Beginners strength training progression without mmass increase?

Imagine the following situation: You have a begginer in a weigh room, willing to increase his strength. Also, this begginer is a martial artist who already have 1kg over his weight catogory…

It is coomont to use long linear periodization with begginers, or to say in other words, to progress from high-volume low-intensity to high-intensity low-volume training. The example is usign 2x15reps for 3week, 3x10 for 3w, 4x8 for 3w, 5x5 etc, etc

This athlete should acquire more skill and should do the “anatomic adaptation” phase.

the question is how to progress to maximal strength (1-5RMs) without increasing muscle mass (when passing to 6-12RM range) and without injury (if just jumping to 5RMs)?

Any advice is highly appreciated?

How much time should a begginer spend in “anatomic adaptation phase” utilizing high-volume low-int traiing? I have spent 1-2months when beggining…
Is it ok to incorporate conjugated periodization with a begginer?

Very, very difficult.

If you are talking about begginer as in completely new to weights, then I would say using that approach, nearly impossible.

The problem lies in the ability of the novice to sufficiently tax their nervous system. HI, low-rep lifting prorgams have little benefit to the begginer because they can’t recruit enough muscle fibre’s to make a triple, or a single, or even sets of 6 or less worthwhile.

With your athlete, the trick might be to start SUPER LIGHT for the first weeks to teach the movement, muscle activation patterns, neuromuscular adaptation and all the rest of it, before ramping down the program to low rep, moderate weight with LONG recovery.

Often it is the recovery between sets that determines wether or not a program will elicit a (desired or undesired) hypertrophic response. I am not sure of the relationship, but I am sure that the stimulus needed to create a hypertrophic response is related to the current level of work capacity.

I usually use a 6wk period of general preperation weights before I start any specific lifting. This isn’t neccesarily all traditional weights: I have had great results using strong-man type training; keg lifting, carrying gym balls filled with water, etc. Most of the time, the guys who come to me dont have anywhere near the work capacity to begin proper lifting. This kills two birds with one stone. :wink:

Tnx Luca! Very helpfull!

She had great working capacity (she is elite taekwondo fighter) so this is not a issue.
I used very lirght weigths to teach movement, and for example, I used 3x5reps with 10-20 secs in between repeated 3 times (3 sets with 1-2min rest) to teach DL (only with a bar), becuase large number of reps in one trial tends to create unfavorable conditions and technique break-down… Once she is familia with the movement we will do about 12reps in a set!

I agree on the rest issue! Maybe the solutions would be that when passing throught 6-12RM zone to use larger than recomended rest intervals to avoid mmass increase and greate buffer (2-3reps in reserve)? For example, to elicit mmas increase, bbuilders “usually” do 4x10reps @10-12RM(this is classic) with 1-2mins rest. Instead of that I could use 4x10reps @11-14RM with 3-4min rest?
I belive that the rest inteval and buffer used are the key here… This should provide only a transitional period to HI and low rep training without injury and without mmas increase!!!
Luca, thanks once again…
It is very interesting how can some “real life” situation screw the “classical examples” and recomendations :rolleyes: :slight_smile:

What did you use to meassure her “work capacity”?

how you know it is adequate?

If you do have a way to quantify it could direct me to the info?


Hmm… this can easily lead to an philosophical discussion :rolleyes: What is “work capacity”?

Ok, to cut to the chase, according to Poliquin (from Modern Trends in Strength Training, Volume 1: Reps and Sets, 2nd Edition):
“…An athlete’s tolerance to greater workloads is one of the markers for predicting success in building appreciable levels of maximal strength…” (p. 25)
“… As a rule of a thumb, the athletes most gifted for strength development can tolerate the highest number of sets…” (p. 26)
“…For the purpose of selecting the best strength athlete, a coach must look for a fast-twitched individual who demonstrates superior work capacity…” (p. 27)

Thus, according to this data, “strength training work capacity” would be ability to manage large number of sets wthout reaching critical drop-off point (5-7% reduction in weight, or sudden decrease in n of reps for about 3 or more)

My evaluation was qualitaive, because she did some “energy system work” stimulating bLA production and toleration, and she keeped the same tempo when the other girls/mens would puke!!!

Triguy, work capacity is a simple “generalization”, a term which is not well defined, because it depends on the activity… Also, I posted some of my critiques on this term in Conjugate thread (by power), because I also dont like this term…

I can think of two ways (for now) of progressing to strength training (1-5RMs) without increasing mmass (substantially) while developing technique and doing “anatomical phase”…

First method:
Some of complex (compund) lifts should be done not above 6-reps (Olys even below 4reps). This is also true when learning technique. Some athltes tend to use poor form when doing larger number of reps when dead lifting, squating, pressing as is commonly done in “anatomical adaptation” phase (also sometime to failure which can be detrimentan and unnecessary).
The solution is to use smaller rep ranges per sets when doing complex movements (squats, DLs, presses etc.), lager number of sets and enough rest (30-60secs) with small load.
To develop structure (ligaments etc) without substantiall mmas increase use bodyweight exercises and simple movements with 12-20reps ranges. Also, some isolation wok may help.
So, you should choose two groups of exercises: CORE and SUPPLEMENTAL. Core group are complex lifts which should be done with <5reps. Supplemental are bodyweight exercises, sled dragging and simple movement aiming at “anatomy development” without mmass increase.
Keep density low by using larger rests.
The progression should be something like this:

Phase 1
Core 5sets with 3x5reps with 30secs rest with 50% 5RM (2-3mins between sets)
Supplemental 2-3sets of 15-20reps (2-3min rest: to avoid mmas increase)

Phase 2
Core 4sets with 3x5reps with 40secs rest with 60% 5RM (2-3mins between sets)
Supplemental 2-3sets of 13-18reps (2-3min rest)

Phase 3
Core 3sets with 3x5reps with 50secs rest with 70% 5RM (2-3mins between sets)
Supplemental 2-3sets of 12-15reps (2-3min rest)

Phase 4
Core 5sets 5reps with 120secs rest with 80% 5RM
Supplemental 2-3sets of 15-20reps (2-3min rest)

Phase 5
Core 5sets 5reps with 180secs rest with 90% 5RM
Supplemental 2-3sets of 13-18reps (2-3min rest)


Second method:
Another solution is to keep density low by increasing rep pauses when passing thru 6-12RM zone. Also, greater buffer should be used (with 2-3reps in reserve till failure).


Note that I DID NOT USED this programm, nor with myself nor with others! This is just my opinion for futher discussion!

Poliquin… :rolleyes:

I start beginners off with bodyweight exercises and never see any appreciable gains in mass.
In regards to hypertrophy the reps dont make one bit of difference in how a muscle grows. It is what percentage of their work capacity (intensity) is taxed.


Is a certain amount of hypertrophy needed for begginer sprinters? ie. is a larger cross-sectional area needed in order to generate the power needed? Or can you simply start training for strength? Will you gain the amount of muscle needed if you simply start training for strength?

There is an excellent article on theese boards (i’m hoping somebody else knows what it is ) CF approved it and I think he’s swedish…that will answer your question.

Are you reffering to “Barry Ross on Ben and Maurice” thread? Great read, but very long hehe… need to print it to save eyes from monitor radiation hehe :smiley:

I was hoping it wasn’t that thread :rolleyes:


Thanks…i’ll read it when I have the time.

In the CFTS ebook (see the store) Charlie talks about this. off the top of my head, in his oppinion until the gluteal folds are smoothed out you want to do some hypertrophy work. Personally, I think this will happen regardless of whether you specifically aim for hypertrophy or not. All my sprinters get lots of hypertrophy from rep ranges of 5 and below.

Thanks TC …just found out what a gluteal fold is :eek: