T Nation

Training for Strength vs. Training for Size: A Few Questions

Hey Christian,

Based on your recent ‘training for strength vs. training for size’ video on youtube, I’ve been meaning to ask you a couple of questions:

  1. If the goal is pure hypertrophy, you recommend alternating between size focus I and size focus II. Would an ideal hypertrophy macro cycle for an intermediate lifter look like this:
    Block 1:
    Acc 1: Size I (3-4 weeks)
    Int1: Size II (3-4 weeks)
    Block 2:
    Acc2: Size I (same as acc1 but with different tempos, contraction, exercises, 3-4 weeks)
    Int 2: Size II (same as int1 but with different training methods, training tools, 3-4 weeks)

Repeat macrocycle with bigger weights for further size gains or follow up with a strength cycle to recruit the newly gained muscle for increased strength adaptations.

  1. In the best damn workout for natties I & II, a concept that basically has been butchered on this forum, you emphasize that doing too much volume is the biggest mistake naturals can make. Comparing this statement to the higher volume approach in Size I, do you mean that high volume is fine as long as it’s within reason and you keep intensiveness/intensity low and leave a couple of reps (2-3) in the tank?

  2. How would you progress from block to block? Would you change the intensity zone for acc2 and int2 or keep intensity the same but focus more on other variations listed in your excellent article ‘the key to continous muscle growth’.

I hope this is not overreaching or putting you on the spot in some way. I am genuinely interested in your training philosophies and want to improve as much as possible.

Thank you & my best wishes for the new year!

My main belief is that variation is the key to continuous progress. Variation mostly in the way the repetitions are performed. Essentially you want to “force” the muscle to work differently. That’s because every type of contraction has a slightly different motor pattern and physiological effect.

The more you repeat the same type of stimulus, the quicker less effective your program becomes.

Adding volume or increasing the weight doesn’t change the type of stimulus, only it’s magnitude. Once you are habituated to a type of stimulus, it stops leading to significant adaptations. Adding volume will not make a difference, except causing more fatigue, at that point.

What you want is to change the training methods and or/the way you are performing your reps (tempo changes, including isometric holds, etc.), or even the style of training you do.

Changing the exercises (for example) won’t work for long if you use the same type of training because you are still asking the muscle tissue and nervous system to work the same way.

In the strength vs. size video I stayed VERY general and it is actually not how I work. It is what I consider to be good basic advice, but my own methods are beyond that BUT they do require a more profound understanding of the training process.

For example, at the moment Im working on an article about 30 training methods that I use. I normally rotate through them to change the type of stimulus as much as humanly possible as I believe that drastic changes in the type of training stimulus is the key to sustained progression.

I always knew this instinctively. That’s why when you look at all the articles I wrote in the 20 years I’ve been on T-nation, it seems to be all over the place. The reason is that I always write about what I’m doing at the moment or about methods I’m using with clients. And because I always instinctively changed my training (and that of my clients) dramatically from phase to phase it can look all over the place.

And I’m not gonna lie, until recently when I started to get a better understanding of the adaptation process I didn’t fully understand the importance of variation. I just naturally gravitated toward it.

As for the volume question. The Best Damn program uses one extreme approach. See it as the absolute surest way of not doing too much. But it doesn’t mean that someone cannot do more volume than that. Volume tolerance depends on many variables like training experience, fiber make-up, ACTN3 type, hormone levels life stress, body type, life stress, etc.

I personally can handle a fairly high amount of volume without having issues. Genetically speaking that is my “gift”. And I actually trained myself to be able to tolerate volume. Not to mention that I have very little life stress. I don’t have a demanding job, I can sleep a lot, I have no financial or relationship issues, etc.

And a major mistake that I made as a coach was assuming that everybody was like me. They aren’t.

Now, in an ideal world, you would find the exact optimal ratio of volume, frequency, and intensity for your body. But the average reader might not be equipped to do that.

And it is true that most natural trainees fail to progress because they do too much. So I wrote an article about a system that made it impossible to do too much per session. It is the absolute minimum volume one can do.

See training this way: it’s like an equalizer. You have three nobs that you can adjust and when you increase one, the other two should automatically go down to adjust the total output.

You can play with volume, intensity (how hard you push your sets) and frequency.

You have a limited total output that your body can tolerate and still have positive adaptations.

In the Best Damn program volume is turned down as low as it can be, meaning that to still get an optimal “output” (stimulus) the other two variables needed to be brought up. So all sets are taken to failure or beyond and the frequency is very high.

You can absolutely do more volume but the other two variables will need to come down accordingly.

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