Fibion Blog • Role of Fatigue in Strength Training (Men vs. Women) • Timo Haikarainen

Role of Fatigue in Strength Training (Men vs. Women)

Is fatigue Essential in Every Strength Training Session

Role of Fatigue in Strength Training (Men vs. Women)

Gender differences in strength training –series 5/6

Is Fatigue Essential in Every Strength Training Session?

Developing strength training needs to always induce fatigue. If strength and performance are not decreasing during a workout, it can only serve as a sensitizing or maintaining training, but it does not create a stimulus for improvements. The key to designing good workouts is to find suitable loads for exercises. Should loading be similar in both sexes? Are workouts causing overall fatigue of same magnitudes?

Men fatigue more during strength training than women. It has been observed that demanding strength training decreases isometric maximum strength about 10% in men and only 5% in women. Men probably can push themselves harder during training, which in turn may be due to higher testosterone levels – or just from social roles that allow more aggressive training behaviour.

Should women then do more sets or seek to fatigue themselves more (for example, with special training techniques)? Not necessarily, as women may develop more easily neural overtraining state, which causes decreased capability to activate the trained muscles. It has been observed that muscle activity starts to decline as early as 6-8 weeks from the start of hard training. Men can go at least 2-4 weeks longer before a clear decline of activation begins (Häkkinen 1990). Women, therefore, should work out hard, but take easier periods and especially change training stimulus more often than men.

So there are differences between sexes but in the end differences are rather small. Both sexes can effectively increase both strength and muscle mass. In the early stages of training, women can even enjoy larger improvements in performance. It is important to note small differences in training programming: Women need more variety – also in strength training.

Next blog and last one in this gender differences series will give summary and practical applications – and reveal what you need to know about women (but only related to strength training)

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.