How to get stronger without gaining weight

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I often talk about building Relative Body Strength when answering questions related to increasing performance over on my Yo! Elliott Youtube Channel.

This idea of building superior strength in relation to your body weight will improve sprinting times, vertical jump height, chin up strength as well as giving you incredible “gymnastic strength” (like I was working on last week with my muscle up attempts)…

But keeping a low body weight WHILE increasing strength and power output is SUPER important for athletes who need to “make weight”… basically maintain their weight to meet the requirements for a weight class, like in boxing, MMA or wrestling.

This requires a system that build POWER but by passes the HYPERTROPHY response that is typical with most weight training programs.

Anyway, I thought that since I am always talking about getting LEANER and STRONGER at the same time that the following Yo! Elliott Q and A would be interesting to you.


I personally am very intrigued with these “little firecrackers” who are smaller (read: leaner) but are still as strong or stronger than some of their massive counterparts.  This is a goal that I am currently working on.

If I can be as strong as I was at 235 lbs at a weight of only 200 lbs, this would prove to be a worthy experiment.

What are you thoughts on being LIGHT but STRONG?

(also, I’ve got something cool coming for you “hard gainers” next week… so I haven’t left you out)


28 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike
    April 10, 2011
    5:05 pm

    Yo Elliott, Happy Birthday!

    I agree getting stronger without gaining weight is awesome. Especially if you don’t want to move up a weight class for a sport like wrestling or powerlifting.

    However if you’re playing a sport like football you have to be careful how much weight you lose or you sacrafice leverage. I don’t care how strong you are, if you’re a pro lineman and weigh less than 200 pounds you’re going to get pushed all around the feild.

    Other sports with weight classes it doesn’t matter. It’s cool to be the heavy weight champ though. The lighter weight guys don’t always get the same recognition.

    But overall I totally agree and that’s the point of this web site. Get strong and do so without gaining fat or being fat. Nice video.


    leanhybr Reply:

    why thank you mr. westerdal :)


  2. Ricky
    April 10, 2011
    8:17 pm

    Brilliant video Elliott!

    BTW wicked T shirt!!


  3. Solomon
    April 10, 2011
    9:32 pm

    This has been my goal for years. While I’m always chasing the Captain America physique, I am a martial artist, and carrying weight that may not be necessary to my desired strength level will slow me down. Strong muscles are faster, but muscles don’t seem to have to be large to be strong. Bruce Lee has some wild feats accredited to him, and he was tiny. I have seen other sources that promote this sort of strength gain without weight gain, and it seems to be a possible enough feat. I just have to put it to task now. Thanks for the tips and insight.


  4. Alex
    April 10, 2011
    10:01 pm

    Olympic lifting is a very good example of another sport in wich someone has to lift the biggest weight possible with the less bodyweight possible to fit the the lightest class..
    But in terms of boxing or any martial art wouldnt it also be good for someone to train for muscular endurance with more than 12 reps per exercise, maybe both would be good.. low and high rep ? maybe as finishers..
    I have some experience in it, and altough at that time i didnt use weight training i know that its great that have a powerfull punch, but even more important is to have the endurance to last all the rounds with that same power output.


    leanhybr Reply:

    Totally agree about the 12+ reps.

    I tend to think that most of that gets covered with the sports
    specific training, like when hitting the heavy bag, etc.



    Solomon Reply:

    absolutely agreed


  5. Isaac
    April 10, 2011
    10:25 pm

    Coach E,

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!!!!!!!!! How young are you these day’s? So our Birthdays are with in a couple weeks of each other ? Nothing like being born under the fir sign, right? With all the motivation stuff you have and the way you represent, it realy explains alot to someone born around the same time of the year! This just establishes that much more I chose the right program and coaches!!!! Look up Karatedo Doshinkan, Our master or Hanchi is almost 80 and still can kick over 10′ in the air, along with some other amazing things that we could only hope to keep or have at his age!!!! To whoever read’s this there are trainers all over the world and would love to see some of you become part of my karate family? It’s a ver y private site, but you can get alot of info about it’s orgin, history, and structure? I gotta run to town for egg’s and then will check out the video. What happend to the link at the top of this page for the TRIBE?


    leanhybr Reply:

    32 years old bro!

    ARIES… fire sign to the death!


  6. sycho
    April 10, 2011
    10:28 pm

    Yo Elliot,
    If I had to choose between power and size, I’d pick power. Power translates better to sports. All show with no go is crap. Keep making men out boys and making men more manlier. Happy B Day and thanks for the great post brother.


    leanhybr Reply:

    Thanks brother!


  7. diego
    April 11, 2011
    12:11 am

    yo elliot! could a standing broad jump be a good replacement for the med ball toss?


    leanhybr Reply:

    hell yes!


  8. Cody
    April 11, 2011
    12:11 am

    Hey happy bday dude, my 18th was yesterday! But yes I totally agree with you, I weigh 145 pounds right now but I am deadlifting 335 pounds, squatting 265, and benching 185. I wrestled for high school so I tried really hard to increase strength without weight, my goal is 400 deadlift, 300 squat and 225 deadlift before I leave for basic training in august. Thanks for all your great training articles, keep them comin!


    leanhybr Reply:

    those are some BEAST numbers Cody!

    keep banging man.


  9. Nelson Rivera
    April 11, 2011
    12:25 pm

    Great Aritcle Elliott and Happy belated Birthday. I am 57 yrs old 5’6 and 200 lbs. I retired 7 yrs ago after 30 yrs in the NYC Post Office. I have been exerciseing all my life but at this time I an looking to stay strong without bulking up due to my height size, Frankco Colombo is a different story. I do dumbells traing, Ab roll outs, elastic bands and 100 pushups everyday. I look like a shorter you, your 5’9 right. This video has great info for those looking to stay strong without gain mass. Always good to hear your advises Elliott… Herc.


  10. Dave
    April 11, 2011
    1:57 pm


    I know of NO research, ever, that states that you can improve neurological efficiency. Do you?? Please share… if you can!!


    leanhybr Reply:

    Thanks for asking Dave!

    Although not really “research”, here are a few of my resources:

    RE: “neuro efficiency”
    According to Mike Clark of NASM — “Neuromuscular efficiency is the ability of the neuromuscular system to allow prime movers, synergists, stabilizers, and neutralizers to work together synergistically as an integrated functional unit.

    RE: “motor engrams / facilitation”
    According to Paul Chek — when an impulse has passed once through a certain set of neurons to the exclusion of others, it will tend to do so on a future occasion and each time it traverses this path the resistance in the path will be smaller. By the Law of Facilitation above, repetition of any movement (good or bad) becomes progressively more programmed in the nervous system.

    RE – “power development” using complex (muscle / nervous system) training

    NSCA —

    I hope this helps… most of my text books are back at my gym ;)


  11. pearson942
    April 11, 2011
    2:39 pm

    Yo Elliot!!! Where can one get such a t-shirt, pimp daddy?


  12. Joe
    April 11, 2011
    4:24 pm

    So i was just reading through this book a little bit the other day and it seemed to go right along with this strong but not bulky idea not sure if youve ever read it or no of it but thought you could check it out.


    leanhybr Reply:

    HAHA! hell yea Maxick!

    this is great stuff joe, i always love reading old school stuff
    like Maxick.



  13. Solomon
    April 12, 2011
    3:31 am

    Actually, going along with the above comment, one source I was previously told to look into for building strength without mass was Alexander Zass. I found a few things, but could find no Zass-independent studies to confirm that isometric tension could do what he said it does: Increase tendon strength, thus increasing overall strength, but not size. Isometrics have been hotly debated, and I’m fairly well researched, but I can find no support for this claim. Any tips?


  14. Robert Altadonna
    April 12, 2011
    8:09 pm

    Hey Elliot!
    Just a couple of quick questions:
    Is the complex to be performed for only one set?
    Is it a good idea to do a specific warmup to work you way up to the 1RM?


  15. Jason - Fitness Workouts
    April 14, 2011
    11:56 pm

    Great video. I am going to have to share this with others. Many have it backwards and think that lifting heavy will make them muscle bound.


  16. Xanatoes
    April 15, 2011
    2:40 am

    A couple of comments.

    1. Eccentric (wneg) lifting has proven to be effective,

    2. static contraction training may prove to be highly effective, look up some of pete sisco’s work.

    3. It is important to employ the accentuation principle.

    4. partial range motion can significantly increase power in some people. One journal article hypothesizes that those individuals who only do full range motion may fail to optimally train in the area where maximal force development occurs and that partial range motion exercises allows optimal force production to occur.

    these principles assures acute neurological adaptations that increase the bodies ability to recruit a higher percentage of muscle fiber for the lift.

    multiple sets 5-6 of 1-3 reps are optimal.

    It is pertinent that rest in between sets should be 4-5 minutes, in order to fully replenish ATP stores, 3 mins may not be enough!

    Because you are lifting so much more weight, you cause more micro-muscular tears which necessitates a longer recovery time, compared to 10-12 reps with a lower weight. You may need to rest a week or more before lifting the same muscle again.

    Hope that helps. These principles have worked well for me.

    Weight 145
    bench 315,
    deadlift 495
    full marathon 2:45:36


    Solomon Reply:

    helpful info, thanks.


  17. adam
    April 20, 2011
    5:42 pm

    I spend as much time as possible in the company of horses.
    Some of that time, some of them allow me the tremendous joy and privilege of being carried on their backs. It’s like flying, and it’s the closest thing to freedom I’ve ever found.
    But that means I need to be as strong as possible at the lightest possible weight I can train down to. Every once I weigh is burden my horse has to carry.
    Fair is fair.
    If I ask a lot of my horse, I should be willing to DO a lot for him, too.
    Otherwise I’m not a partner, I’m just a passenger.



  18. Troy
    April 29, 2011
    11:57 am

    Elliot I wondering in the principle of strength workouts for powerlifting. I’m currently 17 and weigh138 pounds an I just came off of a progressive overload training an my maxes are bench 250 squat 405 and clean 225. And I need a new program so I can continue to increase my number and I’ve looked at westside barbells program in which they have a dynamic day which is light weight 50% to 60% an then a max day in the same week but they don’t focus on the actual lifts they do lifts that closely resemble those such as floor press for bench box squat for squat an high pulls for cleans. And I was wondering your opinion on this an if you would have a better program for strength that I could use


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