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Train To Gain: Might vs. Mass

The size-to-strength correlation isn?t as cut and dried as many think.

Q: We’re always told there’s a close correlation between gaining strength and increasing muscle mass, but after many years of training, that doesn’t seem to be the case for me. I see some small strength increases, but I can’t gain any more muscle. Why?

A: I believe that the relationship between strength increases and increases in fat-free mass is complex. When a person first starts training, it appears that strength increases by leaps and bounds, but gains in muscle mass may be less apparent. In the first few months a great deal of neuromuscular learning occurs. That period could correspond to a larger proportional increase in resistance used in various movements than at any subsequent time during a training career. For the next 12 to 18 months or so proportional strength gains may be steady but on a month-by-month basis fairly small. During that period, however, strength gains could closely correspond to increases in muscle mass.

It seems that after about 1 1/2 to two years, assuming that the training, nutritional and recovery approaches are reasonable, gains in strength may marginally continue but gains in muscle mass can slow or stop altogether. The amount of muscle mass’not bodyweight with a lot of bodyfat’that each individual can obtain appears to be governed by genetics. Perhaps these facts have been obscured by genetically gifted bodybuilders who do respond extremely well to resistance training. They, too, may follow a similar pattern of strength and muscle mass gains, but their outcomes are much more pronounced. For some of those people the additional gains in muscle mass over the years are chemically induced. They haven’t found some magic formula to take them beyond their genetic potential but simply found the right drugs. IM

Editor’s note: If you’re interested in a special publication devoted to lifetime bodybuilding and masters athletes, send only $1 (check or money order) for a sample issue to Master Trainer, c/o Ageless Athletes, Suite 221, Memorial Building, 610 N. Main St., Blacksburg, VA 24060-3349. You can also check out the Master Trainer online at or, to find out more about personal consultation, send e-mail to [email protected].

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