Rodney McBride

Real Muscle is Dense not Big

Real Muscle is Dense not Big 

One of the biggest misunderstandings in the general public is what muscle genuinely is. 

Basic anatomy tells us that muscle is composed of several muscle fibers that when stimulated by the Nervous System (NS) contract in unison to perform movement. Easy to understand, yes? But it is in tissue physiology where misconceptions about other aspects of muscle hide. 

Most people correlate size and strength as being identical but this is only true in one instance. Super heavy weight powerlifters/weightlifters who need the extra size along with strength to move massive weight. But for the most part there is no parallel between muscle size (structural training) and muscle strength (functional training). 

Strength remember is based on how functional (efficiently/effectively) the NS is working. How functional the NS is operating is the most important component in strength training. The more competent a NS the better the motor signaling. The better the motor signaling the stronger the nerve impulse. The stronger the nerve impulse the more tone a muscle has. The more tone a muscle has the denser a muscle becomes. Hence strength and density without size. 

You can accomplish this muscle density by stimulating your muscles with heavy, light and medium days with low reps between 1 and 5. Avoid fatigue by NOT going to failure in every set. Practice (perfect your form) your exercises. Move slowly thru the range of motion (ROM) so weak areas within the ROM become strong. This will promote efficiency within the motor nerve over time making the muscle fibers associated with the now functional nerve denser not bigger.

If size is the goal then strength and density will be lost since muscle size requires training to failure. Training to failure promotes inefficiency (like blowing a circuit) within the NS by exhausting the motor nerve and damaging the muscle fibers forcing the muscles to adapt structurally. Because muscle cannot adapt fast enough to this constant training intensity sacroplasm (muscle water) density, mitochondria density (energy factory), and capillary density try to compensate for this training to failure concept by increasing in mass.

Research has shown that about 30% of the muscle in bodybuilding is actual muscle growth and the remaining 70% being the three aforementioned tissue adaptations when it comes to training to failure so often. All those grueling days, weeks and months in the gym and you only get a 30% return!!! Unless you are just set on this type of training it doesn't seem worth it to me?

So if the objective is muscle density without size (take special note ladies) strength train and avoid bodybuilding. Why put so much energy into something that doesn't build as much muscle as you think and will probably just lead to injury and guaranteed burnout.


You must be logged into Gmail (or other from the list below) to post. Otherwise, please email Rodney McBride directly at with any questions.