Male and Female Performance Comparisons
Let’s start off by pointing out what Elite athletes do, whether men or woman, is impressive. I had a friend who won a significant but local tennis tournament. The next week, he played a mid-level professional female player. He told me the score was 6-0, 6-0, and advise me not to assume the match was close.
Physiologists are interested in understanding both male and female performance levels, and have included both in their tables. Based on averages and event comparisons, they have seen an approximate 6 – 16% differences in peak performance. The higher differences appear to be in the lab testing, whereas the lower values tend to be event specific.
Ira Hammerman is an Israeli Physicist who compared times in a number of events for men and women created the table below. This is the source for the 90% factor often quoted. However, this represents comparisons between the top athletes. Differences appear to push the 84% numbers when you are comparing recreational athletes.
Male Female Coggin Performance Differences
In the following table, we have replaced the female performance numbers with the fraction of their corresponding male numbers. Here you see a comparable difference in performance levels.
One interesting fact to note are the gender comparisons at the World Class levels. The numbers suggest that woman at within 10% of the men’s performance for extended trials, but nearly 20% off in Sprints and time trials. These types of races are dependent on absolute power ability, and the advantage here goes to heavier cyclists. This may explain what we are seeing.
Explaining the differences in performance levels
Men and Women have important physiological differences which are being studied to determine there impacts on gender specific performance. That these differences exist does nothing to take away the achievements of any Elite athlete who is able to push themselves to the limits of their physiology. Here are a couple of factors being studied.
Male and Female Size Differences
One possible explanation is the obvious size differences. A way to estimate that is to compare the average skin surface areas. The average male surface area is 1.9 sq-meters and female is 1.6 sq-meters. Their ratio is 0.842.
Just an aside. Compared to your lungs, your exterior surface area is puny. An average lung has over 70 sq-meters of absorbing area due to the rough area of the lung surface.
Other Physiological Considerations
Hammerman in looking to explain the 90% number among elite athletes examined hemoglobin counts and the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can use in a minute. His test results were as follows:
- Men have an average of 13.6 to 17.5 grams of hemoglobin per decalliter in their blood. Women have 12.0 to 15.5 g/dl. The ratio was .88 to .89.
- Comparing Oxygen consumption for four long distance runners of each gender, he found the average to 72.7 for women and 82.1 for men. Their ratio was about 89%.
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