July 24, 2024


Inspiring Healthy Living

Female Athletic Training – An Interview (Part 1)

Female Athletic Training – An Interview (Part 1)

This is the first of a three-part interview on female athletic training with strength coach, John Paul Catanzaro.

Q: In the past, you have discussed the importance of training efficiency for women. What do you mean by that and why is it important or relevant to the female trainee?

A: Many females I consult with feel it necessary to perform yoga and stretching to increase flexibility, aerobics to reduce body fat, and pilates to improve core strength. Guess what, strength training will do all the above and then some! It’s called “killing many birds with one stone” and that is the concept of training efficiency that I discuss. When one has only a limited time to train in any given week, they should use that time wisely.

Also, many females are disillusioned with strength training believing that it will lead to gigantic muscles and a bulky appearance (this condition has been coined “myophobia” by Charles Staley.) Nothing could be further from the truth! It’s hard enough for most men to achieve this condition, and yet, females have androgen levels that are up to 30 times less than males (around 10 times less testosterone), a fewer number of nuclei in their muscle cells as well as fiber composition, biomechanical and structural differences that are not conducive to huge muscles. In my opinion, the muscle magazines are to blame for this illusion (“dis-illusion”) and we all know what type of ergogenic aids are necessary to achieve that unnatural effect.

In fact, Staley makes an excellent point on this subject. Ask any woman in her 30’s or beyond when she looked the best in life and most likely she’ll respond with her late teenage years. Ironically, this is when she had the most muscle! So if it is put in a different perspective then it may be easier to understand. I apologize if I veered off topic, but it seems to be an uphill climb to sell the importance of strength training to females.

Q: What are the most efficient training methods and exercises?

A: The most efficient training exercises involve compound, multi-joint movements performed in full range of motion (ROM) using free weights. In other words, the exercises that most people hate to do! These will give you the greatest bang for your training buck.

The following statement from the Ebben & Jensen, 1998 commentary sums things up quite nicely:

“Since well-designed strength training programs include exercises with free weights and dumbbells and exercises that use body weight resistance, both women and men should include these in their training, and women should train at the same intensities as men.”

“The use of strength training machines and abdominal exercises need not be discontinued, but emphasis should be placed on the use of free-weight exercises including foot-based lower-body exercises such as the lunge, diagonal lunge, walking lunge, step-up, lateral step-up, and squat. Women should also include upper-body exercises that employ multiple muscle groups such as the bench press, incline press, latissimus dorsi pull-downs, pull-ups, and back extensions. Finally, women who have developed a strength base should consider total-body exercises such as the push press, hang clean, power clean, clean and jerk, and snatch.”

“A training program should also stress multi-planar, multi-joint, functional exercises because they develop intermuscular coordination, proprioception, and balance and result in strength that transfers to sports and daily activities. For example, the step-up exercise is superior to using the leg-extension machine because it offers functional strength for walking up a flight of stairs while carrying bags of groceries. For athletes who play foot-based sports such as basketball, the squat is superior to using the leg-press machine, since the squat is functionally more similar to the sport and requires greater balance and weight and body control in all three planes of motion.”

Q: What applications are there for training efficient exercises in fat loss programs? What would you use in these programs?

A: Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat – I’ll give you two very diverse examples.

a) Here’s a version I adapted from Charles Poliquin’s German Body Composition program that I used recently with a thirty year old fitness model.

She came to me training 6 days a week – her body fat was actually climbing, her strength was going nowhere and she was constantly sick. Obviously her training (which was the typical protocol you see in many bodybuilding magazines) was not efficient! I cut her frequency down to 4 days out of the week, added in some energy system training (i.e. interval training) to complement the strength work and made some significant nutrition and lifestyle changes. Here’s the first of four programs that I used with this individual leading up to competition.

Day 1 – Mon & Thurs

A1) Cyclist Squat 3-5 sets x 10-12 reps @ 4010 tempo, 60 second rest interval

A2) Wide Pronated Grip Front Lat Pulldowns 3-5 x 10-12 @ 4010, 60″

B1) Lying Leg Curl Feet Inward 3-5 x 6-8 @ 5010, 60″

B2) Incline Dumbbell Press 3-5 x 10-12 @ 4010, 60″

C1) Wide Stance Squat 3 x 20-25 @ 2010, 60″

C2) Seated Rope Cable Row to Neck 3 x 10-12 @ 2012, 60″

D1) Romanian Deadlifts 3 x 10-12 @ 3020, 60″

D2) Seated Arnold Press 3 x 10-12 @ 3020, 60″

Day 2 – Tues & Fri

A1) Bent-Knee Deadlift 3-5 x 10-12 @ 4010, 60″ A2) Sternum Supinated Lat Pulldowns 3-5 x 10-12 @ 4010, 60″

B1) Lying Leg Curl Feet Outward 3-5 x 6-8 @ 5010, 60″

B2) Flat Dumbbell Press 3-5 x 10-12 @ 4010, 60″

C1) Walking Dumbbell Lunges 3 x 20-25 @ 2010, 60″

C2) Seated V-Bar Cable Row 3 x 10-12 @ 2012, 60″

D1) Russian Good Mornings 3 x 10-12 @ 3020, 60″

D2) Decline Dumbbell Triceps Extensions 3 x 10-12 @ 3020, 60″

I won’t get into all the details of this routine and why it so effective (there have been numerous articles and three books written on the subject if you are interested.) Basically, it involves pairing a lower body exercise with an upper body exercise using hypertrophy parameters.

After this one program alone, my client reduced the sum of 11 skinfolds by 63.2 mm total which equates to a 5{6fed281ec7a8abc92e2b781741b2370631fe85beacf5ac69d09adc3c180ad946} drop in body fat while losing 9 pounds in bodyweight with a slight increase in lean body mass. Not bad for a person who was in decent shape to begin with!