We’re living in an exciting time in sports. With the advancements in technology and social media, your high school coach can easily access the same cutting-edge sports performance and rehabilitation research that the pros do. Social media platforms have connected the world in ways previously unknown. This has led to dramatic increases in the commonality of athletic development and competition. In other words, the world of sports has never been more competitive, and athletes have never been this good. It’s an unprecedented time.
I’m a baseball guy. When I was a kid, you could count on one hand the number of guys that threw 100mph in the big leagues. Now, there are dozens. The average MLB fastball is five miles per hour faster than when I was a kid. And every other sport shows similar performance improvements. Athletes are throwing harder, running faster, and hitting harder.
And nowhere is that more prevalent than in women’s sports. Again, when I was a kid, team USA dominated everything in the Olympics. But now, with growing women’s rights and ease of access to training methodologies around the globe, the playing fields are leveling.
This leads me to the point of this article. It’s becoming harder and harder for all athletes to rely on talent alone. More and more “ungifted athletes” can overcome their obstacles through advanced training methods. If you aren’t in a well-suited strength and conditioning program, you’ll likely fall behind, even at the youth levels.
While there are many types of training that each individual athlete needs, one thing is universally clear for all sports: all athletes should be lifting weights. Sadly, more than any other demographic, it’s female athletes that are mostly staying away from the weight room. And that needs to change.
I’m not going to try to convince you of the benefits of weightlifting. Hopefully, if you came so far as to read this article, you have a basic understanding that weightlifting can help you become faster, stronger, more powerful, resilient to injury, and overall more athletic. Sounds great for any athlete, male or female.
Young Female Athletes Should Lift Weights
So why aren’t more female athletes weight training? There are, of course, lots of varying reasons why. But not seeing that weightlifting will benefit them in their sport and in life shouldn’t be one of those reasons. A 2019 study in New Zealand conducted an observational study of over 100 fourteen-year-old girls and measured their strength and athletic performance metrics. There was an overwhelming correlation that the stronger girls were also the fastest and could jump the highest. Further research tells us that kids that are strong in their youth will be strong adults and will have lower injury rates.
Other reasons include the parents not wanting their kids to lift weights. They are worried that weightlifting may make them bulky, lose flexibility, get hurt, and stunt their growth. My response to that is all those are simply false myths. They’ve all been debunked time and time again. Well-planned and even poorly planned strength training programs do not make kids bulky because they lack the hormone profile, they don’t lose their mobility, and weightlifting certainly has never stunted the growth of a child. Ever!
Lifting weights, even at young, pre-pubescent ages, are good for kids. They develop strength, stronger bones, better coordination, and motor control, and are associated with being healthier adults later in life.
Adult Female Athletes Should Really Lift Weights
After they’re done growing as kids, the common excuse to avoid the weights is that they don’t want to get bulky. I’m a personal trainer by trade, and I deal with this question a lot. There’s a lot of complexity to the answer, but to keep things simple, MOST (and I emphasize most, but not all!) women lack the amount of testosterone and other hormones that will make them appear bulky. And the funny part is, if they do begin to bulk up in a way that truly bothers them, I promise it’s not a permanent change. If you feel like you’re turning into the Hulk, then we can make some changes to help the big scary muscles go away again.
If your goal is to be a better athlete, the research is overwhelming for ladies that a proper strength and conditioning program will provide them with greater performance, athleticism, and resilience to injury. Weight training in the adult stage of life for female athletes should be a no-brainer, no matter the sport.
Older Adult Female Athletes Should Definitely Lift Weights
If you are a little seasoned for the example of athletes I’ve given, I got you too. Strength training, like all forms of exercise, should be a lifestyle. It’s not something you do in your 20s for looks or to be better in your “prime.” Weightlifting will continue to allow you to perform at a high level while simultaneously reducing your risk of injury. Avoiding injury, of course, becomes more valuable as we age.
One of the unique concerns for aging women is bone density. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are serious health concerns, especially if you are continuing your athletic endeavors. But for those who continue to lift weights and strength train, that isn’t a concern. Nothing on this planet builds stronger bones than strength training does. Lift weights. Do it! Your bones will thank you.
Are You an Athlete?
YES! You are an athlete. I convince every one of my personal training clients that they are an athlete, whether they play a traditional sport or not. One such client of mine has a hobby of playing the handbells. She’s an athlete. Those handbells are heavy, and she performs thousands of reps with them per year. So in my programming, I need her to have especially strong and stable wrists, shoulders, posterior chain, and grip strength. She’s also a nurse, which means she walks more than you and I ever will. She needs to train in ways that her job won’t break her down.
See where I’m getting? Men and women of all ages, we are all athletes. We all encounter unique demands in our daily lives that require unique strength, whether it’s on a playing field, in our jobs, or in hobbies. Regardless, strength training is appropriate for all of us in all stages of life. You are an athlete, and you need to train like one!