T Nation

When to Train for Strength vs. Size?


So, how often do the fellow bodybuilders train for strength as opposed to size?

It couldn't be anything but beneficial for size, just depends on when, the length and how you do it.

Just wanted to spark up a debate. It's been on my mind for the last week or so.

(If your a PL, you could also add the visa/versa. I know it's also good to train for size when your goal is strength. Bigger muscles lead to stronger muscles.)

(Quick background optional read)

Just done 40 days of GVT. Experienced incredible size gains. So, i'm not sure if i should stay on a higher volume program, increase the intensity(weight), and lower the reps or lower the reps and lower the sets? or any other stretch.

I do wanna do maybe 5 weeks of a strength training program to get my PR's up and be able to lift with more weight, overall increasing my size in the long run.

In this for Size, but strength is always good.

Id def. appreciate any positive responses.....


I train for strength every session. I take 1-2 movement's, and use them as my 'strength' exercises and usually the rest are done with a focus on building a stronger mind muscle connection.

An example could be a chest day that might look like this:
Incline Bench (strength movement): ramp up to top set, whatever that may be for the day (usually 3-10)
H/S Press: either work up to top set, then drop down and do multiple sets at a lighter weight or go right into focusing on MMC
Guillotine Press: sets of 15-20
Incline Single Arm Press: sets of 8-10
Fly superset: 3-5 times, focus on squeeze

The first movement will usually be done for strength, but it's also different for each bodypart for me. Chest and shoulder days are similar where the first movements are strength and the rest are more for hypertrophy whereas on leg day I will alternate between doing my strength movement first and doing it after I do smaller groups (hamstring or quad iso exercises for feel).

Back day I usually always deadlift or rack pull for strength last in my workout as I can always feel it better in my back then, but I will occasionally put it first. I also sometimes do a pullup or rack chin for strength purposes first as it is a bodyweight exercise and best done when fresh IMO.

Arms are usually done with two movements for strength (bi and triceps) and then an increasing focus on contractions and squeezes for the other movements.

I'd be interested to see other's opinions, but my approach is different depending on the muscle group really.



I've seen simular programs that include the different fibers in one session by poliquin and TC. CT has his hss-100 that hits all of the fibers also.

I've heard its not good to mix fibers and you only want to either do strength work or hypertrophy work per workout. (Endurance is excluded for good reasons hahaha)

I can understand the technique behind both.

Would def. Like more opinions.


Same here. Strength improvements are the easiest way to see progression especially for beginners. You really can't go wrong with training for strength on the first exercise for a muscle group when you're fresh and then training for more of a pump/hypertrophy on the following exercises. Even for the exercises for hypertrophy you should still aim to get stronger on them. No reson someone shouldn't try to make their workout better than their last.

I see no reason not to train for strength on cuts as well, but obviously the mirror and the scale will be the main measuring stick for progression.

edited for sp.


Well ofcourse you progress and adapt every day. Its a big difference in training powerlifting and bodybuilding. The initial question, I meant training strickly PL as opposed to bb every now and then. Like now reps higher than 5 for like 4 or 5 weeks, maybe 6?

I do like the approach of adding a strength move first, followed with higher reps for size.

How low would would go in reps on the strength move? The majority of the time? We can divide the muscles into chest/back/legs for the sake of this question.

Maybe 5x5 or 4x6 on the first exercise, let's say incline bench.
Then follow that up with 3 sets of 10 reps on the neck press then 3 x 10 on the pec deck or decline dbs? Total of 11 sets with 85 reps for chest. Sound like a decent approach ?


Unless I'm doing a 5/3/1 or similar percentage-based progression model for an exercise, I will just go in, warmup and see how I feel on that first exercise. So, If I feel like going for a 3 rep heavy set, I'll do that, if 6-8, I'll do that...etc...On the second exercise, the same thing applies, but I try and get more sets in on that one and shoot for just shy of failure (1-2 reps in the tank). The subsequent exercises are usually higher reps or done with a focus on tempo and TUT....but this is also my template for really only chest sessions if I'm training chest once/week...other bodyparts are different and if I'm hitting it twice a week, then this would look different.

I think you really need to experiment and see what works best for you. That being said, I think focusing on strength is an integral part of bodybuilding.


Same here kinda, I write down what I do after I do it, haha. I dont plan on doing chest on Monday or whenever, I do them I feel they have recovered and when I have trained everything else. jus what I feel like doing. As far as reps, I've usually stick to what I have planned and adj. accordingly.

Sometimes I train some bodyparts twice a week sometimes once.

I have experiemented, as has everyone, but there's only so much time in a day hahaha.
I like hearing personal experience also.

Like I think everyone should try GVT, or atleast a slight variation.
A few weeks to fix any imbalance the program might start, I would do 10 reps of 5 sets on 2 simular movements per bodypart.
Like incline and neckpress. Or overhand bb rows and underhand bb rows. Maybe wide overhand and closegrip underhand.

Same intense workout, 100 reps total. I gained a good amount of muscle and some definition.
Had decent results with reg parks 5x5 also.


Is this another high-reps vs. low-reps thread ?


Every workout the first movement is more strength rep range, unless I'm doing a pure arms day.


Yeah I do something simillar to ebomb except I ramp up a lot of the exercises aswell but ramp them to 6-8 instead of 1-3 for me on the first one


I don't think there is as big a difference as you guys are making out.

PLers and BBers both want to add big strong muscle. The biggest difference is what it means to bring up a weakness. A powerlifter focusing on a weakness means building up the weak link in a lift, to a BBer it means building up a weak part of their physique.

Both will add muscle and strength to where there sport demands it.




@tolismann: its not. Not even a debate really. Jus wondering how often people that train for size venture into a PL routine.

@Cprimero: thanks for the link. I was actually thinking of following up my gvt with the advanced version. Wasn't sure really. It was either that, hss-100 or a PL routine, like 5/3/! Or westside training.

Thanks everyone else for some sort of response.


Jus want to add that I've remembered my original accounts password haha.

So as for experience I have a few years under my belt.....