Weight Training for Women and Older Martial Artists:
An Interview with Charles Staley
by Tom Ross
one of this interview, 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 record.
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
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.
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 trainers?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.