Are you trying to get strong without building the muscle mass of a bodybuilder?

Me neither, but to each his/her own!

There are tons of benefits to strength training, and you can still enjoy them all without committing to looking like the Incredible Hulk.

Even if your goal is to get bigger and build more muscle mass, this article will still provide some valuable information because I will explain the difference between building strength and building muscle mass.

Let's take a look.

Myofibrillar Hypertrophy vs. Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy is simply a term that refers to muscle growth, and there are two different ways that your muscles grow.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is activated via strength training.

This hypertrophy will increase the number of contractile proteins within your muscles. With this kind of hypertrophy, you build more muscular strength but not as much muscle mass.

To activate myofibrillar hypertrophy through strength training, focus on getting stronger on compound lifts.

Compound lifts are exercises that recruit a large volume of muscle to perform. Think movements like deadlifts, bench presses, barbell squats, and weighted pull-ups.

Focus on increasing the amount of resistance for your or adding a repetition to each set you perform. Work in the 5-8 rep range, rest 3-4 minutes between your sets, and perform 3-4 sets.

The optimal workout frequency is 2-3 strength training sessions per week on non-consecutive days.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is activated through pump training.

This type of hypertrophy will increase the amount of sarcoplasmic fluid that flows through your muscles. With this kind of hypertrophy, you build more muscle mass and not as much muscular strength.

To activate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy via pump training, focus on performing more repetitions on isolation exercises.

Isolation exercises are exercises that isolate muscle groups, just as the name implies. Think movements like incline bicep curls, tricep extensions, and calf raises.

Focus on increasing the number of repetitions you perform or decreasing the amount of time you rest between sets. Work in the 8-15 rep range, rest 30-90 s between your sets and perform 3-4 sets.

How to Get Strong Without Getting Big

To get stronger without getting bigger, you need to incorporate more strength training into your workout routine and minimize, or even eliminate, the amount of pump training you perform.

Remember, pump training is better for building muscle mass and strength training is better for improving muscular strength.

When you keep this in mind, understanding how to get strong without getting big becomes more clear.

Choose 2-3 compound lifts per workout and perform 3-4 sets. Work in the 5-8 rep range for each set and rest 3-4 minutes between your sets.

To get stronger, add more weight each workout or perform more reps.

Bodyweight Training and Weighted Calisthenics

Bodyweight training is also a great way to get strong without getting big. It requires your body to adapt in a manner that builds muscular strength and reduces body fat.

You need the strength to perform bodyweight movements, and you need to minimize the amount of body fat you carry to perform them efficiently.

This reason is why weighted bodyweight movements like weighted pull-ups and weighted dips are some of my favorite movements to focus on. I highly suggest that you get strong on lifts like these.

View this post on Instagram
BIG PR ALERT 🙌🏻 I’ve been working towards this for a while now and I finally got there... Five reps with 2 plates on weighted pull-ups (90 lbs). 😈 I’d humbly accept criticism on the last rep 🤷🏻‍♂️, but this was huge for me! Pull-ups have a special place in my heart, truly: I remember when I couldn’t even do a pull-up in college and there were dudes around me knocking out muscle ups. I thought to myself, “I’ll never be able to do something like that...” I was overweight and weak, but that’s where most people have to start. I now have to strap on a weighted vest to make muscle ups difficult and I need to attach plates to myself to make pull-ups challenging. The key is progressive overload. You need to gradually increase either the resistance weight or the number of reps you perform each workout. Progress isn’t always linear, but you’ll get there slowly but surely! CRUSH IT THIS WEEK #weightedpullups #weightedcalisthenics #bodyweightexercises #motivationalmonday #motivationmonday
A post shared by Axle Fitness (@axlefitnessandnutrition) on Oct 5, 2020 at 5:49am PDT

With bodyweight training, instead of increasing the weight you lift, you'll have to increase the difficulty of the movement you're performing (e.g. do diamond push-ups when you can do regular pushups easily). So that's how to get strong without getting big.

Focus on strength training over pump training, get stronger on your compound lifts, rest enough between your sets and workout sessions, and don't overtrain!

Use bodyweight movements to force your body to adapt to anti-gravity movements to become stronger and leaner.

Conclusion on How to Get Strong Without Getting Big

That's really all there is to it. I don't need to make it any more complicated or belabor my points.

To get strong without getting big, focus on getting strong on your compound lifts, work in the 5-8 rep range, and rest long enough between your working sets.

Pick 2-3 compound lifts per workout and perform 3-4 sets of each lift. Aim to hit 2-3 strength training sessions per week. Less is more in the art of strength training!

Concentrate your explosiveness on the concentric part of the movement, and don't put as much effort on the eccentric part (but don't hurt yourself!).

For more information on strength and/or bodyweight training, check out my fitness programs:

Fat Loss Program (strength training and nutrition protocol for weight loss)

Bodyweight Program (strength training and nutrition protocol for progressing in bodyweight movements)