When Def Leppard wrote the song "women" I don't think they had weightlifting in mind. But considering the way the records have been falling for the last few years, they could have.
The women’s world records in weightlifting have been improving much faster than the mens records. Not surprising considering the length of time that women have been competing in the sport. The first women’s world championship wasn’t until the 1980’s, and women’s weightlifting did not become an olympic sport till 2000. Before it became an Olympic sport it was mostly western democracies that sent women to compete at the world’s, but with the advent of women being included in the olympic event even traditional weightlifting powerhouses like China and Russia became involved.
Compare that to the Mens sport, which has been around for over a hundred years, and in pretty much it’s present form since the 1940’s. Considering the length of time the women have had to improve verses the time for the men it is no wonder the mens records are increasing at a snails pace and the women are still improving fairly rapidly, Throw in the fact that culturally women are just not as likely to want to compete in weightlifting, or even be able to compete in some countries. In many ways our world is modern, but often not when it comes to what it is culturally acceptable for women. Here in the USA we are not all that far removed from when many people, even some doctors thought that lifting anything heavy might make it impossible for a woman to bear children.
That these attitudes continue to some extent is a shame, because women might be even better suited for weightlifting than men.
To start with, women are typically more flexible than men. Flexibility is generally an advantage in weightlifting because it can allow you to get in more ideal positions. Even the catch position in the clean and snatch can be lower for a flexible female compared to a male lifter. Catching lower means you usually don’t have to lift the bar as high, allowing more weight to be lifted.
Women tend to have a higher percentage of their mass in their lower bodies than men. The leg strength of female athletes is virtually identical to men when the amount of muscle mass is equalized. With modern lifting technique, the legs and hips supply most of the force needed to lift the weight while the upper bodies and particularly the arms supply very little. Women are much closer to men in lower body strength than upper body strength.
Men tend to have an advantage in upper body strength but in weightlifting this can actually be a disadvantage. As Bud Charniga puts it, “when you have a cannon its hard to keep from firing it.” So all the upper body and arm strength might not help men at all!
Women also tend to be able to work harder than men, and achieve higher training loads. This has been observed in so many places and so many countries that at this point it is a fact as far as I am concerned. Women seem to be able to tap deeper into the reserves their body has in order to continue to adapt when under extreme stress. I believe this might have something to do with women’s ability to bear children. It is hard to believe there could be any more stressful event than pregnancy and the birth of a child. It seems likely that the adaptation that enables women to deal with pregnancy might also make them better able to deal with other high stress situations and leave them with an greater ability to overcome extreme stress compared to men.
Women also tend to be easier to coach than men. Anyone who has coached young men, especially during their late teen years knows exactly what I am talking about. Too much testosterone and an ego that is often too big make the average 17 year old male very hard to coach. There is a time limit when it comes to participation in elite athletics. If several years are wasted because an athlete is un-coachable, you never get those years back.
Will the women’s world records keep climbing till they are even with the mens? Or might they climb even higher than the mens records records in some weight classes? I don’t think so. But a few years ago if someone had asked me if a woman would ever snatch double bodyweight I would have answered with an emphatic NO