Building Strength Vs Building Muscle


Strength and size typically go hand in hand. The more muscular a person is the stronger they are, but that’s not always the case. Building strength and building muscle have some key differences that need to be made aware of. The skill of strength can be acquired through better technique, increased neural drive, and better firing of motor units. Progressive overload is a necessity, but strength is primarily created in the 1-6 rep range with greater rest periods. While incredibly taxing typically the time under tension is minimal with much less blood flow into the muscles as compared to sets in the 8-15 rep range. 

Many athletes need strength, but also need to stay in a certain weight class. Take Olympic weightlifters for example. The practice of getting stronger doesn’t necessarily equate to muscular size gains. While their movements are very technique driven and work strength and power, you’d think many of the athletes would be bigger with the insane poundages they put up. 

For any increase (or decrease for that matter) in strength and size a host of neural, muscular and hormonal changes occur. For size gains, there needs to be a blend of higher volume work with enough blood flow to shuttle nutrients, the appropriate amount of intensity, recovery, and just as importantly, a caloric surplus. A lack of consistency in training combined with a hypocaloric diet equals little to no gains. Strength is gained more quickly and lost at a slower rate than size which can result in a disproportionate strength to size ratio in some athletes. 

If strength AND size are what you’re after, progressively overloading multiple rep ranges, being consistent and matching your nutrition to your goals will ensure you stay on track.

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