It (Hoover et al., 2006). Some of the early


It has been thirty-one years since the
first women`s international weight lifting competition (Hoover, Carlson,
Christensen, & Zebas, 2006). Up until that time, it appears it has always
been of debate whether women should have access to the world that men dominate (Hoover et
al., 2006). Many people thought that the performance of the female
athletes would never reach a high level (Brace-Govan,
2004). It is believed that female participants put their femininity at risk and
threaten the accepted social order (Brace-Govan,
2004). However, women wanted to compete and most of all they wanted equality (Brace-Govan, 2004).

The history of female weight lifting is
also interesting from the sport management point of view, in terms of how the
sport evolved. In only fifteen years female weightlifting progressed from the first official
international competition to the Olympic Games (Hoover et al., 2006).

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Some of the early
stars helped the acceptance of female competitors in this sport. One of whom
was Csilla Földi, sixteen-times European champion weightlifter, daughter of
five-times Hungarian Olympian weightlifter champion Imre Földi. She and her father/coach gave the idea of women’s
lifting a lot of legitimacy in the first women’s international tournament which
was held in Budapest, Hungary on the 23rd of March 1986 (“Women’s
Weightlifting: A Journey of 25 Years | Breaking Muscle,” n.d.).

This was followed by the first World
Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1987, and it was followed by many Continental
Championships of all age groups. Finally, in 2000 women’s weightlifting entered
the Olympic games in Sydney (Hoover, Carlson,
Christensen, & Zebas, 2006).

In 2002 female weightlifting had been
introduced in the Commonwealth Games. The 34-year-old Kunjarani Nameirakpam Indian
sport woman has won the snatch, clean and jerk, and overall gold medals in the
female 48 kg weight category (Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India,
2015). She became the first female weightlifting champion in the Commonwealth
Games history (Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, 2015).

Currently female
weightlifters are in the spotlight more than before (Olympic women and the
media., 2004). One example of this is Zoe Smith, who represented
Great Britain in the 2012 Olympic games (, 2017). She
was told that “she looks like a man” and “she should go back to the kitchen
where she belongs”. She won this in 2014 and two years later years later she
broke the Commonwealth record and won gold medal (,

The performance development in the Olympic
weightlifting event has not been researched as much in women weightlifters as
in men (Harbili, 2012). Prior to the first Women’s World Weightlifting
Championship, no data has been recorded on the power output generated by women
during performing the snatch and clean and jerk, or other explosive athletic
activities (Akkus, n.d.).  American
biomechanist Dr. John Garhammer`s studies of the snatch and clean and jerk have
resulted in the greatest reported power outputs for men (Garhammer, 1980). These findings encouraged Garhammer to undertake
equivalent examinations for women, and study their maximal power output
capabilities. Films recorded at the first World Weightlifting Championship in
1987 in Florida were analysed to identify the average power output during the
total pulling phase, and the second pulling stage, for the heaviest successful
snatch and clean and jerk of gold prize-winners in each body-weight category. The
results of this study have been compared with the existing data on power output
by male lifters (Garhammer, 1980). The female lifters’ average relative power output
during the entire snatch lifts was 22.5 ± 1.7 W/Kg, for men at the 1978 World
Championship the group average relative power output was 34.4 ± 2.5 W/Kg. This data
shown the women`s power output value being about 65.4% as great. During the pulling
stage of clean lifts, figures indicate 21.0 ± 1.8 W/Kg power output for women
and 34.2 ± 3.6 W/Kg for men, resulting women’s value being 61.4% greater than men`s.
Small standard deviation values shown consistency for both genders in power
output volume per unit body mass during this short and explosive physical
activity. In addition, when the second pull was analysed, the power output
figures were considerably higher. In the snatch lift, the group average
relative values for women and men were 40.1 ± 5.0 W/Kg and 52.7 ± 4.5 W/Kg, the
women’s value being 76.1 % as great as men’s. The equivalent values for the
cleans were 38.2 ± 3.3 W/Kg and 52.5 ± 8.9 W/Kg, the women’s results being 72.8
% that of the men.

study has been undertaken during the 1998 World Championship (Akkus, n.d.). The results of this study shown that women lifted
greater loads and applied more power in the second pull than men, but the
duration of their second pull, their maximum vertical barbell velocity, and
their maximum barbell height were lower. In addition, female athletes flexed
their knees less and slower than men during the transition stage, and they
dropped under the barbell slower. They were more flexible than men, the
decreased extension values of the lower limb observed during the first pull indicated
that their maximal strength was lower compared to men. The results revealed that
women were less efficient than men in the first pull, which is strength
oriented, however they were as efficient as men in the second pull phase, which
is more power oriented. This is important in terms of applying appropriate
training focus towards techniques that develop maximum strength during the
first pull and increase the explosive strength of the extensor muscles about
the hip, knee, and ankle joints during the second pull.

To compare performances across the
different body weight classes, Sinclair scores, based upon recent world record
totals and adjusted each Olympic year are used (Storey & Smith, 2012). The
lifter’s actual competition total is multiplied by the appropriate Sinclair
number. The score is an indication of the total the lifter would achieve in
theory if they were in the super heavy-weight class with the same lifting
skills (Storey & Smith, 2012). In untrained and/or trained males and
females, reported sex-related variances in total neuromuscular strength and
power range from 31% to 48% and 17% to 46% (Storey & Smith, 2012). However,
when comparing the current under 69 kg (the only common body weight class
between sexes) world record lifts for youth, junior and senior male and female
weightlifters, there is a constant sex-related difference of 15-20% (Storey
& Smith, 2012). Therefore, it is apparent that although long-term
weightlifting training reduces the sex related difference in neuromuscular function,
factors such as the delivery and total amount of lean body mass in male and female
weightlifters will eventually influence the expression of strength and power
across all age and weight categories (Storey & Smith, 2012).

Pearson (2002) demonstrated, that masters athletes (aged between 40–87
years) were able to produce 32% more isometric knee extensor force and lower limb
explosive power compared to healthy, untrained adults. It is likely that neuromuscular
features contributed to this improved functionality in older lifters as no substantial
differences in lean lower body volume existed between groups. Additionally, the
maximal motor unit discharge rates in the rectus femoris of masters’
weightlifters have been shown to be 20% greater than in untrained adults within
the same age-range. It has been recognised that long-term weightlifting
training can reduce age-related decline in motor unit size. However, it was also
concluded that only the ability to perform compound and explosive power exercises
decline at a higher rate in females. These findings are agreeing with previous
investigations, which have demonstrated that women undergo greater age-related
declines in muscle shortening velocity and peak power than men, which is likely
due to a decreased neural drive and a combination of muscle fibre loss and
atrophy (Storey & Smith, 2012). These results emphasise the physiological variety
stated between males and females that coaches should be mindful of during
training and program design.

Hormonal changes can affect these
parameters, which in turn can affect force production. Anabolic hormones such
as growth hormone and testosterone can have significant effects on strength in
both men and women (Komi, 1992). In women the concentrations of various
hormones, including testosterone are influenced by the menstrual cycle. Because
these hormones (e.g. Progesterone, testosterone) can have effects on metabolic and
neuromuscular function, their training potentially can be affected during
different phases of the cycle (Häkkinen et al., 1990). Many females experience
fatigue prior to menstruation (Kishali, Mamoglu, Katkat, Atan, & Akyol,
2006). They conduct high intensity workouts and complain of heaviness in the
leg muscles (Kishali et al., 2006). However, post cycle female organism has
been observed to be “as good as new” (Kishali et al., 2006). It has been established
that women achieve greater sport results during the period between cycles
(Bossi, Kostelis, Walsh & Sawyer, 2013). It has also been recognised that
the dynamics of speed and strength rise and fall in accordance with the different
phases of the menstrual cycle and that strength is greater in the post-menstrual
and post-ovulation phases, which links to the peek output of sex hormones
(Bossi et al., 2013). Again, this should be an important consideration during
program planning for coaches with female athletes.

In conclusion, as competitive weightlifting
is increasing in popularity around the world, focus needs to be directed
towards understanding the responses and long-term adaptations of female
weightlifters, as the existing research is largely dependent on male athletes. Elite female weightlifters,
such as Zoe Smith, may help eliminate the social stereotypes perceived by
others (Brace-Govan, 2004). In support of this, women seem less afraid to
display their feminine athletic figures (Brace-Govan, 2004). It seems women
have evolved to represent strength, will power and stamina (Brace-Govan, 2004),
which in this current age, may be encouraging to both future female generations
and future athletes.










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