How to Build Muscle vs. Strength

Strength vs Size
Photo: Pond5

Everyone who goes to the gym regularly has a goal, whether it be to get big, get strong, lose weight, tone up, and so on. But more often than not, the program an individual chooses doesn’t deliver the results he or she hopes to achieve. Training to meet those goals is both an art and a science, and both need some decoding.

Training for Size

Becoming bigger and more muscular has long been an aspiration of many male and female gym-goers, the elite of which are called bodybuilders. These muscular athletes didn’t get that way overnight, nor did they get that way by running on a treadmill five times a week with no other exercise. Moderately heavy weights (60 to 75 percent of their one-rep max) and lots of sets (we’re talking 15 to 20 sets per muscle group) composed of a moderate amount of reps (8 to 12 generally speaking) and short rest periods (typically around 90 seconds) are what help make bodybuilders the size they are.

“The 8 to 12 reps done in a typical size program will give the muscles a good ‘pump,’ but more importantly it will push the muscles to their capacity,” says Andrew Sakhrani, CSCS, a Montreal-based strength and conditioning coach. “But remember, the weight needs to be heavy enough so the lifter can do the 12 reps and no more.” That’s a huge amount of volume for a person. However, doing that many reps forces the body to change. In this case, it increases the cross sectional area of the muscles being worked, and makes them bigger.

Training for Strength

Sure, getting bigger also means getting stronger, but what if the goal is to deadlift a thousand pounds, pull a fire truck, or simply set a new PR on the bench? For these individuals — many of whom are referred to as powerlifters — it’s all about producing an immense amount of force from the legs or arms into a solid surface. Once again, going to spin class won’t increase the amount of weight you can lift. In order to do that, one must lift heavy (85 percent or more of your one-rep max), take long rest periods (three minutes between sets), and still do lots of sets (about five).

Sakhrani says, “Intensity is key to success with this program.” Because these sets are composed of very few reps (two to five), demand is placed on the nervous system to change. Your body adapts to this style of training by getting bigger, creating motor units, which are nerve endings that deliver instructions from your brain telling your muscles to move. The more of them there are, the stronger you become.

Training Programs

Sakhrani emphasizes two key components in his programs. Like any good trainer, first is proper form, and the second is that the programs will not be worthwhile or effective unless the lifter uses weights that will make him or her struggle to complete only the prescribed reps. The first of the following programs is for strength gains, and the other will add some muscle to the lifter’s frame. Both of these programs from Sakhrani are full-body and will produce results, but each will need to be tweaked as you progress.

The Moves:                                      Sets                 Rep Goal                     Rest

Dumbbell Press                                 5                          5                             3 min

Lat Pulldown                                     5                          5                              3 min

Barbell Overhead Press                     5                          5                              3 min

Wide-Grip Pull-Up                             5                          5                              3 min

The Moves:                                      Sets                 Rep Goal                      Rest

Hang Clean                                        4                        12                             90 sec

Back Squat                                         4                        12                             90 sec

Trap Bar Deadlift                                4                        12                             90 sec

Dumbbell Press                                  4                        12                             90 sec

Lat Pulldown                                      4                        12                             90 sec

Dumbbell Shoulder Press                   4                        12                             90 sec

Barbell Skull Crusher                          4                        12                             90 sec

Barbell Curl                                        4                        12                             90 sec

To hear more from Sakhrani, visit his Facebook page, and keep an eye out for new strength programs coming soon to

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