7 Proven Ways To Get Stronger Without The Size

Too many people have have this assumption that weight lifting will automatically make them unsightly huge. Women, in particular, are sometimes scared to look “manly”. Guys sometimes just don’t want to gain anymore weight than they already have. And that’s all find an dandy…..as long as you realize that you can still lift weights for other purposes. Lifting can make you bigger, stronger, or faster (more powerful)……..and yes, you can pick and choose. It just depends on how you train. If you’re one of those people who just want to get stronger, but you like your aesthetic figure where it’s at…. then just use these 7 proven ways to get stronger without the size.

1 – Lift Heavy

To gain strength, the most basic thing that you have to do is lift heavy weight. There’s no way around it.

That won’t look the same for everyone. What I consider heavy might not be heavy for you, or vis versa. You have to determine that by measuring your rep max. Then from there you can decide how much you will use for a specific rep count.

To gain maximal strength you should be using weight that’s pretty close to your 1 rep max. Around 80% or 90% is probably ideal.

Lift Heavy

2 – Be Explosive

Doing exercises like the power clean forces you to generate a ton of power.

It promotes the ultimate amount of strength because you’re giving everything you got, in the shortest period of time.

Lift Explosively

3 – Decrease Your Volume

The heavy weight will naturally force you to work at a lower volume. The 5×5 training schedule is a great tool used for strength, but it also promotes a ton of hypertrophy. If you don’t want to gain much more size, then spend even less time under the bar.

2-4 reps on each set with maximal effort will promote a lot of strength and power. It won’t really promote gaining mass because your muscles aren’t being stressed as long.

Cut Volume

4 – Get Plenty Rest!!!

I’m talking about resting in between sets, and resting on your couch. Resting in between sets will allow your ATP to regenerate so that you can handle the intense weight on each set.

Resting at home includes getting enough sleep, and taking days off from the gym. It might sound crazy that I’m telling you to take days off from the gym……but don’t get too excited, you’ll be busy with other things. I’ll get to that next.

Just remember, we’re talking about gaining maximal strength, and staying away from gaining muscle mass. So that means you don’t want to be under the weights as much. But when you do…..it’s heavy.

Rest Longer

5 – Plyometrics

The goal of plyometrics is to be as explosive as possible. That means you’re exerting as much force as you can, in the shortest possible time, on every single rep.

This type of work is a great complement to exercises that involve a ton of weight. Studies suggest that when an exercise is done with an almost maximal effort, followed by an explosive exercise that involves the same muscle group…..it promotes a lot of strength gains.

An example of this type of workout would be doing heavy squats, followed by box jumps. Again, you want to get plenty rest.


6 – Sprints & Cone Drills

Sprints and drills are short and to the point. It promotes strength because you’re going all out on every sprint and cone drill.

The rest time on these should really depend on your more specific goals. If you really care about speed (let’s say you’re training for football or something), then you should get plenty of rest in between each one. Your focus should be on running technique (stride length, gait speed, staying on the balls of your feet, etc.)

If you’re more worried about keeping the pounds off and staying lean, you should keep your pace fast (~85%), but keep your rest time shorter.

Every once in a while it’s not a bad idea to throw in a longer running day. That could mean you run a few miles on a trail or at the beach. Just go at a moderate pace and enjoy yourself. It’s a great way to give your lung efficiency a little extra attention as well.

Sprints And Cone Drills

7 – Work On Your Weaknesses

One way to work on your weaknesses is to do exercises that you’re not good at. I, for example, am terrible at hand stand push-ups. But you have to practice what you’re not good at to be as strong as you can.

Another way to work on your weaknesses is to pay attention to the smaller muscles that function behind the scenes. I’m talking about the rhomboids in our back, rotator cuffs that stabilize your shoulder, the groin muscles, calves, etc.

These muscles aren’t the first thing that you think about when you’re hitting the gym, but they are the support team. Ironically, they are usually the ones that end up getting hurt. Why? because most of us don’t pay attention to them enough.

The fact is, if you have a stable rotator cuff, your bench press will be stronger. If your calves and groin is strong, your squat will go up. Pay attention to those muscles if you want to gain maximal strength!!!

None of those muscles are very big either, so you definitely don’t have to worry about gaining much weight in those areas.

Work On Weaknesses

Use these 7 tips in your workouts if you want to gain strength but not the mass. There is a fine line between the two, so you’ll have to test your body out and make some adjustments as you go. If you have any specific questions about something that you’re doing, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. If you liked the article, please take a second to share it on facebook. I know you’ll also like to know how you can make incredible strength gains using chains.

Adam Pegg About Adam Pegg

Adam is an athlete with a serious passion for fitness and health. He played basketball at University of Delaware and Stetson. His degree is in health science and he's a certified personal trainer who loves helping people reach their goals.