Podcast Review: Training the Female Athlete with Janet Alexander and Jason Glass

I recently listened to a podcast with Jason Glass and Janet Alexander about training  the female athlete.   I've always  known that the menstrual cycle can cause laxity in the joints and make the female athlete more susceptible to injury, but I didn’t know to what extent and how to we should change our training methods for female athletes. Here  are a few  pearls that I picked up from the podcast. 

The Basics:

  • The cycle can last between 28 to 35 days but can vary 
  • Week 1 refers to the  start of mense/ period
  • Estrogen, progesterone and relaxin  will all fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and can increase ligamentous laxity  
  • Ligamentous laxity can put  athletes at risk of injury  
  • More hormonal fluctuation  with women who are NOT on the pill 
  • Understanding how hormones can change during the cycle  can help  coaches pick  the most appropriate exercise to help  keep the female athelte safe yet effective during their training 

Female Athlete Strength Training Menstrual Cycle Vancouver Physiotherapy Jessie Wong.png

 

How to Tell Your Athletes Apart

Vancouver Physiotherapy Physio Jessie Wong strength Women weight_versus_lean_muscle.jpeg

Type 1 (high estrogen) 

  • Short, curvy, more estrogen

  • Optimal work out time: Week 2 and 3  of cycle 

Type 2 (low estrogen)

  • Tall, small breasted, was  late getting their period, lean, long limbs

  • Optimal work out time: Week 1 and 4  of cycle 

Type 3 (mixed high/low estrogen)

  • Stuck in the middle between Type 1 and Type 2 

  •  Optimal work out time:  Difficulty to determine 

  • Must assess case by case

 What does this all mean? 

If you or your athlete falls in the  Type 1 category , then  you should consider  training for heavier and bigger lifts (ie. Olympic and power lifts) during week 2-3,  and more  stability  and closed chain exercises during week 1 and 4. 

If you trained all your  female athletes the same way, you may be putting some of them at risk of injury due to  laxity  during their  cycle or potentially not training them to their highest potential. 

Does it Really Matter  When you Train During Your Cycle? 

During the podcast, Janet mentioned a study that blew me away. There was a study  done  to compare  strength  gains  while training in either the follicular phase vs the luteal phase .  The study had  female athletes  perform single leg,  leg presses  at 80% of 1RM, 3 sets to failure,  3x/week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)  for  12 weeks during the follicular phase  on the right leg. The same parameters were performed  but on the left leg during the luteal phase. 

female athlete strength single leg leg press Vancouver Physiotherapy physio Jessie Wong.jpg

The Results: 

There was a 46%  increase in strength and a 0.5cm diameter size difference  when they lifted during the follicular phase vs the luteal phase.   So, I would say that's a pretty huge difference and that it DOES matter when you train during your cycle. 

Check out  the orginal podcast here  on Jason Glass' website  or download the podcast off iTunes. 

 

Thanks for reading! 

Jessie Wong , Vancouver physiotherapist