Size Isn't Everything: You Might Be Stronger Than You Look


Bodybuilding is based on the idea that muscle size is linked to strength, but new research suggests that might not be true.

Scientists have found that weight training which leads to bigger muscles doesn’t necessarily make people stronger.

Jonathan Knowles via Getty Images

Their study shows that lifting lighter weights and heavier weights over and over led to similar mass gain, despite heavier weights making people stronger.

Most intriguingly, the evidence showed that people who stop weight lifting quickly lose muscle mass, but maintain strength for at least eight months.

The researchers didn’t completely dismiss a link between muscle size and strength, but they say the evidence is “insufficient”.

Their research was based on a review of existing evidence and they are now recruiting 40 people to work out for two months to see if they can learn more about the effects of weight training.

The study’s senior author Dr Jeremy Loenneke said: “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 programme.

“Our paper highlights many potential issues with how we think about changes in strength following exercise.”

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