Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Inaugural Women's Football Wednesday


What A Girl Wants, What A Girl Needs...

Women’s footy is almost here and I really think it will be extremely entertaining and I’ll take my 6yr old son to a bunch of games for sure.

Even with the game will be ever slightly, hybrid with 16 players per team on the park at once compared to 18 a team in the men’s comp, this allows for the game to be more open, less congested and possibly a better “watching” product with high skill level being able to be displayed with more area to work in without pressure.

It's a great time to be an aspiring Women's AFL footballer. With the league in it's infancy, and a wanting to expand as quick as possible, there will never be more playing list availabilities as there is right now and with the right training methods and development, you could be on an AFL list this time next year!

Needs Analysis for the Female Footballer

Women athletes have a specific set of requirements that need to be addressed.

At the very top of the list is the need to PERFECT deceleration mechanics, and I mean PERFECT them so you don’t even need to think about them.

Deceleration mechanics refers to slowing down and stopping or changing direction.

It’s no secret that female athletes can be up to 5 x more likely to tear an anterior cruciate ligament in the knee then a male for a variety of reasons including:

  • Having a narrower space in the knee for the ACL to pass through
  • The actual ACL is smaller and thus weaker in women
  • Females have a wider hips resulting in an acute Q angle which is the angle from you’re the most lateral part of your hips to the your lateral knee which presents as knock knees which exasperates internal rotation (falls inwards) upon landing or changing direction putting all sorts of pressure on the knee joint itself
  • Women tend to have more flexibility to their connective tissue and their muscle tissue is also more elastic than males which can lead to excessive movement and thus a slower contraction time leaving you vulnerable during high velocity movements
  • General weaker muscles of the body are the glutes, hamstrings and upper back and obviously this gets worse with females as they are naturally relatively weaker than men as far as physical strength is concerned. During AFL footy, acceleration and deceleration is a primary function of the glutes, hamstrings and quads. Non-surprisingly women are quad dominant in most cases too so again, females are vulnerable if the correct strength training hasn’t been performed.
  • In a single menstrual cycle there are times when you’re connective is strong and times when it is extremely weak so training loads need to correlate with your cycle.
  • Poor landing, deceleration an change of direction mechanics
  • A runner’s build for a female is small boobs and a small waist so if you’re not gifted in those stakes then maybe try alternate forms of conditioning to ease impact and joint stress at various times of the season
Built for Endurance

Females, although not as strong in a relative sense compared to men, do have something up on us blokes and that’s endurance. Women have a far higher percentage of slow twitch muscle fibres which provides them with far greater relative endurance then men.

Female advantages leading to greater relative endurance includes:
  • They have a higher 5 of fat meaning they can power their cells for longer from reserves without the need for replenishment so you can go harder for longer before blowing up
  • Because their power output is lower compared to males it means they don’t hit glycolytic pathways (hit the wall) as easy or as often as men meaning you can burn more fat for fuel during activity and you can prolong the time it takes to hit your anaerobic threshold which interchange bench time
  • Will recover far better from high intensity exercise then men again because extremely high power outputs cannot be reached in most cases so recover occurs quicker
  • Their muscles can contain as much force as men but because their muscle mass is far lower, the actual output is lower
  • Can perform more reps a given % of load then men so where a bloke might get 5 reps at 85% of max load, females might get 7 – 8
  • The one disadvantage is that up to 80% of females can have clinical anemia which means you have less iron and thus oxygen in your blood which can affect mood and energy output.

As a personal trainer I have trained females for over 10 years and I probably like to train dedicated females the best as their potential for improvement and growth is ridonkulous!

Over my years of personal training, this is what I have found and see if any of these ring a bell:
  • They require more intensity with their training because as alluded to above they are already blessed with pretty good natural endurance.
  • They love, love, love positive enforcement
  • They require a lot of stability based work at the “core” to learn how to safely control the high forces that go there during footy training and games.
  • Always underestimate their strength and where it can get to
  • Might not do much free weight training because they don’t know how to
  • Will tend to not increase training load until instructed to
  • Train “too fast” so will need rest periods reinforced constantly
  • More is not better, better is better
  • Don’t sweat as much
  • Will be more successful with multiple rep personal bests rather single rep (3 rep max over 1 rep max)
Body Composition

We all have different body shapes, which leads to different body fat storage patterns but females take this to a different level than men.

Body Composition is critical to elite performance but is too often overlooked at the local/amateur level but you’ll see the players with better body composition will generally be your fittest and most injury resilient players.

Here some points on getting that elite body for football, specific to women:
  • Blood sugar imbalances can increase testosterone which can make it impossible to lose fat
  • Adrenal and gut dysfunction will affect blood sugar levels
  • The rate of fat or weight loss will be slower than men simply because you have less overall mass. It’s easier to lose 10kgs off 100kgs then 5 of 50.
  • Tend to lose body fat from top to bottom
  • Have less vascularisation in the lower body as less blood vessels + lower fat stores = harder to mobilize fatty acids
  • Need more training volume and thus energy expenditure because of higher fat levels to lose fat
  • Can’t restrict calories as much as men as you still need a minimum of calories so again you’ll need to look at energy expenditure for the most part.
  • Respond better to low carb then men which is great for insulin and thus blood sugar levels down but they can also be more sensitive to low carb as your body is programmed to maintain body fat for reproduction.
These aren’t knocks but rather points to consider when developing a training program for the female footballer.

I’ll be getting far deeper into these topics and more over the weeks leading into the AFL Women’s season so if you’re a female footballer gunning for the AFL for season 2018 then you can sign up to the Aussie Rules Training Weekly Newsletter that goes out every Monday with plenty of goodies in it!

If you have any specific questions on training for footy then head over to the Facebook page, Like and I'll get back to you on the same day pretty much.

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