Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to contract over long periods of time. Men have more muscle mass than women, but they do not necessarily have more muscular endurance. Although there is controversy as to how and to what extent muscular endurance differs between men and women, men and women consistently have similar levels of muscular endurance or women have more. Hormones, training, genetics and other variables may influence muscular endurance between genders.
Testosterone is a hormone that helps to build lean body mass or muscle. Men have more testosterone and more lean body mass or muscle compared to women. However, more muscle does not mean more muscular endurance. In fact, testosterone, increased muscle mass and strength may decrease muscular endurance compared to women.
Men and women alike may perform endurance exercises, which are lower in resistance and higher in repetitions to improve muscular endurance. However, men tend to gravitate towards maximal exercises with high weight and low repetition to gain muscle bulk, strength and power. Women tend to use lower weight and more reps. Women usually want to slim down or tone, which is accomplished with endurance exercises. When men and women equally participate in endurance training, similar levels of muscular endurance may be achieved between both sexes.
Genetics determine men and women’s general physique, including muscle. Skeletal muscle fibers are composed of fast-twitch or slow-twitch fibers. The slow-twitch fibers are responsible for muscular endurance, where as the fast-twitch fibers fatigue quickly. Sex is not known to play a role in determining the ratio of these fiber types, according to Dixie State College of Utah. Therefore, men and women may have comparable ratios of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers, and may achieve similar muscular endurance levels.
Different muscle recruiting patterns between men and women may affect muscular endurance. According to Brian C. Clark and colleagues in a 2007 article in the “Journal of Applied Physiology,” women may have increased muscular endurance because of a more effective activation pattern than men. Women fatigued less quickly because they recruited more synergistic muscle groups. Men failed to recruit these muscles and therefore had less muscular endurance than women.
Blood Flow and Metabolism
Blood flow restriction within the muscle during contraction may reduce muscular endurance. Women had better blood flow throughout the muscle and fatigued less quickly compared to men, according to Sandra K. Hunter and colleague in a 2001 article in the “Journal of Applied Physiology.” Men’s larger muscle mass and higher intensity muscle contraction may have constricted capillaries, and contributed to the decreased blood flow and reduced muscular endurance. However, David W. Russ and colleague in a 2003 article in the “Journal of Applied Physiology,” stated no difference in blood flow between men and women. Instead, men may have fatigued earlier because of a less efficient metabolism within the muscle when compared to women.
- Dixie State College of Utah: Muscular Endurance
- Journal of Applied Physiology: Gender Differences in Skeletal Muscle Fatigability are Related to Contraction Type and EMG Spectral Compression
- Journal of Applied Physiology: Sex Differences in the Fatigability of Arm Muscles Depends on Absolute Force During Isometric Contractions
- Journal of Applied Physiology: Sex Differences in Human Skeletal Muscle Fatigue are Eliminated Under Ischemic Conditions