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Muscle Size Vs. Muscular Strength

Muscle Size vs. Muscular Strength

  1. Is there a difference between muscle size and muscular strength? 
  2. Does muscular size always equate to you being stronger? 
  3. Are you currently training for muscular size or muscular strength? 

Muscle Size vs. Muscular Strength…keep in mind that muscular size and strength don’t always correlate. A number of different variables determine muscular size and muscular strength. These can range from differences involving training protocols, genetics, diet, and experience with training. The point is that there are multiple things that influence these differences.

Muscle Size vs. Muscular Strength 

I’ve been a strength and conditioning coach for over 17 years and have trained hundreds of athletes in nearly every sport imaginable. One thing I’ve learned from years of training, studying the human body, and experimenting with many training methods is that strength has many faces.

In other words, some guys can lift a lot of weight and demonstrate a high level of strength in this way, but at the same time I’ve seen other guys display an amazing level of functional strength. A simple example here would involve one being able to perform a ton of pull-ups, or to possess the ability to handle another person like a sack of potatoes in the ring during a fight.

Strength comes in many forms just as muscular size and aesthetics come in many forms. This is no secret because it’s something that is consistent across all spectrums of fitness, sport, and competition. However why is this the case?

Muscular hypertrophy

The increase in size of muscle cells as a result of weightlifting, or resistance strength training is known as muscular hypertrophy.

As a result there are two types of hypertrophy. These include…

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in muscle cell fluid volume, or sarcoplasm. This fluid can account for up to about 30% of a muscle’s size. In this case even though the muscle is bigger there is no dense muscle fiber increase in the cross sectional area of the muscle. Because of this there is no significant increase in muscular strength.

This type of muscle will more commonly be developed from a bodybuilding protocol consisting of rep ranges between 10 and 15 reps. This is the case because this protocol involves more of a focus on muscular size development rather than muscular strength development.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy occurs when you actually increase the area density of myofibrils. As a result when you see this type of muscular hypertrophy you will have muscle that is more capable of producing muscular strength and tension.

This type of muscle is developed more from training heavier weights at lower reps. Because of this you can still achieve the volume by increasing the number of working sets to achieve this goal.

The individual that is strong due to more myofibrillar muscular development is trained more for producing greater muscular force. This is due to “how” they go about approaching their training protocols. So this is why you can do the same!

Muscle Size vs. Muscular Strength: The Takeaway

At the end of the day there is a scientific difference between muscle size and muscle strength. Even though these traits can go hand in hand it’s no always a direct correlation when planning out your goals at the end of a training cycle.

Are you currently training for muscle size or muscular strength? 

Are you focusing on building muscle for sport and competition, or more for aesthetics? 

Post up and share here below in the comments. 



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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

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