Athletic Advantages of Women: Data Comparison

Reviewed by The Clinical Committee

March 27, 2019

  • Men and women both have different advantages when it comes to physical ability.

  • Women have more endurance than men by some measurements.

  • Older women also recover their power faster than men.

Endurance: Men vs Women

muscle power and torque in men vs women

Did you know women outperform men in certain measures of endurance?

Women’s sports leagues, such as the WNBA or the Women’s World Cup, don’t always draw the same attention as their male counterparts. This has been sometimes blamed on a perception that women aren't as athletically strong as men.

However, exercise research has found that women have significant physical advantages.

In one study, researchers found that women outperformed men in a key measure of endurance.

When pushed to their physical limits, women are able to produce more their power and their maximum torque compared to men after a brief rest.

In this experiment, researchers had men and women exercise until exhaustion, when their muscles would no longer give no more. After a brief period of rest, researchers then measured how much of their max power and torque each participant could produce.

They found that woman recovered more of their maximum power faster than men.

Power in this case refers to the ability of a muscle to do work, for example to lift a weight or to push a cart.

They found similar results for torque. Women were able to produce far more of their maximum torque after 3 minutes than men. Torque, in this case, refers to the amount of force their muscles could produce.

Source: Influence of sex on performance fatigability of the plantar flexors following repeated maximal dynamic shortening contractions.

Endurance: Time to Exhaustion in Men vs. Women

endurance in men vs women

In a separate study, women were able to perform for longer than men before their muscles failed.

Men and women were tasked to do an exercise similar to bicep curls until failure. Men and women were both given weights scaled to the the maximum amount of force produced by their muscles.

Women were able to perform more reps relative to their maximum strength than men before reaching muscle exhaustion.

This shows that when it comes to strength training, women may have more endurance than men.

Source: Sex Differences with Aging in the Fatigability of Dynamic Contractions

Related Article: Workouts Over 40

Another great study also looked at workouts for older men and women. They found that starting a new workout routine in your 40s is nearly as good for your heart as working out for your whole life. It's never too late to start exercising.

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Working Out in your 40s vs ...

Full Article

Abuela Power

older women endurance and muscle power

In this study, researchers found that older women may have the highest muscle endurance of all.

Researchers split participants by age and gender, and then tested each to see how quickly they could recover their strength after exhaustion.

The older women in the study, with an average age of 73.5 years old, outperformed all other groups in this task, including young men with an average age of 20.2 years old. The older women in the study recovered more of their maximum strength, faster.

Key Takeaways

The feats measured in the experiments above may not be traditional feats of athletic prowess, but one can argue that these strengths may actually be more applicable in everyday life.

Strong men rarely have a chance to demonstrate their ability to bench 300 pounds.

On the other hand, we all know of a tireless mother or grandmother who puts in their all, all day and every day, without fatigue or rest.

Based on the data above, the tireless mothers and grandmothers of our lives aren't an accident or just a feel good story, they represent true physical and athletic ability that is measurable and backed by science.

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