Understanding the Difficulty Women Have in Losing Lower Body Fat

Photo credit: Millard Baker / Muscletime

Having worked with many different female clients, I can attest to the difficulty of getting their lower body as lean as their upper body. Over the years I have tried many different strategies to get them to lose lower body fat like men. One thing I have learned is that patience and commitment make all the difference. If you have those two with you, science can help with the rest. [Read more…]

Cyborgs in the Gym: The Technopolitics of Female Muscle

My general argument in this paper is that, contrary to the popular view of it as merely a simpleminded pursuit for large, oddly shaped, animated pieces of meat, bodybuilding is a scientific and technological practice. The bodybuilder not only conceives of her body as a site to be disciplined through various chemical and mechanical technologies, but as a collection of discrete parts distinguished from the whole, which can be individually manipulated. Thus I suggest that the bodybuilder is a cyborg. In her article, “A Cyborg Manifesto”, Donna Haraway attempts to create what she calls “an ironic political myth” which combines postmodernism with socialist feminism. Central to her myth is the image of the cyborg, which is “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” The cyborg for Haraway is both a metaphor for the postmodernist and political play of identity and a lived reality of new technology. [Read more…]

Female Bodybuilders, Fitness Competitors and the Crisis of Representation

This article is not just about female bodybuilders or fitness competitors. It is not about who is posing where and how. It is not about who is more feminine, athletic, sexy, muscular, or appropriate. It is about the creation, maintenance, and representation of a so-called crisis.

Avid watchers of physical culture, or anyone who reads mainstream muscle mags on the Stairmaster, will know that in recent years a “crisis” has been introduced into the world of women’s bodybuilding. This crisis is, of course, the appearance of fitness competitors, who are lauded by supporters as providing an athletic yet feminine alternative to ungainly and androgynous female bodybuilders, and criticized by detractors as being little more than pectorally amplified lingerie racks. [Read more…]

Planet Estrogen Part 3: The Menstrual Cycle and Athletic Performance

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Planet Estrogen

While the participation of women in sports has increased significantly over the last several decades, research of women in sports has lagged behind that of men. This is particularly true in matters related to reproduction and menstruation. Up until even recent years, women were cautioned not to partake in sports while pregnant or during menstruation because exercise during these times was thought to be detrimental to a woman’s health. While there certainly are precautions recommended for pregnant women, recent studies show that modified participation in exercise and sports activities is beneficial. As well, menstruation has become less of a roadblock in achieving sports goals for women. Nevertheless, there is still much we do not understand regarding women and gynecological issues. [Read more…]

Planet Estrogen Part 2: Apples and Pears

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Planet Estrogen

“At the same time that hormones challenge the pubertal brain, they change the body. A girl’s high estrogen content helps in the deposition of body fat on the breasts, hips, thighs and buttocks, subcutaneously, everywhere. Because of estrogen and auxiliary hormones, women have more body fat than men…..We can look at the deposition of body fat that comes with womanhood and say it’s natural for girls to fatten up when they mature, but what ‘natural’ means is subject to cultural definition, and our culture still hasn’t figured out how to handle fat.” –Natalie Angier1 [Read more…]

Planet Estrogen: Hormone Therapy, Training and Diet

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Planet Estrogen

A common concern amongst many women is how their hormones affect their exercise training and diet. Women’s bodies are influenced by fluctuations in hormones not only throughout the normal monthly reproductive cycle, but also throughout their entire lives. Both men and women experience a significant change in hormones at the onset of puberty and sexual maturation. For the remainder of their lives, men normally have less significant fluctuations in their sex hormone levels until approaching middle age. Studies document a gradual decline in sex hormones past the age of 40 years. Women, however, may see great fluctuations in sex hormone levels throughout their adult lives depending on physiological state, contraceptive methods, and menopause. [Read more…]

Female Athletes and Menstrual Irregularities

What sets the female gender apart most from the male is the dynamic rhythmicity of the reproductive cycle. Dynamic fluctuations in hormone levels cyclically prepare the female human body for propagation of the species despite the volitional intent to produce children. Today, more women are participating in sports activities and training has become increasingly intense. Consequently, the effect of exercise and nutrition on women’s reproductive and metabolic physiology has become an important aspect of sports pathology. What happens to women’s bodies when the ever-changing circus of hormones is altered by exercise and diet? [Read more…]

Staying A-Breast of Things

Here in Texas where it is warm people like to show their skin regardless of size or stature. All too common I see women on the treadmills or in the aerobics classes who have double-C breasts crammed into flimsy size-B sports bras, their breast mass bouncing up and down like swinging water balloons. Many women wear so-called ‘sports’ bras made of non-supportive and flimsy fabric, opting for appearances rather than functionality. They make me cringe in pain. Most of these women don’t realize that they are destroying their natural breast support and, if continued, their breasts will become “belly ornaments” in a matter of years. [Read more…]

Female Bodybuilders and the Feminine Mystique: Where Bev Francis meets Betty Friedan

Will there ever come a day where women become separated from how the world views their bodies or are they destined to forever be defined by them? The female physique is a constant topic of debate between those intent on controlling it and those who wish to be freed from its constraints. Female bodybuilders pose the ultimate threat to the male ego as they challenge the shared assumption that men are, and will always be, more powerful than women. Based on this notion, society has continued to over sexualize women’s bodies in a concerted effort to diminish them from attaining any real power; as it is much easier to accept a muscular woman if she is portrayed as overtly sexual. For this reason, most women have learned to justify and/or apologize for their physical development in order to be accepted by a population who fails to understand it.

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The Language of the Female Physique

The female physique continues to be a constant topic of debate between those intent on controlling it and those who wish to be freed from its constraints, as women strive to become separated from how the world views their bodies. A woman’s gender role requires the strict adherence to the ideal female form judged by standards of femininity that are culturally specific and historically located designed to keep her in a perpetual state of weakness. There are numerous examples from popular culture which outlines how women’s power has become dictated by the media, their weakness embedded in a language that glamorizes addiction and their continued participation reinforced through the adoption of Western standards of beauty across the globe in a deliberate intent to create and maintain control over their body and mind. The combination of these efforts serve to keep women’s progress under wraps and prevent them from attaining any real form of power or sense of control over their lives. [Read more…]