5 Ways For Girls To Dominate The Weight Room

2 Feb

Let it be known I am not a woman. However, I do train / have trained A LOT of women. While the following post is not written by a woman I assure you it will help.

This post is based on a simple fact:

Women do not have the same amount of neuromuscular coordination as men.

What on earth does that mean?

“A coordinated cooperation between the muscles which are activated for the performance of one movement, so that their contractions occur at an expedient force and at the right time of the movement. Moreover, the antagonists are suitably relaxed so that they do not offer unnecessary resistance to the movement.”

As an example, even at a high level women’s sports are slower, playing fields are sometimes smaller and records are generally slower and / or shorter. This is not because these ladies aren’t incredible athletes. It isn’t even because they are smaller in some respects. Women lack the muscular coordination of men and therefore have a lower max power output.

With this in mind here are 5 things every woman can do to dominate the weight room:

1. Do more work between 80 – 100% of what you’re capable of. While men may work in this range for as little as 4 – 6 working sets (per major exercise) in a given 4 week training cycle women can stand to stay there quite a bit longer. It’s an important consideration because many programs are written following a common repetition continuum. For example 90%-95% intensity is largely understood to be a 3RM. Because women have less neuromuscular coordination their repetition continuum is different. A woman might be able to take 90- 95% for as many as 5 repetitions. Generally a 5RM is 87.5%. However, if you were to add 12.5% to the bar from 95% most women probably couldn’t even do one repetition. This displays the discrepancy in using the usual repetition continuum for female lifters.

2. Consider using techniques to work at above 100% of your capability. Doing so will help improve you neuromuscular coordination and teach your body to strain. Two examples are heavy eccentric work (spotter needed!) and involving exercises from a dead stop that allow you to concentrate and recruit maximally to apply force. For example: bottoms up squats, and pin presses.

3. Do extra technical or technique work. Working on your technique with submaximal weight and various drills can help you improve muscular coordination by perfecting your technique and timing. Like they say: Practice makes perfect. Taking the time to drill technique will have incredible transfer into your working sets. When things get real we revert back to our training.

4. Don’t change exercises so often. There are many ways to keep the body from adapting and exercise selection is only one of them. Often times the first thing we think to do when programming is change the exercise. Knowing that it will take female trainees longer to master a coordinated movement it makes more sense to use the following options to keep them from adapting: Intelligently vary loading, change the stimulus by using different bars, include slight variations on the exercise that increase and decrease range of motion and still keep the integrity of the movement. For example:

  • Squat –> Safety Bar Squat, GCB Squats, Front Squats, Bottoms Up Squats, Pause Squats
  • Deadlift –> Defecit Deadlift, Deadlift from Blocks, Rack Pulls, Even Trap Bar DL is a decent option
  • Bench –> Floor Press, Pin Press, Swiss Bar Bench Press, Bench Press to Boards

5. Prime the CNS. Here’s an excerpt from an article I recently wrote commenting on this: Depending on the focus for that day’s training session, I always include an explosive movement to prime the nervous system. The central nervous system is responsible for sending the message to skeletal muscle to produce a desired movement. Jumps, throws and sprints will help to improve your neuromuscular coordination. Improved neuromuscular coordination means that you will be better able to produce a coordinated firing of the muscles involved in the lift. Here is an example of appropriate programming:

Squatting → Warm up with Squat Jump→ Box Jump Variations

Bench/Overhead Pressing → Warm up with Medicine Ball Chest-Pass Variations

Deadlifting→ Warm up with Broad Jump, Sprint Variations, Box Jump Variations

Doing Chin-ups → Warm up with Overhead Medicine Ball Slam

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