Size Gains Vs Strength Gains

Q: I seem to be able to increase my strength on a consistent basis, but I'm not seeing size increases of the same magnitude. Why?

A: We hope no one reading this thinks there is a difference between training for size and training for strength. The fact is, muscle size and strength are directly related. For a muscle to be srronger, it has to get bigger. And vice versa.

Gym lore like "Positives for strength and negatives for mass" is crap. If this were true, it would be possible to train with a negatives-only routine and develop huge muscle mass but no strength. Picture a guy with a twenty-inch bulging arm who can't bench 150 pounds. Likewise, a positives-only routine would yield huge strength from scrawny arms. Picture a 650-pound bench with a twelve-inch arm; not likely. But even though there is a direct relationship between muscle size and strength, one of the most common complaints of bodybuilders is that they are making progress as far as strength goes, but there is little or no increase in size or mass. Perhaps this dilemma is what gives rise to myths like needing different training for mass than for strength.

The strength of a muscle fiber, like the strength of a steel cable, is proportional to its cross-sectional area. In basic terms, if a given muscle is to be twice as strong, it has to have twice the cross-sectional area. But to understand exactly what that means in terms of muscle measurements, you need to do a little work with geometry*. I know some bodybuilders hate this mathematical stuff, but it's the key to learning the truth about what's going on with your training and inside your muscles.

Suppose you have a muscle in your body that is 3 inches in diameter. The top circle in the figure represents a muscle of that size. This muscle has a cross-sectional area of 7.07 square inches, according to the formula for area of a circle (irr2, where tt is 3.14159 and r is the muscle's radius). Suppose that you train hard in the gym for a period of time and increase your strength by a very respectable 50 percent. Let's say you go from benching 240 pounds for 10 reps to benching 360 pounds for 10 reps. Pretty good progress for a seasoned lifter. For the associated muscle to increase its strength by that 50 percent, it must increase its cross-sectional area by 50 percent. So its new area is one and a half times 7.07, or 10.61 square inches.

The bottom circle in the figure represents a muscle with the area of 10.61 inches. But when you measure it, the increase in size will seem to be less. Why? Because people don't usually measure the area; they measure the

Muscle Fiber Dimensions

J ~ it/' = n\1«4-' = 1061 W In i = ntf* 11 .W in tfa 3.68« r-VaJ- 124

J ~ it/' = n\1«4-' = 1061 W In i = ntf* 11 .W in circumference, or distance around. As you can see from the figure, the circumference increases much less than the area. So your muscle strength will always increase faster than the circumference of your muscle; it's a law of geometry.

Furthermore, a muscle is actually made up of millions of individual muscle fibers bundled together. If your muscles contained surplus intramuscular fat (fat contained in the muscle itself), it could be burned off as a result of your exercise, and rhe muscle fibers could expand into rhe area previously occupied by fat. Result: zero change in muscle size. In fact you could lose the more plentiful subcutaneous fat that most of us have too much of, and the muscle could expand itself into that area. Lose an inch of fat off your arm at the same time you pack on an inch of triceps size, and you net out at zero increase in arm size on the tape measure.

Also, your arm or leg or whatever is not 100 percent muscle. Bone, fat, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, skin, and other components take up space. These components don't grow with exercise, so even though your muscle increased its area 50 percent through training, you'll see less change in the size of an entire leg that contains all that other stuff. If that's not enough, 60 percent of a muscle is water, so if you are a little dehydrated when you take your measurements, you won't see all the increase you could.

These factors together conspire to make size gains a lot harder to achieve than strength gains. But that doesn't change the fact that to get one, you need the other. Just be glad strength gains are so easy to measure with meaningful precision. That's what will keep you on the road of steady progress.


Q: You say Power Factor Training is the most efficient training system, but the guys up on the Olympia stage, the top guys in the sport, say they don't use your system. Why not?

A: There are several reasons, but perhaps the biggest is that the guys on the Olympia stage don't care about efficiency in training. Every top bodybuilder since the days of Larry Scott uses a maximum-volume approach to weight training. They perform workouts up to twice per day, six days per week. Routines such as these involve 20 to 30 sets of exercise per body part and workouts of three to four hours in duration. They are, quite literally, the most inefficient systems in use.

And the dirty little secret of the Olympia-caliber bodybuilders is that they spend between $20,000 and $50,000 per year in the black market to obtain about two dozen different drugs.1 These drugs are illegal to obtain without a prescription, and some of them cannot be obtained in the United States even with a prescription. (Getting caught with them carries the same penalties as getting caught with heroin or cocaine.) These drugs greatly improve the body's ability to recover from the stress of exercise and to respond to the slightest stimulation. A person who is loaded up with all these drugs could do nothing but paddle a canoe and develop a massive upper body. And that's the problem. Once a person's body chemistry' is so radically enhanced, all bets are off as to what elements of his training are working best.

As for the rest of us, we can't afford to overtrain with mega-volume routines because we simply won't be able to make progress without the same (dangerous) drugs. We need a training system that gives us the best results with a minimum of training. The Power Factor and Power Index are a means to exactly measure whether or not your training is giving you maximum gains for minimum effort. That's what efficiency means.

Remember, pro bodybuilders aren't even looking for efficiency. They try to get absolute maximum gains by using absolute maximum effort. They are looking at performing as many sets as possible as frequently as possible, even if it means performing thousands of useless sets or hundreds of useless workouts in a year. Even if it means using massive chemical help. Even if they die trying. And some do.

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Natural Weight Loss

I already know two things about you. You are an intelligent person who has a weighty problem. I know that you are intelligent because you are seeking help to solve your problem and that is always the second step to solving a problem. The first one is acknowledging that there is, in fact, a problem that needs to be solved.

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