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Should A Woman Base Her Weight Training on Her Menstrual Cycle?

By Eric Brown

Many female athletes face the challenge of training around their menstrual cycle. If you are engaged in a lifting program, there are some factors that you may wish to take into consideration when planning your training. Even though individual women experience different issues during their cycle, there is no significant reason to keep you from lifting. Consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Your Menstrual Cycle

Most research is conducted based on differing phases of the menstrual cycle, and tracking yours may help you successfully program your training. The follicular phase lasts from day one of your cycle to ovulation. The ovulatory phase follows, with the luteal phase extending from ovulation to the onset of menses. Your estrogen levels will fluctuate during your cycle, but they are usually higher during the ovulatory phase.

Effects of Menstrual Cycle On Strength

While your hormones may fluctuate, there is no real change in the hormones primarily responsible for muscle tissue repair. So your ability to recover from heavy resistance training and generate maximal strength should be undiminished. According to researchers from the School of Exercise and Sport Science in Sydney, Australia and published in a 2001 edition of "The Journal of Physiology," the changes in hormone levels have no effect on the contractile properties of a muscle. So unless you are cramping badly enough to affect your performance, there should be no issue with resistance training.

Effects of Menstrual Cycle on Performance

The most notable effect of the menstrual cycle on performance is aerobic. The majority of the decrease occurs during the luteal phase, according to researchers from the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre at the University of British Columbia and published in a 1993 issue of "Sports Medicine." Another noted effect is the increase in the risk of knee injury during the ovulatory phase. When your body is producing more estrogen, your ability to repair collagen, or the tissue that holds your joints together, is slightly compromised.

Planning Your Training

Fortunately, the majority of the studied effects of your menstrual cycle should not affect your weight-training program. If you are doing higher-volume training, you may wish to plan slightly longer rest periods, but you should not experience a noted decrease in your performance. You may also wish to avoid any sort of unstable training, given the increased risk of knee injuries during your ovulatory phase. Avoid Swiss balls, wobble boards and BOSU balls. While there is not much need for these devices normally, while you are at greater risk of injury, there is no need at all.

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