Strength Training and Connective Tissue Adaptation
Gender differences in strength training –series 4/6
Connective tissues and training
Adaptation of tendons to training gets way too little attention. It’s hard to find reasoning as development of tendons and other supportive tissue is just as important if not even more important than development of muscle mass and strength. Damaged or inflamed tendons basically prevent all training. Men and women also have differences how tendons respond to exercise. Women’s tendon tissues are slightly weaker than men’s and respond to training a bit slower (Magnusson et al., 2007) as women’s tendons grow, strengthen and recover in a slightly slower pace than men’s.
Muscle and connective tissue adaptation: From theory to practice
So, it is shown that women gain muscle mass at same pace as men in the first stages of the training. Muscles gain form and size, as long as the training is regular and intensive enough. Although the first stages of training should avoid extreme loadings and training methods inducing massive muscle damage. It is beneficial for women in the beginning of the training (or after a break in the training) to have slightly longer basic training period, including lower intensity and accustoming training. With this I don’t mean lifting with minimum weights, but avoiding extremely loading maximum strength training and using common sense (for example, with plyometric and eccentric loadings). This way women’s more slowly developing tendons have time to get used to training loads and bit surprisingly probably also muscle growth is faster this way. That is because women’s muscles may also be damaged more by eccentric loading than men. Hard eccentric loading can even slow down muscle growth in muscles that are unfamiliar to those loadings, because it can increase protein degradation too much.
Articular hypermobility is more common problem in women than in men. While men should pay attention to sufficient flexibility training, women should pay special attention to firmness of joints and lifting technique. For example, strengthening wrist, shoulder and ankle muscles in isolation can be beneficial. If over-extensions and passive postures (e.g. loose wrists in biceps curls, knees overextended in standing positions during strength training movements) are cut off right at the start, neuromuscular system adapts to safe movement trajectories from motor learning and support provided by slowly strengthening muscles.
Next blog will be all about fatigue – what is the role of fatigue in strength training and is more just better?