By Nicole 'Littlest' Lim
Women’s weightlifting is relatively new to the scene in comparison to the other Olympic sports as it was first included in the year 2000. Since then, our sport has grown exponentially. The number of total USA Weightlifting members has doubled in the last quad with women making up approximately one third of total members. In 2012, there were 3,332 registered female USA Weightlifting members compared to an astonishing 8,600 female members today. Now, why has there been so much growth in what has traditionally been such a “masculine” sport?
Feminization of Strength
I remember when long, skinny legs and flat stomachs were ideal. Hell, I know I wanted them. Thick thighs or buff arms were considered “manly”. Then came a huge shift in physical culture in America, strong women with toned or muscular physiques were recognized as sexy and inspirational. There was less “buff shaming” and today strength and health have become a hot social topic where working out with other women trumped mani-pedi’s and caramel fraps. These days, society and social media cannot seem to get enough of strong, healthy female bodies.
Research, Development, and Benefits
For a long time, women within our sport have known that weight training makes you look good on the outside but what about the inside? Exercise related research on women had not previously been available, with majority of the studies focused on our male counterparts. Eventually, it was revealed that weight training provided critical benefits for women such as increasing bone density, preventing age related muscle wasting, and help managing stress.
Increased Participation in Youth, Collegiate and Professional Sports
As a result of Title IX, our country has seen exponential growth in the participation by women across a variety of sports including weightlifting. As a result, more women have been exposed to weightlifting as a means to improve sport specific strength and that carry over has led to an increase in youth and late stage adopters (those who find the sport of Olympic weightlifting later in life often after playing a different sport first). Young female athletes are now encouraged to participate in weight training to help improve sport specific strength. Our friends at Myles Ahead Fitness in Petaluma, CA (run by Freddie Myles) has developed an awesome youth team that works specifically with local athletes, many of them being female gymnasts. As a result of Olympic weightlifting, many of those girls have developed into youth world team members!
California Strength Women's Program on TrainHeroic
California Strength is well known for breaking the mold and the CS Women's Program, an online weightlifting program built specifically for female athletes, is no exception. For the majority of my career, I followed the same weightlifting program as my male training partners and while I had initial success, eventually I stopped progressing. That plateau inspired my coach, Dave Spitz to take a fresh look at my training which resulted in building an entirely new program that takes into account the different strengths and needs of female weightlifters. The results speak for themselves, having recently PR'd my Snatch (at the young age of 30) and feel better than ever leading up to the 2016 American Open in the coming month. To join myself and our fabulous ladies on the California Strength Women's Program, click HERE!
I feel that the future of women in weightlifting and physical culture in general is just scratching the surface. There is so more to be accomplished!