Strength vs. muscle size

Discussion in 'Basic Training Principles and Methods' started by ChrisHouston, Nov 20, 2005.

  1. ChrisHouston

    ChrisHouston New Member

    If muscle size doesn't determine strength, what does? If big muscles aren't necessarily strong muscles, what makes a muscle strong?

  2. Hardrock

    Hardrock New Member

    muscle size (hypertrophy) is the result of increasing muscle fiber crosssection and hyperplasia (splitting) of individual fibers. Strength is a neural function which involves motor learning and coordination between the central nervous system, nerves, and muscles. Some people are strong, yet aren't considered muscular, because they train for strength with heavy weights and low reps. Some people are big (pro bodybuilders) but are'nt strong (compared to powerlifters) because they train for hypertrophy with higher reps and lighter weights (more volume). This is what HST is about. Generally speaking though, if you train for strength you will gain mass as a result. It all depends on your goals.
  3. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    There's a positive correlation between size and strength in natural trainees...but other than see 90kg guys in the gym, some benching 130kg max and others struggling with their bodyweight...anyone's guess.
  4. bosbik

    bosbik New Member

    i thought you gain more muscle mass when going heavy ang less reps? I wrong?
  5. Hardrock

    Hardrock New Member

    as Jester said, in natural trainers there is a correlation between strength and size, but someone on AAS can be big and relatively weak. Heavy weights are necessary to increase mass in most naturals but some people's genetics allow their CNS to achieve maximum neural coordination (strength) without the hypertrophy.
  6. bosbik

    bosbik New Member

    Thanks!..thought I was doing things the other way around.. :)
  7. 9to5lifter

    9to5lifter New Member

    I absolutely agree with Hardrock. Strength is largely a matter of CNS activation, so two people with a similar physique (muscle size) may differ significantly in strength. However, all other factors remaining equal (mainly neural efficiency), if a person grows larger muscles, he/she will inevitably get stronger too.
  8. Well, it does to an extent. The peak force depends upon many factors (1) muscle and fiber size and length; (2) architecture, such as the angle (pennation) and physical properties of the fiber-tendon attachment, and the fiber to muscle length ratio; (3) fiber type; (4) number of cross-bridges in parallel; (5) force per cross-bridge. Slow- and fast-twitch fibers have similar capacities to generate specific tension (kg cm-2) but fast fibers type have a larger peak rate of force but also lose their force potential earlier.

    Whereas non fiber specific strength adds in other neural components, (1) recruitment patterns; (2) increased synergist activation; (3) decreased neural inhibition; (4) decreased antagonist activation; (5) increased rate Coding; plus other mechanical components; (6) moment arm mechanics; (7) leverage.

    Pure strength is a combination of all these factors.
  9. Bryan Haycock

    Bryan Haycock Administrator Staff Member

    Excellent post Dan. [​IMG]

    I think it is important to remember that when we see bodybuilders fail in strength events compared to "strong men" it is often a conditioning issue. In other words, its a metabolic issue rather than a mechanical issue.
  10. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    I'll chime in on this too as I've researched this a lot myself.
    For the record, the strength of a muscle is directly proportional to the number of crossbridges in parallel. It's highly corrolated to the cross sectional area of the fibers and slightly less, but still pretty highly corrolated to the CSA of the whole muscle.

    As far as the muscle itself, most highly motivated subjects can fully activate a muscle(group), at least after practice they were able to.

    Most of the strength we see, with lesser size increases is due to many of the things Dan listed. Coordination issues along with minor variations in form.  (Komi's Strength and Power in Sport goes into this well with supporting research, as does Enoka in Neuromechanics).

    A couple studies referenced in those books showed these two things,
    1) When subjects were trained and tested with 3RMs, the CSA of the trained muscles increase proportional with strength increases.
    2) When subjects were tested with a low RM squat and a higher RM squat, actual muscle tension and activation of the quads were the same. The subjects adjusted their form ever so slightly with the higher weight, this caused the stress to be lowered with the higher RM. Apparantly, it's hard to really subject some joints to very high stress.

    1. Yeu et al. (2000) in (p.376) writes:

    "a majority of studies using the TI technique have concluded that
    healthy subjects, regardless of their age, gender, or physical
    condition, can fully activate most of the limb muscles."

    2. Garfinkel and Cafarelli (1992) also writes:

    "Although there have been occassional reports of a few subjects who are not able to fully activate a particular muscle these are usually small differences that can be overcome with practice."

    3. Behm (1995) (p. 265) in another review writes "The TI was first used by Merton, who described full activation of the adductor pollicis muscle with fatigue. Full activation of the tibialis anterior (Bellanger and McComas, 1981) , elbow flexors , abductor digiti minimi (Gandevia and McKenzie, 1988) quadriceps (Chapman et al., 1985; Rice et al., 1992), adductor pollicis, and soleus (Bellemare et al., 1983) have been reported in untrained individuals."

    4. Sale (1987) in another review writes:
    "in the majority of studies, subjects were able to produce voluntary contractions equal in force to contractions evoked by tetanic stimulation."

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