How To Train For Muscular Size, Strength Or Power
An Interview About Targeted Training with Dr. Victor Prisk
1. Gyms are filled with men and women lifting weights, yet a large percentage of them aren’t getting the results that they want. What advice do you have for someone starting a lifting routine?
A: The biggest challenge with getting results in the gym is mapping out the journey. The first step in that process is reasonable goal setting. Writing the goal down turns it from something ethereal in your mind to something solid on paper. This makes the goal real. Second, you must “believe to achieve” your goal. Make it something achievable from day to day, week to week and month to month.
Once you’ve made a goal you must adjust your training accordingly. If your goal is to burn fat you may consider advanced cardio techniques such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) and relatively fasted cardio. If your goal is to build muscle you may need to learn advanced techniques like eccentrics (negatives), preloading to failure and drop-sets.
It’s really risky to fall into the concept of “bro-science” or just doing what your friends or some random guy at the gym tells you to do. If you’re a beginner, seek professional advice and educate yourself with articles at sites like GNC.com. Remember, your body, mind, metabolism and genetics are different from the person standing next to you. You’ll need to figure out what works best for you!
2. You mentioned the importance of targeting training to support individual goals. Power, strength and size are the three common goals that we hear from our customers. Can you share some training advice for someone whose main goal is to build muscular size?
A: Building muscle requires two steps forward with one step back. This means you shock the muscle with intense training that goes beyond your perceived limits and then give it time to recover. We use techniques like drop sets (hitting failure with a heavy weight, immediately dropping the weight, and then doing a lighter weight to failure) to accomplish this. This extends the failure of the muscle contraction. This technique recruits all of your motor units including those containing slow twitch and fast twitch fibers.
This kind of training can cause extreme soreness and requires time and nutrition to recover. No matter what technique you use, avoid recovery debt. Fuel your muscle growth with extra protein, massage and stretch sore muscles, and keep a diet rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to help with recovery.
When it comes to building muscle, research has shown the key is to reach failure no matter the weight or the reps it takes to get you there. If you can’t reach failure in your training, you may be falling short.
3. How does that differ from someone whose goal is to get stronger?
A: Getting stronger requires different training than what one would use for building muscle. To build strength one must lift weights heavier than one is used to. Again, it is two steps forward and one step back. However, we must lift heavier for the movement we want to get stronger. For instance, if you want a stronger bench, you must bench heavier.
If your goal is to increase your one rep max, you should work to get your current one rep max for two reps. This trains the connective tissue, like muscle and tendons, to handle the weight. Further, it trains the neuromuscular connections to handle the weight and control the movement more efficiently as well. Building strength involves being able to recruit all your muscles’ fast twitch motor units in a concerted fashion.
4. What if power is the primary goal? Would the training need to be altered from what you described above? Why or why not? If so, can you share some ways that someone with a goal of increasing power can improve their training regimen? What the focus would be? Specific exercises?
A: Power training is a combination of strength training and speed. Again, this requires focusing on the power you want to achieve. If you want to jump higher, you must jump. To get faster and stronger with jumping you can employ techniques to add resistance to jumping or perform jump-related exercises like squats and cleans. Power training often involves plyometrics and agility. Plyometrics combine speed with the eccentric contraction that builds muscle as we discussed earlier. The neuromuscular training for power is often more complex and requires resilient connective tissue. The training for power often requires sports specific training.
5. Let’s switch gears and talk about nutrition. The GNC science team recommends adults doing strength training at high intensity (4 times or more per week; 45 min or more each time) include between 1.5-2.0 g/kg of body weight per day to support training. Does the type of protein consumed vary based on the training goal? For example, should someone with a strength goal choose a different type of protein than someone with a size goal?
A: Protein recommendations are the same whether you are training for muscle growth, strength or power. It is important to note that proteins are not created equal. Amino acid composition varies between protein sources. Further, some proteins are better for rapidly absorbed post-workout recovery and others better support sustained amino acid levels throughout the day and night.
Milk-derived whey protein isolates and hydrolysates are rapidly digested, are rich in branched-chain amino acids like leucine and are proven to be highly effective at turning on muscle protein synthesis. Similarly, casein, also derived from milk, has slower digestion and can help sustain blood levels of amino acids. These “building blocks” of amino acids are helpful to have available for muscle recovery.
By consuming protein rich meals every three hours—particularly around your workouts such as a post-workout whey protein shake—you can optimize muscle protein synthesis throughout the day. Additionally, an evening shake containing a blend with casein will give you sustained amino acid levels for recovery in your sleep.
6. Do you have any other advice for people trying to achieve their power, strength and size goals?
A: I can’t say enough about the importance of sleep! It is critical to recovery after intense training. Accumulating training stress leads to hormonal imbalances and delayed recovery. Deep sleep restores our minds and our bodies.