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Differences Between Training for Size and for Strength

Yes, there are.

What are the differences between training for size and for strength? Are there any? Yes!

Although very similar, training for size is different than training for strength. The end result is very different. Although when training very hard you will get bigger and get stronger, you can focus on one rather than the other depending on your goals. And that is what Mike Israetel is here to elucidate.

Dr Mike Israetel has a PhD in Sport Physiology and is the co-founder of Renaissance Periodization, a YouTube channel focused on hypertrophy. He is the person many bodybuilders turn to when it comes to anything related to building muscle.

He shared a few key differences between training for size and for strength. Check it out.

Differences Between Training for Size and for StrengthSource: Pixabay

Differences Between Training for Size and for Strength

Here are the differences between training for size and for strength depending on each category.

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  • 3-6 rep range for strength
  • 5-30 rep range for hypertrophy

Volume

When it comes to volume, what are the differences between training for size and for strength?

Training for strength is more fatiguing per set. Hypertrophy training does not require as high preparedness, meaning just grinding through is fine.

Training for size sees higher stimuli with higher volumes than strength training does.

In reality you cannot do both training for strength and for size optimally at the same time.

Progression

This is where the differences between training for size and for strength are bigger.

When training for strength, progression in load is everything, while in volume is not a must-do.

However, for hypertrophy purposes load progression works very well, but the other shouldn’t be discarded either.

In simpler terms, if you ask yourself if you should add 15lbs to the barbell and no extra sets, or add 5 pounds to the bar and 1 set next week, the answer is:

  • For strength, add 15 pounds
  • For strength, add an extra set and increase the weight load slightly

Frequency

Israetel explains that for hypertrophy gains, you mostly need local muscles to heal between sessions. For strength purposes, stimulative sessions need fuller recovery.

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Exercise Selection

What about exercise selection? What are the differences between training for size and for strength?

Strength training is defined by a set of exercises, usually. This means training the movement or similar ones a lot, and other exercises less. Think of “increasing my squat” instead of “stronger legs.” Strength training is not ideal for single-joint and machine movements.

Training for size thrives on intra-week exercise variation. Barbell squats alone will not get you bigger legs, you need to add variation. In the same way, walking lunges won’t give you a strength boost, but will help you get bigger legs.

How to Get The Best of Both

Is it possible to try and reap the benefits of both training for size and for strength? You definitely can.

  • Choose more compound movements, free-weight exercises
  • Perform 3-6 rep range strength-focused exercises at the beginning of your sessions
  • Do accessories that are still as strength-benefitting as possible in the 6-12 rep range later in the session
  • Begin at your hypertrophy minimum effective volume and stay close to it
  • Progress mostly in load week, rarely on set numbers

Ideally, you should phase-potentiate doing 2-3 mesos of hypertrophy training (6-15 rep range), 2-3 mesos of strength training (3-6 rep range) and take a 1-3 week active recovery phase after the strength phase. Then repeat.

And that was Dr Mike Israetel’s explanation about the differences between training for size and for strength. For a more in-depth clarification, click on the video below.

VIDEO – Differences Between Training for Size and for Strength

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