#3 – There is no difference between strength training & muscle building the first several years
Until you have built up both a solid strength and muscular base, training should be the same for both goals. You can’t get big without getting a lot more stronger than you are now, and you will only limit strength levels if you don’t focus on building a muscular base.
During your first 2-3 years of training you have one simple mission regardless of your end goal: get every body part from head to toe as big and strong as possible.
If you are training for strength, you don’t need singles, doubles and triples yet. You need rep work to build muscle, and to help improve your lift form. If you are training strictly for mass, know one thing: there are no weak top level bodybuilders. Even though they don’t “train for strength”, they still had to focus on progressive overload to help maximize the muscle building process.
#4 – Gains slow over time – this is NOT a plateau
Gains come fast and furious during the first 12-24 months of lifting. There is an amazing high that comes from seeing a consistent increase in both size and strength. But slowly over time the rate of gains begin to decrease, and most lifters panic. They believe they have plateaued and assume dramatic steps must be undertaken to “re-ignite” gains.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Progress naturally slows over time. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing anything wrong. It’s usually quite the opposite. If most lifters would monitor their training logs and measurements a little more closely, they would see that they are still adding reps and size; it’s just taking longer. This is normal, and nothing to panic about.
Intermediate lifters need to get precise. They should be looking for progressive overload/strength increases over a longer period of time, rather than panicking because they can’t add 5 pounds to their bench press every week. Intermediate lifters should also be taking monthly size measurements of at least their arms, quads and chest.
After you’ve been training for 18-24 months, adding a 1/4 inch to your arms and 10 pounds to your bench every 3 months is very good progress. If you are expecting these results every month, instead of every 3-4 months, it will most certainly look like you’ve plateaued. You haven’t.
A plateau is “no progress.” Intermediates experience “slower progress.” Slower progress is not NO progress.