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Weight Training for Strength or Size?

Should your training be about muscle size or muscle strength? Low reps, high weight or high reps, low weight? Lifting heavy or moving fast?

The truth is, all of the above. In order to build muscle size and strength leading to overall increased fitness, it requires a combination of both strength and hypertrophy weight training.

Sample Strength: 3x5 Back Squat at 80-85%

When you see this kind of programming, we are strength training. This means we are increasing the amount of force we can produce through our muscles (more weight, faster) by training our CNS to produce more force through your muscles (remember Coach Matt’s article?). We train our motor neurons to fire, resulting in an increased firing rate and muscle fibers, and the ability to lift heavier and move better. Most commonly, strength training is associated with heavier loads, lower volume/rep schemes (cue Coach Dave’s article), and longer rest in between sets (2-5 minutes). Most people use barbell lifts for strength training, but kettlebells, dumbbells, and even body weight movements are also effective.

Sample Hypertrophy: 3x12-15 Superset: Dumbbell Floor Press, Barbell Strict Press, Dumbbell Curls

This type of programming on the other hand is known as hypertrophy training. This type of training focuses on lighter weights, higher reps/volume, and shorter rest between sets (1-3 minutes). Rather than the neural aspects of strength training, hypertrophy training is the process of training muscular tension, breakdown, and repair in order to increase muscle size and fibers. It builds muscle mass and is most commonly associated with body building because of its effect on muscle aesthetics. While this approach to training shapes muscle, it does not necessarily increase strength. Exercises that work an isolated muscle without any type of momentum are used for this kind of training (i.e. hamstring curls, lateral raises, dumbbell fly).

In order to get stronger, we need more muscle, and building muscle requires a progressive overload of strength. Regardless of your goals (getting strong, growing muscles, both), strength training will certainly get you stronger, and without a doubt, will build muscle. Hypertrophy training can help prevent or mediate injury because it is lower impact, lighter weight, and helps support tendon, ligament, and bone strength.

Here at Stealth, our goal is to see you move better, lift heavier, and generally, improve your functional fitness. This is why we make sure to program both types of weight training in addition to grueling metcons so that you don't have to sacrifice size or strength, weight training or cardio. Instead, you will maximize your performance and overall fitness by combining all of the above. So, keep showing up, stay for the finishers, and let's go get some gains!


Coach Erin

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