There has been a lot
of discussion lately about the relationship between strength and
size, with many including myself saying that they have on some
workouts gained strength but not size.
Recently, I have been
again examining the success stories of some individuals, and one
thing has come clear to me: one must have a very large increase
in strength to obtain a relatively small increase in mass. From
analysis of such stories that I have read, it appears that one
must at least double one's strength in major compound movements
to achieve a 20 pound mass gain--assuming that one has the
genetics to gain appreciable mass.
Previous to examining
such details, I thought otherwise, that rather small increases in
strength should result in marked increases in mass. Consequently,
I have made the mistake of improperly evaluating some of my past
routines. I think others may be doing the same.
For example, Andrew Shortt (a member of IART) noted that he increased his dips from
bodyweight plus 35 pounds to bodyweight plus 85 pounds with no
noticeable increase in mass. Some may think, "wow, he more
than doubled his strenth but had no mass increase...that proves
that training for strength will not produce mass increases."
However, there are at least two problems with making such a
First, nothing was
said about repetition range, TUL (IART designation for rep speed), or for that matter, and perhaps most
importantly, strictness of exercise form. I'm not saying that
this is necessarily the case with Andrew, just this: If you add
50 pounds to your dips but perform one-third as many reps, or
perform the reps twice as fast, or use half the range of motion,
you aren't manifesting a true strength increase. In haste to
increase strength, many will pile on the plates, but
simlutaneously increase the speed or movement and/or reduce the
range of motion, and and this creates the illusion of increased
strength. But of course mass does not follow, since the "gain"
is simply due to reducing the TUL and/or the range of motion.
increase is not as great as it seems (i.e. it does not represent
a doubling of strength). Dips are a bodyweight + plates exercise.
Thus, if Joe Trainee weighs the average 155 pounds and starts
doing dips with 35 pounds, i.e. 190 total pounds resistance, and
then works up to using 85 pounds for the same TUL and with the
same range of motion, but with no change in body weight, i.e. 240
total pounds resistance, the actual % increase in resistance used
is only 26% (i.e. 240 is only 126% of 190). Thus his increase in
strength is not so great after all. This would be like increasing
your bench press from 100 pounds to 126 pounds.
The body is
fundmentally economical and resistant to adding lean mass. If
called on to increase strength, it will always try to get the
most strength increase possible from as little lean mass increase
as possible. If it can increase strength without adding mass, it
will. Thus, one must produce quite large percentage increases in
strength to increase mass.
Previously I have
stated that I have been on programs that resulted in strength
increases, but no mass increases. However, with my new
perspective, I have re-evaluated those experiences. In every
case, the noted strength gain was rather small, on the order of
15%. I gave up on some good productive programs prematurely,
because I had the unreasonable expectation that those small gains
in strength should have resulted in marked lean mass gains. In
fact, such gains probably were not significant enough to make a
demand for the increased size I am after.
My point: If you are
after size, you must train for strength, and you must be patient--you
are going to have to get awfully strong to achieve a 20 pound
increase in lean mass. I mean, you probably have to double or
triple your current strength to realize a 10 to 20 pound lean
This is one place
where I think Stuart McRobert has some valuable input. He
suggests as a guideline that a genetically average 5'9" guy
must work up to squatting 300 x 15, benching 260 x 6, deadlifting
380 x 15, and doing pulldowns with 260 for 6, all using a 3/3
cadence, to produce a 190 pound, 90% lean physique (again,
assuming that the genes for some lean mass accrual are there).
I'm not saying these figures are written in stone, but I do think
that these are reasonable. If you achieve these goals and you
don't get bigger than 90% of the trainees in most gyms, you
probably aren't genetically capable of gaining much mass. On the
other hand, if you aren't anywhere near these goals, it may very
well be innappropriate and too early to conclude that increasing
your strength won't/doesn't produce the size gains you are after.
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