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View Full Version : What first? Strength or Size?


Justin Arnold
02-06-2011, 11:01 PM
I understand this could be debated quite a bit, but at least let me explain where I'm coming from so it doesn't sound like such a stupid question.

I remember hearing or reading somewhere that in certain lifts, there is a disproportionate gain in strength in the initial stages of mass-gain due to the increased circumference of the muscle belly pulling at the attachment points at a more favorable angle. (please let me know if this is BS)

Assuming that is true, and someone were in the early phases of getting strong, would it make more sense to focus mostly on strength gain at first? or mass-gain then switch to a focus on strength once the size is there? Which approach would lead to a certain strength goal (such as 2xBW squat or 1.5BW front squat) sooner?

I'm 31, 6'2" and right at 200lb, with somewhere under 10% body fat. I don't "look" very big for weighing that much. (this is a matter of perspective I guess. Compared to a rugby player I'm small.. compared to all the people I've been climbing with for 10 years I'm a monster). I have no idea how to determine whether I have "long femurs" or whatever other anatomical differences will effect strength. I've only been lifting for about a year, and IMO, pretty damn weak. Since highschool I've always been active, but that's usually meant Bouldering or running. My long-term goals are 2xBW ass-to-grass squat, 1.5xBW front squat, BW press, and 2.5xBW pull. I'm off by 20-25% on most of these. I've messed around with starting strength & 531, and seen decent gains, but I can't help but feel I should be getting stronger more quickly than I am (novice effect). I've been looking at West Side for Skinny Bastards as an option, but wonder about recovery with the seemingly crazy volume when you add the bouldering. Seems like it's geared toward Highschool athletes with all of that testosterone floating around. Gant's EZHybrid is another option, though I need to spend some more time comparing.

Any thoughts are appreciated,

Justin

Pete Gordon
02-07-2011, 07:00 AM
G'day Justin...
You have touched on an interesting topic. Are you a beginner?

Sure you've been pretty active with yr climbing running, is a 'beginners' program suited to you? I'd say 'definitely maybe'.

What type of program have you done over the last year? I have a lot of respect for the 'starting strength' plan. It's been around since the 50's, which means that there's some good to it!!

Strength or mass? mmm....quite possibly you'll find that as you get stronger you'll get bigger. If you want to squat 400lb, you'll have a tough time doing it with tiny chicken legs!! Your legs (and rest if yr body) will grow in order to accommodate the stress!!

Arien Malec
02-07-2011, 08:23 AM
I've messed around with starting strength & 531, and seen decent gains, but I can't help but feel I should be getting stronger more quickly than I am (novice effect).

This is your problem. Forget size/strength, go for consistency. At 31, you've got all the time in the world, and you don't have the hormonal benefits that an 18 year old has. All the amazing stories about Starting Strength are based on 16-18 year olds; you aren't going to build 40 lbs of lean mass in 6 months, or whatever. Just pick an approach and stick with it. Think about years, not months, as your strength and size building timecycle.

Dave Van Skike
02-07-2011, 11:49 AM
I've been looking at West Side for Skinny Bastards as an option, but wonder about recovery with the seemingly crazy volume when you add the bouldering


You've answered your own quesiton. Do less of this: bouldering,running,MTB, skipping, flipping and cow tipping and more of that. Squat/Bench/Dead/Press/Eating eating eating.

Are you content with being a competent all rounder?...keep at it, slow and steady and don't worry about size...at all.

I'm of the opinion you've already ruled out getting big and really strong based on the way you couched the goals as BW related. You don't seem like one to eat your way through the sticking points so I'd just keep pursuing the goals, slow and steady. Don't sweat it. be patient, continue with all the fun stuff and accept the compromise.

Chris Butler
02-07-2011, 07:50 PM
Don't sweat it. be patient, continue with all the fun stuff and accept the compromise.This is the answer!

@OP - I backcountry ski, hike, bike, hunt, martial arts, etc.....

I'm about your size but 13 yrs. older. I take 2 days off between lifting sessions and have continued gaining strength on a schedule like this for years.

I cycle my training through out the year.
Winter/spring - Odd objects and bodyweight
Summer - Oly lifts & power lifts
Fall - strongman & odd object

My training age is over 30 yrs.

Justin Arnold
02-07-2011, 08:16 PM
You've answered your own quesiton. Do less of this: bouldering,running,MTB, skipping, flipping and cow tipping and more of that. Squat/Bench/Dead/Press/Eating eating eating.

Seeing as I'm not willing to give up bouldering, and my other main activity CANT be cut back (paid firefighter), I guess I'll have to accept the slow and steady concept.

Thanks a ton for the insight... everybody.

shawn prince
02-15-2011, 01:40 AM
I think the strength is basic and first thing then size,..
when your strength is increase then your size will increase automatically,..