Can you train for both strength and size?

Short answer? YES.

You can train for both strength and size by manipulating exercise selection, volume, and nutrition.

But like everything else in life, deciding on getting a lot of things at once definitely has some tradeoffs.

If you want really good grades and excellent social life, then you have to sacrifice some time for your family or yourself.

If you want to make money, and do it in a short amount of time, then you have to sacrifice some of your time with friends and keep on grinding.

So, if you want to get both strength and size FAST, then guess what? You have to sacrifice your abs.

I’m serious. Just ask any powerlifter, strongman, or even the strong dudes in your gym.

You have to supply your body with the proper amount of calories if you want to recover faster in the gym.

And for quick size and strength results, you have to be in a caloric surplus.

In short, that’s just “bulking up.”

But here’s a little bit of good news.

If you don’t want to sacrifice your hard-earned abs, then you might want to start a lean bulk, or just choose to prioritize size over strength or vice versa.

You’ll still lose a little bit of leanness, but it’s not going to make you a fatfuck overnight.

The fact of the matter is, how much you eat matters for strength and size.

There’s this old adage to “Eat BIG to get BIG.” I partially disagree.

You don’t have to stuff yourself with food and eat everything in plain sight.

But to give the benefit of the doubt, I think they gave this advice to make people just “eat more” to get size and strength results fast–no matter if they lost their abs or not.

Okay, now let’s see what training for each one looks like.

What training for strength looks like

If you’re, let’s say, training for a bigger squat, (notice that I said “bigger squat”, not necessarily “bigger legs”) then you have to use what we call assistance exercises to improve the squat.

What are those?

  • Front squats
  • Low bar squats
  • Pause squats

And you have to do lower reps, with longer rest intervals.

These 3 are by far the most specific exercises to the squat because they share almost the same movement pattern.

Why different exercises? Well, for the most part, they target muscular weaknesses that limit you from doing more weight on the regular squat.

For example, Front squats target the upper back erectors and the quadriceps more.

Would that help you squat more? Most of the time, yes!

Pause squats and Low bar squats target the glutes and hamstrings more.

Would that help you squat more? Well, it should!

Now, when you go back to regular squatting and notice that you lift more weight after doing a lot of front squats last week, then that means you better do front squats more often.

That’s the beauty of training for strength. There’s a tight feedback loop that allows you to spot what works FAST.

As with “size training”, you don’t really get this tight feedback loop fast.

And I think that’s common sense–it takes a lot more time to notice size gains than strength gains.

What training for size looks like

Now, here’s what training for size looks like.

Expect to have a LOT of volume (sets and reps) and shorter rest intervals.

The higher number of reps allow you to put in a lot more work than if you just used low reps. And it makes total sense.

If you can lift 200lbs for 3 reps, 200lbsx3=600lbs of volume.

Now, if you lessen the weight a little bit, say, 150lbs and do it for 10 reps, you do 150lbsx10=1500lbs of volume.

Going back to what we mentioned earlier, since Volume is the key driver to muscle growth, then 150lbsx10 is about TWICE as better than 200lbsx3 when it comes to size.

Of course, there’s some science that shows a workaround, but just a little disclaimer: I’m just showing you a general idea of what a typical hypertrophy program would look like.

Now, that said, here’s some sample exercises in a Full-Body setup:

  • Walking lunges 3 sets of 12 reps per leg
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Cable Rows 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Overhead press 2 sets of 12 reps
  • Lateral Raises 4 sets of 10 reps

Notice how the program has almost NO resemblance to the “big lifts” we’re talking about earlier? (except the overhead press, of course)

And look! There’s a freaking lateral raise, an ISOLATION exercise.

Isolation is NOT required for strength, but it sure is for hypertrophy training.

Do you get the idea now?

Training for size basically allows you to target specific muscle groups more than just training to improve specific lifts.

Lateral raises won’t help your overhead press tremendously, don’t you think?

But it’s an essential part of an aesthetics-focused routine.

Therefore, if you want to make some muscles grow faster, then you should definitely add some isolation exercises here and there.

Now that you get both sides, you might be thinking:

“But I WANT BOTH.”

You greedy bastard. Alright, alright.

Let’s answer the question that kept lingering inside your head since the start of this article. Geez.

How to Train for Both Strength and Size

Well, it’s as simple as mixing what works in both types of training!

What works in strength training? Heavy, compound lifts that target more of your muscles.

I’m talking good ol’ Bench Presses, Pullups, Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Press.

What works in training for size? Moderate to high reps, of exercise that’s ultra-targeted to specific muscles.

The compound lifts still work here, that’s good news!

But then add in some lateral raises, upright rows to shoulder height, rope pullovers, and you’re going to work the hell out of your muscles and get them huge!

Here’s a pro tip: If you want to easily look bigger in a shirt (thus, even without a shirt), then get a bigger yoke.

Yoke = Shoulders, Traps, Neck.

Yes, train your goddamn neck. Nobody even trains their necks!

But here’s the deal. Take a look at this post below (MUCH credits to Alex from Alphadestiny for popularizing Neck training)

And take a look at Jeff Nippard’s transformation. It’s the real deal.

Jeff was always HUGE, but when he’s wearing a shirt and you talk to him face to face, he just looks not that impressive.

But with a bigger neck, here’s what he looked like:

See the difference?

Okay, I’m kinda getting off the point here. Let’s get back to the topic!

First off, you want to choose your Strength-Focused Exercises.

Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Press, Pullups, Barbell Rows.

These will be your “main lifts.” You’ll do these with low reps, low volume, say 3 sets of 5.

Then, choose some Hypertrophy-Focused Exercises that target the same muscles as your “main lifts.” You’ll do these with higher volume, say 3 sets of 12.

They’re either variations of main lifts, or isolation exercises.

This will allow you to address your weaknesses and start building muscle faster in the areas that you want.

So, for your legs, you want a Squat-Leg Extension combination.

For your shoulders, you want an Overhead Press-Lateral Raise combination. You can even do Overhead Press-Dumbbell Press combination for more specificity.

The point is, when choosing your “strength” exercises, always focus on the traditional lifts.

When choosing your “hypertrophy” exercises, you focus on the lifts that have more range of motion, “gives more burn”, or stretches your muscles under load.

That’s just at the top of my head, but the point is, for your “hypertrophy” exercises, you must choose either variations that target certain muscle groups better, or choose an isolation (single-joint) exercise to go with it.

Now, to actually build size, there’s actually a minimum volume threshold that we must meet.

According to Dr. Bubbs, the minimum number of sets that we should do to attain maximum growth with the least effort is found to be 10 sets per week.

YEP. ONLY 10 SETS.

Of course, you can always do more, but at least now you have a basic guideline to how many sets you must do per week. 

Hmm, maybe I should do another article about “how many sets/reps”. Leave a comment down below if you’d like to see one!

Anyway, that’s about it.

As a bonus, I’ll give you a sample weekly full-body program that you can follow if you’re just starting out on this journey. (Congratulations for taking action!)

Monday:

  • Squats 3×5
  • Bench Press 3×5
  • Cable Rows 3×12-15
  • Lateral raises 3×12

Wednesday:

  • Front squats 3×8
  • Overhead Press 3×6-8
  • Pec deck 4×12-15
  • Lat pulldowns/Pullups 3×8
  • Cable pushdowns 3×12-15

Friday:

  • Walking Lunges 3×12 per leg
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 3×8-12
  • Deadlifts 3×5 (submaximal weight)
  • Face pulls 3×15-20
  • Bicep curls 3×12-15

“3×10” means “3 sets of 10” if you’re not familiar about it.

Now, after a single set, rest 3 minutes for exercises 5 reps and below, and 1 to 1.5 minutes for those 6 reps and above.

That’s it! I think it’s well-balanced for every beginner wanting to start lifting weights.

But make sure you’re always executing each rep with proper form!

I’m not liable for any injuries or damage that may happen, so please educate yourself first or even hire a coach so you can safely do training.

Eventually, you’ll be able to lift on your own.

What’s next? Take action!

Try the program I gave you right away!

Before you leave, I’ll ask you just one question:

What’s your biggest takeaway from this article?

Let me know in the comments! 🙂

I’ll see you in my other articles. Get strong, geeks!

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