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09.09.2010


Women's muscle strength reacts better to weight training than men's does

Women's muscle strength reacts better to weight training than men's does
Men are stronger than women, but women react better to strength training than men do. Proportionally, their muscular strength increases more than men's does, according to a study from the University of Alberta.

Studies have shown that the muscle strength of men and women reacts pretty much the same to strength training. If you get men and women to train for a certain period, their muscular strength increases by approximately the same percentage. The problem with these studies is often that the researchers don't use the kind of schedules that are popular in gyms. Test subjects often just train one muscle group in a lab.

Not very realistic, according to sports scientist Robert Kell. So he did an experiment in which he got 20 men and 20 women to follow the same periodised scheme for 12 weeks. The subjects trained in week 1 using weights that were 55 percent of the weight at which they could just manage 1 rep [1RM]. Each week the weights were made a little heavier, until in the last week the subjects were training at 85 percent of their 1RM.

The subjects usually trained 4 times a week. They trained their major muscle groups using basic exercises such as squats, bench-press, lat pull-downs, neck-press, triceps-pushdowns, biceps-curls, calf-raises, crunches, incline bench-press, fly, cable-row en upright-row.

The subjects all did some kind of sport before starting the experiment. They also had some experience with weight training, but had not previously used periodised training schemes.

The table below shows how the subjects' strength developed for 4 exercises. The lower table shows the weight at which the men and women could just manage 10 reps.


Women's muscle strength reacts better to weight training than men's does

Women's muscle strength reacts better to weight training than men's does


At the start of the experiment the men were stronger than the women. But if you express the increase in strength as a percentage, then women react better to the training than the men do. The men's strength increased over the whole line by 28 percent, that of the women by 38 percent.


Women's muscle strength reacts better to weight training than men's does


MT = men's results; FT = women’s results.

The top figure shows the results up to week 8, and the lower one shows the results for the entire period. The further on in the training period, the greater the differences.

Robert Kell does not conclude that women react better to strength training than men do, but that is a possible interpretation of his results. Other studies have shown that it becomes increasingly difficult for people to increase their strength, the better trained they already are. Moderately trained men and women show only half the increase in strength that untrained men and women do.

"The larger strength increase in the female group was likely a result of lower initial strength levels and less previous free weight training experience", Kell suspects. He confines himself to the observation that men and women's muscle strength reacts equally well to strength training.

But even this cautious conclusion surprises Kell. Because men make more testosterone than women, Kell had expected men to make more progression than women. Japanese researchers published a study in March 2010 which may explain the unexpected outcome. The Japanese discovered in an animal study that training causes women's muscles to start producing their own male hormones.

Source:
J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jul 3. [Epub ahead of print].

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