Training for Size VS Training for Strength
What are you training for? Everyone should have some sort of goal in mind that is a driving force behind what they do.
For some, they just want to stay in shape. Others may want to lift heavy weights, others want to be more muscular, and others want to perform well.
Regardless, there are certain ways to train for each desired result. You can’t do the same thing and get them all. We have to consider all of the various energy systems, metabolism, and cellular responses of each form of training.
Two of the most common goals that are seen are training for size or hypertrophy and training for strength.
What is it? This is the process of growing your muscles! The sport of bodybuilding is built on this concept. As we lift weights or train, we are causing micro-damage to the muscles. This causes the body to adapt and grow so that it is more readily prepared for the next session. Over time this causes us to grow in size. Thus, we have gone through the process of hypertrophy.
There is a specific way that you should train for this desired outcome. As a beginner, you may be able to just show up, lift, and gain size. This effect doesn’t last forever, and you eventually have to dial your training in. The body is pretty good at adapting.
When training for hypertrophy, we need to focus on volume. This is going to be the accumulated amount of weight and reps that you force on to the muscles over time. It adds up, kind of like putting money in the bank. However, the amount you do DURING a session matters too. Your rep ranges need to be specific to this desired effect.
The best rep ranges for size are from 8-15 reps at a time. This is a good way to force that muscle to break down and regrow. This also causes a ton of blood to rush to the trained area, which assists in the recovery and growth of said muscle. When damage and recovery are in alignment, good things happen.
As you train, you don’t need insanely heavy weights to make hypertrophy happen. It really depends on the muscle you are working. If you are working on a larger muscle group such as the legs, you can often go heavier. If it is something small like the biceps, there isn’t a huge need to go as heavy as you can. As you get into higher rep ranges, you also increase fatigue, which can lead to you compromising form for more reps. This is why it is advised to keep weight at a moderate level.
How you are lifting the weights also matters. As you lift the weights, the more that you slow down and control the movement, the more damage you cause. It makes even lighter weight more difficult, which is great because you still do good damage to the muscles. It is advised that you avoid swinging or using momentum when looking to grow in size if you want the best effect.
So, when looking to train for size, we need to focus on three things:
– The amount of reps and volume
– The amount of weight
– The way that we lift said weight
If you keep these three consistent, you’ll see some great progress.
Strength is never a weakness. However, there is a certain way to train for it.
If you are a beginner, strength comes fast. The body isn’t used to that kind of stimulus and responds very quickly. This effect quickly levels out, however. From here, you have to begin training a specific way.
Strength training is muscular, but also very neural. Meaning, you have to find a way to stimulate your nervous system. This is done by having what is termed “intensity”. This relates to the amount of weight that you are lifting. An intense workout can put a ton of strain on the whole body, which causes it to become more efficient. The more efficient that it can turn things on, the more weight it can lift.
If you have ever strength trained before, the first time that you try that really heavy lift you may feel shaky. Your body almost doesn’t know what to do. Over time, this becomes second nature, and you don’t even have to think about it. That is because the movements and stabilization become almost like a learned skill for your nervous system. Thus, this allows you to more effectively get stronger.
Now, the muscles do play an integral part as well. The amount of muscle mass that you have can be a determining factor for your strength. Bigger people lift more weight. This is because you have the tissue that is required to support the weight. So, it is recommended that at some point you actually train for hypertrophy to support more strength.
As far as variables that matter, weight (intensity) and reps are the most important. The intensity needs to be there as a stimulus to make the body adapt. However, you can’t just do the same heavy weight forever to get strong. Eventually, this weight will become easy for you. You have to progressively overload the muscles for them to constantly get stronger. Using a concept called linear progression will help the most. With this concept you are just increasing your intensity in a linear fashion over time. If you squatted 135lbs one week, you would ideally use 145lbs the next week to drive adaptation. Next are the reps. So, as you strength train you only need to use rep schemes of 3-5 reps. This challenges the proper energy systems of the body. This also allows for your to do them with proper form. Once you begin to go heavy and use a high rep range, form can tend to break down. We always want to be safe!
Different training goals need different forms of training. So, depending on your goals you need to reflect that in how you train.
There are two main goals that are pretty common between individuals; hypertrophy and strength.
Hypertrophy training needs a focus on the volume, weight, and form. The stimulus that is needed is the muscle damage that will cause the muscle to adapt and grow. The weight doesn’t need to be heavy for this sort of training, there just needs to be purpose behind how you are lifting the said weight.
When training for strength the difference is the amount of weight as well as the amount of reps. As you train for strength, you need to be lifting moderately heavy and working on low rep ranges. This will cause the necessary adaptions to occur, making the body stronger.