A Too – Tall – For – Weightlifting -Female – Weightlifter

Andrew Charniga


“…relatively weak muscles of the arms and shoulder girdle noticeably facilitate the assimilation of the technique of the snatch and the clean and jerk. This is on account of the strength developed is in accordance with the necessary physical qualities of the sport technique.” L.N. Sokolov, 1973

Figure 1. A ‘too – tall – for – weightlifting – weightlifter’ with disposition of links considered disadvantageous; relative to the athlete’s body proportions; a low start to raise an junior world record 195 kg snatch. Larger knee angles at the start are considered more efficient for those lifters with longer lower extremities in relation to length of trunk. So much for that.  Charniga photo.

A number of aspects of the female experiences in weightlifting have been the subject of scrutiny in the literature. The initial resistance of governing bodies such as the IWF the IOC to even include women in the sport of maximum strain is connected with sociology defining science. That is to say, notions of a weaker sex, dating back who knows how far; have tended to preclude objectivity the female athlete’s potential to engage in elite sports connected with high intensity strain.

A single word encapsulating sociology dictating science is difference. Difference is used to establish and maintain social hierarchy (Collette Dowling, 2000). A sociological ‘science of difference’; in the context of differences between the sexes; is the  notion difference is used to establish hierarchy on the basis stronger, weaker, smarter and so forth. Carol Tarvis expressed a sociology in the guise of a science – of – difference very well in the following:

“In almost every domain of life, men are considered the normal human being , and women are considered “abnormal” , deficient because they are different from men.” Carol Tarvis, The mismeasure of woman,1992

Various factors have inhibited integration of female athletes into high intensity power sports. One of these factors is the omnipresent belief in the frailty of female athletes; fostered and repeatedly reinforced by the medical/academic communities.

For instance, despite the fact that female lifters have a lower injury rate than male lifters in weightlifting, track and field and many sporting endeavors; ‘unenlightened’ authors (many of whom are female) continue to insist female athletes are Biologically inferior:

“Increased risk specific to female athletes may be attributable to multiple factors including anatomical (increased Q angle, narrow inter-condylar notch, and increased in  posterior slope), hormonal, and neuro-muscular (poor core and gluteal muscular strength and increased hamstring to quadriceps ratio)”. Borja, C., et al, 2022

Pronouncements of enlightened ignorance such as  those quoted above emanate from people who have neither the experience (the mother of all knowledge) nor the common sense for objective differentiation between the sexes. Difference by means of sex has nothing to do with defect of constitution.

That being said, once the question of participation in weightlifting, a sport of maximum strain; having been settled; the competition protocols having been established for men; were eventually altered for the female lifter.

One such adaptation for the female lifter was the competition equipment. From the onset of the first women’s world weightlifting championship in 1987 the solution was for the women to simply use, the already in use, mens’ bar; which is 20 kg, 2,200 mm in length and 28 mm in diameter. After some ten years a ‘lady bar’ was introduced with specifications of 15 kg in weight, length of 2,010 mm and diameter of 25 mm. This seemed rational as the smaller diameter would easier accommodate the smaller girls to get a firm grip on the bar.

Furthermore, at the time the 15 kg bar was introduced; the absolute female world record in the clean and jerk was 155 kg. As this would seem to be near the limit of the female weightlifter, a heavier, thicker bar, with greater tensile strength was deemed unnecessary.

The specifications of the lady bar were based on the strength gap, of that time period, between the sexes, i.e., women were expected to raise significantly less weight. Consequently, a shorter, smaller diameter bar, of lesser tensile strength would suffice the competitions of the weaker sex.

However, in the intervening years the ‘strongest of the weaker’ have raised the absolute strength limit to more than 190 kgs; by almost 20%.  Yet the female barbell has remained the same. Furthermore, in the interim, additional specifications have only served to exacerbate; what has morphed into an already dangerously too flexible bar (Charniga, www.sportivnypress.com).

For instance, stress strain tests of the lady bar showed the female bar will deflect 57% more than the male bar loaded with the same weight (Charniga, www.sportivnypress.com). Empirical evidence the 15 kg bar is too flexible has been the emergence of what should be an extremely rare occurrence in weightlifting: female lifters suffering an elbow dislocation in the jerk portion of the classic clean and jerk. A common injury in weightlifting, elbow dislocations should not occur in the jerk. There is less strain on the elbow joint with the narrow hand spacing typical of the clean and jerk; hence significantly less chance of injury in comparison with the classic snatch (Charniga, www.sportivnypress.com).

In the intervening years since 1987, the female weightlifter’s ‘skill of strength’ has evolved; and, not just in terms of the biggest weight a single athlete can lift. For instance, a ratio of weight lifted to body weight of the world records in the snatch and the clean and jerk starting in 1987 reveals the female weightlifter’s rather significant, across the board progress in the ‘skill of strength’, characteristic of success in the classic exercises.

The mean snatch and the clean and jerk world records of female weightlifters showed the following progression (Charniga, 2012 calculations):

Comparison of progress of women vs men in the snatch (Charniga, A., A De-masculinization of Strength):

  • In 1996 women were already 67.1% as strong as men in the snatch {231.2%/155.2%}
  • In 2000 women were 71.1% as strong as men in the snatch {238.2%/169.4%}
  • In 2004 women were 74.7% as strong as men in the snatch {239.7%/179.1%}
  • In 2008 women are 76.9% {239.4%/184.0%} as men in the snatch

Comparison of progress of women vs men in the clean and jerk:

  • In 1987 women were 53.1% as strong as men in the clean and jerk {300.5%/159.7%}
  • 1992 women were 66.8% as strong as men in the clean and jerk {301.5%/201.4%}
  • In 1996 women were 69.0% as strong as men in the clean and jerk {283.5%/195.5%}
  • In 2000 women were 74.8% as strong as men in the clean and jerk {286.1%/208.6%}
  • In 2004 women were 75.7% as strong as men in the clean and jerk {288.3%/218.3%}
  • In 2008 women were 78.9% {288.1%/227.4%} as strong as men in the clean and jerk

The training of female lifters, for all intent and purpose, is very similar to that of a male lifter; although a larger volume of exercises for the upper extremities as is commonly administered; is unjustified. The underlying logic being females are disproportionately weaker in the upper extremities than male weightlifters. Although additional exercises for female lifters to develop mass and strength of upper extremities are common; they can be counterproductive: additional muscle in upper extremities increases bodyweight; a negative for those who to weigh within the limits of a certain weight class; and, artificially raises body center of mass, a negative for equilibrium.

Figure. Typically female lifters are often assigned the task of extra upper extremity exercises to increase muscle mass and strength; due to a disproportionate, in comparison to males, upper body strength. A negative consequence of unnecessarily raising body center of mass; along with the possibility this could have a negative impact on optimum technique are not taken into account. Charniga photo. 

For instance, Soviet era weightlifting sport scientist L.N. Sokolov (1973) showed there is an advantage to a specific disparity between the strength of upper and lower extremities in the current biathlon era  (classic snatch and classic clean and jerk). Weightlifters who excelled in the press in the triathlon era had a ratio of 52% upper to lower body strength. Whereas, for those excelled in the classic snatch and the classic clean and jerk the ratio was 40% upper to lower body strength. That is to say, a weightlifter with proportionally less strength in the upper extremities was better suited to raising the heaviest weights over head in the snatch and the clean and jerk. Counterintuitive, to say the least.

So, one can assume women already have this strength – disparity – advantage in weightlifting. Therefore, a purposeful addition of extra muscle mass to the female weightlifter’s upper extremities, over time; can be counterproductive. For instance, it has been established lifters who were good at the press had proportionally more sub – cutaneous fat mass in the upper extremities, i.e,  accumulated along with the extra muscle mass developed for pressing (Pilipovsky, A.Z, 1975); another unproductive raising of body center of mass.

Other negative consequences of unnecessary muscle mass in upper extremities for practitioners of the classic exercises; besides the potential negative effect of raising body center of mass on technique; are connected with establishing and maintaining a rational distribution of body mass.  

One common denominator of training in sports with weight classes is for coaches to allow athletes to practice at a higher, even significantly higher body weight than the weight limits of the category the athlete typically competes at. Subsequently, the athletes have to lose weight; in some cases, make drastic reductions, quickly.

Frequently, weightlifters will allow their body weight to drift significantly beyond the weight category limits. The rational for training at a superfluous, for competition, body weight in weightlifting is for the athlete to add more muscle mass; so as to be able to lift heavier weights in training at the non – competition body weight. This in turn is supposed to facilitate increasing one’s results at the competition body weight; when the athlete eventually reduces to compete. Evidence for the effectiveness of this practice is lacking.

The current ten weight classes for women with 76 – 81 – 87 and +87 kg weight limits, in effect, encourages female lifters in the lighter classes, to increase body weight so as to move into a heavier, less competitive class. It has been established the relative results of female lifters drop significantly after 64 kg. More often than not, the extra mass does not facilitate the athlete’s (males as well as females) ability to qualitatively improve results. This is especially true of the female lifter’s results; due to an already disproportionate to men, fat mass; which can be exacerbated by  weight gain with disproportionately more fat mass added to fit into a heavier category.

Figure 1. Females are typically 8 – 10% shorter than males, with 8 – 10% less muscle mass and 10% more fat mass than males. Charniga photo

“The opinion that technique stems from strength is incorrect.” M. Sorokin, 1963

A number negative outcomes associated with the common practice of ‘playing’ with body weight come to mind:

/ extra muscle mass is typically accompanied by excess fat mass; especially for lifters in the heavier categories;

/ increased body mass with added muscle means more strength; but, along with the extra muscle comes added fat; and, an inevitable alteration of  even subtle parameters of technique;

/ alterations of technique, even subtle deviations acquired after weight gain, may not result in a positive outcome for the athlete after reduction of body weight for competition;

/ the features of a weightlifter’s technique at a theoretically appropriate competition body weight; involve complex efforts at moving, a given for the weightlifter, body mass; which extra muscle and especially fat mass do not facilitate;

/ a loss of strength the athlete has grown ‘accustomed’ with weight gain, can result when the athlete reduces body weight; with incumbent negative ramifications;

/ purposefully adding muscle mass involves additional fat mass to allow a move into a heavier body weight class; which has been proven to produce diminishing returns, especially for the female weightlifter.

A logical practice for lifters, especially female weightlifters, would entail restricting their body weight within reasonable proximity to the weight class limits in which the athlete competes; with weight/height ratio an important consideration. Such a restriction; out of necessity; should involve monitoring body composition  (specific gravity) so as to manage an optimum body weight which minimizes unnecessary fat mass (Tsukahara, et al, 2020).

The long practice of connecting weightlifting results to increased muscle mass, the number of myo – filaments, proportion of fiber types and so forth i.e., simplistic notions of more muscle, stronger muscle contraction, the more weight one can lift; is outmoded.

The skill of strength In the modern era of the speed sport of weightlifting, is best expressed by such qualities as coordination, speed of muscle relaxation, efficiency of elastic recoil from Bio – springs (tendons, ligaments, fascia), i.e., a complex dynamic, not simple static, mechanisms.  

Adjusting body weight categories appropriate for the female weightlifter

Of the competition protocols, as pertains the female lifter; which have evolved over the years; arguably, one the most problematic is the selection of appropriate body weight categories. Not only does this problem persist; if anything has been made worse with the current official 10 – female categories.

Over the years, even though there have been multiple changes in the weight categories of both sexes, a rational selection of weight increments consistent within the confines of the natural range of height and the specific gravity characteristics of the female body, i.e., Bio – density; has not been considered.

For instance, Ford et al, 2000 noted a precipitous drop relative results for both sexes at the senior world championships: for men after 83 kg and for females after the 64 kg class. The authors cited the decline due to the lower relative proportion of contractile mass:

“The ratio of weight lifted to mean body cross-sectional area was approximately constant for body-weight classes ≤83 kg for men and ≤64 kg for women and decreased abruptly for higher weight classes.
Analysis also suggests that contractile tissue comprises
30% less body mass in female champions.” Ford, et al, 2000

Adjusting the weight category limits in close coincidence with the female weightlifters’ natural distribution of weight to height proportions is a rational solution to the current dyslogistic of distributing female lifters across ten weight divisions; several of which, realistically, are out of sync with reasonable weight to height ranges to support a sufficient muscle to fat mass relationship, i.e., a de – facilitation effect.

The apportioning of 10 weight categories should remain. However, to be appropriate for females; the weight limitations should be skewed to the left: disproportionately more towards the lighter and less towards the heavier categories as is the current weight distribution; with smaller increments between the lighter classes. These categories should be established to be more in line with the average height ranges of female weightlifters.

A Psychology of Weightlifting and Body Mass

Logic would seem to dictate aggressiveness is a singular aspect of a masculinity of strength. Despite the fact aggressiveness has mostly negative connote in the realms of both psychology and sociology; a myth of aggressiveness as an integral characteristic of human strength can be said to persist in the absence of scientific substantiation. For instance, some obscure Soviet era research re – affirms negative ramifications of aggressiveness. Although the  research of Salnikov, pre – dates the female lifter on the international scene; aggressiveness was found to be connected with slower progress and greater weight gain in the male weightlifter. A differentiation of sex can be such that heightened aggressiveness would be expected to have disproportionate negative ramifications for the female weightlifter as well.

Figure. An intertwining of aggressiveness with the expression of strength has more negative ramification than positive. Charniga photo. 

A slower rate of progress; accompanied by unnecessary weight gain are not in the best interests of the athlete; be it male or female. Consequently, an even greater emphasis than is already recommended is for the coach of and the female lifter to cultivate muscle relaxation skills, i.e., a relaxed approach to the maximum strain of weightlifting:

“The greatest disparity in the rise of results was to found in those lifters who were distinguished by levels of aggressiveness. The sportsmen with low levels of aggressiveness and moderate levels of anxiety reached the class I, CMS and MS norms faster in comparison with weightlifters with moderate and high levels of aggressiveness and low levels of anxiety.” Of these psychomotor tonus, aggressiveness and anxiety affect to the largest extent the improvement of the weightlifter’s results and his bodyweight. The person with moderate psychomotor tonus and anxiety and low aggressiveness reaches specific levels of sport mastery significantly faster. V.A. Salnikov, B.V. Kimeisha, A.M. NikitinThe time Dynamics of Weightlifters’ Results with Respect to the Psycho – motor Peculiarities of Personality” , Teoriia I Praktika Fizicheskoi Kultury       7:14 – 17:1982. Translated by Andrew Charniga

Improvement of results in weightlifting and unnecessary rise in body mass both of which can be affected by the relative manifestation of varying levels of aggressiveness; are not subjects of classroom discussion or of textbook contents; nonetheless are factors to consider in the training of the female weightlifter.

Factors affecting height

Figure. Research of optimum height to weight ratios for female weightlifters is at best sparse and/or out of date. Long bones, long muscles and long tendons work the same irregardless sex. Charniga photo.

There does not exist a universal average height and weight between the sexes. A number of factors account for height variations by regions.  For instance, the average height of women of the African continent is about 158 cm; 160 cm for the western hemisphere; about 157 cm for Asia; 164 cm for Europe and about 161 cm for Oceana. However, according to the world population review height data is typically self reported. And, it is estimated males exaggerate their height (taller) on average of 2.3 cm and females by about 1.5 cm (https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/average-height-by-state).

So, even the reported height and weight statistics of the various regions of the world are far from 100% accurate. This is not surprising as it seems a universal ‘sociology of height’ exists: with a distinct bias towards taller over shorter people. Hence, the motivation to exaggerate one’s height to a sociologically approved ‘higher ground’.

Besides genetic factors, nutritional status is a key determinant of height as well as lean body mass. For instance, the average height of youths increased for both sexes following the second world war (Astrand, et al, 2003).

Consequently, for those international governing bodies of sports with weight categories; the determination of weight ranges need be appropriate and reasonably fair to all concerned. Not a simple matter; especially if one takes into account weight categories suitable  for height and body composition indices.

There is not much research on weight/height ratio of female athletes; even less so on female weightlifters. However, it is common knowledge (Tumanyan, 1976 and others) specific gravity; the relative composition of less dense fat to more dense tissues such as muscle, tendon, ligaments, fascia and bone; increases with the rise in body weight. Likewise, there is a disproportionate rise in bone mass with increasing height.

Females typically have larger sub – cutaneous fat mass than males; even the composition of which is different. Males have up to 2.5 times more fibrous tissue embedded in sub – cutaneous fat; which increases further, the relative disparity of fat mass between the sexes (Tskahara, Y., et al, 2020 ). And, presumably, this accounts for some of the male athlete’s greater specific gravity.

That being the case, it is not a simple matter of muscle mass is good and fat mass is excess baggage. A certain amount of subcutaneous body fat is necessary; especially for the female athlete:

“Females seem to “need” a much higher amount of subcutaneous fat”, Senegeis, M. et al , 2019;

“There is a role for some level of fat mass in female athletes given the secretion of free concentrations of sex hormones from the adipocytes for a normal functioning menstrual cycle and for bone formation activity.” “Relationships between fat and bone”, Reid, I.

Furthermore accommodations to increases in height entails disproportionate increases in bone cross – sectional areas of the female body. For instance, with the increase in height from 150 cm to 180 cm “… distal tibia total cross-sectional areas doubled, from ~400 to ~800 mm2. However, the taller women also had thinner tibial cortices with increased porosity resulting in lower total and cortical volumetric bone densities. “… hypothesize that these adaptations improve bone bending strength while maintaining the compressive strength needed for load bearing” (Heymsfield, et al, 2019). So, with increasing height, there are structurally appropriate adaptations to support a larger female stature.

Tall – for – weightlifting – female – weightlifters?

A case for a tall – for – weightlifting – weightlifter having been made (Charniga, 2022, www.sportivnypress.com); it stands to reason there should be tall – for- weightlifting – female – weightlifters. The same principles outlined for successful tall male weightlifters are applicable for tall females: the composition of muscles/long muscles, long tendons, long tracts of fascia, long ligaments, i.e., mass of visco – elastic tissues and minimal fat mass.

Furthermore, inter – muscular coordination, speed of muscle relaxation and flexibility are the main determinants of a successful weightlifter; not short stature and thick muscles.

Consider the fixed in cement position of the academics:

“Among similarly conditioned athletes, those with thicker muscles will lift more weight; among minimally obese lifters, those with thicker muscles should have larger mean cross-sectional areas, defined as body weight divided by height.” Ford, L.E., Detterline, A.J., CAO W. 2000

Those outmoded beliefs of short is good, tall is bad, i.e, short male weightlifters have advantages over tall male lifters; would likewise seem to preclude a relatively tall female weightlifter becoming successful at the international level. However, those same old rules do not apply to the modern female weightlifter as they do not apply for the male lifter; all the more so because of differences in Biology.

Tall – for – weightlifting – female – weightlifters

Presented in table 1 are the bio – density ratings of some top female weightlifters of today in comparison with those of the 2008 Olympics. The top rated lifter of this grouping is CHEN (48 kg/152 cm), i.e., she is relatively tall and lean for this weight class; even 2 cm taller than Diaz (PHI) the 2020 Olympic champion at 55 kg. 

It is not easy to ascertain such a thing as a tall – for – weightlifting – female – weightlifter with so little weight/height data of females who are now competing on the international scene. Even the Hollies would be at a loss.

The various weightlifting governing bodies at the international and national levels are certainly remiss for this dearth of female weight/height data; especially as they are tasked with establishing the body weight ranges for competitions. That being said; one can only rely on some anecdotal examples.

For instance, it is worth noting, both CAO Lei (CHN) at 75 kg/168 cm and Djomes (COL) at 76 kg/167 cm (table 1) are taller than 1964 silver and 1968 Olympic gold medalist V. Kurentsov (USSR) {75/164 cm} and 1968 Olympic gold medalist B. Selitsky (USSR) {82.5 kg/164 cm}; with Djomes of the same height as 1968 silver medalist Belyaev (USSR) {82.5 kg/167 cm}. Furthermore, by way of comparison; CAO Lei snatched 128kg in Beijing; whereas Kurentsov snatched 130 kg in 1964 and was lucky to make 135 in 1968. 

Presumably, those tall for weightlifting females have lower specific gravity, disproportionately less composition of muscle, bone, tendon, ligament and fascia mass combined with proportionally greater fat mass; than the aforesaid male Olympic champions. Kurentsov’s bio – density {75,000 grams/164 cm} would be 457 whereas CAO Lei’s was less with 446. So, CAO Lei realized her results, presumably, with relatively less mass of contractile, and other denser than fat tissues; with proportionally more fat mass and what is still erroneously considered less efficient longer extremities; especially longer shins (see figure); all that coupled with having to perform more work against gravity with her greater height, than the aforesaid male Olympic medalists.  

“A long cool woman in black dress” (the Hollies, 1971)

Figure. Taller than what are considered mechanically efficient female weightlifters such as CAO Lei (CHN); with long muscles, long extremities; especially long shins with a high development of calf musculature; are essentially female versions of guys like Zdrazilla, Ozimek, Nikolov, i.e., with the same ‘inferior’ mechanical disadvantages; somehow, or other, turned into advantages. Charniga photo.  

Figure 1. Bio – density rating of some top female lifters of today compared to 2008 Olympic champions.

AthleteNationClassHt. cmBiodSnJtRank
HOU Z.CHN49 kg1493283.492.831.566
KUO H.TPE58 Kg1553743.632.711.555
Diaz H.PHI55 kg1503673.782.891.638
DENG W.CHN63 kg1593963.502.711.534
Djome N.ECU76 kg1674553.853.171.739
LI W.CHN150 kg1788426.014.672.6312
Zhou LuCHN140 kg1758005.484.172.4011
2008 Oly        
CHEN X.CHN48 kg1523163.322.701.491
CHEN Y.CHN58 kg1583673.462.661.502
LIU C.CHN69 kg1604313.372.731.513
CAO L.CHN75 kg1684463.482.901.587
Mi-ran J.KOR118 kg1706944.953.732.1310
T&F    100200  
JonesUSA68 kg17838235.8617.67  
Distance    800400  
SemenRSA70 kg1783933.457.92 1
MillerJAM69 kg185373 7.56 2
MU AUSA56 kg1783152.746.35 3

Amongst this group of female champions ZHOU Lu Lu (CHN) {175 cm, 800} and LI W. (CHN) {178 cm, 842) refute the assertion of Ford (2000), that a height limit for female weightlifters begins at 175 cm. LI’s 178 cm in height could be dismissed because of her 150 kg body weight; but a more logical assumption can be made she could lift the same weights; if not more, if she shed 10 – 15 kg of superfluous sub-cutaneous body fat which only adds to the burden of raising a heavy barbell.

This same argument could be applied to ZHOU Lu Lu who was much leaner than LI. However, a reasonable loss of excess fat mass would not be expected to have negative effect on her results. Indeed Bulgarian research (Meranzov) established a body weight (for males) of 140 kg as the point of diminishing returns for weightlifters in the unlimited category. Logic would dictate such a point of diminishing returns for the female lifter would be much lighter than 140 kg; presumably since it is estimated females have ∼30% less contractile mass than males (Ford, 2001).

Bio – density rating of a few relatively tall female track and field runners are added to table 1 for comparison. The success of these women competing in the 100 – 800 meter events is evidence females are capable of producing great power with relatively long extremities, lean; but not, dense muscle mass, while performing more work against gravity with statures connected with less aerodynamic properties, and so forth (table 1).

Consequently, the ability of athletes with a track and field physique ,to produce high power output could easily transition to results in weightlifting; with sufficient development of flexibility, coordination, muscle relaxation skills and so forth.   

Weight class limit

A good case can be made for 130 kg as the upper limit for heaviest female category. Tall females (in excess of 175 cm) could easily accommodate this limitation with less counterproductive fat mass and presumably without a negative impact on results in the classic snatch and the classic clean and jerk.

Specific gravity refers to the relative composition of tissues with varying density per gram of mass: muscle, bone and fat mass; with the density of tendon, fascia, ligaments – unknown. Weight gain connected with greater proportion of fat to muscle means the weightlifter’s body weight rises; but, specific gravity decreases, i.e., the relative composition of useful contractile tissue decreases.

Consequently, the increase in the weightlifter’s body weight comes at the cost of having to move excess baggage. Since females already have larger relative composition of fat mass than males; increases in body weight would logically be a greater negative for the female because a disproportionate increase in body weight would be extra baggage: which is obvious in the drop off in results after 64 kg.

This circumstance is all the more pronounced in lower class female lifters who already have a larger proportion of body fat (M.I. Utkin, 1965; T.A. Yelinina, 1967). So, the gain in weight which accompanies a switch to a heavier weight class, for instance, would be, all the more, less efficient, i.e., the extra muscle would have to pick up extra fat.

Differences in the composition of fat

“It is also more important to monitor changes in body composition than body mass.” Tsukahara, et.al, 2020

“…sub – cutaneous fat increases in all parts of the body along with the increase in weight class from lightest to heaviest; second, the largest proportion of sub – cutaneous fat is to found on the stomach and back, the least on the forearm and arm. Furthermore, the lower the weightlifter’s qualification, the greater the content of sub – cutaneous fat” (M.I. Utkin, 1965; T.A. Yelinina, 1967).

The key factor to consider with the prospect of weight gain in the female weightlifter is the trade off between the potential to lift more with additional body mass can be coupled to lower efficiency, i.e.,  raising unnecessary body weight in the form of excess fat. Old ideas of weightlifting technique are still around. They center around raising the weight with muscle power (performing external work); with less attention; and, more importantly understanding of the role of moving the body (internal work) by means of rapid muscle contraction and even faster release of muscle tension from muscle relaxation.

There is some evidence there are even differences in the composition of fat mass between the sexes. Some authors show males have 250% larger percentage of “imbedded fiberous structures” than females (Judokas) athletes. Senegeis, M. et al , 2019   

Furthermore, females have larger proportions of the total skeletal muscle mass in the lower extremities than males (Gallagher, et al, 1997). However, this fact need not be a consideration to artificially add muscle mass to the upper extremities; as it would alter the natural distribution of muscle mass and raise body center of mass. This artificial raising of center of mass could likewise affect how the female athlete establishes equilibrium and generates power in the classic exercises. That is to say, it is not a good idea to try to masculinize a female weightlifter.

Study of body weight alteration in female track and field athletes (Tsukahara, et.al, 2020) found the key factor affecting performance was not the total weight gain but the percentage of fat mass. In the absence of sport specific research of this subject in weightlifting it is a logical principle to take into account; considering the commonalities between track and field and weightlifting. Consequently, female weightlifters should monitor percentage of fat mass with weight gain into a heavier category and should proceed with reasonable caution so as to avoid unnecessary and potentially deleterious gain of fat mass, i.e., the important indicator is the fat to muscle mass percentage; not the absolute gain in body mass.


/ height is no more an impediment to high performance in weightlifting for males than it is for females;

/ a height of 175 cm as a point of diminishing returns for the female weightlifter is not based on sufficient heuristic evidence;

/ rising stature is accompanied by longer bones, especially shin bones;

/ longer shin bones which accompany rising stature are usually distinguished by a high distribution of calf musculature and long tendons; an advantage not typically recognized in weightlifters of either sex;

/ tall -for – weightlifting- female – weightlifters have the same mechanical advantages as tall – for – weightlifting male lifters;

/ the impact of increasing fat mass with weight gain, is an important consideration for both sexes;

/ increase in bodyweight to compete in a heavier weight class is unjustified, especially for the female weightlifter if it entails a disproportionate increase in fat mass;

/ The following hypotheticals (Dafnis Vidal Pérez, et al, 2021 are false:

“Lifters who have the shortest limbs show higher performance on weightlifting, both in males and females.”

“Lifters with the highest percentage of muscle mass show a higher performance on weightlifting, both in males and females.”

Lifters with the shortest limbs present higher speed of the bar (average and peak), both in males and females”. Dafnis Vidal Pérez, et al, 2021


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/ Sengeis. M., Muller, W.,Storchle, P. Reiger, A., “Body weight and subcutaneous fat patterning in elite judokas”, 2018 DOI: 10.1111/sms.13508

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