Why Are You Getting Stronger Not Bigger from Your Workouts?

Why You're Getting Stronger Not Bigger

If you’ve been strength training for a while, depending on the guidance you’re following, you might discover that you’re getting stronger, not bigger.  For some guys, this is a goal, and that’s great. Not everyone is looking to build and preserve bulk. A lot of guys want to tone their muscles, but they’d like to be strong.  That said, if you were looking for more than strength and were also seeking size, this might leave you frustrated.

Why You’re Getting Stronger Not Bigger from Exercising

There are a lot of factors that can play a role in determining why you’re getting stronger not bigger, even if you’ve been exercising regularly.  If your goal is to build bulk, then don’t forget that regular strength training won’t typically be enough to get you to your goal.

Sure, starting from scratch and doing some strength workouts will help you to tone your muscles. If you’re starting from nothing, you will see something.  Still, you won’t see what you’re aiming for if your goal is larger, shaped muscles. That’s likely why you’re getting stronger not bigger from your workouts.

There is a difference between hypertrophy (muscle mass gain) and strength. Depending on which one you want, you’ll need to take different steps. Some might overlap, but the differences…well, they make all the difference.

Changes that Make the Difference When You’re Getting Stronger Not Bigger

There are four primary reasons most guys find that they’re getting stronger not bigger.  Genetics aside, these are factors that you have within your own control and can change to get better results.  If you’re aiming to start boosting your muscle cells and gaining real mass, then these are areas you might want to consider.

If bulking up is your goal, I highly recommend starting with a visit to your doctor and next talking to a physical trainer with experience in that area.  I’m not just saying that because I’m a physical trainer (yes, I’m biased, but still…).  This goal takes strategy. It doesn’t just happen.  By knowing what you’re doing, you’ll be sure to avoid wasting your time and will skip lots of possible mistakes that could hold you back or leave you injured.

Four Reason Your Strategy Isn’t Working So Far

Here are the four reasons I see the most often to explain why you’re getting stronger not bigger, even though you’re working hard.

  1. You’re not lifting right – It could be that you’re not lifting enough weight or that you are but aren’t doing enough reps. It’s important to know what you’re doing here. Doing too little won’t get you results but doing too much will risk injury and will hold you back from your progress. I can’t stress enough how helpful a personal trainer can be here.
  2. You’re not actually getting stronger – It might seem that you’re getting stronger not bigger, but it could be that you’re making mistakes that only make it seem that you’re building strength. You might be lifting heavier or doing more reps, but the following can create artificial results that are fooling you into thinking you’re getting something you’re not: boosting momentum, performing your reps faster, using less range of motion, using other muscles to support the movements. It’s hard to spot these mistakes in yourself. Again, a personal trainer can help you here.
  3. You’re expecting too much, too fast – There are a lot of changes that happen in your body when you start building muscle mass. Altering your body composition is a big deal. At first, it might look like you’re getting stronger not bigger, but it could just be that the shift in your body is occurring differently than you’d expected. It can take time to know what your actual trends will be. Don’t expect everything to happen within the first couple of weeks or so.
  4. You’re not eating for your goal – Diet is ultra important. If you’re hoping to build muscle mass, you need to track your nutrition and be sure you’re giving your body the fuel it requires to reach your goals. You can lift all the weights you want, but if there is nothing there for your body to use to build new muscles cells, repair damaged ones and maintain the growth, it’s impossible to see results. This is one of the most common reasons for getting stronger not bigger.

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