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Gender Bias at the Core with Abs and Weight Loss

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Why do some strength training exercises with equipment (i.e., core board, tubes, large balls) appear to be easier for females than males?

Brad, UC Santa Barbara

Buff, hot guy

Alexandra: Oh, Brad, there is a part of me that just wants to say, “because women are so totally

  • a. awesome
  • b. super awesome
  • c. totally awesome
  • d. all of the above

but that’s more of a Twitter word than a fitness word so I’ll just have to exhale and move along….

Kymberly: And a part of me wants to agree with Alexandra, but just a rare part, mind you. Some of the seeming ease women have with the equipment you list has to do with coordination. Coordination is learned and adaptable. By college age (which I assume you are or your signature needs parental permission), women have more experience, on average, than men with these specific types of balance and exercises. I am referring not only to specific equipment, but also to general activities like dance and gymnastics that require good balance, and torso and hip coordination.

The good news about coordination is that with practice, you and other men about town can achieve similar comfort and neuromuscular adaptation (a fancy way to say “coordination”).

A. I’ll speak from my experience working with thousands and thousands of exercisers over the years, many of them university students. Lots of men, especially the more broad-shouldered ones, tend to work the areas of their body they care most about, which is chest, arms and shoulders. These “mirror muscles” can look “hot” and “buff” fairly quickly, which is exactly why men care so much about them! Take a brief moment to yourself and see if you can figure out which area of the body women most care about. Well? I hope you didn’t come up with “booty” because that’s only in the top 5. Number 1 is abs.

So…..while women are getting strong in their core, men can bench-press their best friend (even the burly ones), yet have the strength of 37 butterflies in the mid-section. Stability balls (see the word “stability” there? It is just another way to say “ab strength”) and core boards (“core” is another way to say, “dang, it’s ab strength again, isn’t it?) are all about the mid-section (anywhere the belt touches, unless your belly hangs out and causes your belt to be lower in front than in back, but that’s a story for another day).

K: One more technical point about men and crunch-type exercises in the supine position (lying down on your back): On average, men have more mass distributed waist-up than women. Given men’s heavier and larger heads, wider shoulders and relatively heavier upper body mass, they are lifting slightly more weight than women. Add a destabilizing force, such as balls or boards and men simply have to work harder and get used to it. As for a bias with elastic resistance/ tubing, I have not seen a big gender difference. If there is one, I am tempted to say that women tend to follow directions better than men and tubing use is usually taught by a fitness teacher or trainer giving instruction. Let the wild rumpus controversy begin!

A: I’ll leave you with some heartening information – men tend to lose weight faster than women. Does that cheer you up at all? And Brad!? I suggest you do less of this:

big biceps, big shoulders, muscle beach, bodybuilding

Touch, Don’t Look

and more of this:

planks, exercise ball, core training

Not as Easy as It Looks (unless you’re a woman)

Dear men and women readers: Why do YOU think core training is easier for women? Or do you…..?

Photo credits: Photobucket

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