T Nation

Strength Without Size

I have never really “trained” for long durations but I am very active outdoors. Recently about a year ago I was doing CF and gave that up after too many injuries, not real injuries but the type of things that kept me from enjoying my activities. I also did GSLP (Grey Skull linear progression) for a while before a new job got in the way.

My goals are to get as strong as possible without the added bulk and to get as much cardio conditioning as possible.

Me, I’m 36
weight 170
height 5’11"
Bodyfat probably low teens.

Why no added bulk you ask, because surfing and spearfishing are my hobbies and bulk does not work well in those areas.

So where should I start? I was thinking of trying wendler 5/3/1 or going back to GSLP, but really I am looking for some advice since I dont know what would be best.

Whichever program you use, just follow four principles:

  • keep the reps low
  • keep the volume low
  • don’t go close to failure
  • don’t stuff yourself

If you follow these, it’s virtually impossible to gain size. Try something like

MO
warm up
deadlift 3x3
2x max pull ups

WE
warm up
bench press 3x3
2x10 dumbbell row

FR
warm up
front squat 3x3
2x max glute ham raise or nordics

I chose the front squat because it’s harder to cheat reps on it and it will prepare your quads for surfing in a better way than back squats. Use a weight that you can manage but that challenges you. When you train for neural strength you have to be very patient, it won’t come overnight and pushing it usually won’t work.

[quote]nighthawkz wrote:
Whichever program you use, just follow four principles:

  • keep the reps low
  • keep the volume low
  • don’t go close to failure
  • don’t stuff yourself[/quote]
    Pretty much this, yep. Low total volume being key (generally 10-15 reps per exercise or bodypart), monitoring calories being a close second.

Waterbury had a strength-based plan that might be worth considering:

I’m not sure 5/3/1 would actually be appropriate unless you specifically held back on the big sets (to avoid any significant hypertrophy stimulus) and/or did minimal assistance work.

So just 2 exercises a day for 3 days a week? I guess I really dont know anything about lifting. I would’ve thought more volume.

Can I throw in some power cleans or some explosive type movements?

[quote]nowayout wrote:
So just 2 exercises a day for 3 days a week?[/quote]
That would be pretty minimalist, but it would fit the bill, sure. A rule of thumb for a good strength-focused session is that you shouldn’t feel drained when you’re walking out of the gym. If you’re thinking “Eh, I could’ve handled some more” as you’re walking to your car, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

More volume basically tells the muscle “oh, guess we should get bigger too.” When strength is the primary goal and size needs to be avoided, heavy weights for low reps and low-ish sets sends the proper signals to the muscles. Even more sets (8-10 sets or more) with heavy weight and low reps increases the total volume and will stimulate more growth.

Cleans would be fine, yep. It’s more about the sets and reps you’re doing, not so much the exercises.