Determining women’s weights – Sun 7.03.16

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When CrossFit first started posting workouts online, they did not post a women’s weight.  They have continued to this day.  In general, to determine women’s weights, we will drop the weight to 60-70% of the posted weight to determine the women’s weight.  The reason for this is based on power output.  CrossFit’s effectiveness is based in power, the ability to move large loads quickly.  Power is intensity, and intensity brings results.

In CrossFit, we maximize intensity by using a stopwatch. We apply this stopwatch to a wide variety of functional movements performed with full range of motion. This practice is responsible for unprecedented results. Cutting your Fran and Helen times, increasing your max Deadlift, or getting more rounds of Cindy or Mary is how we measure our power increases.

When deciding how to offset the men’s and women’s weights, it becomes necessary to determine what women’s natural potential should be, in contrast to men’s strength and power.  Should women be able to lift as much as men and work towards do the Rx’d men’s weights?  Or should women not lift mare than 3 lbs, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s famed fitness trainer once said?

In my opinion, we should look at what women and men can naturally accomplish as a guideline.  One of the best ways to test “genetic” power is the Standing Vertical Jump!  Males and females and old and young people have different hormonal environments, both developmentally and functionally.  There’s a lot that goes into it, but we’ll just we’ll call “genetics” and just agree that women and men are built differently, right?

The standing vertical jump test is a very good measurement of “genetic” explosiveness, because it measures your ability to accelerate your own body’s mass to give enough momentum to carry you up a measured distance after you stop applying force to the ground. Since the force production that generates this acceleration must occur in the short time it takes to produce a counter-movement jump, the height of the jump is a very precise measurement of your ability to recruit a lot of motor units at the same time – your ability to generate power or “explode.”

Comparing several standing vertical jump numbers between men and women, we find these numbers:

  • The women’s average is 14 inches and a record is listed a 29.5-inch jump at Nebraska track and field in 2002.
  • The men’s average is 22 inches, with a 46-inch jump at a 2006 NFL combine. So both the average and the record women’s standing vertical jump is 64% of the men’s.

(References: David D. Patterson and D. Fred Peterson, “Vertical Jump and Leg Power Norms for Young Adults”, Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 8(1), 33-41 – 2004 and 2006 NFL Combine)

There is not much to do to improve these numbers.  Strength won’t improve it necessarily more than 10-15%.  Technique can as well.  But, because it’s a natural expression of power, the standing vertical jump serves as a good number to set many of our weights for our workouts.  Once we hit those Rx’d numbers, then we can work to improve our workout times, rounds, or strength weights, to push our power and intensity even further.

Some examples on how these workout weights are used:

  • in “Fran”, we set the Thruster weight at 95 lbs for men and 65lbs for women.   That is a 68% difference.
  • Typically workouts with a Kettlebell may be set at 53 lbs for the men and 35 lbs for the women (66%).
  • A workout programming a 225 lbs Deadlift, like “Diane”, would use a 155 lbs Deadlift for women (69%).

That isn’t to say all workouts are this way.  Some workouts are listed at 135 lbs for men.  Depending on if its a lower body workout I may post 95 lbs for the women and push the limits to 70%.  Or I may post 85 lbs, bringing it down to 62%, or lower even, depending on the skill level of the gym as a whole.

Nothing is set in stone, and everyone is different.  These are all just guidelines, to help us stay on a path for constant improvement.

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