Hey, welcome to the third post in our series on beginning weight training! Sorry about the delay getting this post to you, electricity went out in our home, so that took over our life for a little bit! By the way, shameless plug for the company that helped us out, “Merton Electricians”, they’re Electricians in Wimbledon, great guys (You owe us one Dan 😉 )! Anyway, back to the matter at hand; training for size! Whereas training for strength is recommended for beginners and anyone trying to improve overall health, training for size is where most will move to after a few months!
That’s because after your initial first few months, the body is now used to weight training and all those “beginner gains” stop coming. What this means is you won’t see a noticeable increase in muscle mass, though you will continue getting stronger due to the hormonal, neurological, skeletal and structural differences your body continues to go through. It’s normally at this point most get discouraged and start looking for quick fixes, like changing their routine by adding bicep curls, taking creatine, eating much more and other things. What we recommend is starting a dedicated size programme.
That’s because they do what they say on the tin, focusing on giving you size to your muscles and makes you look better with your clothes off, therefore improving confidence and self-esteem! Also, don’t worry if you think you’ll look like a body-builder after a few weeks; getting to that stage takes years of dedicated work! Try your utmost to look like that for a few months and you’ll see how difficult it is!
So firstly it’s important to distinguish the differences in terms of training in this way:
- Isolation movements rather than compound movements: basically, you’ll be using one or two muscles per exercise, rather than whole body. Think of a Bicep Curl vs. a Deadlift; with the Bicep Curl you’re only using your bicep to lift the weight, which means you’re only changing the angle of your elbow joint. With a Deadlift, you’re using your hips, glutes, back to change the angle of your hips and knees, you’re also using your shoulders to stabilise the weight!
- Training Volume – the sets and reps of the workout: Whereas Strength training is about using low volume and high weight, to train for size, you’d need a greater training volume. This would be with a lower weight, but more reps and sets to maximise the amount of volume lifted. I.e, curling 15 kg for 5 reps is 75 kg volume, curling 12 kg for 8 reps is 96 kg volume. This extra volume pushes the individual muscles further than strength training does. Most size workouts work at the 3-4 set and 7-12 rep range. Rest between sets is very important with these programmes as the muscle comes under a lot of stress, normally 2 minutes.
- Time Under Tension: Related to the volume, is the time your muscle is under tension. The longer your muscle is placed under tension, the more it tears at the microscopic level. When these tears repair, this is what grows the muscle to a larger size as the body adapts to the stress it’s being placed under (hypertrophy). Rather than using momentum to lift the weight, then dropping it quickly, you should focus on making each rep last 4-5 seconds. You should also ensure you’re not “locking out” the joint, so the muscle is under tensions throughout the whole set.
What you’ll notice is that size training primarily focuses on just the muscles themselves, rather than the entire body. This makes sense as building the muscles comes primarily from tearing it down so it can re-build better. You won’t get many benefits in terms of cutting down weight or helping other organ systems out, but your body will completely change after consistent effort!
There are a fairly large number of training programmes to train for hypertrophy; they all follow the same lines however: whole body split, Upper/Lower body split, Push/Pull/Legs split, and specific muscle groups. Most available online are good and once you’ve had an opportunity to try them all, you’ll start to see what works specifically for your body! It is also worth switching up your routine every few months to encourage your body to re-adapt and grow again.
One of the reasons we suggest starting size training after a few months of strength training is because during these first few months, you’ll build a good foundation of strength to lift. You’ll get a good understanding of your own body and its specifics and quirks and you’ll have an idea of your limitations. This gives you the knowledge to try out a few size programmes safely for a couple of weeks, and then create your own from there! Good luck on your size journey, just remember to take a week-long break once every couple months to give your body a rest!
Weight training for beginners: