Why We Train for Strength to Achieve Mass Gain (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a 2 part series.  For part 1, click here!

By now you’ve heard my sermon on training for strength.  I generally talk down on the “bodybuilding” approach; I passionately believe that the majority of us should be training for strength, not strictly for mass gain and appearance.  See my post on training like an athlete; it is one of my favorites and I bet it will change how you look at your training regimen.  However…

Bodybuilding has it’s place.  For bodybuilders (and I mean people who are competing or have aspirations to compete), it’s the logical, standard approach.  And it may even work for the average Joe (which is the majority of the people in the gym, whether or not you want to admit it) for a little while…but it will never work permanently; just like my approach for training for strength won’t either.

**Note** If you aren’t familiar with the concept of linear periodization, google it and make yourself smarter.  It is the foundational rule of strength training and one that everyone should know.strength training

Anyhow, back to this post.

Bodybuilders stop here.  Read my post on training like an athlete and part 1 of this series, and work those styles into your regimen when you need to switch it up.  I can guarantee it will work wonders for you.

Now, average Joes, gym rats, and about 90% of the gym population, LISTEN UP!  This post should really hit home for you.  You should be doing the direct opposite of my bodybuilding friends; aim to increase your base strength and mix in the bodybuilding only as a short period of your overall routine.

Just using a bodybuilding approach is great for beginners;  if you’ve never picked up a weight before, I bet you can make some serious gains quick.  I am a prime example of that.  Using a high volume, body part split routine I gained 40lbs in just over 4 months as a rookie.

But I quickly hit a plateau.  Boom!  My gains came to a screeching halt.

Now I’ve completely reversed my training style.  Now the bodybuilding/hypertrophy period of my training is relatively short compared to my strength period (roughly only 3-4 months of the whole year).  That means that about 75% of the year I’m training strictly to get stronger, while bodybuilding and time off make up the remaining 25%.  A lot of times I’ll work in a bodybuilding type movement into my daily workouts, while sill doing a majority of compound type strength exercises in low rep ranges.

This approach has served me and my training partners well; it allows you to make significant and systematic strength gains, while allowing you to put mass on your frame without getting that “puffy look” that a lot of guys get from doing too much volume.

You can also use this style to bring up your weaknesses and help improve your big lifts.

Lets say I want to add some weight to my bench press; taking a bodybuilding approach and doing some direct triceps work can help build my synergist muscles and help me put up bigger numbers.  My deadlift is slacking?  Time to attack the hamstrings.  Get the idea?

You may also hit a time in your training where your actual size prohibits you from advancing your strength gains.  I’ve reached sticking points to where I needed to get physically bigger for me to achieve the strength goals I had.  I only weigh 175lbs, but I routinely squat over 400lbs.  Not a bad feat, but I have reached a limit to where my body just simply cannot handle the load I put onto it.

Powerlifters often talk about “eating past their sticking points”, meaning they simply try to gain weight to improve their lifting ability.  Using the bodybuilding approach for part of your training regimen to concentrate strictly on mass gain can help you get stronger.  Get bigger to get stronger.

strength trainingBottom Line

Bodybuilding is a great supplemental training style to add to your regimen.  But do not do it all the time if you are not an aspiring competitor!

Add some bodybuilding to your daily strength workouts, and you can do a few months of bodybuilding per year to help bring your mass gains up to par if you are not happy with your progress.  Use bodybuilding to bring up your weaknesses and synergistic muscles that will help you in your big lifts like the bench press or deadlift.

Mass gain from bodybuilding will also help you get stronger in the long run by making your body more capable of handling huge weights.

Just remember, the stronger you are, the better off you’ll be.  Even if you want the bodybuilder look, the stronger you are, the more weight you can use, the bigger you will get!


— Tank


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