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Strength, Muscle, Shape & Size
Strength Muscle And Size Not All Equal...
These terms are often interchanged and thus confused. Strength must be increased to build muscle. Bodyweight must increase as a result. But this hardly happens much of the time to the dismay of many skinny men and women striving to at least add some shape to their bodies. Let me explain some of the fine differences between strength, muscle, fat, and size that most never talk about, or know about, let alone consider when planning their exercise or life goals.
Anyone of any age and any condition or stage of health can experience a strength increase from the most limited amount and intensity of exercise or training. In fact the more out of condition and weaker a person is the more significant the increase in strength will appear.
While a limited amount of contractile force improvement occurs after only a small amount of training is one thing, building significant strength is another. For example, as any strength and conditioning coach or "Your Town" personal trainer will discover, any 75-year old man or woman without any weight raining experience can quickly increase the contractile strength forces of their quadriceps working against resistance at least thirty percent, fifty percent or more in a few short weeks. I have found that most normal people of any age can even learn to perform a perfect flat-footed deep knee bend with a straight back at least with bodyweight in a few short months even if they could not squat properly for more than one third of the way to begin with. 95% of these trainees, even at advanced age can squat or dead lift an additional 50% of their bodyweight in six months or a year. Those with favorable limb lengths, structural and muscle fiber-related genetics can at least double their bodyweight in these two core lifting movements for reps of at least six to ten repetitions.
This can easily occur (and does most of the time) without any significant building of muscle. Of course they built muscle in the true sense of the word. Their muscle fibers had to become more dense in order to handle the extra resistance beyond the quickly-experienced initial contractile force results. So we can correctly state that they in fact "built muscle".
But to add bodyweight is a different story. Well the same story actually; just that it takes more effort over a longer period of time while maintaining a schedule of extra sleep and calories. Of course, those who have shorter limbs and favorable muscle-tendon attachments with the right fiber type and number (better proportioned, shapelier bodies to begin with) will show much more results and in less time. Of course with less effort.
The point is that actually adding significant muscle size is a process that comes after truly significant strength increases are made compared to when the person even became conditioned after the first several months of vigorous strength exercise. Keep in mind that we are talking about "natural" conditions here not those enhanced by drugs of any kind.
That is not to mention that muscle tissue needs plenty of water held within its cells in order to function; about 75% compared to fat which is only about 10% water weight. So the ability to process glycogen (the fuel used by all of your muscle movement and brain) is one of the main driving forces behind how "big" muscles can be at any given time. Since carbohydrates hold a lot of water (each gram of carbs wants to exist in the body with four grams of water) it becomes clear why muscle cells (little factories of energy production) are mostly water by living weight. (Even a desiccated corpse has the exact same amount of muscle fibers and cells even though it may be one third or less the size of the once living body).
Without getting into too complex an explanation here, suffice it to say that there are many factors involved in the production of muscle size beyond the actual strength increase that everyone experiences when they exercise, or when they continue to progress in their exercise to the point where they need to add resistance to their training. (By the way, progressive weight training or weight training for short must be progressive in nature, as all exercise including cardiovascular exercise, in order to bring continued results. Even if one where to literally maintain the level of exercise that they "feel comfortable" with or choose to continue for the rest of their lives, their bodies will experience steady de-conditioning if they do not strive for at least even a small increase, or progression on a regular basis. Periodization and cycling of your training is not only important but mandatory for health and fitness results).
Building or adding more than just a few pounds of shapely muscle to your frame includes adding some adipose tissue as well. Fat tissue as it is called, does not just occur in large deposits in certain areas of the area pursuant to sexual characteristics and genetic disposition. It also interlaces the muscle cells. Marbleized meat is an image most people can picture to understand this. Building muscle size includes adding fat too; up to 25-30% of all the muscle you build will be fat. This is an example of how anabolism works in the human body. Simply put, your body can not gain muscle without gaining fat and muscle. At the opposite end you cannot eat and exercise to lose just fat; you will lose muscle anytime you lose weight. To minimize this, you must carefully construct an exercise program that focuses on safely maintaining as heavy a weight as possible in your one or two core movements while you try to shed excess fat. There is a way to minimize muscle loss; the process of losing fat while holding on to as much muscle as possible is even more stressful to the entire body, which is why it is best to keep aware of the rate that you are gaining fat while you are trying to put on muscle. Of course this is less of a problem for those who eat a proper diet. But even the most popular processed grain-based diet that most athletic coaches and people in general think is healthy is the actual diet that puts on fat the easiest. And bloated muscle size as well!
Pasta and bread's complex highly refined carbohydrates take a lot longer to convert to glycogen in the muscle tissues than does fruit. Short term ego satisfaction can be had from consuming complex carbs such as pasta. It takes so long for the body to eliminate the sticky residue and it has to maintain lots of water in the process that the tissues appear swollen. This my friends is what the general population looks like. Those well-meaning and diligent few who took their exercise to a higher level, or those consumed with being bigger may look a little shapelier or better proportioned but the rest will just look bloated as you can see, especially in the last 40 years or so as a result of the low fat craze started by Dr. Ken Carol who was later found to be on the right track but with the wrong vehicle. Protein not fat was the main culprit for breast cancer (and all cancers). Not that excess fat can not do damage. And disrupt digestion. And make you tired. Again, another story. Muscle size itself is a nebulous term. I hope this brief explanation gives you a clearer understanding.
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