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Optimizing Women’s Strength Training

Hormone fluctuations affect the risk of muscle damage, soreness and strength loss during female weight lifting.

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Hormone effects on female weight lifting and strength training

A new research review sheds light on how monthly hormonal changes influence the risk of muscle damage during female weight lifting. The findings provide insight into how trainers can modify a strength conditioning program depending on which phase of her cycle a female client is in.

Published in The Journal of Strength Conditioning and Research (2020; doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000003878), the review suggests that a woman’s natural changes in hormone levels during her monthly cycle can affect her risk of incurring exercise-induced muscle damage (in the form of delayed-onset muscle soreness and strength loss).

Study authors recommend that trainers consider using lower training loads or longer recovery intervals in the early follicular phase (day 1 of period to day 9), when hormone concentrations are lower and women may be more vulnerable to muscle damage. Strength training loads could then be increased in the midluteal phase (days 18–23), when injury risks are lower. Note: This is based on a 28-day cycle.

See also: Women and Strength Training


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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