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Why Your Daughter NEEDS Strength & Conditioning

Friday, February 3, 2017
Joseph Aratari, CFSC, CPT

1) Increased self-esteem
2) Lifelong habits
3) Er...this isn't going as planned...

Ok. Change of script..Deal with this longer post. This is important stuff.

As a strength coach at the high school level as well as the private sector, I was recently inspired to write about WHY young girls NEED strength & conditioning. Check out this awesome post that also triggered my inspiration by Tony Gentilcore "Why Women Should Embrace The Bigness".

Young girls NEED to be introduced to strength and conditioning. It's much easier to build and mold a young person than it is a high school junior or senior.

I am well aware of all the physical benefits of quality strength training (increase strength and power, increased bone density, efficiency of metabolic pathways, decrease of injuries, etc...) but I wanted to write more about the deeper things that people don't want to come to surface with as much. I planned to write about everything below but I am missing key components such as personal experience and stories that these females shared with me. In my life, I have never experienced most of the things females face when it comes to strength training. That is not to say that men do not face similar problems, because we do, but we certainly do not experience it as frequently as ladies do and it is not multiplied by society as much.

With that said, I didn't feel as though my original thoughts would have as much impact. To get some feedback I openly asked my Facebook friends why young girls need to be introduced to strength & conditioning. I had great responses and direct messages and I will share what they had to say. This might not be the most organized post but that's ok. The quotes and content these ladies shared is great & better than anything I could have said. But first, here's a video of some of the bad ass girls I get to work with. 

OK...time for the stories/quotes!

I appreciate all that helped me with this post. You are helping more people than you think!

1) Jennifer Spitzer's Story

"My experience with strength training.. so when I was in high school, my track coach had us in the weight room twice a week during the season to do general strength training. So we weren't doing a ton and it was a bit unstructured, but it was my first intro to the weight room. When I went off to college, my college coach had a very different mindset about training and the place of strength training in running. She was very accomplished herself (held a few American records in track and competed at the 1972 olympics) but was the typical really skinny runner. She didn't want us (distance runners) in the weight room at all and actually told most of us that we had to drop weight our first year. I went from 155 to 135 (I'm 5'11") and was still made to feel self conscious about the way I looked. Fast forward to my junior year, I suffered a sacral stress fracture as a result of low bone density. At that point our team doctor finally told me to disregard my coach and had me work with a nutritionist and got in the weight room. I gained back the 20 lbs I had lost and was running better.

After college I continued to lift weights and actually got into bodybuilding and did a few bikini and figure shows - not competing in bodybuilding anymore, back to endurance sports with Triathlon. So, obstacles to beginning a weight lifting program: definitely knowing what to do and being afraid to look like you don't know what you're doing. Luckily I was an exercise science major so I had some knowledge about how to build a strength training program and different exercises I could utilize. But a ton of girls would message me when I was competing asking me what to do. They said they would get in the weight room and just wander around not knowing where to start or which exercises to do. So that's huge.

Strength training definitely built my confidence because I learned I could change the shape of my body. I could still be lean but have quads or shoulders. I liked the way I looked and felt better about myself when I gained muscle. Another obstacle for girls that want to start lifting weights is feedback from other people. They might be afraid they'll "get too big" or "look manly" which is a common fear but not realistic. Another obstacle is the fact that you'll probably gain weight when strength training unless you have a lot of fat to lose. Seeing the scale go up when you're working out can be discouraging especially when we've been conditioned to think a lower weight means "it's working" or healthy, or whatever. It's important to focus more on the changes you see in the mirror as well as how clothes fit, measurements, etc.

More so than just being confident about appearance, lifting weights gave me a sense of overall confidence in more areas of life. When you can go in the weight room, be the only girl there and deadlift more weight than half the guys will even touch (that is if they don't skip leg day) it instills this sense of pride, like yea I can do that and that's pretty f-ing awesome. And after awhile of just getting in there and working hard, you don't feel self conscious anymore about being the only girl in there and wondering if maybe you should go back to the cardio section "where you belong."

I want to thank Jennifer for sharing her story. Be sure to check out her blog.

2) Braidie LeClaire-

"Because there's something very important that happens to young girls when they realize they are capable of being strong. The moment young girls realize their bodies are capable of being strong and powerful they realize how strong and powerful they truly are. Girls need to know that yes they are strong, yes they are powerful and yes they are capable. Strength training and conditioning can help them discover that side of themselves and help increase their confidence."

2.  Kelly Siry-

"Totally agree with Braidie. Strength training can really help with confidence and realizing what you and your body are capable of. I think it's important especially for runners like Jennifer said. Especially mentally. A lot of female distance runners struggle with eating disorders because they're pressured to have the stereotypical distance runners body (super skinny and lanky) which can lead to injuries. Learning the importance of strength and conditioning and learning proper form can help girls realize that being only skin and bones won't get them to the PRs they're chasing. In a sport that's so mental as track/cross country, strength conditioning is another tool to help build that mental toughness."

3. Anonymous current high school athlete-

"You get...Better at sports, increase in confidence/its empowering, you can't get "bulky" on accident so don't worry about that, increased knowledge and technique that I can use on my own after high school, getting to constantly make goals and achieve them, learning to overcome setbacks, if you want to play in college you're going to have to learn to get comfortable in the weight room anyways."

4. Anonymous past high school athlete/current college athlete-

"Hi Joe! Hope all is well, I saw your post and it got me thinking back to high school and how I hated going into the weight room. Now I find myself in the weight room nearly every day. A lot of the fear and anxiety of walking into a weight room as a female in my opinion comes from lack of knowledge. I felt as though I didn't know what I was doing and that I wasn't strong enough to start building my body in the weight room and that I should do it on my own instead. In high school especially, adolescents have an imaginary audience which looking back personally I definitely felt as though all the guys would look or judge when my friends and I tried to lift in the weight room. I think a solution to some of these things is helping girls feel as though they are in the right place doing the right thing. Many girls haven't lifted prior to high school and don't know the fundamentals. I think by simply meeting with teams and teaching them a few things about lifting, foundational movements, the difference between power lifting, lifting to tone, and lifting to build for example would give them the confidence to walk into the weight room and feel like they know enough to be able to be confident that they can lift correctly and lift for a purpose. I'm not sure if that makes sense but I'm struggling to get my thoughts typed out. It's easiest to relate this to myself. I trained with a personal trainer this past summer and since doing that I felt so much more confident in my ability to create a workout for myself and walk out of the gym knowing why I walked in."

4. Some humorous quotes that made the cut:

a) Erica Garwood-

"Maybe I wouldn't have torn both of my ACL's? lol"

b) Anonymous-

"Trying to get a look at the boys!"


Personally, I would also like to add that strength training is FUN and you get to meet some awesome friends!
Lets regroup. The above theme's mostly centered around...

1) Gaining confidence
2) Becoming independent
3) Improving knowledge of how to train properly based on your goals and what it will really do to your body.

Walk into any gym at its peak busy time. For the vast majority, you will see way more men than women. Is this because women do not like to work out? Certainly not. In fact, I have had girls tell me "I like to workout.." or "I want to workout" but "there's too many guys and I don't know what to do on my own".

We need to do better on fixing these issues. Lets touch base on commonly held beliefs and debunk them.

1) "I don't want to lift heavy because I don't want to get too big/bulky! "

Truth is, females just do not have the proper genetic make up to get as big and bulky as men. For those females that do take steroids to attain crazy mass and "look like men" great that's your choice! BUT for the 99% of females that do not, lifting weights 2-4 days a week will NOT turn you into a man.

For those female who DO put on muscle more naturally than others. Embrace that! It's the same for men. Some men are bulky, some are lean and some are muscular. You can't fight your biology.

2) "I don't feel comfortable because I don't want guys judging/staring at me."

This is a very touchy subject and I would never say that this isn't true because this does exist. However I do want to say that the majority of the guys that take their training seriously don't really care and are in the gym to train. In addition they are actually more supportive of females working out and encourage them to train.  I have an unwritten rule at my high school. If I catch a guy making fun of a girl working out, I kick them out for a month and have them write that girl an apology and explain why they should continue to workout. Fortunately, I haven't had to do this yet. Those who train seriously know the process and how much hard work it takes to reach their goals so they tend to be more encouraging to their peers because the feeling of strength training is unlike any other. Mary and Cam are a great example of athletes who continually push each other to get better each and every day all while having fun.
Also, it's a bad ass feeling when you can lift more than the guys like Mary and company can.

3) "I don't know what to do, I'll just do light weight, high reps, cardio on the machine."

This comes down to education and this starts at a young age. It starts with parents then with physical education teachers. Third, sport coaches/strength coaches can also have an impact.

THIS is why I strongly feel girls need a strength coach at an early age. It's not to say that guys do not as much, but there is a reason why most guys feel comfortable working out on their own while girls do not to the same degree. By establishing confidence, independence and knowledge at an earlier age, we can empower girls to have healthy lifelong habits that will help them inside and outside the weight room.

The point of strength training isn't always to get better at sports, decrease injuries,'s role is to also build peoples spirits and mentality. Nothing worth having comes easy to us in life. We must learn to work hard to reach our goals and the mindset created inside the weight room will help outside as well.

I would like to end on a quote from Coach Kurt. I take his last sentence to heart and it a small part of my mission in life. I hope this post has helped and appreciate feedback! Feel free to share this with anyone you think will benefit from it.

"One principle we've discussed before is the fact that most athletes you train will end their careers at the current level (whatever that may be). For the females who won't play collegiate/pro sports, strength and conditioning plays the extra role of helping them sort out the societal pressures of what they're "supposed to be." It should be empowering to the degree that it becomes a lifelong thing, they've found a freedom of expression and continue to the tune of "screw society, this is on my terms.

A high school strength and conditioning coach should be rated by the number of former athletes that still regularly strength train 5 or 10 years later."

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