Muscle Strength in Bodybuilding

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Louise Hay

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1.Muscle Strength in Bodybuilding 2.Transverse diameter of the muscle
3.Muscle Strength Training 4. Muscle Strength Diet


In this series of articles we will try to clarify what are the criteria to be implemented in a training and diet program aimed at developing muscle strength.

Of course, the topic is vast and not at all simple to summarize. Below we will focus mainly on the development of strength linked to the increase in muscle section (muscle hypertrophy), much sought after in bodybuilding.

But be careful, what we are going to describe is not the hypertrophy protocol, but the strength protocol. We specify this because, as we will see, the type of strength used in bodybuilding is however closely related to the cross section of the muscle. The two protocols, however, differ from each other, especially as regards the intensity - however high, but closer to MRI in strength training - and the volume of work - greater, in terms of rep, in training. hypertrophy.


What is muscle strength?

Strength is a conditional capacity that can be expressed in many forms and there are many variations related to specific sports or activities. Strength, therefore, "is not all the same" - we are obviously using terminologies that are not entirely correct, to make the concepts we are going to deal with more digestible.

This is the ability to overcome resistance thanks to the bio-mechanical work performed by the muscles and the interaction with the levers created by tendons, insertions and joints.

Factors and Expression

Constituent factors and types / modes of expression of muscle strength

The following factors affect the expression of force:

  • the volume of the muscle (its transverse structure, hence the hypertrophy, and longitudinal, what some call "functional hypertrophy");
  • the type of muscle fibers;
  • fiber recruitment capacity (neuro-muscular control / coordination);
  • cellular energy metabolism and muscle coordination.

Force can be expressed in different ways and thus create "subtypes" of it:

  • maximal or pure strength;
  • fast force (called explosive power or force);
  • resistant force.

When we talk about strength in working with overloads, we always mean the maximal strength which, again, shows significant variability depending on the modality required in overcoming external resistance:

  • concentric strength (overcoming resistance by shortening the muscle);
  • isometric strength (compensate for resistance while keeping the muscle length unchanged);
  • eccentric force (opposing the superior resistance that determines the extension of the muscle).

Each type and each expression of force requires nervous (central and peripheral) and muscular adaptations - in the resistant force, also cardiocirculatory, pulmonary and metabolic - quite different, just as the importance of each of them on performance is different.

In Bodybuilding

"What" to train to increase the strength of the bodybuilder?

The answer is: everything that is involved in the specific expression of the same. In this article, however, we will focus on the relationship between hypertrophy and "specific strength".

But why are we talking about the specific strength of hypertrophy? Simply for convenience. The training of the bodybuilder is not based on the expression of pure strength, neither explosive nor resistant. The method of developing the transverse diameter of the muscle is, on balance, a protocol in its own right - albeit with various components similar to others.

As we have specified in fact, the expression of strength in training is the means that the bodybuilder uses to grow muscles, while the sportsman possibly takes advantage of hypertrophy to increase his expression of strength. In short: change the goal!

How is specific strength stimulated in bodybuilding?

Hypertrophy plays a primary role in the expression of eccentric and isometric force, since the cross section of the muscle is the strongest element to compensate for this resistance. Hypertrophy plays a primary role in the expression of eccentric and isometric force, since the cross section of the muscle is the strongest element to compensate for this resistance. That said, mass grows not only due to a mechanical stimulus on the muscle - resistance to isometry and eccentric - but also due to endocrine and metabolic factors.

The metabolic component and part of the endocrine component is greater in those defined as specific protocols for muscle hypertrophy. This is why, even if the specific strength training of bodybuilding participates in the increase of muscle mass - in part directly, but above all indirectly allowing you to increase the loads - it should not be confused with specific training, but rather alternate. now.

The muscle is made up of fibers, so the higher the number and thickness of them, the greater the muscle cross section. On the other hand, the number is genetically determined and can change (slightly) only following the specialization of some satellite cells within it. The variation in thickness instead - due to protein synthesis, the increase in energy substrates, enzymes, cytosol, etc. - is what determines the hypertrophic or muscle mass adaptation.

Specific strength training in bodybuilding is built by adopting a mechanical stimulus of eccentric strength, with such high intensity as to recruit all the necessary fibers, reaching internal muscle failure in the series and recovering adequately. An appropriate diet is obviously also necessary.

Otherwise, in the protocol for hypertrophy, a slightly lower intensity is sought to extend the duration of the set so as to obtain a significant production of lactic acid - but still recruiting all the fibers - and, for the same reason, the density is increased. reducing recoveries. In addition to internal muscle failure, total exhaustion is often sought.

Pure strength training, on the other hand, is predominantly concentric.

The two most important traits of bodybuilding specific strength training are:

  1. Very high intensity (> 85%): for greater neuro-muscular control / coordination and maximum fiber recruitment. Work volume and density, which together with intensity establish the total load, must be managed according to general fatigue;
  2. High times of muscle tension (TUT) and emphasis on the eccentric phase and search for muscle failure (but not only; see below): to obtain the mechanical stimulus for fiber growth.

The rest is at the expense of recovery and diet - supercompensation.

Neuro-Muscular Control / Coordination

It is the feature that prevails over bodybuilding specific strength training over hypertrophy training. Not that it is absent in the latter, but certainly less important than the endocrine and metabolic-cellular stimulus.

When a load is lifted, our brain has to call upon the various muscles, some contracting them, others relaxing them.

Muscle contraction is regulated by the central nervous system (CNS) via nerve endings that innervate the fibers. We will not now take into consideration the variables that affect upstream of the stimulation, that is the ability of the CNS to concentrate, nerve conduction through the spinal cord and nerves, etc. We go directly into the muscle.

The system composed of a nerve end and the muscle fibers it innervates is called the motor unit. When a contraction is performed, the CNS activates the various motor units of the target muscle in a coordinated manner in anticipation of achieving the intended result - this is the reason why in order for the muscle to grow, the intensity must be high. ; otherwise, not all fibers are involved.

Since the single muscle cell cannot modulate its contraction, the effectiveness and efficiency of lifting - on the endomuscular level - is given by:

  • number of fibers recruited;
  • frequency of discharge (i.e. the frequency with which I send impulses from the CNS to contract the individual motor units);
  • discharge sequences with which I contract the various districts coordinating them with each other;
  • responsiveness of the individual.

Attention! During the training phase of the beginner known as "conditioning", the subject learns in total body to perform complex movements using little load, since the first step is to learn the gesture. When you are not used to a certain action, it is difficult to perform it even without load or with minimal loads.

Continue reading with the specific article related to hypertrophy or mass or transverse section of the muscle, to understand the correlation to the specific strength of bodybuilding.

To learn more: Transverse diameter of the muscle
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