How to train Elite Female Lifters

Women’s weightlifting in the Olympic program is fairly new. In 1982 they had their first World Championships but it was in 1999 that they entered for the first time in a Continental Games Venue (Pan Am games Winnipeg 1999). A year later was their Olympic debut in Sydney 2000. It’s only 15 years of Olympic competition however every 4 years we marvel at how far they have reached.
This document is based in the work of Dr Alfredo Herrera (Cuba, URSS, USA)
Although there are studies that highlight the anatomical and hormonal differences between women and men, coaches regularly use the same training program for both men and women.
Both men and women have the same hormones but they vary in concentration. Women have a high rate of estrogen and androgen. In men testosterone level is 10mg regularly while in women is 0.1 mg, which is why it is very difficult in women the presence of masculine traits such as high strength, very high muscle tone and volume, body hair, deeper voice, etc. Consequently to develop the skills and abilities necessary for high competitive lifting level in women, the training methodology can’t be equal to men unless doping is used. Training for women should consider that their testosterone levels are low but their estrogen level high and we think this is the philosophy with which they must train.


Gwendolyn Sisto snatching 92kg at the 2015 Olympia Cup

Coaches must accept that women can also achieve high competitive results due to the many strategically and positive qualities of estrogen to increase athletic performance , for example , estriol ( estrogen is an umbrella term , because they are actually three Estriol ” the considered good,” Estradiol” the most powerful and highly carcinogenic and Estrone ” although very similar to the previous is biologically less active ) , comprises 80-90% of all human estrogen , it has a very efficient aerobic metabolism and functions like antioxidant, which influences the metabolism of fats and promotes bone resorption , preventing loss of calcium ( important in muscle contraction ) and maintains skeletal consistency , a very important element for sports of explosive force , it plays important role in the formation of collagen , a major component of connective tissue. Nor is negligible its neurotransmitter influence to muscle contraction.
While the theoretical analysis is attractive, in practice of physical activities with women we have seen and evaluated with other coaches , that the combined strength training and aerobic endurance cause very positive changes in health , motor activity and physique in women , far from appearing traits of masculinity they become more feminine and in Elite competitive athletes it shows that with the appearance of the peak of the training cycle there is increase of libido , we think that’s the result of increased estrogen levels . That is, a proper strength training process in their bodies causes emotional and structural changes similar to when they have the adequate estrogen levels.
Things to take into consideration while coaching female lifters:
First, special attention must be paid to the volume of the training load, since this indicator is what makes the biggest difference between weightlifters with greater competitive results and the those with less o lower results. Indicators of volume taken from the total amount of repetitions with weights from 50 to 100% of maximum weight, we recommend applying a lot of repetitions in the mesocycle (4 weeks) when the objective is aimed to create basis of the sport form, we recommend to plan for this type of mesocycle a total amount of not less than 2200 repetitions, of which between 50 and 55% of them are distributed with weights between 50 and 69% of maximum result. Keep in mind that regularly men consider recommendations for 2100 repetitions as maximum result, our observations show that volume among women is higher. In the theoretical order we consider this remarkable difference is due to the phylogenetic and ontogenetic potential of women to train with high volume for a long period of time.
Another important indicator related to the volume of the training refers to the distribution of repetitions per exercise. In women, it is advisable to increase the total number of repetitions, intended for the snatch and clean and jerk, we believe that should not be less than 50% of all the repetitions, in men this figure is somewhat lower and some recommend 40% . In the methodological aspect we advocate that for women it is of more benefit to support the technical preparation, since their potential for maximum strength is regularly lower than that of men.
In the exercise of squat and pull, basic for the development of muscle strength, maximum volumes of repetitions can be in the range of 850 to 1100 repetitions, but of which not less than 60 % must be directed toward the squat exercise , we emphasize the fact that the resistance force is basic among women and the squat is a great exercise to develop this capability
For the changes in volume of load between the preparatory and competitive mesocycles we recommend to lower the repetitions particularly in the less technical exercises , to give the body a chance to recover from the heavy workloads , but the conceptual order should increase the percentage of load in the snatch and clean exercises, thus the intensity increases and decreases the volume.
The indicator of the intensity of the load, based on the concept that it is the level of difficulty with which the exercise is performed, regularly emerges from the average amount of the kilograms lifted divided by the number of repetitions, this is known as “average weight or average,” the absolute values of this indicator do not allow comparisons between athletes with different body weight, which is why, for comparisons is the percentage that represents the average weight of the maximum result, which is called Coefficient of intensity, this is the result of multiplying the “average weight” by 100 and divided by the Olympic all, that is, the sum of snatch and clean. Specialists including Roman R. and A. Medvedev, considered that the optimal range of the intensity ratio is in the range 36 to 40%.
To illustrate the calculation of the intensity ratio. An athlete with the “average weight” throughout the month training of 115 kg and an Olympic total of 300 kg (135 snatch and 165 C&J), the intensity ratio is 38.3% (115 × 100 ÷ 300), the math to know to how much to increase the average weight for a total of 305 kg, whereas the intensity coefficient 38.3 is optimal for this athlete, is calculated from (38.3 × 305 ÷ 100), the average weight It should be increased to 116.8 kg. This is an alternative that provides this indicator for forecasting results in the short and medium term.
The values of the coefficient of general intensity, among Elite female weightlifters don’t show substantial differences and that’s why the same Intensity coefficient is used for the Snatch and C & J.
Another indicator of intensity are the intensity zones, ie the distribution of the interval of repetitions in percent of the maximum result. In the snatch and C&J the 100% is taken as maximum result.

The analysis shows that the common denominator for exercises for snatch and C&J, is that the area with weights of 70 to 79% are the most trained in men, but in women there is a significant concentration in the zone 50 to 69%
The application of these basic training principles of elite level lifters made possible the increase of results of our female lifters at Risto Sports. Our female lifters (USA and International lifters) have won a good number of competitions in the USA and overseas.
Some of our female lifters:
Gwen Sisto Team USA member (university games Taiwan 2010), has won several national medals since using this system in 2010
Gwen Rojas (USA) USA youth National champion in 2014 and 2015
Lesbia Cruz (Guatemala) has competed very actively on the International Stage
Maryam Usman (Nigeria) gold medal at the Commonwealth games in Scotland 2014
Vanessa Quinonez (Colombia) Bronze Pan American medal in 2014 2nd place at the Arnold in 2014
Neisi Dajomes (Ecuador) Youth World champion, Silver medal at Toronto Pan Am games 2015
Rocio Navarro(Panama) competed at the Toronto Pan Am Games
Jessica Weisman (USA) gold medal at the World Masters in Finland 2015
1-. The training of weightlifters should be developed under a program suited to their characteristics, which differs to what regularly applies to men. We consider the basic differences are in the volume of the load and technical preparation, not the relative intensity indicators.
2-. We recommend that the training programs for weightlifters training to achieve high sports performance, that in the basic mesocycles, the total number of repetitions must not be less than 2200 , of which approximately 50% should be dedicated to the snatch and clean and jerk. In mesocycles of maximum volume the total amount of repetitions can outperform 3000, remember that for men 2100 repetitions at most and the number of repetitions distributed in the clean and jerk exercises around 40%.
3-. The volume increase of the load is performed basically with weights of 50 to 69% of maximum result, this characterizes the training to be directed towards the development of resistance force, which for this capability women have better predisposition than men due amount oftheir body fat composition, in the phylogenetic order, women are better suited to perform motor activities with predominating resistance.
4-. The changes in the volume of load between the preparatory and competitive mesocycles show the reduction of number of repetitions as the athlete approaches the competition and particularly those made with lower weights at 70% maximum result.
5-.In their performance intensity indicators don’t show difference between weightlifters.
Alfredo Herrera Corzo . The preparation of world weightlifting champion and world record holder in clean and jerk in Istanbul 1994 , the Colombian Maria Isabel Urrutia . Physical education and sports , ISSN 1514-3465 , no . 59 , 2003.

Alfredo Herrera Corzo . Analysis training weightlifters high mastery of Russia , China , Bulgaria and , Digital Magazine . Buenos Aires , Year 16 , No. 160, September 2011.

2 thoughts on “How to train Elite Female Lifters

  1. Dean Limb

    I have some questions regarding your article.

    1. How many repetitions per session do you do? (I did the math and it seems that training sessions are either really long or your break them up into multiple sessions a day)

    2. Your calculation for Intensity ratio seems very familiar to the calculation for “K” value that the old american coach Carl Miller used from the soviets in the early 60’s. Is it the same or slightly different? If so have you seen what the K value is for your female lifters?

    3. this is not a knock on any of the athletes that used the programming, but I have to ask if they were all drug free (3000 reps in a month seems extreme) and if they all were what recovery protocols would you recommend during the very high volume months?

    Thank you for your time and for putting out interesting material. I am still a rookie so I am just here to learn more.

    Head Coach of Klamath Barbell Club
    USAW National Coach

    1. ristosports Post author

      Sorry we missed your comment. What is important is the training load is accomplished that day. You can break it up however you want. The kazakhstan book we published shows break up of load by time of day, so that can be used for ideas. We are also publishing a second book on this system. The point of the Soviet system, particularly used by Dr Herrera (Medvedev school) was high repetitions enable results so you can attain them naturally. High intensity/low rep systems are not possible for most athletes with natural recovery. Hence, high volume is a better route for natural athletes.


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