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Tag Archive: female athlete

  1. Weight training for women: Lessons from 1957

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    “Continuity of exercise is most essential”

    health and strength magazineThe 1950s were the age of physical culture. Jack Lalanne was doing his TV show and “Health and Strength” magazine offered a monthly look at different aspects of training.

    This April 1957 edition includes an excellent article on Weight Training for Women by A.J. Mannix who was the Chief Instructor of Camberwell Ladies’ Weight-Training Section.

    The article looks at five leg exercises that use a dumbbell, a barbell and a chair as equipment. They require balance and co-ordination as well as strength.

    He managed to write the whole article without the word “functional”!

    “It is true of all forms of exercise that regularity gets the results in the long run”. Mannix emphasises quality of technique, as well as coaching points and motivation for the women readers.

    A well written article without gimmicks, fads or “groundbreaking” sport science. Unfashionable nowadays, but sound advice that I try and implement. (You can download our free ebook for women here).

    Prevention is better than Cure

    I got the magazine for its article on weight training for women, but it contained some excellent other articles. The clue is in the title: Health is prominent.

    “Every effort should be made primarily to train our youth so that it takes a keen interest in health; to make it become as fit as possible in the organic sense.” says Capt Knowles principle of “The Institute of Breathing.”

    Coming in the week of the leaked Ofsted report on P.E. in schools, this is the type of education that is needed in schools. Competitive sport is different from Physical Education (as I have discussed here).

    gymnastics triple rollAn article on tumbling and amateur acrobatics by Ken Woodward (Principle of the Woodward School of Physical Culture) shows what has been lost in the last 60 years.

    I am a firm believer in the old saying that in order to get the best out of exercise, one must thoroughly enjoy it.”

    You can see the boys from an Air Cadet force trying the gymnastics triple roll. This requires strength, co -ordination, balance, team work, trust and it is fun!

    Woodward managed to write the whole article without mentioning the word “core”. I can tell you that the athletes I work with (young and old) enjoy this type of training immensely, once they have got the tools. He offers variations and progressions on these tumbling exercises that can be done on simple mats in schools or clubs.

    Basic gymnastics is an important skill, that is why we incorporate that in our Athletic Development programmes and warm ups (read how here).

    Or, you could line your players up, get them to do the plank for endless minutes, tell them to “engage your core” and then bemoan the fact that girls are disinterested in physical training.

    “Chest Size is not important”

    Says Don Doran in an article about the need for an increase in lung capacity. “The size of a man’s chest does not always give a correct sign of its usefulness or efficiency”.  He stresses the need for a “natural action” in exercises.

    Doran then emphasises the need for health first, strength training second. This connection between health, fitness and performance seems to have been forgotten. This was an article written for bodybuilders, an activity I have little time for, but it contained a lot of common sense and sound coaching advice within it.

    John McCallum’s “Keys to Progress” offers further practical advice on pure strength training from this era. Further reading on 1950s strongman training here.

    What now?

    weightlifting for women

    Excelsior female athlete

    I was inspired and frustrated reading this magazine. Where the heck are the Schools of Physical Culture and Institutes of Breathing nowadays? Our Universities are advocating Crossfit and kettlebell training instead of sound programming and development in order to cater to fashion and sell places.

    Physical Education and Athletic Development have many similar aspects. Without a sound health basis, physical literacy and role models in school teachers and parents, our children will never become engaged in fitness.

    Competitive sport is now the universal panacea according to the politicians. I am working hard in conjunction with fellow coaches to try and educate the next generation of athletes and future coaches through our Athletic Development Club. I hope that you can be part of it.

    Further reading: Weight Training for Women A modern female perspective. You can come and train with us if you are interested in weight lifting exercises for women.