Do Bigger and Stronger Muscles Impair Athletic Performance?

STACK expert Lee Boyce explains why increasing strength and size will not impair performance if you workout like an athlete and not a body builder.

Strong Back

Athletes hit the weight room to gain advantages on the playing field or court. Sometimes they need to put on weight for their position or role; other times they need to become as explosive as possible. There are many overlaps, but there are also many distinctions. Here are the true differences (and similarities) between size training and strength training. (Learn how to gain muscle faster.)

Athletes often jump to the conclusion that bulking up will slow them down. Let's be honest—this statement is a tad farfetched. Adding muscle mass won't slow you down. What will slow you down is adding muscle that is tight and inflexible, unconditioned and covered with a thick layer of body fat.

If more muscle slowed you down, we would see more notable differences in the 40-Yard Dash times of wide receivers and defensive backs versus those of running backs. Despite being on average three inches shorter and 15 pounds heavier, running backs are generally faster.

My point is that muscle can assist you in becoming faster and stronger. However, you need to avoid some pitfalls that can cause your muscles to impair your performance. Here's how:

  • Improve tissue quality by foam rolling (discover the benefits of foam rolling) and stretching before and during workouts, and on off days
  • Avoid performing bodybuilding-style movements that isolate a single muscle; focus instead on multi-joint movements that engage your muscles the way they are used in your sport
  • Increase your daily caloric intake, especially protein; this will increase muscle and limit body fat
  • Perform sets of six or fewer reps to increase strength

Above all, the key to a successful crossover from training to competition is to practice your sport. If you're spending the majority of your training time practicing your skills, you won't have to avoid anything in the weight room for fear it won't help you on the field or court.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock