Why Is Your Skinny Friend So Strong?

Have you ever noticed that in every group of friends, there is always that one skinny guy or girl that seems to be way stronger than they look? They’re always underestimated when it comes to strength and surprise everybody when they open the jar that nobody could open, lift a heavy object, or win every time they arm wrestle. Could it be that their skinny look is only a facade to hide how strong they are? Is your friend secretly an alien in the form of a human? Or in much simpler words, why is your skinny friend so strong?

The reason some skinny people are so strong is mostly due to genetics, muscle-to-fat ratio, height, and the fact that they have more fast-twitch muscle fibers which are responsible for providing bigger and more powerful forces. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the main reasons why your skinny friend is so strong and if skinny always means weak.

Why is Your Skinny Friend So Strong?

why is your skinny friend so strong

In order to answer this question, I’ll talk about my own personal experience. As I mentioned in the beginning, in every single friend group, you always find a skinny individual that seems to be so strong. In my case, I was that particular guy. 

Even though I was extremely skinny compared to my height (I was 15, 5 foot 9 tall, and weighed about 120 pounds), I was surprisingly above-average when it came to strength. I remember that I could always lift heavy objects with ease while my bigger friends struggled with them, open tight jars and containers, and beat everyone whenever I arm-wrestled (well, not everyone, everyone has limits). 

I remember I did some research back then to find out why I was strong even though I was skinny and learned a lot of things which I’ll share in this post. And no, I wasn’t a secret spy agent or an alien disguised as a human, the main reason behind my high strength is the fact that I was simply blessed genetic-wise, I was more neuromuscularly efficient, I had more lean muscles, my height also played a role in it, and there were some other minor factors.

The Main Reasons Why Your Skinny Friend Is Strong

Here is everything you need to know about these factors:


This is the main factor that controls everything in our body. This includes height, metabolism, the color of our eyes, and most importantly, how strong we are. This strength is determined by the amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers which is just a fancy way of referring to muscles that control power (commonly known as white fibers). These muscles are anaerobic (don’t require oxygen) and can be used for only a short period of time since they get tired quickly. In other words, someone with more fast-twitch muscle fibers will inevitably be stronger than a normal person even though he’s skinny. 

And these “power muscles” are essentially controlled by genetics and cannot be increased. But with training, you can increase their engagement and how efficiently they can be recruited. 

Neuromuscular Efficiency

Again, the term “Neuromuscular Efficiency” is just a fancy way of saying how efficient and capable your muscles are at activating and producing power. In other words, people who can produce greater muscle force while using a lower amount of muscle fibers (thus, appearing skinny) are more “neuromuscularly efficient”. This may sound confusing but the most important thing that you need to understand is that skinny people that are strong can produce and activate force without using a lot of muscles. 

Muscle-to-Fat Ratio

If we compare a skinny person with a fat one, the latter will logically appear bigger, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be stronger because size doesn’t always equal strength and I’ll explain why. 

What we did right now is compare “the appearance” of a skinny and fat person. What if I told you to compare “the amount of muscle mass” in both these individuals? In this case, we’ll have a whole different scenario because, most of the time, the amount of muscle mass underneath the layer of fat on an overweight person isn’t that much and it’s probably the same–if not less–than that of a skinny person. Fat doesn’t take part in the amount of power that you’re producing (unless it’s fighting) which is one of the reasons why a skinny person is a lot stronger than bigger people. 


Height also plays a role when it comes to strength and for me, it was the main reason (after genetics) behind my power since I was taller than most of my friends. I had somewhat of a bigger frame and bigger bones that elevated my strength a little bit. 

To put this into perspective, if you compare two people with the same amount of muscle mass but at different heights, the taller person will logically have more muscle mass since he has a bigger frame and more room for the muscles to sit on, and thus, be stronger.

Other Factors

There are also some other minor factors that could be behind the high strength of skinny people. There are some training techniques that allow you to gain strength without putting on too much size like plyometrics, sprints and drills, contrast training, and so on.

Age can also be a determining factor when it comes to strength since a young skinny person will naturally be much stronger than an old bigger one. 

And last but not least, there are some performance-boosting drugs and supplements that increase strength without bulking up so the user appears skinny while being super strong.


As you can see, there are many determining factors when it comes to strength and it’s not always influenced by sheer size. Even skinny people can be incredibly strong which is why you should never judge a book by its cover. We learned that genetics will always be the main factor that controls strength, as well as neuromuscular efficiency, muscle-to-fat ratio, height, training techniques, age, and some performance-boosting drugs.

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