T Nation

How Much Strength = Muscle?

I think this is a very interesting topic for those newer BB’s (like myself) who want to know roughly how much weight gain to expect (compared to strength gains) if on a gaining phase (a moderate gaining cycle where fat gains are kept to a minimum).

Do you have any standards for how much strength you’d need for x amount of muscle mass?

I know this sounds naive because there are so many variables but I know that authors have come up with ROUGH examples.

Example 1:

400lb Squat, 300lb Bench, 500lb DL for a man 5-9 and solid 190lb BW ROUGHLY translates to
16-inch arm
45-inch chest

(Stuart McRobert - Beyond Brawn)

Example 2:

2% increase in strength on main lifts = 1lbs extra muscle

(completely made up by me)

This is assuming the volume is high enough on the lifts for hypertrophy…

As a personal guess, probably the closest one could come to a valid answer on this would be to go to the standards for achieving, for example, a Master (or if you prefer, Elite, or Class I, or what have you) total in a raw powerlifting federation in various weight categories.

For example, in the 198’s 1354 being required to qualify for Master, while in the 220’s it is 1476.

So if that would be the best comparison for you, then increasing bodyweight by 11% – and let’s assume keeping the same body composition – “ought” to increase strength by 9% on average in this instance as an estimate.

Of course, individuals will vary.

Not that this proves anything, but while cutting, for the purpose of planning my training I personally estimate 1 RM’s to drop, yet represent being equivalent, by 1% for every 2% in bodyweight that I drop. Just as a rule of thumb.

So in other words, if 200 today but 215 when I figured a 1RM, I allow myself 3.5% less strength but don’t consider this an actual loss. If I can match performance with this correction, then I’m doing OK considering the cutting.

This is probably an under-correction, but I’d rather undercorrect and have a tougher goal for myself than overcorrect for the weight loss.

Rough numbers mean nothing for each specific individual. They’re only good for comparison.

Work your ass off trying to get bigger and stronger. Then pick one and try to excel in that. Then compare your results to the ‘rough estimates’ and say “oh, that’s cool I was X close” or "oh, that’s cool I blew those numbers out by X much. (this is general advice not directed specificlly at you).

I also want to add, in line with what Bonez said above, that any method, including the one I gave above, is representative only of an AVERAGE.

It happens all the time that a given individual will achieve a major strength increase without anywhere near as high a percentage bodyweight increase, and vice-versa.

In the short term I think the two are COMPLETELY un-related. You can put a 100lbs on one of your lifts with no change in mass or body composition. Or you can gain 20lbs and all your lifts stay about the same.

But, in the long term the two are very related. You might put a good amount of weight on a lift, (say 40lbs on your bench) and not notice much change in mass, because you weren’t eating enough to support growth. But over time the mass of your shoulders, triceps, and chest will “catch up” to those strength gains.

As for the original question, I dont think there is a way at all to quantify it. There are WAY too many variables. Strength is only one variable, but the amount you are eating is going to have a HUGE effect on mass as well. And you’ll have no way to tell how much your mass is being effected by these variables.

Instead its better to know that: The stronger you are the more potential muscle mass you will have, and the more muscle mass you have the stronger you will potentially be.

So dont worry about trying to quantify either one, and just try to get as much as possible of both.

Thanks for the comments so far.

I think it’s good to have an idea of how much weight gain is necessary in comparison to my lifting progress.

Also, if my lifts don’t go up (e.g. at least 1% extra each week), then there’s no point in eating extra calories until they improve (either via a periodisation method/or week rest or a completely new setup).

I’ve noticed that if my lifts aren’t improving on a cycle/phase, then my eating extra calories simply goes towards fat gain.

Say for 5 weeks I gained 9lbs, (50% muscle), but then my lifts started stagnating, that 50% ratio would very quickly turn into a 90% fat/10% muscle (if any muscle at all). I’d know that at this point there’s no point in eating extra calories (4000+).

Some would say, “well it’s probably because you’re not eating enough!”. But I’ve already been there and done that (ate up to 1000 cals more than needed) but just got fatter. On a good program, you’re strength gains should still go up even if you’re only eating a bit above maintenance level.

[quote]its_just_me wrote:
Thanks for the comments so far.

I think it’s good to have an idea of how much weight gain is necessary in comparison to my lifting progress.

Also, if my lifts don’t go up (e.g. at least 1% extra each week), then there’s no point in eating extra calories until they improve (either via a periodisation method/or week rest or a completely new setup).

I’ve noticed that if my lifts aren’t improving on a cycle/phase, then my eating extra calories simply goes towards fat gain.

Say for 5 weeks I gained 9lbs, (50% muscle), but then my lifts started stagnating, that 50% ratio would very quickly turn into a 90% fat/10% muscle (if any muscle at all). I’d know that at this point there’s no point in eating extra calories (4000+).

Some would say, “well it’s probably because you’re not eating enough!”. But I’ve already been there and done that (ate up to 1000 cals more than needed) but just got fatter. On a good program, you’re strength gains should still go up even if you’re only eating a bit above maintenance level.

[/quote]

Don’t worry, everyone stagnate to one point in strength, but the other week it breaks. For sure you need to follow an intelligent well made program, but there’s no magic.

Also if for example one week you bench 315x7 one week and the other 315x5. Don’t decrease your kcals intake ! You won’t gain fat because of stagnate strength but more of an increase of life stress, lack of sleep or poor workout setup.

Another point, for sure to one point you will gain fat, but to reach a weight your body never been before, most must force their body and will gain fat during the process but hey it’s worth the ride (Look at how the real big one progress here and you will see).

Good Luck

[quote]its_just_me wrote:
Thanks for the comments so far.

I think it’s good to have an idea of how much weight gain is necessary in comparison to my lifting progress. [/quote]

What I wrote does not mean that.

E.g., a person can move up from Class III to Class II to Class I to Master or even up to Elite all in the same weight class.

That represents improved strength-for-weight of course.

What I gave you above was the easier task of strength-for-weight remaining the same.

I was not saying that strength cannot improve faster than that: that it is necessarily necessary to gain that weight to gain that strength.

By no means should one think, “Well, my strength cannot go up much because my weight hasn’t gone up that much.”

For example you might (it will depend on the person and the time) be able to add say 10% to a major lift such as squat or deadlift, and this will AID you in adding muscular bodyweight, but it is not as if it cannot happen until your bodyweight goes up 10%. Feeling that it can’t would be underestimating what you can do and setting low standards.

Unless of course you’re already at a level like Master: in that case, to add another 10% strength (for example) and wanting to do it in a relatively short time, it is reasonable to figure that adding another 10% or a little more bodyweight will likely be needed to do that relatively quickly. But that is not your situation.

For a practical example: For my first three years of training, stupidly I followed Dr Ellington Darden’t HIT prescriptions to the letter. (For a brief period, this would have been an okay thing to do). And for roughly the last year of that, can’t recall exactly, I even more dumbly followed the exceedingly wrong nutritional advice of John Parillo, who claimed that carbs cannot convert to fat. The result was a weight in the low 190s and some given modest level of strength, much improved over the starting point (about 2.5 times on average I think) but nothing to write home about.

The following training year, I slowly shed fat, having abandonded Parillo’s nutty theory, and wound up at 158 lb at 8% by skinfold and 6% by hydrostatic, with the skinfold measurement probably being about the true value and the hydrostatic being silly. And during this period I was training according to the teachings of Scott Warman as I understood them, or pretty much so.

And I was substantially stronger at the 158 than I had been in the low 190’s. Still nothing to write home about. But the point is, strength gain is not necessarily tied to bodyweight gain, or vice-versa, in individuals who have not maxed out – or even more so if they have not even come close to maxing out – their potential in strength-for-weight.

Muscle hypertrophy is not a good indicator of muscular strength.

[quote]alphaSC wrote:
Muscle hypertrophy is not a good indicator of muscular strength.

[/quote]

Ah, class of 2009… Missing the point since… Well, 2009 I suppose.

Perhaps Poliquin has a formula for weight lifted= muscle mass? (kidding)

I think that given differing body types and leverages, there is no hard and fast “rule” for x weight=y size.

This shit is majoring in the minors dude. Go lift and eat. Turn your current max into your warmup. Kill everything.

/end

[quote]Therizza wrote:
Go lift and eat…
/end[/quote]

So THAT’S what I’ve been doing wrong all this time!

[quote]Cephalic_Carnage wrote:
alphaSC wrote:
Muscle hypertrophy is not a good indicator of muscular strength.

Ah, class of 2009… Missing the point since… Well, 2009 I suppose.
[/quote]

Lol.

OP, my numbers actually are close to what McGill has said in terms of size and strength. So I guess you could say I typify (sp?) that statement.

What you are basically talking about is the force to muscle cross-sectional area relationship (a relative relationship).

This is an all over the place relationship apart from one very clear thing.

More absolute muscle mass does indeed equal greater absolute muscle strength (da da daaaaaaa).

Try to flip your thinking around so you’re focussed on muscle first, then strength.

DIFFICULT PARAGRAPH FOR EYE GLAZING OVER READERS TO SKIP (e.g CC…:wink:

The physiology of intra-muscular contractile efficiency and neural drive characteristics confound any linear relationship between a given amount of mass for a given amount of strength, at any given contraction velocity or joint position.

EASY PARAGRAPH

Strength - muscle mass relationship and what to expect is complicated. Just get bigger.

[quote]GluteusGigantis wrote:
The physiology of intra-muscular contractile efficiency and neural drive characteristics confound any linear relationship between a given amount of mass for a given amount of strength, at any given contraction velocity or joint position.
[/quote]

Ahh, it may confound it…but it doesn’t say that it’s IMPOSIBLE to get a rough colleration in ONE individual doing just one constant thing (i.e. eating and lifting in the same main exercises to get bigger) lol…ok, my head hurts now…

[quote]GluteusGigantis wrote:
What you are basically talking about is the force to muscle cross-sectional area relationship (a relative relationship).

This is an all over the place relationship apart from one very clear thing.

More absolute muscle mass does indeed equal greater absolute muscle strength (da da daaaaaaa).

Try to flip your thinking around so you’re focussed on muscle first, then strength.

DIFFICULT PARAGRAPH FOR EYE GLAZING OVER READERS TO SKIP (e.g CC…:wink:

The physiology of intra-muscular contractile efficiency and neural drive characteristics confound any linear relationship between a given amount of mass for a given amount of strength, at any given contraction velocity or joint position.

EASY PARAGRAPH

Strength - muscle mass relationship and what to expect is complicated. Just get bigger.

[/quote]

strange. I actually agree with you. Its pretty much what I said, but different wordign.

[quote]ChristopheD wrote:
Also if for example one week you bench 315x7 one week and the other 315x5. Don’t decrease your kcals intake ! You won’t gain fat because of stagnate strength but more of an increase of life stress, lack of sleep or poor workout setup.
[/quote]

Just to clarify, what I meant by that statement was that if you are concentrating on getting bigger, it’s no use looking at your measurements one week and thinking that because your weight stayed the same (or more likely, you gained some fat and no muscle) you should increase the calories…this is the wrong thing to do (if it’s at the same time that your lifts stagnated) - the problem is with your lifts - not lack of calories. Increasing calories (when what you were eating before was fine) is not the answer (if it’s at the same time as your lifts stagnating), it will just make you fatter. One of the exceptions to this rule is if your calorie expenditure has recently greatly increased (e.g. cardio)…in which case, a slight increase in calories would help your lifts/body compossition.

[quote]GluteusGigantis wrote:
What you are basically talking about is the force to muscle cross-sectional area relationship (a relative relationship).

This is an all over the place relationship apart from one very clear thing.

More absolute muscle mass does indeed equal greater absolute muscle strength (da da daaaaaaa).

Try to flip your thinking around so you’re focussed on muscle first, then strength.

DIFFICULT PARAGRAPH FOR EYE GLAZING OVER READERS TO SKIP (e.g CC…:wink:

The physiology of intra-muscular contractile efficiency and neural drive characteristics confound any linear relationship between a given amount of mass for a given amount of strength, at any given contraction velocity or joint position. [/quote] If we ever meet in person, I’m so going to force you to say that out loud… I bet you couldn’t do it without getting your tongue in a knot or two, even if your life depended on it (and trust me, it will)!

:slight_smile: [quote]

EASY PARAGRAPH

Strength - muscle mass relationship and what to expect is complicated. Just get bigger.

[/quote]

The more mass you gain, the less strength you gain in relation to mass due to impaired leverage.

I’m not going to say that they’re not related, BUT, I have seen enough of a difference in individuals to think that the whole “strength = size” argument is not a definite. Yes, if you get stronger, provided certain variables are in place, you should be gaining muscle, butI think the final factor will always be the individual in question.

I’ve been teaching drawing for many years now, and I always start my classes off with “everyone starts at a different level, but no matter where you start, you can always get better” as well as “you don’t know how good you can get until you’re willing to really push yourself for an extended period of time”. I find that both statements make sense when applied to bodybuilding as well.

We all start (and I’m not going to get into an argument about if we’re talking specific gym training or if athletics as a child factor in, or just plain old genetics here) at different levels. Despite what level of muscle mass we start at, we all have different obstacles to overcome in our own (individual) training. Some people may make strength gains at a ridiculous rate without any appreciable hypertrophy to show for it (this was my perdicament).

Others will never progress out of the ‘average’ realm of strength, and yet the stimulus they are providing their bodies with proves to be sufficient to induce noticeable growth. Then of course there’s the whole discussion of the body becoming more efficient at repeated movements, and neurological adaptation (which I believe has no positive effect on hypertrophy).

THere are obviously going to be examples that would support each side of the discussion. Sadly, and I hope this doesn’t come out sounding too harsh,… after reading all of the OP’s postings the last few days, I think he’s spending way too much time worrying about such unimportant details, and seeking the reasons behind everything, when he should just lift more and eat more.

Seriously, I can admit that I love getting sucked into the whole intelligent/what’s cutting edge/why does this work type of discussions, but putting on a bit of muscle isn’t really that difficult, especially when you’ve got so much information available to you, all of it pointing to common themes. I know I said this in one of your other threads, but I got a little off track with Mentzer’s book as well. I really thought that if I kept getting stronger at the samne exercises that I would just wake up huge one morning. It doesn’t happen like that though.

Think about a professional tennis player, none would be considered even remotely ‘buff’ (at least not by our standards -lol), yet all of them can generate more force in a backhand swing than your largest pro bodybuilder. Think about that for a minute, then reassess where your train of thought is heading.

S