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How To Get Stronger without Adding Size?

It’s unusual for a lot in this community but I’m trying to increase both overall and relative strong as well as explosive strength without adding a lot of additional weight. I’m trained ng for soccer/football (no opinions please).

I can always play 90 minutes so endurance is good. I’m currently 5’11" (1.81m) and 180-185 (83.5-84kg) and hover at 10-12%. Kinda like a cornerback build so I’m a bit more muscle than a lot of players but my balance on ball is better if I get no bigger.

My program is quite varied but if I go hard on big lifts it seems I get bigger pretty easy. Any program help or suggestions???

Akinfenwa thought fuck it and got big anyway.

As long as the mass you gain is muscle and you keep the conditioning work up then I can’t see you having many issues.

If it really bothers you getting “too big” then I would look at learning some explosive Olympic lifts, keep reps low on compound moves and concentrate on bar speed. I’ve played at a decent level when I was lighter, and also after gaining a fair bit of mass. As long as I kept my fitness up then the extra size and strenght was only a bonus.


I second Olympic lifts. Focus on the concentric movements. You build mass during the eccentric/lowering portion of the movement so if you can reduce or eliminate that you won’t get much bigger.

Again, if speed, agility, and skill don’t diminish with added size them why worry about it? There is a balance for these things and the optimal place to be is the biggest, strongest, fastest, most agile version of yourself. Once an increase in size reduces performance then you know you’re too big.

I saw this with Olympic bobsledders. The heavier the team, the faster they’ll go since it’s a gravity sport. But they also have to be able to accelerate the sled at the start. The start is 40 m and makes or breaks the run. Once they lose speed from their starts they cut weight until they find the heaviest weight they can maintain while also hitting their fastest start time.

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I don’t see it as a problem, just train for strength as normal but restrict your calories to avoid weight gain. No need to run away from eccentrics or anything ridiculous like that, it’s not THAT easy to gain a ton of weight in muscle…


I do a good deal of uni dumbbell snatches, kettlebell swings, and power cleans for explosive strength.

I see your power clean is real decent. I have good bar speed but when I try to up the weight I have trouble with dropping under and it prevents me from going heavier. Any tips on that?

Google ThibArmy and go to the blog. CT has videos on training the catch. It’ll be 4+ pages in by now but they’re still there.

My limiting factor is my front squat. I’m working on rebuilding my clean but it’s going to be a slow process. I have the same issue of getting under the bar with good form.

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Does anybody believe that the way you set up your set/reps can influence gaining weight or not?

Its common advice for dudes who want to gain weight to do high rep squats. Like 20 rep sets, or 5 sets of 10 or “widow makers.”

5 x 5 is allegedly a good mix for “size and strength.”

Would ten sets of 2 or 3 reps build “strength” and “power” with no size?

I would say so, yes. Depends on the muscle group though.

Quads love high reps, so high rep sets of leg exercises are better for gaining size than lower rep sets.

Personally, I don’t get much growth out of hitting sets of 5 for quads, but I will get growth in my chest from lower rep stuff (although it destroys my shoulders so I usually keep the reps 8+ anyway).[quote=“FlatsFarmer, post:7, topic:229685”]
Would ten sets of 2 or 3 reps build “strength” and “power” with no size?

Kinda depends, but time under tension has been shown to be cumulative, so if the overall time under tension is similar to that of doing higher rep sets, there should still be growth.

So you’re thinking that if I program 10 X 2-3 reps with what, 85-95% 1RM I’ll build power without hypertrophy?

That’s a lot of reps at 10x-2-3. My understanding is max strength hits about 15-20 total reps, and for anything over 90%, usually 3x3,5x2, or 6 or 7 ramps to 1RM. I could be wrong here–just thinking back to an article I read here about best rep schemes.

85-95% would be pretty heavy for all those reps.

Westside recommends 75-85% for speed. Other guys who have broken world records (Sam Byrd, Matt Wenning) recommend going lighter, 60%? 65-75%.

Off the top of my head, I think Fred Hatfield used around 80% for CAT.

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Here’s Waterbury’s take on it.

I liked it. I don’t gain mass too easily, but definitely gained strength.

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I know the re is science behind it, but I always thought that the real “magic” behind 20 rep squats was the GOMAD along with it. High rep squats and deadlifts always make you hungry as shit cause of the amount of work you had to put in, so the obvious thing to do is eat more.

If you’re worried about putting on mass, don’t eat as much man. Train hard, eat just enough to gain strength without over eating to gain mass, and still condition or play as usual. Shouldn’t have any real problem staying leaner while getting strong.

What position do you play @jonce1718?

Hey kiddo,

I recommend WS4SB 2-day a week program for in-season, and the 3-day-a week program for offseason.

I also like the 5 x 5 suggestion. Pick 4-5 lifts (bench, squat, deadlift, pull-ups, dips), keep things short, warm-up, lift, maybe add in a few curls for da girls, and then get out of the gym(maybe even give yourself a time limit to be in and out of the gym). The gym should be a supplement to your football training, and not cause any injuries or impact your football training in any way.

When I used to play football, I would go to the gym for 40 minutes before my actual football training, as this was a way to allow more time for recovery from training in preparation for the weekends game and also was a way to stop myself from absolutely destroying myself with weights as I needed to leave something left in the tank for actual training.

As long as you are doing your time on the training pitch its going to be hard for you to get too big.

Uncle Bird.


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Squat to a 1RM M-F
Bench to a 1RM MWF
10 sets of 2 for speed on deadlift on Saturday
Rest Sunday

Do 100 face pulls every day.

Minimal exercise variety, no assistance
Lower volume
Low calories

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Id say 90% of your time should be focused on getting your 400m time under 50s, loads of speed and agility drills, bodyweight moves, core work from all angles etc.

If anything you probably want to cut down a tinybit. Ronaldo is pretty shredded but still is like 175-80lbs at most. -As below the other 4 out of the 5 best guys in the world look like they’ve been to the gym for 6 weeks tops…

I’m like an 8–box to box

Best position on the field IMO!

Short Hill Sprints or sand Sprints would be beneficial.

Bottoms up squats, focussing on bar speed and explosiveness.

Progressively difficult plyo jumping drills (1 leg side step ups/standing broad jumps/depth jumps etc)

Hamstrings, hamstrings, hamstrings! Lots of acceleration and deceleration in soccer. If you are a quad dominant person (like most people) it is way too easy to tweak a hammy. Back extensions, GHR, stiff leg deads are all really important!

Goes without saying but full ROM on your squats and Lunges is waaay more important for an athlete than how much weight is on the bar.

If you have one, a prowler can be helpful but it ruins me so pick your moments when you use it.