T Nation

Lean and Ripped vs Strong and Jacked


Hi freinds,

I know this has been discussed before, but I would like to bring it up again.

Since retiring from football(soccer), I have had difficulties in deciding on what goals I want to pursue in the gym. I have always trained for strength and had spent time doing versions of 531 and WS4SB. Playing football, I have always leaned on the side of been lean for obvious reasons.

Now that I am no longer playing, I have the option of adding on a bit more size which I have started to do. Feels great to go into the gym and feel confident about putting more weight on the bar. In the past 6 months I have put on about 5 kgs on the scale.

Downside of been bigger, is that sometimes I feel clunky, find it difficult to find comfortable positions to sleep in, and I often miss the feeling of been “light and fast”.

I was wondering if there is a middle ground between the 2 opposing goals? How would I approach my training to achieve this middle ground? I suppose I want to feel bigger and stronger, but I still want to feel “light and fast” at the same time.

I know my questions are vague, but I am interested to hear your thoughts on this subject.



Why dont you train your agility then you can be fast and big? Does your program include ladders, cones, random sideways movement drills, jumps and throws?

If not, I’d say your program is letting you down rather than this being an impossible goal.


Sprint work, jumps and some gymnastics work would easily help you remain athletic while gaining mass.


Take up a sport. Any martial arts will help with this. How much it would interfere with lifting would just depend on how much of an emphasis you place on it.


Check out how wendler recommends training for athletes. You’ll get all bases covered and will get strong without being a fat/slow slob.

Jims current methods also give possibility to have emphasis over certain areas by your preferences/needs. So you can define yourself wgere you want to aim.


You must be pretty jacked now Birdy! You were always in good shape. Anyway, it sounds to me like it’s not the extra muscle making you clunky, just that you’re not doing as much sport.

I mean look at dudes like American Football players. Those dudes are agile as fuck despite being enormous.

Just do a bit more agility stuff. An athlete such as yourself shouldn’t have any problem getting it back


It’s a balancing act where you’ll never be happy. Whenever I cut weight and get lean, I appreciate how much more athletic I feel, but I note a lack of strength. When I add some weight and get a little fluffy, I get stronger in training but more sluggish.

Your best bet is to set some actual athletic and strength markers and compare those to see if it’s for real or just psychological. Set up agility drills or carry medleys or something and see if your time is declining. If it is, you actually ARE getting less athletic, and that means you need to prioritize it. If not, then it’s just in your head.

Also, if you ever try to get changed in the back of a car, you’ll pick light and lean over big and jacked everytime.


“Lean and ripped” doesn’t have to mean small. I think it’s very individual what weight you feel you not only look good at, but perform well at.



Thanks for all of the replies my friends.

I suppose part of the issue is that I need to choose a more specific goal. Im in the process of changing up my program and the comments above are helping me with prioritizing my goals and methods.



I just thought of something that’ll probably be really helpful. Check out Alpha’s log. He seems to have this thing down to understate it haha. He’s always happy to answer questions.


What I have understood (from alpha, jim and others), that it is completely possible to be lean, fast, strong and conditioned. It just need a LOT of patience, since it takes a lot of years to get good in all the different areas. That’s why people can dominate quite impressive weights after 3 years of training or have good looking body with same timeframe, or get really conditioned in 6 months etc… But when you want to have all of this, it starts to be more difficult.

when you’ll start to chase contradictory goals, things SLOW DOWN, since you’ll must probably build your training upon different phases with different emphasis, but still keeping everything in. After years of training you’ll be able to train many areas at the same time.