The female athlete continued
Last week we talked about some of the differences between male & female training plans, the prevalence of ACL injuries in the female population, & a few strategies that you should target when designing a program for the female athlete. You can click this link to take you back to that article.
With this article, I want to highlight a few more things that you should take into consideration when training the female athlete as well as a sample plan that you can use to guide you when designing a program.
Female Athlete & Puberty
Young females moving through puberty gain what is best described as “non propulsive mass”. The size and consequent weight gains in a young females’ body can drastically change their strength to bodyweight ratio in an unfavorable way.
As young men (statistically less prone to ACL tears) go through puberty we generally see gains in size and increases in weight in the form of lean tissue. Of course young males can gain bodyfat through puberty but, from an observation standpoint this does not seems to happen. The increase in male testosterone generally causes an increase in muscle mass and, in strength.
On the other hand, the body changes in females often also result in weight gain but, this weight is often “non propulsive”.
This means that for females, strength training through puberty is critical to learn to control the added mass.
ACL Reduction Strategies
Developing an “ACL reduction” program is quite simple. We need to work on all of the items listed below.
As Mike Boyle would say, this is not a menu to pick from. It’s more like a recipe. Try to bake a cake and leave out a key ingredient. What happens? Usually a disaster.
- Active Warm-up
- Power and Stability / Eccentric Strength=landing skills
- Strength Development- (emphasis on 1 Leg)
- Change of Direction Concepts- learning how to stop
- Change of Direction Conditioning- developing conditioning
Below we will go over the first two parts of developing an ACL Prevention Program.
Sample Dynamic Warm-Up
With the warm-up we want to help prepare the muscular and cardiovascular systems by increasing core temperature, increasing joint range of motion, reducing the risk of muscular injury by improving the elasticity of muscles, develop single leg strength, and increases proprioception.
- Knee Hug to Lateral Lunge
- Leg Cradle Walk
- Walking Heel to Butt with Forward Lean
- Reverse Lunge with Hamstring Stretch
- Jump Rope
Sample Power & Stability/Eccentric Strength
The key to injury prevention is developing the ability to land on one leg. Eccentric strength is the ability to land properly.
That said, we must make sure that we teach the athlete the mechanics of landing on two legs & more importantly one leg.
Below is the progression that we would use for Double Leg Power in the sagittal plane:
- Snap Downs
- Countermovement Jump
- Box Jump
- Hurdle Jump
Below is the progression for Single Leg Power in the sagittal plane:
- Single Leg Snap Down
- Single Leg Jump
- Step-Up Jump
- Single Leg Box Jump
- Single Leg Hurdle Hop
In closing, take the time to research and understand that as a strength coach working with females, you hold an amazing power — the power to help develop stronger females both inside, and outside, of the weight room.
The bottom line is that a good strength and conditioning program is also the best ACL prevention program. Just remember the recipe analogy. No ingredient is non-essential. All of them must be included.
The ACL Injury is a complicated and difficult topic and one that will continue to become more prevalent in the sports performance world. By understanding the risks that our female athletes have and designing programs that combat these risks, we can reduce the number of athletes that suffer ACL injuries.
Remember, an ACL prevention program is just good sound training.
Need help with designing your strength program?
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- Vinall M. ACL Injury Dynamics and Prevention in Female Athletes. MD Conf Express. 2014;14 (23):28:29. doi: 10.1177/155989771423024
- Ruiz A l., Kelly M Nutton R w. Arthroscopic ACL reconstruction: a 5-9 year follow-up. Knee. 2002;9(3):197-200.
- Hewett TE, Stroupe AL, Nance TA, Noyes FR. Plyometric training in female athletes. Decreased impact forces and increased hamstring torques. Am J Sports Med. 1996;24 (6):765-773. doi: 10.1177/036354659602400611
- Zazulak BT, Hewett TE, Reeves NP, Goldberg B, Chloewicki J. The effects of core proprioception on knee injury: a prospective biomechanical-epidemiological study. Am J Sports Med. 2007;35(3):368-373. doi: 10.1177/0363546506297909