Training Female Athletes and Clients Part 2: Master Your Bodyweight!
Okay first things first, if you missed part one of the series click here to check it out!
Whilst part one is all about improving work capacity, part 2 is based around a very important consideration in female athletes, but actually with good training there is no reason why it should be, and that is bodyweight strength and competency, specifically upper body!
To be honest this is linked closely with building work capacity (part 1), however I feel it warrants some extra attention.
Why do female athletes need upper body strength? Exactly the same reasons as men! Most sports require a significant contribution from the upper body, in tennis 1/3 of the power in the ground strokes comes from the upper body. Upper body strength and stability is key for sports like football and even more so for rugby and contact sports. Ignoring this area is compromising your sports performance.
But more importantly, if you’re an athlete, or you want to train like an athlete, then a basic competency in bodyweight movements I feel is essential to possess.
The key movements that I like my female athletes to be competent at are: Push-ups, chin-ups, horizontal rows, single leg squats, rollouts and on the dynamic side hops, jumps and bounds.
The first few phases of training I always place an emphasis on developing these movements with both men and women but I find that for the females these need special attention.
Why is this I hear you asking?
Well on the lower body side clearly the anthropometric differences play a part with control of the knee etc, but my female athletes tend to get very good at single leg squats as I place a strong emphasis on them. Upper body wise men do have an advantage over women and will generally be stronger naturally due to the development and distribution of muscle but again as with the lower body movements there is absolutely no reason why women can’t perform pull-ups, chin-ups, rows, and push-ups to an impressive level. I have females who can perform weighted chins, smash out quality push-ups for breakfast and hold their own alongside any fella without a doubt!! And they are not muscle bound either, in fact they are lean and slight in build and look and move great!
Like with anything though it starts with a progression. Here is a basic list of progressions for push-ups and chins that I use with both men and women on the pathway to physical competency.
Push-Ups: all reps need to be performed with shoulder width hand position, elbows tucked in not flaring out!
0. Off 36 inch boxes 3 x 12 reps before moving to lower box
1. From the floor eccentric lowers over 5s 3 x 8 reps
2. Push-Ups from floor 3 x 8 reps
3. Dumbbell Press
I really don’t like push-ups from the knees, the boxes encourage better form and are a better progression in my opinion. Once you get 3 sets of 8 with eccentric lower you should be able to do 1 set of 8 standard push-ups in which case start with this then go to lowers for your next set. In time you’ll manage all from the floor. Then you can start with additional weight!
Pulling-Chins/TRX Rows: All reps arms locked in bottom position, and chin up to bar height at top position.
4. TRX Rows 3 x 12 with feet on floor on an incline then moving to full horizontal position
5. Chin-ups with band 3 x 8 reps with thick band then reduce band width
6. Chin-up eccentric lowers over 5s 3 x 6 reps
7. Full chins
8. Weighted chins
Same thing applies as push-ups. Once you can manage the lowers you should be able to perform at least a few reps with bodyweight. With the band the knee can be placed in first and if needed the foot can be used as this is easier. There’s always a progression that works for a given day and time.
The old phrase ‘earn the right to lift weights’ applies strongly in my programmes. Master your bodyweight in these simple, proven movements and you will feel and move with more force and efficiency and look better aesthetically too.
Bodyweight training is the first step in developing a functional physique.
You’ll also kick ass compared to the majority of men who can’t complete push-ups properly as well, an added bonus!
Thats all for now, stay tuned for part 3 out soon!!