Guest Post by Elliott Hulse, CSCS author of The Grow Stronger Method
Contrary to what most people believe, more muscle does NOT equal more strength. Of course muscle plays a huge role in your body’s ability to produce force, but the muscle itself is only capable of producing tension though the nervous system. If your nervous system can supply the muscle with enough “electricity” to overcome the resistance, you become stronger; regardless of muscle size.
In my living room at home we have a dial on the wall that allows us to adjust how much light the ceiling lamp produces. If we want the room to become brighter, we turn the dial up and the room becomes brighter. If we want the room to become dimmer, we turn the dial down and the room becomes dimmer. We do NOT go and buy a larger sized light bulb when we want the room to become brighter. Instead, we “turn up the dial” which provides more electricity though the wires and into the light bulb thereby increasing the intensity of light in the room.
This is exactly how your nervous system and muscles work together. Think of your Central Nervous System as the dial on the wall. When you need more electricity delivered to the muscle, you need to “turn up the dial”. When you turn up the dial, your Central Nervous System sends more “electricity” though your Peripheral Nervous System which acts like the electric wires in my living room walls.
When the increased electricity finally reaches your muscle, it “lights up” with powerful neurological electricity and produces force against a given resistance. In the same way that the light bulb lights up the room, your muscle “lights up” the resistance by overcoming it. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can become your strongest without the gain of some muscle mass, or that you can become “The Worlds Strongest Man” without adding some bulk to your frame. But what it does mean is that you can teach your nervous system to produce more force (Grow Stronger) without growing much larger.
You might ask, “Elliott, why don’t you want more muscle?”
First, after years of bulking up and cutting down I had become sick and tired of the fluctuations. Buying a new wardrobe every year is not my idea of money well spent–besides, one of my least favorite places on Earth is the shopping mall. Also, I’d like to continue competing in various strength sports. I still enjoy strongman training, power lifting and Olympic lifting. When I compete in one of the heavier weight classes, my height (5’9″) often becomes a limiting factor for me. It would be best to compete in a lighter, under 200 lbs weight class, and still be competitive. This requires that I don’t gain too much weight.
My final reason is you. I know there are several athletes and fitness enthusiasts who read my website and watch my videos who want to become stronger but don’t want to gain mass. Athletes such as boxers, fighters, skateboarders,gymnasts, Olympic lifters, power lifters, swimmers, jumpers, sprinters, etc.–all need to be strong, but either have to stay within a weight class, or the extra bulk hinder s their sports performance.
With my new Grow Stronger Method you will become stronger and build leaner, more dense and functional muscle; rather than large, fluid-filled, bulky muscles. We make this happen is by focusing on training the nervous system and creating what’s called Myofibrillar Hypertrophy.