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.


Another good point. Give this a read:


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.