Weight Training for Women and Older Martial Artists:
An Interview with Charles Staley
by Tom Ross
one, Staley discussed the subject of Strength Training
Benefits for Martial Artists.
Charles Staley is a sports conditioning specialist and author of the
newly released book "Strength Training Benefits for Martial Artists".
FightingArts.com: Do you feel strength training to be of value
to the older martial artist, and how should the approach to training
be handled by a sixty year old as opposed to a twenty year old?
Staley: As we age, we steadily lose our fast twitch muscle fibers-
the ones responsible for our ability to function, maintain posture,
and keep the metabolic rate at a high level. The value of properly performed
strength training is that it slows the loss of these valuable fibers,
so that you lose physical functioning at a much slower rate than if
you did not train. In power lifting, there are men over the age of 60
who squat over 600 pounds- a weight that would simply squash the average
man. One well-known power lifting coach recently lifted 900 pounds at
age 58. This is only a tad less than the current open category world
Many, many studies have now been conducted with people over 80 years
old, and it has been demonstrated that strength can be easily and safely
doubled in a few months, even at these advanced ages. Kind of exciting,
I think. Older athletes need to approach it more conservatively, and
they should have supervision (as should everyone).
FA: Many female martial artists I've spoken to have failed to
utilize a strength training program due to fears that it would add excess
bulk or stimulate a masculine appearance. Could you address these fears?
Staley: I recently went on a hike in the Valley of Fire National
Park, about an hour north of Las Vegas. During a break for lunch, a
female friend of mine mentioned that she had just benched pressed 135
pounds for the first time ever. Another member of our party, a successful
artist with an advanced academic degree, asked what the world record
was for the bench press. When I replied that it was something over 400
pounds for women, he replied "Jeez, why would you want to take
it that far?" I quickly jumped in and responded, "Why would
you climb Mt. Everest, or try to earn your first million by age 30?"
He then said "What I mean is, why would you want to get so big?"
I was just dumbfounded that this man had no ability to distinguish between
being strong and looking like a "brick outhouse." My client
Mariam Power, who is the Canadian Jr. Champion in the sport of power
lifting, bench presses 240 and squats over 400 at a body weight of 155.
She looks like a Victoria's Secret model.
When a woman is strong, but maintains modest proportions, no one seems
to notice. It's only when you have a woman who weighs 240 (who probably
was always big, even before she ever touched a weight) that people notice.
If you ask a middle-aged woman when she thinks she was in her best
shape ever, she'll invariably say that it was in her late teens or early
twenties. Know why?
FA: Because her metabolism has slowed down?
Staley: Indirectly, yes. It's because that's when she had the
most muscle (which is what fueled her high metabolism). Repeat after
me..."Muscle is our friend, muscle is our friend."
You can also look at women at high levels in sport- Katerina Witt,
(figure skating), Marion Jones (track & field). These are strong
women, much stronger than the average man. And most women wouldn't mind
looking like them, I assure you.
FA: True enough. Would you say that a female martial artist
begins by utilizing the same approach recommended for male strength
Staley: Yes, in general. There are some differences of course.
Truthfully, when I train an athlete, I look at that person individually
-- the concept of sport-specific or gender-specific training is a bit
over-rated. In other words, regardless of their gender or sporting event,
I look at their posture, flexibility levels, training experience, injury
status, and so on. These parameters probably have a greater bearing
on how I train them than their gender.
FA: Many male weight lifters take precautions to prevent training
injuries such as a hernia, etc. Are there any areas of concern a female
new to strength training should be careful of?
Staley: In general, no. Incidentally, most lifting injuries
are not what I could call an "acute" event, such as a muscle
tear or someone blowing their back out. Usually, it's long term, incorrect
lifting that can potentially set the athlete up for an injury down the
road. A lot of this can be avoided by ensuring that one's training program
has adequate diversity and variation.
The main difference I find in training females is that they have a
lot of preconceived fears about resistance training making them look
masculine, and so on. Having trained a lot of female athletes, I'm fairly
skilled at educating them about why that won't happen. And I will say
that women are very gratifying to work with, because when they do get
super strong, I'll tell you, they just LOVE it. Many women are surprised
by their own reaction, in fact.
A related article by Charles Staley is Strength
Development: Fundamentals for Martial Artists.
About the Author
Charles I. Staley, B.Sc., MSS, is a sports conditioning specialist
and Vice President of Program Development for the International Sports
Sciences Association. A former martial arts competitor and trainer,
Staley is also an Olympic weightlifting coach, as well as a master's
level track and field competitor (discus event). He has coached elite
athletes from many sports, including martial arts, boxing, track &
field, football, Olympic weightlifting, and body building. Staley has
written over 150 published articles, and has lectured extensively on
the topics of human performance and sports training. He has recently
authored a text on conditioning for the martial arts (Strength Training
Benefits for Martial Artists), and has several other books in the planning
stages. See: www.myodynamics.com.
He may be reached at (800) 519-2492, or through the internet at email@example.com.