In weight training, building for both size and strength has been the major goal of many. While there are several weight training workouts that train both aspects, as you move on to a more advanced level, you will find that these two have distinct characteristics that merit different training regimen.
Strength training focuses on increasing the amount of force that you will be producing. Size training focuses on building a larger mass or cross-sectional dimension in your muscles. In strength training, your goal is to improve your central nervous system in order for it to be more efficient in recruiting your motor units for the benefit of your muscles. In size training, your goal is to build your muscles, literally. This means that you will be physiologically improving your bones, joints, tissues, along with your muscles.
When training your muscles, you are putting them in a process that gives them the opportunity to adapt to the environment that you will be subjecting them. By imposing stress to your muscles, your body will respond in the way that it is best suited to survive, which is its main instinct. Through the stresses of training, you will be molding and shaping your body into your desired form or to your desired capabilities, which are beyond what your body currently is. By constantly training it, you will be enforcing the idea to your body that it should meet the demands imposed to it.
While strength training and size training have significant connections, it is also important to understand the differences that make up both regimens. By identifying these differences, it will be easier for you to make a correlation and become more efficient in building and strengthening your body through physical communication.
The main difference between training for size and training for strength is the amount of volume that you will be training your muscles on. This pertains to the number of reps and sets that you will be doing within a workout. With the higher reps and sets, you will have a higher training volume. Hypertrophy or size building requires a higher training volume compared to strength training.
In hypertrophy, the amount of stress that you will impose to your muscles comes from the amount of weight that you will be lifting. Does that mean that you will be eliminating the weight in order to do so? Not really. In fact, you will still be using heavy weights to lift. But since you need more sets and more reps to build size, you will be lifting lighter weight compared to strength training. With the proper amount of load and amount of volume, it will be translated to muscle stress which promotes muscle growth.
In terms of reps, you should be able to perform around these figures- five reps of four sets, five reps of five sets and ultimately, six reps of six sets. In terms of load, you should be able to work around 70 to 85 percent of your maximum load. During your workout, you should be able to do true sets, one wherein you can perform in a proper form within the prescribed amount of reps. Being able to do more than 36 reps means that you are lifting less than what is ideal for size training. However, doing less than 20 reps also means that you are lifting a load too heavy for building size.
In between reps and sets, you should incorporate rest. In building your size, you need for stress to accumulate for it to promote muscle growth. By resting for around two minutes in between sets, you can give time for your muscles to accumulate stress. This resting period also gives you with enough recovery time so you can continue doing the succeeding sets within the ideal weight load.
When doing assistance exercises for hypertrophy, your goal is to perform 30 to 50 reps per exercise, with little to no rests in between. You will be doing assistance exercises to supplement your lifts and to improve your weak points. It usually comes after barbell lifts and is composed of around three to five multi-joint assistance exercises.
Compared to hypertrophy, strength training requires lesser training volume. This means that you will be working on lesser reps with heavier weights. In strength training, you will be working with loads of around 80 to 90 percent of your maximum load capacity. The total number of reps will be at 10 to 20. The heavier the load, the lesser the number of reps will be. In one set, you will only be doing two to four reps. But as you progress to 90 percent load, your reps per set will be lowered down to one to two reps.
Compared to the two-minute rests in hypertrophy training, you will need around five-minute breaks in between strength training lifts. This is because heavier lifts are more neurologically demanding and your CNS requires more rest compared to your muscle tissues. In assistance exercises after your main lifts, you will need around 15 to 25 rep range in total and will be working with loads of 70 to 80 percent. You would want to reduce your loads to avoid overtraining your muscles. Just like in hypertrophy, you need assistance exercises to improve on your weak points.
When you are just starting out, strength and size training seems to be the same. This happens because putting stress on your body with any type of combination will already be sufficient to start developing both strength and mass. However, the difference starts to become more evident when you have already developed a significant amount of strength. At this point, you can already identify what kind of stress you will be imposing to your body depending on your desired goals. That said, putting strength training first can serve as your foundational training whether you decide to train for size or for strength later on. Since you need to lift around 70 to 85 percent of your maximum load to achieve your hypertrophy goals, you will still need sufficient amount of strength to do this.