Training for strength vs. training for size – I prefer strength, here’s why

By | March 3, 2017

Bruce Lee. Take a look at that guy. Fucking strong. Why? Why was Bruce Lee so strong?

Nervous system. He knew how to consciously contract more of his muscles than most people. And that is the key to strength. You increase your conscious control over a greater percentage of your muscles, say from 25% to 40%. That is strength.

Size is totally different. And to be honest, I have very little interest in training for size at this point. Training for strength is actually much easier and demands less time. You can get seriously strong using two 20 minute strength training sessions per week.

How strong?

Stronger than you’ll ever need to be. I mean, you could be doing a 450 pound deadlift. You’d have to specialize. You wouldn’t have that kind of strength in other movements, but it’s possible. So you spread that kind of strength across all major movement patterns and you get to the point where you can press 70lb overhead each hand, deadlift 315, do pull ups with 70 pounds attached, do full squats, display full movement, and so on.

Training for strength is really focused. You focus intently on the movements you do to eek out every benefit you possibly can from the movement. It demands your full attention. Meting out that kind of attention is far easier to do when training for strength instead of size, because you have fewer reps to contend with.

Strength, by its nature, demands focus. It’s an important skill. Strength means avoiding excessively stimulating your body. You can burn out your nervous system on strength. It’s medicine. A prescription for full use of your body over time. Figure out the amount you need—but be strong and retain the ability to use your body as you age.

20-25 minutes, two times per week, 3-5 sets, 3-5 reps, 4-5 exercises.

Author: Justin Qualler

Justin Qualler is that rare animal who balances an active life—he's both a full-time technical writer and devoted family man—with a level of fitness that takes a back seat to none. Justin's convinced that everyone can make optimal health and strength a default setting in their life.