Small But Strong? Big But Weak? 4 Reasons

Small But Strong? Big But Weak? 4 Reasons

What’s up guys, Sean Nalewanyi,
and in this video today I want to talk about a very common misconception I often hear in
regards to the idea that strength equals size. Before I get started, if you find this video
helpful and you want to get even more daily tips and updates from me, then make sure to
follow me over on Instagram as well at Sean Nalewanyi and as a thank you for watching
this video, I’m also doing a giveaway down below in the comments section where you can
win a free copy of the body transformation blueprint. Which is my complete muscle building and fat
loss program that outlines everything you need to know to achieve your goal physique
as efficiently as possible with the exact training and nutrition plans all laid out
step by step. So just click the link down below to enter
in for that. So I’ve been talking about this like a broken
record for well over a decade now. I talked about it in my last video and it’s
the idea that progressive overload is the primary driver of muscle growth. It’s the ultimate bottom line and that if
you want to get bigger, you need to focus on getting stronger first and foremost, not
on getting a pump or feeling the burn or performing a ton of sets or using special fancy lifting
techniques, but on adding more weight to the bar over time on all of the key compound lifts
in proper form, I should mention that as well. There’s just no way around that okay? A stronger muscle is a bigger muscle and training
for improved performance is the fastest way to put on size, especially if you’re in the
first two to three years of training. But a lot of people get confused on this in
that they see somebody at the gym who might not be that strong and is lifting less weight
than they are yet they clearly look bigger and more muscular, which can obviously be
kind of frustrating or the opposite can be true as well. Okay? You can have someone who is lifting fairly
impressive weights but doesn’t seem to be carrying the right amount of muscle relative
to how much weight they’re lifting. So if strength equals size, then how can that
be? Well, the answer is pretty simple and it’s
that strength does equal size to a very large degree, but it’s relative to the individual,
meaning that as you get stronger you will get bigger, but the degree of strength development
that’s going to be required for you to look a certain way in terms of overall muscularity
won’t necessarily be the same as the next guy. Okay? So just because you’re squatting 315 pounds
for reps, that doesn’t mean that your legs are automatically going to be the same size
as everybody else out there who’s also squatting 315 pounds. You can have one guy who squats 315 or even
less and has really impressive looking legs and another guy who squats 315 but doesn’t
look nearly as impressive. When we’re talking about muscle growth, we
have to be realistic and we have to acknowledge the role that genetics play in the process,
which means that some people just respond faster to training and are going to have a
bigger hypertrophic response to a certain level of strength. Whereas some people won’t respond quite as
well and they’re going to need to spend more time developing their strengths in order to
reach a similar level. Aside from the overall hypertrophic response
to training, another huge factor is body structure because of factors like limb length, muscle
insertion points, wrist size, ankle size, waist size, clavicle width as well as height. Different amounts of muscle can look quite
a bit different on each given person. So you could have an upper arm that measures
say 15 inches flexed, but because of a combination of all of these different factors, proportionally
it could look just as muscular as somebody else with a 17 inch arm. Maybe your arm length is shorter, which makes
the biceps and triceps seem wider. Maybe your biceps insert further down towards
your elbow so that you have a longer muscle belly and maybe you have a smaller wrist as
well, which creates the illusion of a bigger upper arm. All of those things are going to give you
an advantage and you aren’t going to need to put on as much actual muscle in order to
have impressively muscular looking arms. Remember that physique aesthetics are partly
about your objective measurements on paper, but at the end of the day it ultimately just
comes down to how muscular you look visually and there’s a certain illusory aspect involved
in that. So if someone has a more favorable body structure,
they might not have to add as much weight to the bar or gain as much total muscle mass
in order to achieve a certain level of visual muscularity. Another factor to look at is leverages. So depending on what exercise someone is performing
because of their body structure and the leverages that are involved in that lift, they might
just be better suited to certain lifts. And so even though they’ve built up to a fairly
large amount of weight compared to someone else, they might not appear as big in response
to that amount of weight they’re lifting as you would expect because they’ve already got
a built in advantage right from the get go and that their body was just better suited
to moving more weight on that particular exercise. For example, you might see some guys who can
deadlift quite a bit of weight but don’t really look that big and again that can be because
of the way that their particular body structure is set up, right? Maybe their body structure just allows them
to move more weight on that exercise right out of the gate. The other thing to consider if you’re just
looking around your gym and comparing yourself to the other lifters that you see is that
you don’t know what any given person’s specific training goals are. In other words, some people might just be
more focused in on certain lifts than others and they might’ve spent more time building
up their strength on those particular lifts. So maybe the guy with the really Jack looking
physique is say dead lifting next to someone who isn’t as muscular and so you look at that
and you say, “Well, what’s going on here? I thought strength equated to size. So why is that smaller guy dead lifting more
weight than the bigger guy.” But you have to take a look at their overall
training program and take everything into account, right? Maybe the first guy does a lot of heavy pull-ups
and pull downs and rows and shrugs and other movements to build their back musculature
and they’re using a more bodybuilding focused program. Whereas maybe the second guy is mainly just
focused on building a big deadlift and he doesn’t pay as much attention to those other
lifts. So in that one instance, things might seem
a bit off because the one guy is smaller but moving more weight. But again, the overall training program has
to be considered. And then beyond those three factors, of course
the final factor to consider, which is a huge one, is drug use. Okay? You might see guys in the gym who are suspiciously
muscular even though they’re not very strong. And a lot of times that can be a dead giveaway
that steroids are involved because steroids provide a huge advantage when it comes to
putting on muscle mass. I mean, you could literally take steroids
and do nothing but sit on the coach and you’ll still gain some muscle from it. So don’t discount the factor of drug use because
that will hugely affect the amount of weight that a given person needs to lift in order
to achieve a certain level of muscularity. So try not to concern yourself too much with
what everyone else in the gym or on YouTube or on Instagram is doing. Strength and does equal size for the most
part so just focus on staying consistent with your own program, tracking your workouts on
paper and building up a solid strength foundation. And when combined with proper nutrition, you
will consistently put on new muscle mass as you add more weight to the bar during those
first few years of lifting. So thanks for watching guys. Make sure to hit the like button and subscribe
below if you found this information helpful. If you appreciate the no BS, evidence-based
content that I put out here and you want to support the channel while optimizing your
muscle building and fat burning results at the same time, then make sure to check out
my sports nutrition company, real science athletics, which produces 100% research backed
properly dosed affordable fitness supplements you can trust. Including our pre-workout formula, athletes,
multivitamin and fish oil with more top quality products coming soon. Just visit using
the link up here or in the description box below. And you can also use coupon code YouTube10
to save 10% off your entire first order. Thanks again for watching and I will see you
in the next video.


  • Sean Nalewanyj says:


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  • Ziad Salah says:


  • jared says:

    Go vegan and you'll be able to do much more

  • jarab1212 says:

    I like your level headed explanations. no exaggerations, no sugarcoating. To the point and simple, life is complicated enough. Keep doing what you are doing.

  • My Name says:

    What about the pump which some people come to gym for

  • CBK says:

    Always providing us good information. Thanks Sean

  • Dale Stapley (WOOD) says:

    As usual, good solid advise and coaching. That white shirt looks good on you man.

  • Michael Caiafa says:

    Bravo…I am 170 pounds and can deadlift in the high threes for some reps…at age 64!. Check out the theory of full recruitment.

  • ZeroSumJ1 says:

    I’ve never had a video apply less to me. Lol. Small and weak over here. Who’s with me?

  • Gorgax says:

    Patience i guess. Even if you have less favorable muscle insertions, if you lift heavy enough, the muscle mass will become noticeable. I read somewhere in Nuckols' article, for experienced lifter around 80% of strength gain is explained by muscle growth, less so for the less experienced.

  • Gladiator says:

    Great timing on this video – I'm drinking Pure Form while I'm watching this in preparation to go smash some weights!

  • Michael White says:

    How about the most obvious and most important point: some people are just stronger than others, regardless of build. Just like some people are faster or can jump higher than others with exactly the same build.

  • robizzlor says:

    Don't forget the factor that the big guy is doing full reps perfect form and the other guy that thinks he is lifting as much does quarter reps 😀

  • Robert Demarais says:

    Great video. All of what you said makes the most sense. I’m 56 and have been lifting the weights since 78 naturally. A few years back I was way overweight at 5’ 7” and reaching a weight of 195 lbs. I decided to change my diet and do intermittent fasting 3X a week which I still all this today. Anyway I dropped my weight down to 165 lbs. I’m small boned so I look more muscular then ever. I can see all the hard earned muscle now. The past 8 months my weight has increased to 175lbs with same muscularity and waist size so I believe I put some muscle on. But anyway I lost a lot of strength when I lost weight, but I myself is one that never really could lift extremely heavy. When I was younger I’d always end up hurting myself trying to play heavy low rep game. I’ve always been a medium/heavy trainer with reps in the 10-12-16 range. But hey every-body is different so find what works for you : )

  • Tokahfang says:

    A wise person said, "Comparison is the killer of joy."

  • Bamboo Mike says:

    Great content as always Sean! I lift heavy, though cannot get my arms past 14 inches, though since I am a pretty small guy, I appear to be bigger than I really am! Also, at 54, I am probably past the point of putting on much more muscle, though am very happy where I am, and realize that my genetics have limited me over the years, and that is ok!

  • Ethan Bartosek says:

    UFpwrLifter is by far the best example of this. He benches 370-400 pounds at 153 pounds bodyweight

  • My Name says:

    How about a 15 reps per set with max amount of weight (increasing per set) and last three reps close to failure??
    Plz solve my query, goal is to build both muscles and strength

  • Kevin Peace says:

    I really love your videos. You you keep them clean no bad language very good stuff

  • Yousef says:

    Absolutely love your channel brother, keep on keeping on

  • popcornto : says:

    What about having a terriblly weak bench? I can squat 365 pounds, just deadlifted 400 for 2 today, but can only pause bench 175 for 3. Can someone please help? I bench twice a week, once I do 3×3 and the other I do 5×5. Pls help.

  • Eric Follendorf says:

    Hay Sage great information man

  • Stanley Forbes says:

    Sean I love your content but you mentioning the fact that taking steroids and growing without a training stimulus is complete BS. That study has been disproved many times, as the test subjects were still moving around and doing activities, they weren't just sat in a bed for 12 weeks….u cannot grow without a training stimulus even with steroids. Apart from that great video!

  • Meek Rodriguez says:

    Excellent workout videos

  • Koji G says:

    Great advice as usual especially for the younger newer lads and ladies that enter the gym. The most difficult time of a new lift up comes if their training in a group especially if it’s a group of their friends,. Sometimes this can be very helpful when it comes to pushing each other, but there will be more genetically gifted individuals in that scenario and the comparing and comparisons begin. Genetics plays a massive role it really does when it comes to strength beyond a point to, but as a rule I agree bigger muscles means more muscles to do the heavy lifting and pushing the bigger weights. That’s why you should never train to a program that set broadly for everybody, but one tailored to you.

  • mad555555 says:

    I watch five or six different YouTube Fitness shows and yours by far is the best. What you say is very easy to understand. You don't have 5 minutes of filler on each end. You don't have to be "in character" or have some sort of weird tone in your voice, to be paid attention to. You have a quiet confidence in what you're saying because it is backed with facts and you don't have to make people believe you're right. Keep up the great work.

  • bharat indoria says:

    315 pounds of squat, one may be doing since a month and the other may be doing since 3 months, also 315 maybe someone's 1 rep or 2 rep max whereas the other person is doing more reps with the same weight.

  • Ury BB says:

    I don't have a problem being big but weak… Now I'm just smol and weak :'(

  • Trell Too Wild says:

    My favorite YouTube channel hands down. I have one question Sean how do you fix uneven body parts because for me it seems the right side develop faster than the left side thanks.

  • LatexiPahvi says:

    Hi Sean, may I ask whats your weight and height? 😊

  • Marty Wilson says:

    Been a follower for a long time. Whats your thoughts on Reverse Pyramid Training? Could you address this in a future video?

  • Capone Dedication says:

    >>nothing<< works unless you

  • Yong Tim Lim says:

    Guess it’s time to implement a strength program

  • Floyd Burdett says:

    I have seen these differences even in different parts of my own body… My legs — even from back in High School — were tremendously strong, per size, than anyone could imagine! At 16 years old, 5'10", 130 lbs. I was leg-pressing 1,000 pounds! Even more that the 240 pound Linemen on a State Champion Football team! And my legs looked about 'normal' for a 130 lb teenager. But the rest of my body did NOT have even close to that same strength.per-size ratio.
    But in Marine Boot Camp — in the middle of a Very Hot Summer — my upper body seemed to 'Wake up' and I actually Gained over 30 pounds in 13 weeks, and it was almost all upper body. Within 6 months of the Marines — Boot Camp, then Infantry Training, then just working out on my own and playing lots of Racketball and Handball — I went from the 135 lbs I started at, to 195 with 29" waist-line. Still leg-pressing about 1,000 but also benching over 300, and running 3 miles in 16.5 minutes, 100 push-ups in 3 minutes, and 45 pullups non-stop. And a Brown Belt in Karate. But my upper body DID show more size, while my legs have never had 'noteworthy' size. (Even now, at 68 years old, my legs are hard as rocks, but my upper body is 'softer' and has not retained the amount of strength as my legs.)
    It saved my life, about 18 months after my enlistment ended, when I was in a near-fatal traffic crash. My training and dense muscles kept my bones and body together and able to take all the impact and abuse of the crash… but made the repairative surgery very difficult. The Doctor said it took 3 extra surgical assistants to hold the muscles apart enough for him to work on repairing the broken bones…

  • David C says:

    Summary: Genetics

  • Gregg Garner says:

    I appreciate your informative (fact based) videos. What would recommend for a guy over 50; in his 20th year of training to continue making progress regarding adding muscle? Looking forward to your input; thank you.

  • Andreas Georgiou says:


  • john herbert says:

    Hate this video so i un subscribe after 4 years

  • Daniel Lipko says:

    Doesn’t AlphaDestiny have a video with pretty much this exact same title

  • Michael Penrod says:

    My Uncle Billy was 5 4 125 and could carry an engine block across his yard,he had been wrestling steer and bulls since he was a kid he was in his late 30s then he always told me dynamite comes in small packages. I took him to the local gym he could leg press over a thousand and bench over 400 he had never worked out with weights a day in his life

  • J D says:

    Sean, based on your reading of the science, do you expect a time in which steroids have been greatly refined, w “bugs removed,” in which it can be safely micro-dosed by everyday people?

  • bighum70 says:

    “Lifting less weights but looks muscular than you.. sign of steroid” ? Really? How about he’s a smart lifter, educated with nutrition, or prioritizing form over ego? YouTube advice 🙄

  • SickKent says:

    Big muscles move big weights and genetics are often overlooked because of the deceptive marketing tactics in the fitness industry.

  • Arcane Knight says:

    Strap On made a video with this same title.

  • Dan Stafford says:

    Strength training or weight lifting is primarily neurological adaptation using the said principle… muscles become a secondary factor… as opposed to bodybuilding muscles become the primary factor… using Progressive overload for muscle damage… and muscle fatigue using high-volume training! A bigger muscle is a stronger muscle has nothing to do with weight lifting!

  • Iron Marshall says:

    100% right about everuthing but dont forget strength also equates to overall size and not just muscularity. Weight moves weight so a larger person with high body fat percentage will be stronger than low but may not look muscular .. its all about goals.

  • Davin Deptuck says:

    My quads are the same size as some people who squat 315 for reps at my gym but I can barely squat over 200 lbs. My bench press is stronger than a lot of guys who have a better-looking chest at my school.

  • afarzaneh says:

    On point as usual

  • Kenny Landmon says:

    Great points! Thanks. How do you enter the physique giveaway? I didn’t see the link.

  • Chris says:

    Your tempo and how you perform the exercise also plays a huge role, like if you were to bench 135 which isn't that impressive but you have a slow eccentric with a pause at the bottom along with full rom and maybe squeeze at the top now that's a different story than someone who benches like a power lifter touch and go not exactly half repping but just trying to get as many reps as possible and not a lot of time under tension which isn't optimal for hypertrophy.

  • Dank Guy says:

    bone structure, leverages, height are all factors yes

  • Ultradude says:

    I'm weak AF in the bench, squat. Average in DL. Good in OHP. People think I look like some strong mofo.

  • Ted P says:

    Could also be things like fat. More fat more power.

    Or diet also. If you can deadlift 4 plates while eating 3000kcal a day. Then you go down to 2000. You probably will look the same, but not be able to lift as much because of the calories defecit.

  • Nick Voelker says:

    Check out CanditoTrainingHQ if you want to see small and freakishly strong.

  • Super Kevv says:

    How to combine powerlifting and bodybuilding aesthetics and strength 👍🏻

  • کانال تفریحی says:

    A tall person like me is very difficult to look big and muscular compare to the short guys but you gotta try and try never give up

  • koban4max says:

    Summary: be you.

  • Robert Butacu says:

    1. Volume
    2. Nutrition
    3. Mind-muscle connection
    4. Longevity/consistency – how long have one been lifting that big weight for? There is a huge discrepancy in the time it takes to build muscle and time it takes to build strength
    5. Bodyfat percentage – can be "big" but big layer of fat on top makes everything look soft and rather small

  • Gigaflare8822 says:

    I outlift guys who are 3x my size. There are guys who struggle to bench 70kg that are bigger and more defined than me. My arms look skinny and undefined for the amount of weight I lift and my definition is pretty bad, even when I get lean. No one wants to admit how much genetics are involved in cultivating an aesthetic physique and how some people have to get really strong to look it. But even then that's no guarantee: look at people like Maxx Chewning who are insanely strong but look relatively skinny.

    TBH this is why I train for strength and performance. At least I can progress properly this route. Those big guys are admiring when I'm strapping on over 100lbs to my waist and doing pull-ups for reps.

  • Yunzy Rade says:

    Hey Sean, can you please do a video or series telling us how you USED to train and eat to get to your biggest weight? You had allot of muscle mass (considering fat also) and is allot of your audiences goal, even though it’s not yours necessarily now, share the knowledge !

  • RickfromColorado says:

    Sean, I'd like to weigh in on the topic of strength equals size…or rather the stronger you get, the bigger ur muscles should be.
    Strength training alone doesn't build that certain physique a trainer might be looking for. There's strength training and then there's hypertrophy training. Ya have to have a mix. I prefer to call it, Activation, Load and then Exhaust. That's means u run a full program and there's nothing wrong with muscle feeding sessions on ur off days as in one set to failure to get blood in there.
    What I see in the gym is people too worried about getting stronger and not concerned with hypertrophy. Size is a byproduct of strength training and strength is a byproduct of hypertrophy training.

  • I says:

    Size means nothing I'm 5"6 and the strongest in my gym I out bench all the six foot odd lads shoulder press etc . I see them struggling with 70 kg on bench and I lift 110 kg right next to em for sets . They look in absolute amazement and it makes me feel good 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

  • cuong bui says:

    Mind muscle connection and how the individual performs the movement in regards to contraction could also be a consideration.

  • Zekaryah Child of TMH GOD says:

    Wait…but I thought roids make u stronger???🤔🤔🤔

  • MUHAMMAD MBS says:

    I would like to ask a question, it's not related to the video tho😅.. What are your opinion on skinny guy who never took any supplement, and wants to take only creatine as his supplement? Because I don't wanna be big and buff, I just want the strength and definition on my muscle. If taking only creatine doesn't really do it, what should I actually do or take? Thank you and have a magnificent day ☺

  • Guilty Bystander says:

    That's why I focus on bodybuilding and not strength training. It's why I think a lift like the deadlift is so overrated for pure bodybuilding purposes. There are way better exercises for back hypertrophy. I focus on (weighted) pullups and rowing variations. My back has incredible development because of it.

  • John says:

    Another great post, Sean – as always, a lot of common sense. But I don't want to get bigger – I want to stay lean! To me, overly developed muscles are ugly and freakish. Is there a way of getting stronger without putting on any mass? Maybe consuming fewer calories?

  • WMD-C35 says:

    Another option is especially if they're a bit older is they built most of the base of their muscle lifting heavy previously but now lift a bit more moderately for longevity, that's what I've done/doing

  • UNGETABLE7 says:

    Man I irritated a lot of my friends that were already working out cause of genetics. I just looked at weights and got bigger, but to make a point, even the most scrawny on our team got bigger after ~2 years of progressively getting stronger on the compounds plus some accessory lifts. It just takes time, go easy on yourself. Just be consistent. All the best! ✌️

  • Bimarsha Guragain says:

    I think you will get stronger if u get bigger..u are strong if u are big..strength is product of size

  • PROJECT DX says:

    Roiders can get BIG without lifting heavy. Naturals CANNOT.

  • malcolm adderley says:


  • sickid41 says:

    I make it a habit to skip the ads. so he doesn't get paid. my way of being a hater.

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