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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. The truth is that muscular size and muscular strength in any given individual can be determined by a number of different variables ranging 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 by being able to perform a ton of pull-ups, or be capable of handling another person like a sack of potatoes in the ring during an MMA bout.

Strength comes in many forms just as muscular size and aesthetics comes in many forms. This is 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 forms of strength training is known as muscular hypertrophy.

With that being said 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. 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 signficant 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 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. In 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. You can still achieve the volume by increasing the number of working sets.

You could still have an individual that is strong due to more myofibrillar muscular development because he, or she is trained more for producing greater muscular force due to “how” they approach their training.

Muscle Size vs. Muscular Strength: The Takeaway

At the end of the day there is a scientific difference between muscle size and muscle strength. Sure they do go hand in hand, but not all of the time.

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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