It's well established that getting stronger can help your overall athletic performance. But what many people still don't fully understand is how increased muscle size can indirectly transfer into improved performance. In Building Muscle and Performance: A Program for Size, Strength & Speed, renowned “trainer of trainers” Nick Tumminello pinpoints three specific ways in which using strength training and bodybuilding concepts to get bigger will also make you a better athlete.
1. Stronger from your feet. Unless you are a race-car driver, it is crucial for you as an athlete to be strong from a standing position. Tumminello says the limiting factor in the standing press actions common in sports is the coordination of your torso to create whole-body stiffness and allow your arms and legs to create high pushing forces. In a standing position, your horizontal pushing force is limited to about 40 percent of body weight. “This tells us that it's mathematically and physically impossible for anyone to match or even come close to replicating what they can bench press in a push from a standing position,” he comments. It also reveals that the heavier you are, the more horizontal and diagonal pushing force you can produce from the standing position because you have more body weight from which to push.
Tumminello doesn't deny that developing a stronger bench press can help your standing push performance. Instead, these results indicate that also gaining weight can help you better use your strength by providing a greater platform from which to push against your opposition. It can also give you a better chance of avoiding getting knocked over or knocked off balance. So, putting on 20 pounds of muscle mass through bodybuilding can give you more strength from your feet.
2. Harder hitting. A study of baseball pitchers found that increased body weight is highly associated with increased pitch velocity. In other words, pitchers who weighed more tended to throw the ball faster than those who weighed less. Tumminello says that this finding about pitching correlates with what is seen in combat sports. “All other things being equal, bigger athletes simply tend to punch and throw harder than their smaller counterparts do because they have more body weight behind their punches and throws,” he explains. “This gives them a greater platform, or more weight into the ground, from which to generate force and use their power.”
For those who worry about gaining too much muscle, Tumminello points out that although a gain of 10 pounds of muscle mass constitutes a significant increase, that additional muscle is not so noticeable if it is distributed throughout the body.
3. Better ability to dissipate impact force (more body armor). In athletic terms, bigger muscle mass better dissipates the impact force and vibration caused by events such as falling, getting punched, and taking or delivering a football hit. “The way to better dissipate force is to spread it out over a greater area so that no single spot bears the brunt of concentrated force,” says Tumminello, owner of Performance University International. “Those who wish to improve functional capacity and participate in impact sports should consider bodybuilding exercises both for the physique benefits and as a way to build the body's physiological armor.”
In fact, a larger muscle not only helps dissipate external impact forces but also sets the stage for increased force production (by upgrading your “hardware”), provided that your central nervous system (your “software”) can muster the neural charge to maximize it.
In Building Muscle & Performance: A Program for Size, Strength & Speed, Tumminello combines his 15-plus years of experience with proven scientific principles into a unique training approach to increase strength, power, speed, athleticism, and endurance.