The Top 3 Reasons Why Women Make the Best Olympic Weightlifters

one of Nick's athletes at work

Today is a guest post from my friend, Nick Horton of TheIronSamurai.com. Enjoy!

When most people who aren’t already familiar with strength sports think of an Olympic weightlifter, they tend to imagine a huge fat dude with a hairy back holding a heavy bar over his balding head, screaming at the top of his lungs, his face red as tomato bisque, arms crawling with popped veins, and sweating like a stuck pig.

That view is totally correct … for about 0.0001% of weightlifters!

However, in reality, those guys make up an ironically small proportion of the total number of weightlifters out there. Most men who are into the sport of Olympic Weightlifting are actually quite lean and tend to be shorter than average height. (Like me!)

More importantly, right here in America, almost 50% of all Olympic weightlifters are women. These women are remarkably strong, fast, agile, flexible, mobile, and lean. (Super heavy women aren’t lean, but they make up for it by being even stronger! You’d be shocked by how flexible they are, too.)

In short, an Olympic weightlifting woman is the epitome of a Beautiful Badass!

Now, if what I just said was news to you, then this will knock your socks off: I honestly believe that women are MORE suited to the sport of Olympic weightlifting than men are on average. (That last bit is critical!)

I’ve got three big reasons, but before we get into all of that, I’ve gotta clear a few things up.

Stop Being Sexist Nick

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m a sexist pig.

I’ll bet you’re saying, “Just what do you have against Men, anyway, Nick? Males make mighty fine weightlifters and have all of that extra testosterone and muscly-muscle. Pound for pound, and all other things being equal, a man will lift more weight than a woman! Doesn’t that already prove that you are out of your mind with your ‘women make the best weightlifters’ BS?”

Yes and No.

It all depends upon what you are looking for, and how you are using the word “best”.

Sure, one way you can define someone as being the best in weightlifting is to simply give the award to the person who lifts the most weight. But the sport of Olympic lifting isn’t that simplistic. (Thank Heavens!)

Weightlifting, like wrestling, has weight-classes. So you are only competing against people who weigh about the same as you. Certainly, the biggest folk lift the most weight, but they are large and only compete against other large people. If you are tiny, you will only compete against tiny people.

Second, weightlifting is divided into sex-classes (that’s not as fun as it sounds!), so that if you are a woman you aren’t competing against men. It doesn’t matter that there is a 69 kilo (151 pound) class for both genders. We don’t compare them based on how much weight they lifted. We don’t compare them at all! They are like apples and oranges in that sense.

Heck, we even have age-classes. If you are 47 years old, you only compete with people between the ages of 45 and 49, who are about your same weight, and are of the same gender.

My point is that using how much weight someone lifts as the criteria for “bestness” (that’s a word, I swear) doesn’t make much sense in the sport of weightlifting – as ironic as that seems!

Instead, I use a different set of metrics that help me – as a coach – make predictions based on how well a person is likely to do relative to their respective classes (gender, weight, age). Weight on bar just isn’t enough.

A Little Math For The Road

Before you freak out by the sight of the word “math”, let me assure you that this will be painless! Also, I promise that this little interlude will help make my REASONS for believing what I do about women and weightlifting more clear.

I’m going to reiterate my basic point that I think the average woman will take to the sport of weightlifting better than the average man.

But, what do I mean by average woman or average man?

That’s a VERY good question, and the answer to it is something most people get wrong all the time – including some very smart people.

There is no such thing as an average woman

I’m not saying that to be hyperbolic. I don’t mean that all women are exceptional or something silly like that. I mean that the average woman is a theoretical construct, a platonic form, or (more simply) a made-up idea.

I know you know (that I know that you know) that!

And yet we ALL mess it up all the time.

EXAMPLE: Let’s say I have 2 friends, Shark and Shrimp, that I have (ever so nicely) stuck in my closet, and I tell you that the average height of these fishy-folk in the closet is 5’6″ tall.

When I ask Shark to come out of the closet, before you see her, you will automatically be expecting her to be roughly 5 feet and 6 inches tall.

That assumption is totally natural, but … it’s often DEAD wrong!

If Shark is exactly 6 feet tall, and Shrimp is only 5 feet tall, then I was correct to say the average person in that closet is 5’6″. It just didn’t apply to any one person who is actually in the closet. There was NO ONE in the closet who was 5’6″.

The theoretical *average person* in the closet doesn’t exist as a real person.

Averages are weird that way. They trick our human brains into thinking things are true that are not.

They are extremely useful in giving us data that we can use to predict behavior of groups – as groups. But they don’t help us much when dealing with any particular individual.

You are unique.

So is every weightlifter. The male and female lifters in my gym have FAR more in common with one another than they do with people who are not into weightlifting.

It just so happens that, in my opinion, and totally *on average*, an average woman in the general population is more likely to have the qualities I’m looking for in a weightlifter than the average man.

Averages, not individuals.

OK! Now that we got that out of the way, let’s go over the details of why I think the ladies were born to be buff.

ONE: Women Are More Patient Than Men

This first one is a big one, and is by far the most important reason for my belief that women make the best weightlifters.

  • You may know that Olympic weightlifting is a strength sport
  • You may know it’s a technical sport
  • You may even know that it’s a speed sport

… But I’ll bet you don’t know that weightlifting is primarily a MENTAL sport.

That fact gives the average woman an edge over the average man. Not because women are smarter than men. In that area, we’re all about the same. It’s because women are more prone to a mental tenacity and calm that is ESSENTIAL in a great weightlifter.

Patience to stick to the basics – the fundamentals of technique, as well as the fundamentals of strength training – for as long as it takes, no matter how boring it seems, or how tedious, is non-negotiable.

Young hot-shot dude personalities (read: high school and college guys) will fail right out of the gates. They want to lift big heavy weights NOW. Anything less, and they feel unmanly. (To be fair, at that age, they ARE unmanly.)

Learning how to snatch well, with very heavy weights, is regularly cited as one of the toughest skills to learn in all of sports.

Imagine that!

Olympic weightlifting technique is as hard as the pole vault, or gymnastics, or synchronized swimming, or baseball pitching, or anything else you can think of.

Weightlifting takes years – not weeks, not months, years – to master.

The reasons I believe woman are more ideally suited to the rigors of Olympic weightlifting are the same reasons behind why woman are accruing more college degrees than men are: They don’t give up when the going gets tough and they see the value in working hard now so that they can have success later.

I’ve found that women who walk into my gym understand the concepts of deferred gains and long term planning far better than men do. Sure, there are exception. My best male lifters get it, of course. And there are many many women who don’t.

But on average, it holds true: Women are more patient than men.

TWO: Women Have Wide Hips and a Lower Center of Balance

Ever noticed the difference between how hiking backpacks are designed for men and women?

For guys, the support strap goes around the chest. For women, the support strap goes around the hips.

Males center of balance is around the shoulder region. They have wider shoulders than they do hips. And many men have a far easier time putting on muscular body weight above the waist than they do below it.

Females center of balance is at the hips. They put muscle on their lower halves easier than their upper halves. And often the hips are the widest part of their entire bodies.

While this body shape that so many women have wouldn’t work well for a WNBA star, a marathon runner, or a pro soccer player, it is AWESOME for a weightlifter!

Big, strong, wide hips make for the strongest lifters.

Interesting factoid: The best male weightlifters have wider than normal hips when you compare them to other men of their same height. But they never have hips like women do. They aren’t that lucky!!

THREE: Women are More Coachable

When I tell an athlete to do something, they have two choices: follow my advice, or don’t.

Here’s a shocker. There is a VERY high correlation between those athletes that actually do what I tell them to do and those that get the fastest results.

Lifters who do what their coaches tell them to do, pay close attention, and do it all without complaining are called “coachable”.

As a rule, I find women to be FAR more coachable than men.

Men often have a, “I’m gonna do it my own way,” thing going. (Women will ask for directions if they are lost, men won’t … or so goes the old joke.) Men want to figure things out on their own, even if that means reinventing the wheel and doing things the hard way. I don’t begrudge them this, I’ve got a lot of that myself. But it does slow them down in the weight room.

If you want to get results FAST, hire a coach or teacher. That coach will steer you in the right direction, help you avoid common pitfalls, and get you up and running in no time.

If you want to create for yourself a great learning experience then do things your own way, and fail a lot. You’ll learn a ton about what not to do, in a deep way. That kind of knowledge is often more valuable than the any other kind. But, it comes at a price, a steep price: it is SLOW!

Both are honest useful ways to go about something (many great coaches and teachers went about things the second way … most great athletes did things the first way).

To put yourself on the fast track, get a good coach and do absolutely everything they tell you to do without question.

That kind of ability – the ability great athletes like Michael Jordan or Serena Williams have – is rare, and is more often found in women than men.

Conclusion

All of this is just my own opinion which is based upon my own experience and the experience of other coaches I’ve talked to.

What I want you to take away from this is a few things:

  • Women are FAR more suited to a strength sport like Olympic Weightlifting than the general culture in our country would lead people to believe
  • The best male lifters have similar qualities to the best female lifters. And both are more like each other than they are like the general population.
  • There is no such thing as the average woman … but if there were, she’d be WAY above average!

If you’d like to learn more about Olympic weightlifting, make sure you check out my free eBook, The 7 Deadly Sins of Weightlifting. It will help you to avoid the seven major things most beginners get wrong.

Now go lift something heavy!

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  • “I freaking LOVE this info! I'm determined to be a Beautiful Badass!” -Tina V
  • http://www.theironsamurai.com Nick Horton

    Thanks for posting this Nia!

    It was fun to write. Now … who's got comments or questions I can answer? ;-)

    • jarod

      how do women make better oly weightlifters when men are stronger.
      men>women

      Proof:
      Women’s 63kg total olympic record: 246kg
      Men’s 62kg total olympic record: 327kg

      • Emma Pursey

        Did you not read the article? Apples, oranges, averages, blah blah blah…

  • Angela

    Cool stuff:)

    that's very encouraging . If i had access to a coach and can afford it that's the route that i would take. Right now i'm making the most of where i can lift and that is at a Crossfit gym. Way better than nothing though! :)

  • http://www.C4Fizeek.com Joel

    Great article, Nick! You hit the reasons spot on. My best lifters are females. Actually, they are girls. http://c4fizeek.com/2012/01/18/my-very-first-olympic-lifters/

    Now, I don't want to sound sexist but I feel that I have to say it anyway. I just hope the women do not hunt me down and castrate me. LOL. Here we go:

    Another reason why women make the best Olyers is because, relatively speaking, their upper bodies – particularly the arms – are 'weaker' than male. This makes it so much easier for them to NOT muscle up the bar (i.e. premature arm bending) and instead rely on hip explosion (as they should) when popping the bar in position. My male lifters, especially with bodybuilding experience, have a difficult time eliminating the arm bending.. Ugh.. But the ladies, whoa, when I say “use your hips” they know exactly what I'm talking about.

  • http://www.theironsamurai.com Nick Horton

    Joel,

    I'm totally with you about the “muscling” tendency among dudes … especially dudes who spend a lot of years Bodybuilding or Powerlifting (like I did!) BAD HABITS of always using the upper body to do everything lead to some ugly snatches!! LOL

  • http://www.theironsamurai.com Nick Horton

    Angela,

    That IS better than nothing. I LOVE the fact that CrossFit has made platforms and bumpers and the Oly lifts more accessible to more people. That's a great thing.

    Keep it up!! I'm here to help ;-)

  • http://GordonWatts.com/#health Gordon Watts

    Quick Question, Nick:

    When you say 'Center of Balance,' you don't mean 'Center of Gravity,' do you?

    (Center of Gravity is the point where you could grab a person and balance them, and while women have a lower “center of gravity” then men -owing to the fact that their lower body is more developed as a percentage of total body mass than men, nonetheless, I suspect average female “centre of gravity” is not that different than for men –just a few percentage points compared to overall height, I would guess.)

    Secondly, women are _on average) *shorter* then men, and speaking from experience (as well as what i recall from my college Physics courses), I can tell you that being tall has leverage disadvantages in many facets of lifting weight.

    Thx in advance for clarifying my question, if you can & weighing on my my 2nd comment too.

  • Tim

    What was the point of this article? It's just a bunch of anecdotal observations based on outdated stereotypes. It provides no useful information. It's as helpful as an article that states that men make better librarians, or red-haired people are the best archers – in other words, the written version of elevator music.

  • http://www.theironsamurai.com Nick Horton

    Gordon,

    (Sorry, I thought I'd responded a few days a go, but I must have forgot to push the “submit” button … ooops!)

    Yes, you're totally correct. My mistake. There's the trouble with being your own editor, LOL

    Nick

  • http://www.theironsamurai.com Nick Horton

    Tim,

    Two things:

    1) While I am always in favor of constructive criticism, sarcasm and random rudeness are a bit silly and out of place. We're just talking about weightlifting here, no saving people from life-threatening situations.

    2) As per the underlying question: what's the point? I have a few answers to that as well.

    The first is cultural, and I think the most important. Writing an article like this that promotes the idea that women might (not in any way “proven”) be – on average – more inclined toward the sport of weightlifting is NOT even remotely like saying that Men make better math teachers, or women make better secretaries.

    Why? Because those arguments were designed to keep people in their place, and to avoid branching out. More specifically, to justify a sexist attitudes toward women in the workplace.

    My argument is a direct counter to the prevailing myths about women that are still very much alive and well in the culture.

    To say, “you know, women make good secretaries because they can multi-task better than men,” may or may not be true … but it only helps to confirm prejudices that people of older generations were rather prone to already. (Thankfully this is changing dramatically. fixed? no. But, people in the Gen X and younger crowd are substantially less overtly sexist than the generations preceding them)

    I'd argue that MOST women in the united states don't feel like lifting weights is a very “female” thing to do … let alone compete in a sport of weightlifting.

    Nia's blog is so popular, in part (though by no means exclusively), because she is the very personification of what people mistakenly believe to be a real oxymoron: A lean, attractive, relatively small woman … who is strong as shit.

    That is not in any way a true oxymoron. Those things are not incongruous. But, the culture beleives that they are. So, Nia's a novelty.

    As are all of the women I'm discussing in weightlifting.

    When we're in our sphere of the 1% of people who know and love lifting heavy shit we can so easily forget just how un-obvious it is to most people outside our sphere that women who lift competitively are, in fact, rarely “beefy” and bodybuilder-like.

    This very much includes Young women.

    They are clueless on this front. And we should be encouraging young girls to lift weights as much as we can.

    This is one good way to do it. And the response I've gotten from women so far has been rather positive, in part, because they get that on an intuitive level. Many of them went through the same “epiphany” transition, themselves.

    There's a second reason I wrote it, however. Because theoretical conversations are NOT simply elevator background noise. They are the driver of future understanding and experimentally backed results.

    Science of all kinds starts with Hypothesis that have to be tested.

    I outlined a Hypothesis that could be tested. I gave my reasons for believing what my projected outcome would be. And now, others could set up experiments to see if any of this rings true.

    Should they?

    Who knows.

    I'm a guy who got a math degree for a reason. I like to think about shit that may or may not have any serious practical value in the short term. Usefulness isn't the only reason we should discuss something.

    Interest is enough.

    I'm not opposed to a serious look at the differences between Men and Women. It is sexist to pretend that biology doesn't have consequences. Pretending thing aren't true because we're all “equal” is a kind of cop-out that previous generations were a little more prone too. (I actually understand why, from a political position … but at some point, science is science and shouldn't be driven by political correctness.)

    There ARE real biological differences between the AVERAGE woman and the average man (where “average” is defined as I did above).

    What we don't have a clue about is just how much of a role those underlying differences play in the shaping of what people DO in their lives vs Phenotype-changing cultural and environmental stuff.

    I think it's too fascinating a topic to let go of.

    As I said in my post, Great male and female lifters (athletes of any kind) are more alike than they are different. And they are more alike than like the general population of any sex.

    But … that doesn't mean that it can't be true that a larger proportion of women will be nearer to this type than the proportion of men in the general public.

    I find that to be a perfectly valid question.

    Especially since I'm in the business of promoting the sport to a wider range of people … It matters to know if my efforts will pay off better if I focus a larger amount of my time promoting it to the ladies.

    Market research can't be underestimated. ;-)

    I know I got a bit “ranty” there. That wasn't my intention … maybe it wasn't yours either. But, hopefully I was able to clarify why I felt compelled to write something like this, and why I really do think it's important.

    Nick Horton

    • Emma Pursey

      I know I’m a few years late weighing in on this, but I totally agree with Nick. Personally, I find the article to be extremely motivating for me as I start Olympic lifting with my coach. He actually coaches me and a dude at the same time, and we both have different attributes which give us advantages in different aspects of the sport. I’m much quad heavier and have a lower centre of gravity, whereas he has better upper body strength and ankle mobility. We’re a pretty good illustration of how men and women differ in the sport.

  • Joel

    Tim,

    The point of this article is to prove fleeced America that female Olympic lifters are: a. Athletic (but not freaky); b. Lean and Sexy (and still feminine); c. Super Strong (but not manly); d. Ballsy (but not cocky.. it takes courage to do what they do).

    How many females do ‘cardio’ at globo gym? Answer: Lots. And guess what? Most of them are still weak and obese, or weak and skinny-fat.

    Imagine this: If we replaced Curves and Planet Fitness with bumper plates, Oly bars and chalk, we would have more empowered women who fit the mold described above. And if more people (and not just women) did Oly, this Nation would not have a health pandemic.

    I’m obviously not a woman (but I’m married to one, really). They worked just as hard as men (if not harder) and they have certainly earned their place in society. They have broken through many a tight barrier. And some of these ‘barriers’ were tighter than a size-1, G-string bikini on a 300-lb Jenny Craig dropout. Kudos to them.

    Women have already proven themselves in traditionally male-dominated areas such as politics (Hillary Clinton), business (Meg Whitman of eBay), military (Commander Rosie can now fly F-16 and drop bombs on the taliban), engineering (#1 student in my engineering class was female), and sciences (my wife’s gynecologist is female). And now they are proving themselves on the platform (Case in point, Russia’s female Oly lifter Tatiana is stronger than 99.9% of MALE American TOP lifters – fact). Women can (and should be able to) do anything. And that is the ultimate point of this article.

    PS. You should try doing snatch and clean&jerk instead of curling…. in the squat rack….while standing on a BOSU ball. And you’ll know exactly why female Olympic lifters are some of the world’s greatest badass.

    • Mack

      “Tatiana is stronger than 99.9% of MALE American TOP lifters – fact”
      Tatiana’s weight: 105 kg. Tatiana’s total: 332 kg
      Qingfeng’s weight: 69 kg. Qingfeng’s total: 344 kg
      Please name some ‘top’ olympic lifters who have smaller lifts than Tatiana and don’t weigh more than 35kg less than her lol.
      And do you really think that female olympic lifters are feminine? No, because they possess strength and muscles and that is feminine.

      And also lol at how desperate you are to prove that women aren’t inferior The only two women to try to become marines have failed. Women have given extraordinarily little in the fields of science, politics, engineering when compared to men. In the top 100 richest people in the world, there are only ten women and every
      single one of these women inherited their wealth or companies.

  • http://gordonwaynewatts.com/#health Gordon Wayne Watts

    Thx 4 responding, Nick:

    But what was the typo or error that you thought was a mistake?

    The 'center of balance' comment where you might've meant 'center of gravity'??

    Or, rather, do you agree with my assessment that the centre of gravity for men & women may not be the exact same, but is certainly not vastly different like you had described?

    (My guess was that is was only a few centimeters different, whereas it seems you were saying that it was way up on the shoulders for men & in the hips for women.)

    PS: To address the reply you gave Tim, (and by extension to address Tim's post) …

    #1 – I'm a guy, but I'm not offended with your guesses here (and I admit sometimes I am impatient )

    #2 – It does have some useful info insofar as it reminds us all (both males & females) of areas where we could improve.

    #3 – It _is_ interesting

    Thx in advance once again if u could clarify my questions above,

    - – Gordon

  • http://GordonWayneWatts.com/#health Gordon

    Thx 4 responding on your blog, Nick — linked above.

    which I mention in case the other readers wonder why u didn't respond here.

    Gordon

  • http://twitter.com/ONPump17 Aaron T

    “why woman are accruing more college degrees than men are: They don’t
    give up when the going gets tough and they see the value in working hard
    now so that they can have success later.” They also get more assistance then men, so much so that Obama stated that more women graduating college than men was ‘a victory’. The entire education system has been slanted in women’s favour. 

  • John

    This is stupid. I understand the idea of saying that women have equal opportunity in weightlifting, but the fact is that women are not better than men, despite your silly anecdotes. Perhaps someone is a little butt mad about other men being more successful than him

    • Emma Pursey

      He’s not saying women are “better” than men, but that we are different, and are actually extremely well suited to weight-lifting for several reasons. He also offers his own view that SOME women are more coach-able than men, which is something a lot of coaches say!

  • Fake Mustache

    What sexist tripe. At least have the decency to apply some real research, if any exists, instead of a bunch of inane hypothetical drivel. You could’ve gone any number of routes related to strength relative to weight and height or flexibility and the closest you got was the center of gravity, which applies to short men too! Then proceeded to insult men with sexist generalizations about them being less teachable and more impatient.

    Sure, let’s just all agree women are less intelligent because hey, STEM fields are dominated by men. Let’s say women are inferior drivers because they’re a minority of professional racers. Let’s declare that men are better with money because all the best economists are male. Somehow you go out of your way to make the point that these generalizations shouldn’t apply to women, then build multiple arguments against men on them.

    You see how stupid that is? It does nothing to help ANYONE. All these kinds of petty generalizations do is stroke your own misplaced and frankly disgusting ego. You should’ve asked yourself repeatedly during the writing process, “Are the questions I’m asking and the points I’m attempting to make actually useful or relevant in any way, shape, or form?”

    tl;dr Grow up.

  • Grace

    Protip: write in the third person from an unbiased perspective.

  • Marcus

    This is fucking retarded, you white knight beta bitch.
    Kneeling before women with made up reasons for why theyre better at a sport (untrue, at that) won’t get you any pussy.
    Man up and get your head out of your ass

  • Liam

    Fuck this feminist feel-good bullshit. This whole article is patronizing to women, with a strong message of “awww you girls may not lift as much, but did you know you’re actually better weightlifters”. Here are some statements with some actual merit:
    1. Women are weaker than men and have to lose their femininity in order to become strong because strength is a masculine trait. Read some Hemingway if you disagree. 2. The reason more women are succeeding academically is because the education system is slanted in favour of women, just like it used to be slanted in favour of men many years ago.
    3. Men possess far more rock hard persistence than women do which is why they are ultimately more successful in not only sport but life in general. Look at the top 100 richest people in the world. There are only ten, and every single one of these women inherited their wealth or companies. Women don’t possess the traits that make you succeed such as patience, persistence, etc as much as men do.
    So fuck this article.

  • Dimas

    How much can you lift?

  • Martin

    This is an interesting article, and makes a few good points (coachability, center of gravity), but it basically just states that women are better at training, not better at weightlifting. That should be the title and the aim of the article, because currently it’s stating “women are the best” and that’s disingenuous. Weightlifting is about weight lifted, not about meta-analysis, and men are stronger than women in their equivalent weight classes across the board. You’re making an argument akin to saying that the best chef is the one who knows every recipe, instead of the one who makes the most delicious food. The ultimate metric is the final result.

    Also I don’t entirely agree that women are more tenacious than men, I’d say it’s fairly balanced. You might be noticing this more because the type of guys who take up weightlifting are usually the type that crave big muscles to impress chicks and want the 17 inch bicep overnight. If you tell them they have to put in years of strict work they’ll go take creatine and do BB splits instead.. If a woman chooses weightlifting over yoga, cardio, aerobics, or other more “female” exercise regimes she probably means business.

    • Greg

      Any ‘good’ points this article makes (which are mostly bullshit generalisations feminists have come up with) are overshadowed by the fact that the author is saying “Women make better weightlifters than men,” which any non-emasculated man would reply “But men lift more weight.” And then the author would reply “BUT YOU CAN’T COMPARE THEM !!!!”

  • Patrick

    This was a good article and any non-internet troll should have been able to get the essential points. Thanks, Nick.

  • RichardMahony

    Lots of dubious reasoning here. First, in statistics there are many types of ‘average’. The average you’re describing is the arithmetical mean average, which you get when you add values in a data set together and divide by the number of values. For the same set, there’s also the geometric mean average. This is calculated by multiplying together all the values and dividing by the number of values.

    The most useful average, however, in most data sets is often the median average. This is the value you obtain when you arrange all the values in order and select the middle value. Unlike the mean averages (arithmetic and geometric), the median average is typical of the group.

    Hence, if you have a group of ninety-nine potential female Olympic weightlifters, say all white North American college students, measure the body mass of each female and arrange those body masses in order of value, then the fiftieth body mass arranged in order is typical of the body mass of each member in the group. Identify the highest value and the lowest, and now you have an idea of the spread of values. Work out the standard deviation and you have an even better picture. And so on. In short, statistical analysis of groups when it’s done properly does give you a lot of useful information about the group.

    You can do a similar analysis for the data set over time of any given person in the group. Again, this can be very useful when done intelligently.

  • RichardMahony

    Secondly, if you look at the data, success at the competitive sport of Olympic weightlifting is affected more by culture than by biological sex or chosen gender. At the international level, in the 2012 Olympics, overall for men and women combined, China, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Iran, Ukraine, Russia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Colombia, Japan and Thailand finished in the top ten spots based on medal count. We might speculate on all the cultural and historical reasons for this. To me, in the first instance at least, this is a more interesting question than the distinctions between the sexes in Olympic weightlifting.

    Third, in my opinion, currently the best female Olympic weightlifter is Tatiana Kashirina. Sure, Zhou Lulu often pips her in international competition by a kilo or too. Nevertheless, at her best Kashirina was lifting at well under 100 kg body mass. She was (and still is) as lean as they come and lifting only a kilo less than Zhou who weighed at least one third more at around 135 kg.

    Fourth, Olympic weightlifting is all about the application of maximal power at exactly the right moment. The scalar quantity power, measured in watts, is the scalar product of the vector quantity force, measured in newtons in a given direction, and the vector quantity velocity, measured in metres per second in a given direction. Power not strength or speed alone is the hallmark of the elite competitive athlete. Developing power is discipline specific. The power a judoka needs to win in the open category is not the same power as that needed by an Olympic weightlifter in the heaviest category. The world’s top shot putters, hammer throwers and discus throwers are all very powerful, but their power needs and training are very different to, say, a top Olympic gymnast who is also very powerful, and indeed likely has a higher power to body mass ratio, but weighs half what the field athletes do.

    Fifth, the best female Olympic weightlifters are nothing like as powerful weight for weight as the best male weightlifters. They don’t train as often or as long each day. They don’t train as hard. They don’t train with the same tenacity, self-discipline or focus as the best males. But this is unsurprising. Putting aside intrinsic differences between the male and female physiology, this is to be expected when you look at the cultures of the top weightlifting countries. Historically, in these countries far more males than females have practised Olympic weightlifting from a young age and they still do.

    Lastly, look at the most demanding intellectual disciplines of mathematical physics, mathematics and even chess. Males continue to dominate these fields as they have always done. Most of the degrees where female enrolment numbers are highest and may outnumber enrolled males are: in the soft sciences; in technologies such as medicine and, increasingly, in some engineering courses; in business related degrees such as marketing and advertising; and in the traditional areas of female employment such as librarianship, teaching, nursing, and social work.