Lifting for Strength Gains and Explosiveness vs. Lifting to Gain Muscle or Hypertrophy– Critical Differences


Most people and “gurus” in the bodybuilding and lifting community are idiots who are so confused with regards to protocols with regard s to training for optimum muscle size and hypertrophy and training for explosiveness or basically “strength gains” or for power lifting (strength training) in general.

Most of these “gurus” these days are dissing each other’s techniques and protocols especially regarding VOLUME and FREQUENCY without realizing that the two types or ends of lifting namely:

1) Bodybuilding

2) Lifting for power or explosiveness

These two ends require DIFFERENT protocols, you get that? Different P.R.O.T.O.C.O.L.S!!

On a personal note, I can say that I have used both methods of training and got really good results out of either one.For instance, when I was at my largest and most muscular (weighing between 210 and 220 lbs of —fairly—lean muscle at a height of only 5’6”) I was using a once-a-week bodybuilding regimen, training Monday thru Friday, and then taking the weekends off.However, when I was at my strongest (weighing around 181 lbs and squatting and deadlifting over triple my bodyweight), I was training Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on a heavy/light/medium program.I squatted at each training session, performed some kind of bench work at each workout, and performed heavy back work at each session.

-CS Sloan

In that light it should be of no surprise to you that training for hypertrophy would require a different frequency protocol vs. lifting to train for a powerlifting contest or lifting for optimum athletic performance.

I would like to remind you of this phrase SEE IT FROM THIS POST:

The basis of a rational, intelligent, and logical approach to exercise or any other arena of human endeavor is the recognition that only the specific appropriate knowledge can lead you to engage in the appropriate action required to achieve a goal.

That means there is an optimum way to train for a goal or there is a perfect way to train to achieve an OPTIMUM result for a certain goal. Now we will highlight some critical differences between training for sports and power and training for muscle growth:

-Muscle Damage and Micro Tears: Training for muscle growth requires you to damage the target muscles and later induce a physiologic effect that would lead to hypertrophy or anabolism of the muscles – whilst training for strength and explosiveness you would not be required to induce muscle damage that needs to be repaired by the body (which means bigger muscles). Training for strength and explosiveness (or athletic performance) involves mostly CNS overload or training you brain to handle bigger weights overtime which is the only goal. And in it also involves more skill and mastery of a certain move. Not much of damage – repair – damage repair process is involved in training for power and explosiveness. If there is that is only minimal.

Therefore: One needs to allot a rest day between sessions when training for muscle gain because he needs to “annihilate” the muscle group to be able to stimulate an adaptor growth response a bodybuilder needs to DAMAGE his muscles or induce “micro tears”. He needs to dig a hole which the body needs to fill up with more soil at the top (which means growth) therefore he needs to give the body enough time to fill in that hole and put more soil at top or else he would just jeep on digging and digging a huge hole that his body cannot fill. ”.He needs to dig a hole which the body needs to fill up with more soil at the top (which means growth)”

A bodybuilder must take at least a day in between workouts and plan his workouts accordingly so that he hits each major body part not more than twice a week. Because for a bodybuilder it is not about a skill – it is about carving and letting the body adapt. However he does not need to rest TOO MUCH since the law of overcompensation states that once he takes too long before he hits the same body part again – his body would have been already away from its OVERCOMPENSATION or shall I say SUPERCOMPENSATION period. Basically it has detected that there is no need to ejacul@te all that anabolic hormones and chemicals anymore. His myostatin levels would have also been elevated if he takes too much off time. So it is critical to train regularly. One week break for every body part should be enough for any normal human being.

A power lifter or an athlete on the other hand doesn’t have to worry about muscle repairs and stuff like that. And since the CNS recovers more quickly than the body it gives these lifters more reason to train more frequently without sacrificing reduced adaptational response. To be honest we trained 5 days a week for taekwondo and on two training days we train two times a day; one in the morning and another one in the afternoon and for more than 2 hours each especially when we had a competition. And it yielded the greatest results. You cannot do that in bodybuilding because the purpose of each session must be to damage each muscle (by micro tears) and to stimulate the body to fix that and replace them with bigger fibers. While the purpose of each session in sports and powerlifting is to make the body accustomed to a certain skill not to induce damage.

But off course for both parties whether you train for skill, power or hypertrophy we all need optimum nutrition and sleep. You cannot starve your body, you need nutrients or you will get weaker. So there is not much difference when it comes to optimum diet. Balanced diet that has a little of everything is still the best. And with that I mean there is a good amount of REAL foods! Not fast food and hotdog! Include veggies in your diet and some raw eggs!

-Another very important point: FAILURE; Training for muscle growth and hypertrophy requires that you take each set to failure and beyond again – to induce micro trauma which should stimulate an adaptive response from the body. If you don’t take each set to failure don’t expect much growth, dude. You’d rather sit at home.

A power lifter on the other hand should not train to failure. In fact the Russians train this way where they just do their set one rep from failure.

david rigert

Russian legend olympic lifter: David Rigert

If they can do the weight 5 reps they will only do 4. This can lead to a power increase over time and would lead the CNS to let them handle more weights in the future because really 50% of the power comes from the permission of your brain for you to lift that weight – Only a small percentage of your capacity to exert maximum power come from the actual strength of the muscles.

At certain level of resistance your body only allows you to use a small percentage of your actual muscular capacity for safety; since if it would allow you to easily tap into 100% of your muscular capacity at will – you would be dead by now!

That CNS capacity is the whole point of strength training (or at least the major point) that is why studies show that power lifter style sessions tax the CNS more than they tax the body while the bodybuilder style sessions cause mostly peripheral fatigue or fatigue in the muscles themselves.

-Bodybuilders require more periodization or a variety of training rep schemes: While bodybuilders usually require more volume unlike 5 x 5 or 3 x 7 schemes done in strength training, body builders tend to have a more balanced number of type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers unlike power trainees who tend to have 90% well developed type2 fibers which is good for explosive moves.

That is why bodybuilders need to change rep schemes often or use “periodization” often. For example this week you will train for around 15 reps 2 sets and next week you do 7 to ten reps of 3. Heck! You can even do heavy 5x5s on some weeks!

With power lifters and strength trainees there is not much need to do that increasing variety of schemes since they only need type 2 fibers anyway (except if they also want to craft some muscles). Bodybuilders need both types developed contrary to popular belief. But off course he doesn’t need to do endurance training. Increased time under tension with techniques such as drop sets will take care of those types since High intensity tools will stimulate your body to recruit every last fiber therefore developing a wide variety of fiber types which leads to growth.

-Bodybuilders lift for “Time under tension” : That is proven by research that bodybuilders must increase time under tension for each reps to increase fiber micro tears and induce hypertrophy. A body builder must allot periods wherein they would also do the positive portions slowly for not more than 4 seconds then hold in contraction 4 seconds if he is using a machine but wherein there is still tension in the top portion but if not then the top hold would not be necessary – then lower for another 4 seconds.

Power lifters don’t need to slow down on the negative portion – only slow enough to lower the weight without causing injury. In fact it would be beneficial if they can just drop the weight after each rep which is possible for example for deadlifts. They can basically eliminate the negative portion and still experience strength gains.

-Finally, Bodybuilders need splits where they can specialize on only certain muscles or body parts per session. Power lifters can train whole body per session since they basically need to hit the same groups multiple times in a week. Like what we said before recovery time is more crucial for bodybuilders and studies prove that lesser body parts trained the better the results since your metabolism can just focus on one body part at a time. COMMON SENSE would also tell you the same thing. Like in this study where they only focused on legs and it sure enough they got bigger legs in 3 weeks.

With power lifters, strongmen and especially athletes; mastery and skill and training the CNS is more crucial since those types of training don’t tax the muscles to exhaustion like how a bodybuilder is supposed to do with his body.

Note: But as you can see the Ironthumb protocol gives emphasis to whole body moves like Deads, Squats and power cleans. Those moves should be present in every bodybuilding regimen since they serve as hormonal anabolic stimulants. You should do at least one type of such movement every workout even for just straight sets. Whole body workout moves are not the same with whole body training split – keep that in mind.

So those are some of the most vital differences between the protocols for lifting weights for hypertrophy or muscle gain and lifting weights for explosiveness, strength, or athletic performance.

Surely this should relieve some (if not most) of the confusions that circulate around this community with regards to this issue.

Finally I would like to remind you of this statement made by Sloan one of the most veteran power lifters around this circle who I think fellow strength trainees must follow. This statement clearly supports the points that we have made today and keep in mind – Sloan is a POWER LIFTER (for the most part)  not a bodybuilder:

On a personal note, I can say that I have used both methods of training and got really good results out of either one. For instance, when I was at my largest and most muscular (weighing between 210 and 220 lbs of —fairly—lean muscle at a height of only 5’6”) I was using a once-a-week bodybuilding regimen, training Monday thru Friday, and then taking the weekends off. However, when I was at my strongest (weighing around 181 lbs and squatting and deadlifting over triple my bodyweight), I was training Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on a heavy/light/medium program. I squatted at each training session, performed some kind of bench work at each workout, and performed heavy back work at each session.

-From his Post on High Frequency Focus Training

I know that I have already cited that earlier but it cannot be said enough.

I think there is still room for more so if you can add some from the comments section below for our dear newbie lifters who are reading right now, please do so. So for advanced lifter can you share with the newbies some more vital differences between training for size vs. training for strength and mere power? Eat your eggs people!

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12 thoughts on “Lifting for Strength Gains and Explosiveness vs. Lifting to Gain Muscle or Hypertrophy– Critical Differences

  1. Hi, I’ve been lifting for only a few months, doing the Stronglift 5×5 routines. All to gain strength and prevent work injuries, as my new job is hard physical work. I know my muscles will “get bigger” as a natural result of lifting, but I’m in it primarily for the strength gains. Is this a good way to go?

    1. can you elaborate on what type of job do you have? Because different labor requires different bodyparts that need to be strengthened. I say 5 by 5 will be a good bet and as long as you do the basics: Squats, deadlifts, and bench press and all the other variations. I suggest that you have weeks wherein you also do 10 reps for only 3 sets and incorporate non-functional moves like flyes, leg extensions and stuff like that.
      Good luck bro!

  2. i really want to help people who struggle gaining muscle that why i recommend this guide right there it really help me

  3. I don’t get it muscle building is not complicated all you need to do is eat right and eat more do the workouts get some rest more muscle repair and muscle growth period.

    1. no its complicated if you are a bodybuilder and you are training like a power lifter all the time or vice versa. Hence the purpose of this post

  4. Pingback: Lifting for Strength Gains and Explosiveness vs. Lifting to Gain … | Sculpted Muscles
  5. I saw you mention 5 day week TKD practice. I lift and do plyometrics specifically for explosiveness in TKD and punching. Any thoughts or specific articles about training for explosive kicks and punches? Most of the stuff I read on-line just shows the author doesn’t understand kicking or punching. In particular I find it difficult to mix the relaxation/explosion cycle needed for TKD/punching with the need for tension in squat/dl/olympic lifts. Appreciate any suggestions.

    1. When I was in TKD I didnt know anything about scientific training. But wearing kick shoes during pad drills is effective since its harder make a sharp sound when you are padded with the shoes. off course now i’d also do some 40 rep power cleans with 75% of my bodyweight at least twice a week and also some deads for fundamental power.

      Depth jumps are also great for training power, do at least ten depth jumps everyday (you can skip it on weekends if you want).

      And Squats. Use your bodyweight then do 4 sets. Explode your way up on the possitive rep of the squat – almost as if you were trying to jump. Do that twice a week.

      For punching -mostly leg trainign would cover that and as long as you trained proper transfer of force through your hips.

      But back then I loved doing clap pushups everyday -that really increases you explosiveness.

      Another thing – DONT DIET if you’re already lean.

      Yes I know you think it’s tougher going against heavier guys, but when I dieted before I also lost my power I couldn’t even make a sound on the pads – ON COMPETITION DAY and that sucked! I dieted then for 3 weeks although I was already at 5% bodyfat but I wanted to fight in the feather weight. But it turned out the heavier guys we’re easier to beat and its actually harder fighting a smaller, faster opponenent.

      Hope that helps

  6. I have read thousands of articles on bodybuilding. I find your articles to be most precise, apt & knowledgable. The tag line is absolutely correct. No BS only healthy talks.
    Thanks and warm regards.

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