Young Female Athletes & Weight Training

“I don’t want my team getting all buff.  I just want them toned”.  This was an actual quote from a high school Women’s Basketball Coach directed towards the program I was designing for the team.  This not only told me quite a bit about his knowledge of training physiology, but about his actual effectiveness as a coach.

As a coach, isn’t your goal to provide the best competitive opportunities for your Athletes?  Have you ever heard a coach say, “Oh man, that girl on the other team is killing us under the hoop because she is so TONED!!  When a girl gets blind-sided and stays on her feet averting certain injury, is it because she’s “toned”?

The answer is no!  It’s because she’s STRONG.

Coaches and teams alike lament opponents that are strong and fast.  Does your daughter want a college scholarship?  She better be lamented by other teams!

The data on the advantages for females who weight train is so available, and compelling, I really can’t excuse Coaches from not understanding its importance. An argument could be made that weight training is significantly more essential for female Athletes than it is for males.

Unfortunately, the culture of ignorance regarding females and weight training has resulted in a trend of progressively more prevalent sports injuries.  The environment in Women’s Athletics is becoming more competitive, more aggressive, and more physical.  However, we do very little to prepare our young women for this.  We then wonder why they are eight (8) times more likely to receive an ACL injury in their career than men.

If you work with female Athletes, below are three (3) reasons they should be utilizing Weight Training in their program.  There are thousands of other reasons, but these are the big three (3):

1.  Injury Prevention

As I mentioned before, injuries in women’s sports are on the rise.  While theories abound in regards to the reasons behind this, nearly every notion boils down to a disparage in strength.

Athletic competition favors a select set of movements.  It requires these movements to be repeated over and over again thousands of times at high intensity.  This process leads to an imbalance in muscular development around the involved joints.  Proper strength training aids in counter-acting overuse injury by creating a balance in the strength of accelerating and decelerating muscles around a joint.

Improved strength also aids in balance and stability.  An athlete is compromised when an external force is greater than the force they can create to overcome or control it.  For example, if a girl’s knee is hit with a force at an awkward angle but her muscular system is able to respond with an even greater force to stabilize the joint, she doesn’t get injured.  If the external force wins, it’s an ACL injury.

2.  Improved Speed

For most sports, speed dominates the playing field.  Many young female Athletes have experienced the frustration of losing speed when they reach puberty.  A common reason for this is a hormonal influx that increases body fat without a concurrent increase in strength and lean muscle mass.  Their relationship of strength to weight is compromised and they are not able to move their bodyweight as fast as they used to.

Alternately, due to a different hormonal influx, boys actually increase strength and muscle mass in relation to bodyweight during puberty.  Boys naturally improve speed during this time, often without training!

Weight training aids in maintaining an advantageous strength to weight ratio in young females.  It prevents significant increases in body fat and improves muscular force output.  This allows for maintenance and improvements in their ability to move their bodyweight at a high rate of speed.

3.  Other Young Females Are Not Doing It!

Weight training improves speed, strength, stability, power, and one’s ability to prevent injury.  However, most young females are not doing it!  If I were a Coach and knew of something that offered an exponential advantage to my Athletes, and in addition, I knew my competition wasn’t doing it, I’d be ALL OVER it!

A good Coach can capitalize on the ignorance of others.  For the last twelve (12) Summers at our facility, we’ve worked with a local high school Field Hockey team.  Weight Training makes up a majority of the program.  They’ve won six (6) CIF Titles in that time and have advanced to the final almost every year.

It’s a simple formula:

  Great Coaching + Proper Preparation = Repeated Success.

As I mentioned before, there are literally thousands of reasons ranging from psychological to physiological as to why young female Athletes should Weight Train.  The above provides a basic framework as to the most obvious and documented advantageous of women hitting the weights.

Introduce Weight Training to your daughter or team to provide them with an unmatched advantage.  I would recommend hiring a professional who understands not only Weight Training technique, but proper Youth Physical Development.

Be an educated Parent and/or Coach and don’t contribute to the culture of ignorance that is leading to injury and frustration with our young female Athletes!  Our young girls can grow to become strong, confident, healthy women!

Credits:  Brett Klika C.S.C.S., Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10, is a world renowned human performance specialist, motivational speaker, author, and educator. In his 14 year career, Brett has accrued more than 20,000 hours of training with youth, athletes, executives, and every day people. He uses this knowledge and experience to motivate individuals and audiences around the world through his writing, speaking, DVD’s, and personal correspondence.