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The field of research exploring sex differences in exercise response has yielded intriguing findings, shedding light on the complex interplay between biology, physiology, and training adaptations.
One of the fundamental areas of investigation pertains to sex disparities in strength, power, and hypertrophy. Historically, it’s been well-established that males, on average, exhibit greater absolute strength and muscle mass compared to females. This discrepancy often traces its roots back to inherent physiological distinctions.
However, when it comes to responses to strength and hypertrophy training, the narrative becomes more nuanced. Research indicates that, when individuals of both sexes follow matched resistance training protocols, the relative improvements in strength and hypertrophy are quite similar.
So, do women need to be trained differently than men? The answer, it appears, is not as much as one might assume. The principles of progressive overload, specificity, and other training fundamentals remain constant. While individualization is key, the idea of drastically distinct training guidelines based on sex lacks compelling empirical support.
The guest in this episode, Dr. David Nolan, is a researcher in the area of sex differences in exercise response, and has looked at the influences of menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive use in female athletes on their performance.
In this episode, we discuss the research to date, and what this means practically for athletes and coaches.
David Nolan, PhD
David Nolan is an Assistant Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland.
David investigates sex-related considerations in athletic development with specific focus on female athletes. His mixed-methods research is conducted through the lens of women’s rugby, examining unique challenges and considerations for the female athlete, including researching the role of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptives in athletic preparation.
- Sexual Dimorphism in Physiology
- Gap in Representation in Exercise Science Research
- Sex Differences in Strength, Power and Hypertrophy
- Responses to Strength & Hypertrophy Training
- Do Women Need to Be Trained Differently to Men?
- Menstrual Cycle & Performance
- Hormonal Contraceptive Use on Muscle Hypertrophy, Power and Strength Adaptations
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- Nolan et al., 2023 – The Effect of Hormonal Contraceptive Use on Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy, Power and Strength Adaptations to Resistance Exercise Training
- McNulty et al., 2020 – The Effects of Menstrual Cycle Phase on Exercise Performance in Eumenorrheic Women
- Roberts et al., 2020 – Sex Differences in Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- Cowley et al., 2021 – “Invisible Sportswomen”: The Sex Data Gap in Sport and Exercise Science Research
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