T Nation

Gender Differences in 1 RM

Are their gender differences in the number of repetitions that can be performed at 80% of 1 RM?

I have heard that women can out perform men at this percentage of 1 RM…I mean…say a woman can perform 8 reps and a man can barely get 5 or 6.

What are the reasons for this?
Is this true?
Where can I find information and studies that look at this?

Thank you…

Maybe they aren’t actually hitting their 1RM.

I have no clue…

Neuro-muscular inefficiency is the factor at work here. Men are able to make more forceful muscular contractions. This can be trained for and improved in women (as well as men). Charles Poliquins’ book Poliquin Principals, has a brief explaination.

I believe it has to do with fiber distribution. If you have more slow twitch then one will get more reps at a given percent of your 1RM and someone with more fast twitch will get fewer reps.

I read this in an explanation of how to estimate your fiber dist. in an article on this site. I dont remember the title however.

[quote]Jersey5150 wrote:
I believe it has to do with fiber distribution. [/quote]

Another good point. Give this a read:

[quote]Staron RS, Hagerman FC, Hikida RS, Murray TF, Hostler DP, Crill MT, Ragg KE, Toma K. Fiber type composition of the vastus lateralis muscle of young men and women. J Histochem Cytochem. 2000 May;48(5):623-9.

This study presents data collected over the past 10 years on the muscle fiber type composition of the vastus lateralis muscle of young men and women. Biopsies were taken from the vastus lateralis muscle of 55 women (21.2+/-2.2 yr) and 95 men (21.5+/-2.4 yr) who had volunteered to participate in various research projects. Six fiber types (I, IC, IIC, IIA, IIAB, and IIB) were classified using mATPase histochemistry, and cross-sectional area was measured for the major fiber types (I, IIA, and IIB). Myosin heavy chain (MHC) content was determined electrophoretically on all of the samples from the men and on 26 samples from the women. With the exception of fiber Type IC, no significant differences were found between men and women for muscle fiber type distribution. The vastus lateralis muscle of both the men and women contained approximately 41% I, 1% IC, 1% IIC, 31% IIA, 6% IIAB, and 20% IIB. However, the cross-sectional area of all three major fiber types was larger for the men compared to the women. In addition, the Type IIA fibers were the largest for the men, whereas the Type I fibers tended to be the largest for the women. Therefore, gender differences were found with regard to the area occupied by each specific fiber type: IIA>I>IIB for the men and I>IIA>IIB for the women. These data establish normative values for the mATPase-based fiber type distribution and sizes in untrained young men and women.[/quote]


Here is some info from CT’s article “Fun With Women!
My new pastime (and how women should train)”. I’m not sure if it exactly answers your question, though…

The preceding table gives a good guideline when planning training programs for females. You must understand that women can lift relatively heavy weights, they can do a greater volume of work than believed (in fact they have a greater tolerance for volume then most men), and they should focus on multi-joint exercises.

Basically, women should train almost exactly like men, with a few minor differences:

  1. Slightly more reps per set: Women do not have the capacity to recruit as many motor units as men do. As such, they’ll need 1-2 more reps to fully stimulate their muscles. So when training for strength, a man should use between 1 and 5 reps while a woman will benefit more from doing 3-6 reps. When training for muscle gains, men will benefit from doing 5-10 reps while women should stick to 7-12 reps.

  2. Slightly more sets per exercise: The reason is the same as above. Most women will need to perform 1-2 more sets of an exercise to achieve the same degree of stimulation as a man, once again because of their lower motor unit activation.

  3. Slightly less intensity: This is not to say that women aren’t as strong as men. But since they need a few more reps and a few more sets, the relative intensity must be decreased a little to allow for proper progression.

Good exercises

Since women have a lesser starting neural efficiency, I suggest using exercises soliciting the nervous system intensely. Complex movements such as the power clean from the hang/blocks/ground, power snatch from the hang/blocks/ground, lunges, deadlifts, squats, and push press are all very good choices.