Strength Building vs. Pump Training

I want to discuss Pump Training vs. Strength Training.

Many run into the same conundrum.

  1.  Do I lift high volume for muscle growth?
  2.  Do I focus on low volume heavy lifting for Strength gains?

Lets talk muscle growth on a cellular level 

Muscle hypertrophy is a term for the growth and increase of the size of the muscle cells.

High Volume lifting is mostly an increase in fluids within the muscle cells (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) rather than making more new muscle fiber.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy occurs from higher rep schemes (10-15+ reps)

Strength building focuses on the growth of the muscle fiber(myofibrilar hypertrophy).

A myofibril is the contractile portion of a muscle fiber.

When myofibrillar hypertrophy takes place, the number of myofibrils in a muscle increases, which in turn increases the muscle fiber density and strength.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy occurs from heavier loads and lower rep schemes (5-8reps).

Which one is better?

I am a natural lifter so my advice is for natural lifters as well.

So for us natural lifters, the number one driver for muscle growth is building over all strength.

That being said, I believe focusing on strength should be your number one goal!

Both styles of lifting have there place and both styles can be used if utilized strategically.

Lifting Heavy


When you lift heavy weight consistently your muscles will become dense and grow.

Your body will have to adapt to the heavy works loads as you build up in heavier and heavier weights.

This will also be functional muscle growth as well.

The size you gain will be a by product of the usable strength you built.

Efficiency is the idea here. Lift heavy , focus on what matters , build muscle and get out of the gym!

When you focus on key lifts and building strength you will make progress to your physique with only a few gym sessions a week.

In my opinion Strength Training is by far the best approach to building an amazing body and muscle growth. (Secret Sauce to Muscle Development here)

Until you have built at least a rigid core of muscle( read rigid core here or program here) , I would not recommend high volume pump training.

Even then I believe at least 80% of your training should be focused on building strength. 

The other 20% of your training we can squeeze out that extra growth with some High Volume Targeted Training. 

This is where the extra pump training can really enhance your physique if used strategically.

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Utilizing the pump with strength

The core of your workout should be focused on getting stronger on a few Key lifts each time you go to the gym.

For example:

  • Dead lifts
  • Front Squats
  • Military Press

Let talk about the Military press for guidance.

The Standing Military Press is a shoulder focused compound movement.

You should focus on getting stronger on this one Key lift before introducing any high volume lighter isolation shoulder work.

Ex. dumbbell front or side lateral raises 3 sets 10-12 reps.

Your goal should be to preform 90% of your body weight on the Standing Military press for 5-6 reps.

When you can perform this, then you’re ready to incorporate some strategic High Volume Targeted Training. 

And example Shoulder workout for this strength standard mixed with High Volume Targeted Training would be as follows.

Shoulder workout:

  •  Military standing press- 4-6 reps 90% body weight, 6-8 reps drop weight 10%, 8-0 reps drop weight 10%
  • Dumbbell side lateral raises- 4 sets 10-12 reps with 45 sec rest between sets.
  • Seated dumbbell Arnold shoulder press-  4-6 reps 90% body weight, 6-8 reps drop weight 10%, 8-0 reps drop weight 10%
  • Cable face pulls- 4 sets 10-12 reps with 45 sec rest between sets.

True Will Programs focus on this style of lifting with the main purpose of building strength, centered around key lifts while squeezing out that extra muscle growth with strategic High Volume Targeted Training.

When you can lift to Standards like the shoulder workout above you will be impressed by your level of muscle density and growth.

Your physique will have molded and adapted to your new strength standards.

Final thoughts:

Try to stop going to the gym and focusing on doing too many exercises in the hopes of building muscle everywhere.

Rather set strength goals centered around a few compound lifts.

I promise you when you have built a decent level of strength, you will be satisfied with your bodies progress.

When you’re ready for some pump training you can implement it into your routines on key areas like arms, rear delts , and upper chest.

If you try to center your workouts solely around high volume pump training you can possibly hinder your muscle building results.

This will not only slow down your muscle development but will not provide you with the hard dense angular look of the muscles.

Regardless if you’re Training for Sarcoplasmic Versus Myofibrillar Hypertrophy you will get some of the befits from both no matter which on you focus on.

Though if muscle growth is your main concern I Recommend building strength , contrary to popular believe.


Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are on high volume training and low volume strength building.

For an depth routine and nutrition strategy centered around Building Strength with Strategic High Volume Targeted Training check out True Will Programs. 

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