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  • Writer's pictureMatchfit Football

Male vs Female S&C Training

Updated: 3 days ago

Brilliant question just in from a parent asking:


"Are there gender-specific strength and conditioning considerations for female footballers? And if so what are they?"


As with alot of things with S&C training, context is key.


Whether you're male or female, to be a high level footballer you still need to develop all areas of your athleticism i.e strength, power, speed, injury resilience and stamina...


Take a look at the graphics below of the youth physical development model for male vs female athletes, as published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal.


Note that the key difference between the two is a shift to the left at ages 10 and 12, reflecting that female athletes typically begin their adolescent training period 2 years prior to males.


Taken from the Strength and Conditioning Journal:


"During the adolescent spurt, female athletes will undergo sex-specific physiological processes that may affect performance: increased fat mass, differential rates of development of neuromuscular strength, and height and weight; commencement of menstrual cycle, increased joint laxity, increased knee valgus angle; and increased reliance on quadriceps-dominant landing strategies, all of which have been associated with an increased risk of noncontact anterior cruciate ligament injury.


Consequently, the YPD model suggests that training strategies designed to reduce the risk of noncontact anterior cruciate ligament injuries, such as plyometrics, core strengthening, strength training, and balance and perturbation training , should be implemented within the strength and conditioning program of female athletes and maintained into adulthood."


A well structured strength and conditioning programme along with nutritional support will already contain all of these elements and address all of these points, whether the athlete is male or female.


So it's not that males and females need to be following different programmes, it's more that we need to be mindful of the changes that a female athlete will start to experience in their body as they begin adolescence, and how these changes may impact on the training response and rate of recovery.


Let's dig deeper and take a look at some of the differences between male and female athletes in more detail. Remember, this doesn't mean that the actual training needs to be different.


For example, I wouldn't leave out exercises which increase protection against ACL injuries or improve neuromuscular control just because a player is male.


1. Muscle Fiber Composition


Research indicates that females generally have a higher percentage of type I muscle fibers (slow-twitch fibers) compared to males, meaning that males are naturally more explosive whilst females are naturally built more for endurance.


Ofcourse there will be differences person to person, as well as genetics playing a part as well.


2. Hormonal Influences


Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle in females, impacting factors such as muscle strength, endurance and recovery.


Estrogen, for instance, has been shown to affect collagen synthesis and joint laxity, potentially influencing injury risk. Progesterone may also affect neuromuscular control and stability.


3. Biomechanics


Differences in hip width, pelvic structure and lower limb alignment between males and females can influence movement patterns and biomechanics during activities like running, cutting and jumping.


For example, females tend to have a wider pelvis and greater Q-angle (the angle between the quadriceps muscle and the patellar tendon), which can increase the risk of knee injuries such as ACL tears.


Therefore including exercises which target neuromuscular control, proprioception and proper movement mechanics is key, although male players will also greatly benefit from these exercises too.


4. Recovery and Regeneration


Female athletes may experience different responses to training stimuli and recovery strategies compared to males, partly due to hormonal variations.


Understanding the role of factors such as sleep, nutrition, hydration and stress management in recovery is essential for optimising performance and minimising the risk of overtraining and injury in female players.


Therefore, for female players it's even more important to actively monitor training load and be mindful of how they are feeling both physically and mentally week to week in response to their training.


5. Strength Training


Female soccer players typically have a lower muscle mass in their lower body compared to males. Therefore, emphasis should be placed on developing strength in the lower body, particularly in the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves.


While not as critical as lower body strength, female players should still incorporate upper body strength training to enhance overall body strength and prevent muscle imbalances.


6. Flexibility and Mobility


Females tend to have greater flexibility than males due to differences in muscle and joint structure. However, this can also lead to an increased risk of injury if not properly managed.


Therefore, flexibility training should focus on maintaining an optimal range of motion while ensuring stability and joint integrity.


7. Injury Prevention


As mentioned, female players have a higher risk of certain injuries compared to males, such as ACL injuries.


Therefore, their training programmes should include exercises that target the muscles surrounding the knees and hips to help reduce the risk of ACL injuries.


Neuromuscular training, including balance, agility and proprioceptive exercises, can also help reduce the risk of common football-related injuries in female players.


But again, this is much of the same training that males will also be doing.


8. Bone Health


Female athletes, especially those involved in sports with high impact and weight-bearing activities like football, are at greater risk of developing conditions such as stress fractures and osteoporosis.


The good news is that strength training exercises such as squats and lunges will promote bone health and density, so with an S&C programme we're inherently covering that already.



I hope you found this article helpful. Drop any questions below and pass it on to any females players you know who might benefit from knowing this information!


Your coach,


James

Matchfit Football

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