Strive for Strength Not for Bulk

This Project Swole fitness tip will help you to be as strong as you look.

Compare a powerlifter or a strongman with a bodybuilder and you will, more often than not, see the bodybuilder lift less weight even though he might weigh 50 or even 100 pounds more. For powerlifters and strongmen, training often with maximal weights is the culprit for this phenomenon. For bodybuilders, training with lighter weights can leave you pumped but weak.

Train Like a Bodybuilder

Bodybuilders spend most of their time training in the 8-12 rep range for maximal hypertrophy. This means they lift moderate weights in an attempt to make their muscles as large as possible. Pound for pound they are usually not as strong as powerlifters, strongmen, or Olympic lifters for that matter. Bodybuilders sure are big though!

Train Like a Strongman

Powerlifters and strongmen spend most of their time training with max effort intensity in the 1-5 rep range for strength or with dynamic effort (explosive) intensity in the 3 rep range for power. This means they lift really heavy weights to get as strong as possible or they lift about 50% of their 1 rep max as fast as possible to build explosive force.

How to Train to Accomplish Your Goals

If you want to be a bodybuilder, go ahead and train 3-6 exercises per muscle group for 3 sets of 12, using moderate weights, taking short rest intervals between sets. Unless you have really poor genetics, you will get bigger. Someone might tell you, “Well, at least you LOOK strong,” but that is the price you pay for being a bodybuilder.

If you want to actually be as strong, or stronger than you look, you will have to train with a few exercises, using somewhere around 5 sets on average or even more for 1 rep max attempts, with heavy weights, low reps, and take a bit longer to rest between sets. Toss in some dynamic effort training at least once a week to develop knock-out force.

Building a Foundation: Powerlift Then Bodybuild

Before I sign off, I will admit that there are some pretty strong bodybuilders out there. Franco Columbu and Ronnie Coleman come immediately to mind. But what you might not know is that those guys trained like powerlifters during the beginning of their training careers, which gave them the best foundation possible to turn into full time bodybuilders.

Did you also happen to notice that the powerlifters who convert to bodybuilding are also the guys who win most of the pro titles bodybuilding titles? There must be something to this whole ‘building a foundation’ thing.

Get as strong as possible by using the Project Swole routine Werewolf Training to Gain Strength, then follow it up with Werewolf Training to Gain Muscle and use your new found strength to gain 5-10 pounds of muscle in 6 months or less.

Project Swole

Project Swole is a place where beginner, amateur, and experienced athletes can maximize their physical potential through conditioning, weightlifting, nutrition, discipline and willpower. Build muscle and lose fat!

6 thoughts on “Strive for Strength Not for Bulk

  • October 28, 2010 at 2:32 am

    this is true, for me i dont need excess muscle mass. I only need enough muscle to have a bruce lee type physique but have a tons of power and strength on those muscles.

  • October 21, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Yes – Stay-puffed Marshmallow men are pretty to look at.
    Train for strength and the rest will take care of itself. Rather amazing that elite athletes look better than some of the best bodybuilders ehh??
    The absolute versus relative strength debate continues.

  • October 20, 2010 at 11:28 am

    I would say that 90% of women are going to want to stick with powerlifting. Many women think this will make them bulky but in reality the opposite is true. I know a woman who is a size 2 and can deadlift 400 pounds. I just don’t want women to read this article and run away from weighlifting, as long as you do it right you can stay quite slim and lift more than anyone would guess.

  • October 20, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I never understood the desire to get huge without getting strong at the same time…like a big puffy balloon

    • October 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm

      Hey Steve, I’m not a fitness guru in terms of resistance training techniques like yourself and Doug. Around five years ago, I started incorporating a 1 rep max component to certain weight lifting exercises like squat, bench press, and others that use major muscle groups. I found that it not only improved my strength, but also led to better muscle gains.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *