Gaining strength and building muscle does not usually go together – at least if you are a slightly more experienced lifter. Sure beginners will be able to increase the amount of weight they lift and build muscle to begin with due to their bodies not being used to weight training, but when you are more experienced you hit a barrier of whether or not you want to train for strength or build muscle mass. This is basically the dividend between power lifters and bodybuilders. This annoyed me a little as I love to build muscle and see the results of my hard work in an aesthetically pleasing way – but at the same time – nothing beats the feeling of achieving a new 1 rep max and just generally lifting some heavy ass weights. So I decided to try and create a workout plan which could help me gain strength and build muscle at the same time.
Some people may still not understand why gaining strength whilst building muscle at the same time is difficult – surely just lifting weights is enough? Unfortunately things are not so simple. The difference between these two goals are the training styles and rep ranges for exercises. Generally for gaining strength, workouts consist of the 4 main compound lifts – Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat and Military Press – with very little if any isolation exercises. These workouts will be performed of sets with rep ranges generally between 1 and 6 reps and of course include the use of very heavy weights. The 5X5 strength program is a popular routine for getting stronger (essentially 5 sets for 5 reps, you get the drift). Gaining muscle involves a whole different training style. To build muscle you need to put your muscle through enough tension to the point that the muscle fibers actually tear, and it is when your muscle fibers repair that your body panics and thinks “hmm maybe I need more muscle fibers to stop this happening again” and the muscle size increases. This is called hypertrophy. For your muscles to reach the point of hypertrophy you usually should do work sets of between 8-12 reps, some people even go beyond and maybe hit 15, even 20 reps. With this type of workout style isolation exercises tend to be used more often as you are trying to sculpt each muscle in your body.
So on my journey to find a way in which I can get the best of both worlds I thought and tried a few different styles to find out what worked best. I originally thought about having particular days throughout the week set for strength, and then other days set for muscle building training. This sounded good at the time but whilst I was trialing this it felt like my muscles were not getting the amount of required training in order for them to still grow as only a couple of days during the week were used for reaching a state of hypertrophy. After a few other ideas, I finally found what I think is the best way to get stronger whilst building muscle – and it is probably one of the most simplest things ever.
The simple program consisted of each workout starting with one of the compound exercises which relates to the particular body part I am training that day, and the aim is to lift heavy. So for example if it was chest day I would begin my workout with the standard flat barbell bench press, leg day I would start with squats – and I would be aiming to get 5 sets with reps ranging from 1-6 reps. Of course I was lifting the heaviest weights I could at these rep ranges whilst still maintaining good form. This was all that formed my strength training. I would then move on afterwards to exercises in the aim to reach hypertrophy in my muscles to promote the muscles to grow. So I would maybe then move on to do include dumbbell bench press, then decline and then some fly’s – all for 3 sets at 10 reps. And it was that simple.
I started doing this plan coming from only lifting primarily for muscle growth and had not trained strength in a while. No new 1 rep max’s achieved for too long. From beginning this workout plan week upon week I was achieving new 1 rep maximums – with my deadlift increasing each week for 3 weeks straight at one point. It felt great moving around some big weights and the best of it was that I was still getting the burn I needed for my muscles to grow. Very simple – yet very effective.
Here is an example plan. This of course is just a guideline and you can alter this to better suit yourself:
|Chest and Triceps||Sets||Reps|
|Flat Barbell Bench Press||5||5|
|Incline Dumbbell Bench||3||10|
|Decline Dumbbell Bench||3||10|
|Back and Biceps||Sets||Reps|
|Low Row (cable)||3||10|
|Close Grip Pullups||3||10|
|Shoulders and Abs||Sets||Reps|
|Arnold Dumbbell Press||3||10|
|Real Delt Fly’s||4||12|
|Front Barbell Raises||3||10|
|Weighted Leg Raises||3||10|
|Donkey Calf Raises||2||12|
So that is it. If you take this concept and fine tune it to suit you, you will soon see great results and reek the benefits of both strength and building muscle mass. Remember to share this with your friends!
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