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What are the evolutionary explanations for why women are physically weaker than men (on average), and is this difference adaptive? See figure one here.
I suppose that something puts pressure on men to be physically stronger than women, but I don't see what it can be. Why the discrepancy between the sexes?
What are the evolutionary explanations for why women are weaker than men (on average), and is this difference adaptive?
All of the theories surrounding this fact are speculative; it would be difficult to prove "why" men are, on average, stronger than women.
One contributing theory is Female-Choice - basically that women had (or has) the ability to be more selective when it comes to choosing a mate. Over time men will reflect the preferences of women (taller than them, stronger than them, facial hair qualities, etc.). This is superficially supported by casual studies like this study from OkCupid where the "attractiveness" curve for men is down-shifted, meaning women think the average man looks below average in attractiveness and implying those who are viewed as average ( actually the top 20% of men or so) would have better reproductive success. Men, in the same casual study, had a nearly perfect bell-curve associated the attractiveness of women, implying that men are excellent at deducing whether a women is below average in attractiveness, average, or above average in attractiveness.
Another contributing theory is Male-Male Competition. Basically men, at some point (and still might) compete with other men to win over women. The bigger, stronger man would presumably win in a fight and eliminate his competition - directly preventing the production of offspring by the weaker male. The male-male competition also holds true in a more speculative theory in that the winners of wars literally raped their way to reproductive success.
It is worth noting that men, on average, are only about 30-40% stronger than women due to the larger muscle fibers in men (as cross-sectional area determines muscle strength, not volume). With training the difference (kg for kg) is reduced to 15-20%.
Ultimately why women are weaker than men (or men are stronger than women - whichever way you prefer to put it) doesn't have a solid answer beyond "because the stronger, taller men have reproduced".
Strength comparisons in untrained men and trained women athletes
The purpose was to compare untrained college men with trained collegiate women basketball and volleyball players in terms of absolute and relative upper and lower body strength. Absolute and relative strength comparisons were also made between the two groups of women athletes. Eighty subjects were included in each group. Relative strength was expressed per unit of weight, height, biacromium, and biiliac widths. It was hypothesized that while men are significantly stronger than trained women athletes, such differences may be removed once body size characteristics are controlled. MANOVA and MANCOVA were utilized to test hypotheses. Results indicate that untrained men have greater upper and lower body strength than trained women athletes in terms of both absolute and relative strength. Women basketball players have greater upper and lower body strength than women volley players. The two groups of women athletes are alike in terms of upper body absolute and relative strength.
It’s possible for a women to be stronger than the average man, But men are capable of becoming significantly stronger than a women can, The strongest man in the world (Eddie hall) is SIGNIFICANTLY stronger than the strongest woman in the world, You can’t even compare them. Women just aren’t built like men are, I’m not saying a big woman can’t have a bigger build than a small man, But men can get significantly bigger and stronger than a women can. I don’t even know why people are asking this question, ITS BASIC BIOLOGY.
It’s possible for a women to be stronger than the average man, But men are capable of becoming significantly stronger than a women can, The strongest man in the world (Eddie hall) is significantly stronger than the strongest woman in the world. Women just aren’t built like men are, I’m not saying a big woman can’t have a bigger build than a small man, But men can get significantly bigger and stronger than a women can. I don’t even know why people are asking this question, ITS BASIC BIOLOGY.
2 Answers 2
As a general rule, women do not have the same level of neuromuscular efficiency as men. This is probably due to the differences in hormonal profile and the much lower levels of testosterone.
It's also worth noting that a pound of muscle has the same absolute strength in either gender. The mass is distributed differently, leading women to lag in upper body strength:
And, while levels of absolute strength relative to muscle mass are essentially the same in the two sexes, women's upper-body movements suffer from the large relative difference in local muscle mass distribution.
Rippetoe & Kilgore go on to explain that an ideal training program for women looks the same as that for men (with minor differences do to menstrual cycles & the resulting effects on recovery).
Looking a little deeper at the generally-accepted hypothesis that hormonal differences are the cause, this study finds that testosterone increases muscle protein synthesis and protein balance, resulting in greater muscle mass. Furthermore, in-vitro and rat data suggests that ovarian hormone inhibits muscle protein synthesis.
I would posit that cultural correlations result from these physiological differences, rather than causing them. However, it is worth noting that cultural causes of malnutrition (American women tend to be deficient in calcium and iron) can also impact the efficiency of a strength program.
Gender & Athletic Ability: Are Men Really Better Athletes Than Women?
Gender & Athletic Ability: Are Men Really Better Athletes Than Women?
It’s a common perception that men are better athletes than women – but is that always true? In most sports, women play on their own teams based on the idea that women can’t compete with men. How much of this is social and cultural bias and how much is based on true differences in athletic ability and body composition?
Strength, Speed, and Power
Men are typically bigger than women and have a higher proportion of muscle relative to fat. Men are also, in general, stronger than women. However, strength discrepancies between men and women are more pronounced in the upper body than the lower. How do we know this?
In one study, researchers compared strength and muscle size between men and women in the elbow flexors and knee extensors. What they found was women are about 52% as strong as men in the upper body and 66% as strong in the lower body. The results showed that women also have less muscle mass in the upper and lower body relative to men. Again, the discrepancy was greatest in the upper body. Women had 45% and 41% less muscle tissue in the biceps and elbow flexors and 30% and 25% less muscle mass in the vastus lateralis in the thigh and total knee extensors.
The researchers concluded that women have a lower relative amount of muscle tissue in their upper body compared to men and this partially explains why there are significant discrepancies in upper body strength. Men also have larger muscle fibers, although a study showed individual muscle fibers are similar in strength between men and women.
These differences give men an advantage when it comes to sports that require strength and power. However, gender isn’t destiny. In 2012, a 99-pound girl named Naomi Kutin deadlifted almost 210 pounds of weight and squatted almost the same amount. In other words, she squatted almost 215 percent of her body weight. This is similar to what a strong male would squat.
Elite male marathoners typically have faster times relative to elite female marathoners. For endurance events the length of a marathon or shorter, men have an advantage. You can partially explain this by the fact that men have greater aerobic capacity or V02 max, meaning they’re better at delivering oxygen to tissues during submaximal exercise.
For sedentary women, the average V02 max is 33 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body mass per minute. For men. it’s 42 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body mass per minute. For highly trained endurance athletes, V02 max in men can reach the 80s whereas top-level women usually have a V02 max that tops out in the 70s. In terms of lactate threshold, also an important determinant of endurance performance, trained men and women seem to both have a threshold of between 75% to 80%. This means they can exercise at around 75% to 80% of V02 max before the build-up of lactate forces them to slow down.
As far as exercise economy, some research shows that men are more economical than women, although not all studies support this idea. The main difference between men and women in terms of endurance ability comes down to men have greater aerobic capacity or V02 max.
WHY do men have a higher aerobic capacity? For one, males have a larger heart size, giving their heart the ability to pump more blood with each beat. Their lung volume and capacity are greater as well. In addition, men have a red blood cell count that’s 10% higher than a woman’s. More red blood cells mean more hemoglobin to deliver oxygen to tissues.
While these factors give men an advantage in events that are under a marathon in length, it evens out somewhat at ultramarathon distances, races that are longer than a marathon in length. Women have a slight advantage with ultra-endurance activities. The reasons for this are several-fold. For one, women are better at using stored fat as energy during endurance events. They can tap into fat more effectively, meaning that they conserve muscle and liver glycogen better than men. Glycogen depletion becomes a real issue in long endurance events. Women are better able to hold on to their energy reserves than men. That’s a distinct advantage for events requiring ultra-endurance.
Women are also better at releasing heat during long periods of exercise than men. This has to do with body surface area. People who are smaller in size, including women relative to men, have a higher surface to volume ratio. When you have a higher surface area, you have more body surface exposed to the air to release heat. Since a rise in body temperature can limit endurance, the ability to “cool off” more effectively is an advantage.
Performance Over Shorter Distances
When you decrease the distance of an event to much shorter than a marathon, as short as 100 meters, men have a definite advantage. Not only does their additional muscle mass give them greater strength and power but they have the benefit of more testosterone. This makes men better at sports and events that require strength, power, and speed over shorter distances. Yet, for long events that require ultra-endurance, men and women compete more favorably. The take-home message might be to choose your distance.
However, if you dream of a woman one day outsprinting a man, you might one day get your wish. A team of researchers headed by Dr. Andy Tatem, an epidemiologist at Oxford University’s Department of Zoology applied mathematical models to Olympic 100 meter sprint results over the years. They found that the sprint performance of men and women at this level continues to narrow and shows no sign of stopping. They concluded that women will be sprinting faster than men by the year 2156. Other sports scientists disagree – but who knows? Women are improving their times more quickly than men. That’s encouraging!
The Bottom Line
All in all, men have a strength and power advantage due to having more muscle mass and testosterone. They also, at the current time, excel at endurance events less than a marathon in length, although the gap is narrowing for sprint times among world-class sprinters. Where women have the biggest athletic advantage is for ultra-endurance events.
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 199366(3):254-62.
Health. “Do men really have more upper body strength than women?”
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 301: 310-22, 1977.
Gender and Endurance Performance. Greg Crowther [This article originally appeared in the August 2001 issue of Northwest Runner magazine.]
Endurance: Are Men Better Than Women?
When it comes to physical tasks, women have the upper hand over men. Why? It’s simply because their body fat is higher than men’s.
According to a study, females are much better at burning and using fat as an energy source than men, giving them better endurance.
On average, men boast much higher levels of circulating testosterone and more muscle mass, a reason their energy usage is higher than women’s.
Another shocking area where women dominate men is in how quickly the muscles become fatigued. According to a study, women’s muscles don’t fatigue as quickly as men’s because they have muscle groups and ensures the workload is shared among them more efficiently.
Are men physically stronger than women **because of genetics**?
Obviously men outperform women (on average) on most tasks that predominately require muscle. But - so I am wondering - does it have to be like that? Is it biology or the way societies sort men/women into their roles? The answer is most likely ɻoth'. So my question is, to which extend?
It could be just a self-fulfilling prophecy after all. If you believe you're unathletic, then you might not even try that hard and consequently stay unathletic.
One other thing: If you look at the Olympic records, you learn three things. (a) men usually do better than women, (b) in some cases a lot (e.g. 50% difference in weightlifting), in others cases almost nothing (e.g.10% difference in sprint), (c) Olympic athletes are quite special cases. They do so much better than what average Joe/Joanne, i.e. these results do not really transfer to the gross of the population.
Yes, it must be like that. Women do not have the same capacity to harbor the same amount of muscle as men. This is entirely biological (genetic). Muscle requires testosterone for building and maintaining it, and women have far lower levels.
Women can inject testosterone and then they artificially have the capacity to harbor as much muscle as men, mostly.
People who take steroids (testosterone) and bulk up massively will maintain the muscle mass they gained *as long as they stay on the required dosage of testosterone to maintain said amount, which is usually the dosage they inject weekly. Once the testosterone drops, muscle will atrophy until mass that can be sustained by the level of testosterone is reached.
Genetics seems to be most of the cause. It's not a matter of trying hard. For some things, the differences can be really big. One study looked at grip strength, and compared normal men and women to athletes in judo and handball. The best female athlete in the study had the grip strength of the average normal man. It would be really difficult to explain that with differences in effort.
I'm a kinesiology student and I had a debate in class where I had to research the difference in biomechanics and physiology of men and women in relation to sport performance. This is the winning argument in for my debate. Men have more type 2b and 2a muscle fibres which are the more powerful and larger fibre types. This means that men's muscles are made for more powerful movements, which is an advantage in a lot of sports. Women have an abundance of type 1 fibres which are slower acting, more flexible, and more oxygen efficient(which is also apart of why they have slower metabolisms). So in the end, men's muscles are built for sport while women's are more for flexibility and efficiency.
MCR gene determines testicular development
Testicles moderate testosterone production
Testosterone moderates muscular production
Yes and no. It's most proximally because of hormones. A woman who takes lots of testosterone supplements will grow muscle like a man. This accounts for most, but not all, of the difference in strength. Of course in nature the higher level of testosterone is determined by genetics.
Edit: do they test natural testosterone levels in the Olympics? Perhaps Olympian women have higher levels. I'm too lazy to look it up, but if someone else would be so kind.
I am more of a lurker here, and please correct me if I am wrong.
Think hunters and gatherers. Men have larger upper bodies and women have wider lower bodies.
If I remember correctly women have a stronger lower half due to hip width and the need to carry our pregnant self around then lug children. Women tend to more soft around the middle again for pregnancy/nursing/children. I do know your breastmilk comes from fat stores, and the fat you store around your thigh area has more brain developing stuff (I can't think of words)
Do women have the same capabilities as a man? No, they would need to adjust their body to store fat differently and build muscle differently. Is it possible with steroids? Maybe IDK.
As a mom I can say I don't want to be strong like a man, my body is already strong in it's own way. I would like to see a man try to be strong like me!
Why Men Are Typically Taller Than Women
While studying genetic factors behind different traits in men and women, University of Helsinki researchers have identified a genetic variant on the X sex chromosome that accounts for height differences between the sexes. Sex cells, produced by male and female gonads, contain either an X or a Y chromosome. The fact that females have two X chromosomes and males only have one X chromosome must be taken into account when attributing the difference in traits to variants on the X chromosome.
According to the study's head researcher, Professor Samuli Ripatti, "The double dose of X-chromosomal genes in women could cause problems during the development. To prevent this, there is a process by which one of the two copies of the X chromosome present in the cell is silenced. When we realized that the height associated variant we identified was nearby a gene that is able to escape the silencing we were particularly excited." The height variant identified influences a gene that is involved in cartilage development. Individuals that possess the height variant tend to be shorter than average. Since women have two copies of the X chromosome variant, they tend to be shorter than men.
How Men's Brains Are Wired Differently than Women's
Men aren't from Mars and women aren't from Venus, but their brains really are wired differently, a new study suggests.
The research, which involved imaging the brains of nearly 1,000 adolescents, found that male brains had more connections within hemispheres, whereas female brains were more connected between hemispheres. The results, which apply to the population as a whole and not individuals, suggest that male brains may be optimized for motor skills, and female brains may be optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking.
"On average, men connect front to back [parts of the brain] more strongly than women," whereas "women have stronger connections left to right," said study leader Ragini Verma, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. But Verma cautioned against making sweeping generalizations about men and women based on the results.
Previous studies have found behavioral differences between men and women. For example, women may have better verbal memory and social cognition, whereas men may have better motor and spatial skills, on average. Brain imaging studies have shown that women have a higher percentage of gray matter, the computational tissue of the brain, while men have a higher percentage of white matter, the connective cables of the brain. But few studies have shown that men's and women's brains are connected differently.
In the study, researchers scanned the brains of 949 young people ages 8 to 22 (428 males and 521 females), using a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) known as diffusion tensor imaging, which maps the diffusion of water molecules within brain tissue. The researchers analyzed the participants as a single group, and as three separate groups split up by age.
As a whole, the young men had stronger connections within cerebral hemispheres while the young women had stronger connections between hemispheres, the study, detailed today (Dec. 2) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found. However, the cerebellum, a part of the brain below the cerebrum that plays a role in coordinating muscle movement, showed the opposite pattern, with males having stronger connections between hemispheres.
Roughly speaking, the back of the brain handles perception and the front of the brain handles action the left hemisphere of the brain is the seat of logical thinking, while the right side of the brain begets intuitive thinking. The findings lend support to the view that males may excel at motor skills, while women may be better at integrating analysis and intuitive thinking.
"It is fascinating that we can see some of functional differences in men and women structurally," Verma told LiveScience. However, the results do not apply to individual men and women, she said. "Every individual could have part of both men and women in them," she said, referring to the connectivity patterns her team observed.
When the researchers compared the young people by age group, they saw the most pronounced brain differences among adolescents (13.4 to 17 years old), suggesting the sexes begin to diverge in the teen years. Males and females showed the greatest differences in inter-hemisphere brain connectivity during this time, with females having more connections between hemispheres primarily in the frontal lobe. These differences got smaller with age, with older females showing more widely distributed connections throughout the brain rather than just in the frontal lobe.
Currently, scientists can't quantify how much an individual has male- or female-like patterns of brain connectivity. Another lingering question is whether the structural differences result in differences in brain function, or whether differences in function result in structural changes.
The findings could also help scientists understand why certain diseases, such as autism, are more prevalent in males, Verma said.
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The origins of sexism: How men came to rule 12,000 years ago
THE vast majority of cultures are patriarchies, where men are more likely than women to hold positions of social, economic and political power. So it is tempting to assume that this is the natural state of affairs, perhaps because men are, on average, stronger than women. But a study of humanity’s roots suggests this answer is too simple.
Chimpanzees are not a proxy for our ancestors – they have been evolving since our two family trees split between 7 and 10 million years ago – but their social structures can tell us something about the conditions that male dominance thrives in. Common chimpanzee groups are manifestly patriarchal. Males are vicious towards females, they take their food, forcibly copulate with females that are ovulating and even kill them merely for spending time away from the group.
Special report: The origins of sexism
The imbalance of power between men and women is being hotly debated. But no one benefits from a patriarchal society, so how did we get here, and where should we go next?
Males also spend their lives in the group they were born into, whereas females leave at adolescence. As a result, males in a group are more closely related to each other than the females. And because relatives tend to help one another, they have an advantage.
The same is true in human societies: in places where women move to live with their husband’s family, men tend to have more power and privilege. Patrilocal residence, as it is called, is associated with patriarchy, says anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Hrdy at the University of California at Davis.
For most of our history, we have been hunter-gatherers, and patrilocal residence is not the norm among modern hunter-gatherer societies. Instead, either partner may move to live with the “in-laws”, or a couple may relocate away from both their families. According to Hrdy, a degree of egalitarianism is built into these systems. If they reflect what prehistoric hunter-gatherers did, women in those early societies would have had the choice of support from the group they grew up with, or the option to move away from oppression.
According to one school of thought, things changed around 12,000 years ago. With the advent of agriculture and homesteading, people began settling down. They acquired resources to defend, and power shifted to the physically stronger males. Fathers, sons, uncles and grandfathers began living near each other, property was passed down the male line, and female autonomy was eroded. As a result, the argument goes, patriarchy emerged.
This origin story is supported by a study published in 2004. Researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, studied mitochondrial DNA (inherited from mothers) and genetic markers on the Y chromosome (inherited from fathers) in 40 populations from sub-Saharan Africa. This suggested that women in hunter-gatherer populations, such as the !Kung and Hadza, were more likely to remain with their mothers after marriage than women from food-producing populations. It was the reverse for men, suggesting that agriculture is indeed correlated with patrilocal societies.
“It’s tempting to assume male dominance is the natural state of human society. It isn’t”
In righting things, solidarity is crucial, says Amy Parish at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She studies bonobo societies, which are patrilocal but female-dominated. Females weigh 15 per cent less than males – similarly to humans and chimps – yet Parish says they have the upper hand because they cooperate and form alliances. She sees a parallel with feminist movements: “The goal is to behave with unrelated females as if they are your sisters.”
It’s not as easy as it seems (see “Why the patriarchy isn’t good for men and how to fix it”). “The #MeToo movement is about female cooperation,” says Hrdy, “but getting cooperation among non-kin is difficult.” Competitive instincts can prevail, or events can cause cooperation to fall apart – for instance in times of war, Hrdy says. “Women start to look out for the safety of their own children and their husbands.” She worries that conflict could erode gains from recent decades. “None of this stuff is certain,” she says. “It’s what I tell my daughters: don’t take any of this that you have now for granted.”
Restoring and strengthening equality will require effort on multiple fronts, she says. If patriarchy originated in sedentary social structures that formalised male ownership and inheritance, then laws that give women the right to own property in their own name, for instance, can help.
But such laws exist in many 21st century societies – so why does the patriarchy persist? Ultimately, real change will only come when societies embody the values espoused by the laws, argues Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at the Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago: “The laws are the first step, the internalised values come later.”
This article appeared in print under the headline “The Origins of the Patriarchy”