Does Strength Always Equal Size? Is gaining strength the key to muscle size?

| December 10, 2014 by Truth Seeker |

A long time ago, I read an article entitled “Bodybuilding Has Lied To You” which stated that “strength always equals size”.

This sounds like a cool theory, but is strength really the cure for natural bodybuilding? Honestly, l don’t think so.

Strength Will Make You Bigger, At First

Undoubtedly, getting your lifts up will make you bigger too. If you take your squat from 150lbs to 350lbs, your body composition will have no choice but to reflect your extra strength.


Therefore, even if you are not a strength athlete, you will have to add weight and/or reps to progress. That’s why all successful routines are built around continuous progression achieved through scheduled overload.

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The Land Of Diminishing Returns

Soon or later, the party is over, and every lifter arrives in the Land Of Diminishing Returns.

This is when things get complicated.

Getting your squat from 150lbs to 350lbs will result in bigger legs. But what about going from 350lbs to 400lbs? The second progression may take just as much if not more time when you are an advanced lifter in a lighter weight class, but will it be worth it when the end goal is growth?

Eventually, adding strength becomes the equivalent of upgrading the CPU of your computer to make it look more stylish. It may be powerful inside, but the box is still the same.

A big part of the problem is that your natural potential is heavily influenced by your hormonal profile. Unlike steroids, lifting cannot alter the natural synthesis of protein. In short, you will not break the plateau regardless of what you do in the gym.

Below are a few arbitrary numbers beyond which most natties will be in the Land Of Diminishing Returns:

Bench press – 275lbs
Squat – 405lbs
Deadlift – 500lbs

Note: Your numbers will be heavily influenced by your body type.

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The Illusion Of Strength

There are various ways to move more weight without actually getting stronger.

Powerlifters, for example, use a lot of techniques to lift heavier weight in competition. The most popular example would be the excessive arching during bench pressing. Similar cheat moves allow you to lift more, but if your goal is to build muscle, it seems more logical to use less weight while keeping proper form.

High Rep Work Is Underrated 

In the quest for strength, many become completely absorbed in the 5×5 madness and start to demonize high repetitions. Ironically, high rep work can develop everything – strength, size, and endurance.

Let’s Not Forget About Nutrition

You can get stronger, but without adequate nutrition, muscle mass cannot be built. You don’t need a ton of food to gain weight, but eating like a bird will never get you there.

Do you know what powerlifters do to remain in a weight class? They limit their food intake. They don’t, however, limit their strength development. The barbell grows, but the bodyweight hovers around the same number.

Hormones Are More Important Than Strength

There are girls who train hard and are a lot stronger than many untrained males. However, there are also males who are way bigger than the same girls without even training. Why? Hormones, bone structure…etc.

To summarize:

– Building muscle requires a strength increase but past a certain point, you are exposing yourself to stress that does not result in significant rewards.

– High rep work is not evil.

Testosterone, bone structure and muscle insertions determine the limits of muscle growth.

– Cheating to lift more weight is not beneficial when the goal is to build more muscle.

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