BACKGROUND: Reductions in muscle size and strength occur with aging. These changes can be mitigated by participation in resistance training. At present, it is unknown if sex contributes to differences in adaptation to resistance training in older adults.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this systematic review was to determine if sex differences are apparent in adaptations to resistance training in older adults.
DESIGN: Systematic review with meta-analysis.
DATA SOURCES: Web of Science; Science Direct; SPORTDiscus; CINAHL; and MEDLINE were searched from inception to June 2020.
ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Studies where males and females older than 50 years of age performed identical resistance training interventions and had outcome measures of muscle strength or size.
RESULTS: We initially screened 5337 studies. 30 studies (with 41 comparison groups) were included in our review (1410 participants; 651 males, 759 females). Mean study quality was 14.7/29 on a modified Downs and Black checklist, considered moderate quality. Females gained more relative lower-body strength than males (g = - 0.21 [95% CI - 0.33, - 0.10], p = 0.0003) but there were no differences in relative change for upper-body strength (g = - 0.29 [95% CI - 0.62, 0.04], p = 0.08) or relative muscle size (g = 0.10 [95% CI - 0.04, 0.23], p = 0.16). Males gained more absolute upper-body strength (g = 0.48 [95% CI 0.09, 0.88], p = 0.016), absolute lower-body strength (g = 0.33 [95% CI 0.19, 0.47], p < 0.0001), and absolute muscle size (g = 0.45 [95% CI 0.23, 0.66], p < 0.0001).
CONCLUSION: Our results indicate that sex differences in adaptations to resistance training are apparent in older adults. However, it is evident that the interpretation of sex-dependent adaptations to resistance training is heavily influenced by the presentation of the results in either an absolute or relative context.
STUDY REGISTRATION: Open Science Framework (osf.io/afn3y/).