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Boys Rule and Girls Drool: Why do Men have the advantage?
It’s obvious to see the physical difference when referring to males and females, but what physiologic factors play a role in the gym? This article will give perspective to the world of exercise science and the biomechanics associated with it, specifically targeting fitness comparisons between males vs. females.
Men claim to be simply individuals; but this is merely relating to their somewhat simplistic minds. Actually, they are very diverse creatures that have many complicated functions that aid them in the realm of fitness. I’ll start with the obvious….the muscle.
Skeletal muscle is a process that dates back to adolescents; mainly referring to growth and development. Females actually mature up to 2 years previous than males, and thus have higher rate of skeletal and hormonal development in that time period. Don’t worry though, the males catch up, and then some…..
In fact, pubescent males will release more human growth hormone than girls, due to the fact that they obtain a higher growth spurt in addition to a lengthier amount of time; 2 years later to be exact. This accounts for the male musculoskeletal system being more developed in size and stature by early adulthood. The prolapsed time of HGH release also triggers other hormones as well, like IGF-1 (Insulin growth factor).
IGF-1 has an indirect affect on the liver, which cause it to bind to target cells in the body and be distributed throughout the circulation, thus, aiding in bone and cell growth. Research has also shown that males who hit their peak growth spurt later than most will actually have more skeletal growth in lower limbs. This doesn’t mean that just because your short, and everyone else isn’t, that you’re going to be taller one day. It just gives reasoning why those who hit growth pulses later will, in return, have longer bones.
The IGF-1 is not limited to males I must say, for estrogen in females can also produce it as well. The reason we don’t see more development in their body shape is directly linked to the formation of adipose tissue (fat) caused by the estrogen. The males, however, develop testosterone, which gives them a much higher advantage in the bodybuilding world. Males are able to recruit more amounts of muscle fibers through testosterone, which is probably why we see the onset of female bodybuilders using anabolic steroids. In order to catch up with size and development, there has to be a decrease in estrogen to reduce fat, and increase in testosterone to produce muscle.
Testosterone accounts for fat mobilization and muscle development, which is why boys lose a lot of body fat and begin to look leaner after puberty. Their continued growth over the next two years allows them to surpass the girls in height, weight, and lean body mass. This influx of hormones may shed some light as to why boys will have both superior and quicker gains in the weight room, not to mention on the playing field. As the male body matures into adulthood, his biomechanics will become even more efficient as well. This doesn’t mean that women’s biomechanics aren’t as good, but it does mean that the males tend to be more efficient.
Tissues such as ligaments and tendons are also evident to being larger in men vs. women, largely due to the growth effect that took place in adolescence. This permits males to resistance train heavier without the increased risk of injury. In addition, the more stress the muscle withholds, the more breakdown and development that will occur afterwards. This increase in strength is solely reliant on the unfair amounts of testosterone that males are producing.
Let’s go even further
The primary mode of exercise is exclusively dependant on the major organs of the body; the brain, CNS, heart, and distribution of blood through arteries and veins. The heart is our primary engine that keeps the body running and fueled. Its main function is to receive blood and pump it back to the tissues. This process is referred to as cardiac output. A sub-unit of this is called stroke volume, which represents the amount of blood pumped out of the ventricle at one time.
So what does this mean?
This does have some correlation, so stay with me people! The actual blood pump is what keeps the skeletal muscle fueled with oxygen so that lactic acid (the burn you feel during sets) doesn’t accumulate. So the ↑ cardiac output = ↑contraction in muscle, creating trauma and eventually hypertrophy. Males have a higher amount of this output and can endure more exercise as a result. This doesn’t mean an untrained male is better than a female. It just means that in a comparative study on both sexes, the male will generally pump more volumes of blood to and from the heart.
Male hearts are bigger as well, and as they train the body through cardio, the heart muscle goes through phases of hypertrophy as well. This is why it’s so imperative for bodybuilders to remain disciplined in their cardio routines off season.
Also, males have a higher amount of hemoglobin in the blood. In fact, research shows 10-14% higher than females. Hemoglobin is the oxygen carrying component in red blood cells. Increased androgens (sexual hormones) supply more hemoglobin. This gives men another advantage by supplying more amounts of oxygen to the skeletal muscle in order to increase the force of contraction, although it is predominately tested with aerobic exercise.
Women are subject to menstrual cycles often, and this can alter their ability to perform. The loss blood they encounter has a direct correlation to providing smaller amounts of red blood cells and hemoglobin to be dumped off to the muscle tissues. This could be why blood doping has been made illegal. Blood doping is the process of extracting red blood cells from a donor or harvesting from one’s self prior to injection with the intention of injecting after the body has made more. You see, the body’s autoimmune system reproduces red blood cells that carry O₂, and when we inject more, our tissues receive more oxygen (fuel) so that an individual may endure exercise longer. This is predominately popular in cyclist or any aerobic event involving long duration.
Something for the girls
For all the women reading this, I’m about to give you some helpful feedback that just may brighten your spirits…. Women can easily have an advantage over males when it comes to some aspects of performance.
They have more body fat adiposity, which makes them more buoyant in water. This enables them to excel in sports like swimming or triathlons. They also have smaller joint tissues and bones, which allow them to be lighter. This lighter weight makes them more agile and quite flexible.
While there are some outstanding benefits to males’ efficiency in fitness, this should not deter any gender from pursuing a goal they have in mind. Although some females may lack the hormones necessary to excel ahead of others, do not forget about those who have extraordinary athletic ability. Many women are dominant in certain sports including bodybuilding. The fact is that muscle hypertrophy not simply reliant on biomechanics, but also self motivation. Intense training that fatigues muscle to its limit is what you must to do to grow, especially if you’re clean. It’s a matter of finding that drive that pushes your body to its breaking point in order to succeed. The premise of this statement should offer a piece of motivation to those who are frustrated. If desire and mental toughness are evident, then it shouldn’t matter how much more someone else’s genetics are compared to yours. As long as you use everything you were given to its full potential, the possibilities are limitless.
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