Back in the day many brainwashed people used to spread the idea that you first need to get stronger and then switch to high rep volume routines. The idea was simple: if you can squat only 100 lbs / 45 kg, you are not going to benefit as much from sets of 10 as somebody who can lift 300 lbs / 136 kg. Therefore, beginners are taught to train for strength specifically before engaging in “bodybuilding stuff”. I used to believe this myself, although I also had some serious doubts since the information was coming from permabulkers blindly following self-proclaimed fitness gurus. Today, I don’t really think starting with low or high reps makes much of a difference.
If you can squat 300 lbs for 3 reps, you can probably do 240 lbs for 10. Cool, but you can get to 240 lbs for 10 by just doing cycles programmed to increase your high reps. Yes, you are going to lift lighter weights, especially in the beginning, but who cares if you arrive at the same 240 lbs for 10? I even believe that if your ultimate goal is to do high reps, you should focus on that since day one. With that said, in both cases you will look the same, which is why I no longer buy similar rumors spread by broscientists.
What makes strength training so special for natural bodybuilders is that it’s the only productive thing left for them to do. As a natural you are not going to be growing year after, which only leaves you with getting stronger slowly overtime. You are not going to get as strong as a steroid abuser, but you will be much stronger than the wannabes in the gym reading FLEX magazine and the rest of the population that thinks lifting the water bottles in the office requires alienesque strength.
Increase of strength is possible for many years, if you cycle your training properly. However, you also have to be realistic. There are many programs out there promising to add a lot of plates to your lifts, but be careful – they are just hype. I would rather do a program that promises a little bit with certainty than bet on a miracle routine that’s supposed to turn me into a monster in 6-10 weeks.
Strength is the original product of resistance training. Hypertrophy has always been secondary since it’s a mainly dependent on nutrition, bone structure and hormones. There is only one way to get stronger – training. There are individuals who don’t lift and are pretty strong but most of them probably have a history of hard physical activity and will be much stronger with the help of training.
Without strength training all that’s left for naturals are irrelevant parameters that do not produce measurable progress when tweaked. For example, wondering whether you should do lateral raises or not is pointless because with or without them, your shoulders will look pretty much the same. Wondering whether you should eat 100 or 150 grams of protein is also a waste of time – in both situations your physique will remain identical.
With that said, I have to admit that there was a point in my life when I got tired of all that strength training propaganda because it was not making me any bigger. Who cares how strong you are when you look emaciated or fat, right? I was also very angry because the strength gurus have lied to me. They told me strength equals muscle and it wasn’t really the case. Ironically, even to this day gurus continue to preach the same story – get strong and big and worry about abs later. They want you to believe you can be 240 lbs /110 kg with abs naturally, but you can’t and I don’t really care how much you squat or deadlift.
At the end, if you are natural, you have nothing left but training for strength skills. Sure, at one point your progress will stall tremendously, and you will be adding 5 lbs / 2 kg to your bench press in 3 months, but at least it’s a progress and more than the amount of muscle you will build as an advance natural muscle constructor in the same period of time. Don’t kill the messenger.