Training Female Athletes

Training Female Athletes

Since I’ve founded my company, I’ve been very fortunate to have connected with, learned from, and be mentored from some amazing strength coaches and clinicians.  These people have so many years of experience under their belt and have truly seen it all that I sometimes feel like I hit the learning jackpot because I get the most up-to-date information without having to go through as many hard years of struggle as they did trying to figure it out.  One lesson in particular blew my mind and changed the way I trained females and female athletes forever.

Janet Alexander is a 25 year veteran of the health and fitness industry and co-owner of The Chek Studio, Inc. in Encinitas, California. Originally from New Zealand she moved to the states in 1998 to work alongside Paul Chek, the founder of the CHEK Institute and today is a Senior Faculty member and one of Paul’s Senior Instructors of the C.H.E.K Certification Program and Golf Biomechanic Certification Intensive.  She has a degree in physical education from Otago University, a diploma in teaching, is C.H.E.K Certified and an Advisory Member of the Fitness & Exercise Advisory Board for TPI.  I saw Janet speak at TPI Level 3 and ripped her bio right out of  my World Golf Fitness Summit speakers handout.   Her topic was entitled “Lipstick, Heels, & Hormones – How to Train the FEMALE Golf Athlete”.

She’s a great presenter and I found myself very engaged in the topic because there were definitely some “Ah ha!” moments throughout her presentation where I related back to specific training sessions with some of my female clients.  “Damn I wish I knew that then!”

Janet explained what we need to be able to understand as strength coaches when training females:

  • We need to know how the menstrual cycle functions and how it can affect the athletes’ strength and conditioning program week to week and month to month,
  • We need to know how to recognize the signs of hormonal fluctuations in female athlete and how and when to alter and periodise their training to avoid potential physical injury during different phases of their cycle, and
  • We need to know the best exercises for them and what stage of their cycle they should be doing them.
Here is graph of the menstrual cycle.  I looked at this graph so much during Janet’s presentation that it’s burned into my mind.
She taught us the difference between Type 1 (high estrogen), Type 2 (low estrogen), and Type 3 (mixed high/low estrogen) females and how to identify what category our female athlete falls into so that we can train them appropriately depending on where they are in their cycle.  For example, Type 1 athletes need to be trained differently than Type 2 athletes in week 2.   This information is very important as a strength coach because we need to be able understand how susceptible our female athlete is to becoming injured during a specific week in their cycle.  Estrogen, progesterone, and relaxin, fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and increase ligamentous laxity and decrease neuromuscular performance.  Understanding this fact enables me to select the correct exercises to keep my female athlete progressing as safe as possible.
Other topics covered were:
  • Q-angle and how abnormal Q-angles relate to injuries.  For example, alpine skiers were significantly more likely to tear ACL’s in the pre-ovulatory phase than skiers in the post-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle,
  • How to identify if our female athlete is quad-dominant and how to specifically train them to remedy that,
  • How to identify if our female athlete suffers from PMS and how to train them accordingly,
  • How to educate the athlete on when to train hard and when to recover without future detrimental effects on her hormonal health, and
  • How to train menopausal women.  I loved that the answer was basically train with intensity and lift heavy $hit.
I learned so much from Janet that I was so excited to get back in the trenches and apply this new knowledge.  I’ve able to relate more with my female clientele and her teachings have even helped me in my own relationship with my wife (which is always a good thing right?).
This last paragraph is taken directly from my TPI level 3 manual:
Athletes and strength coaches should be counseled regarding the menstrual cycle, its relation to performance, the great variablility that exists among individuals, and the need to monitor and manipulate training programs so as to avoid potential injury situations due to hormonal fluctuations.


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