Girls Vs Boys (strength)

In my recent university lecture, and as well as previous years, I have had two feminist teachers mention that women are just as strong as men. The teachers being feminist is largely irrelevant, but I mention it because it has only ever been women from this group who state this as fact.

I understand that a large part of why women are regarded this way is because of how our society is built, but from what I understand testosterone is one of the major hormones that builds muscle in our bodies. It should be pretty obvious that men have way more of it and thus should be able to gain muscle faster.

Could somebody explain this to me properly?

On average men are physically stronger than women because the average man is larger, more robust and has more muscle mass than the average women. Having longer limbs means you have a longer lever to exert force with, having larger muscle mass (controlled by testosterone) means there is more pushing force at the end of the lever. Men are generally more sturdy meaning their bone structure is larger than that of women, this is needed to cope with the extra forces exerted by the increased muscle. If the bones weren’t thickened they would fracture more easily. Women carry a greater proportion of body fat than men and have trimmed back on muscle tissue, it has been thought that this is to make them more fit to carry babies to term and produce milk when food is scarce. Muscle tissue uses a lot of energy even at rest, getting rid of some muscle and replacing it with fat reserves would be a wise plan if food was hard to come by and you had the extra energy demands imposed by pregnancy and nursing.

I use the phrase “on average” as clearly not all men are stronger than all women. Most men would struggle to out lift a female weightlifter for example. :wink:

My girl is 11 years old, weighs about 72lbs and is about 4’ 11 inches tall. To look at her you’d think she was just this beanpole of a kid. Ask her to drop and give you as many push-ups as she can muster and she will easily do 15-20 in absolute perfect form no knees on the ground. Regular push-ups. I spoke with her gym teacher the other day and he said that not only does she do them with ease but that she is incredibly strong for her size and age. I have no idea where this comes from. I certainly could not do what she does, not now or when I was her age. My boy is 15, in good shape and healthy, he weighs about 126lbs is the statue of a young man now…ask him to do the same and he is lucky to be able to do 5 in a row. Like Ambivalid said - “on average.” My kids are a perfect example of this.

On a physiological muscle strength basis that statement is quite true. Male and female muscle tissue is more or less identical re physiological strength capabilities. However, in a real world context, on average, men are (1) somewhat larger and (2) have a greater muscle to body mass weight ratio vs women. This generally means that the average man will usually be noticeably stronger than the average women.

If they are claiming than the average man and the average woman are relatively equal in overall strength they are quite incorrect.

See discussion below

That just sounds to be purely anecdotal and proof of nothing.

I’ll tend to assume that muscle tissue in humans is the same for each sex. Things like ability to do pushups and chin-ups have a lot to do with the weight that is being lifted.

When I was in high school I was a skinny kid but I could do more chin-ups than classmates that were on the football team or even the wrestling team. That didn’t mean that I was stronger. I had very little fat and could use the muscle I had to lift my much lighter weight. If push had come to shove they would have overwhelmed me. They had more muscle mass than me, but maybe not so on a percentage basis. Testosterone builds muscle mass.

Therefore men, on average, are bigger and stronger. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they can do more pushups or chin-ups. Ask you 11 year old daughter to take on your 15 year old son in some weightlifting competitions such as bench presses or dead lifts. Report back.

As McMurphy points out, bodyweight exercises are poor tests of strength, because performing them gets easier really fast as the bodyweight of the person tested goes down. Back in high school, I was a beanpole nerd that could beat most any kid in a pullup test. Yet when I went to a gym for the first time, I was barely able to move the same weights my friends from the gym class used with relative ease.

We have a massive, global, on-going experiment going on concerning the question in the OP, called sports. Take any sporting event reliant on strength and you’ll find males being consistently substantially stronger than women. Take something like the shot put: males put a shot 1.8 times heavier than women to approximately the same distance. In powerlifting, the men’s world record totals in the 60 kg and 75 kg classes are about 30 % larger than the 60 kg and 75 kg women’s world records.

In the not-so-distant past, women were discouraged from participating in sport, especially strength sports, and all kinds of cultural barriers pretty much made sure we had no idea of the true strength potential of women. But for the past couple of generations, the very best of the best women athletes have been picked up by coaching organizations world wide and been trained to their utmost potential in their chosen sport, just like men. This sample of tens of thousands of individuals over several decades tells a little different story than the wishful version radical feminists would have us believe.

Anyone can share anecdotes of women individuals who are stronger than many men. The strongest women are much stronger than the average man. But average women are physically weaker than average men, just as elite athlete women are physically weaker than elite athlete men, in a somewhat narrow sense of the word ‘strength’.

In other words pre-pubescent; at that stage boys and girls haven’t developed their distinctive body shapes.

Endurance isn’t strength. Last I heard it appeared that females did have an edge on males in intrinsic endurance; the problem is most of the time they are working proportionality harder* so it’s hard to notice.

  • For example, if a man and woman lift the same weight the generally less powerful woman is doing proportionately more work. And when running a woman’s less mechanically efficient wide hips causes them to use up more energy for every step.

Actually it is quite relevant as it is their belief system. It gives context as to why they have the motivation to say this and believe it.

From your title for the OP I though you were talking about boys and girls, in other words children, which would be interesting to know if boys are stronger then girls at different ages. After puberty as the body gets ready to become child capable it seems like it is clear that men are on average stronger, though women may have more endurance and flexibility.

Men are stronger than woman as a group and have larger muscles because of testosterone (primarily anyway).

If men were a group placed in a circle, and women were a group placed in a circle, you’d then overlap some % of the circles to show that some men are weaker than woman and some woman are stronger than men.

As for the pushup example: This is not a demonstration of strength. Skinny, healthy people can bang out more pushups and chinups than there thicker, sometimes more muscular and overall stronger counterparts. Fleas jump how many times more than thir size? How about Elephants and jumping? Same deal. Elephants are stronger than fleas. Fleas have some athletic prowess, wherein jumping is that isolated athletic prowess.

There are some sports and endeavors built mostly on strength. They will be dominated by men.

There are some endeavors based on athletic prowess, and you’ll see women make their marks. There are cross fit games where women seem to kill men, as many exercises and activities fall into the realm of being sort of gynamstics-ish (nice word, eh?). I am far stronger than my wife, who is a fitness trainer, but she has far more athletic prowess overall.

And still, there are some women who are just flat out more muscular and powerful than some weaker men. Exceptions to the rule.


Got a cite handy? It’s certainly believable, but I’ve never came across that before.


Wow, that is anecdotal evidence and not externally valid at all. I’m not sure it is even internally valid.

If girls were equally strong as men, they would compete against them in sports on the highest level…in all sports.

As John McEnroe(and many others) has pointed out that the 200th ranked man in tennis could absolutely kill the 1st ranked women in tennis any day. Every time, too.

The combination of genetics and much higher levels of testosterone means men on average develop a higher proportion of muscle mass-to-weight compared to women, a lower proportion of body fat-to-weight compared to women, and higher bone density.

I suspect your lecturers were not trying to say “women are just as physically strong as men on average”, because that’s patently absurd. You might have misunderstood what they were saying?

Why aren’t there any male/female mixed martial arts fights?

The title says girls vs boys, but the text of the OP talks about women and men. I’m wondering which words the teachers in question actually used. No cites, but if we’re talking about children then I don’t think there’s much difference in strength between girls and boys.

For Pete’s sake guys, did you read scootergirl’s post all the way to the end? She is giving her anecdote as support of Ambivalid’s suggestion that while on average men are stronger there are exceptions, not to suggest that women are stronger than men as a whole. While perhaps not a perfect example, I don’t think it is really arguable that there are some women stronger than some men.

Well, yeah. I mean, my kid sister would absolutely wipe the floor with Stephen Hawking.

But her post isn’t an example of one girl being stronger than one boy because her daughter is only able to do so many push ups due to her low body weight, not to her strength.

Exactly. And post puberty, this gets even harder for young men because a man’s center of gravity is higher - muscle mass develops on the shoulders and chest on men in a much more concentrated way than it does on women.

There are many “parlor tricks” that use this difference to make women seem “stronger” than men which are based on leverage and the difference in the center of mass. We tried one in college when three guys and three gals at random, aged 20-22 (well, semi-random - just the people hanging out in our dorm common area) were to kneel, put our hands behind our backs and touch our foreheads to the ground… Then, to try to get up without using our hands or rolling over. All the girls had no problems at all. The guys all had great difficulty: only one could do it at all, and he was the skinniest one there, a cyclist who’d gone vegan in his freshman year, and even he strained mightily to do it (“much harder than doing a sit-up”).

One of the guys was a football player, really ripped, and when he gave it a try, it was comical. As soon as his head was about 2 feet from the ground he dropped forward like a rock - his forehead smacked the ground with a THUNK. While the rest of us guys could at least raise our heads off the ground a few inches, he was completely pinned there by the weight of his own shoulders and chest. Couldn’t budge an inch without putting his arms out to push himself up.

I apologize for the confusion, I used the term “boys vs girls” as it makes the title seem childish since this is a rather childish topic to me. The actual subject should be discussing fully grown adults. A mod can change the topic title if they feel the need.

My problem with this reasoning is that although men do outperform women in sports it can still be easily argued that our society still routes women away from sports and encourages men to participate. The population of women taking part or even initially being exposed to sports is much lower and could account for some or all (depending on how strongly you think this impacts the results) of the discrepancy.

I hadnt considered the simple fact of size before posting this either, thank you.

robardin that’s an interesting exercise, I may have to suggest that to the workout class I go to, it’s be fun to try. FWIW, I just tried it and had no problem at all. I’m female, 50, 5’6" and pretty fit and strong.

As strong as I am though, my husband is inherently stronger despite the fact that I work my ass off and he doesn’t. As a rule and in general men are stronger than women. I’ve been doing this class for 3 years now, I can bench 65 lbs pretty easily, 75 less so. I can do 80 lb deadlifts, fly’s with 25s, pulldowns with 110, a minute’s worth of clean 'n presses with a 60 lb bar. I have really good core strength, and can do 20 real pushups easily (my wrists actually give out before my shoulders, back and abs do). I do barbell squats w/ 100+ lbs, leg curls and raises w/ 90 lbs. On more than one occasion we’ve had a new guy join the class, and while they may start out at a lower weight than I do they very quickly outstrip me, even the guys who are not fitness and sports types, the guys who sit all day for work and don’t do much more on weekends. Granted most of them are also 10-20 years younger than I am too (though I must say it’s kinda sweet to be zipping past a guy young enough to be my kid on the running drills we do :stuck_out_tongue: )

I realize this is yet another anecdotal sample of one, but I think it illustrates that yeah, work and want it though we might most women will never be as strong as most men.