Program For Relative Strength

For many sports it is important to increase strength without increasing muscle mass.  Such sports are ones with weight classes (wrestling, judo) and ones where you have to propel your own body (any sport with jumping) .  In sports with weight classes, with all things being equal the stronger athlete is thought to have the advantage. In other sports where an athlete must propel their own bodyweight there becomes a point when adding strength through extra muscle mass is detrimental for performance.  This will vary for athlete to athlete and should be figured out where the optimal ratio is.

So if you want to gain strength without muscle mass you must train the nervous system with low reps, many sets, and long rest breaks.  Training like this will cause the following adaptations that lead to gains in strength:

  • Increase in recruitment of motor units
  • Increase in firing (rate coding) of motor units
  • Increase synchronization of firing of motor units
  • Selective inhibition of Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO)

Here is a program that I would give someone who wants to increase strength without gains in muscle mass.  Only perform each workout 6 times with an unload of 40%(volume) every 3rd and 6th workout.

Day 1 Chest and Back

Day 2 Legs

Day 3 Off

Day 4 Shoulders and Arms

Day 5 Off

Day 1 Chest And Back


Exercise OrderExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest Break (Sec)
A1Incline Bench Press 45 Degree6340X1120
B1Flat Dumbell Press5530X1120
B21 Arm DB Row5530X0120


Day 2 Legs


Exercise OrderExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest Break (Sec)
A1Front Squat6340X1120
A2Leg Curl Prone Dorsi Flex6330X1120
B1Split Squat Rear Foot Elevated5530X1120
B2Romanian Deadlift5530X1120


Day 3 Arms


Exercise OrderExerciseSetsRepsTempoRest Break (Sec)
A2Barbell Curl6331X1120
B1Decline Tricep Extenstion DB5530X1120
B2Reverse E-Z Barbell Curl5531X0120



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