Is a mass building phase necessary to keep building strength?

Jeff

More than 500 posts
Can a person follow a pure strength program employing Easy Strength principles (not the 5 day per week 40 day program) indefinitely and continue to build strength, or is it necessary to insert a mass building phase from time to time?
 

Oscar

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
That's an interesting question , I'd like to hear the opinion of more experienced members. For starters, there was a guy who DLed 6x bw, so apparently strength can be built without mass to some extent.
 

william bad butt

More than 300 posts
My opinion...

For most people, there is nothing wrong with building strength and adding mass, simultaneously. However, a significant and impressive amount of strength can be gained without adding mass. However, at some point, once you approach an advanced level, the strength gains slow down and you approach an asymptote. At this point, a decision needs to be made about your lifestyle. If you want to increase your absolute strength, then add mass: However, recognise that this may come at a cost to your relative strength (especially with bodyweight movements, like pull ups for example).

But in general, I think that with more strength comes more muscle mass.
 

jca17

More than 300 posts
At a certain point it is necessary, at an even earlier point it is very convenient and helpful unless specific weight class type considerations prevent it. Consider that when top lifters want to lift more, they increase their body weight. They are representative of people who have essentially maxed out their strength at the current body weight. On the other hand, usually even at their lighter bodyweight early in career, they are very muscular for their height. From beginner to intermediate, putting on muscle helps a lot, from intermediate to advanced, you can probably move up a lot just with neurological training and technique improvement. To increase strength once advanced/elite, add more mass (or rather, allow mass to increase as you get volume in with even heavier loads).
 

Jeff

More than 500 posts
Let's say I am not in a sport with a weight class. Gaining weight isn't an issue for me.
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Can a person follow a pure strength program employing Easy Strength principles (not the 5 day per week 40 day program) indefinitely and continue to build strength, or is it necessary to insert a mass building phase from time to time?

Increasing Limit, 1 Repetition Max

Scientific Research as well as decades of empirical data have demonstrated a greater increase in Limit Strength when Hypertrophy (what is considered a mass phase) and Power Training are part of your Training Program.

Physiological Responses to Two Different Models of Daily Undulating Periodization in Trained Powerlifters | fsu.digital.flvc.org

T
he above is the "Abstract" (Cliff Notes) of Dr Michael Zourdos' dissertation on this.

Zourdos' research found a primary key to increasing Limit Strength is...

Conjugate Training

...training different types of Strength at the same time: Limit Strength, Hypertrophy and Power.

Doing so provideds a...

Synergistic Effect

Synergistic means the sum (total) is greater than its parts.

It is like adding 2 + 2 and getting 5. The total is larger than its parts.

Each Strength enhancing the other.

Empirical Data

The Westside Powerlifting Training Protocol has been around 36 years, since about 1982.

This method employs Conjugate Training; training Strength (Max Effort), Hypertrophy (Repetition Method) and Speed Training (actually it's Power Training).

One of the concerns with lifters in weight classes is gaining weight and having to move up a weight class. Thus, the avoidance of...

Hypertrophy Training

This method is used to muscle mass. However, that does not necessarily mean an increase in body weight.

A well written and preformed Hypertrophy Training Program enables lifter to increase muscle mass while minimizing body fat; the end result is relative no change in body weight.

Secondly, the prime root of weight gain or weight loss is caloric intake (Diet); not training.

Third, a minimal amount of Hypertrophy Training for extremely lean individual with concerns gaining weight and remaining in their present weight class is easily addressed by placing less emphasis on it; performing a minimal amount of Hypertrophy work.

One reason some Hypertrophy Training Sets need to be employed is as a means of increasing Strength is...

Muscle Recovery

One of the keys for increasing your training recover is to increase blood flow to the muscles after a training session.

The circulatory system delivers nutrients to the muscles for repair and eliminates "Metabolites", the garbage from training.

The most effective method for this is...

Active Recovery

This means performing light, easy exercise that flood the muscle tissue with blood.

The least productive method is...

Passive Recovery

This amount to doing nothing after your heavy training session, just sitting around watching TV, etc.

There are a variety of way to incorporate Hypertrophy Training into a program that enhances recovery without increasing body weight/muscle mass...

You'll get more progression if you do a long set at the end of a training session

"The present results demonstrated the effects of an additional set of low-intensity exercise immediately after a high-intensity, low-repetition exercise in gaining muscular strength and endurance, suggesting its usefulness in the strength protocol", ...

Performing a Hypertrophy Set at the end of your Limit Strength Training increases blood to the muscle involved (promoting recover).

However, the single Hypertrophy Set post Limit Strength Training only minimally affects an increase in body weight, if at all.

To reiterate, Diet is the prime factor for weight gain or loss.

Summary

A greater increase in Limit Strength is elicited when some Hypertrophy and Power Training are part of your program.

Kenny Croxdale
 
Last edited:

Bill Been

More than 500 posts
Strength training involves lifting progressively heavy weights, a process that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, shifting this ebbing and flowing process of muscle protein synthesis vs muscle protein breakdown toward accretion. You can thwart this process by under-eating or under-training which is a choice that should be made with eyes wide open. What we view as traditional hypertrophy/bodybuilding approaches- high volume with modest loads - does the same things. It's fun - and I'm as guilty as anybody - to make fun of the bodybuilders and we really should (jokes coming up, Steve, strap in) make fun of them for their penchant for spray painting themselves and prancing about on stages in tiny bikinis to impress males in that legal-to-vote-but-not-yet-to-drink demographic.

The BBer gets stronger as well, but as a consequence of his aesthetics-driven approach to training. The Powerlifter or Oly lifter also adds muscle, but as a consequence of his strength-driven approach to training.

The hyperstrong small guys are commonly cited as proof that you don't NEED to be bigger to be strong, which I think overlooks the fact that the hyper strong little guy would be even stronger if he was bigger. Duh. But, the more subtle fact is that you don't actually know much about very important aspects of the little guy's physiology. We don't know for example how much of his muscle is high-force production, rapid twitch Type2 fiber. We don't know how hyper-effectively he can recruit huge percentages of motor units into function. Both of these qualities are either there - or absent - on the birth bed. Best you can hope for is to get the best outta whatcha got. This process of enhancing MU recruitment and improving your lifting form and coordination is an important contributor to early strength increases. As you continue along, your body will start adding tissue to meet the demands of ever-heavier loads. Very good news is that other important tissue is added along with skeletal muscle: tendon and ligament thickness and therefore strength are increased; bone matrix is laid down, increasing bone density, hormonal signaling is horrendously complex, but it appears higher loading triggers a cascade of growth-signaling - all of which act in beneficial directions. Add to the mix that muscle is the largest glycogen store in the body and its importance to blood-sugar management and T2DM avoidance becomes clear.

So yes, muscle is extremely important, and no, you don't really need to specialize in adding it, as a well-designed strength training program will add what it requires.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Can a person follow a pure strength program employing Easy Strength principles (not the 5 day per week 40 day program) indefinitely and continue to build strength, or is it necessary to insert a mass building phase from time to time?
No program works for everyone forever. It's not so much that it's necessary to "insert a mass building phase" as it is to vary the approach. NB: some approaches to strength training, e.g., Plan Strong, have enough variety built into them that one can follow them for years and continue to progress, but that's because they're not the same instructions but rather different lifting schedules based on the same set of principles.

Let's say I am not in a sport with a weight class. Gaining weight isn't an issue for me.
TANSTAAFL - There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. There is a skill component to strength, and a mass component to strength. You can choose to focus on one, the other, or both as a matter of personal preference.

Speaking for myself, I've never understood trying to add muscle just to lift more weight. (I've also never understood wanting to look big, or look muscular, or look any particular way other than making sure my clothes were clean, my pants were zipped, and my shirt was tucked in.) To me, it' s a choice of becoming a better version of who I am now through improved skill or becoming something different by adding muscle.

Just my opinion; your mileage may vary.

-S-
 

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
For me, I want to be strong in a natural way. I think being able to manipulate between 1/3 and half my weight in one hand in different ways for multiple reps is healthy strength, and not difficult to acquire (or with two hands a deadlift of 150% bodyweight etc). I don't want to get all super huge, which I suspect is counterproductive health-wise.
 

Jeff

More than 500 posts
Increasing Limit, 1 Repetition Max

Scientific Research as well as decades of empirical data have demonstrated a greater increase in Limit Strength when Hypertrophy (what is considered a mass phase) and Power Training are part of your Training Program.

Physiological Responses to Two Different Models of Daily Undulating Periodization in Trained Powerlifters | fsu.digital.flvc.org

T
he above is the "Abstract" (Cliff Notes) of Dr Michael Zourdos' dissertation on this.

Zourdos' research found a primary key to increasing Limit Strength is...

Conjugate Training

...training different types of Strength at the same time: Limit Strength, Hypertrophy and Power.

Doing so provideds a...

Synergistic Effect

Synergistic means the sum (total) is greater than its parts.

It is like adding 2 + 2 and getting 5. The total is larger than its parts.

Each Strength enhancing the other.

Empirical Data

The Westside Powerlifting Training Protocol has been around 36 years, since about 1982.

This method employs Conjugate Training; training Strength (Max Effort), Hypertrophy (Repetition Method) and Speed Training (actually it's Power Training).

One of the concerns with lifters in weight classes is gaining weight and having to move up a weight class. Thus, the avoidance of...

Hypertrophy Training

This method is used to muscle mass. However, that does not necessarily mean an increase in body weight.

A well written and preformed Hypertrophy Training Program enables lifter to increase muscle mass while minimizing body fat; the end result is relative no change in body weight.

Secondly, the prime root of weight gain or weight loss is caloric intake (Diet); not training.

Third, a minimal amount of Hypertrophy Training for extremely lean individual with concerns gaining weight and remaining in their present weight class is easily addressed by placing less emphasis on it; performing a minimal amount of Hypertrophy work.

One reason some Hypertrophy Training Sets need to be employed is as a means of increasing Strength is...

Muscle Recovery

One of the keys for increasing your training recover is to increase blood flow to the muscles after a training session.

The circulatory system delivers nutrients to the muscles for repair and eliminates "Metabolites", the garbage from training.

The most effective method for this is...

Active Recovery

This means performing light, easy exercise that flood the muscle tissue with blood.

The least productive method is...

Passive Recovery

This amount to doing nothing after your heavy training session, just sitting around watching TV, etc.

There are a variety of way to incorporate Hypertrophy Training into a program that enhances recovery without increasing body weight/muscle mass...

You'll get more progression if you do a long set at the end of a training session

"The present results demonstrated the effects of an additional set of low-intensity exercise immediately after a high-intensity, low-repetition exercise in gaining muscular strength and endurance, suggesting its usefulness in the strength protocol", ...

Performing a Hypertrophy Set at the end of your Limit Strength Training increases blood to the muscle involved (promoting recover).

However, the single Hypertrophy Set post Limit Strength Training only minimally affects an increase in body weight, if at all.

To reiterate, Diet is the prime factor for weight gain or loss.

Summary

A greater increase in Limit Strength is elicited when some Hypertrophy and Power Training are part of your program.

Kenny Croxdale
Do do a single set of 10 after my low rep sets?
 

Oscar

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Regarding this conversation, there is a subject I´ve been meaning to ask for a while: Everyone talks about body fat percentage, but what about muscle mass percentage?

It appears that for most sports and activities, a bodyfat of about 10% is ideal. This is for typical activities, excluding both extremes of the continuum: marathoners and powerlifters (and the such). also, it appears that elite athletes of typical sports all carry more or less the mentioned body fat of about 10%, and also similar quantities of muscle. Think soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, etc. None of them looks like Ed Coan, and neither looks like a marathoner. So, as a general rule, how much muscle are these guy carrying?

I´ll start a new thread so as not to interfere with this one: How much muscle mass is ideal?
 

Ian V

Double-Digit Post Count
I think being able to manipulate between 1/3 and half my weight in one hand in different ways for multiple reps is healthy strength, and not difficult to acquire (or with two hands a deadlift of 150% bodyweight etc). I don't want to get all super huge, which I suspect is counterproductive health-wise.
Totally agree with this - some years ago at a body weight of 115 kg I was able to pull 3 sets of 5 deadlifts with 320 kg. I never got much bigger but there was a noted thickness in my back and shoulder muscles. Having said that, I now train in the range as described by Kozushi and honestly at almost 58 feel healthier and generally stronger / more able than I did back then. Healthy strength is the perfect way to describe it and for me the perfect aim.

My best regards to all.
 

Antti

More than 2500 posts
Totally agree with this - some years ago at a body weight of 115 kg I was able to pull 3 sets of 5 deadlifts with 320 kg. I never got much bigger but there was a noted thickness in my back and shoulder muscles. Having said that, I now train in the range as described by Kozushi and honestly at almost 58 feel healthier and generally stronger / more able than I did back then. Healthy strength is the perfect way to describe it and for me the perfect aim.

My best regards to all.
3 sets of 5 at 320kg? That is quite a lot. You were an elite lifter. What federation did you compete in and how did you do?
 

Ian V

Double-Digit Post Count
3 sets of 5 at 320kg? That is quite a lot. You were an elite lifter. What federation did you compete in and how did you do?
@Antti
Let me clarify that those were achieved with hand straps - my deadlifting was part of my programme for Judo training when I was competitive. I had intended carving out a career in powerlifting when I retired from competition but injuries left me with a poor bench press. I also suffered broken fingers in my fighting days and did not have the grip strength for true competition. When I stopped competitive judo I kept the deadlift in my training and the weight just crept up and up. I think I am just genetically predisposed for that lift.
I apologise if the original post made me appear to be in a better league than I actually was. I should have given more detail.
 

Antti

More than 2500 posts
@Antti
Let me clarify that those were achieved with hand straps - my deadlifting was part of my programme for Judo training when I was competitive. I had intended carving out a career in powerlifting when I retired from competition but injuries left me with a poor bench press. I also suffered broken fingers in my fighting days and did not have the grip strength for true competition. When I stopped competitive judo I kept the deadlift in my training and the weight just crept up and up. I think I am just genetically predisposed for that lift.
I apologise if the original post made me appear to be in a better league than I actually was. I should have given more detail.
Thanks for the clarification. In any case, I don't think there are many people in the world who can claim such a feat.
 

Jeff

More than 500 posts
You could use Power to the People as an example. The basic program is frequent heavy but not hard lifting and then there is The Bear. Is The Bear ever necessary in order to continue progress, and if so, how often?

Do you wait until you stall, do The Bear, and then go back to the basic program? Do you lose your mass gains after going back to the basic program?
 

jca17

More than 300 posts
There will come a point where a person cannot make noticeable gains at their current weight. It may take a while, but you will be getting closer to your body’s version of elite for your weight. If the goal is strength, why intentionally handicap yourself by pushing your genetic limits at a given weight? If you are 6 feet tall and 200 pounds with 10% bodyfat, then sure, hyoertrophy isnt the most important thing. You would fit into the upper end of that kind of general range of track and field or reactive team sport athlete muscle composition. Maintain a 500 pound deadlift and 300 pound bench with easy strength and focus on any other physical pursuits you enjoy. But if youre 6 feet tall and 160 pound desk worker and want to get stronger as effectively as possible, do a program that gets a lot of weekly volume on big compound lifts and eat a lot. In my experience, my relative strength has increased faster since fircing myself to eat more to go with a higher volume program. My relative strength (not just absolute strength) has gone up faster as I gain weight than it did when I used pttp style programs and didnt take eating seriously. I suspected as much but its nice to see it playing out that way.
 

Oscar

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
My relative strength (not just absolute strength) has gone up faster as I gain weight
This makes sense to me from a mathematical point of view. If a 100 kg guy increases 10 kg of muscle without fat, he now weighs 110 kg for a 10% increase. But his muscle mass went from 50 kg to 60 kg, increasing 20% (approximate figures). So his muscle to weight ratio went from 50% (50 kg over 100 kg) to 54% (60 over 110). Everything else equal, his relative strength is higher.
 

305pelusa

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
This makes sense to me from a mathematical point of view. If a 100 kg guy increases 10 kg of muscle without fat, he now weighs 110 kg for a 10% increase. But his muscle mass went from 50 kg to 60 kg, increasing 20% (approximate figures). So his muscle to weight ratio went from 50% (50 kg over 100 kg) to 54% (60 over 110). Everything else equal, his relative strength is higher.
Yeah that's a really good observation. Even in BW training, I've noticed (in general), the ones capable of the hardest feats are much more beefed up.

I only made that connection like a year ago. Since then, I've placed much more focus on muscle building as a way to reach my strength goals. And then I reached them 0_o. Call it placebo but with 10 more lbs of upper body mass, everything became laughably easier.

Neat thread!
 
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