As a strength and conditioning coach I am often met with the goals of getting stronger and gaining weight, building muscle, gaining mass, etc (however you want to describe it) from my athletes.
In order to talk about how to build functional mass, we first need to discuss what builds muscle tissue… What causes the adaptation is building mass.
Is it lifting heavy weights for low reps? Kind of, as this can build joint strength, some muscle, and develop the central nervous system.
Is it lifting lighter weights for high reps? Kind of, but this is usually sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, not the same as functional mass.
But for functional mass, or as I call it density, the goal should be accumulating high reps with challenging or heavy weights.
While most would refer to this as time under tension and begin to discuss trending training variables such as slow eccentrics and isometrics (which both work, and we use at Penance Gym, for different intentions), I would simply call this Work and would recommend a variation of the horsepower equation to explain it as simply as possible:
Base Equation – Horsepower = (Force x Distance) / Time
Variation – Work = (Weight x Reps) / Time
[I will come back to this equation in part 3.]
For this purpose, the purpose of building functional mass or armor, your goal is not to slow down your reps, but instead to accumulate more quality reps or work in the same or less time. We have watched this time and time again slabs of concrete on our adults and athletes, especially in the legs, back, and shoulders.
So how do I propose to accomplish this?
I have 2 preferred methods, both are very simple but simple almost never means easy – and ultimately I think that is why these methods are not more popular, it’s f*cking hard!