The Strength and Size Workout
If you’re like me, then you bounce between two extremes: I want to get big! You stock up on plenty of food. You’re squatting your butt off. You’re measuring your biceps everyday. But It isn’t long till those higher rep ranges wear off and you’re starting to worry about your strength levels. I just need to focus on adding more weight to bar. The last thing you want to be is “all show and no go.” Every time you start to make some progress you end up getting in your own way and starting all over again.
But what if I could tell you that you could have it both? Want a size workout? Here you go. How about a strength workout? We can do that too.
This middle ground is what we call functional hypertrophy, or building muscle mass where it counts. A lot of athletes benefit from training in this zone. Now, this approach doesn’t mean you’ll set powerlifting records. It also won’t allow you to step on a bodybuilding stage. But it allows a blending of both as you’ll pile on muscle that carries over into real world activities. For those who can’t seem to decide on what to do (size or strength) it offers a chance for your OCD to simmer down while you can stay on a consistent program. B
The two best ways to train for size and strength offer a different approach than normal programs use. While 4 sets of 10 reps will add muscle to your arms, and 3 sets of 3 will certainly get you stronger, we need a more customized approach. We can do this by focusing on two distinct training methods:
- The Pause. One of the best ways to train in this functional hypertrophy zone is to add a pause in the bottom, or weakest position in a lift. So instead of just dropping down into a squat you’re hanging out there in the bottom for one to three seconds. You can use this method with your front squat, back squat, bench press, biceps curl….the list goes on and on. The goal is to completely pause for at least one second and a maximum of five seconds. The longer you pause, the lower the reps need to be. Five seconds is a tad extreme though, so I’d recommend a two second pause as your best bet.
This brief stop in movement allows your body to tap into higher threshold motor units. A motor unit controls your muscle fibers, and “higher threshold” units are responsible for feats of strength and power. They’re also the ones that control the muscles that give the body that dense look. There’s a reason sprinters look the way they do. Simply just lifting weights doesn’t mean you’ll get the body you want.
- The rep range. While bodybuilders mainly train between 6 to 20 reps and powerlifters stick with rep ranges of 5 or less, once again our size/strength program requires a unique take on things. You don’t want your reps to go above 8 and ideally, below 6. But some rules were meant to be broken. The more sets you do the lower your rep range can go, so you can even gain size on sets of 4-6 reps. A program could look like this:
Weeks 1- 3: 4 x 6-8, 3-1-1-0 (with a one second pause in the bottom)
Weeks 4-6: 6 x 4-6, 2-2-1-0 (with a two second pause in the bottom).
Think you can’t train for size and strength at the same time? Think again. Simply dropping the reps a bit and adding in some pause work can do wonders for your strength levels, and it will also add some muscle as well. Do the hard work and you’ll be “all show and go” in no time.