Training Men Vs. Women, Part I: What Color is the Dragon?

The mission is simple: slay the dragon, get the girl. 

Or is it?

How did the dragon get there? How well does it know the castle? Does the girl want to be saved? Does she love the dragon? What’s her name? Does the dragon have a name? Does the dragon have a family? Does the dragon ever sleep? What powers does the dragon have? What color is the dragon?

Give a man a sword and a goal and he will slash, swing and charge his way to the castle tower - he’ll make it work. Women are different creatures entirely, as they excel in a process-based approach. This the balance of society. 

These, of course, are generalizations that require deeper insight, but understanding of masculine and feminine dynamics are of instrumental use to many applications, especially to that of the fitness and training environment. 

Ladies first. 

How has StrongFit recognized these gender differences? The answers lie within the nervous system. We are biologically and physiologically wired to respond to stimulus in a way that is unique not only to male-female counterparts, but among individuals as well. 

It’s no secret that women have enjoyed great physical achievements with "Functional Fitness". Both methodology and sport seems to favor the female population with incredible gains in strength, marked by an exponentially growing population of high-level powerlifters and weightlifters coming from the"Functional Fitness" “box.” The body type is marked - larger upper traps, overdeveloped quads, protruding six-packs and low back erectors. 

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These muscles are not separate, but work together in a single chain called the external torque chain. This “feminine” body is intricately linked into the sympathetic nervous system, naturally built for external torque. This state of being in a higher level of physical anxiety mandates a balance of flow to the system by reconciling with the internal torque chain, or the parasympathetic system. 

This flow state needed to balance the “feminine” athlete restores the value of process. This means that the goal alone is not enough - you have to describe the color of the dragon. 

How many reps are expected? How fast is “fast”? How much rest? What does “max reps” mean? What’s “heavy”? How much is too much? Is that enough? 

Understanding this necessity for process brings us two primary generalizations about what we believe is needed to train female athletes:

1. Controlled Rest

We have observed that women tend to do best when the rest time is “on the clock”. This allows the athlete to control the intensity of the work and stay focused on the process itself. The actual length of rest time may be dependent on the exercise or athlete, but these programmed rest periods allow a concentration of energy back to the balance of flow. 

2. Greater Volume of Sets

Women have showed a much greater propensity for volume versus intensity when it comes to fitness training. This is accepted into the Chinese weightlifting system where females train up to 30% more volume than their male counterparts. It is also illustrated in the  sport of "Functional Fitness" where women dominate as world class athletes. Where men may perform best in a single set to failure, women have displayed more muscular endurance and have more to gain in multiple sets. 

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The application of these two concepts together is seen in the massive success of women performing heavy EMOMs in "Functional Fitness". In the StrongFit templates, these concepts are integrated with traditional strongman exercises that allow the lowest level of risk in the individual exercise, thus maximizing the ability for intensity. 

The goal and destination of what we set out to do is important, but our identity in the process matters. If women want to slay the dragon, they’ll have much more success if they know its color first. 

Part two coming up…

Article by Sarah Loogman (www.strongfit.com)