Factors Affecting Muscular Strength
I am often asked why one person develops strength and muscle faster than another when he or she is performing the same exercises and following a similar strength training workout program. Many people feel that they must be doing something wrong because they aren’t getting the same results, muscular strength or muscular development as another person. It’s important to realize that there are six primary factors affecting every individual’s ability to achieve strength and muscle development, and we have little or no control over most of them.
Type of Muscle Fiber
One of the most influential factors is muscle fiber type. We have two basic types of muscle fibers, often referred to as “slow twitch” and “fast twitch.” Slow twitch muscle fibers are best used for cardiovascular (aerobic) activities. They produce small levels of force for long periods of time and thus are better suited for endurance activities. Fast twitch fibers are best used for anaerobic activities. They produce high levels of force for short periods of time and are best suited for power activities such as weightlifting.
Most men and women have an equal combination of both slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. However, some people inherit a high percentage of slow twitch fibers that enhance their performance in endurance activities, such as long distance runners. Most world class marathon runners have a very high amount of slow twitch fibers. World class sprinters or football players, for example, have relatively more fast twitch muscle fibers. Although both fiber types respond positively to strength training workouts, the fast twitch types experience greater increases in muscle size and strength, and thus may obtain greater and/or faster results from a strength training program.
Another factor over which we have little control is age. Studies show that people of all ages can increase their muscle size and strength as a result of a safe and effective strength training program. However, the rate of strength and muscle gain appears to be greater from age 10-20, the years of rapid growth and development. After reaching normal physical maturity, muscular improvements usually don’t come as quickly.
Gender does not affect the quality of our muscle, but does influence the quantity. Although men’s and women’s muscle tissue are characteristically the same, men generally have more muscle tissue than women do because muscle size is increased by the presence of testosterone, the male sex hormone. The larger the muscles, the stronger the person; this is why most men are stronger than most women.