When it comes to building the type of physique that you want, it is crucial that you understand the style of training that will get you there. Getting big vs getting strong require two completely different training protocols. If you are a strength athlete, there is a very particular way that you should train. It differs greatly from a physique athlete, bodybuilder, or someone solely interested in aesthetics.
This can be showcased by looking at the physiques of the best bodybuilders in the world vs the best power lifters in the world. While the bodybuilders look huge and have built an incredible amount of lean muscle mass, it is actually the power lifters who are physically stronger.
This article is going to dive into the difference between getting big vs getting strong and the style of training that both entails.
Training To Get Big
When it comes to getting big and looking like a bodybuilder, you have to understand how to train properly. Your goal every time you step into the gym should be to break down the maximum amount of lean muscle tissue(aka creating healthy micro-tears). This allows you to build lean muscle mass as your body will repair and grow back bigger after you exercise, eat right, and get enough rest.
If you are solely interested in “getting big” this cycle is repeated over the course of the year for every muscle group in your entire body.
The style of training to get big involves maximum hypertrophy and putting a lot of controlled overload on your muscles. This means that you are doing things that maximize the micro tears in the muscle such as negative movements, slow and controlled movements, squeezing the muscle throughout the rep, and even slow motion training. All of these styles of training create a lot of healthy micro tears in the muscle and help you grow back bigger and stronger.
The main difference between getting big and getting strong is you are controlling the weight and actually making it harder on yourself when you are training for maximum muscle gains.
Bodybuilders do not “ego lift”. They don’t sacrifice bad form along with not squeezing the muscle throughout the rep to put up more weight. Not to say that power lifters and strength athletes are ego lifters – but they certainly do not emphasize squeezing the muscle throughout the rep to create the maximum amount of micro tears.
The sets, reps and rest times will also differ. When you are training to get big you tend to do more repetitions per set and keep the muscle under tension for longer periods of time. This training strategy results in more hypertrophy. It is not uncommon for a bodybuilder to perform sets within the 10-15 repetition range.
Training to get big also will involve shorter rest times. Its all about shocking the muscles into growth and throwing different stimuli at them – and one of the best training strategies to maximum conditioning and lean muscle gains involves shorter rest times and higher rep training. This is known as FST-7 training and is used by almost every pro bodybuilder at some point in their training.
Training to Get Strong
Training to get strong differs greatly from training to maximize size and have a bodybuilder-like physique. Just take a look at the physique of a pro level bodybuilder vs a pro level strength athlete and you can see a drastic difference. The surprising truth is that the strength athletes typically can bench press, squat, and dead lift more than the most impressive looking bodybuilders.
Training to get strong means that you are doing everything you can to maximize the amount of weight you can push through gravity in the power exercises such as the squat, dead lift, bench press, and many different olympic lifts. While these athletes have put on a lot of lean muscle mass through heavy weight overload – they do not pay much attention to conditioning.
It is actually beneficial for a strength athlete to pack on a lot of body-fat as this will allow you to lift heavier weight.
Strength athletes will perform their sets with less repetitions and more rest times than the athlete trying to get big. This is done on purpose to maximize strength output on each individual set.
It is not uncommon for strength athletes to perform sets of 2-4 repetitions and rest anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes between sets so they can fully recover and maximize strength. They do not emphasize the negative portion of the repetition or squeeze the muscle throughout – but rather use brute strength to push as much weight as physically possible.
What’s Your Goal?
Whether you’re focusing on getting big or getting strong, you need to have clear goals on what you want to achieve. You need to ask yourself, “Am I more focused on aesthetics or raw strength?”
Knowing exactly what you are striving for will help determine the most effective workout routine you should be doing. If you don’t have clear goals, you’re going to be wasting your time in the gym.
Which do you prefer, getting a lean and ripped physique or raw strength?