How Strong Is The Average Female?

What's attractive, and what isn't? Kind of hard to keep track sometimes. Hairy guys used to be a thing. Now, some men wax or otherwise remove body hair (as do some women), including shaving the head. Hair styles: you'll get whiplash, or at least dizzy, trying to keep up. People have been making jokes about male bodybuilders for decades ("He's worked out so much he's got muscles between his ears!") and certainly there was a time not that long ago when women were even discouraged from exercising too much — muscle mass wasn't seen as attractive in women. The common wisdom was that men were strong (emotionally, as well as physically) and women just weren't.

There was also the perception, as Shannon Selin writes, that exercise just wasn't good for women. The attitude was, "Exercise is necessary, but the constitution of women is adapted only to moderate exercise; their feeble arms cannot perform work too laborious and too long continued..."

It was dead wrong, of course. Homesteading on the American Frontier was equal-opportunity, labor-intensive living, trying to create agricultural domesticity from the wilderness. Building. Feeding. Surviving. And nary a Walmart in sight. Or even out of sight.

Exercise is a good thing, regardless of biology

Standards of beauty aside, however, the question arises: Given the same access to, say, strength-building tools and exercise, how strong will an average woman be? Part of it has to do with the size of the body in question. Generally speaking, men are larger, physically, than women. As Live Strong points out, "most of the reason for greater strength is larger muscles." Ace Fitness says that when it comes to muscle type, men are constructed differently: They have more Type II muscle fiber, which are ideal for activities involving speed, or weight training. Women have more Type I muscle fiber — great for endurance. Live Strong puts it this way: "squats and lunges come easier to women than push-ups or pull-ups."

Part of it is determined by physiology. The National Library of Medicine at the National Center for Biotechnology Information includes a comparative study, "Gender Differences in Strength and Muscle Fiber Characteristics." That study indicated that women were 52 and 66 percent as strong as men in upper body and lower body strength, respectively. "Data suggest that the greater strength of the men was due primarily to larger (muscle) fibers."

Still wouldn't want to get in the ring with Ronda Rousey.