Men are more fatigable than strength-matched women when performing intermittent submaximal contractions

Document Type




Format of Original

8 p.

Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Applied Physiology

Source ISSN



The purpose of this study was to compare the time to task failure for a series of intermittent submaximal contractions performed with the elbow flexor muscles by men and women who were matched for strength (n = 20, 18–34 yr). The fatigue task comprised isometric contractions at 50% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) torque (6-s contraction, 4-s rest). The MVC torque was similar for the men and women [64.8 ± 9.2 (SD) vs. 62.2 ± 7.9 N·m; P > 0.05]. However, the time to task failure was longer for the women (1,408 ± 1,133 vs. 513 ± 194 s; P < 0.05), despite the similar torque levels. The mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion started and ended at similar values for the men and women, but the rate of increase was less for the women. The rate of increase in the average of the rectified electromyogram (AEMG; % peak MVC) for the elbow flexor muscles was less for the women: the AEMG was greater for the men compared with the women at task failure (72 ± 28 vs. 50 ± 21%; P < 0.05), despite similar AEMG values at the start of the fatiguing contraction (32 ± 9 vs. 36 ± 13%). These results indicate that for intermittent contractions performed with the elbow flexor muscles 1) the sex difference in time to task failure was not explained by the absolute strength of the men and women, but involved another mechanism that is present during perfused conditions, and 2) men required a more rapid increase in descending drive to maintain a similar torque.


Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 96, No. 6 (June 2004): 2125-2132. Publisher Link.