Why does real strength training have to be so gender-specific?
Indeed, there are no good answers to this question outside of a really fucked up notion of beauty that claims that any sort of real strength builder strike down the mere identity of women and render them men at the slightest touch of a pull-up bar or a barbbell. Anyone who cares to do some honest research into the topic, beyond Traci Anderson and women's fitness magazines, will realize this.
Now, I freely admit that my opening paragraph should apply equally to both sexes should be free from judgement about how someone will look when they train to excel. It shouldn't matter how a person looks nearly as much as it does...but that's the way that the cards have been dealt. It's the somewhat unfortunate fact of life.
The last time I wrote on this topic, I said the following:
Maybe that's what we should be doing to begin with here: promoting real strength training for real health for the sake of being able to do real-life movement. Then, after we've got that mastered, maybe we can all learn to appreciate a healthy, strong body and learn to find it desirable, maybe even attractive.
So, that leaves me with one thought. If the notion of promoting a look that looks like strong-health as attractive, then what would someone use? The thought that crossed my mind is: do most people even know what that looks like anymore?
I freely admit that there isn't usually a dramatic difference in how a strong woman and an ordinary woman look. There are tell-tale signs. There are things that you don't usually see on women who do some sort of real strength training. These are things that I don't think most people probably wouldn't find attractive. Using the notion that what's attractive is what's strong and healthy, I think that these are points that we can all agree on.
Let's start easy: the muffin top. While I'll freely admit that this is more diet-related than exercise-related, I've always maintained that good training is the ultimate feedback on how good your diet is. Five rounds of The Magic 50, Girondas 8x8, some a nice super-set of pull-ups and push-ups will tell you that your binge eating the day before was really stupid far faster than walking on any contraption ever would. That ultimately translates to a far better body. Besides, doing workouts like this for a sustained period of time won't allow for lots of body fat. To succeed at this stuff, you have to lean out!
Moving onto an actual show of muscle on a woman, I'd have to single out the skinny thighs. I think that men instinctively show off their upper bodies because they know that's what defines them as powerful men. Women have the power in the legs on a pound-for-pound basis more then men do. It's one of the few places where women can have some muscle definition and show it off without the "man" label. First image found on Google when I typed, "model legs".
So, there's no reason for women's legs to only meet at the knees. It could be said that it's actually incredibly feminine to have this display of strength on a woman!
Another, more subtle problem area that bothers me about women is the winged shouldler blades. How many times do we see this look on women...For some reason, ribs poking out the sides is prime tabloid material for actresses who are to skinny but this one somehow gets a pass. It's still bones sticking out of the skin where they shouldn't be sticking out! Furthermore, it's an unhealthy posture issue that begs for some stronger muscles in the right places.
I cringe to even bring up using attraction as a method of selling strength training to the other sex. Ever-changing notions of beauty have lead generations of women to do some very bizarre, and dangerously unhealthy things to their bodies. The reason why even mention it is that it worked so well for men 120 years ago.
I believe it was Lionel Strongfort who commented that for every person who wanted to be strong like Eugen Sandow, 20 just wanted to look like him. Indeed, if you do a Google Image search of Sandow, you'll find that most of the pictures of him out that exist have him showing off his body more than his lifting prowess. We can argue about the limitations of how much sex appeal should sell strength training all day but it's hard to deny that it works and it certainly has it's place. If anything, it's like training wheels: Something that gets you started on the road to better things. Things like the stuff I described at the beginning of this entry.