While women may develop a fair amount of strength relative to their size, on average men remain stronger. This holds true for both lower-body and upper-body strength. Women produce less testosterone, the primary muscle-building hormone, and develop less lean muscle mass than a man training with the same relative intensity. However, women can still develop a great deal of strength by following a balanced training program.
Strength is measured by the amount of weight you can lift for a single repetition. Common measurements of strength include the squat, bench press and deadlift, with the squat being the best measurement of lower-body strength.
A comparison of the squat records for powerlifters of equal weight between genders reveals that a woman will squat no more than 65 percent of the male squat limit for the same weight class. The all-time squat record for a woman is 600 pounds; for a man, it is 1,000 pounds.
Fiber Type and Response
While women exhibit the same sort of response to resistance training that men do, men have both greater fast-twitch fiber size and a greater fast-twitch to slow-twitch fiber ratio. Fast-twitch fibers contribute more to muscular strength, and the ratio of fibers as well as their size are critical factors in limit strength.
This is further complicated by the fact that women carry more intramuscular fat than men do. Given time and training, women can exhibit the same type of response to training as men, but the differences in absolute strength always remain.
Testosterone is the primary anabolic hormone, or the hormone that helps you build muscle. As a woman, the only place you produce testosterone is in your adrenal glands, and you will produce less than 10 percent of the testosterone than the average man. Your testosterone response increases following heavy resistance training, but this often requires you to train with at least 75 percent of your single-repetition maximum. It takes time and good technique to train with this level of intensity. If you wish to get the most out of your training, you must develop skill and then consistently add weight.
- Powerlifting Watch: Records
- European Journal of Applied Physiology: Time Course for Strength and Muscle Thickness Changes Following Upper and Lower Body Resistance Training in Men and Women; T. Abe, et al.; February 2000
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effect of Resistance Training on Women's Strength/Power and Occupational Performances; W.J. Kraemer, et al.; June 2001