Muscle Strength Vs. Muscle Size
There is a very common saying, and it is, “a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle.”
And I don't know where that originated from.
But it has been getting passed down through the grapevine over the years.
And a lot of people think progressive overload is extremely important, and it is a necessity for exerting more stimulus on your muscles.
Progressive overload ensures the muscle is forced to continuously adapt to get stronger and get bigger to accommodate that increased workload you're exerting upon yourself.
I'm not saying that progressive overload isn't important, but one thing I've come to notice over the years is that most bodybuilders typically only lift extreme amounts of weight when they're on camera.
When they're in the gym by themselves actually doing their real workouts and it's not for a YouTube video, they typically train with the goal of perfect mind-muscle connection and getting a ridiculous pump.
This isn't necessarily with light weight, but relative to what they could lift with imperfect form, it is significantly less weight than what they are capable of if they trained purely for strength gains.
Mind-Muscle Connection Vs. Progressive Overload
Relative to a guy who weighs the same who's in strongman competitions, or is training specifically for strength, bodybuilders lift a lot lighter than powerlifters.
For example, you might have a powerlifter deadlifting five or six plates.
And then you have a bodybuilder who could probably also deadlift five or six plates if he wanted to, or he could work up to that fairly easily.
But, instead he trains with maximum mind-muscle connection and only lifts three to four plates.
I've come to realize over the years that strength doesn't always equate to size.
Obviously, the bigger you get, typically the stronger you get along with it, but I think a lot of it has to do with your fast-twitch muscle fibers, and what type of training you do in the gym.
Once I stopped strength training with my main goal being to beat strength PR's my strength severely decreased, even with the same amount of muscle mass.
This video on my Instagram is of me when I was 20 years old, deadlifting 545 pounds for three reps.
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I had 20-30 pounds less muscle on me at that point than I do now.
But, if I tried to lift that weight now, I would get destroyed.
The reason for that is because I don't train purely for strength anymore.
I incorporate progressive overload as the weight becomes too light that I'm using for that mind-muscle connection and getting a really good pump, so I still go heavy.
But I don't strength train anymore where the goal is maxing out with as much weight as possible for a few reps.
I'm sure I could probably work my way back up to that five-and-a-half-plate deadlift if I wanted to over the course of 2019 if I started strictly focusing on that, but my muscle fibers have already adapted to the type of training I do now.
If I was to try and max out with those same weights I could lift when I was younger I would get killed.
I still gained tons of muscle since that time, even though I'm lifting way lighter than I was then.
How To Gain Size And Strength At The Same Time
From a hypertrophy standpoint, what I'm doing now is more beneficial than what I was doing then.
However, I think to an extent you have to incorporate both.
To be clear, I'm not saying that training for strength is stupid.
I think progressive overload is very important, like I mentioned already.
But as far as strength being the only determinant if you get big or not, that's not the case.
There are a lot of strength training advocates who will state things like “if you bench four plates, there's no way you couldn't have a great chest.”
I've proved that that's not the case because my chest is horrible, and I've worked my way up to a four-plate bench.
A perfect example of this are strongman competitors and powerlifters who also try to compete in bodybuilding shows.
Take Larry Wheels for example.
This guy is a perfect example because he just competed in bodybuilding.
Even though his lifts are extraordinary and better than every single professional bodybuilder, his muscular development is not even close to a significant amount of bodybuilders who are barely capable of lifting half the weight he is.
Train Smarter, Not Harder
What I'm trying to say is don't get caught up too much in the weight.
Don't blow something out or injure yourself trying to get to a five-plate bench because you think that's the only way you're going to achieve whatever kind of size you're trying to achieve.
Train smart, go for mind-muscle connection, get a good pump, stretch the fascia, incorporate progressive overload, and use heavy weights relative to your workload and what you can handle.
Don't get caught up in thinking, “I need to hit a 405 bench,” or “I need to hit a six-plate deadlift because so and so does it and he's this successful”.
Strength isn't everything.
Progressive overload is very important.
Keep that in mind when designing your training protocol.
But don't get too caught up in the numbers and busting PR's all the time.