If you look at any athlete who lifts heavy they will almost always carry impressive levels of muscle mass. In contrast, the reality is that athlete could almost certainly be bigger if they wanted to be! We often hear from some coaches that getting stronger is key for size whilst others say it doesn’t matter. Well I sit somewhere in the middle because I truly believe it does matter, but maybe not for the reasons you think it does.
1 – Opportunity For Growth
To stimulate growth we want to recruit as many muscle fibres within a muscle as possible, the thing is to do this we need to stimulate HTMUs (high threshold motor units). This is where strength training lends itself to building size. When you lift heavy with explosive concentric phases you stimulate a lot of HTMUs which in turn leads to more muscle fibres within that muscle being involved (a bigger percentage). If we can utilise the carry over into more traditional ‘’hypertrophy’’ work specifically designed for size, where maximal tension is the focal point then we can generate faster results.
2 – Fast Twitch Dominant
This won’t relate to every reader, in fact it will potentially relate to the minority. However for those who are fast twitch dominant using strength training will certainly lead to gains in size because you are stimulating a greater percentage of your overall muscle mass. Even for those of you who are not fast twitch dominant, it still makes sense to train your fast twitch fibres for the above reasons and the fact you are still hitting a significant amount of muscle fibre mass. The average person is said to be 50/50 fast twitch/slow twitch.
3 – Hormones Win!
Anabolic hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1 are without a doubt extremely influential on your ability to build muscle. Strength training will ramp up your anabolic hormone levels which in turn will facilitate better recovery and growth. It will also improve insulin sensitivity which means you will be able to utilise the most anabolic hormone in the body, insulin, to greater effect with the manipulation of carbohydrates at given times.
Is strength training alone the best way to add mass? Not for most people, no. Does it play an important role in muscular development for most people? Absolutely it does! Get stronger to get bigger.