What makes me strong

These structures have the greatest influence on force production:

a) Muscles: A bigger muscle is a potentially stronger muscle. The contractile capacities of the muscle fibers and the ratio of fast twitch/glycolitic fibers to slow twitch/oxidative fibers also has an influence.

b) Muscle receptors: Some receptors will act as an inhibiting factor in force production. Notably the Golgi Tendon Organs, which act as a protective mechanism and lead to a partial shutdown of the muscles if the tension present is too high. Other receptors, such as the muscle spindles, will increase force production by provoking an elastic effect (myotatic reflex) when the muscle is stretched.

c) Nervous system : The efficacy of the nervous system influences force production by modulating motor unit (muscle fiber) activation, their synchronization, and the rate of contraction of the motor units. In simpler terms, the more efficient your CNS is, the more you can get out of the muscles you already have!

d) Other factors: Motivation, environment, stress level, fatigue, nagging injuries, etc.

This graphic shows us that if you are an athlete, train an athlete, or are interested in maximum strength development you must focus your efforts of several factors, not just the actual muscles. You will need to develop your muscles, the efficacy of your nervous system, the capacity to utilize the positive reflexes (stretch reflex), and the ability to inhibit the negative ones.

If all you're interested is muscle size, you can still benefit from a focus on all four of those factors because getting stronger will allow you to place a greater stimulus on your muscles and you will gain size at a much faster rate.

Furthermore, there's something that I noticed from experience, I now call it "Priming hypertrophy facilitation." This means that after a bout of training focusing on power and strength, your body responds much faster to any subsequent hypertrophy training.

I'll use myself as an example. For the past 4 years I concentrated mostly on the Olympic lifts, and even before that I would train for strength, not size. But during my last 2 years in Olympic lifting I would include 4-6 weeks of bodybuilding-type training once or twice per year. Oddly enough, I found that during those 4-6 weeks I could gain more muscle size than most guys doing bodybuilding training year-round would gain in 4-6 months!

Recently, I switched my training to more of a bodybuilding approach and gained a lot of quality muscle naturally. I gained a lot of size while dieting, which is something in itself. I truly believe that without my foundation in Olympic lifting/strength training my gains would have been much slower.

While there have been no studies on the subject, I speculate that the higher adaptive demand of power and strength training turns the body into a more adaptive machine, giving your body the capacity to adapt to training stress. So when you switch to a bodybuilding workout, which doesn't require as complex of an adaptation, the body is able to gain at a much faster rate.

This doesn't mean that one should stop doing bodybuilding training, but rather that anybody wanting more size should include phases of strength and power training.

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