Stop Using Your Gender as an Excuse
One thing I hear all the time is women blaming their weight, or inability to achieve a desired physique on the fact they are a woman. Now listen, of course there are physiological and anatomical differences between a man and woman. Of course our hormonal structure is different, whereby men have a much higher level of naturally occurring testosterone and women have estrogen. Okay, but ENOUGH with getting hung up on this fact! Have a seat and take a good look in the mirror. It’s not the minimal amount of testosterone coursing through your endocrine system. It is the historical role of women in our society that has shaped what exercise and diet regimen is deemed appropriate for the female population. Men’s fitness and women’s fitness has been founded on completely different methodologies, which are all based on a historically loose understanding of human physiology i.e. thinking women work much differently than men, and the historical view of women’s role in society. On one end we have the celebration of strength, capability, and power, and on the other end we have soft, incapable, and weak.
GENDER ROLES SHAPED EXERCISE FOR WOMEN
Look at this logically, women have never been granted the opportunity to train, or exercise like a man. Back then people had a weird idea surrounding our bodies energy source, and how we functioned every day. It was common belief that women had a finite amount of energy, and we need to preserve it or else we will run out. I’m not 100% what they believed would happen or what it looked like when a person “ran out”, of energy…did they think they died? Probably. They believed if women moved around too much, we would become weak and useless…possible death. Women were not supposed to exercise, and no way were they allowed to participate in sports. Not only did our ancestors have an extremely poor understanding human physiology, but they also held very strict cultural and social gender roles inflicted upon women at this time (and arguably now in certain areas of our World). The women’s role was to take care of the home, stay in the home, and raise children. If they wanted to run, play with the boys or their brothers, play sports at school…TOO BAD! You may or may not have been seen as a witch, so you better think twice if you want to play a little ball. Women and girls were delicate, meant to be looked at and not heard. Boys and men on the other hand have it engrained in their culture that the man’s role is intrinsically strong, dominant, athletic, and brave. Quite the opposite from the soft, weak, and delicate female.
Men were allowed to play sports, and be active in general. Men’s Clubs existed in 1950’s/60’s which would be like a gym today, only a lot more social. If a woman was ever at the Men’s Club it was because her husband was a member, or she was there to be looked at and not to workout. The wife may join her husband for a friendly and casual game of couple’s tennis, and everyone will share a few laughs over the lack of coordination among the females…but that’s as much participation as she would get. It was not deemed lady-like to try hard, or become sweaty.
That was until Jane Fonda, super stud came on the scene blazing hot in 1980’s. She was right on cue, as the 70’s belonged to the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger so gyms were definitely seen as a place to work-out and potentially change your physique, rather than to purely socialize. Men were trying to bulk up, while women (still predominantly in the home) were able to follow along with Jane Fonda in the comfort of their living room. Society started associating weight training with people like Arnold, and people started creating their own opinions and associations between weight training and bulk. This is where I believe men’s fitness and women’s fitness really started to establish and separate. Weight training was for men, and cardio and aerobics training was for women. Women on average would not lift weights for fear they would add muscle and look too manly and bulky. Jane Fonda’s physique was soft and petite, and women were mostly staying at home so she was the ideal choice for most. Moms and housewives could still fit in a quick 20minute, no equipment needed, aerobics style workout so they could get back to taking care of the kids and household duties in no time. If this sounds extremely similar to pretty much every single fitness program marketed towards women in 2018 then you’d be right! It is similar! In fact, it’s the exact same. We, women, are still pigeon holding ourselves to body weight, no weight training, minimal equipment, and retreat to what we have been historically forced into…our homes. Men on the other hand are still lifting weights, glorifying muscle, trying to get stronger, doing the exact same thing they’ve been naturally allowed to do since human kind existed.
IMPORTANT HISTORY LESSON
Of course there have always been prominent female athletes who have pushed the boundaries of gender roles, and they are heroes for it. But did you know, it was only in the year 1984 when we finally started to see Colleges/University’s fund and budget for women’s sports under the NCAA. Of course this only changed because Title IX: Gender Equality in Education and Athletics was introduced in the 1970’s. Even though it was introduced late 60’s early 70’s, Title IX did not include women’s sport at that time as it was only meant for gender equality in post-secondary education i.e. classroom attendance. As undergraduate women started to outnumber undergraduate men, more options for athletics started to open up. However, this did not happen right away as it only started becoming well practiced by the late 1980’s early 1990’s. There was a ton of back and forth in that time period from the 70’s-90’s, a lot of Colleges were very upset women’s athletics could potentially strip money from men’s programs. Law suits were made by big schools objecting the legality of Title IX. Ultimately you just need to know people lost their MINDS and were totally cheesed regulations were set in place to ensure women were treated fairly under the NCAA. Arguably (no argument), to this day women’s sports and athletics are minimally covered. In fact, 1991 (great year, legends were born) was the first year of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China. Also in 1991, the IOC established a rule that any new program introduced into the Olympic Games had to also include a female. Maybe this had to do with the fact the first female IOC board member was elected in 1990, 1 year prior.
The point of the history lesson is for you to understand the timeline of when women finally achieved more freedom to expand their athleticism and broaden their fitness horizons. NOT LONG AGO! VERY RECENTLY! The past 27 years have been the first in women’s history where we can freely participate in sports. That is NOT long when you compare the scope of men’s history in sport and fitness, women are just a tiny sliver of a blip. By providing more women the opportunity to play in College and University, this opens up a wider range of sports for girls at younger ages since there is an actual opportunity for them to take the sport to a higher level. So now more girls are playing sports in general, which means more girls are participating in play. However, this is still directed at women who are naturally athletic and not necessarily the average women who has never played sports or been involved in recreational play. This has been the way historically, up until the past few years when the “ideal” of a women’s shape changed due to one controversial personality…Kim Kardashian.
KIM KARDASHIAN CHANGED US
Love her or hate her, Kim Kardashian carved out the “ideal” (I use this term loosely) shape of a women for this current generation. The younger millennial generation is subjected to a massive onslaught of female bodies due to social media, which created a surge of women and younger girls trying to achieve a bigger butt, and a smaller waist. Unfortunately, the big butt and small waist movement has come with a ton of gimmicks, and the measures people undergo to obtain the hourglass figure is escalating. We started with waist trainers, and have progressed to perfecting surgical procedures where the waist is taken in and fat is added to the butt. At the end of the day, there will always be a level of tackiness to the fitness industry. There will always be an obvious exploitation of people’s desperation to lose weight, photo shop, fillers, steroids, teas, detox diets, fad diets. Instagram has made the industry even more saturated with people who are more focused on promoting themselves as a personality or using fitness as a way to get their body out there, and not to help people with their fitness and improve their daily life.
However, with all the bad there is always a silver lining. At the end of the day, the fitness industry is blowing up and this is because more women are starting to look up to a stronger female shape. In general, we seem to appreciate strength and fit over emaciated and brittle. More women are following fitness accounts on Instagram and wondering how they can achieve their body goals. Of course we will still hear, “I don’t want to look like her,” often in reference to a female looking too beefed up. But we are still making progress as this is the first time in history gyms are bumping with women who are looking to lift weights. There is still a lot of intimidation, but it is becoming a lot more mainstream. This is just the very beginning in a change towards how women look at exercise. Moving away from at-home workouts, body weight training, and the myth that weights mean you will look Arnold Schwarzenegger. More women are in the work force, and less are becoming mothers and staying in the home. On top of this change, Instagram is a huge hub for fitness inspiration and it makes fitness highly accessible to the younger generation. It’s a beautiful time in history to be a part of, we can say we were at the very beginning of the strength evolution among the female population. At the end of the day, Kim Kardashians butt got more butts in the gym…that’s a powerful booty. As a disclaimer, I am not saying Kim Kardashian is responsible for the strength movement in women’s history, but her relentless and morally incorrect thirst for fame has definitely helped the movement along.
We have 3 different muscle fiber types in our muscle bodies, and we are each genetically blessed with a different ratio of each.
- Type 1
-Does not grow very much at all, i.e. no growth potential
-highly aerobic, lots of blood flow, highly oxidative.
-This is the endurance and cardio muscle fiber. If you perform a lot of cardio for exercise, then your type 1 fibers are very fit and you are aerobically efficient. Keep in mind, although becomes fit, does not grow.
-Low nerve stimulation for recruitment. Which means the load does not have to be heavy (body weight resistance, running, walking), for this fiber type to be recruited.
-Since there is so much blood flow and oxygen, this fiber type has an almost continuous energy supply and does not fatigue quickly.
- Type 2A
-Has some growth potential, a lot more than type 1.
-This is the athlete’s fiber type. It is both aerobically fit and efficient with blood flow, but also responds to a stronger nerve impulse than type 1. This means, a heavier load is necessary in order for this fiber type to be recruited. Your body will not recruit muscle fibers and use more energy if the task does not need it. If you want to recruit Type 2A fiber, then the load needs to be heavier or the rep tempo needs to be altered (or both).
-Since Type 2A has good aerobic potential as well as power and growth potential, most athletes work within an environment that recruits Type 2A. Swimmers, hockey players, dancers, tennis, soccer, anything that requires aerobic potential plus power and strength.
-The take-away, it requires a heavier nerve stimulation to be recruited if you want this muscle fiber type to grow and get stronger, but it also has a lot of aerobic capacity. It has medium growth potential.
- Type 2B
-the heavy hitter, this guy has the most growth potential. It can grow BIG and therefore is the most powerful of all 3 fiber types.
-it has the worst aerobic potential and lowest blood flow, so it gets tired very quickly due to minimal oxygen.
-This fiber type responds to a very large and powerful nerve impulse in order for it to be recruited. It will only kick in when the task is too great for type 1 and type 2A. Although it is shown as people move throughout exercise all 3 fiber types are being used, when it is a heavier exercise that requires a ton of power for under 3-5seconds, type 2B needs to kick in.
-The key behind type 2B is the load/weight needs to be heavy in order for it to be recruited. In weight training for example, if you want to recruit type 2B and grow your muscles bigger and get them stronger and more powerful, then you need to work in a 3-8 rep range, for 4-8 sets. This means the weight you are lifting needs to be heavy enough that you are failing within 3-8 reps, each set. If you are exceeding 8 reps and going to 18 for example, then the load is too light and you are likely emphasizing more type 2A and type 1. Remember, type 2B has a low oxygen and blood supply, so when you are specifically working to hit type 2B fiber type then your rest times will need to be higher since they fatigue so quickly. They need about 2-3mins in between sets, vs. type 1 does not need a rest time necessarily for them to recover.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Now you know the different characteristics of each muscle fiber type, and how they all have different roles they contribute into making your muscles more fit and resilient. That being said, since Type 2B fiber types require heavy load and power training which involves more equipment, more form knowledge, and a gym …the exercise routines that make up Type 2B fiber type have been dominated by men, and not women. Due to body building and famous body builders (such as Arnold), and gender roles within our society, it was very faux pa for women to lift heavy weights. Today’s time is the first time in history we are seeing more of the average women in the gym lifting heavier weights, and loading exercises that will actually hit Type 2B fiber type in order to increase their lean muscle mass and overall size and power of their muscles. This means they will more likely achieve a toned appearance, less cellulite, and an overall tighter and defined look. The key to remember is that Type 2B fiber type is responsible for power, strength, and has the most GROWTH potential. Do you want a bigger booty? Then you need to add in weight training routines that target the type 2B because they are what will grow the muscle. High rep, body weight, circuit training will only take you so far since this is predominantly type 1 and type 2A, and they do not have a ton of growth potential. If you are able to do high reps for rounds or minutes, then you are tapping into your aerobic capacity. You may find you are better able to do a spin class, or can perform more body weight squats in a minute, or are able to get through rounds faster…but this is because your aerobic capacity has improved, and your type 2A’s have become stronger. The beginner will find some improvements in the beginning with their muscle strength and may see some definition, but they will find themselves in a plateau body composition wise although their aerobic capacity may be excellent. You may know someone who is an avid biker, marathon runner, or boot camper, but they do not necessarily look like their body has changed shape. They may lose some body fat due to a healthier diet and addition of aerobic exercise, but their muscles will not change much in size and their strength potential will max out. The fiber types responsible for aerobic exercise are type 1 due to the high amount of blood flow, and type 2A because it has strength capacity and some growth but also aerobic potential. Women throughout history have trained predominantly within the type 1 and type 2A muscle fiber range, since the exercises that correspond with these fiber types are cardio, and body weight circuit training. In the past and now, when women want to exercise they predominantly choose aerobic activity (i.e. spinning, running), and body weight training in their living rooms, boot camps with light weights, circuit training…all things that promote an increase in aerobic potential, but do not emphasize muscle growth, strength, or power. Are women really the weaker sex? Is there a weaker sex or are we all equal? We will see what happens moving forward when more women in our society start learning how to weight train, and move past the myths defined by our past gender roles.
Men have had no barriers in training their Type 2B’s, obviously they are going to be stronger and more powerful. On average, when a man wants to get in shape and lose weight, they tend to pick up more weight training sessions and eat healthier. When a woman wants to get in shape, they tend to do more cardio and eat a restricted diet. Women are targeted through fitness marketing to stay within the Type 1 and Type 2A range, and they are pushed towards fad diets, detox teas, cellulite reducing creams, and more gimmicks in general. Women are constantly fed even today “get fit FAST! 20 minute fat blast! Perform at home in NO TIME! Results…QUICK! BUSY BUSY BUSY! Get sweaty and have FUN! Move your body and SMILE!” it’s just so lame and undermining, but women play into it because this is what has been passed down from generation to generation. Men on the other hand, work on growing their muscles and changing what their body weight is made out of. The more muscle on a person’s body, the more sculpted and toned they look. This means by training Type 2B fiber type, you are adding more muscle density and growing the amount of lean muscle mass in your body. What happens here is your body fat % to lean muscle mass ratio begins to change. Less body fat on your body and bigger muscles means you will have a tighter appearance with less cellulite. There is not as much space for the fat to pull down and create cellulite when the skin and muscle are tight together with minimal body fat in between. But if you are not growing your muscles, then how is there supposed to be a change In your muscle tone?
MORE MUSCLE = LESS CELLULITE
When you are growing your muscle, you are adding more glycogen stores, more insulin receptors which help absorb food energy and deliver to muscle, and more mitochondria which speed up our resting metabolic rate. Basically, the more muscle you have on your body, the more mouths there are to feed. It’s like having a whack load of kids, and they are always hungry…which means you are always running at high speed (i.e. resting metabolic rate) to the store (i.e. fat stores) to get food (i.e. glucose) for your depleted children (i.e. muscles). Your resting metabolic rate mimics that of a teenager, or a high performing athlete. Increasing the size of your muscles and increasing the amount of glycogen stores accelerates the fat loss process because you have grown more insulin/carb sensitive, and you are efficient at burning what you consume. All of the above plus diet and exercise leads to a higher caloric deficit per week, so your fat loss starts to tick by week per week. This is why in my opinion, men are more successful at weight loss because their methodology and mentality behind losing weight is completely different than what women have been taught and are pushed towards. The issue is that women have never been provided the opportunity in history to train their Type 2B muscle fibers the way men have, so now we blame it on our lack of testosterone. When we are only choosing exercise that makes our cardiovascular system more fit, and then we restrict calories below our baseline through fad diets, we actually starve our bodies ability to build muscle. Women have also been taught eating less is a good thing, so it’s a double whammy when it comes to why women have such a hard time losing fat and putting on lean muscle. How diet and exercise is advertised towards women is the worst possible way to lose weight, reduce cellulite, and create tone. If you think men lose weight so much faster, then start doing exactly what a man does. There is no such thing as a male exercise and female exercise, we all have the same muscles we can train the same way with little tweaks here and there.
It is such a deep routed problem, no one bats an eye when a man starts to lift weights. If a woman starts to life weights, she will be met with uneducated and dumb remark like “don’t get too big,” which is not really an insult to the woman herself, but it exposes the person who made the comment as a clueless asshole. Even still, becoming too bulked up and diesed is a fear a lot of women have as they are brain washed to believe it’s an easy task. But we need to move past this and realize weight training has been something that may not have been an option back then, but it is now. There is too much science and research that prove weights do not make a women look like a man. Learning how to lift weights is like learning how to drive, or starting a new job…it’s the same as learning any new skill in life. There is going to be a learning curve, there will be a level of intimidation, it will seem overwhelming at times, it will be hard. However, when you keep showing up and putting in the work and the practice, eventually it will become second nature. Men naturally and intrinsically move towards weight training because there is not as much stress or anxiety surrounding the gym for men as there is for women. Women feel like they don’t belong, they feel inferior, scared, judged, and like they have entered a man’s world…and they have! Technically yes, the weight training area of the gym has always been dominated by men and this is the first time the average women are starting to barge in and disrupt that. Us women just need to relax realize this movement is probably more a breath of fresh air for the men, I’m sure they have no issues seeing more women in the gym. Which may be the other issue, women don’t want to perform the types of exercises they need to in front of men. Maybe it’s for religious reasons, past trauma, or simply don’t want to train with men…but women’s only gyms are often too old school and do not offer all the weight training equipment a co-ed gym has. This is something I think is improving, we are the first generation in history for weight training to finally become accepted by women and for women, so the changes are going to be slow. There is a huge learning curve for everyone, from the fitness industry down to the population of women in their 40’s and up who have never been taught how to weight train in their life.
Yes, men have some advantages due to their naturally higher occurring testosterone. But this tiny, slightly blown up fact are what made gender roles to prominent to begin with. This is why is bothers me today in 2018 when I hear, “it’s because I’m a woman I will never be able to achieve my dream body.” It’s disheartening, and it plays into the hands of what men have been telling women for generations…that we are the weaker sex. We are not weaker, but we are if we constantly keep undermining our abilities in the gym. We are 100% the weaker sex if we keep blaming our fitness on what women are made of. It’s not our hormones, it’s the fact women have not been given the same opportunities in terms of training, fitness, and sport when compared to men. This is the exact same speech feminist leaders say about our work force, girls in impoverished countries, boys attending schools instead of girls…it’s not because we are weaker or dumber, or because we are physiologically inept. It is because we have never been provided with the opportunity throughout history to learn certain skills. It’s not the lack of naturally occurring testosterone within women that makes men “superior” at changing their body composition. It is 100% the cultural and social norms inflicted upon women, drilled into our civilization throughout history that has given women the softer, weaker, household role in society. Stop blaming our hormonal make-up, and start looking at the big picture of women’s participation in sport and fitness throughout history.