International Women’s Day Women in strength Sports & Weightlifting

#Choosetochallenge #IWD2021 #strongisnotasize @lakesideweightlifting

Today is #IWD2021 lets celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Today also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

This blog is a 101 on – Women’s in strength sports, why women are loving weightlifting, how coaching women is different, know what you can do as a lifter or coach to understand and address the gender gap + Join our women’s day campaign + Find out about our ‘Women Do Weightlifting‘ – 5 week summer camp’

In the UK 39% of women aged 16 and over are not active enough to get the full health benefits of sport and physical activity, compared to 35% of men.

Sport England

As a female coach I work to improve the participation of women and girls in strength sports at our community Weightlifting Club. Despite the dry fact above from Sport England that men are more active, women’s participation in sport has been rising, as demonstrated by increased presence at the highest level of competition. At the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games, women made up about 44% and 45% of all athletes, respectively. This has not always been the case.

In Olympic weightlifting (A sport comprising of the Snatch & Clean + Jerk Lifting a loaded barbell from floor to overhead in two different movements) traditionally only men could compete in weightlifting at the Olympics. Women finally were allowed to compete at the Sydney 2000 Games, the weightlifting program had 8 male/7 female weight classes. With 162 male athletes from 63 countries, and 85 female athletes from 47 countries participating. (IOC)

Prior to this change, females had also started to take part in other strength sports like bodybuilding and powerlifting in 1970s. Olympic lifting was a bit slower getting off the mark recognising women at national competitions in 1981. The ‘International Weightlifting Federation’ (IWF) finally became serious about women’s weightlifting in the 1986, with a Women’s Tournament in Hungary. The first women’s world championship was held in 1987 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The gender strength performance gap between males and females in Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting is reportedly a gap of around 40%, but this number is likely to be confounded by other variables:

  • A relatively brief history of participation
  • Equity in training/competition and opportunities,
  • Sociocultural attitudes about women in strength sports,
  • Inequalities at every level of sport.

This said the way the female body adapts to training may be why there are rising number of females participating in strength sports and Olympic weightlifting. Female physiological traits are well-suited to the sport outside of the factors above. The strength gains are so remarkable that sports scientists are scrambling to understand what traits are producing the fantastic results in weightlifting, as to date there are virtually no recorded statistics or studies relating to women in strength training, and even less for female Olympic lifters because research has traditionally only been carried out on men.

I as a weightlifter, coach, and gym owner myself I aim to raise awareness of the needs of training and coaching women sightly differently to men, and to help my female lifters understand and work with their differences too. Currently there is a tendency is for coaches to train women in line with male research without consideration of the implications of the menstrual cycle on their training. Women have lower testosterone and higher oestrogen levels, which appears to generally give women higher tolerance to greater volume/frequency of training, but lower tolerance and recovery to heavy/intense training, meaning mens training programs should be altered to reflect this difference for best results.

If you are interested in female specific weightlifting we have an early bird offer on our ‘Women Do Weightlifting‘ – 5 week summer camp in June 2021. Details at the end of the blog.

Women tend to also be more perfection rather than ego driven compared to men, they are consistent in their approach to learning, listening and accepting feedback. Weightlifting is a technical skill driven sport so these traits are highly desirable.

‘You don’t need big muscles or aggressiveness to be good at weightlifting’ ‘Its hard to imagine a strength sport better suited – even designed specifically for the female body than olympic weightlifting’

Bud Charinga – Who worked on the Chinese and Russian national women’s weightlifting teams and published his own articles on female lifters.

With the gender and participation gap in women being as it is, and the emerging evidence of women being almost perfect for learning and excelling in weightlifting – we would be wrong to suggest the gap is all about biology, so we should be looking to address the inequality seen in socio-cultural attitudes and offer to help further the field of research and development being done.

We should also demand equity in opportunities to learn, grow, train, coach, create events to represent weightlifting women, to help them influence more women into sports. This could be via supporting, coaching, managing or helping fund lifters, by introducing friends to weightlifting via your posts on social media or within your community.

You can be involved as a board member of local sport or council advisory groups to help address inequalities or stigmas around strength training in schools, colleges, university’s, and businesses within your reach. There is plenty to be done and lots of fun to be had doing it!

I am happy to receive questions on women and weightlifting, and would also suggest ‘British Weightlifting’ the national governing body of the sport would be a good point of call for finding opportunities near you.

To join our International Women’s day campaign today please tag our IG account @lakesideweightlifting with a picture of a female lifter that inspires you, or of you doing something active, to inspire others – we will add it to our story.

Our Women Do Olympic Weightlifting’ 5 week summer camp starts in June – Come join us for a sociable Saturday morning at Lakeside Weightlifting – Our aim is to give you an understanding of how to adjust your weightlifting training and mindset as woman for best results.Plus teach you the basics step by step for lifting safely, or work on developing your established technique. Total beginners and established lifters will be split into 2 groups. A final challenge will see everyone come together for a special event. Send us a DM on Instagram or use the contact form below quoting SUMMERWDW for details

    UK Resources to explore

    Be inspired

    UK Movements supporting Women in sport and lifting


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