Training Differences Between Males And Females

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Training Differences Between Males And Females

Male and Female Muscle Growth: Do Men and Women Gain Equally?

Lifting weights helps both male and female muscles grow larger and stronger. Is it, however, more difficult for women to gain muscle? Is it true that men have more muscle mass than women? These are only two of the questions we'll address in this article.

Male and Female Muscle: Similar but Different

Many similarities exist between men and women. When it comes to muscle building, however, subtle but significant differences separate us.

Many factors influence how much muscle you can gain and how quickly. Anabolic hormones and enzymes in our muscles tell our bodies to turn on the muscle mass pump. Lifting weights increases muscle gain and decreases muscle breakdown; when you gain more than you lose over time, your muscles grow bigger and stronger.

Males and females differ significantly in some of these areas, and many people believe that men have an advantage. The weights, on the other hand, are unconcerned about your gender. Strength training helps us all grow bigger, stronger, and healthier.

Is it a myth that females have a more difficult time gaining muscle strength and size, or can you achieve the same results regardless of gender?

Male and Female Muscle Differences

Contrary to popular belief, there are no significant differences in muscle protein synthesis rates between men and women. When we are at rest, we build muscle at the same rate. The same is true for the post-exercise period following a gym session or other type of physical activity. Training and protein-rich diets both stimulate muscle protein synthesis in the same way. 

The rate at which we build muscle over time is determined by more than just our basal muscle protein synthesis. Neither is what happens immediately after lifting weights or eating. There are no significant sex differences in the amount of new muscle tissue created by an intense strength training session.

One study stands out from the rest. In that study, the researchers discovered that women had higher rates of muscle protein synthesis. However, this is the only time this has been demonstrated. Men and women should respond to strength training in the same way.

For several hours after a strength training session, you build approximately 50% more muscle than normal. That's without a meal before or after the workout. If you eat some protein after your workout, you dramatically increase the muscle-building effect. However, there are no sex differences there either.

Do males have more muscle mass than females?

Yes, there is an answer to that question. Women have less total muscle mass than men on average, both in absolute and relative terms. Differences in lean body mass between sexes emerge during puberty and persist throughout our lives.

Long-term strength training increases muscle mass in both men and women, regardless of age. 7 Heavy strength training results in men gaining more than twice the total muscle mass as women.

Male and Female Muscle Growth

Keep in mind, however, that women have less muscle mass from birth. When this is taken into account, women gain just as much muscle as men.

After 12 weeks of biceps curls, a large-scale study with 585 subjects, 58 percent of whom were women, found no sex differences in relative muscle mass.

Depending on your training objectives, these findings may sound either good or bad.

Many women do not want to develop the same muscularity as men. Don't worry if that describes you. You are not going to wake up one day looking like a bodybuilder. Years of hard work and dedication are required. Female athletes are unable to build as large muscles as male athletes.

After years of training, the biceps of competitive male bodybuilders were twice as large as those of competitive female bodybuilders, according to one study. 12 Furthermore, male bodybuilders had more muscle fibers, implying that they had more building material from the start. When you lift weights, your muscle fibers grow in size rather than in number. That means that, all else being equal, females will be unable to catch up.

You can gain a lot of muscle mass as a woman. At least if you have the requisite genes. What matters is your genetics and what you do in and out of the gym, not your gender.

Finally, consider the following:

  • Women respond to strength training just as well as men and gain just as much muscle relative to their starting skeletal muscle mass.
  • To begin with, females do not have as much muscle mass. This means that men gain more muscle mass from strength training in absolute terms, expressed as kg or lbs of body weight.
  • Testosterone is most likely to account for a large portion of any differences in muscle mass gains. Even though the acute effects of strength training are not hormone dependent, higher testosterone levels will result in more muscle mass in the long run.

And while we're on the subject of testosterone, let's take a look at how our hormones fit into the picture.

Hormones in Males and Females

Hormones regulate muscle size by telling your body whether to break them down or build them up. The most well-known of these is probably testosterone, the male sex hormone. Testosterone regulates muscle protein synthesis as well as muscle protein breakdown. If you have a lot of testosterone, you probably have a lot of muscle mass and strength, as well as less body fat.

Women have testosterone levels that are nearly ten times lower than men.

14 Because of hormonal differences, it's easy to believe that men gain muscle mass much more easily than women.

Female sex hormones, on the other hand, aid in muscle building.

  • Estrogen promotes muscle growth and prevents muscle breakdown. Several studies have confirmed this.
  • Progesterone stimulates muscle protein synthesis in the same way that testosterone does.

Most people associate testosterone with strength and large muscles, and you probably don't think of higher levels of estrogen and other female sex hormones when you think of muscle gain. Those hormones, however, help women gain as much muscle as men when they lift weights, despite the fact that their testosterone levels are much lower.

You might be able to use these hormones to help you train more effectively. The menstrual cycle is a type of natural "doping" available to females. Your hormone balance shifts dramatically during the menstrual cycle. During the first two weeks, estrogen reigns supreme. A recent meta-analysis concluded that the scientific evidence was insufficient to draw any firm conclusions. Nonetheless, some studies show that strength training during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle can help you gain more muscle. When your hormones are on your side, you can go heavy and hard.

In addition, there appears to be a link between growth factors like IGF-1 and female strength and muscle mass.  For men, this is not the case. In addition, women produce up to 80 times more growth hormone than men. In conclusion, while testosterone is the most well-known anabolic hormone, females have several other hormonal advantages when it comes to muscle building.

Male and Female Age Differences

Male and female muscle differences begin to appear as you get older. In general, getting older means losing muscle mass. When you eat protein, you don't build as much muscle as you did when you were younger. Men have an advantage here because this process takes longer for women.

Basal muscle protein synthesis rates in elderly females, on the other hand, are higher than in age-matched males. In other words, older women build more muscle tissue around the clock than older men. This is most likely due to the fact that males have been exposed to high testosterone levels their entire lives. Testosterone may be anabolic in and of itself, but a lifetime of male testosterone levels reduces the hormone's anabolic sensitivity.

Despite having higher basal muscle protein synthesis rates than men, women lose significantly more muscle mass than men as they age. This difference is influenced by a number of factors.

  • Muscle protein breakdown has increased.
  • Gene expressions that inhibit muscle growth after menopause.
  • Following menopause, there is a decreased anabolic response to both a protein-rich meal and strength-training sessions.

Each meal stimulates muscle protein synthesis less than it did before menopause, and each workout results in less new muscle tissue. When compared to men of the same age, older women are at a double disadvantage. Because your estrogen levels are lower than they used to be, this occurs. You no longer have the benefit of higher testosterone levels, and the estrogen advantage that helped you maintain muscle mass has vanished.

That's worse than it is! There is a cure for this, and it is called strength training.

When you get older, you don't get as much muscle from strength training as you used to. Lifting weights, on the other hand, prevents or at least slows muscle loss. Strength training is critical for maintaining muscle mass and body composition as you get older. Strength training and maintaining the majority of your muscle mass allow you to maintain your mobility and quality of life regardless of gender. That means that after the age of 60, females require more strength training than males.

Despite this, females are at a disadvantage when it comes to gaining muscle mass at an advanced age when compared to men. This is where gender differences in the ability to build and maintain muscle mass become apparent.


Everyone understands that testosterone is necessary, if not essential, for muscle growth. However, if you are training for strength, the (in)famous male sex hormone is likely to play an even larger role. 22 Males are generally stronger than females in absolute terms. It's natural to believe that this gives you an advantage in the gym when it comes to getting stronger.

Legs and Feet

Females frequently have lower body strength comparable to males. Again, not in absolute terms, but the differences disappear once total body mass is taken into account. Lower body strength is more commonly compared between sexes than upper body strength.

Women's muscular strength increases at the same rate as men's when they train in the same manner. 23 In other words, there are no significant gender differences.

The upper body

Your upper body muscles may have a greater number of anabolic receptors than your lower body muscles. As a result, it seems reasonable to assume that men, who have 10-fold higher testosterone levels, will respond better to strength training and gain upper body strength faster.

That appears not to be the case.

For ten weeks, 44 young men and 47 young women did leg presses, leg curls, chest presses, and lat pulldowns twice a week. There were no differences in strength between males and females in 24 strength tests. On average, men improved by 11.61 percent, while women improved by 11.76 percent.

These findings are consistent with those of a previous study. This study looked at the time course of strength gains after high-intensity strength training. For 12 weeks, seventeen young men and women and twenty middle-aged men and women participated in a strength training program three days per week. Both males and females increased their absolute strength (measured as 1RM) in the upper and lower bodies in a similar manner. Females had a slight advantage when total body mass was considered.

Let's Look at a Recent Meta-Analysis

More than 60 studies have been conducted to investigate and compare the effects of strength training on male and female strength and skeletal muscle mass. Until recently, no meta-analyses or systematic reviews had been conducted to compile the findings of these studies.

The publication of the meta-analysis Sex Differences in Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis in May 2020 corrected that. For the first time, we were able to determine whether males or females gain more muscle mass and strength by lifting.

We can distill the findings into a few key points:

  • Males and females gain muscle mass at roughly the same rate, according to ten studies with 12 outcomes.
  • The researchers examined 17 studies and 19 outcomes and discovered that women gain upper-body strength more easily than men.
  • When it comes to lower-body strength, a review of 23 studies found no gender differences.
  • Lifting weights results in the same gains in lower body muscle mass and strength for both men and women. Females actually improve more in upper-body strength relative to body size.

Females who are untrained may be able to gain upper-body strength faster than males who are untrained. The available research can’t explain why this difference is only apparent in the upper body. Perhaps there are gender differences in muscular, neural, and motor learning? Hopefully, future research will delve deeper and reveal more. It's possible that the studies are too short to draw any reliable conclusions.

Previous findings are confirmed by new research.

18 male and female students participated in a new study published in December 2021, performing bicep curls and squats twice per week for seven weeks. 27 While males gained more absolute strength, there were no gender differences in relative strength gains. When compared to their baseline strength levels, the females gained the same amount of strength. In terms of muscle growth, the researchers discovered that both males and females increased their muscle mass equally, in both the upper and lower body.

In other words, more evidence that men and women gain the same amount, despite hormonal and other differences.

The more muscle mass you have, the more difficult it is to gain more.

Muscle development becomes increasingly sluggish once you've been strength training long enough to have outgrown your beginner's gains. Over time, the flood of gains slows to a trickle.

There are no discernible differences between men and women in this regard. It becomes more difficult for all of us to continue making progress. Male and female competitive bodybuilders stopped gaining muscle mass after a certain point in one study. You will most likely find yourself refining and adding quality to your physique rather than quantity sooner or later. The very experienced bodybuilders in the study did not increase their muscle fiber size after 24 weeks of monitored training. 28 They even used anabolic steroids, but they didn't gain any more weight. The capacity for muscle growth decreases as you gain experience.

In conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, females respond to a weight training program just as well as males. Despite much lower levels of the anabolic hormone testosterone, it may be even better during the beginner's stage.

Male testosterone levels enable them to naturally gain a greater total amount of muscle mass. This does not, however, imply that it will be easier to gain muscle and strength in the gym. Several factors, such as hormones and genes, influence muscle mass and strength, and in some cases, these favor females.

In absolute terms, men build more muscle mass than women. If an 80-kilogram man and a 60-kilogram woman both manage to increase their muscle mass by 10%, the man will have gained more muscle tissue. Females, on average, gain the same amount of muscle as males when compared to their starting point.

Women who want to gain the same amount of muscle as men must train in the same manner. You must train for gains if you are a female and want to gain as much muscle as possible. That means years of lifting heavier weights and doing high-intensity strength training. At the same time, some women use light weights and do not challenge themselves when they train, and then wonder why they do not see the desired results despite spending so much time in the gym.

After All, Males and Females Aren't That Distinct.

Gender differences influence many sports outcomes, but when it comes to muscle gain, we're fairly equal. Even though men and women are physiologically very different, from hormones to genes, we all have one thing in common: we all get more muscular and stronger by lifting weights. In absolute terms, males develop more muscle mass than females, but female muscle grows just as fast in relative terms.

The best way for all of us, regardless of gender, to pack on pounds of muscle is to hit the gym hard and consistently.

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