23

Nov

Can you get strong without bulking up?

Everyone’s perception of their ideal body varies. While many of us want definition, not everyone wants muscle bulk. There are many myths around that state lifting heavy weights will increase your muscle bulk but many of these are simply not true. An example could be that lifting lighter weights for more reps aims to tone, while lifting heavy builds bulk.

Lift Heavy – Why to lift heavy

A better understanding of basic weight training methodologies is first needed to understand why load bearing exercise is necessary. In very simple terms, there are three broad styles of resistance training. These are:

  • Strength
  • Hypertrophy
  • Muscular Endurance

Each of these styles has a recommended repetition scheme and intensity level associated with it. These are as follows:

  • Strength (2-5 sets of 1-6 repetitions at 85-95% of 1 rep max)
  • Hypertrophy (3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions at 75-85% 1 rep max)
  • Muscular Endurance (2-3 sets of 12-20 repetitions at 50-75% 1 rep max)

Typically we see most gym goers using a hypertrophy program, usually associated with a bodybuilding approach, or a muscular endurance program, with a perceived “toning” effect as the ultimate goal. But why should we consider lifting heavy and using a Strength training approach?

Firstly, strength training improves bone density. This is hugely important as we age and helps increase our body’s longevity. Secondly, it does exactly what it says on the label – it gets us stronger! Why is this important? We need functional strength as we age, the ability to pick up a heavy weight from the ground and transport it to another destination – think picking up the kids or carrying shopping bags!

A huge misconception is that lifting heavy weights will make you bulky. Quite the opposite in fact – lifting heavy weights will tone and cause what’s referred to as “functional hypertrophy”. This means that the cross sectional area of your muscle will expand without holding on to excess sarcoplasm or water. “Non-functional hypertrophy” is typical of the bodybuilding approach where a trainee gets much bigger musculature without actually significantly increasing the force that can be applied by those muscles.

Work for shorter periods to fatigue – increases strength

A huge advantage to strength training is that you work for shorter periods of time prior to reaching fatigue. This means a shorter and yet, more effective workout.

Even better, it requires minimal equipment. Here is a list of recommended equipment to get you started:

How to get best results

As with any type of training, it is important to have routine and structure in order to maximise your results. It is wise to talk with a trained professional to get the best advice however, below are some links to some basic starter programs for strength training:

One final thing – ladies, the likelihood of you adding significant mass by doing any type of resistance training is incredibly minimal. Our primary growth hormone is testosterone and to foster significant changes in muscle size, one needs a significant amount of this hormone. Females simply don’t possess enough testosterone to “bulk up” in the same way as males. In fact, males produce 30 times more testosterone than females!

Dave Robertson is a Strength & Conditioning Coach with over a decade of industry experience. He enjoys blogging for Little Bloke Fitness and in the past has also owned a personal training studio in London & a CrossFit gym in Melbourne. He is completing postgraduate studies in Sports Coaching, is a former semi-professional rugby union player and has coached two national record holders in Powerlifting & one state champion in Olympic Weightlifting.

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