For years, it seemed like the bigger one's muscles were, the stronger they were. However, new research tells us that just because your muscles are big doesn't mean they're strong.
Do bigger muscles make you stronger?
The simple answer is no; bigger muscles don't always mean greater strength. The size of your muscles has very little to do with their strength.
Sure, if you're a bodybuilder, you will have some huge muscles. But that doesn't mean those muscles are stronger than the average person’s muscles.
So, what determines the strength of your muscles? It's pretty complex, but there are a few key factors:
- The type of muscle fibres you have
- The number of motor units in your muscles
- How well your nervous system can activate your muscles
- The amount of force your muscles can produce per cross-sectional area
Interestingly, the size of your muscles (or the cross-sectional area) is only a minor factor in determining their strength. So, if you're looking to get stronger, don't just focus on trying to add more mass to your muscles. Instead, focus on increasing the number of motor units and improving the activation of your nervous system.
Regulation of muscle size : contractile proteins and their transcription factors
Muscle size is determined by the number of contractile proteins (myosin and actin) it contains. These proteins, along with their transcription factors, are responsible for regulating muscle size.
Studies have shown that people with bigger muscles often have lower power and endurance levels. This is because they have more Type II (fast-twitch) fibres, better suited for short bursts of energy but fatigue quickly. So, if you're looking to build strength, it's more important to focus on quality over quantity.
The benefit of a larger cross-sectional area
The cross-sectional area is the measurement of the diameter of a muscle. The cross-sectional area of a muscle is correlated with the strength of that muscle. The thicker the muscle, the greater the cross-sectional area, and therefore, the greater the strength. The cross-sectional area is just one factor determining a muscle's strength. Other factors include neural factors, muscle architecture, and contractile proteins. But, all things being equal, a larger cross-sectional area will result in a stronger muscle.
The benefits of having a larger cross-sectional area are many. First, it's been shown to increase strength, second, it can help reduce injury risk, third, it can lead to better performance, and fourth, it can help you look more impressive!
So, if you want to increase your strength or look more jacked, then focus on improving your cross-sectional area. This can be done through weight training exercises that overload the muscles, increasing size.
Importance of specific vs non-specific exercises
How important are specific exercises in relation to strength?
When it comes to strength, size does not always matter. While bigger muscles may have an advantage in some cases, other factors come into play regarding strength.
One of the most essential factors is the type of exercise you are doing. Specific exercises targeting the muscles you want to strengthen will be more effective than non-specific exercises.
While bigger muscles may have an advantage in some cases, ultimately, the quality of your exercises will determine your strength.
Ways to improve maximal strength
Maximal strength is the ability of the muscle to exert an amount of force in a single effort. It's not the same as muscle endurance, which is how long a muscle can continue to contract before it gets tired.
There are several ways to improve maximal strength. One is to increase the number of motor units recruited during an exercise. You can do this by lifting heavier or performing more explosive movements such as jump squats.
Another way to improve maximal strength is to increase the neural drive to the muscles. This can be done by practicing things like plyometrics or sprinting.
Lastly, improving maximal strength can be as simple as practicing proper form and using a full range of motion. This allows the muscles to do more work and maximally contract, improving strength over time.