The difference between male and female biomes is not just some biological fact, but it’s a big topic. There are many theories about why there are so few women in certain professions (e.g., science, engineering) while men dominate others (e.g., sports). Some researchers have proposed that these disparities may result from different evolutionary pressures acting on males versus females during their development. Other researchers believe that these discrepancies could be due to cultural factors or even innate genetic differences. Regardless of the cause, there is no denying that the disparity exists: Women make up only about 15% of all college graduates and less than 5% of physicians, engineers, scientists, and other highly skilled professionals.
So what does this mean? What do we know about how our bodies respond differently to exercise depending on which gender we belong to? And what can we learn from this data?
In this article I’ll explore the following questions:
What are the major differences between male and female biomes? How might they affect your fitness goals? Do you need to pay attention to them when training or dieting? Is there any evidence that shows one gender is better at certain activities than another based solely on their body type? Are there specific exercises that will benefit more men than women in particular areas of strength/power development? And conversely, are there specific exercises that will benefit more women than men?
Differences Between Male and Female Biomes: Musculoskeletal, Bio-mechanical, & Physiological
A human being is a human being regardless of what gender they happen to be. And yet, the fact remains that there are indeed some differences between male and female bodies. While most of these differences are superficial (such as biological differences in genitalia and body hair), some differences extend deeper (to the bone and connective tissue) and affect how each gender experiences exercise.
What many people don’t know is that there are actually significant differences in how males and females experience exercise in terms of the signals sent from the brain to the muscles. In addition to this, there are differences in the muscular, skeletal, and cardiovascular systems of males vs. females that affect how the genders experience exercise.
Let’s take a look at some of the major differences between male and female biomes and how these affect training:
Skeletal Muscle Fiber Composition: Males tend to have a higher myonuclear domain than females. What this means is that in a given muscle, men on average have more contractile units (protein filaments that run from the center of the sarcomere to the Z-lines) and thus can produce more force than women. This is because males produce more testosterone, which helps drive muscle growth. Studies have also shown that males tend to have a higher amount of fast twitch fibers compared to females.
In addition to studies on whole muscle, there are also studies on single fiber composition. Research on single muscle fiber composition has shown that myonuclei tend to be larger in males than in females. This is a possible reason for the differences in performance between men and women.
Other studies have shown that the myosin heavy chain isoform profile is also different between males and females, with males having more type 2 fibers (fast twitch) than females of the same age.
The above are just a few studies on the differences in skeletal muscle composition between males and females. I mention this because we can take away a few things from this research:
If your goal is to produce the most force possible, then you should be concerned with training in a way that promotes maximum muscle size (myonuclear domain and higher myonuclei density). This means focusing on strength training exercises that target the prime movers and specifically include compound exercises and heavy weights.
If your goal is to increase your muscular endurance, then you should instead perform a higher volume of work with a lower percentage of your 1RM (assuming that the myonuclear domain research is correct) and focus more on exercises that stimulate the entire range of motion of a given joint rather than just the top or bottom portion of the lift.
In any case, if you are serious about strength training (whether for sports or health reasons), then you should place a heavy emphasis on compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, presses, clean and press, etc) and train with heavy weights—to really maximize your myonuclear domain and myonuclear density.
Include a variety of multijoint and unilateral exercises in your workouts in order to hit the various muscles from all possible angles.
As an example, here is a full body workout that I would perform as part of a 7 week cycle:
Exercise Sets x Reps Heavy Sets xReps Light/Rep Out Sets 1 Back Squat 5 x 5 Weighted Chin-Up 4 x Failure 2a Leg Press 5 x 10-12 2b Dumbell Incline Press 4 x 10-12 3a Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 x 8-10 3b Lying Tricep Extensions 4 x 10-12 4 Hanging Leg Raises 4 x Failure 1 Hour Bike
Exercise Sets x Reps Heavy Sets xReps Light/Rep Out Sets 1 Front Squat 5 x 5 Barbell Walking Lunges 4 x 6* Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squats 4 x 6* 2a Dumbell Overhead Press 5 x 5 2b One Arm Row 5 x 5 3a Weighted Dips 4 x 6-8 3b Dumbell Curls 4 x 6-8 4 Plank 4 x Failure 1 Hour Bike
* Use 80% of Walking Lunge weight as a base and do not go over this amount
Exercise Sets x Reps Heavy Sets xReps Light/Rep Out Sets 1 Back Squat 5 x 5 Weighted Chin-Up 4 x Failure 2a Leg Press 5 x 10-12 2b Dumbell
Sources & references used in this article:
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Comparison of landing biomechanics between male and female professional dancers by KF Orishimo, IJ Kremenic, E Pappas… – … American journal of …, 2009 – journals.sagepub.com
Musculoskeletal, biomechanical, and physiological gender differences in the US military. by KF Allison, KA Keenan, TC Sell, JP Abt… – US Army Medical …, 2015 – researchgate.net
Comparison of landing biomechanics between male and female dancers and athletes, part 2: influence of fatigue and implications for anterior cruciate ligament injury by M Liederbach, IJ Kremenic… – … American journal of …, 2014 – journals.sagepub.com
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