Does Getting Stronger Mean You're Getting Bgger?

Hey everyone,

I wrote a post early this year and got a ton of excellent responses. TL;DR, I bulked too hard and was advised either to go on a small cut or to recomp.

To preface, I’ve been training solidly for over a year and a half now and within the 8-12 rep ranges mostly. I do a full body program 3 times per week.

Fast-forward to now, I took your advice and ended up doing a bit of both. I went on a small cut for a bit and then for several months, just stuck at maintenance. It’s been roughly seven months, and I’m down several inches on my waist and have gotten considerably stronger.

Now I’m considering what to do next. I think I’ve reached what I’d consider my natural body fat set point at which my body is starting to get pretty resistant at going further, and my calories would be too low to cut any more and still get enough protein in (at least as not to be completely miserable – about 1600 per day to shed more fat I reckon going off of the Lyle McDonald recommendations [I’m 5’9 at 160lbs/72kg] ).

I don’t really want to bulk, either, as I don’t feel I’m lean enough to do it for long enough to be worth it – I’d worry I’d just end up in a similar position to last time.

So my thoughts are to just stay around maintenance and keep trying to get stronger. This seems to have been working for me for the past few months, as all my lifts have shot up whilst on roughly 2300-2500 calories per day (my maintancie seems to be between just under 2000 to 2500 based on my measurements and weigh-ins).

Of course, this is all predicated on the notion that getting stronger = getting bigger. My strength is going up by a rep each week on each major lift usually, but does this really mean that my muscles are growing?

The negative of staying at maintenance as opposed to bulking is that it’s very difficult to notice progress; even in these last several months where I’ve gotten leaner and stronger, I think or presume I’ve put on muscle, but it’s really hard to tell because I’ve been losing fat over my muscles as well.

My waist measurements have clearly gone down, while most of my muscle measurements have stayed the same as I’ve gotten stronger. I would assume this meant that my muscles had grown, but it’s pretty confusing.

I’ve read that a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle, but not necessarily the other way around, and I can’t really figure out why. I know that for rank beginners, a lot of strength comes from neuromuscular improvements rather than muscle mass, but I assume I’m past that being the case now.

Any advice would be much appreciated. Cheers!

That’s because most folks understand “strength” to mean ability to lift a weight, but the reality is that SO much goes into how much weight is lifted that muscles are merely a PART of the equation, rather than the entirety.

If you make muscles bigger, you make them stronger: that is true. It is not necessarily true that, upon making a muscle bigger, you will be able to lift more weight with it. That’s because the act of lifting a weight is a SKILL, and skills involve things LIKE strength of muscle, but ALSO proficiency. A BETTER trainee will lift more weight, irrespective of if he actually made his muscles bigger, simply by improving their technique at lifting a weight.

We can improve our skill at lifting weights with an intensification block of training. Whereas accumulation has us making the muscles bigger, intensification has us get better at the skill of handling heavier loads.

Alongside that, we can lift more weight simply from better fatigue management. Go on a deload, come back, lift more. We got stronger by NOT training? Yes!

We can also lift more weights by improving our leverages from getting FATTER rather than more muscular. Weight moves weight.

We can also lift more weight simply by having better nutrition. You’ll lift more in the afternoon after having several meals in you (especially if they are rich in carbs) compared to fasted first thing in the morning.

Etc etc.

Now, getting stronger in “bodybuilding rep ranges” over time is a helpful way to determine that we’re most likely gaining muscle, yeah, but it isn’t always the case.


I think at the crux of the question you want to know you’re growing muscle in the short-term and, unfortunately, I really don’t think you can. You’ve just got to trust the process. Getting stronger in those bodybuilding rep ranges - with consistent form - is a great indicator, but @T3hPwnisher pointed out a ton of other variables.

The good news is, if you’re getting stronger, getting in a good ~10 or so really hard sets per bodypart per week, and eating .8+ grams of protein per lbs. of bodyweight, you’re most likely gaining muscle.


You may want to adjust your caloric baseline by eating WAY more food for a couple of weeks and then you can return to your cut with your calories a good bit higher than they are right now. Here’s a model provided by the great John Meadows


Great post, thanks.

From what you’ve said, I’m guessing then that gaining strength equates to gaining muscle as you get more advanced. As in if you’re lean, have good form and technique as well as a solid diet, the last variable left getting stronger.

Good to know, thanks. Guess I’ll just carry on and see where it takes me.

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Really interesting, thanks for linking me this.

These dudes are always tweaking things. Muscle is HARD to build compared to technique