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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 6:10 pm 
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I’ve often heard the statement that men have more upper body strength and women have more lower body strength. In the mode of questioning my assumptions….is this really true? Second, how does that affect our training? Should it be taken into consideration in training as well as in our own personal goal setting? Or should we ignore it, as everyone has different skills/talents/abilities?

We often talk on this forum about large/athletic woman vs smaller man as similar in how they should train…is that really true/accurate/fair?

Found some interesting studies that point out that we may not be looking at this issue correctly. Is it the strength differences that are important? Or are they simply a result of men typically being taller/bigger. Are capacity and endurance equally important as well?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 6:10 pm 
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Here’s a very interesting article based on military studies of men and women. It questions if size and strength are even the right measures:

http://www.warandgender.com/wggendif.htm

Some highlights:
Furthermore, different kinds of physical strength show different gender patterns. Women are constitutionally stronger than men – they live longer and are more resilient against fatigue, illness, famine, childbirth (!), and so forth. “Anyone who has observed women of Africa on lengthy treks carrying heavy loads of firewood and water cannot help seeing how arbitrary our indicators of strength are
To consider an even more basic corollary: most wars should be won by the side with the larger, stronger soldiers. If size and strength are so critical to military effectiveness, they must frequently determine battle outcomes. But in fact this is not true. Military historians emphasize the importance of such factors as strategy, discipline, fighting spirit, accurate intelligence, and (especially) the quality of weaponry, in determining the outcome of battles – more than the importance of one side’s physical strength. Indeed, the one war that America has lost, Vietnam, was to an army whose members were substantially shorter and less strong than Americans.72
The evolutionary implications of this corollary also run into trouble, since size and strength apparently have not been “selected for” in humans. Compared with species closely related to humans, notably the other great apes, humans have a relatively small gender difference in size. Gorilla and orangutan adult males, for example, are typically almost twice as large as females. Larger size exacts an evolutionary cost, mainly in higher food requirements, which would be worth it only if size and strength mattered greatly in fighting. Apparently for humans they did not. Men were probably about 35 percent heavier than women several million years ago, but only about 15 percent larger starting before Neanderthals several hundred thousand years ago, remaining around 15 percent heavier in modern humans. Furthermore, modern humans totally displaced the substantially stronger and larger Neanderthals about 30,000 years ago.73

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 6:11 pm 
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What follows are some abstracts that appear interesting, unfortunately, I do not have a subscription so cannot access full articles for all:
This one does have access to the full article and does report a difference in muscle mass, particularly upper body in Men vs women…it appears to note this is due to height differences as much as gender (need to read in more detail than time currently allows)

http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/89/1/81
Quote:
J Appl Physiol 89: 81-88, 2000;
8750-7587/00 $5.00
Vol. 89, Issue 1, 81-88, July 2000
Skeletal muscle mass and distribution in 468 men and women aged 18-88 yr
Ian Janssen1, Steven B. Heymsfield2, ZiMian Wang2, and Robert Ross
1 School of Physical and Health Education, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6; and 2 Obesity Research Center, St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10025
We employed a whole body magnetic resonance imaging protocol to examine the influence of age, gender, body weight, and height on skeletal muscle (SM) mass and distribution in a large and heterogeneous sample of 468 men and women. Men had significantly (P < 0.001) more SM in comparison to women in both absolute terms (33.0 vs. 21.0 kg) and relative to body mass (38.4 vs. 30.6%). The gender differences were greater in the upper (40%) than lower (33%) body (P < 0.01). We observed a reduction in relative SM mass starting in the third decade; however, a noticeable decrease in absolute SM mass was not observed until the end of the fifth decade. This decrease was primarily attributed to a decrease in lower body SM. Weight and height explained ~50% of the variance in SM mass in men and women. Although a linear relationship existed between SM and height, the relationship between SM and body weight was curvilinear because the contribution of SM to weight gain decreased with increasing body weight. These findings indicate that men have more SM than women and that these gender differences are greater in the upper body. Independent of gender, aging is associated with a decrease in SM mass that is explained, in large measure, by a decrease in lower body SM occurring after the fifth decade.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 6:11 pm 
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This article discusses muscle mass is the main determinant of strength differences in men/women and does imply there is a difference based on location (upper/lower)….only abstract available

http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/71/2/644
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J Appl Physiol 71: 644-650, 1991;
8750-7587/91 $5.00
Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol 71, Issue 2 644-650, Copyright © 1991 by American Physiological Society
A cross-sectional study of muscle strength and mass in 45- to 78-yr-old men and women
W. R. Frontera, V. A. Hughes, K. J. Lutz and W. J. Evans
Human Physiology Laboratory, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts 02111.
The isokinetic strength of the elbow and knee extensors and flexors was measured in 200 healthy 45- to 78-yr-old men and women to examine the relationship between muscle strength, age, and body composition. Peak torque was measured at 60 and 240 degrees/s in the knee and at 60 and 180 degrees/s in the elbow by use of a Cybex II isokinetic dynamometer. Fat-free mass (FFM) was estimated by hydrostatic weighing in all subjects, and muscle mass (MM) was determined in 141 subjects from urinary creatinine excretion. FFM and MM were significantly lower (P less than 0.001) in the oldest group. Strength of all muscle groups at both testing speeds was significantly (P less than 0.006) lower (range 15.5-26.7%) in the 65- to 78- than in the 45- to 54-yr-old men and women. When strength was adjusted for FFM or MM, the age-related differences were not significant in all muscle groups except the knee extensors tested at 240 degrees/s. Absolute strength of the women ranged from 42.2 to 62.8% that of men. When strength was expressed per kilogram of MM, these gender differences were smaller and/or not present. These data suggest that MM is a major determinant of the age- and gender-related differences in skeletal muscle strength. Furthermore, this finding is, to a large extent, independent of muscle location (upper vs. lower extremities) and function (extension vs. flexion).

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 6:12 pm 
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Similar study with slightly different conclusions…also concluding that strength differences were mainly due to muscle mass and not gender (only abstract available)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&list_uids=8477683&dopt=Citation
Quote:
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1993;66(3):254-62.
Gender differences in strength and muscle fiber characteristics.
Miller AE, MacDougall JD, Tarnopolsky MA, Sale DG.
Department of Physical Education, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Strength and muscle characteristics were examined in biceps brachii and vastus lateralis of eight men and eight women. Measurements included motor unit number, size and activation and voluntary strength of the elbow flexors and knee extensors. Fiber areas and type were determined from needle biopsies and muscle areas by computerized tomographical scanning. The women were approximately 52% and 66% as strong as the men in the upper and lower body respectively. The men were also stronger relative to lean body mass. A significant correlation was found between strength and muscle cross-sectional area (CSA; P < or = 0.05). The women had 45, 41, 30 and 25% smaller muscle CSAs for the biceps brachii, total elbow flexors, vastus lateralis and total knee extensors respectively. The men had significantly larger type I fiber areas (4597 vs 3483 microns2) and mean fiber areas (6632 vs 3963 microns2) than the women in biceps brachii and significantly larger type II fiber areas (7700 vs 4040 microns2) and mean fiber areas (7070 vs 4290 microns2) in vastus lateralis. No significant gender difference was found in the strength to CSA ratio for elbow flexion or knee extension, in biceps fiber number (180,620 in men vs 156,872 in women), muscle area to fiber area ratio in the vastus lateralis 451,468 vs 465,007) or any motor unit characteristics. Data suggest that the greater strength of the men was due primarily to larger fibers. The greater gender difference in upper body strength can probably be attributed to the fact that women tend to have a lower proportion of their lean tissue distributed in the upper body.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2010 9:42 pm 
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Not to long ago, there was a very interesting article on strength versus power. At a younger age, men may have more strengh but over time there should be a balance of power, no pun intended. Men who dont work out start to lose muscle mass at about age 32. I suppose this is where that tables start to turn.

You need to also consider that F (force)=M (mass) A (acceleration). In theory you should be able to increase mass by working out and acceleration through practice. If you dont want to become a mound of muscle mass, consider the notion of putting your body mass behind your defense and attacks. This should increase your force considerably which is the power we would all like to have.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:32 am 
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I've noticed that my strength during kotekitai is generally much more *grounded* than my male counterparts. My power in arm-rubbing comes from anchoring and body mass and my arm is an extension of that strength....not the origin of strength. Largely out of necessity, I have reinforced and learned this strength-technique difference, which is somewhat optional in the strong adolescent and adult males--who seem to exert their force with just the use of their arm/shoulder/upper back. (and at times seem surprised at the force that I can apply towards them in this exercise)

I suspect that a karateka with readily-available strength (whether male or female, due to height or muscle mass or cross-sectional area or upper/lower body advantage or whatever) may initially miss out on the opportunity to utilize technique to generate power......

I'm sure that continued study would develop power technique in anyone, but I'm also pretty sure that utilizing technique to generate power is a necessity in any student who may seem diminutive, small, disadvantaged, dainty, weak, untrained, whatever...whether female or not.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:44 pm 
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thank you for two great responses! I wholeheartedly agree that technique is important for effective use of whatever abilities we have been given and build on our own. I think that was part of the point I was trying to make...is it really true, and is it even important, that there may be gender differences in strength and/or muscle mass. since everyone has unique strengths/weaknesses shouldn't we focus on making the most of what we each have?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:46 pm 
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of course the "but" to that train of thought is to be aware of your weaknesses and train to offset them as muuch as possible

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:03 pm 
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Shana Moore wrote:
of course the "but" to that train of thought is to be aware of your weaknesses and train to offset them as muuch as possible


Train everything. :) Then your weaknesses will get trained and your strengths won't suffer.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:59 pm 
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I'm reading through this thread with some interest. First... I have the physiology background to understand the first principles. And second, I've been enormously successful (relatively speaking) in teaching women vs. my fellow Uechi male counterparts. Mostly I believe it's because I saw the light long before others did. Now I think men are more comfortable with women in the gym., and - more importantly - women are more comfortable with THEMSELVES in the gym.

It wasn't for a lack of trying on my part that I had difficulty getting the women to find their athletic voices in the 1970s and 1980s. I was on the bleeding edge perhaps because I grew up with 6 sisters. Three of them were/are life-long athletes (softball, track, triathlon, dance). Actually this goes back many generations, as my great aunt Bonnie was a pre-Radio-City-Hall Rockette. My mom was a wonderful athlete before rheumatoid arthritis hit her in her twenties.

So we look at the literature, and it tells us the obvious.
  • On average, men have more muscle mass (by any metric) than women.
  • On average, the greatest difference is in the upper body mass. What isn't included (yet) in this discussion is how that difference is largely triggered in puberty when the testosterone hits. Upper body mass is a secondary male sexual characteristic.
  • A weakness of one of the studies above is the age range (45- to 78-yr-old) of the study. I frankly was shocked, and wondered why such an age range happened in the first place. One suspects a motivation to show little to no difference between the sexes, as testosterone levels peak at age 17 and decline from that year forward. And yet... the differences remain. (Men still produce testosterone in their very latter years. I should know, as a testosterone block is one of several therapies being used on my 88-year-old dad who has metastatic prostate cancer.)
Two posts here impress me enormously. First is the following.
chernon wrote:

Largely out of necessity, I have reinforced and learned this strength-technique difference , which is somewhat optional in the strong adolescent and adult males--who seem to exert their force with just the use of their arm/shoulder/upper back.

She gets an A+ in my book. I hope I'm on her next dan test board so I can pass her with flying colors. That kind of perspective is rare, and shows a deep understanding of what we do.

When we evolve from practitioners to teachers to teachers of teachers, it's important to step out of our bodies and be able to understand the style from the perspective of any random student. As Dana put it, "Train everything." As a teacher of many, I needed very early on to get comfortable with the idea that a good teacher doesn't create a classroom full of clones. It's important to draw out the unique qualities in each individual, and then have said individuals express their individual strengths in ways that will exceed your own. That being said, it's important then for the teacher to learn to do EVERYTHING in at least a passable fashion so you're good enough to pass the torch on. And you know what's happened to me because of this philosophy? I've ended up being able to do things (e.g. "Uechi pointy things") that as a 19-year-old with feminine piano-player hands I never thought I'd be able to do. Now my students curse me as I poke and gouge them with ease. That ability just... happened. I had faith in process, and process delivered beyond my wildest dreams.

Backtracking a bit now... It's "chernon's razor" that caused me to take my super female students and use them to teach my young males who relied on their upper body strength. Why? Because said males were not realizing their full potential. The women meanwhile learned principles of core muscle strength and SSM early - out of necessity.

In baseball today, pitching coaches do the same. They get a hold of promising athletes early, and teach them to use their whole body to throw a baseball. Same with batting coaches. In doing so, they extend the athletic careers of their superstars, as technique lasts longer than strength and technique preserves the joints in the extremities (shoulder, elbow, knees, etc.).

Meanwhile... I love going in the gym today as the only "old fart" doing exercises like freeweight squats and Olympic clean-and-jerks. With my recent goatee and abandonment of Clairol (or Just for Men), seeing this man with dark hair but a shocking white goatee do these exercises causes a most strange reaction. The young studs start calling me "sir" (I HATE that...) and the athletic trainers are all befriending me. And moi? I'm just preserving and lengthening my athletic career.

Meanwhile... Do you know how funny it is for yours truly to watch the "bench and curl" crowd? Young bucks working on their peacock feathers.

Image

And yet... this is what a functional athlete and life-long coach sees.

Image

The real athletes know this, too. They see it in the way you move and the way you carry yourself. You can't help but exude "it." And there are no shortcuts to "it."

But boys will be boys...

Image

A few more comments...
  • One has to be very careful comparing practicing female karateka to practicing male karateka. There's a tremendous selection bias going on here. Far more women than men quit, leaving a very non-representative group of women as the prototypes for women in general. In my opinion, most of that is mindset relating to hormone action on the brain and not the body per se. But physical attributes come into play.
  • Mostly both the men and women need to get over themselves. Speaking of a superstar woman, I can't tell you the joy it is working with the likes of a Dana. I believe we've had discussions about this as well. Dana has been in both grappling and striking arts, so she's worked the spectrum. Not all her partners have treated her with the respect she is entitled to. Condescension is the operating word here. Me? I have a blast with here for many reasons - not the least of which that she is insanely good. There are other nuances at play here that lower our barriers wrt each other. That is what it is. Whatever it takes, go with it.
  • I think I have my greatest difficulty female-wise with adolescent women. When the bodies start to change, both boys and girls become very self conscious. And being the hypersensitive person I've become with years of teaching experience, let's just say I pick up on it. Again... you need two very good people working together, and both need to get over themselves. But those transition period have their moments. I'll never forget adolescent Elizabeth pushing 30-year-old Crystal square on the boobs in Kanshiwa bunkai. Elizabeth immediately blanched. And Crystal? She replied "Oh don't worry about it. There's nothing there anyhow." A sense of humor and a righteous heart helps.

- Bill


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 1:20 am 
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Currently I've promoted 5 people to black belt, 3 women and 2 men.
I find no drop out rate difference between men and women.
I have 22 year old guys who can't do 3 pushups and 11 year old girls who can bang out 30 and have physical fitness awards.

Men can certainly grow taller and have larger muscle mass. However, if women learn to strike accurately to strategic points and use methods men aren't accustomed to: such as vicious scratching to ears and eyes etc...I think they can come close to balancing the odds.

F.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:05 am 
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f.Channell wrote:

I find no drop out rate difference between men and women..

I keep both men and women equally through the first test. Then we start doing kyu kumite and lots of conditioning. That's what separates the women from the girls in my class.

If/when I get them early enough, it isn't a problem. Ideally it's just before puberty. But when I had them start as college-age women and they got those first few bruises, well that's when I'd loose the "girls." BIG time.

Once I got over that major hump, then things were cool.

My impression, Fred, is that your sample size is very small. Need more people before you get a good sense of it all. But congrats on your success.

One fact you can't get around is that women bruise more easily. A Dana (who rarely bruises any more) is an exception rather than the rule. The fact that women do bruise more easily has to do with hormones and such. And... it's one reason they live longer. That slower clotting rate ("thinner" blood) means they're less likely to throw a clot on a narrowed blood vessel (causing a heart attack or stroke). So it isn't all bad.

Vicki is more my norm for a female student. She still bruises easily. But she has the mindset of a pitbull. God knows I'd be a baby if I had bruises like that all the time. She's quite the trooper.

- Bill


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:33 pm 
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Well, when we look at the style how many 8+ female Dan ranks do we have?
How many famous female Okinawans can we emulate?
Is it unfair to think women are held up to male standards of conditioning?
Are the training methods currently used turning out as many female Dans as they should?
With kata training we fight an imaginary person our size and strength.
My thoughts are conditioning should be the same. In all possible cases women should condition with women their own size. After years of this some will be able to condition with men, some not. Do women need to be as conditioned as men for their style of self defense?

F.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:44 pm 
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All that conditioning does is to differentiate people who like to condition or are willing to do conditioning in order to achieve other training goals from those that don't or won't.

However, given that conditioning is generally a more lengthy and less rewarding process for women, is difficult to maintain, and takes quite a bit of time, it isn't hard to imagine why most women don't prefer to engage in heavy conditioning for years on end.

I think it important that women simply know what their goals are, are transparent about their goals with their teacher, determine whether the teacher is on board and willing to accommodate their goals, and go from there.

We've had women join our school that do not continue because their primary focus in kata development and did not wish to engage in the body changing exercises. Truth be told, we're not a "hard core" conditioning school. My own conditioning, since motherhood arrived, has taken a back seat to other priorities. However, even the level that we maintain as a baseline for progressing in the system wasn't of interest to them so we parted ways.

Many, many benefits of martial arts training can still be acquired without heavy conditioning or hard contact. It all depends on the individual's goals and the overall training environment.

Many mixed martial arts programs are adopting tag lines of along the lines of "come for the workout; stay to watch the fights" to attract more women into training.

I know there are Uechi schools out there that do not condition and do not fight and are still full of happy practitioners. Their training is as valid as any other as long as they are clear about what they're doing with prospective students.

I can certainly imagine that day, a few decades in the future, when I teach a movement and wellness class using the kata and training traditions of Uechi-ryu. It is a lovely thought to me and one that I would do now if I had the time.

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