T Nation

Why Some People Are So Strong But Have Little Muscle?


#1

Outside of neural adaptations, improving of technique and leverages your body has to build more muscle to get stronger.

Can someone explain to me the following:

Omarisuf max bench 340lb+

Frank Yang max bench 315+

Max Chewning puts up crazy squat deadlift numbers but doesn’t have a great physique to go with it.

Greg O Gallagher benches over 300lb

Now the 2 following actually have an impressive amount of muscle and are still strong but nowhere near as strong as the guys above.

Hodgetwins max decline bench 355lb

Joe Delaney seen him flat db press 90lbs for 5 probably benches mid 200s

Are these small/strong people just genetic outliers that are fortunate if they wanted to compete as athletes and powerlifters but are unfortunate when it comes to bodybuilding/aesthetics ?

How would someone like frank yang progressive overload and continue to gain muscle when he’s already benching 300+lb ?

Is it diet ?

Somewhat expert opinion:


#2

I do’t think there is much of a difference, in terms of physique, between all the examples you posted.

However, there is a difference between training to move as much weight as possible and training to feel the muscles.

I think that, generally, everyone that say, Benches 315, looks like he does it, but not everyone that looks like the Bench 315 does it, if that makes sense.

Having said that, Maxx Chewning has some respectable numbers in the Squat and Deadlift, but his legs are very small.

I guess it’s all about how you train, at the end of the day.


#3

Frank Yang is not small, dude. He seems to also be very gifted in the athletic department. I have no idea who the other guys are but they are not small either.


#4

You gotta take lighting itno consideration.That’s why it’s hard to compare pics taken under different circumstances


#5

You do know there is a difference between lets say it slowly “bodybuilding” and “strength training/powerlifting” Omar has trained at super training gym with mark bell and silent mike on and off for years, he’s lean but he trains as a power athlete/ weightlifter.


#6

A Westside t-shirt, youtube channel and a mouth that makes words doesn’t make you an expert. Not even somewhat of an expert.

Also this.


#7

All of the people you posted look like they are capable of lifting the weights you posted. A 340 bench is really not in the realm of unreasonably strong.

I feel like honestly the issue may be that the standards have gotten a little low on size and strength.


#8

yeah, most of those guys look pretty jacked to me…


#9

I feel like this just quickly glosses over some very big and valid issues. Basically, “Except for all the ways you can build strength without building size, how have these guys built a lot of strength without building a lot of size?”

For sure, eating for strength works at a certain point, but there’s more proverbial-wiggle room before that point for a lot of lifters, especially guys who prioritize strength as the number one goal (which doesn’t seem like these guys necessarily do, I’m guessing. I haven’t heard of half of them). And I’m not even opening the strength sport-weight class issue which essentially proves that you can get very strong without getting very big .

10 Reasons Bodybuilders Are Bigger Than Powerlifters might have some info coming at the question from the opposite angle.

Also, I kinda think your general outlook/expectations need recalibrating. Like the other guys have said, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the guys you posted (who are all legitimately built) move the weights mentioned. They all look in shape and like they know what to do in the weight room. I’m not sure why you think their appearance doesn’t match their performance.

For giggles/curiosity, Rich Froning had a video last year where he benched about 330 for 1 and failed on a 2nd rep. Is he one of the people who’s “strong but with little muscle?”


#10

There is a pretty striking difference between the last two (Hodgetwins & Joe Delaneys) high level of muscular development compared to the others.

I couldn’t tell that omar, frank , greg (Except that few months where he got massive and the lost all his size due to an injury) and max trained hard if they were in a loose t shirt.

I have seen a few casual lifters who look like omar and greg, max and frank (maybe not his leaness) who haven’t been training half a decade or take nutrition seriously.

However the hodgetwins and Joe clearly look like they hit the gym hard eat right etc and Im sure they don’t work harder than the others.

I just want to know why that is ? Is it just genetics or is it a style of training ?

The guy Rich posted obviously does not have little muscle and thats why he would dwarf the 4 guys who I said were small for their strength.


#11

These 15k 'bells… So heavy…


#12

You may have early symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue.


#13

Obviously genetics, training style, diet etc are going to play a huge role.

Bodybuilders and powerlifters (real powerlifters, not just fat gym goers who don’t wanna diet down) train very differently. While it is unusual for an elite PLer to move world class #s without having put on a considerable amount of muscle, they will NOT look like a bodybuilder does because they do not train in the required manner.

Just as a bodybuilder may develop impressive strength over years of training, progressive overload is just ONE OF MANY ways to stimulate muscle growth. As such you can see bodybuilders sporting very good physiques yet not lifting what the average gym goer would consider super heavy weights.

It’s really not that complicated.

S


#14

I honestly don’t see this striking difference you are seeing. The Hodge twins don’t really look huge to me, nor do the other guys look small. It may just be our own experiences in training, but from what you have posted and what I have seen in competition, those lifts equate with those bodies.


#15

Also, OP, the weight that you stated you bench in the other thread matches your size. I don’t see why you are getting so hung up over this.

Just aim to progress in weight lifted in a moderate rep range while gaining lbm and you’ll be fine.


#16

If you want to see “small” guys moving tremendous weights compared to their body size check out the Chinese weightlifters:

In the end I have nothing to add here. Strength is a combination of variety of things, even thought the muscles are very important (and the guys you gave as an example all have muscles).


#17

Oh, you’re part of the “if someone doesn’t look big in a T-shirt, why do they even lift?” guys.

I don’t think there’s much point in continuing this discussion further.


#18

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, an attention thing, an ego thing, or what. In any case, relevant pic is relevant…


#19

@Chris_Colucci: thought you might bring that pic out here. Always a winner.


#20

While I agree with most of the comments here… I think that the video below is relevant (don’t worry about the length, just hit play and watch 20 seconds – timestamped appropriately). Some of these guys do seem to have ‘disproportionate’ strength. I’m willing to chalk it up to genetics, leverage and clever training though… There’s a reason these guys amass YouTube followings – great genetics will be disproportionately represented in the sample.

Either way, this guy is fun to watch. Sick lifter.