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The Need To Build More Muscle For Strength

But do you need to build more muscle?


Well the answer to this can be broken and explained better.


Absolute Strength


This is a maximum force that you produce under involuntary stimulation.


The reason for the word involuntary is because you don’t do the work.


This is typically carried out in a lab or sports science set up. This is measured by using electronic stimulation of the nerves that make the muscles contract as hard as they possibly can.


Now I’ve never had this done to me, but I have seen studies where it is done on athletes and yes it looks unpleasant as it sounds. So I’m going to guess that it feels rather unpleasant too.


Competitive Strength


This is basically the voluntary version were the greatest amount of force and power the muscles can voluntarily contract.


As this is voluntary during a competition, it isn’t as powerful as the electronic stimulation. This is essentially the max amount of force you can produce by getting pumped and psyched up.



The difference between the two strength measurements is known as the strength deficit.


What this means is that if there is only a small difference between the numbers, it means you’re using your muscle mass optimally and that your muscles are working to their neurological potential. Simply, all the muscle fibres are fining correctly.


So say for example you’re a decent sized guy who’s been lifting a while. Say you weigh around 80/85kg and you’re deadlifting 230kg. That’s a good power to weight ratio. But it probably means that you have maxed you muscles neurological potential.


Like small engine car hitting 90/100mph. The revs are through the roof and the small engine is working overtime. It’s maxed out. To go faster, you’d need to upgrade to a bigger engine.


Same goes to strength. When your muscles reach that neurological peak, you need to develop more muscle to get stronger.


Now if you have a big deficit. This means you’re not using your muscle to the full and you’re not recruiting the muscle fibres as efficiently as you could.


This would be like having a bad weight to strength ratio. Like a car with a big engine doing 60. You’re not using your muscles to their full potential.


Typically, this requires more technique work. The better the technique, the more muscle recruitment you should have when trying to perform the exercise.



It helps to know which one you are so you’re program can get designed accordingly.


For strength training, there will always be a mixture of just having to master the technique and simply get stronger, and having to build more muscle. The two will always be connected.


However, if you know that one applies to you more than the other, you can focus on that.


Another factor to consider is your training strength


This is your 1 rep max and you can perform in your own gym under normal conditions. Meaning you don’t have the emotion or excitement of the likes of a competition.


So the difference between training strength and competition strength is intensity.


Working off your competition 1 rep max might not be a good idea as it’s not under normal circumstances. When you’re competing and there’s the pressure, nerves, emotion, excitement etc. You will probably lift more than if you’re just in the gym on a random night.


Same for all athletes. When you’re on the “big stage”, whether it’s a local competition or the world championships, you up your game and pull out all the stops to win. That’s why athletes break records at big events and not at training practice. The competition aspect gives them something extra.


So just because you lifted a certain weight when it really mattered, doesn’t mean that you could lift it in a normal training session. So basing your lifting percentage off that number won’t be accurate.


Now I know that to get your strength deficit you need to know your absolute strength and as already mentioned, that’s not the easiest thing to do.


But it doesn’t make everything discussed redundant. Just because you don’t have the exact numbers doesn’t mean you can’t work out what you need to work.


The strength to weight ratio should help. If you max out the strength capabilities of the muscle mass you currently have, then you need to build more muscle to build more strength.


Do you have decent muscle mass and but not the most impressive numbers for someone that size?


Then you don’t need to develop more muscle. Instead you need to get the muscle mass you have working better. Recruit more muscle fibres. Get better technique. Switching to a muscle building program won’t help. You haven’t reached your current muscle strength potential. When you reach that potential, then build more muscle.

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