Tomoko Kanda

Tomoko Kanda is a Japanese bodybuilder. She was born in 1966 in Osaka. She has certainly become one of Japan’s most recognizable female bodybuilders. Tomoko Kanda has competed since 2002 and continues to be active. Before entering bodybuilding she was involved in swimming and kendo. Upon the suggestion of a friend to enter bodybuilding, she gave it a try and loved it. Over the past decade, she has become more familiar with fans in the US and Europe. Tomoko Kanda has won the Ms. Nippon contest on multiple occasions. Last year, Vice News has interviewed her. This news piece chronicles her training regimen, her background, and public perceptions. Japan still holds traditional beliefs about women’s roles and their place in society. This is changing, because the government is attempting to get women more involved in the workforce and public sphere. Tomoko has in a small way is contributing to the cause of improving the status of women. As she once stated ” my goal is to spread the positive aspects of bodybuilding to Japanese society and weight training for the health benefits of the women of Japan.”  Tomoko delineates further ” Most ladies are afraid of getting huge and muscular in Japan, they need knowledge of how to weight train, and open up a conservative society to allow women to be strong too.” These are very noble aspirations. She is a harbinger to that vision. Her muscles are not just for show with an impressive 92 kg bench press and 250 kg squat.

Tomoko Kanda on Vice News in 2014.

Tomoko Kanda posing on stage in 2006.

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Tomoko Kanda

Are Boys Stronger Than Girls Before Puberty?

It is assumed that boys would be stronger than girls on average. After all, men are on average stronger than women. This is not true when examining children. Their bodies have not fully matured to full growth. Therefore boys and girls can be close in terms of physical fitness levels. Their still is the notion that boys would just be stronger , because they are male. The divergence occurs at puberty when body composition changes due to the influence of particular hormones. The production of androgens allows for more muscle mass, while estrogens produce more fat. There are also genetic factors that contribute to strength potential. Then we cannot ignore some environmental factors. This is probably the only stage in which the sexes without extra physical training,  are evenly matched in terms of physical strength.

Here this video shows boys and girls arm wrestling. While not a complete measure of total body strength, the boys are not as dominant. 

The idea of female physical inferiority seems to be promoted even when facts debunk such claims. Physical education for girls has lower standards, even though it is not necessary. Boys and girls  who have not reached puberty have a similar body composition. One issue that has been noted is that girls do not engage in the same amount of physical activity. Boys are encouraged to be in football, basketball, little league baseball, and soccer. Girls are directed toward something within the realms of traditional femininity. Girls as they age become even more physically inactive. This can in the future have negative consequences for women’s health. The problem is that gym teachers do not engage girls to be active. Girls may feel pressure not to engage in sport because of ostracism and social barriers. The expectation for girls in terms of performance is low. Even the Presidential Physical Fitness Test has this belief.

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Boys and girls at childhood can compete with each other in sport, because their bodies are of a similar size. Making fitness standards different  at this stage represents bias. This link https://www.presidentschallenge.org/challenge/physical/award-benchmarks-low-vision-alt.shtml shows the the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Take note of the different standards at the ages 7 to 13. 

Children at this stage have not achieved full bone mass. By the time they reach adolescence hormones will allow for a growth spurt. There are numerous changes during the human life cycle, but puberty is significant because it marks the transition into adulthood.

        Puberty is a human life cycle stage in which the body becomes fully mature. Boys and girls will become adults capable of sexual reproduction. This is the point in which there is a gap in physical strength. Hormones will alter a boy’s body composition. The hypothalamus will release GnRH (gonadrotropic releasing hormone) and then instruct the anterior pituitary gland to produce two gonadtropic hormones. The follicle stimulating hormone makes the testis to produce sperm. The relevant hormone to body composition is luteinizing hormone. LH controls androgen production by means of the leydig cells. These cells are located in the spaces of the seminiferous tubules. Luteinizing hormone is present in females, but they produce another type of hormone. The ovaries produce estrogens (and progestrone). Testosterone allows for greater muscle mass, while estrogen allows for more fat composition . Puberty can start at different ages ( precocious and delayed puberty), but on average it is between the ages 11 to 17. Girls start earlier and still have an equivalent level of strength. However, by age 17 puberty is complete and men’s testosterone level peak at 20. Women do not gain more strength unless they engage in physical activity.Testosterone increases tenfold during puberty. The shoulders become broader as well as the chest. The skeleton gains more mass and gradually denser than before. Knowing this, boys and girls are on a similar level between the ages 1 to 13. The 40% increase in muscle mass in males during the teenage years make it difficult for girls to compete with them. It makes no sense to have separate boys or girls teams for swimming, baseball, football, or soccer at childhood. Lower physical standards for girls is ludicrous, because males have not achieved their total body mass.

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This sex hormone mainly produces fat.

        There are exceptions to the rule. Women now have the opportunities to build strength that they did not have previously. Everyone is not an athlete, but an improve their fitness through a regular exercise regimen. Both men and women who have genetic potential can surpass most of the population in physical contest. Physiologists and sports scientists have been examining particular genes that may be linked to athletic performance. Even though science has discredited the conviction of the physical inferiority of women, it still remains. Some are so convinced they believe that any man (without skill or training) could beat a woman of a high physical fitness level. That is not true.

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This ten year old girl Niomi Kutin broke a weightlifting record. Find out more: :http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2118133/Schoolgirl-10-breaks-world-weightlifting-record-heaving-TWICE-bodyweight.html

It would be difficult to find an average man would could beat Serena Williams at tennis or out run Camelita Jeter. Niomi Kutin a young child was able to break a weightlifting record by lifting 215 pounds. This girl is certainly stronger than most boys. She could possibly continue to be stronger as she matures into adulthood. She comes from a family that has been involved in strength sports for years. It is obvious that her ability is both genetic and training based. Some would just assume without knowing her talent that a boy would be stronger than her. This would be a possibility if he began the same training.Strength is not a male only characteristic. Women can gain strength, but it will take more effort and diligence to do so.

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Myogenesis functions the same for males and females. Due to endocrinology, males find it easier to develop muscle. 

For a while some girls may have an advantage. Their growth spurt starts earlier. So for a brief period during their teens girls would be taller. Boys will gradually catch up and surpass women in height. Muscle size is not the only factor in strength. Weight and height do play a role. Force equals mass times acceleration and therefore would mean that someone with more mass could generate more force. It is not impossible that a woman that weighs more could generate more force than a man of a lower weight.There can be over lap in this pattern. Some women who are naturally strong could be able to compete with some men on their athletic level. Rare as this is it is not impossible. Boys and girls at a young age are still developing basic motor skills and body coordination. Boys would not be naturally stronger at this stage. Then one must consider that body type is hereditary. Athletic women have been known to have naturally mesomorphic body types.

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Culturally strength is seen as a male attribute and has been seen as negative for women. Boys are encouraged to be active, while girls are encouraged to passive.

Another consideration is learned skills. Boys are taught these skills more so than girls. This is gradually changing in some societies. Pure strength alone does not produce a quality athlete. Part of the effort is the amount of diligence and dedication put into a training regimen.

       After examining the stages of child physical development it is true that girls and boys do not differ in strength levels. At some point children will get a growth spurt. This happens at different stages of puberty. Girls complete their skeletal growth earlier, while boys gain it in the later stages. The surge in strength reaches an apex in males around age 20 and will gradually decrease with age. Testosterone is one of many  factors that is critical to strength . Young boys would not be producing enough to be stronger than girls. Mixed competition at this stage seems fair and evenly matched. Boys at this point do not have the extra muscle and bone mass advantage. Physical education programs should take not of this fact and not lower the standards for girls. Prior to puberty it is clear that their is little disparity in terms of performance. This changes in adulthood, but women are not fated to be weak. With enough exercise a woman can develop more physical strength.

Are Boys Stronger Than Girls Before Puberty?

Throwing Like a Girl May Not Exist

There has bee a long held conviction that women are incapable of throwing competently. The phrase “you throw like a girl” is often used as a pejorative. Although common sense would dictate that men’s greater upper body strength would make them better throwers, that is not always the case. Training is critical to mastering a correct throw. Having a basic understanding of parabolic motion and anatomical structures and reverse some of the disparity. Plyometric exercises can increase strength, while simultaneously contracting muscle faster to allow for a quick throw time.

An experiment that was performed on Mythbusters revealed some surprising information. The sample included men and women of  different age groups( adults and children). They first had them throw with their dominant arm and hand. After that, subject threw with their non-dominant hand and arm. If man ability to throw was so natural, they would be able to throw with their non-dominant arm. All subjects demonstrated that it was difficult and it was like their first time throwing. Men seem to be using a more efficient technique of throwing than women. The last part of the experiment has a female softball player throwing. Her technique was closer to that of the male baseball player. The man’s throw was faster, but the accuracy was similar. Sexual dimorphism not only plays a role, but environment. It is rare that fathers teach their daughters to throw like their sons.

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Muscles used when throwing 

  • Trapezius -A muscle that extends from the occipital region to the thoracic vertebrae.
  • Infraspinatus – Stabilizes the shoulder joint  and allows for rotation of the humerus.
  • Levator -Responsible for moving the scapulae.
  • Supraspinatus-One of the four rotator  cuff muscles of the arms and shoulders.
  • Rhomboids- Responsible for scapula retraction ( two muscles both major and minor).

Anatomically, there is no difference in the structure of muscle between men and women. Men do have broader shoulders and more muscle mass. This would provide some advantage, but it does not mean that every man and throw perfectly. There would actually be very little difference between girls and boys at a young age. Before puberty, strength levels between males and females do not vastly differ. Males by age 13 will produce more testosterone allowing for a greater amount of muscular hypertrophy. This does not mean that athletic talent is natural to men only. Throwing functions on certain steps of body motion.

Throwing can be summarized in six phases. The first phase is known as wind-up in which a throw prepares to eject the ball. The actual motion comes in a gradual stride. This will be followed by cocking. The arm will again acceleration as to force the ball from the hand . A deceleration will follow once it takes off and the process will end with follow-through.This process is difficult to see, because it goes fast. Softball and baseball players master this so well that it almost becomes involuntary for them. This would be an example of muscle memory. Motor learning becomes mastered so well that an individual will not have to think intensely to perform a physical task. Women can master this through practice. It also helps to start at a younger age. Girls, just like boys should be taught to throw.

Throwing is not a male only attribute, but has roots in the evolutionary history of primates. It is possible that early humankind developed the ability to throw two million years ago. Homo erectus at this point in time needed that ability to hunt. Ligaments and tendons stored critical energy and power required to hunt wild animals. With the possibility of more food this allowed for a change in biology. An improved diet made the average height increase and a greater extent of brain development. It is possible that the elastic energy generated by the shoulder was an adaptation. The debate continues in regards to throwing being a random mutation or a product of environmental acclimation.

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Throwing is not a male only ability. Both men and women developed it.Learn more here :http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-23061016

Throwing as human evolution and physiology demonstrate is not a male only ability. If properly taught women can improve their ability to throw. The assumption is that women will not be successful at anything that is physical. This view still is present even with facts that prove otherwise. A proper technique and intense training can improve throwing ability.

Throwing Like a Girl May Not Exist

Women’s Sports Can Be Interesting

A complaint that is usually uttered is that women’s sports are boring. Detractors state that women’s sports  lack the excitement  and energy of their male counterparts. This is not true. There is a fan base that enjoys watching particular women’s events. However, there are sports (both men and women’s events) that are more interesting than others. There is room for improvement to expand support and viewership. There women’s sports that are interesting, if one decides to expose themselves to them. Certain sports that women participate in have the same level of action and amusement as their male counter parts.

Women’s mixed martial arts although not as publicized, contains much entertainment. Competitors test their martial arts skills in a cage to become the ultimate victor. The hits and blows look painful, but the women continue to fight on. These matches are not for the weak willed. Many events are quite fierce and brutal. Just like any other sport injuries are high. Besides pure brute strength skill is essential. The women who compete in these events have an extensive background in kickboxing, karate, judo, and other forms of martial arts. It is clear they show mastery of fighting skills. The UFC does not give adequate attention to these fighters. Male fighters are given more coverage and attention. Sexism could be one answer, but upon further examination there could be other factors. Mma is not as popular as football or soccer. This would put the sport at a disadvantage in terms of publicity. Then there is the issue of violence. Critics say that mma  is too violent for people to be participating in. Yet, football, hockey, and other contact sports do involve some level of violence. Having a good referee and enforcing game rules can prevent injury to athletes. To say this sport is dull, because women participate in it does reveal a level of prejudice.

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Women’s mma matches can get intense. 

It would seem impossible to fall asleep watching a women’s mma match. The level of aggressiveness and fast paced movement is the same as the men’s division.  The complaint from detractors is that these women are “acting like men.” Clearly they believe women fighting is a male only activity. This is not so and women continue to be involved in mma. Seeing as this is relatively new for women, it has much potential to evolve and flourish.

      Women’s track and field has produced many talented athletes over the decades.  This sport does not create ennui, but instead makes the Olympics worth watching. It could be one of the most popular women’s events. Women can achieve high speeds. Even though men hold the highest speeds, women can sometimes be as fast as men. The impressive aspect of this is that women’s pelvic shape does not hinder their performance. A wider pelvis does create a challenge for the woman runner. This is overcome by certain training techniques. Many great track and field athletes have competed and become public favorites.

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Carmelita Jeter ‘s performance has been very entertaining to fans and spectators .

During the 1980’s and early 1990’s Florence Griffith Joyner amazed many with her athletic feats. She became a household name being featured on magazines, advertisements, and  television commercials. People at that time did not view her performance as boring. No one has been able to beat her record. Carmelita Jeter has gotten close and she remains the fastest woman in the world. Her performance in the 2012 Olympics just like Joyner, impressed fans. The London Olympics saw more female participation than in previous games. Millions of viewers watch the Olympics and that includes watching the women’s events.

     One sport that is not mainstream, but just as fascinating is female bodybuilding. Here is an unapologetic display of physical power. The aesthetic is unique and it certainly draws attention. It pushes female forms to their ultimate limit, once thought impossible. The sport generates interests in other fields such as gender studies, sociology, and sports history. While there is a level of acceptance of other female athletes, female bodybuilders generate controversy. To traditionalists they violate gender norms and believe it to be unnatural. The fans see it as a new paradigm of beauty. Besides the image fans enjoy see these athlete mold their bodies into living statues. This to them becomes almost like an art form.

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Female Bodybuilding is not a mainstream sport, but it does have a following. 

Doubtless about the reaction these women’s bodies do generate interest. During the golden era, ESPN broadcasted  Ms.Olympia and Ms. International contests. Eventually, the general public lost interest and regular programming of these events were removed. Female bodybuilding although in a period of decline is finding immense amount of popularity over the internet. Athletes create websites in which they produce exclusive content for members. NPC News Online provides coverage of women’s events and interviews. These athletes attract huge amounts of traffic to their sites. This sport does produce interest. It has been the subject of numerous documentaries on various television networks. The contrast between imposing physique and feminine stature makes the sport even more amazing. Posing routines excite the audience with a demonstration of dancing skill and endurance. It may look simple, but it is a challenge. If an athletes muscles are not sore after hours of poses, then they really did not pose.

       Weightlifting is another exhilarating sport for women. At first one would believe that women would be at a disadvantage due to lack of upper body strength. This is not the case seeing as women demonstrate immense strength. This becomes impressive because women have very little physical strength to begin with. It shows the power of diligence and focus to achieving a goal. Women have to work harder at this and they are just as competent as their male counterparts.

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Zoe Smith amazed crowds when she set new records at the London 2012 Olympics.

Besides weightlifting, there is powerlifting with is also a strength sport. The difference with this sport is that it tests to see how much maximal weight can be lifted. Just like Olympic weightlifting it can be entertaining. The amusing part is the contemplation as to whether the lifter can move such enormous weight. While it is true men do have the higher weight lifting records, women have developed their bodies beyond what thought possible. There is no doubt that these women could open jars without help. Strong woman competitions take this to another level. Competitors pulls cars, squat tractor tires, and perform other strength feats. They are some of the strongest women in the world.

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Women moving cars is something you do not see every day.

This may not be as fast paced as football, but it as the same thrill. It is rare you find a person who has the ability to move such massive objects. There has been a long tradition of strong woman acts dating back to the 19th century. There were no outlets for their athletic talents except in vaudeville, the circus, and other entertainment venues. Toward the end of the century women were allowed to engage in serious competition. Weightlifting for women opened up to women and The World’s Strongest Woman competition started in 1998.

        Women’s tennis does have a huge following. Women tennis players are some of the highest paid professional women athletes. At one time tennis was viewed as an upper class elite and pretentious activity, but that has been reversed. The Williams sisters contributed to this in a way and made tennis more popular in the mainstream public. Their talent and skill has not only advanced their careers, but has provided positive public relations for tennis. There is a type of grace in the dexterous movements women’s tennis players perform.

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The Williams Sisters are very popular in the sports world. 

Compared to other athletes, women tennis players receive much media attention. This is something positive, because it allows for certain barriers to be broken. If women get more media exposure in regards to sports it can help make their participation more socially acceptable. Tennis requires rapid movement, focus, and quick reaction time. Women’s matches are watched by millions and have no shortage of fans. This does not indicate that the public finds it boring.

      Women’s gymnastics are very popular sporting events at the Olympics. This is one event which seems to be possibly a little more popular than the men’s event. It may have more acceptability, because it is culturally viewed as being “feminine.” As ludicrous as that sounds the stunts they perform are physically challenging. The sport combines dexterity, body kinetic memory, strength, and precise skill. There is an energy that is projected in this competition. It also combines a level artistic presentation. Graceful movements with an elegant power. Elements of dance are incorporated in rhythmic gymnastics. This takes much talent and diligence. Gymnastics for women have become so popular that parents let their daughters get involved at a young age. This is true in particular in the United States. Women’s gymnastics has become a major part of the current Olympic  tradition. This sport does draw an audience, but few want to capitalize on it.

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     This requires skill and talent. 

    These are just a few examples of  fascinating women’s sports. There are many more sports in which women participate Saying that women’s sports are boring just because women are playing them demonstrates a prejudice. For a long time sports have been a male domain. Women were not allowed to be competitive professional athletes. This has changed , but there will always be reaction to change. People with sexist convictions cannot ban women completely from sports, but they can still act as a hindrance.  Women have proven they can perform well and draw an audience and that vexes people who want sports to be male only.  There is a new generation of talented women emerging and they shall continue into the future. The sports world needs to be more welcoming and supportive of their goals. Women’s sports can be interesting, if  people are willing to give it a chance.

Women’s Sports Can Be Interesting

Strong Is Not ‘The New Skinny’ Because Women Don’t Need a ‘New Skinny’ by Erin Gloria Ryan

http://jezebel.com/strong-is-not-the-new-skinny-because-women-dont-need-1149782597

This is an article by Erin Gloria Ryan who disagrees with the fitness zeitgeist idea of “strong is the new skinny.” While it is true the thin body type ideal is damaging, it does not need to be replaced with another unrealistic standard. The problem with this article is that it disparages women who want to change themselves for personal reasons. Women who desire strength may be trying to improve their health or advance in a particular sport. Their actions are for themselves and their goals. Some may engage in weightlifting for aesthetic purposes, but certainly not all. Ryan’s statements are at times just ludicrous. She claims in one paragraph ” strong is the new skinny means now you have to lift weights to be f*****.”  This crude and incorrect statement demonstrates her limited understanding. A majority of men hate women who look physically stronger than themselves. Briefly, she displays some rationality when she states that the muscular body type is less awful than one that projects weakness. True, being strong should not be as a goal to please others as Erin Gloria Ryan points out. However, she contradicts herself.  She says women must exist for themselves and be left to their own choices. Yet, if you reach this article closely she clearly wants women to conform to a third wave feminist perspective. Erin Gloria Ryan and third wave feminists believe themselves to be the voice of all women. They have the notion they know what is best for all women. What this written piece represents is the issues of third wave feminism. When a woman makes a genuine choice for herself that deviates from their views, they are repudiated. The level of contradiction is astounding. Here there are women who challenge sexist stereotypes. Some men still use the ludicrous claim they men are superior, because of their greater strength.  The strong woman crushes this false idea. One would think that the third wave feminist would embrace this, because it is women gaining power. Women should be able to look like whatever they choose. Women who have a powerful body type should not be ostracized or repudiated. They represent a new form of empowerment  that can be both strong and beautiful.

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This woman did not get this way to please others; it was for herself. 

Strong Is Not ‘The New Skinny’ Because Women Don’t Need a ‘New Skinny’ by Erin Gloria Ryan

Lenda Murray inducted into Sports Hall of Fame

Lenda Murray was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame. This is of great significance. It is rare that women get recognition or proper coverage in sports.Bodybuilding is not mainstream so more exposure is positive victory. Lenda Murray inspired a generation of female bodybuilders. Her look was the paradigm in which to this day is the standard for female bodybuilders are judged. Large shoulders  and a  small waist forming and hour glass figure was the model. Her size was immense and her muscles symmetrical.  She certainly is one of the best. She was the first woman to win the Ms.Olympia contest multiple times. From the 1990’s to the early 2000’s she dominated the sport only losing a few times. Kim Chizevsky  was the first competitor to do so . Laura Creavlle provided stiff competition, but never beat Lenda. Iris Kyle would be triumphant  and carry the torch. That is impressive that few were formidable to her.   Lenda Murray is still involved in the fitness industry.

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Lenda Murray inducted into Sports Hall of Fame

Common Muscle Myths

There are common myths that surround muscle and exercise. Even people who are personal trainers even spread them. These are of course proven false by basic understanding of physiology. Here is a basic outline and counter points to certain questionable claims.

I. If you stop working out your muscles will turn to fat 

  • That is not possible, because muscles will atrophy if not exercised.
  • The weight gain is dependent up certain factors like physical activity level and diet.
  • Muscular hypertrophy through exercise creates microscopic tears, which will repair themselves after a training regimen. That is how the muscle fibers increase in size.

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Laura Creavalle is a former bodybuilder. As seen here her muscles atrophied and are not as massive as they were in her competitive years.

II. Lifting weights makes women masculine 

  • Women will not look masculine from weight lifting due to basic endocrinology.
  • Virilization  only occurs with intense anabolic steroid use.
  • Weights are not a male only exercise item. Today women are using them to improve their figures.
  • Developing upper body strength is a good idea for women. Moving objects such as groceries, bags, and other items makes you less dependent on male assistance.

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Lifting did not make her masculine

III. Women cannot gain strength 

  • Through weight training women can develop strength.
  • Women respond well to resistance training and can see gains in strength, without much muscular hypertrophy.
  • Strength is not male only. Many women can become stronger than many men. However, it is harder for women to build muscle.
  • Some women have a genetic advantage in which their body is mesomorphic. Building muscle would be much easier for them.

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Gillian Kovack  in a before and after photo. Building a body like this requires a strict training regimen and diet.

IV. Bigger Muscles Mean More Strength 

  • This is not always the case. When accounting for absolute strength one has to examine bone mass, ligaments, and tendons.
  • What also has to be considered is the total composition of type II muscle fibers.
  • One can gain muscle size, but not functional strength. Bodybuilders do not train for strength, but size. Powerlifters could care less about appearance and focus on absolute strength.
  • Having more muscle does not make you less flexible. It can actually enhance it.

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The bodybuilder has more muscles, but may not be able to lift as much as the weightlifter.

Common Muscle Myths