General Question

LeopardGecko's avatar

What's the best way to get stronger but not necessarily build huge muscles?

Asked by LeopardGecko (1232 points ) December 23rd, 2009

I heard that there is a way to do this. Of course I will build some muscle either way, that’s fine, but I’ve heard that there are work outs that only build Sarcoplasmic fluid (making them larger) in the muscle instead of increasing the amount of cells the muscle contains. Should I lift really a heavy weight a few amount of times, or lift lighter weights many times? What will each of these do?

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31 Answers

ShiningToast's avatar

Lighter weights, large amount of repetitions. This is great for endurance. I use this because I can’t be huge for swimming; you don’t have a great range of motion with huge muscles.

Heavy weights, few repetitions bulk you up.

LeopardGecko's avatar

So lots of repetitions with smaller weights will drastically increase my strength over time? My main goal is strength.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

There are tasks that build muscles and endurance at the same time as accomplishing something useful. Cutting and splitting firewood, building a stone wall, clearing a field to use as a garden.

ShiningToast's avatar

@LeopardGecko Lots of repetitions with smaller weights will increase your strength and endurance without bulking you up to terribly. You won’t be able to pick up a fridge single handedly, but you will be able to keep going for a long time as well as being fit, with well defined but not huge muscles.

Now, the amount of weight here is more or less up to you. Start with what burns a bit, but is doable. When you can do it fairly easily (2 weeks or so with daily workouts), bump up the weight by 5 pounds. Repeat until desired size/fitness level is achieved.

Cardio is a major part of this too, and you should always do some sort of cardio when you work out, as well as strength train.

LeopardGecko's avatar

@ShiningToast – Should I do the standard 20 reps of 3? Is it safe to do it daily or should I take a break every second day? Would the Cardio by just standard running?

What if I were to lift very heavy weights few times, would this just create large muscles?

ShiningToast's avatar

@LeopardGecko I usually go for 3 sets of 20, 25, or 30 reps depending on which muscle I am working. You can go every day, just be sure to stretch. If it hurts, go every other day at first, then when you get more fit, you can go everyday. It is really just whatever you are comfortable doing.

Cardio is running, swimming, biking, anything that raises your heart rate to your target level.

If you were to lift very heavy weights a few times (about 15 reps or less, usually less) it would create large muscles if you kept at it.

rooeytoo's avatar

I agree with high reps low weight. But if you want some variety in your workouts, I have been swimming for about an hour to 1.5 hours twice a week. I use hand paddles and long flippers. I cannot believe how it is sculpting my body. I started because I hurt my knee running and I cannot believe the difference it is making. I am going to keep it up even though my knee is completely healed now. I bought a water proof iPod holder and I just go. I was never a good swimmer but I have really improved and now I like it!

ShiningToast's avatar

@rooeytoo I adore swimming, it really works all your muscles at once and is great fun. Except for my now ex-swim coach. I’m rather disappointed that he ruined competitive swimming for me.

Fyrius's avatar

Hang on a minute.
Doing lots of reps with light weight will not build strength very efficiently. That’s for endurance training. Less reps with more weight is what builds strength. Because it takes strength to lift something heavy, and it takes endurance to lift something light many times.

And I’ve been told, in fact, that more reps with less weight is what makes muscles large without contributing much to strength development.

At any rate, for strength training, I’d advise you to do low reps with high weight, and not worry about getting large muscles. Getting large muscles is not much of a risk anyway.

“The vast majority of women cannot get large, masculine muscles from barbell training. If it were that easy, I would have them.”Mark Rippetoe
I presume this goes for men too. I don’t have large muscles.

ShiningToast's avatar

@Fyrius You are right about the endurance training.

But less weights will bulk you up without contributing to strength development? Very interesting, and I’m ready to believe you with a little proof. :)

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

Swimming and walking/jogging.

Fyrius's avatar

@ShiningToast
Truth be told, all I have to offer now is hearsay. I’ll try to find something more substantial.

ShiningToast's avatar

@Fyrius It’s all good, we’re all trying to help the collective. :)

Fyrius's avatar

Here I have something.

“High-repetition exercises indeed do cause hypertrophy of both slow-twitch and high-twitch muscle fibers, contributing to overall increased muscle bulk. ”

This is from the Wiki page of a barbell training book, Starting Strength by the aforementioned Mark Rippetoe. I trust him to know where his towel is.

Cruiser's avatar

I have done all sorts of training in my years and the best way I have ever built strength is you have to really want it and if you do you have to push yourself…I mean really go for it. Start slow for the first week. Pick a series of exercises you like and then build reps and build intensity. Adding weight will come later as you see results. I would start with light weights and as many reps as possible. Think Isometric here. Begins with slow execution and not quite full range of motion and these can just be exercises like push ups, pull ups, lunges and squats. Do core work while your are at it like Pilates and or crunches. Add some barbell work bicep curls, bench press, military press, isolated barbell rows. Keep it simple and slow and go to fatigue. at least 2–3 series of each exercise to fatigue. If you do the isometric approach slow and deliberate you many not get more than 3–5 reps and that is GOOD you will be pushing those and all the surround muscles to work like never before and you will build incredible strength without bulking up. You will be rippped in 6–9 months if you really push it hard.

XOIIO's avatar

Steroids, you grow boobs not muscles.

lifeflame's avatar

Pilates. Strengthen your core.

Fyrius's avatar

@XOIIO
You’re thinking of estrogen.

XOIIO's avatar

How did you know that? GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Fyrius's avatar

@XOIIO
But it’s so comfortable in here.

XOIIO's avatar

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! DON’T YOU SEE?? ONCE YOUR IN MY HEAD, YOU START TO BECOME ME! Now there is no choice, slowly, our minds will blend, mine obliterating your, you becoming another me, a duplicate of my mind in your body. after that your body will start to deteriorate, and your body will slowly turn into dust. Thats how these things work. Say goodbye to your family while you can.

Fyrius's avatar

@XOIIO
If we’re going to be living in one body, I want you to stop drinking like you did a few hours ago.

XOIIO's avatar

No, my mind obliterates yours, and takes over your body, then that body dies, and I’m still me.

Fyrius's avatar

Ah. That’s a relief.

SirGoofy's avatar

Lessee here….stronger…but no muscles…hmnnnnn. Got it….stop bathing. You WILL get stronger.

Dabria's avatar

Do plenty of Reps and use less weight, also you need to eat a good combination of food!

Oxymoron's avatar

@LeopardGecko – Give your girlfriend big hugs?

Crow's avatar

Lighter weight with higher repetitions is typically used for fat loss or toning.

Heavier weight with less repetitions are typically used to build thicker muscle.

If you stay in the range of about 10 reps for your first set on each exercise, and not be able to do anything more than that amount, then you will be at a muscle building/fat burning range.

LeopardGecko's avatar

@Oxymoron – Yeah that could work!

@Crow – and if I go 20 reps for example, I will be doing the “fat loss and toning” correct?

TehRoflMobile's avatar

I’ve found that doing workouts with body weight, and body weight alone tends to build strong, compact, and frankly good looking muscles. What I mean is doing only push ups, pull ups, sit ups, leg lifts, running, jumping and exercises of those sorts. They build powerful efficient muscle.

Look at Chimpanzees for example. They are all very powerful (without obnoxiously large muscles) but you never see them lifting big metal weights. They get that way by climbing around trees and jumping from branch to branch all day.

gorgeousgal3's avatar

Kettlebells are awesome for building muscle and running/sprinting is good for stamina and endurance.

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