While peddling my way to a great cardio workout on the elliptical trainer, I scanned the area in front of me and began observing a well-intended husband “training” his wife on the weights. He was obviously well-conditioned in his upper body, bulging with biceps and pectoral muscles and a very thick neck. As he encouraged her to continue lifting weights that were clearly outside her range of control, I observed tell-tale signs that this was not their first workout together. Her body had already begun reshaping itself into the downward sloping shoulder and forward reaching neck that accompanies unbalanced upper body workouts.
My thoughts ventured toward interfering with his encouraging chortle as the thought of this woman ever again being able to keep a purse strap or bra strap up on those rapidly sloping shoulders clearly were fading, but as I mentioned before his bulging biceps and very thick neck made me rethink the direct confrontation. Instead, not being able to completely help myself, I wandered over to the area they were working and rather obnoxiously lowered the weight on their last machine before taking my seat on it while he struggled with resetting the seat on the neighboring triceps press.
I began commenting to the woman, half complaining out loud to anyone within hearing range, how unfair it was that the muscle mass given to women was so very different than men’s and that because of it, women needed to focus so much more on their shoulders, building not just on the front side of the shoulders but with the emphasis on mid-back muscles supporting the shoulder blades. I continued my banter while pointing at the husband and stating how lucky guys were as they were blessed with all that extra muscle mass supporting their heavy shoulder girdle. We girls on the other hand had to do so much more overhead arm work so our shoulders wouldn’t fall down.
I will never know for sure how much of an impact my quip of information had on their future workouts, but witnessing that occasion did make me more dedicated to share basic anatomy differences with all of my clients. We are not created equally and therefore should not strive to work out or move equally. Your workouts — or as I like to refer to them, your movement and strengthening sessions — should be tailored to you as an individual and to your body type as much as your gender.
If you are ready to make the leap into formal workouts, either in your home, pilates studio (my first choice), athletic club or specialty studios, I always advise starting with a knowledgeable personal trainer — and I don’t mean the guy on the video tape/dvd! — for at least three sessions.This should be someone who is willing to listen to your goals and is skilled enough to put together a balanced movement and strengthening session that fits your body and your schedule.
Here are some fun anatomy trivia facts, Remember these are general differences there are exceptions to all of the differences listed below:
Most people are aware of the obvious pelvic differences. Men have a taller, narrow pelvis, which allows for high femur stability but less range of motion at the hip joint. Combined with their larger ribcage, which stores a larger heart and larger lungs, it also limits the range of motion in a side bending movement. Men’s elbows and carrying ankles are actually smaller than women’s, giving more strength to those areas of the body for men. The carrying angle of the forearm is more pronounced in women and with the larger elbow joint in the woman it allows for a proportionately longer carrying space between the shoulder and the elbow.
Subsequently, the man’s elbow actually has a higher placement on the arm than the woman’s, giving more strength on long- levered maneuvers, which make lifting easier but means a smaller range of motion through the rotator cuff. A woman’s ribcage is smaller and the shoulder blades tend to be rounder as well. Combine these skeletal differences with the differences in muscle mass, blood flow and bone/joint development, and it should be very clear that the goose and the gander need to develop different repertoires to best balance and support their bodies.
Cheree Brodrick is the owner of Pilates Edmonds, located at 307 Bell Street #103. A long-time Edmonds resident, Cheree and her husband, Curtis, have three children in the Edmonds School District. You can learn more at www.PilatesEdmonds.com or on Facebook at Pilates Edmonds and Mind Body Studio.