Strength VS Size: Part 1, What’s the Difference? - Chaos and Pain

Strength VS Size: Part 1, What’s the Difference?

Posted by PhysEd on 12 Apr 2018

Most people start to lift weights because they want to get bigger and stronger.  At first, it’s easy to do both.  Just picking up heavier weights each workout forces your body to adapt and grow.  However, once the Honeymoon is over, it will become more difficult to gain both size and strength at the same time.  Now what to do?

Strength training and size training are two different principles.  And yes, there is going to be an overlap of both, no matter if you train for size or strength.  So now ask yourself, do you want to be strong enough to pick up a Bus, or just look like you can?

1. Train for Strength


Strength training’s primary purpose is To Get You Stronger!!!The idea is to train your muscles to respond to small, quick bursts of power.  Strength training is more about training your Central Nervous System and making new neural pathways that help you lift more weight.  When you train, your nervous system grows first, your muscles second.  When you focus on heavy, compound movements, your nervous system gets more of an intense workout than your muscles.  Getting bigger is nice, but a Strength Athlete doesn’t care about anything except getting stronger.

How do you train for strength?  Make the Big 3 (Bench, Squat, and Deadlift) your priorities, and keep your reps low.  I prefer my strength athletes to perform between 4-6 reps on most exercises, with enough rest between sets to put forth max effort on every lift.

2. Train for Size


Have you seen any pics of recent bodybuilders?  22-inch arms, 60-inch chest, six pack, you get the idea.  Now compare them to the top Powerlifters in the world.  The bodybuilders look like they are 1000 times stronger than the Powerlifters.  But they aren’t.  In fact, they are much weaker.  Wtf is going on?

When you train for size, you are less concerned with the amount of weight you lift, and are more focused on strict form and time under tension.  When your muscles work longer, they release more hormones that are responsible for recovery, and building more muscle size.  With Strength training, most sets don’t last more than 10 seconds.  When your sets are fast and under 10 seconds in length, you work more on developing the Nervous System.  For optimal size gains, you want your sets to be in the 20-30 second range.  When your sets last more than 20 seconds, you work more on developing soft tissue, such as muscle fibers, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons.  The body parts that are responsible for making you as big as a house!

How do you train for Size?  Include the Big 3 in your workouts, however use less weight and make the sets last longer.  I prefer my size athletes to perform between 8-12 reps on most exercises, with as little rest as possible between sets.  However, don’t sacrifice completing your rep goals by not resting long enough.30-60 seconds rest between sets is a good place to start.

3. Sample Workouts


Strength Workout:

Monday – Back / Front and Side Shoulders

Exercise Sets   Reps    Rest
Deadlifts 4 4-6 90 sec
Lat Pulldown 4 4-6 90 sec
DB Arnold Press 3 4-6 90 sec
DB Rows (both arms) 3 4-6 90 sec
DB Lateral Raises 3 4-6 90 sec
Straight Arm Pulldowns 3 4-6 90 sec

Tuesday – Arms
Exercise Sets        Reps          Rest                
DB Curls
(alternating arms)
4 4-6 90 sec
Single Arm Reverse Grip
Pulldowns
4 4-6 90 sec

DB Reverse Grip Curls

(both arms at the same time)

3 4-6 90 sec

Standing DB Tri Extensions

(both arms at the same time)

3 4-6 90 sec
DB Hammer Curls 3 4-6 90 sec

Tricep Rope Pushdowns

(both arms at the same time)

3 4-6 90 sec

Thursday – Legs
Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Squats 4 4-6 90 sec
Leg Curls 4 4-6 90 sec
Leg Extensions 3 4-6 90 sec
Standing Calf Raises 3 4-6 90 sec
Seated Calf Raises 3 4-6 90 sec
Leg Press 3 4-6 90 sec

Friday – Traps / Chest/ Rear Delts
Exercise Sets Reps Rest
DB Shrugs 4 4-6 90 sec
Incline Chest Press 4 4-6 90 sec
Bench Press 3 4-6 90 sec
DB Flys 3 4-6 90 sec
Pec Deck Chest Fly 3 4-6 90 sec
Pec Deck Rear Delt Fly 3 4-6 90 sec


Size Workout:


Monday – Chest / Triceps
Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Bench Press 4 8 60 sec
Incline DB Press 4 10 60 sec
Cable Crossovers 4 12 60 sec
Tricep Pushdowns 4 10 60 sec

Standing DB Tri Extensions

(both arms at the same time)

4 12 60 sec

Tuesday – Legs
Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Squats 4 8 60 sec
Leg Curls 4 12 60 sec
Leg Extensions 3 12 60 sec
Hack Squats 3 10 60 sec
Seated Calf Raises 4 15 60 sec
Standing Calf Raises 2 30 60 sec

Thursday – Back / Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Bench Press 4 8 60 sec
Pec Deck Chest Fly 4 10 60 sec
Pec Deck Rear Delt Fly 3 12 60 sec
DB Lateral Raises 3 12 60 sec
Straight Arm Pulldowns 3 8 60 sec
DB Incline Flys 3 12 60 sec

Friday – Shoulders
Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Standing DB Shoulder Press 4 8 60 sec
Seated Arnold Press 4 10 60 sec
DB Side Laterals 3 12 60 sec
Cable Rear Delt Raises 3 12 60 sec
DB Shrugs 3 15 60 sec
Face Pulls 3 15 60 sec


4.  Conclusion


Your approach to gaining size is different from trying to gain strength.  Manipulation of rep schemes easily allows you to train for your specific goal.  And what’s the coolest part?  You can combine these two different training philosophies to get the best results of your life.  Don’t get held up by a plateau.  Break through it, and use it as a spring board to speed up your results.

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