The most popular question in the world of weightlifting is “How do I get bigger?”. The relationship between strength and size is actually an inverse one. Every guy wants to get bigger, but they never lift in the rep range to do so. Lift heavy to get big is what just about all men adopt, but they get disappointed when they put on little size. There are two types of muscle growth that I will explain.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy, or “strength” hypertrophy, leads to an increase in the myosin and actin proteins, which are the contractile proteins in the myofibrils. In easier words, when lifting very heavy weight and putting your muscles under new stress in a progressive way over time, you increase the muscle’s ability to contract, making them stronger. The recruited motor units in these muscles increase also allowing you to adapt to the heavy weight, making it “easier” to lift over time. This is why it is important to progressively increase the weight over time to avoid a plateau. More sarcoplasm is not needed to increase muscle myofibrils which leads to an increase in strength but not muscle size. Look at a picture of a strongman powerlifter compared to a bodybuilder and you will see this.
This type of “size” hypertrophy creates an increase in muscle sarcoplasm. Sarcoplasm is the fluid that surrounds the myofibrils in the muscles. This fluid consists of ATP, gylcogen, creatine phosphate, and water. In response over time, your muscles will increase their sarcoplasmic fluid to allow the muscles more hydration and energy to perform energy demanding weight lifts. This fluid is what creates a bigger looking muscle. Bodybuilders take full advantage of this type of hypertrophy to get bigger muscles, but are limited in strength. Both types of hypertrophy are in action at all times when you lift weights. It’s just a matter of how much of each type you are using.
But What About Getting Bigger AND Stronger?
In this case you would lift in a rep range that is in between both types of hypertrophy. The only drawback is that you will not gain as much strength as you would lifting primarily for myofibrilar hypertrophy or as much size as you would lifting purely for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
How To Train For Each Muscle Hypertrophy
For strength, lift 85-100% of your 1 rep max for 4 sets of 1-5 reps of short explosive movements. Rest periods for each set are 90seconds-5minutes. Aim for 5 reps, and if you are able to do 5 reps for each set, add more weight until you start dropping in the number of reps.
For size, we want to alter the metabolic ability of the muscle by draining its energy reserves. Do 4 sets of lifting that you can perform 15-25 reps of 60-75% of your 1RM. This weight should be heavy enough to feel challenging, but not light enough to feel like your doing barely anything. Rest time between sets is 30-60 seconds.
There is a gap you may have noticed between 75-85% of your 1RM. This is the sweet spot for increasing strength and size at an equal rate. Doing 4 sets of 8-12 reps will increase both, but won’t be as great for each one as it would be if solely done individually.
|Rep Range||% of 1RM||Amounts of Hypertrophy|
|1-5 reps||85-100%||Mostly myofibrillar, a little sarcoplasmic|
|8-12 reps||75-85%||A near equal moderate amount of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic|
|15-25 reps||65-75%||Mostly sarcoplasmic, a little myofibrillar|
|25+ reps||65% and below||Largely endurance, some sarcoplasmic, a little myofibrillar|
I’m going to assume every guy wants to get big primarily and add some strength, so I will suggest the best way to do that. Train purely for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy for every workout but do 1 day a week where you train strictly for strength. This will give you the benefit of getting bigger with also a little strength. Since you are increasing your strength, this will trickle down into your size gains by allowing you the strength to up the weight you can do 15-25 reps for. Make sense? In this way you can become the biggest beast that you possibly can without completely leaving the strength department ignored. Let the gains begin!
Side effects relating to the information said above includes the following and is not limited to: Women giving you double takes, having your chest constantly touched, being called “big guy”, men giving you new found respect, increased confidence, becoming an Alpha male, being asked if you workout, shirts fit tighter and jeans don’t fit anymore, feeling like Bane every time you walk into a gym and scan the room for your first workout to attack, having your biceps squeezed, men and women telling you more than normal about how much they workout and how healthy they eat more than usual, shampooing your hair becomes a whole workout in itself after bicep workouts, and looking at stairs like a 90 year old man after leg day.