The Top 3 Reasons Why Women Make the Best Olympic Weightlifters
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.
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.
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!