racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other type of intolerance thinks equality should not exist. Their world view is tainted by the ideology that there is a superior group and a group of inferiors that either need to be enslaved or exterminated. Nations that value human rights, freedom, democratic institutions, and the regulation of political power tend to hold equality as a value. The reality is that most societies are pyramid structures with a hierarchy that is unequal. This pyramid structure can be seen in both authoritarian and democratic governments.  There has been progress in terms of improving the rights of citizens in certain countries. However, the more progressive branch in the left take an entirely different view on equality. Alisha Valdes describes this as equality meaning being the same. The context here is in sameness feminist views men and women women are not that different. This ignores both biology and psychology. The concept does not start with second wave feminism as Valdes claims, rather it got more mainstream with third wave feminism in the 1990s. Every individual is different physically and psychologically different regardless race, sex, sexual orientation, or nationality. People are the same in regards to being the same species. The argument is a flawed one, but the sameness concept is what some progressives and feminists have adopted. Looking at men and women you can see they are not physically the same. When discussing size and physical strength this is the first attribute of sexual dimorphism that can be noticed. This does not mean one sex is superior than the other, rather physical differences that developed from human evolution. The sameness feminist argument ignores that true definition of equality.

            Biology and physical difference has become a topic of debate among feminists. Some argue that focusing on biological difference only encourages placing women as the other. Others view discussing men’s greater physical strength as embracing the idea of male superiority. Certain power feminists believe they should challenge men in all things and strength should be another area. They ignore the fact that physiology and anatomy play a role in physical strength difference. Girls and boys are equal in terms of physical strength. The ratio to bone and muscle is not the great in total amount. Puberty strengthens the male body to a higher degree with an increase in bone density and muscle mass. It is not just the muscle mass that is strengthened. Ligaments and tendons are reinforced. The male body produces more androgens, which enable a lower body fat composition.   The upper body has more strength in males with broader shoulders. The female body has narrower shoulders and wider hips. Males tend to be taller than females on average. A larger skeleton means more room and support for muscle. Muscle fiber type dictates physical strength. Type II muscle fibers are the most important for explosive strength. These are more prevalent in men’s bodies and the fibers themselves are larger.

Testosterone dramatically effects bones and muscles of boys during puberty.Girls do not gain a strength spurt.
14 (1)
Through exercise and diet women can increase their physical strength.
Men experience a higher degree of muscular hypertrophy from a weight training regimen

The average man has more strength than the average woman. However, this can vary depending on the individual’s size, height, health, and physical fitness condition. Training does not completely  negate the difference in strength. The strongest man could have more strength than the strongest woman. The National Institutes of Health study demonstrated that women can have an estimated 66% of strength of  a man of similar fitness level. That still a good amount considering men have more to start off with. A woman can certainly be stronger than a weak or average man. Unlike the facial hair analogy used by  Alisha Valdes, this case makes more logical sense. Humanity can manipulate its own biology, which means it is not impossible for women to gain strength. Equality does not mean equality in ability. While women may be able to have higher records in sports, this does not mean women cannot excel. Some people will juts be better at certain things. A scientist would be better at explaining natural phenomena than playing soccer.

This astronaut has many skills that the strong man does not.
He can lift more than the female astronaut. This is the only sense in which they are unequal.
She is stronger than many men.
This man is weaker than most women, but that does not mean he’s beneath them.

People are different, but they are the same in the sense they all have value. The issue related to sex politics is that women were not given the same rights or value. The erroneous remedy was the idea that women either were consider the same or should try to imitate men. The influence of biology is very powerful and trying to eliminate or ignore these difference could have devastating consequences. Is it unfair that there exists a physical strength difference between men and women? Not really seeing as this trait can vary when we look at individuals regardless of sex. There are people who are smarter and stronger than others, but that does not mean they have the right to dominate or rule over the masses. Humanity is a wonderful mix of different people.   The emphasis on science  should not be misinterpreted as biology is destiny. The environment can influence how a person develops.

     The difference in physical strength may not be entirely biological. Girls and women for a longtime were discouraged from developing themselves in terms of physical fitness. Professional sports were seen as male only and women who were athletes were constantly the subject of ridicule. Mass media and body image conformity disparaged women who did not fit the paradigm. Even today women athletes are criticized for having muscular bodies. The same body type on a man is not treated in the same way. It is seen as something natural. For women, it generates feelings of trepidation or abnormality. Lack of physical activity can also be detrimental to women’s health. Heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis become major concerns as people age. Fad diets and weight loss is marketed directly at women. This is not designed to improve health and fitness, rather make women as physically small as possible. Thinness to an unhealthy degree is promoted. The result can be psychological disorder . Anorexia has a higher rate in women compared to men. A woman constantly trying to make her self thin is not increase body strength. If young girls are bombarded with the image and concept that making yourself unrealistically thin is necessary the cycle will continue. Part of the reason strong women my invoke such negative reaction is because they could challenge most men on a physical level. Just the image seems like a threat to the notion that men have all the power. Women who demonstrate they can be strong are indirectly asked not to display it. They are told “don’t get too big” or “they are too much.” Even with the strong is the new skinny maxim women are not suppose to get so strong that they could overpower a man.

strong is hot
The more muscular woman can be seen as a threat. If women are “toned” like the one on the right it is considered acceptable.
Body image issues can also effect men. Muscle dysmorphia has become more common among young males. 
Women are now defying the narrow definitions of  what it means to be a woman. There is a movement to embrace women of different sizes and shapes despite mainstream culture.

These irrational fears or hatreds are a metaphor for society’s suspicion of women’s growing political and social power.  Roles are have changed between men and women. The more traditional minded will struggle to adjust to these changes. Children growing up may not react badly to them, seeing as it is a new social environment. There is still gender bias demonstrated at an early stage of life. Physical education courses are modified for girls. This does not make sense seeing as the changes of puberty has not created the difference in physical fitness capacity. Women still have to fight for equality in the competitive sports arena. From a perspective of sports science, women have not been examined as much compared to their male counterparts. Therefore women may be using training methods that do not unleash their full physical fitness potential.   Gender roles do change with culture and transformations within a society. To a degree women’s bodies and health are controlled by this.

        There were some elements of traditional gender roles that did benefit women. Chivalry was one aspect that was more of a gain to women’s comfort than men’s. Alisha Valdes almost laments that such behavior is extinct. If there was some activity or chore that required strength or an element of danger men were expected to do it without question. It did not matter if it would harm their health or mental well being, just as long as the reward of female companionship was a possibility. This idea of men and women forms a common stereotypical images  of helpless damsel and heroic he-man. This dated notion of chivalry still remains present, even though it does not fit well in the modern world. If the expectation is that the sexes be treated equally, there should be no reason for a man to do extra for women. This also means that women do not owe men anything.  However, women still have the expectation that men should do everything for them while claiming to believe  in equality. Men are still expected to pay for dates, alimony, be drafted, and be the main provider all while acting like everything is fine. Men have limited emotional expression outlets, which may explain odd behaviors or extreme outbursts of violence. If true gender equality is to be established then both men and women should be treated the same way. That means having the same obligations and responsibilities.

       There is another reason why physical strength could be a concern for feminists. Exalting male strength would ignore strong women and promote a weaker sex stereotype. This may seem harmless, but it can effect people’s behavior. Women who enter traditionally male dominated occupations such as firefighting, law enforcement, construction, or the military are viewed as being less capable. The most common argument used against women in combat jobs is that they do not have the physical strength. Detractors normally make the claim standards will be lowered to accommodate women. The women who are successful are still perceived as being given the job on the basis of their sex or an unwanted presence. The weaker sex stereotype also makes it possible that more women are discouraged from entering such fields. If a young girl is told she cannot excel, she will never try to advance as an adult. Alisha Valdes initial statement about men being stronger is not wrong, but she comes to an incorrect conclusion. Waiting for a knight in shining armor to assist women is a dangerous path. The irony is that this was written by a woman who claimed to be a feminist. To a degree women did have a level of security under a traditional household, however their freedom was severely restricted. A new era has emerged. With the #Me Too movement, gender neutrality, and a developing fourth wave feminism it is uncertain what sex politics will be like in the coming decades. One change is clear is that women are gaining more power and they did not need to out muscle men to do it.

Alisha Valdes: Are Men Actually Stronger Than Women- You Betcha (2012)

The Conversation : Why Do We Find Muscular Women So Perplexing (2014)


Why Are Muscular Women Perplexing

The topic of body image has  been discussed before on women’s sports sites. Rarely, is it discussed on mainstream media outlets or digital platforms . The Conversation breaks the tradition by reporting subjects not discussed by other news organizations. Muscular women and accomplished female athletes can either induce feelings of shock, confusion, disgust, or in extreme cases hatred. The question asked in the title is more so  rhetorical. Sexism,prejudice,  misogyny, and double standards are the reasons  why muscular women are viewed as strange or anomalies. There is irrational fears of the other or people that are different. Society even reacts negatively to people who do not share the same opinions or thoughts. This article explores aspects of both sociology, sex politics, and human behavior. Even women who have become prominent in the sports world still face a high amount of disrespect and sexist abuse. While the article focuses on the negative aspects of culture surrounding  strong women, it forgets that there is a level of support. Fans are also harshly ostracized for their support. This only shows how conformity stifles free thought and control behavior in a strict fashion. The views expressed by some may even be implanted at an early age, which explains why it is difficult to understand other perspectives. Change or discovery never came by people doing the same things or thinking alike. The muscular woman may have a deeper meaning about women’s growing power both socially and the wider society.

         The argument is that women of such physical strength and development are “unnatural.” Women somehow when they gain such strength lose their femininity. While this is false, it should be realized that gender roles are based on a culture and society in which people live. Biological sex is a product of millions of years of human evolution. The muscular woman in the context of gender roles disrupts the traditional views of “real men” and “real women.” As stated in the text ”     It challenges the assumption that all men are big, strong and powerful and that all women are smaller, weaker and dependent.” The female athlete  not only challenges this notion; they completely make it a fabrication. There is a female athlete that goes a step further developing the body to its highest degree: female bodybuilders. Muscular strength has for a longtime been associated with masculinity. Many men do not fit this narrow paradigm of the ideal masculine image. To a degree men are not as pressured to look a certain way, however that may be changing. Young men are now suffering from muscle dysmorphia in a manner that parallels women’s body image issues. Women who seek to challenge body image conformity are faced with more harassment and unwanted commentary. The muscular woman may induce fear in some.



Although such a fear may seem comedic or just illogical, it is rooted in the unknowns of women attaining huge amounts of power. When women obtained suffrage, there was a fear that their new found right was going to be used to harm men. The argument of against women entering the workforce was that they would take away jobs from men. Basically, there was a paranoid fear of female take over. The accusation was that feminists did not want equality, rather a society that benefited women only. These were conspiracy theories, yet there are some men who see women’s participation in sports in the same manner.Women’s entry into politics, science, and business has caused a reaction from certain men who believe men should have all the power in society. Seeing as it is difficult to stop women’s rise some resort to controlling certain activities. Sports seem to remain a space in which men want absolute dominance. Physical strength was seen as a marker of male superiority over females, but seeing as women can be strong it calls into question the sense of masculine identity. The breadwinner and head of house hold role has gradually been broken down by neoliberal capitalism, unemployment, and changes in family structure. Physical activity, sports, and exercise may have become a space in which men can cope with an undefined role and the decay of society. The reaction could  result in unhealthy behavior which could include more hostility directed at women or projecting through acts of extreme violence. There is more to being a man than looking like Hercules. Sadly, men may not be able to explore alternatives while women still have to challenge a stereotypical gender role expectation. The muscular woman does not fit into such culturally accepted notions of what women should be.

           Double standards and prejudice  are so ingrained in relation to the sexes, few recognize the problem with it. Bodybuilding was seen as a male sport, but it is for everyone. Women have presented physiques that are both unique and have a new aesthetic. Men who are athletes get respect, yet women receive scorn : “muscular women are often accused of taking steroids, being deviant, sexually confused or deliberately trying to offend others.” These accusations reveal prejudice not only about female athletes, but women in general. The prejudice directed at women is that they are less capable, over emotional, and are only fit to be mothers. When women  go out of  the domestic role, then somehow that is a violation of the natural order.




There is of course nothing natural about women being in a subordinate position or being second class citizens. It can be fair to say that the look may not be to one’s taste. The issue is that people may value women only for their appearance or sexual capital. Insults and pure abuse are directed at them: ” they’re frequently told they’re unattractive, man-haters, selfish mothers or transvestites.” The double standard is apparent seeing as men never have to confront these harsh comments. Praise or condemnation is determined by one’s sex. Prejudice does not only come from the uninformed or uneducated; even the most progressive minded people have bias they rarely acknowledge. Some may say they respect a woman’s right to do what they want.However, the articulation of their opinions do not reflect that. Women when participating in certain fields may either reach a class ceiling or regulated to a structural limitation. Women have shown the can be great bodybuilders in what incorrectly is called a male sport. The IFBB made fitness and figure competition to as a way to regulate the muscular appearance of women. The Conversation explains“Femininity is linked to a female body that is slender, neat and sexually attractive. Because the muscular female form is so challenging, sports such as body sculpting use femininity as a buffer to counter the fact that women also have muscle. (We don’t judge male bodybuilders on their masculinity, their “maleness”.).”While there were attempts to halt women’s development and progress they only thing these new classes did was get more women involved. The bikini division was the latest addition, which has drawn controversy. That is even going to change. The physique division has transformed itself into a lightweight female bodybuilding competition.  All these achievements from women in sports one would think that acceptance would come with it.

           The question asked is there a problem? There is, yet it needs to be correctly identified. Muscles on women’s bodies is not the issue and its not femininity. It is the more insidious sexism and misogyny that shapes the public’s views and culture. Femininity is viewed as a characteristic that is one dimensional. There is no reason to think that strength, power, and independence cannot coexist with femininity. If the boundaries of restricted space are to be broken, then it should be acknowledged that femininity is not a culprit. The only alternative would be to either completely condemn it or favor some form of gender neutral ideology. Doing this is basically saying if women resemble men more, they can achieve equality. That is not a solution nor is it practical. Sexism preaches a doctrine that men are superior to women. Men are just better is the philosophy, which has a basis in the false notion they are biologically stronger. When a woman demonstrates physical strength it discredits men’s monopoly on it. The hatred of women stems from the idea that they are manipulative, need to be controlled, or if they get power will abuse it. Women gaining strength has not resulted in a matriarchy.


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Seeing as women have made a rapid rise in sports, there is little basis to refer to them as inferiors. The sexist and misogynists become vexed, because their psuedoscientific explanations are discredited.   There are ideas still spread among laymen. Besides cultural attitudes, one should examine the structural problems related to sports institutions. The unequal pay, limited sports coverage, or limited platforms to compete remain barriers to women in sports. The lack of female coaches and sports teams owners only exposes a larger sex segregation in the sports world. Attitudes must change along with institutions. If not women will be subject to a secondary role or have limited visibility.

     Since the publication of this article, there has been a change in thought. There are fans who support women’s athletic endeavors. There are also male fans who not only are interested in women’s athletic accomplishments, but the new version of female beauty that has emerged from intense training. Although some would condemn this as sexual objectification, this goes beyond mere desire; it is admiration. Male fans may marvel of the sight of a woman’s impressive physique. The reality is a muscular physique on a woman can be just as attractive as a smaller or larger one. The text incorrectly calls fitness and figure competition body sculpting. The term is one of mass marketing in fitness which encourages women to lift weights. The concept is that if it was called weightlifting women would reject it due to it having a masculine association. Exercise can be done by both men and women. When a person lifts a weight that is bodybuilding, which in a sense is sculpting the flesh to look a certain way.




There were muscular women in the past. Strongwomen, acrobats, and street performers were women who showed developed musculature. They were limited by their time seeing as women had few platforms to compete or develop their physiques to the maximum. Within half a century the modern professional sports woman presented a body that was stronger and bigger than ever before. This is a unique event in history that few observers take notice of. Women created an entirely new aesthetic body mage. The reason why some may find this perplexing is due to the fact the image is new . People either fear or are puzzled by what they do not understand. There are women who still focus  on weight loss   and thinness as a goal. Other have experienced a paradigm shift wanting to improve their athletic performance and get stronger. Such bodies on bodybuilding stages and Olympic podiums would not have been conceivable 112  years ago. It will take some time for people to get used to a woman of such physical power. It is not clear how this evolution of women’s physicality will progress. Women’s bodies and what they are capable of will be the subject of much discussion in the field of gender studies.

The Conversation : Why Do We Find Muscular Women So Perplexing (2014)

Sports Medicine Weekly : Are You Fit Enough For Mars ?

SpaceSapce fit

Are You Fit Enough For Mars ?

There has been a renewed interest in space and astronomy. The US government wants to create a space force, the program Cosmos is getting a sequel, and the discovery of exoplanets has cause excitement. It may be centuries before actual humans can travel between galaxies. The first step to that task is to master travelling between planets in the Solar System. Mars is a great candidate for future space exploration with astronauts. While the Mars Pathfinder captured impressive images, seeing something for yourself  has a greater impact. Outer Space is a real mystery. It is uncharted territory that humanity has yet to completely map. Navigation is not the only obstacle. The human body was adapted to the conditions of Earth. Microgravity can have certain effects on the organ systems of the body. The most notable is the muscular and skeletal system. Long spaceflights could decrease physical fitness. The longer it is, the more the musculoskeletal system could be at risk. Certain jobs like this demand a measurable level of fitness. There is an amount of exercise required to prevent such loss of muscle and bone. Mars has a more harsh environment compared to the Moon. Travelling to Mars would be more strenuous in comparison. Making it suitable for colonization would be a long term project. Kansas State University produced a study to determine the level of fitness required for a planetary mission to Mars. It also simulated performance with in flight equipment. It is likely that a successful mission to Mars can be done, but its is important to have detailed understanding of the planet.

           Mars is a terrestrial planet thought to be at one time similar to our own. The atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide (95.7% ), nitrogen (2.7%) and argon (1.6%).  The surface gravity of Mars is 0.38  g . The environment is a place volcanoes, immense canyons, and frozen ice caps. The surface temperature ranges from -125 to 25  degrees Celsius. Mars only has two moons which include Phobos and Deimos . Some have speculated that these are captured asteroids. The planet may appear to be a dry desert wasteland, but there are some dangers to potential space explorers.  Ultraviolet radiation levels could be harmful to human health. Mars does have seasons due to its tilted axis. The axial tilt of the planet comes to a total of 25.19 degrees. Ice caps provide proof of seasonal change, which grow in the winter and shrink in the summer. Dust storms can be a peril to any astronaut on Mars. The air is thin, but dense enough to allow for weather. A combination of high winds enables the red sands to be exacerbated causing sand storms.

A day on Mars is equivalent to 1.03 days on Earth.
Muscle atrophy if they are not exercised. This will be an issue in a microgravity environment.
Aerobic capacity is one element of physical fitness.
Even a muscular person could experience a loss of mass in Outer Space.

The only environment on Earth that comes close to a Mars like setting is our deserts. However, the sandstorms on Earth are no where as extreme. Conditions are not exactly the best for human habitation. A different type of space suit would also be required. Going onto the Martian surface would require a pressurized suit equipped with oxygen supply. Otherwise the low atmospheric pressure could cause the fluids in the body to boil  to a dangerous temperature. There is no magnetic field, which means human explorers would be vulnerable to cosmic rays. Spending long periods of time on Mars could pose a serious health risk. One possible solution would be to have large shielded housing structures that would protect human life. This is only a small amount of information known about Mars.

         The goals of the experiment as stated from the abstract was to “determine values and ranges for key aerobic fitness variables that can individually map the level of success for planetary mission tasks performance for long-duration spaceflight, with the goal to develop a predictor-testing model that can be performed with in-flight equipment.” Part of the task is not only getting on to the surface of Mars, but how to ensure a safe journey. Reaching the planet could be just as physically demanding as colonizing it. There have been proposals of using the Moon as sort of a testing ground for possible terraforming. If humanity can successfully colonize the Moon, then it can be done with Mars. Astronauts need to be in the best health and physical condition to prepare for future missions. At the moment there is limitation in terms of funding and technology. Spacecraft will have to be more durable. Exercise equipment needs to be able to build large amounts of  physical fitness.

         The experiment selected 45 men and women who did hill climbing as well as a surface traverse task. These task were performed from low to moderate activity simulating a lunar and Mars like environment. The subjects moved supplies and set up communications towers. The point of this was to see a change in metabolic response. Aerobic fitness was described in terms of ventilatory threshold (VT), and critical power. Performance was determined by ” logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic curve analysis were used to determine the cutoff thresholds for each aerobic fitness parameter that accurately predicted task performance.” Both Cycling and rowing Vo2 peak were utilized in the experiment. It should be assumed that all the men and women used were at high fitness levels prior to the experiment. Otherwise, this could effect outcomes.  The results produced that   ventilatory  threshold and critical power were good indicators of determining who could complete mission tasks. This suggests what type of physical fitness test could be used for long term spaceflight or travel between planets. 

        The study concluded with this statement : ” In summary, we identified aerobic fitness thresholds below which task performance was impaired for both low- and moderate-intensity mission-critical tasks.” The study explains further that “In particular, cycling V˙O2peak, VT, and rowing CP could each be used to predict task failure.” Many physically demanding occupations have a fitness test to determine if a candidate is qualified for a job. This experiment has more than a test of qualification, rather how much stress the human body can take in a radically different environment. Humans evolved to live in places in which gravity effects their bodies. Space can change the human body possibly at the cellular and genetic level. The brain even may be effected during long spaceflights. A  lucid understanding of physical fitness, spaceflight’s impact on health, and other hazards must be established. More details and tests must be done to make a mission to Mars a success. What has been determined is that space travel requires a certain amount of physical fitness.


Sports Medicine Weekly : Are You Fit Enough For Mars ?

Medical Express : Workout Frequency The Most Important Factor in Strength Gains For Women



Workout frequency the most important factor in strength gains for women

It has been established that women can make strength gains through weightlifting. The female body is capable of muscular hypertrophy. One factor that is essential to women’s strength gains is frequency.  The study was from the University of New   South Wales. The findings were published by Sports Medicine . The article was written by Amanda D. Hangstrom titled ” The Effect of Resistance Training in Women on Dynamic Strength and Muscular Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis.” This study was unique because it focused solely on female subjects reactions to resistance training. An exercise physiology or sports medicine study has never analyzed the effect of resistance training on women’s muscular strength and hypertrophy. The objective was stated as ” to systematically review the literature on female adaptations to RT, characterising the effect in terms of muscular strength and hypertrophy; (2) to distinguish the individual effects of intervention duration, frequency, and intensity on these adaptations via sub-analysis; (3) to draw evidence-based conclusions regarding training expectations in female populations.” The conclusion seems questionable. It is not a certain exercise that is done,rather how often it is done. The claim is that if a woman just exercises regularly she will gain strength. The strangest statement explains ” Surprisingly, specific details—such as the exercise they choose, the variety of exercises in each workout, the heaviness of the weights, whether they are supervised, and whether they lift until their bodies give out—don’t appear to have a major impact on overall strength or muscle mass growth.” Form what is known some of the new information can be disputed. Granted, this is the first study of its kind so further investigation may be required.

           The women in the study ranged from ages 18 to 50. The fitness levels among them varied, which could have effected the results. Certain women are going to react differently to exercise stimuli than others. The sample size consisted of 1000 women from 24 resistance training studies. The sample was decent enough in terms of amount, but it would have been better to know the specific fitness levels of women involved. There is a difference between an average woman and a woman of high physical fitness. Women who carry more muscular mass prior to training could see more gains compare to a woman of a slimmer body type. A woman with more experience with weights will clearly see different results from the experiment. Age could also effect the study. When people age, they naturally do lose a level of musculoskeletal mass. This process happens around the age of 30. The  age range of 45 to 50 group would be working with less muscle mass compared to the 18 to 40 demographic.

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The muscles of trained women have already adapted to the resistance training. Taking the weakest women and training them would allow to see how gradually effective resistance training can be. The subjects should be uniform in their fitness level to make it easier to decipher what factors could alter the results. Ectomorphic and mesomorphic body types respond differently to exercise. Otherwise the conclusion may not be as precise as required to become scientific fact. The images above show women of different  fitness levels above. The fit women and the women with no training are going to see changes from exercise stimuli. The extent of  physical strength and muscle mass gain depends on factors such as diet, genetics, body type, size, and training method.

         Experimental method is important to any scientific study. What was done by the University of New South Wales searched electronic databases  with studies related to women and resistance training. Random effects meta-analyses was utilized to determine the effect of resistance training on the female body. Following this univariate   analyses was employed to see the training related effects such as training volume and intensity. Meta-analysis refers to examining data from different studies and synthesizing a result from them. Although this is a term of statistics, the concept and its methods have been used in medicine as well as epidemiology.  Random effects meta-analysis refers to a statistical model estimates variance among data in studies.




The amount of data is crucial. The experiment examined 14, 067 articles, yet only 24 studies were worthy enough to be included for meta-analysis. A total of 15 studies examined upper body strength and 19 focused on lower body strength. Muscular hypertrophy was mentioned in 15 studies. Once more, we see a limitation. Few women are used for exercise physiology studies, which explains the low number of 24 relevant articles. The majority of relevant studies has an emphasis on lower body strength. To have a full understanding the other muscles of the body should be examined as well. The reason their are more studies on women’s lower bodies is that traditional training the upper body was considered a male exercise. Seeing as the number of total article was immense, the study lasted a year and 4 weeks. If  another meta-analysis study were to be done, it would be more precise in the future. At least by that time more data focused on women would be available. The trim and fill method was used to account for publication bias. Smaller studies were excluded to produce a symmetrical plot. What happens after this step is then formulate a summery based on the larger studies. This explains why only 24 studies were used out the 14,067 others.

           After 15 weeks of training conclusions were made. The study reported ” Large-effect sizes were found for upper body strength (Hedges’ g = 1.70; p < 0.001) and lower body strength (Hedges’ g = 1.40; p < 0.001).” The trim and fill method was used and the upper body increase remained ( Hedges’ g = 1.07). The lower body (Hedges’ g = 0.52) and the total muscular hypertrophy (g = 0.52, p = 0.002)  was at medium effect. There could be several explanations for this. Women have less upper body strength, which explains why gain there from training were more significant compared to the lower body. Body size, myostatin levels, and endocrine function influence muscular hypertrophy. The study stated : ” Sub-analyses revealed that the moderating variables “training frequency” and “training volume” significantly influenced lower body muscular strength (p < 0.001). ” It was also revealed that few moderating variables did not show impact on muscular hypertrophy. Age was a factor with younger women showing more gains in the upper body. What was also noted was that ” a moderating effect was also observed where supervised training had a larger influence on the adaptation of lower body strength (p = 0.05) compared with unsupervised training.” The conclusion was that training volume and frequency are essential factor in the increase in muscular strength. Resistance training gives vast improvement in the muscular strength of women.




To anyone following women’s sports or fitness, this is not a new revelation. The difference now is that there is scientific confirmation. Before, there was only simple observation by watching what women did with little information. More research must be done to understand how women’s response to exercise stimuli varies.

        It can be disputed which exercise, the variety, volume, and training to exhaustion effect muscular strength and hypertrophy. Sherry Landow makes the mistake of saying none of these factor matter. They do and making mistakes could be sabotaging fitness goals. The reason ten repetitions were used was to see a response to training. If enough is not done, muscle growth will not occur. Lifting only five pound dumbbells once a week will not cause major changes. The best it could do it provide general health maintenance. Lifting light weights at high repetition can build muscular endurance. Choosing heavier ones at lower repetition can cause an increase in strength. It would be theoretically possible to build some muscle with smaller weight, but this would take a longer amount of time. Regardless of training method    Dr. Mandy Hagstrom is correct expressing consistency is a factor. The women completed 10 repetitions three times a week ( over the span of 15 weeks). The result was that they gained 1.5 kg of muscle and a 25% increase in physical strength. However it is false when Dr. Hagstrom states ”   It doesn’t necessarily matter what you do when you’re in the gym, just that you’re there and exercise with effort.” Doing yoga, stationary bike, or using a treadmill is not going to build large amounts of strength. These exercises improve aerobic fitness and flexibility, but have little impact on muscular hypertrophy. Weights or other load bearing exercise must be incorporated. Many women exclude weights from their exercise routine. sports women


Cycling On Exercise Bikes.

So if the goal is to gain strength or muscle resistance training is the best. The challenge is producing a set of guidelines. Dr.  Hagstrom expressed ” Our meta-analysis didn’t yield any specific guidelines for the number of exercises or repetitions to do, so the key message for women is to try to and accrue adequate overall exercise volume and train as frequently as possible.” It should also be noted with intense exercise, rest should be part of the training regimen. At least two days should be taken for a period of recovery to allow for muscle repair. Outside of exercise, diet require enough protein to fuel the muscle. Getting enough caloric intake is required to have enough energy for the body . Women response to resistance training is an emerging area of  focus as more women are getting active in strength sports.

          Women have the have muscles and bones like men, so it was thought that they respond in a similar manner. This assumption is wrong, because men and women differ in physiology and physical fitness capacity. Exercise physiology and sports medicine has not caught up in terms of studies that focus on female athletes. This is something that Dr. Mandy Hagstrom wants to reverse. There are sex based differences in muscle fiber size, fatigue levels, recovery times, and muscle perfusion. The difference in muscle perfusion is the most curious and fascinating. Perfusion refers to the passage of vitals fluids through the circulatory and lymphatic system to tissues of the body. Blood must get the the capillary bed in organ tissue. Women have smaller hearts, which may explain why there is a difference in muscle profusion.

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Muscle 67

There is a bias in the scientific literature. The majority of studies do focus on men with assumption that strength sports are male only. Landow’s article even demonstrates bias unconsciously with this statement : ” while resistance training has historically been a male sport, there has also been a bias to publish literature about men. ” Women were using weights prior to the 21st century. Sports are not male or female; it is for everybody. Women were excluded from participation, but there were times in which athletic competition become available. Basketball and archery were sports women had access to. Professional weightlifting and bodybuilding competition did not exist for women in the early 20th century, however there were certain platforms that athletic women could display their talents. Strongwomen performed feats of strength in circuses, vaudeville houses, or simple street performance. While strongwomen of the 19th and early 20th century did gain some notoriety, they still did not have an arena for professional competition.  The change with the appearance of female bodybuilding in the 1970s and when women’s weightlifting was introduced to the Olympics in 2000. Women’s participation in sports has ancient roots. The Heraean Games were athletic competitions in Greek civilization. Women participated in footraces.




Sexism and discrimination held women back from athletic competition and only recently have barriers been dismantled. Prejudice and biological sexism still remain. The idea that women should train differently than men may sound like a sexist concept. It is not simply because their are biological and physiological attributes that must be accounted for. Beyond sex, exercise programs may not work the same for every individual. This means men and women can have multiple responses to training. One method may not work for every person. The study found that only 39% of women were recognized in exercise science literature. This means the current data may not be as precise as some would want it. Resistance training studies seem to not focus on women as much as men. Dr. Mandy Hagstrom intends to further research seeing the specific physiological changes that women’s bodies undergo through long term, training regimens.  What is known is that resistance training does have immense benefits to health. Osteoporosis and sacropenia can be prevented through load bearing exercise. Dr. Hagstrom’s research could have wider applications beyond enhancing women’s sports performance. Training programs to help women pass physical fitness requirements in occupations such as the military, law enforcement, or firefighting can be designed from data.

Medical Express : Workout Frequency The Most Important Factor in Strength Gains For Women

International Sports Science Association :Ladies Lifting Won’t Make You “Bulk Up”


Ladies, Lifting Heavy Won’t Make You “Bulk Up”

The International Sports Sciences Association is an organization devoted to teaching of fitness instructors, medical professionals, and aerobic instructors. The ISSA offers fitness certification courses to people interested in sports medicine, personal training, and  post-rehabilitation training. The organization was founded in 1988 by  Dr. Sal Arria and Dr. Fredrick Hatfield. The goal was develop a unified standard of fitness training. It was also designed to use applied science in relation to exercise and fitness. There are three main divisions of the organization which include public, professional, and education sections. The ISSA is also a provisional affiliate of the National Board of Fitness Examiners. The International Sports Sciences Association also provides free access to articles published on its website for the general public. There is one question that is recurring when women get involved in strength training. Do women bulk up? This is not as simple answer. Women can through weight training and exercise intensity build muscle. The extent of muscular hypertrophy varies depending on physiological and anatomical factors. There is an irrational fear or bias  of women getting muscular or strong , which seems to be present in fitness literature. Bulking up does not exist in terms of physiology. The proper description is building muscle through resistance training. Other biological  factors contribute to how muscular or strong a person can get through an exercise regimen.

        Endocrinology is a one factor in the extent of muscular hypertrophy. Testosterone is present in both sexes, but after puberty men develop a greater amount. Boys and girls are at the same strength level up until the age of 13, when sex hormones begin to change the human body to one capable of sexual reproduction. Estrogen and progesterone do not cause a strength spurt in the manner that testosterone does. However, it should be remembered its not the complete aggregate, rather the amount of free testosterone in the human body. The amount of sex hormones a person produces could vary by individual and age, but the average woman can have  0.7-3.6 pg/dl . Seeing as the male range extends beyond that, the average man can have more natural physical strength than the average woman. The strength gap can be narrowed, but not closed. The reason is that men have more muscles to start off with in regards to body composition. Testosterone is not the only requirement for muscular hypertrophy.  Beverly Paquin expresses “without that extra testosterone, we ladies simply can’t (yes I mean can’t, as in we are biologically unable to) build the big muscles like guys.”  Women can build muscle, but not to the same degree as a man on the same training regimen. The muscles women build are big for their body size and skeletal frame. It is possible for a woman to be bigger than a man who is smaller or does not train. Simply say women cannot reach a certain level by saying “It’s science, so stop worrying” ignores the fact the the interaction  of anatomy, biology, physiology, genetics, diet, and training is more complicated. While hormone physiology is thought to be a limitation, women have the advantage of producing growth hormone through training. Testosterone is not the only requirement for building muscle.

      Body size and skeletal frame are factors in the total amount of muscular gains that can be made. A bigger person due to their size will have a greater potential to add more mass. A smaller frame carries less mass. Height can either be determined by genetics and nutrition. Children who lack food security may not grow as large as children with an abundance of it. Poor health can also effect human growth. Size can vary among men and women, but on average men tend to be larger. When discussing strength differences the size factor seems to be the factor rather than sex itself. A physically bigger woman could have more strength than a smaller man. The skeleton provides support for the muscles by a network of tendons and ligaments. Bone mass and density also add to body strength. Osteology reveals that overtime bone mass is lost with age. This puts women with less bone density at risk for osteoporosis. Not all women are at risk some with thinner frames could be the most vulnerable. Body size and skeletal frame are two factors that are are not solely sex hormone based.








The skeletal system acts as a frame to hold organs and support of muscular structure. The larger the skeletal frame, the more space for muscle. However, excessive weight gain in terms of fat can cause extra strain on the skeletal system. Unlike muscle which can build itself up with bone from training, fat does not contribute to strengthening the bones. This explains why someone who is obese or overweight may have joint issues. Extreme cases of morbid obesity people can lose their ability to be ambulatory.

         Body type and genetics also determine the amount of muscle a person can gain on their bodies. Regardless of sex, somatotype can vary immensely among the sexes. Some people may have more muscle prior to training and it only enhances if such activities remain consistent. A mesomorph will have greater potential to build muscle compared to an ectomorph. An endomorph has a more difficult task of losing weight and preventing it from reaching a dangerous level. The growth of muscular tissue and its regulation can be explained by the MSTN gene. MSTN has to give myostatin instructions which regulates growth of the muscles. The reason muscles on human beings to not grow to Incredible Hulk levels, is due to the transforming growth factor beta. Men and women can have low mysotatin levels, which enhance their level of muscular hypertrophy. There still is more to learn about how genetics effect athletic performance overall. It would be inaccurate to say that genetics create champions alone.


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There is a condition known as myostatin related muscular hypertrophy. A mutation in the MSTN gene can cause a person to have lower levels of body fat and more muscle than average.  It is uncertain just how many people have this condition, but it would not be surprising if some female bodybuilders had this mutation. It is not life threatening nor does it cause severe physical disability. What it demonstrates is that biology is not constant, rather a constantly changing.  The human body is capable of many amazing feats.

        Sadly, there are a number of women who still fear gaining muscle. They tend to cite female bodybuilders as being “too big” or “too masculine.” The charge of steroid use is normally used an excuse to disparage them and their sport. Steroids and other performance enhancing drugs have been a part of sports for most of its history. Women often are given more harsh criticism for use of anabolic androgenic steroids. Virilization can happen depending on which type of steroid used, the dosage, and the total period used. Women do not need steroids to be good bodybuilders. Statistically, more men use anabolic androgenic steroids according to research data. This does not mean women have not used in other sports. While IFBB shows are not drug tested, there is no proof that every single competitor is using substances. Without training and proper diet such physiques would not be possible even with drugs. There are athletes who are not as muscular and could be using multiple substances. Unless visible signs of side effects are present there is no way of knowing if an athlete is on drugs without a test. There is a sex bias, which likes to only see women in terms of physical limitation. Some claims are just false : ”  to become a professional woman bodybuilder, many have to take anabolic androgenic steroids, testosterone, and other ergogenic aids to even achieve such a body worthy of that title.” There are shows that are drug tested, but that still does not explain why people object to the image of a physically strong woman. Women have the right to look like whatever they want regardless of society’s opinions. When this objection is countered people state that women doing this is “unnatural.” Men are not naturally built up either. Highly physically fit bodies are the product of  diet, nutrition, training, exercise physiology, sports medicine, and sometimes performance enhancing drugs.


Sports women



Even substances that are not performance enhancing are not natural. Erogogenic aids can enhance fitness during exercise. Performance enhancing drugs can fall under this classification with a slight difference. According the the Dietary Supplement and Health Act of 1994  vitamins, herbs, minerals, or  botanicals that do not contain a controlled substance is a supplement. Supplements such as creatine or carnitine are not natural. Certain substances are either deemed appropriate or inappropriate depending on an arbitrary criteria. Saying “drugs are bad” ignores the complexities policy and pharmaceutical science . Women compete in drug tested shows and still get criticism about the muscle on their body. The more comedic aspect is that they are accused of use even when it has been proven no such substance is in their body. Frankly, the discussion of drugs has become irrelevant. Human beings are no longer completely natural or drug free. If  athletes were to be completely natural they would train without supplements and consume regular food. This is next to impossible seeing as more food is becoming genetically modified and processed. Alcohol and cigarettes are drugs, but they are accepted by society. Women’s bodies have great potential for physical prowess either through non-assisted or pharmaceutical means.

         Women’s muscles do respond to exercise stimuli. If trained through a system of resistance training, muscular hypertrophy can occur. Toning and bulking do not exist in reference to exercise physiology. These terms are relative and depend on a person’s preference. Toning used in the colloquial should not be confused with muscle tone. Muscle tone ( residual muscle tension or tonus ) is when the muscles make contractions during periods of rest. This is a physiological function present in everyone’s body no matter what fitness level. Form the perspective of histology, there would be no way to distinguish between toned and bulky muscle.

Although these women are at different fitness levels ,residual muscle tension occurs in both their bodies.
Women’s bodies can experience muscular hypertrophy through resistance training stimuli.
There is a difference between muscle cells and fat cells. One can store calories, while another can burn them.
This is an example of a “toned” woman. The fact is she used weight training which caused a degree of muscular hypertrophy producing this body.

This maintains a person’s posture. Tone used in the aesthetic context would be incorrect in terms of anatomy and physiology. Bulking at least could be more so a form of slang for muscular hypertrophy.However, it could be argued in a general sense a person is bulking when they are gaining weight in terms of fat mass. Fitness terminology states that it is only  occurs for building muscle mass. So, used in that context women can gain muscle mass. The degree of muscularity varies among individuals. This means that various people could be doing the same training regimen, but may look different over a period of months or years of training. Building muscular physiques take years of training and be consistent with a specialized diet. Proteins, carbohydrates, and some fats are required to meet the calorie needs of high performing athletes. Rest and recovery is as equally important to training based muscular hypertrophy. Muscle fibers during this period regrow and get bigger. Women should not have the fear about “getting too big.” This idea is relative and based on a person’s idea about how a woman should look. Developed muscle on a female frame differs from that of men.

         Muscular women appear to be large, but morphology and weight tell a different story. Men who embark on a similar training regimen have a higher degree of mass and weight. The claim that women doing weightlifting or bodybuilding will cause them to be masculine is false. ISSA states ”    Don’t think that just because you lift heavy and workout hard that you’ll end up looking like a professional woman bodybuilder, because 99.9% of the time, you won’t.” Weight training for a couple of days will not transform a person into a top performing athlete. However, women through the correct diet, resistance training , and exercise methods can attain muscular physiques. Women have been shown to be great bodybuilders, even though there are objections. The random 99.9 % statistic is not a precise measure, because there are very few exercise physiology studies that have focused on women’s muscular potential. The more important question is what are a person’s goals. One can train for aesthetics or functional fitness. An athletic body can come in different forms depending on what sport a person plays. This is where the the ISSA proclamation becomes disputable : ” remaining a natural athlete while utilizing a very healthy, nutrient-dense diet, proper supplementation, proper exercise programs and recovery techniques will help you achieve a lean, firm, tight, athletic body. ” A athletic body could range from being muscular, smaller, or bigger.  Supplements are not performance enhancing drugs, but still could be counted as erogenic aids. These substances are not natural to the human body. The larger muscular woman can have lean, firm,and tight bodies.





The image presented is that of an aesthetically developed physique based around a certain criteria. The only reason women look exaggerated is due to low body fat levels, tans, and how light on stage shows their muscles. In their off season, their bodies do not look the same way. During this period they look like women with a some fat and a solid shape. Detractors state that women get too big, but their weight is the that immense compared to their male counterparts. The big bulky female bodybuilders do not come into the same weight range as male bodybuilders. Examining weight demonstrates that the idea women can get too big in terms of muscularity is unfounded. Compare Stan Mcquay’s weight of 202 lbs to 145 lbs body weight. This is a difference of  57 lbs  between Colette Nelson and Stan Mcquay. Larry Wheels is 255 lbs, while Denise Masino is 138 lbs. That gap is a total of 117 lbs. Looking at the images it is easy to believe that they are at some type of equivalent in term of muscle mass. Margie Martin another female bodybuilder weighs a total of 154 lbs. Jeff Seid tops the scales at 215 lbs, which means there is a 61 lbs difference.

Woman and man
Colette Nelson and  Stan Mcquay 
Strong woman and man copy
Larry Wheels and Denise Masino 
Jeff Seid and Margie Martin 
Many women would be bulky in comparison to this man.

Doing this basic arithmetic shows that these women are not bulky at all. They are in comparison smaller than men in terms of total body mass and height. Bulky just becomes a term of relativity. When compared to thinner men, women of this level of muscularity could look bulky or bigger. Then there is the basic body morphology of the human anatomical structure. Men have larger upper bodies, which means more muscle can be housed there. When examining the pictures of both male and female bodybuilders one can see the upper bodies on the men are more pronounced. Lower body development is where the difference in strength is smaller. The women still have a wider waist to hip ratio. The pelvis is wider in women giving them the more hour glass shape. It becomes more exaggerated with a highly developed upper and lower body, making the waist see smaller. The characteristics of sexual dimorphism do not disappear due to training. A woman who weight trains or  is bodybuilding does not transform her body into a man’s body. Muscle development can come in various degrees depending on exercise method.

       What can be concluded is that women do not get “bulky”, but they can achieve muscular hypertrophy  through training, diet, and a period of recovery. The fact that terms such as bulky or toned are still being used, even in a professional fitness organization is facetious. Myoctyes are not classified as being bulky or toned muscle. Muscle fiber types such as type II and type I have different physiological attributes. While it is wonderful that the ISSA is encouraging women to lift weights, it is time to relinquish the fear of muscle on women’s bodies. Being a muscular woman either a bodybuilder, crossfit competitor, or any type of athlete does not make her any less of a woman. Muscle can provide numerous benefits to health. Weight lifting can protect bone mass as age gradually decreases. It can be an effective measure against heat disease, unhealthy weight gain, sarcopenia, and osteoporosis. Weight training can also improve women’s  athletic performance in various sports. From this perspective, bulk is not a bad thing. One does not have to train like a bodybuilder or powerlifter to see positive health outcomes.


International Sports Science Association :Ladies Lifting Won’t Make You “Bulk Up”