Why Normal-Sized Muscles Are Better than Pumped-Up Muscles

If you're going for quantity over quality, go lift some weights.


Bodybuilders have poor “muscle quality,” according to a recent study. Gram for gram, the muscles of a non-lifter out-powers any bodybuilder's.

Lead scientist professor Hans Degens, from Manchester Metropolitan University, confirms it's true — although the results may seem questionable. He admits he, too, was surprised when their studies revealed “that a gram of muscle from bodybuilders produced less force than that from non-bodybuilders, and it thus seems that the 'muscle quality' is less in bodybuilders.” 

''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,” he said in an interview with The Telegraph.

Studies revealed “that a gram of muscle from bodybuilders produced less force than that from non-bodybuilders, and it thus seems that the 'muscle quality' is less in bodybuilders.” 

What makes hulking bodybuilders so strong, Degens explained, is their mass. They have so much of it that it helps compensate for the gram-for-gram weakness. This explains why they can pick big things up and put them down.

However, in testing, his team found that power athletes, such as sprinters who did not lift weights, had more power in each gram of muscle when compared to bodybuilders.

Degens said: ''It would be interesting to see what aspect in the training of bodybuilders causes this decrease in muscle quality.'' One obvious suggestion is it may come down to how these people are training. But researchers won't know for sure until more studies are done.

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Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo Credit: Phil Walter / Getty Staff

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