Welcome to our Gymnastics Community
Wanting to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.
Sign up

Shoulders & arms and body image

STU678

New Member
Proud Parent
May 15, 2018
11
Country
Canada
The body image/nutrition thread has me thinking about a similar problem that I already see developing with my daughter. Some of the older girls at her gym talk about not wanting to do a lot of upper body conditioning because they think their arms/shoulders are too big and they don't like it. I can see my daughter, who's never really paid that much attention to her size, starting to listen to them and get a bit self conscious, as well (she's 13). I haven't really talked to her about it yet, typically we don't discuss body size, weight, etc. beyond the fact that it's good that she is active, healthy, and strong, but I can see that there may be conversations in my future as she reaches an age that girls seem to naturally start comparing themselves to other girls. It doesn't help when we go clothes shopping and she tries on cute little shirts that her friends are wearing, but they just aren't made for wider shoulders. We have, in the past, many times discussed the importance of conditioning for her safety as well as making it easier for her to learn new skills, and she's always been really good at doing all of it. I hate to see her start slacking because she doesn't like the looks of her shoulders/arms. Have any of you dealt with this problem?
 

mommyof1

Active Member
Proud Parent
Jan 31, 2012
2,083
The car
Country
USA
My 12-year-old is very proud of the shoulder and arm muscles she's worked hard for, and actively seeks out clothes that show them off. She loves tank tops and halter necklines. Certain brands and styles are not cut well for athletic arms and shoulders, so we talk about how different clothes are made to fit and flatter different bodies and not everything works for everyone. I try to model a healthy attitude in this department when we are shopping together. For example, when I try on something that doesn't fit I won't say "I look terrible in this," I will say "the shoulders on this aren't cut right for me, so I will try another style" or "I think this will fit me well with some tailoring."
 

1canadiangymmom

Member
Proud Parent
May 13, 2014
481
41
Country
Canada
Dealt with this for the first time this year. My dd is 16, did WAG for 9 years and switched to T&T last June after finishing up her level 8 season. She still proud of her muscles and her body, but finding a grad dress to attend her BF grade 12 graduation was a struggle. So many of the styles do not flatter the wide shoulders and muscles. The one she finally picked was beautiful on her, but..... she could barely lift her arms to shoulder height in it. Next year, for her grade 12 grad we are definitely going to have to start much earlier in the year in our search :(
 
  • Like
Reactions: STU678

esor

Member
Proud Parent
May 22, 2014
272
47
Country
USA
I just started having this problem with my 15 year old. I don't know exactly where it came from but for some reason this year she won't wear tank tops because she doesn't like how her arm and shoulder muscles show. It makes me sad as I have stressed that healthy and strong is beautiful. She also saw a pic of herself wakeboarding where you could see her shoulder muscles, and she was literally grossed out by it. I think it started this last year where kids in her school started noticing her muscles (even though she is little) and I am so sad she feels that way. It hasn't stopped her training yet, only because I think her goals while at practice outweigh her concerns in the moment. I hope this doesn't impact your daughters training. Hopefully focusing on what she can do will outweigh any perceived concerns.
 

Muddlethru

Well-Known Member
Proud Parent
Mar 16, 2011
3,408
Country
USA
My daughter just turned 18 and after 5 years in Level 10, her shoulders have broadened far more than the average gymnast in my opinion. My family is naturally broad and gymnastics developed hers even more. She has (and still is) very proud of her strength and muscles. It was only in the last couple years that she has expressed what she believed was the unsightliness of her broad shoulders. Her back really looks like a V and oh she has no boobs! I’ve not talked to her at all about body image except to talk about the health aspect. Interestingly, she loves clothes that show off her back. So I’m not sure she really dislikes her back? However, she was EXTREMELY upset when she had her haircut (hair dresser cut 10 inches instead of the 4 inches she wanted. Her hair was past her waistline. So even though the hair dresser cut 10, it was still long) two weeks before her prom stating she looked horrible and like a man. Her sister bought her extensions and she was fine.

I never made a big deal about her broadness or made any point of talking to her about it except to say it is part of the physical development of a gymnast, which it is. They either accept that if they want to continue. But I agree, shopping is harder although remember every child has their own physical insecurities. Very few are happy with their physique; at least gymnasts have a worthwhile reason for their development.

As far as picking clothes, they do figure out what looks best on them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: STU678

STU678

New Member
Proud Parent
May 15, 2018
11
Country
Canada
From what I understand, it started with the older girls at our gym after some less than kind comments made by a few boys. It's so unfortunate that no matter how hard we try to raise strong, confident girls, the teenage years are still tough and they are still susceptible to the influence of their peers. And I do agree that very few girls escape those years never having any insecurities, I suppose it's just a normal part of growing up. I wish I had magic words that would make teenagers understand how their differences make every single one of them the unique & beautiful person they are meant to be!
 

Muddlethru

Well-Known Member
Proud Parent
Mar 16, 2011
3,408
Country
USA
One day, a male friend asked my daughter to keep up with his snapchat streaks because he was going to be hiking with no internet connection. He gave her his password. As she was responding back to his snaps, she saw one of his friends was nicknamed “big arms”! Lo and behold she looked at the profile picture (is that what they call it? Avatar?) and it was her!!! I couldn’t tell if she thought it was funny or she was insulted. I think it was both.
 

ldw4mlo

Well-Known Member
Proud Parent
Feb 13, 2015
5,389
59
Country
USA
I have broad shoulders and I wear shirts and dresses in a larger size then my pants. Love rocking a V shape.

My kid has the same shape. We are very happy she is now out ofkid sizes so she can get swim suit separates. All the girls on her team rock a V......

And we have quite the giggles in dressing rooms when something just doesn’t work for our shape.

From what I understand, it started with the older girls at our gym after some less than kind comments made by a few boys. I wish I had magic words that would make teenagers understand how their differences make every single one of them the unique & beautiful person they are meant to be!
I think the magic words are those boys are idiots.

And I’d be showing your daughter incredible women with Vs and cuts.
 

coachmolly

Verified Coach
Verified Coach
Former Gymnast
Jan 18, 2009
2,965
VA
Country
USA
I had a terrible time with this as a teenager, it wasn't helped by the fact that my coaches were not well versed in proper conditioning methods and I did bulk up quite a bit more than was necessary which ended up making things harder. I hated that shirts and dresses did not fit me properly and a boy once told me no one would date me because boys were afraid I would beat them up. Random people would comment on my body, usually assuming I was a swimmer because of how broad my shoulders were. I was thrilled when I stopped doing gymnastics and lost some of that muscle and slimmed down quite a bit.
I guess what I wished I would have heard back then was encouragement about all that the muscles enabled me to do and be good at rather than comments on the actual muscles themselves. Kids can be cruel, even those little off-hand comments a kid makes thinking he/she is funny can hold a lot of weight to a teenager. Keep reminding her what her strength enables her to do. And while it can be frustrating in the moment, I think in the grand scheme of things most gymnasts would admit it's way cooler to be physically able to do the skills they do than to be able to wear a certain cute top or dress every once in a while.
 

bookworm

Well-Known Member
Proud Parent
Oct 3, 2009
3,076
On my couch either reading or doing nothing...
Country
USA
My oldest is dealing with the back end of this now ....how her muscles/shoulders/thighs etc have decreased in size and people (LOTS of people, in my opinion and hers) commenting how "different and tiny she looks now" .... she fits into regular sized pants and tops when before we were always looking for clothes that fit a gymnast body. The athletes she works with in her job that know she was a gymnast look her up on line and comment about her "massive muscles" , and she bristles at the comments. Her thoughts are "did I look huge?"

We try to assure her that she always looked fit and now that she's not working out every day (or as she puts it, "I haven't done a workout since April of 2016 and my body doesn't miss it" ) and doing different things like yoga, her muscles aren't going to be as large, and she's good with that. I think it's tough because young ladies/women don't necessarily find the comments about their muscles to be flattering, and coaches aren't always a help either in that regard.
 

STU678

New Member
Proud Parent
May 15, 2018
11
Country
Canada
I guess what I wished I would have heard back then was encouragement about all that the muscles enabled me to do and be good at rather than comments on the actual muscles themselves. Kids can be cruel, even those little off-hand comments a kid makes thinking he/she is funny can hold a lot of weight to a teenager.
I think it's tough because young ladies/women don't necessarily find the comments about their muscles to be flattering, and coaches aren't always a help either in that regard.
Yes, it's the comments that seem to make her uncomfortable. I'm absolutely sure that people mean well, but I wish we could do away with the constant comments, especially to teenage girls but to others as well, about size. It seems like people don't know what else to say to them other than to comment on the size/shape of kids & teenagers. It's no wonder they get self conscious.

And I can tell her all day that the boys who say these things are ignorant or flat out jerks but, lets face it, for teenage girls those comments are difficult to ignore or dismiss. But, I definitely will continue to try and we will continue to point out the benefits of those shoulder & arm muscles! She had an amazing season last year and I always point out that it wouldn't have been possible without the strength from those same muscles. And right now, she loves gymnastics enough that I think that outweighs the comments of any boys or anyone else. I just hope that doesn't change as she gets further into the teenage years!
 

beachgirl

Active Member
Proud Parent
Judge
Nov 7, 2013
1,229
53
Country
USA
@bookworm what happened when your daughter's muscles decreased? Like many here, my daughter has been a gymnast most of her life, 9 years. I don't know what she would look like without muscles. Did your daughter just become petite? My daughter is small, but stocky, I think from gym. I'm wondering if she will become slender, as my 18 year old son is 5'8'' and 103 lbs.
 

bookworm

Well-Known Member
Proud Parent
Oct 3, 2009
3,076
On my couch either reading or doing nothing...
Country
USA
@bookworm what happened when your daughter's muscles decreased? Like many here, my daughter has been a gymnast most of her life, 9 years. I don't know what she would look like without muscles. Did your daughter just become petite? My daughter is small, but stocky, I think from gym. I'm wondering if she will become slender, as my 18 year old son is 5'8'' and 103 lbs.
My daughter had been a gymnast since the age of 4 until she was 21, so 17 years of training...and she was always the Shawn Johnson type build ( vs the Nastia) with the wide chest muscles; larger arm muscles and thighs that never fit into any normal sized pants and now ....she fits into a size 2-4 pants/shorts and I have to have the waist tailored in to fit her properly! and shirts in a size 5, with no worry about busting out of them, and bathing suits can be bought without tears...so yes she's quite petite, and she's only 4'10" so she's a tiny young woman. I would have described my daughter the same way "small but stocky " and powerful(!!) but now she's not stocky at all. Even her face seems slimmer in losing the muscle mass if that makes sense..

Her workmates and athletes she works with are quite surprised when they look at pictures/videos of her in club and NCAA and see how small she is now...
 

Similar threads