Bodybuilders on steroids have very big advantage over natural athletes (drug free). One of the biggest benefits of ‘juicing’ is that their strength goes up very fast. Anabolic drugs users become stronger week by week without putting any effort into strength training itself (in low repetition range). They can do high volume workouts (12-16 sets per muscle group) within moderate repetition range (12-6) and still add weight each session; what really is not possible for natural athlete. Generally, they can build muscle and strength at the same time doing only bodybuilding workouts.
Natural bodybuilders on the other hand can make progress this way only for a certain period of time. The longest is when they start bodybuilding. As a beginners their body ‘behaves’ as if it was on anabolic drugs. They usually build muscle, get stronger and burn fat at the same time. They are getting stronger from training to training what causes muscles to grow continuously. But happiness last only for a while. If you trained naturally for a period of time you’ve probably noticed that progress slows down after few months. You are not able to keep adding weight anymore and therefore your muscles stop to grow. People call this situation a plateau or stalling but it is nothing else than mistake in programming, periodization or simply training the same way over and over again.
And then we have guys who train the same way using the same bodybuilding workouts in moderate repetition range (12-6) for another year or two and look exactly as they did before. Others simply quit. If you don’t have results you lose motivation as well.
The problem with naturals is that they want to train the same as professional bodybuilders or people on steroids. Maybe it is not their fault. They are simply told do 12-6 repetition, each muscle group once a week, 9-12 sets for body part, etc… Generally it works. This is how you build muscle. However you don’t train like that all the time. It is a good advice for beginners or intermediates but it brings effects only for a few months, not longer than for a year.
As you probably know the first and the most important principle of muscle growth is progressive overload. You have to keep adding weight to the bar to keep muscles growing. If you train with the same weight all year – you look the same all year. And it is not possible to keep getting stronger while ‘killing’ each muscle group with so many sets each session usually done till failure. Simply you won’t get stronger while doing high volume workouts if you don’t take steroids.
For this reason natural training is a bit different than training on juice. Natural bodybuilders have to work as much in a lower repetition range (5-1) to increase their strength as with higher reps (12-6) to build their muscle. If they won’t sacrifice few months in a year for strength development they simply won’t grow.
Building muscle and strength simultaneously
There are also few methods of building muscle and strength at the same time and they actually work. One of them is full body workout 5×5. It isn’t new. This is really how old time bodybuilders train at the beginning of their careers. This is how they started.
The general principles of full body workout for building muscle and strength simultaneously are:
- Repetition range – around 5,
- Volume – no more than 5 sets for each muscle group,
- Frequency – training each muscle group up to 3 times a week.
We want to use repetition range between moderate and low. Too low rep range (3-1 reps) will not be enough to give muscle enough stimulation to grow. We have to also provide enough volume but not too much to sacrifice strength gains. For these reasons we will do simply 5 sets of 5 reps for each muscle group.
The idea of this type of training is hitting every muscle two or three times a week. Because we are not ‘killing’ each body part by blasting it with 12-16 sets every workout, muscles recover much quicker. Lower repetition range helps us to get stronger so we are able to increase the load steady for many months or even years.
Other ways of mixing hypertrophy and strength training
There are few other ways of mixing strength and muscle building training:
- One week strength (low volume, low reps and heavy weight), one week hypertrophy (high volume, moderate reps and moderate weights),
- Couple weeks strength and couple weeks hypertrophy,
- Mixing low rep and high rep training in the same workout.
These are also great methods however we will not be discussing them here.
I believe the best and the simplest ways of building muscle and strength at the same time are the old time basic methods like Full Body Workout 5×5. This routine is life saving for guys or girls that train naturally. Doing typical bodybuilding splits for years without getting any stronger or significantly bigger is simply waste of time. After converting to this method you’ll be surprised how strong and big you’ll become. Once you can bench press your body weight 5 times in 5 sets your chest will be big. When you’ll squat 1.5 of your weight 5 times your whole body will grow big time. Think how strong you might become. Remember that these targets are very realistic and achievable in first half year of training. Imagine that you work out like that for a year.
Muscles without steroids don’t have a capacity to grow steady using pumping style of training. Not for long anyway. But what they can is get stronger and stronger for really long. And with strength increase, enough volume and right diet muscles will be growing anyway.
Please note that I don’t disown completely typical bodybuilding type of training. As I said it is very effective, especially for beginning and intermediate athletes. It is also very beneficial to perform high volume training with higher reps from time to time. It is still very effective for muscle growth. But what I say is that you can’t depend on training only this way for too long. It simply doesn’t work for natural athletes in a long run; it is not effective. Besides, why would you build only muscles, when you can get big and strong at the same time?
I advise you to try our version of Full Body Workout 5×5. It’s completely free. Of course make sure to subscribe so you will never miss any new information about building muscle and strength in a future.