T Nation

Getting Bigger But Weaker


Anybody have the experience of getting bigger but not being appreciably stonger? Or even weaker?

Finally, over the last year, my shoulders, back and chest have gotten some decent mass and I've gained 15 pounds so that I'm a respectable 200 lbs and 6ft. However, I can actually lift less on my flat bench, like 265 if I'm pushing it.

I know I used to cheat like hell by bouncing the bar off my chest and now I have much better form. I am thinking that that explains it, but it is still surprising to me. (My incline, however, has gone signigicantly.


As you said, it could be a matter of form. Another cause could be overtraining, exhausting your nervous system.

Try changing your set/rep scheme for awhile, and see how that goes. Also, consider changing excercises. Instead of bench, do DB bench.


I spotted one of my friends at my gym and said "you bounce the bar off your chest again and I'm not helpin." When he used strict form he lost 30 or so pounds on his lift.


That happens to a lot of people with regards to a lot of movements. I also think the flat barbell bench press is one of the least effective for overall size and strength past beginner stage, even though some "intermediates" may still get great benefit from it.

Worrying about your bench press numbers soon goes out the window once many find out that it does not translate directly over to how much you can put up in dumbbells.


But, but...I thought it was well-known that as you get bigger you become weaker. Isn't that the whole point of bodybuilding...?


It does seem like inclines gives a much better work out. However, it's hard to get over the litmus test role of the flat bench.

Another factor I forgot to mention is that I changed my grip so that the bar rests on my thumb and fingers rather than grasping it. It seems a much better stretch for some reason- at first it was a little awkward too.


What do you believe the best movements for size and strength are?


It changes depending on the stage of development. That one point seems to be missed by many. I am currently about 255-260lbs (dieting now but by no means trying to get truly "ripped"). No newbie should be lifting just like me. My training evolved into what I do now. My chest training, for instance, revolves largely around machines lately. Mind you, they are Hammer Strength plate loaded machines (not cable machines), but they are still classified as "machines".

I saw the greatest difference in strength gains (after I hit 405lbs as a max weight on flat bench press) with dumbbells. It also seemed to help me grow better after that point. The only reason I don't do these exclusively now is because the effort to get dumbbells needed to continue stimulating growth into position takes a shit load of effort without a spotter. I would literally tire myself out just getting the weight ready to be lifted. If I had a spotter who was strong enough for me to confide in, I would probably add them back in.

My rating would as:

beginners- flat bench press with the addition of dumbbells for possibly one movement. The rest of the exercises can revolve around the barbell (inclines, declines) as it helps the development of every muscle used to stabilize the weight. It also teaches balance.

Intermediates- a move away from barbells and more of a focus on dumbbells and some "good machines" like Hammer Sttrength thrown in. I began doing the pec deck as a very last movement just to get more blood in the area. I consider it a very poor overall mass exercise.

Beyond intermediate- You do whatever the hell keeps you growing and getting stronger. For me, that includes HS machines laregly as I need no spotter and can continue pushing my limits. My only drawback is that their incline machines only hold 5 plates a side. That isn't bragging, it is simply the truth.




I agree with Prof here. I mean, i haven't yet reached a max bench of 405lbs (no where near it actually) nor have i reached a size where i can't continue without spotters.. but..

When i switched to using dumbells in one month my RM went up 7.5Kg on each dumbell and my peks really started to grow (as an beginner/intermediate i have a lot of room for improvement but dumbells are the only thing that have so far really made my chest grow and get stronger).