Strength is a skill

A common misconception around resistance training is that size equates to strength, being that the bigger the person, the stronger they are. You only have to ask a child how strong they are and they’ll show you how big their biceps are. This is in large part due to body building and the fascination around it in young men. This has unfortunately led to the stigma that lifting will “make you bulky”, which has led many to disregard resistance training entirely. This stigma is simply not true.

Strength is the ability to produce force, and it is a highly trainable quality that can improve without putting on lots of extra muscle mass. This is because as the title of this blog suggests, the ability to generate large amounts of force is a skill. This skill is trained through repetition.

Without getting overly caught up in the science behind this, I see the relationship between muscle size and strength being like a water bottle.The bigger the bottle the more water it can hold, but only if you utilise the full size of the bottle and fill it to the brim. A 1L bottle filled to the brim is holding more water than a 2L bottle only filled to 1/4. This same goes for muscles. The bigger the muscle the more forceit can produce if you utilise if fully. Most people however, have only learnt to use a fraction of their muscle and therefore only produce small amounts of force relative to their muscle size – that is, they haven’t filled their bottle to the brim!

To fully utilise muscle is a skill! People with smaller muscles who have honed the skill out perform those with bigger muscles with less skill. This is evident when we see weightlifters lifting 148kg above their heads from the floor when they only weigh 69 kg! I weigh more than them and have bigger muscle size, but they have honed the skill. They have trained at it over a very long period and have learnt how to produce large amounts of force with the muscle mass they have.

Strength is key to general health, particularly as we age. But engaging in strength training doesn’t mean you have to get ‘bulky’. We can improve your strength without increasing your size, because strength is a skill!

Written by Jourdain Benstead-Banthorpe
Lead S&C Coach