Explosive neuromuscular performance of males versus females

Exp Physiol. 2012 May;97(5):618-29. doi: 10.1113/expphysiol.2011.063420. Epub 2012 Feb 3.


The purpose of the study was to investigate sex-related differences in explosive muscular force production, as measured by electromechanical delay (EMD) and rate of force development (RFD), and to examine the physiological mechanisms responsible for any differences. The neuromuscular performance of untrained males (n = 20) and females (n = 20) was assessed during a series of isometric knee extension contractions; explosive and maximal voluntary efforts, as well as supramaximal evoked twitches and octets (eight pulses at 300 Hz). Evoked and voluntary EMD were determined from twitch and explosive contractions. The RFD was recorded over consecutive 50 ms time windows from force onset during evoked and explosive contractions, and normalized to maximal strength. Neuromuscular activity during explosive voluntary contractions was measured with EMG of the superficial knee extensors normalized to maximal M-wave. Muscle size (thickness) and muscle-tendon unit (MTU) stiffness were assessed using ultrasonic images of the vastus lateralis at rest and during ramped contractions. Males and females had similar evoked and voluntary EMD. Males were 33% stronger (P < 0.001) and their absolute RFD was 26-56% greater (all time points P < 0.05) compared with females. Muscle size (P < 0.001) and absolute MTU stiffness were also greater for males (P < 0.05). However, normalized RFD was similar for both sexes during the first 150 ms of the explosive voluntary contractions (P > 0.05). This was consistent with the similar normalized twitch and octet RFD, MTU stiffness and agonist EMG (all P > 0.05). When differences in maximal strength were accounted for, the evoked capacity of the knee extensors for explosive force production and the ability to utilize that capacity during explosive voluntary contractions was similar for males and females.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Knee / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult