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Weight Training Advice for Female Gymnasts


Women who train with weights will manifest improvement in their athletic performance and lower their risks of osteoporosis by increasing their bone mineral density (BMD). However, in a recent study conducted among female athletes, findings showed that women more than men were unlikely to regard weight training as beneficial to their performance in sports.

More than ever, female athletes and coaches need to see the enormous benefits that weight training can bring, despite the socio-cultural barriers seen as inhibiting women from incorporating weight training in their sports activities. Aimed at answering issues pertaining to women’s weight training, this article serves to impart weight training advice, as well.

The study involved the participation of 139 men and 165 women athletes from four U.S. colleges who specialized in 11 kinds of sports, including soccer, athletics, lacrosse and basketball. They were asked to complete two questionnaires, namely:

1.) The Training Information Survey (TIS) – weight training attitudes and practices, as well as other types of athletic training and conditioning.
2.) The Sport Orientation Questionnaire (SOQ) – assessment of the competitiveness quotient, focus on winning (specifically objective outcome) and goal orientation (personal achievement focus)
The proponents of the study sought to gain understanding of the various impressions on weight training and the disparity of competitive levels among athletes.

The main findings on the study were:

1.) Compared to men athletes, women athletes did not perceive weight training to be important. In the same manner, coaches did not consider weight training as more important for females as compared to males.
2.) Athletes who took up weight training considered it a necessary conditioning for their sport. However, weight training was not viewed as a factor in terms of competitiveness, goal or win orientation.
3.) Women athletes did not have the same confident attitude towards weight training compared with their male counterparts.
4.) Based on the SOQ, previous research was corroborated where male athletes proved to be more competitive and win orientated than female athletes, while women were more goal focused compared to men.
5.) In both male and female athletes, placing equal importance on weight training for both genders fell into the category of athletes who were competitive and goal focused.

Conversely, win orientated athletes felt that weight training was more suited to and more essential for males.

The main focus of the study related to the three issues on:

1.) the perception of weight training as a male activity;
2.) the perception that participation in weight training was based on sport specific relevance; and,
3.) female athletes being less confident than male athletes in the area of weight training.

The lukewarm attitude of coaches towards women participating in weight training led researchers to conclude that in-depth awareness and re-education were needed for coaches to support and promote weight training among female athletes.

The negative perception towards weight training remains prevalent among women athletes, who associate it with acquiring heavy musculature and excessive testosterone in body builders. As athletic mentors, the role of coaches is to help women athletes hurdle this cultural barrier. To enable this to happen, women athletes will also need to be aware of the importance and benefits that weight training holds for them. As the study has discovered, women athletes will only participate in weight training if they perceive it to be relevant to their sport. Evidence is therefore needed to support the research promoting weight training for women athletes.

BMD in Gymnasts and Runners

The BMD (bone mineral density) study above was a generalized comparison of fat and BMD levels in sports participative and non-sports participative women. In another study, a BMD contrast was conducted among female gymnasts and female cross-country runners. It was assessed that gymnasts had considerably higher bone mineral density levels compared to the runners. The premise put forward for this BMD disparity had to do with the advanced mechanical loading in gymnastics.

BMD is also affected by the different kinds of strength training undertaken. Two sets of women athletes were evaluated in this study wherein one group executed an overload of eccentric contractions performed at 125% Repetition Maximum (1RM), with three sets of six repetitions; and the second group did a series of sub maximal eccentric strength training at 75% of 1 RM, with three sets of 10. Results showed the latter proved to be more effective than the former in increasing BMD levels.

Researchers were highly astonished at the outcome as they were honing the premise that the higher the mechanical loading the more conducive it was to BMD improvement. The results may have been affected by the overload group who refrained from executing weight-bearing repetitions (e.g., squats) and concentrated instead on the exercise machines. The study suggests that an increase in BMD levels can be achieved without having to resort to extreme training, while continuing to perform as usual in sports practices and competition.

The result of all these studies proves that strength training:

1.) improves fitness and increase performance levels in sports;
2.) accelerates the loss of body fat, while maintaining a fat-free mass; and,
3.) increases BMD levels while lowering the risk of osteoporosis.
With these in mind, evaluation and recommendation needs to be made on the role of coaches in introducing and promoting weight training in women athletes.

Table 1: example of a two-month weight training cycle

Type of exercise Month 1 Month 2
Core Clean and jerk Clean and push press
Core Snatch Dumbbell snatch
Core Squat Front squat
Core Bench press Dumbbell press
Supplementary Lunge 1 leg squats
Supplementary Russian boxers Tomahawks
Supplementary Cheat rows Pullovers




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