The secret to getting strong & functional, as opposed to 'swoll' & functionless

Easily one of the most sought after effects of training, particularly among the fellas and in early preparation of athletes... but is it understood well enough? As with everything at Red Hippo, knowledge is the key to unlocking potential - so here's some important things you might like to know if size is your focus.

Before we dive in, lets ponder this statement:

"size equals strength"

Like most things we encounter in the fitness, health and supplement industries - the statement's limitations (though its not necessarily wrong) reside in its mind numbing simplicity. For example - what size? SARCOPLASMIC hypertrophy or SARCOMERE hypertrophy both increase size of muscles but have very different strength expressions (sarcoplasmic will not increase your strength at all!!). Furthermore, what strength?... Absolute strength, maximum strength, explosive strength, speed strength, strength endurance and the list goes on. The point is to make sure that you know the difference between size and strength - as there's a lot more to the story than just that. We'll follow up on a post about strength, but lets keep to hypertrophy (increase in tissue size) for today.

Research leans towards the theory that hypertrophy of Sarcomeres (the one that'll increase your strength and working capacity) is a result of the supercompensation of protein synthesis (making of) as a result of degradation of protein and glycogen stores within the muscle cell, second to activation of the motor apparatus (neural contraction), which is best achieved by high intensity protocols of training. For example, lifting above 80% of 1 rep max predominantly.

That's a bit different hey? "Bodybuilding", on the other hand, which uses moderate load and high volume will down regulate sarcomere development and up regulate sarcoplasmic development. You'll be slower and not-as-strong despite being the same size as someone who trained at a higher intensity and lower volume. This is because you'll redistribute your "plastic" muscle fibres (type IIA) towards the slower, fatigue resistant postural fibres (type I). If you do the high intensity, lower volume work you'll increase your hypertrophy of functional tissue, you'll increase your potential to store glycogen, ATP, Creatine phosphate and creatine. All of this informations is referenced and we're happy to make the references available, any time.

Overall, assuming one trains appropriately for hypertrophy, what are the benefits of size?

1. One is able to use increased size to launch into other specific training types for different effects. For example, it is desirable to have larger muscle fibres recruited to lift heavier loads, and when you lift heavier loads you get a strong neural and hormonal adaptive response increasing what we call "maximum strength", or the ability of more muscle cells to communicate with each other more readily and have a greater influence on an increasing external resistance (or yourself relative to the external resistance in sport).

2. Increased working capacity of the muscles being used. That means that they are able to withstand greater training specific training stimulus down the track for a more pronounced effect. This is key to avaoiding overtraining and nailing specificity.

3. It's a necessary evil in many progressions to higher movement patterns and strength expressions among athletes.

If you're interested in ensuring that your size isn't wasted, we advise you to appropriately periodise your training. You can see our posts on how to do your own periodisation program in ealier blogs. This was just the training aspects of size - more to follow, stay posted.

Any questions don’t hesitate to ask :)