Strength without Size? aka 'physique maintenance'

Hey T-men and T-vixens (e-vixens?),

Not sure if this disqualifies me from t-hood, but I’m nearing the physique I want to have (it’s similar to greekdawg’s, as seen in the Photos section), and to be honest, when I get there, I think that’ll be it for real ‘bodybuilding’. I have utmost respect for people like John Berardi, Lonnie Lowery, and Christian Thibedeau, but I don’t intend to get that big; it simply wouldn’t suit me. I still intend to focus on ‘problem areas,’ and fine-tune my physique, but training for huge gains is nearing a thing of the past.

However, I want to continue challenging myself, and to continue getting stronger.

Is it possible to keep gaining muscle strength/endurance without a great deal of hypertrophy? Can anyone recommend some protocols/workouts to follow?


I suggest you read Pavel Tsatsouline’s book “Power to the People.”


There was a thread about Navy Seals BUD/s program a while ago. The suggestions there might help you as well. For a guy going through BUD/s, he needs endurance and strength, not size, because he’d have to lug around more mass for long periods of time if he aimed for hypertrophy. Do a search.

Train for relative strength. Relative strength training protocols are: 1-5 reps, 85-100% or 1RM. You can also throw in some speed work, i.e. 60% or 1RM to become more powerful.

Oh, and multiple sets.

I’m with you there. I don’t want to go beyond 180. Actually, I doubt I can go beyong 180 lean without juice anyways, which I’m not going to do again. I do, however, want to bench press and squat stupid amounts of weight. I think I’m fairly strong for my size, but I want to be stronger!

Listen to them. Multiple sets of low reps. Look into the Westside methods as well. I think those guys are strong or something like that.

LOL, yeah the Westside guys are pretty strong! But remember, Louie always says that if you wanna get stronger, gain weight, that’s why so many of the Westside guys lift in the upper weights classes. They are less concerned with relative strength than with moving monster poundages.

I am intrested in similar goals. But saying low reps heavy weight many sets seems like it will get repetitive, and lack periodization.

It seems like it would be diffucult to “change it up” after awhile.

Train for relative strength and adjust your diet to avoid hypertrophy gains. That basically means: keep your carbs fairly low. I believe you can get stronger this way, but if you start upping the kcals and carbs, you’ll start to grow… even on 5x5, etc.

i think another important factor to consider is your diet. obviously if your training for relative strength you are going to be performing low reps i.e. 1-5 for multiple sets. however, if you do not want to grow any larger while still training hard and heavy, i think caloric intake is key.
if you are eating at a maintenance level or below it is almost impossible to grow. yes i know i know it can be done, but not likely. remember, your diet is what gets you big or gets you lean regardless of your training. so i would recommend a strength training type routine coupled with a maintenance or below (calorie wise) diet.


There are literally thousands of different strength protocols available. I suggest you read “Modern Trends in Strength Training” by Poliquin for just a few. Of course, you can always design your own, too.

Thanks to everyone who replied in this thread. This will definitely prove useful.


It won’t get old if you are constantly changing your exercises to avoid your muscles adapting (every 3 weeks). Elite athletes may change every week. Plus you aren’t always doing the same number of sets. Wave the intensity by changing the volume of sets.

Eric ,
I’ve used all but maybe 1 program out of modern trends.


Glad to hear it; why the “no variety” attitude, then?

Its not a bad attitude.

But I’ve done outlaw, and i’m going to do renegade. And i don’t mind a little more size now, i’m more looking toward the future.

Thats the problem in a couple years what methods i’m going to look to.