Fibion Blog • Gender Differences in Strength Training -series • Timo Haikarainen

Gender Differences in Strength Training -series

Gender Differences in Strength Training

Gender Differences in Strength Training -series

Training of men and women often differ, even if the goals are the same – stronger, firmer and more muscular body. Men often lift heavy iron while women use light barbells. Still it is said that men and women should train exactly the same way. There needs to be no major differences in training between men and women, but what are the differences that need to be considered in the workouts?

Gender differences in strength training –series 1/6


Differences in strength and development of strength

Men are stronger than women – this is not new information. But in the end, how much stronger men are and how close of men’s results women should aim for?

Wilmore (1974) has compared the difference between men and women in the bench press and in the isometric leg press: Women’s bench press result was 37%, and leg press 73% of the men’s results. So it seems that women are weaker in comparison to men -especially in the upper body. But let’s remember, however, that women have a higher body fat percentage and see what happens when the force is calculated relative to lean body mass.

Relative to lean body mass women actually achieve in the upper body over 70% of the men’s strength (Hoffman et al. 1979). How about the lower body? Slightly depending on the studies, women tend to get very close to men, and sometimes even over the strength levels of men. (Shephard, 2000). Anatomical structure of upper body in women does not favor hard force production and explains the larger differences in the relative force of the upper body. Men produce force slightly faster than women. Producing the same relative force levels takes more time in women, because women have less fast twitch muscle fibers and lower testosterone levels can affect adversely to aggressive force production (Bosco, 2000).

There is no real difference between men and women in the rate of strength development. In fact, muscular strength might increase relatively even faster than in men especially in the early stages of training (Cureton et al. 1988, Lemmer et al. 2000). If this is not the case, it is usually due to training performed too carefully. In the beginning of the ‘training career’ strength actually increases rather easily, even if many of the elements of the training are not done optimally. Therefore if strength results are not improving in the beginning, you should critically check the quality of the training.

In next blog we are looking for practical tips and tricks for women that will make strength training musch more effective.


Timo Haikarainen
Timo Haikarainen

Personal Trainer

Fibion Guest Blogger


Connecting sport science research with practical applications

Timo started his coaching and instructing career in 1990s in martial arts, athletics and fitness exercise. From year 2002 he has worked as a gym instructor, personal trainer, and sport coach. Between 2002 and 2008 Timo studied biology of physical activity in University of Jyväskylä, where he graduated majoring in Sport Coaching and Fitness Testing. During the years Timo has accumulated over 15 000 hours of personal training. Practical coaching continues still active even though during last 6 years expert work and education as well as media work in TV and magazines take a big share of his time. Timo is educating personal trainers and gym instructors at SAFE Education, SATS Finland and Sport Center Pajulahti. Timo’s own sport background comes from martial arts, athletics and strength training.