Muscle hypertrophy in men and women : Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

Journal Logo

Original Investigations: PDF Only

Muscle hypertrophy in men and women


Author Information
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 20(4):p 338-344, August 1988.
  • Free


CURETON, K. J., M. A. COLLINS, D. W. HILL, and F. M. MCELHANNON, JR. Muscle hypertrophy in men and women. Med. Sci. Sports. Exerc, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 338-344, 1988. It is widely believed that women experience less skeletal muscle hypertrophy consequent to heavy-resistance training than men. The purpose of this study was to test this hypothesis using both traditional indirect indicators as well as a direct measure of muscle size. Seven male experimental (ME), 8 female experimental (FE), and 7 control subjects were studied before and after a 16-wk weight training program, in which ME and FE trained 3 days·wk−1 at 70 to 90% of maximum voluntary contraction using exercise designed to produce hypertrophy of the upper arm and thigh. Strength increased significantly (P<0.05) in ME and FE, respectively, on elbow flexion (36.2 and 59.2%), elbow extension (32.6 and 41.7%), knee flexion (12.8 and 24.4%), and knee extension (28.8 and 33.9%) tests. Absolute changes were significantly greater in ME than FE in 2 of the 4 tests, whereas percentage changes were not significantly different. Substantial muscle hypertrophy occurred in the upper arms of both ME and FE as evidenced by significant increases in upper arm circumference (7.9 and 7.9%), bone-plus-muscle (B+M) cross-sectional area (CSA) estimated by anthropometry (17.5 and 20.4%), and muscle CSA determined from computed tomography scanning (15.9 and 22.8%). Changes by ME and FE were not significantly different, except for the absolute increase in estimated B+M CSA, which was significantly greater in ME (11.2 vs 7.4 cm2). No muscle hypertrophy occurred in the thigh of either ME and FE as evidenced by non-significant changes in thigh circumference (1.7 and 2.3%), B+M CSA (4.9 and 6.1%), and muscle CSA (2.9 and 2.9%). Changes by ME and FE in body weight, fat-free weight, and fat weight were not significant. We conclude that relative changes in strength and muscle hypertrophy consequent to weight training are similar in men and women.

©1988The American College of Sports Medicine