Strength and Conditioning is not just for men anymore. Women are starting to seek out training, which is awesome because there are some stereotypes that need to be broken.
Women are not going to get bulky from training and there is nothing more to say on that matter. They also will not get even remotely strong by lifting colorful paperweights (some may consider these dumbbells). More and more girls are starting to train for their sport or to just get fit in general.
Female athletes that are motivated to be strong can be some of the most fun to work with. They will surprise you (and themselves) with what they are capable of.
A female athlete will often have better technique than a guy of the same age in lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and even cleans. This usually stems from the fact that girls are not worried about weight on the bar.
All high school boys squat 315 and bench 225 so they cannot use lower weights to work on their technique, mobility, etc. Ask these athletes to lunge and enjoy the show, but I’m getting away from the point.
Taking weight off the bar is essential for safe and effective technique, but unfortunately ego gets in the way of too many athletes. This is why women are capable of impressive lifts.
One must understand the differences in the anatomy of the two genders for injury prevention and performance enhancement.
Women give birth to children. To allow this phenomenon to occur, women have wider hips than men. This changes the Q angle of the lower body and is a risk factor for women. ACL injuries are more prevalent in women than men for this reason.
Look at how much different the lower body alignment is between the two pictures. The knees are starting to cave in, on the left, and the ligaments/tendons can only support so much.
A host of other hip, ankle, and back problems will also result from this joint structure. Younger girls going through growth spurts will encounter these problems while still playing year round, daily sports. So what do young girls need to do to prepare themselves for the demands of their sport?
It’s simple, stop playing so much soccer and hammer on the glutes. I’m kidding about the soccer because how can you get noticed if you aren’t playing every second of your life, always, ever.
It is easy to determine those with knee valgus as a result of the female Q angle. Observe someone who is jumping. Do the knees cave in towards each other during the eccentric motion? If yes, this person is at an increased risk of injury. This happens a lot with box jumps, jump shrugs, vertical jumps, and even squats.
When the athlete is running, look to see if the knees are caving or if the feet are kicking out when the knee is flexed. This is not as definite but can still be a good indicator.
Strengthening the glutes will improve the performance of these exercises while making them safer. Start by cueing and showing the athlete how to track their knees properly. Usually this makes sense but still doesn’t transfer.
Enter the mini band. Adding a mini band just below the knees gives the athletes something to push out against. This will activate the glutes and start reinforcing proper motor patterns.
You can also start activating the glutes before the athlete even starts their exercises. Lateral band walks, clamshells, monster walks, and strides are all mini band exercises that will get the glutes firing.
Without the band, the athlete could perform single leg bridges, single leg squats, or wood choppers to create some stability. Deadlifts, RDLs, and single leg work will really work to strengthen the posterior chain.
Stretching also comes into play for those with an increased Q angle. The glutes do not need to be stretched since they are already at a long length and stretching would reinforce the pattern you are trying to change.
The adductors need some attention since their length is shortened from this alignment.
Foam rolling can be helpful in relieving some of the pain from this alignment. Rolling the IT bands will be a life saver since they will be under constant tension – from alignment and overuse.
Women that work hard can be some of the best athletes to work with. They tend to listen more than guys and without the preoccupation of weight on the bar, their technique is often great.
One difference in the structure of female anatomy is a huge concern though. Addressing the increased Q angle is important for improving the performance of the athlete, while reducing the injury rate.
Put female athletes in a position to succeed and they will typically run (HA!) with it. Remember to do some dedicated glute work and get out of the valgus position.