I was at the library looking up a few anatomy questions I got asked during yoga class and stumbled across an absolute gem of a book called Women’s Strength Training Anatomy by French author Frédéric Delavier. I picked it up hoping for a quick and easy refresher on proper wrist alignment and modifications in plank, which is a ridiculously common exercise used by pretty much every exercise trainer on the face of the planet. What I ended up with was half an hour of stifling giggles in the library as I kept flipping back to the title page thinking There is NO way this book wasn’t published in the 1980’s. This CANNOT be a real thing.
Oh yes, internet. It’s a real thing. I present to you Women’s Strength Training Anatomy, published in 2002, a real life guide for women who like their workouts sprinkled with a dash of Misogyny and a sprinkle of Racism.
Now before I continue, I will admit that Delavier’s book has some incredibly good information in it, and does make some accurate points regarding the differences between male and female anatomy. The exercises he lists are good ones, well described and accompanied with detailed, fantastically rendered drawings of what to look for. However, as many to the Amazon reviews for this book point out, you may as well just get the original Strength Training Anatomy (for men) by Delavier, because the praise for this book ends here.
The author starts the ball rolling with a brief chapter on fat deposits in women. He points out that women tend to have more fat deposits than men because our bodies are geared towards pregnancy and the extra fat reserves serve as an energy source for Baby. Sure. Fine. Okay. Then he says:
“For various reasons, different fat distributions occur in women according to climate. In hot countries, the fat is localized on the buttocks (black Africans), on the hips (Mediterraneans), and around the navel (certain Asians). This distribution avoids covering the woman with a hot coat of fat that would be difficult to bear and inefficient for thermoregulation during hot periods. In cold countries, the distribution of fat is more uniform, which provides for better protection during rigorous winters. However the fat is distributed, its main function is for the survival of the species as it provides for survival of the woman and her offspring during times of scarcity.” (8)
Wait. Stop yourself, Delavier. This seems cray cray. This seems like one of those statements that you read and at first you think, huh, okay and then you think about it and go waittt a second, no. I tried to find another source on this and I couldn’t come up with anything, but if someone finds a legitimate study on this published any time in the past decade, please let me know and I will retract my statement. Otherwise I’m calling shenanigans, D, because you then go on to point out that the fat between the thighs “plays an important aesthetic role in that it fills the space between the two thighs” (10) and that is just a super unnecessary thing to say.
Another thing, D. I get that all of your illustrations show perfect, beautifully in shape women with perfect hair, smoldering bedroom eyes, and huge, perky breasts, because let’s face it, modern workout photos and videos do exactly the same thing. I very much appreciate the extremely detailed drawings of musculature and the highlighting of the working muscles. Fabulous. But will someone explain to me, please, why the model’s clothing just gets smaller and then completely see-through and then it just falls off? Honestly, about halfway through the book, the drawings are just naked. Is this an artistic touch of some sort, Delavier? I get that you’re French, but was showing me the aureola on the lady demonstrating cycling obliques really necessary? Your target audience is women, D, I’m pretty sure we know what boobs look like, and contrary to popular belief, we rarely do our abs section au naturale.
I’m not even going to touch on the mysterious lack of upper body exercises in this book, because my delicate feminine sensibilities can’t handle the mere mention of arm exercises. I just get my harem of tough, dependable manly men to do all my heavy lifting for me, which is fine, because I’m stuck in the 1920’s and there isn’t anything heavy in the kitchen anyways.
As a helpful workout guide, I’ll give Women’s Strength Training Anatomy 3.5 out of 5 for having pretty good alignment cues and descriptions for the abs, back, seat, and legs. I omitted a full point for the lack of upper body exercises.
As a female athlete, however, I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.