Rare words when there is so much emphasis being placed on being leaner and lighter to perform better this day and age. But is that really what we need and should want if we are looking to become more athletic than the competition? Just look at the physiques and statlines of world class sprinters, NBA, MLB, andNFL superstars too name a few, and their level of body mass would strongly discourage being lighter to enhance performance in any athletic based skill. Fortunately, there are at least 2 very strong scientific reasons why such large athletes can excel more, or have an advantage to excel more, versus their smaller counterparts. First, those that are heavier are capable of generating a stronger explosive reflex from the working muscles of the body. Technically speaking, this is called our “Myotatic Stretch Reflex.” According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, there are 3 regulators of this natural reflex. First, is the magnitude or amount of stretch placed on the muscle. So the harder and more intensely we stretch our muscles when we move the better they will react. A bigger muscle is capable of driving much more effort than a smaller one. “Clearly, individuals with the largest muscle cross sections generate the greatest absolute force.”1

Advantage being bigger! The second regulator is the velocity of the stretch. The faster we can stretch our muscles when running, jumping, etc. the better the reflex. Since we know a bigger muscle can drive more effort into a stretch, obviously its going to be able to do it faster too. Advantage being bigger! The final regulator is the time it takes to stretch a muscle and then contract it. The faster this gets done the less energy we lose and the more explosive we will be. Advantage being bigger! Clearly, if we want to maximize this phenomenon then we need to grow bigger muscles and hit the iron hard.

(Photo coutesy of Wikipedia)

weight Lifting

This guy is on the right track for speed and power development!

Secondly, having more muscle increases our “Relative Strength” potential. This factor is absolutely key to becoming a better overall athlete. It’s another way of saying improving your strength to body weight ratio. The more strength you ultimately have relative to your body weight the better you will be able to accelerate in any movement, in any direction, and the more successful you will be in training or sport. Period! Too illustrate this point, we will take two guys who are of equal weight at 200 lbs. If one of them squats 250 lbs., while the other squats 515 lbs., who do you think is going to have a better vertical jump? No question, the guy who can drive 265 lbs. more vertical force into the ground. Some possess this skill naturally, while others have to create it in the weight room, regardless though it can be developed, and being bigger makes building this skill much easier. “ A bigger muscle is a potentially stronger muscle. Most importantly, until you are a very advanced trainee, an increase in muscular body weight comes with a disproportionate increase in strength. That’s why sprinters like Mo Green, Ben Johnson, Lynford Christie etc. were big and strong and why you don’t see many scrawny 130 pound outfits winning any type of sprint races. Until you’ve been training for a number of years you will tend to gain 30% strength for every 10% increase in muscle mass.”2

Truer words have never been spoken. With this statement in mind, for every lb. of muscle you acquire from strength training, your strength potential will increase by approximately 3 lbs. Below is a comparison of an athlete with bigger leg versus one with smaller legs.

Bigger Athlete                                                  Smaller Athlete:

135 lbs. of leg mass                                         75 lbs. of leg mass

405 lbs. of strength potential                        225 lbs. of strength potential

Difference=270 lbs.                                        150 lbs.

Now this information is absolutely huge, and one of the many training secrets that has helped us build some great jumpers and speedsters over the years. As testament to this, I will show you just how much of a difference adding leg mass has made to my personal sprinting performance. Originally, I was 165lbs. with scrawny legs, and ran a fully electronic 4.92 40 yard dash. Keep in mind that this is not a partial electronic system like they use at the NFL Combine. Here is a link to the system we use: http://www.workoutz.com/shopping/product/powerdash_x_sprint_timer. Flash forward months later, and now I’m 200 lbs., and recorded a 4.54 fully electronic time! There are number of variables that dictate the development of your physique and performance, but packing on some serious size thoroughly my lower half has definitely contributed to the gains I made. And now lets cover some of the arguments that are so commonly made against adding muscle mass for improving performance.

1-increase in gravity

2-fat mass


4-specific mass


I will run through these really quick. The first argument made from many authorities against getting bigger is that the increase in mass increases gravity and makes it harder to move. True, however, the other 2 factors mentioned previously absolutely outweigh the increase in gravity and we are much more explosive in the process. Secondly, is people assume we add fat mass. This can be a failure both nutritionally and in training for muscle. You cannot argue that adding fat mass serves no purpose and it’s dysfunctional and unusable in movement training. However, if someone has great relative strength, it wont matter if they have some fat, and we should always try too limit and remove fat, so that it is a non-issue. Thirdly, is genetics. This would not really apply here, but always seems to be thrown in the mix. Anyone can get bigger and I’ve seen the most disadvantaged bulk up and add on good weight. If they can get the weight on then they can improve relative strength and our body’s reflex and thus become more athletic. Genetics does not remove the ability to gain muscle, only slow it and make it more difficult, but it can be done.



“Big Mike” working against his extremely poor genetic predisposition! So proud of this guy! He epitomizes the definition of a hardgainer. But he trained his ass off, hit the iron hard, stayed consistent and has amassed 35 lbs. of muscle, and wants more!

Specific mass is another one I hear a lot. As an example, if your goal is too improve in a lower body based activity such as sprinting, adding too much weight up top can hinder performance down low. Sounds logical, however, this train of thought is simply false. First off all, adding weight up top would improve our strength potential there and we would have an easier time transitioning our upper half in movement. Specific to sprinting, this would improve arm drive substantially, so we would accelerate our upper body much better. Also, the greater effort in our upper half would enable a greater reflex and response in our lower half which would increase production in sprinting. Lastly, I’ve seen a lot of disproportional individuals, especially in the male population who were able to offset carrying more weight in the upper body and still excel in lower body based activities, either from possessing great natural explosiveness capacity, or building strong and overpowering legs in the weight room. It’s recommended that you stay structurally balanced, especially for injury prevention purposes, but it’s not essential for elite performance, just maybe a little harder to do. Also keep in mind that I am referring too structurally balance between the upper vs. lower body, and not opposing areas of the upper or lower body (e.i. chest and back). The last argument is the increased momentum or inertia that having more body mass creates. This is true, but just like with the other arguments, the strength and reflex ability of the body can counter this easy. This makes deceleration quicker and easier.

Well I hope you enjoyed this piece. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to share for quite some time now. Anecdotally, all you have to do is examine the weights of the most successful athletes in sports today too realize that there greater body mass is providing them a distinct advantage in competition, and it will continue to do so until the end of time. Combine this with a solid comprehensive training program, and a relentless psyche and you have the absolute recipe for athletic success. So the take home message here would be “Get or stay in the weightroom.”

Baseball Player(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Professional baseball player Mike Trout is a great example of size=power! Trout is 245 lbs. right now and is one of the fastest players in the league!”

Scientific References:

1-Clark, Michael. Integrated Reactive Neuromuscular Training. California: 2001.



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