Multiple studies have proven there are a number of muscular differences between men and women. For example, a 1993 study found that men are stronger relative to lean body mass, and muscle cross-sectional area was visibly larger among men. Women were 52% as strong as men in the upper body, and 62% as strong in the lower body.
But despite all the male strength, says one study, it turns out women can last significantly longer when it comes to dynamic muscle exercise.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus gathered nine women and eight men of similar fitness levels. The participants were asked to flex their foot against an array of sensors 200 times, as quickly as they could manage. The researchers measured power, torque, speed, and electrical activity.
Immediately following the test, the researchers measured the maximal voluntary contraction of the calf muscles of both men and women. While both men and women showed some fatigue, women experienced 15% less fatigue than their male counterparts. Their change in torque at peak power was also 11% less than the men. They didn’t complete the test as quickly but were less fatigued after completing it.
According to the lead researcher, “We’ve known for some time that women are less fatigable than men during isometric muscle tests — static exercises where joints don’t move, such as holding a weight — but we wanted to find out if that’s true during more dynamic and practical everyday movements. The answer is pretty definitive: women can outlast men by a wide margin.”
On the plus side for us guys, the men “were faster and more powerful at first.” We started out the exercise strong, “but became more fatigued much faster than females.”
How does this research affect you? It should influence your decisions when designing workout routines. “We may, for example, want to lower the load for males, even though they may be stronger at the outset, to more closely match the endurance observed in females.”
Men may have the edge when it comes to sheer size and strength, but women win the prize for being the most fatigue-resistant of the genders.
1. Amelia C. Lanning, Geoffrey A. Power, Anita D. Christie, Brian H. Dalton. “Influence of sex on performance fatigability of the plantar flexors following repeated maximal dynamic shortening contractions.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2017-0013.