In the past, it was believed that strength training was unsuitable for women
because they were 'incapable' of improving their strength. But more recent
research has put paid to this theory.
Professor Jack Wilmore from the University of Texas showed that after a
10-week training programme women showed a 29 per cent improvement on the
bench press and 30 per cent improvement on the leg press, compared to a
17 per cent and 26 per cent improvement from men.
However, while the men showed hypertrophy (enlargement) in the leg and arm
muscles, the women did not.
Wilmore hypothesised that the reason for the increased strength in women
must be due to an increased ability to recruit muscle fibres and coordinate
Later research has been equivocal - some has shown that women can increase
muscle mass significantly, some has not. The tentative conclusion must be
that in general most women find it more difficult to gain muscle mass.
Recently an official summary of all the research regarding strength training
for women was presented in the US by the Women's Committee of the National
Strength and Conditioning Association. They reported that:
1. Women improve fitness, athletic performance and reduce injuries through
strength training, just as men do
2. Physiological responses of males and females to the use of weight training
and resistance exercise are similar
3. Women should train for strength using the same exercises and techniques
4. There is no significant difference between the sexes in the ability to
generate force per unit of cross-sectional muscle. Men display greater absolute
strength than women largely because they have a greater body size and higher
5. Women do experience muscle hypertrophy in response to resistance exercise,
but the absolute degree is smaller than in men.
The conclusion to be drawn is that women are equally as strength-trainable