T Nation

Stronger + Calories = Bigger?


To get bigger one should get stronger and take in more calories.

Some lifters say that the volume really doesn't matter as long as you are getting stronger and taking in a surplus of calories.

Do you agree or disagree?

Will a person training low reps/low-medium volume still gain muscular size as long as they are eating extra calories and taking in optimal amounts of protein?


Yes you will gain some more size. But not at anywhere near the best rate possible.


Describe "low/medium volume". I can grow on as little 7-9 sets for chest. Is that "low/medium"?


Low would be anything under 25 reps per bodypart I guess.

Prof X,

How many total reps do you end up doing after 7-9 sets?


I don't even know anyone who would only do 25 total reps per body part (assuming this is counting all exercises). Who is doing this in the name of "bodybuilding" or promoting growth?

I probably do between 60-70 total reps or more. That varies depending on the exercise and the weight used.


Check out Waterbury's article, The Set Rep Bible. You can certainly grow outside the schemes he laid out. But he believes they are optimal. I tend to agree. I believe 24 reps per bodypart at 80-90% 1RM was the bottom of the range for optimal hypertrophy with strength increases. I have trouble believing anyone should see much growth below that.


Prof X,

25 reps per body part is one way of training for strength only. Even less than this if someone is doing singles.

Most of us know that with sufficient volume, i.e- 60-70 reps per bodypart, a muscle will grow larger.

I wanted to see if anyone thought a muscle would grow larger even with lower volume as long extra calories are taken in.

Some of the "rules" of training that we follow are not written in stone.

For example, it is suggested that exercises be changed every 4-6 workouts, but some strong guys keep using the same exercises year after year and continue making gains.

So going back to the strength + calories question. If a guy squats 400 and works his way up to a 550 squat by using low volume (in other words, not the typical volume for bodybuilding) and eats a surplus of calories, will he gain muscular weight?

The extra calories have to be made into fat and or muscle. Do you think this guy would just get fatter and stronger or gain both fat and muscle?

If anyone is wondering why I am asking this question, basically a strong man competitor told me that he got big by only training maximal strength and eating alot. I wonder if his experience is a fluke or something that would probably work for most people.


I see what you are getting at now. I think for many people, even if they keep reps that low, adequate food intake will lead to growth. Why? Because the body is an adaptive machine. If you stress it enough, it will attempt to do better at the same stress the next time assuming you are giving it enough to improve. I know a lot of strong and huge powerlifters in Texas who don't use much volume at all, spend upwards of 10-15 minutes between movements, and they still got huge. They also eat more than most people I know.

As far as the statement I just quoted, I don't change my workouts around much. If I were still in Texas, I would still be doing much the same routine because I was used to the equipment they ahve. The gym I use now is lacking in back training equipment using machines so I have had to change my routine because of that and some chest exercises. I am one who believes the increase in the weight used is enough to instigate growth, not some huge rearrangement of all training tactics unless those tactics weren't working to begin with.


Prof X,

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

I read one of your posts about how you workout awhile back and some people seemed to be surprised that you were getting results with your methods because they seemed to be in conflict with the latest theories on training.

I love to learn the latest training methods, but in the end I always pay the most attention to what individual lifters are doing in the gym.

Two things I have learned so far

1-You have to find out what works for you. What works for you may not be what the hottest strength guru is promoting.
2-You have to keep getting stronger to get bigger.

Of course this is obvious to an experienced trainer like you, but some of us are just now waking up from the trance of not thinking for ourselves.