A lot of the exercise recommendation that I have posted in my blog has been fairly universal. I believe that yes we do have our own battles in training associated with age, gender and mechanics we are all fighting the same wars. However I recently had the opportunity to contribute an exercise component to a book project that is directed toward the female population on the topic of staying youthful. I happen to train a large female population and I can say that I really enjoy it. There is no shortage of effort in the weight room with the ladies that I train which certainly keeps me on my toes.
I can't say that I would look at gender as a major limitation in the gym as I have met enough ladies in my time that can keep up with the gentlemen with ease. What I can say is that there are certain mechanics of the female body that I do keep in mind that brings a level of contrast to what I would prescribe to the male population as well as how I would go about doing it. For that reason I have my own preferences when it comes to the best interests of the ladies that I work with and of course for the fellas reading this, I can say that a lot of this can be applied to your training as well. As I mentioned above, despite some mechanical differences we are all in this together.
Dorsiflexion and Ankle Mobility
I think it is something hard wired in the male brain to perk up when a sound of a set of heels striking the floor becomes present. For that reason I will no longer get in the way of a lady and her footwear preferences. It does however put a lot of my attention to what is going on at the ankle as it seems whether it is heels or no heels there is a tendency for plantar flexion to be a big part of the female foot strike. My answer to that is often a lot of movement meant to mobilize the plantar fascia, the ankle joint, as well as an emphasis on dorsiflexion of the foot in order to enhance the contributions of the mid foot and heel for some of the bigger ground based movements such as the squats/lunges/deadlifts.
Posterior Pelvic Tilting
A common occurrence that I have observed with the female population is varying degrees of low back pain, particularly the SI joint region. More often than not the answer lies in the adopted position of the hip. I often address this type of low back pain at any degree with the intention of making a posterior pelvic tilt a hard wired habit of hip extension. An anterior pelvic tilt provides a big challenge to pain free training as it is a major road block to true hip extension and glute activation. The true potential of the hip and trunk becomes deflated by overuse of the quadriceps,
hip flexors, and low back. I observe this quite often while watching a the finish point of a deadlift. The extension of the knee and low back signalling the completed lift tells me that there are limitations of the hip that are not only stalling the potential of the hip, but more than likely contributing to low back pain of this nature. My call to action resorts to lengthening the hip flexor by strengthening the glutes and bringing length to the low back by strengthening the anterior core with the posterior pelvic tilt being the center of attention. I often step outside of traditional hip dominant movements such as squatting and use a proficient glute bridge or hip thrust as a prerequisite to squatting. My preference of core training for this often involves varying levels of work where the low back can have contact with the surface being used. Whether it be the floor, a bench, or ball the degree of contact that can be made by the low back tells me a lot about what the anterior core can handle. I also prefer this because of the length that is brought to the lumbar spine in the prone position when the core becomes active.
To get to the point of proficiency with the deadlift is where I often see any female hesitation toward weightlifting completely thrown out the window. In my eyes various patterns of deadlifting are pure gold for women. It provides the posterior chain length from ankle to hip, it brings strength to the glutes and hamstrings, and works its way up to the shoulders. Not to mention it is boss hog when it comes to building long, lean legs. With the ladies that I train deadlifting transforms from foe to fan favorite as it becomes more and more understood.
This one can be said for both men and women, but I do gravitate toward dynamic stability with my female clients more frequently than male. My go to is a lot of split stance work whether it be pushing, pulling, rotation, or anti rotation. I love this type of work because of what it does to identify the importance of ground force, activation, and focus in lifting. Movements such as split stance chops, pallof presses, pushes, and pulls at various angles are often my staples for stability in motion.
The biggest message I want to get home with this female inspired training reflection is that no matter what your objective is, the iron has its place in your training. It brings balance to the female frame, it can reduce pain, it is a trusted ally in conquering body composition aspirations and regardless of gender, there is no feeling like the feeling of strength.