To create a great physique–one that’s both aesthetically pleasing and performs as well as it looks–developing strength is an integral part of the journey. However, it’s a very long process, often necessitating periods with a greater focus on building muscle over burning fat.
Having strategically timed periods of training for strength allows you to be more successful in each of these disparate endeavors, but can also shorten the process overall.
Most people switch haphazardly between bulking and cutting, never really putting much thought into when they change gears: they focus on mass until they get too fat for comfort, then get lean until they’re too small for comfort.
If you’ve been training to gain mass and then cut calories drastically to get lean, you’re going to sacrifice much of the muscle you’ve built. Similarly, if you’ve been losing fat, and you jump right into a huge caloric surplus, you’re going to rebound and gain back a lot of the fat you’ve worked so hard to diet off.
To prevent either of these, I always program 4-8 weeks of pure strength work to help transition between a fat loss phase and a muscle building phase, and vice versa.
When trainees are focusing on building muscle, they’re usually training in higher rep ranges, with moderate load. Switching to low rep, high load training helps to cement gains by recruiting more fast twitch muscle fibers and creates an opportunity to slowly back off of high volume while still keeping the overall workload high, preventing loss of LBM. At the same time, this allows for a slow and reasonable transition from a caloric surplus to a deficit.
On the other hand, let’s say you’re a trainee coming from a fat loss plan who now wants to build muscle.
In this case, 4-8 weeks of strength work also makes sense.
Firstly, it allows you to get stronger, which is only going to help when you switch to higher volume training; lifting more weight for more reps results in faster muscle gain.
Nutritionally, this also affords you the opportunity to slowly ramp up calories and increase the surplus bit by bit.
This allows for ample recovery during the strength phase, and also prevents a massive bounce from deficit to surplus, resulting in fat gain.
In either case, you minimize the possibility for setbacks, as well as making the next phase more successful.
And anytime you’re going to transition from one to the other, drop a 4-8 week strength phase in to make everything better.