Size vs Strength Training

Training for strength vs. size.

I’ll start off this article  with a few stories from the gym where I trained in the 90’s.

I remember becoming friends with several of my fellow gym patrons. One of the younger trainees was about my height, but our physiques looked nothing alike. He was built like a beanpole—he didn’t look like he’d ever seen the inside of a gym. But I was shocked to learn how strong he was. He could train with about the same weight I used on the bench press (over 300 lb.). It was quite something to see this skinny guy put three plates on each side of the bar. It kind of reminds me of this video (a 140 lb guy using 100 lb dumbbells):

One night I met someone who was just the opposite. This guy had the biggest arms I’d ever seen on a natural trainee—17 or 18 inches. But he wasn’t strong at all—his big arms were all for show.

Franco had strength and size

Why do I bring up these examples? Well, I want to talk about training for strength vs size. I’ve already written about the best rep range for gaining muscle and losing fat. But you may have this question: “Should I train for size or strength?” Here’s my answer—a new trainee should be training for both.

Here’s what I mean: the two examples I’ve just given (the gym stories) are relatively rare genetic extremes. They are, in fact, the only two guys like that I’ve ever met (in 20 years of training).  Generally speaking, the biggest guys are also going to be the strongest guys. This is good news, because most of us want to look strong and be strong.

For beginner trainees or “hardgainers” I’d recommend a decent program like Vince Delmonte’s No Nonsense Muscle Building.

You can start to experiment with different rep ranges once you’ve been training for a year or two and have built your foundation:

*High reps–this can be especially effective for building size on your legs.  Another option for intermediate/advanced trainees who want to build mass would be a program like  MI40X.

*You can also experiment with periodization once you stop making linear strength gains.


I’d recommend new trainees do a sensible program designed to increase size and strength (especially considering this is what most of you want anyway).   You can experiment with training methods more geared towards specific goals once you’ve been training for a year or two.

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