Big Muscles Don't Make You Stronger

Let’s say you are in gym. Now you are deadlifting and doing bench press all you can to bulk up your muscles so you get stronger afterwards. But, does muscle hypertrophy really increase your strength? Not necessarily.

According study at the University of Mississippi, an increase in muscle size with hypertrophic exercises may not be directly related to an increase in muscle strength. The study is based on existing evidence and researchers have concluded that size and muscle strength may actually be separate phenomena. The findings however challenges many assumptions upon which exercise programs have been based.

The researchers come to this conclusion after they see people who abandon the gym can still maintain their strength they have built up for months even if there is a loss of muscle mass. Similar muscle growth can occur with low load or high load resistance training, yet there are divergent results in strength, the team noted.

“As the story goes with exercise-induced changes in strength, neural adaptations are contributing first with muscle growth playing a more prominent role in the latter portion of a training program: however, there is little direct evidence that this is actually true in an adult partaking in a resistance training program,” explains Dr. Jeremy Loenneke, senior author of the Muscle & Nerve article, in a news release. “Our paper highlights many potential issues with how we think about changes in strength following exercise.”

Reference: The problem Of muscle hypertrophy: RevisitedMuscle & Nerve

Abstract: In this paper we revisit a topic originally discussed in 1955, namely the lack of direct evidence that muscle hypertrophy from exercise plays an important role in increasing strength. To this day, long-term adaptations in strength are thought to be primarily contingent on changes in muscle size. Given this assumption, there has been considerable attention placed on programs designed to allow for maximization of both muscle size and strength. However, the conclusion that a change in muscle size affects a change in strength is surprisingly based on little evidence. We suggest that these changes may be completely separate phenomena based on: (1) the weak correlation between the change in muscle size and the change in muscle strength after training; (2) the loss of muscle mass with detraining, yet a maintenance of muscle strength; and (3) the similar muscle growth between low-load and high-load resistance training, yet divergent results in strength.