Can a Woman Be As Strong as a Man?

It is true that on average men are stronger than women. This does not mean that it is impossible for a woman to build strength through resistance training. Certainly it would be erroneous to say that all men are stronger than all women. When examining individuals the our initial statement must be reconstructed. Compare the female athlete to a man of sedentary life style and the difference in strength is immense. Athletic ability is part genetic and how well an individual utilizes training methods. Strength has been for a long time seen as a male only attribute, but this is not grounded in biological reality. Besides the obvious factors of sexual dimorphism, there are sociological factors that cannot be ignored. Women aim for a slender as possible body type, which is detrimental to health. Women have more cases of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulima. When this body image issue is not a factor the situation changes. Although they are few compared to the majority there are women who are working to develop themselves as much as physically possible. Then there are women who may not have that same goal, but exercise with weights because they notice it is a more effective method of weight loss. The fact is the female body can develop strength. Some cases a woman can be not just strong as, but stronger than a man. Untitled-2 copy

Although it is common, men do not always dominate in strength.

    The term average can be defined as “the typical amount, degree, or norm” or ” a quantity, rating, or the like that represents or approximates arithmetic mean.” When it is stated “men on average are stronger than women” that does not mean every man is stronger than every woman. This would not be an accurate representation mathematically. What that means is that out of a large sample it is likely that a man would be stronger. However, there could be a woman who has considerable strength in the sample. This average distribution follows a bell curve in which most would be part of the average percentile. Sometimes various populations are represented in terms of binomial distribution. Just like women, men can occupy different ends of the spectrum. It is possible that there is a small percentage of overlap. Women could be in this percentile and easily be a physical match for both average and stronger men. 

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The blue could represent  male physical strength in total. The pink could represent the total female physical strength. The small area is a point of overlap in which women could be stronger than some men.

This can also be the same for another attribute such as height. While it is true on average men are taller, there are women who are also tall. The curves can demonstrate a portion that deviate the average. Men also occupy different ends of the spectrum. Like women, they come in various shapes and sizes. Not all are built like the legendary Hercules. Body types can range from endomorphic, mesomorphic, and ectomorphic.

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Few men on average would look like Arnold. The man who is on the left  is another end of the bell curve representation. 

This diversity in spectrum is sometimes forgotten due to particular gender stereotypes. It is assumed men are the “tough ones.” There are exceptions to the general rule.

       There is a point in which there is no difference between strength levels of the sexes.This is prior to puberty. Boys and girls are even till they develop sexual maturity. Hormones influence body composition.Men produce more testosterone in  their bodies. This has an anabolic effect. This means bones and muscles will build up in the male body. It will have an effect on ligaments and tendons as well. The assumption is that just because men have more testosterone that would men they are all stronger than women. That is not entirely true when you factor in height and total weight. Then another critical aspect is the level of physical fitness. A woman who engages in strength training exercise would certainly be stronger than a man who does not. Even if the man is producing more testosterone, he is not developing his full genetic potential. Athletic ability is part genetic and part physical training. Women could have certain advantages that make the excel in a sport. There are women who can even come close to men in terms of physical development. toni968401898

The men in the photos are in good shape, but the women could be close to them in terms of strength. 

The generation of physical force is calculated by mass times acceleration. A woman with significant muscle mass could generate more force compared to a man with lower mass. Even though the male would produce more testosterone, he would still have less strength than the woman with  more mass.

       There are ways of measuring physical strength. However, these assessments may be accurate, but not precise. Some exercise physiology experiments tend to only test one part of the body. Testing only one part of the body does not give a full description of absolute strength. There are exercises that are basic that can give measures of body strength. Push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups are excellent measures of upper body strength and power of the thorax of the body. Leg presses and bench pressing are also perfect for getting a precise measure of strength.

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http://egitim.judo.gov.tr/Dosyalar/makaleler/-ENG-Hand-grip-strength-in-judo.pdf

This is an exercise physiology experiment between average men and women including male and female athletes. This has testing hand grip strength. While their mathematics are correct,  the only female athletes they tested were judo martial artists and hand ballers. Why did the study not use weightlifters instead? This is a major flaw, because it only focuses on hand strength.

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If the authors wanted to get a full assessment of maximum female strength they would have used women involved in strength sports. Women they claim “even with training only rarely exceed the 50 percentile of untrained men.” The sample group were women who did not train  in sports specific for upper body development. 

The ideal experiment would be to take a sample of untrained men and women, including our trained sample group and have them perform these various exercises. The results can be predicted based on certain physiological factors. Women’s leg pressing records would be close to the men’s records. The bench pressing records would be lower in total. Trained women would certainly surpass the average males, but very few would be on same level of trained males. It is ambiguous just how much overlap would occur in this hypothetical experiment. Comparison between individuals produces another story.

       Women are not discouraged from doing weight training. It has been proven that women can still develop strength, without seeing immense hypertrophy. This does not only build muscle, but adds to bone mass.Then of course every woman is different. Some women are prone to develop muscular physiques with minimal effort. When comparing strength levels, exercise can reverse some of the disparities in upper body strength. The exercise regimen would have to be intense, because the average woman has little strength to begin with. When we compare a man of ectomorphic body type to a athletically trained female the strength difference is vast.

arm_wrestling_boy-girl  The average 

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A trained woman 

Women have to be more diligent to acquire physical strength. Men have the advantage due to the influence of androgens. Building muscle does work in a similar manner for women. Increasing caloric intake and the consumption of protein can add muscle. When an individual does weight training it causes microscopic tears in the muscle fiber. The immune system recognizes these tears as do inflammatory molecules and instructs the satellite cells for repair. As a result of metabolic stress the muscles will form more fibers over the tear made by the exercise regimen. The cells do not get bigger. This muscle growth sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. The muscles could be larger, but physical strength may not have increased immensely. Bigger muscles do not always correlate to more strength. Functional strength differs from sculpting a muscular body. Physical activity habits are pivotal. A woman who engages in regular strength training exercise will certainly be in better shape than a man who has a sedentary lifestyle.

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Physical strength is not a male only characteristic. It can vary depending on which individuals you are comparing.  

There is no denying, the ability of testosterone to give a strength advantage to men. Yet, it cannot be ignored that there are some sociological factors that play a role. Strict gender roles and sexist convictions do hold women back.

        The role of body image is extremely critical. The concept of feminine daintiness could be negatively effecting women’s health. This notion holds that women should be as small as possible in body size. Weight loss is promoted to women, while lean body mass gain is a goal for men. Women, particularly in the West obsess over trying to achieve the thinnest body. This is not healthy for two major reasons. First, it can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulima. Another major risk is the possibility of developing bone related diseases such as osteoporosis. When considering these factors, women are making themselves unnaturally weak. Their are representatives in the fitness industry who do embrace women’s involvement in weight training. Yet, they do continue to to repudiate women who have hypermuscular physiques. There are women with some muscle or “tone” that are deemed “acceptable.”  There is a double standard. A man can be as physically powerful as he wants , but a woman must not “cross the line.” This euphemism means she can appear to have some strength, but not have too much as to convey the possibility she could be strong as or stronger than a man. There is the possibility of threat that is projected, even though such claims have no basis in fact.

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Both of these women engage in weight training. They have a different level of muscular development, but  the women with the least muscular body would have acceptance.

Women as dictated by cultural mores can develop strength within limits. There are women who refuse to conform and face intense ostracism. This has nothing to do with biological determinism, but social construction. While feminists solely hold men culpable for this, there are in reality women who promote body image conformity. Fad diets and fashion magazines are produced by women and promote less than positive habits. Some women fear that they will become “too big” if they exercise.

        Some women can be stronger than men. Although it is a small number it is not an impossibility. Women as a whole are not getting physically stronger, but there are more participating in sports than in the past. For a long time, women have been viewed as inferiors and this is gradually changing. Sex differences were used as a justification to exclude women from various fields. There has been improvement, but myths about women’s physical weakness remain. At the cellular level there is no difference between male and female muscle fiber. While endocrinology and sexual dimorphism are factors in one’s ability to gain physical strength it can still vary among the sexes. Men do not have sole ownership of physical strength. Women are gradually accepting it into their exercise regimen. There is even some acceptance among men who find beauty in it. While women as a whole may never surpass men in strength, there are women who are stronger than many men.

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Can a Woman Be As Strong as a Man?

3 thoughts on “Can a Woman Be As Strong as a Man?

  1. turner says:

    It’s understandable that some female athletes can have their levels of testosterone increased artificially through specific injections.But anyway,some women seem to naturally have higher levels of testosterone compared to other women. On the other hand,there are some men who have lower levels of testosterone compared to other men. In this regard,a question arises as follows:as far as the levels of testosterone of men and women taken from the opposite ends of the spectrum are concerned,are there women who naturally produce more testosterone than some men do?
    Thank you.

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  2. It is not impossible for women to produce more testosterone than some men. The IOC has made a ridiculous ruling that women who produce what it considers “too” much testosterone are banned from competition. This is not an unfair advantage, because the athlete was born with this trait.

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  3. turner says:

    This fact that women with higher levels of testosterone do have the rights to participate in sport competitions shouldn’t be ignored.The current sorry state of affairs needs changing.
    Now let me change the subject.
    The post has a statement sounding as the follows:
    “A woman with significant muscle mass could generate more force compared to a man with lower mass.Even though the male would produce more testosterone,he would still have less strength than the woman with more mass.”
    I find it quite interesting and would like to share some information in this regard.
    Many years ago I read a magazine article celebrating a famous Soviet men’s long distance run champion named Pyotr Bolotnikov(born 1930).Among other things there was described Bolotnikov’s experience of a mixed stregth competition he had had while as a member of the Soviet Track and field team he had been on the board of a motor ship returning back home from one of championships.In order to amuse his teammates and just kill the time Bolotnikov decided to make some fun:he challenged Tamara Tyshkevich(born 1930)who was a female shot putter to a strength contest to see who of them both stronger was. Tyshkevich took up the challenge and they agreed to lift a bar-bell from the floor to above the head in two movements.It has to be noted here that Tyshkevch,no matter she belonged to the fair,had had a reputation for a really strong person by the time.Reportedly,she could walk on her hands.Another thing was that Tyshkevich was heavier than Bolotnikov. Her body weight made up 256Ibs or 116 kilograms.Sadly,I can’t say anythng about Bolotnikov in this regard,but the feeling is that Tyshkevich’s excellence in body mass over him was considerable.So,there was decided that Tyshkevich should press the bar-bell so as to raise it from level of the shoulders to above the head without assistance of her legs.Bolotnikov in turn was allowed to push it.Needless to say in that way their chances were expected to be equal.A winner of the contest was supposed to lift heavier.Without going into details,Tyshkevich won the competition.She managed to lift something about 187Ibs,while Bolotnikov failed to do the same,although he had been able to catch her up several times until it came to the aforementioned weight.
    Interestingly,Bolotnikov was not embarrassed by the fact that he had lost to a woman in a strength competition.He was rather the opposite.Afterwards he expressed it like this:”It was only once in my life when I lost to a woman in strength but I wasn’t perlexed then because being defeated in muscular strength by such a woman as Tamara Tyshkevich was is not a shame.”
    Finaly,please take it into consideration that many years have passed by since my reading the article.So,I may well be misteken about some details.Particularly,I am not 100 percent sure whether they lifted the bar-bell from the floor or actualy only did it from level of the shoulders.(There were other athlets to help them with the last variant.)Nevertheless the gist of the story is correct.

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