Physical Strength

Physical Strength can be defined as the maximum force that can be exerted by muscles. There are different factors that determine physical strength. Examination of the cross sectional area of muscle fibers is one method. Muscle fibers are capable of generating force by means of recruitment. Then the amount of type I and type II muscle fibers are also critical. The amount of these fibers are determined by genetics. The force from physical strength is dependent on joint angles and the size of limbs. Other factors in the ability to develop muscular hypertrophy include sex, age, the health condition of the individual, and the hormones produced in the body. However, this can vary from individual to individual. Exercise physiologists classify specific measures of strength. These two types are relative and absolute strength. These are elements of physical fitness that analyze how force is projected.

Relative strength is the force exerted by cross-sectional area of muscle and body mass.Testing the relative skeletal muscles require looking at separate muscle groups. Human muscles are capable of generating 16 to 30 newtons maximal force per square centimeter  of the cross sectional area. This can be the same for both men and women. This is also dependent on the skeleton and muscular structure composition of a person.


Strength training not only strengthens muscles, but ligaments, tendons, and increases bone mass.

Absolute strength represents the aggregate of force exerted by the body. This includes both upper and lower body. This is both dependent on weight and height. A taller person would be more capable of carrying more muscle on their frame. Considering force is mass times acceleration, a larger person would have the potential to generate more force. On average men are stronger than women due to endocrinological attributes and differences in size .However, some of this disparity can be reversed through weight training. Before puberty, there is no significant difference in physical strength. When boys enter puberty around age 13 the hypothalamus will release gonadotropic releasing hormone (GnRH). The anterior pituitary gland then produces luteinizing hormone, which instructs the testis to produce androgens. The androgen important to strength and other functions is testosterone. Boys will gain more muscle and bone mass along with other secondary sex characteristics. Women  produce more estrogen and progesterone which allows for the storage of fat. This does not mean that strength is male only.

boys and girls

Boys and Girls can be at the same strength level. Sometimes girls even mature faster. When puberty starts boys will surpass girls in strength, particularly in the upper body. 

With enough training, women can certainly be stronger than a man who does not exercise. When adjusting a comparison to height and weight the results are fascinating. Estimates vary according to exercise physiologists, but men and women of the same weight including height can be close in terms of  absolute strength. The percentage is calculated to be 65% as strong when weight is equivalent. Women are closer to men in the lower body. Men have more of their strength concentrated in the upper body. Androgens are not the only factors in strength. The total distribution of type II muscle fibers is essential. They can usually be referred to as fast twitch fibers. These muscle fibers are essential for explosive bursts of physical power.


Testosterone allows for a greater extent of muscular hypertrophy .

Type I muscle fibers are best suited to endurance. Strength does not come from the size of the muscles, but the distribution of the amount of type II muscle fibers. One could have big muscles, but may not be as strong as one would presume. For example we would assume that a bodybuilder would be stronger than a powerlifter by the appearance of the muscles. This is not necessarily true, because the the purpose of bodybuilding is making the muscles appear as large without the goal of becoming stronger. Powerlifting focuses on lifting the largest amount of weight with no concern to aesthetics of muscular development. Also, it should be considered even though men have a size advantage, that does not mean every man is stronger than every woman. At the cellular level there is no difference between male and female muscle tissue. There is no such thing as “girl muscles” and “man muscles.” Women do show major gains in strength through weight training. Women can gain strength without seeing major addition to muscular hypertrophy.

Women can gain strength if they train. Some women have the genetic potential for far greater strength. As you can see here Dawn Riehl through weight training and diet gained strength. 

Besides training, diet is critical. Diet and nutrition are major parts of a training regimen. Proteins and the consumption of them are required to maintain a strong physique.

      Another factor that determines the level of strength is age. As we age just like a machine, our body shows signs of wear and tear. Testosterone levels will lower as a man ages and as a result muscle mass will lower. Around age 75, the body can lose about half of its muscle mass. This can be more dramatic for women who are more susceptible to osteoporosis. Women who on average live longer than men, could end up having more ailments just because of their life expectancy. This can be prevented with exercise. Weight training for the elderly has shown that it can improve balance and strength.


Aging does not mean you automatically become frail or break down. Strength training can prevent some health ailments that occur when you reach old age. The woman picture is actually 77 years old.

The body does go through changes. Aging does not have to be a curse or something feared. Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity can increase life expectancy. The most important reason to maintain muscle mass is for the sake of balance. The elderly are known to lose balance, which make them prone to falls. Women need to engage is some form of strength training for the sake of their bones. Even in their early twenties women should be building as much bone mass as possible to avoid chronic bone diseases. Decades ago many in the medical profession thought this was normal aging. Upon further examination the culprit was sedentary life styles and unhealthy eating habits. Physical strength can be maintained in old age. Women, men, and seniors can gain strength.  As we advance further into the 21st century new training methods will emerge and our understanding of human physical capabilities will increase.

Physical Strength

2 thoughts on “Physical Strength

  1. Eshu says:

    As an admirer of female muscle and women athletes, I want to say that I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of your blog. I like the fact that you treat these remarkable women as worthy of intelligent discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

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