Why does it seem that a lot of heavy and big people are weak, objectively weak?

I met a few muscular guys, quite bigger than me who were weaker than me.

I don't think it's a bout specificity of training because they were weaker than me in a lot of movements, not just one and we all train pretty much the same way in the same gym.

I also see a lot of skinny people on YouTube who are quite strong, not just strong relative to their size but actually strong.

I'm not a small or skinny person by any means, I'm quite muscular but not to the level of Mr. Olympia, yet there are guys more muscular who are weaker and skinnier guys who can outlift me.

I doubt it's steroids because most of the big guys I'm talking about I know personally and we don't shame and don't care, and one of them admitted to have used steroids in the past but can't afford them anymore.

So what's normal? Is being big and not that strong a common thing?

1 Answer 1


There are two types of muscle growth..

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is an increase in muscle fibers. This makes you stronger, sets in 1 to 6 range achieve this.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in sarcoplasmic fluid, the fluid around the muscle fibers. It consists of ATP, glycogen, creatine phosphate and water. This will increase the volume of your muscle making it look bigger, but will not provide functional muscle(it's just simply a bigger muscle). Think of someone inflating a balloon.. Doesn't make the balloon stronger. Sets done in the 8-15 range best achieve this.

The guys you are seeing that are bigger might work more to achieve bigger muscle. Bigger muscle doesn't equate to more strength. It's possible they do more sets or more high volume reps while you focus more on strength.

Another less noticed point but sometimes muscular guys also have a lot of excess Bodyfat which can make them appear bigger. Losing Bodyfat down to 10% or lower will make them look a lot leaner

A third reason could be the people are doing different exercises.. maybe they are building endurance, maybe doing German volume training, maybe they are playing it safe with the weight.. some people don't lift to failure.

Given the 3 options above, the most likely is that they train to be muscular, not strong. You inadvertently have been training to increase strength

  • Another consideration would be the biomechanics of the individual and how that impacts strength and muscle development. For example, a long limbed individual will look skinnier than a short limbed individual with the same amount of muscle mass. The long limbed individual will also probably be stronger when it comes to the deadlift for example while being at a disadvantage for something like the bench press. Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 16:11
  • That's true for sure. I am under the assumption that the question posed is comparing two people of equal stature. Naturally a taller person might look way more muscular than a short person even without a solid base of muscle.
    – user32213
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 18:54

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