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Strength vs. Hypertrophy Training

How should you train for your goals?

Do the type of workouts you do even make that big of a difference?


In this post we will talk about the differences in Strength and Hypertrophy training and how each one can help you reach your goals. If you would like to hear Coach Caleb talk about this you can find it wherever you listen to Podcasts by searching for the LinnFit Coaching Podcast, or on YouTube here. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!


First let’s get on the same page with some simple definitions of the outcomes of strength and hypertrophy training. Strength is your ability to generate force. Strength training will increase your ability to move yourself or an external object and will give your body greater ability to withstand forces placed on it. Hypertrophy training is less focused on increasing your ability to produce force and more focused on increasing muscle size. The graphic below compares the goals and training style for Strength and Hypertrophy Training.



Benefits of Strength Training


We understand that having bigger muscle is not important to everyone and depending on the sport you may be doing could be harmful to your performance. However, almost everyone wants to feel and move better than they do right now. This is where strength training can be helpful. Strength training will help you move better in your daily life, help you resist injury, keep your metabolism running as you age, and help you maintain a higher quality of life as you get older.


Benefits of Hypertrophy Training


Hypertrophy (Increasing muscle size) also has some great positives. It will help you to get bigger and fill out your clothes more. This can be a huge confidence boost! Hypertrophy can also be beneficial if you are just starting out on your fitness journey. If you do not yet have very much muscle mass hypertrophy training can help you get started building that up right away, building more lean muscle mass will increase your metabolism. Another reason Hypertrophy training may be right for someone just starting out is the lower risk of injury. Because it uses higher reps and lower weight it is a great time to work on technique and gain confidence as your starting out.


Why should you care?


Your goals will be able to guide the type of training that you should focus on. Some people will be competing in a sport that will require them to make a certain weight class. In cases like this the goal is to get as strong and prepared for your competition as possible without unnecessary muscle mass. At some point to continue to get stronger you will need to increase muscle size; this is why Strong men competitors use phases of both hypertrophy and strength training. On the other hand, a bodybuilder is competing based in part on muscle size so they will not need as much strength training.


To women this issue may be especially important because many women have no desire to get big or bulky but would rather get a little stronger and become more toned. Some women might avoid lifting any weights at all because they are concerned about building too much muscle. Strength training can help you live better without building a lot of muscle mass that you might not want. Knowing the differences between these types of training can help you reach your goals!


What they both have in common


  • You have to train the big muscle groups to get a maximal hormonal response. You will not get as strong or as big as you can if you don’t train your legs.

  • Both increase your overall metabolism as they challenge your body to adapt and develop to meet the demand you are placing on your body.

  • You do get stronger with both, but Strength training will prioritize it.


How they are different

  • Hypertrophy training is much higher volume of sets and reps and has less rest.

  • In Hypertrophy training, you want to intentionally overload the muscle, often to failure or significant “burn”.

  • Hypertrophy training will lead to more soreness as you break down your muscle to build them back up stronger.

  • Strength training does not break down the muscle as much, therefore you will not have as much muscle growth.

  • Strength training is much more taxing on the Central Nervous System (CNS), which is why you do less sets and reps.

  • You may feel more physically tired after some serious strength work because it is just flat out hard. If your CNS gets tired, you are tired all over.


What does all this mean for you and your goals?


Training to get a little leaner and athletic or functional?

  • Do a mix of strength training with some more aerobic type circuits or training.

  • That means you will be moving some heavier loads for lesser reps and then doing either some steady cardio or some high intensity exercises with much lighter weights that will not give you any hypertrophy.

Want to be a Power lifter or Olympic weightlifter?

  • Aim for your weight class and prioritize strength over hypertrophy, especially once you are in the range of your weight class.

  • Within a given weight class, to get stronger, you will have to do phases of hypertrophy training to build more muscle, but you will have to get leaner and leaner to stay in your weight class.

  • Eventually you may have to decide to move to a higher weight class, to continue to get stronger.

Want to be a strong man?

  • Eat quality fuel to get as big and strong as you can.

  • Continually periodize hypertrophy and strength training while limiting the cardio so it does not take away from your strength training.

  • Hypertrophy training may be used as a lower intensity day to allow your CNS to recover, while still working toward your goals.

Want to be a body builder or increase your muscle size at all?

  • You will have to plan hypertrophy training into your regimen quite a bit.

  • Fuel your muscles with more calories to get the growth you want. Muscles will not grow without fuel. If you are overweight, you may not need to add any additional calories to see your muscles start to grow.

  • Have 1-2 significant strength training days in a week to stimulate your hormones to promote muscle growth.

Remember that your Nutrition is going to have a bigger impact on your health than the training that you do. You cannot out train a poor diet. Check out our Nutrition and exercise coaching options to see if we can help you reach your goals and be healthier.


If you have further questions about this or any topics you would like us to cover leave a comment below.

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