Weight Training for Women and Older Martial Artists:
An Interview with Charles Staley
(Part 2 of 3)
by Tom Ross
one of this three part series, 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 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
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
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
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
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.
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