In news that may shock the bodybuilding community, a new study found that bodybuilders might actually be less powerful than non-lifters.
The study from Manchester Metropolitan University revealed that a gram of the average bodybuilders’ muscle is less powerful than the same amount of tissue from an average person. Bodybuilders may have larger muscle fibers that can generate above-average forces, but they lacked the same muscle quality when it came to smaller samples.
Professor Hans Degens, who led the study, explained his findings:
“It appears that excessive muscle growth may have detrimental effects on the quality of the muscle, and one may well be better off with normal-sized muscles than with metabolically expensive large muscles. We had no indication that the proteins generating force – muscle motor proteins – work less in bodybuilders, but it could be that they have fewer motor proteins per gram muscle. It would be interesting to see what aspect in the training of bodybuilders causes this decrease in muscle quality.”
The study also suggests that bodybuilders are only stronger than most people because they have so much more muscle mass. The extra mass allows them to compensate for the weakness of their muscles (and for obvious things of course).
The study used small muscle samples from the thighs of 12 male bodybuilders along with six power athletes. They were then compared with samples from 14 physically active men who did no weight training. Scientists then isolated individual muscle fibers that were tested to see how quickly and powerfully they contracted in specific conditions.
The research also discovered that while power athletes like runners had improved muscle quality, it was the exact opposite for bodybuilders.
MP’s Take: In other words, you’re able to lift more because you have more muscle mass. However, the quality of the muscle is lower than if you don’t lift. Your larger size makes up for it though. Even though these findings have some merit, I think it’s forgetting an important part of the equation. These “bodybuilders” that the study refers to tend to train with high weight and low reps, negating much emphasis on power training, sprint training, flexibility training, and stretching, all which can explain why they have a “lower” muscle quality. Also, it would probably be better to take test samples from the arms or chest, rather than the legs, since the legs are the one muscle group that some bodybuilders don’t even train!