How to Build Strength Without Building Muscle

If you are a regular to the gym, you will know those people that are there to build as much muscle as possible. They want to hit the heaviest weights and keep going till they get seriously ripped. However, what if all you want is to get stronger without building lots of muscle? Women, in particular, might not want to be ripped, but still, want to have strength. Here are some tips that can help you get stronger without building muscle mass.

Lift Heavy Weights

You might think that lifting heavy weight will do the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. However, if you lift 90% of your one-rep max, then you will be using the muscle fibers that are associated with strength rather than mass. The best way to use these types of weights is by doing squats, deadlifts or pulls, though you might need special equipment to do deadlifts. If you are going to be doing them regularly, you will need a belt to support your back and some lifting shoes. There are a few websites like Shoe Guide, which have the best lifting shoes for women and men. Whatever type of exercise you use with the heavyweights, the secret is to move the weight as fast as possible.


Lift Explosively

Part of the reason that you want to be doing fast lifts is that this gives you the strength you want, but without the muscle bulk. Speed lifting is a great way to teach power and acceleration. The best types are the box squats, speed dead’s, a speed bench, you should be lifting around 60% of your usual maximum lift weight to get the best results. If you start to find that you are getting faster at the reps, then try to add bands or chains to increase the resistance. You can also apply other lifts such as the clean and jerk and the snatch. Other exercises such as the medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings are also effective.

Try Doing Plyometrics

Plyometrics is otherwise known as jump training and is a great way to increase your body’s stretch-shortening cycle. Essentially, with plyometrics, you are doing a hop and jump type of exercise such as body weight jumps over hurdles or continuous dumbbell jump squats. These exercises teach the body to use stored elastic energy more than building muscle; this improves strength and endurance.

Cut Down on the Volume

If you are trying to build muscle, then the general rule is that you do 5×5, which is five sets of five repetitions. However, because you want to build strength and not muscle, you should reduce the repetitions from five to about two or three. Lowering the reps and focusing on moving quickly will have a better effect on improving your strength. You should also think about taking more rests per week than you might think. Although you will want to workout several times per week, it is recommended that you limit it to around two to three. That will give your central nervous system time to recover between strength-focused training sessions.

Start Doing Sprints and Drills

If you are looking for speed and strength on the running track, then there is no substitute for sprinting exercise. Doing sprint intervals or hill sprints are a great way to develop the strength you need in your legs. It is this type of exercise that can make you faster at accelerating and decelerating, which can be beneficial for some sports. The same applies to many other cardio workouts. Along with strength, you also need the endurance to keep going after others have started to fade. You can only get this type of endurance by training long and hard repetitively.

Try Contrast Training

With contrast training, you are incorporating those heavy strength exercises with the plyometric exercises. It is thought that by doing these things in succession, you can gain more power and strength then by doing them on their own. For example, you could try some heavy strength training followed by a 10-minute break and then plyometric training for 5 to 10 reps. You need to make sure that you are getting enough rest in between the two routines, as, otherwise, you will suffer from fatigue, and you won’t get the benefit of the combination.


Many people think that yoga is all about stretching and relaxation. However, it can also be about working the muscles to make them stronger without bulking you up. There are now many yoga routines that will help you to strengthen your core muscles as well as your arms and legs. If possible, you want to try and fit in at least 30 minutes per week; this will give you the edge on strength and also help to keep your body supple and relaxed. Yoga is also a good thing to do if you need to rest because of an injury, just take it easy on the affected part.

Take Longer Rests

When you are bodybuilding or training to grow muscle, you will be taking short rest breaks of about 30 to 60 seconds between reps. However, if you are looking to build strength, then your breaks should be closer to 2 to 5 minutes. Because you are lifting heavier loads, your body will need longer to recover than with weight lifting. Your mental strength will also appreciate a longer rest as well.

Focus on Your Weakest Parts

You will only be as strong as your weakest part of your body, so try to improve those weak areas to get the best out of your workouts. The prime movers such as the pecs, hamstrings, and deltoids are going to be better just by doing your regular routines, but, you should also try focusing on other muscle groups as well.

Training to get stronger without getting bigger isn’t as easy as it sounds, but with lots of hard work and the right technique, you can develop a strong, fit body.

Comments are closed.