Hypertrophy vs Strength Training: Is One Better Than the Other?

Hypertrophy vs Strength Training
Athletic Training General Power

Did you know that weight lifting can tremendously boost your explosiveness, strength, overall wellbeing, muscular size, speed, and endurance? However, your goals determine the best weight training method. For optimal results, you’ll need to make up your mind before you hit the gym.

If you’re scratching your head in confusion, wondering which lifestyle style is most suitable for you, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading as we explore the similarities and differences of hypertrophy vs strength training to permit an informed decision.

Hypertrophy vs Strength Training: What’s the Difference?

Hypertrophy defines the growth of tissues in your body. While scientists use this technical term to describe other categories of growth, today, we’re solely focusing on muscular growth. As such, in the fitness world, hypertrophy describes building muscle mass or bulking up.

Contrarily, strength training focuses on boosting your physical strength that is measurable by the level of force you can exert on physical objects. A foolproof way of gauging strength is testing your weight lifting ability in the gym.

Nonetheless, some people gravitate more towards preparing their bodies for real-life activities, focusing on functional strength or fitness. Although there are other strength levels, optimal strength defines your ability to lift heavy weights for one repetition.

For instance, relative strength encompasses the amount of force you can produce per bodyweight units, such as a double bodyweight deadlift or the number of pull-ups you can do.

The following individuals are incredible examples that exemplify each quality.

Bodybuilders

Given that they want to bulk up as much as possible, bodybuilders all about hypertrophy.

Powerlifters

Although they prioritize optimal strength, most Powerlifters are weight class athletes that focus on relative strength. If competing in bodybuilding doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can still acquire valuable training lessons from frequent participants.

Hypertrophy Training

Hypertrophy vs Strength Training: Differences in Purpose and Benefits

Depending on the training style you opt for, your body will respond differently. Let’s delve into the differences between the two.

1. Accentuate vs Proportion

In hypertrophy, the main training goal is developing certain muscle groups in isolation, thereby sculpting your body, one muscle group after another. You can focus on accentuating particular muscles more accurately compared to strength training solely.

In strength training, if you can check out people that are not only strong but also successfully manage their body fat, you’ll notice impressively proportional physiques. None of their body parts will be disproportionately bigger than others as they have the overall quality of muscle groups.

2. Pumped vs Hardness

With high hypertrophy volume during and after the training session, you’ll experience an increased pump of your muscles, which, unfortunately, doesn’t last forever. Nonetheless, the overall ‘aired up’ look will get you sufficiently bulked up.

As opposed to the bubbly (pumped) look, strength training infuses hardness and density to the appearance of your muscles, giving them the uncanny ability to take on powerful contractile forces. To put things into perspective, think of granite sculptures vs balloons.

3. Muscle-Mind-Connection vs Mind-Over-Matter

Hypertrophy training focuses on physically and mentally isolating the desired muscle group, establishing a muscle to mind connection. You feel your muscles tightly contracting in the form of a burning sensation. Through the application of this intense focus, you can optimize mechanical tension, ushering in growth.

Unlike individual muscles, hypertrophy training amps up your entire body, including your mind and central nervous system. By creating a mind-over-matter connection, this training attempts to stimulate as many motor units as possible coupled with the application of power and force. Hypertrophy training is entirely a mind game that summons your body.

4. Targeted Growth vs Function

Hypertrophy training targets lagging body parts and improves them in terms of strength and size. The solution to failing bench presses as a result of weak triceps is increased tricep exercises. If you have small calves, focusing on them will significantly increase their volume.

An all-rounded strength training routine will elevate your overall physical function compared to cardio exercises and hypertrophy. Progressing through entire ranges of movement with great form and under increasing load boosts your confidence in more ways than you can imagine. After all, you’re training your entire body to be functional, as opposed to isolated parts.

5. Muscle Endurance vs Time Efficiency

Hypertrophy training ushers in better fatigue management. By increasing the number of reps, you elevate your muscle endurance that spills over into strength training and life in general. Given that muscle endurance also improves your work capacity, it differs from cardio or aerobic endurance.

Depending on the person and their training program, time efficiency is debatable in strength training. Nonetheless, it entails up to 12 sets, each having 4 to 6 reps and longer rest intervals. Typically, strength training gives you more value for money per unit of time as a result of the focus on compound lifting.

Hypertrophy vs Strength Training: Similarities

Strength Training

Here’s a breakdown of the commonalities between the two.

Beginners

Both types of training allow beginners to concurrently increase muscle mass and build strength with the same time and effort the advanced individuals.

Compound Lifts

Ranging from pull-ups, deadlifts, overhead presses, bench presses, and rows to squats, compound lifts are suitable for hypertrophy and strength training.

Training Splits

They encompass push-pull, upper-body, and lower-body workouts and are ideal for strength and hypertrophy goals depending on your preferred training method.

Strength Is Important

Regardless of the training method you opt for, strength increase is the key to ultimately gaining muscle mass.

Size Matters

If you gain a significant amount of muscle strength, you’ll inevitably bulk up unless you limit your food intake.

Overload

Hypertrophy and strength training use progressive overload, which refers to the gradual increase of repetitions and weights to boost muscular fitness.

Dedication

Reaching your full potential in strength training or hypertrophy takes years of hard work and, most importantly, consistency.

Height

Shorter people typically find it easier to lift heavier weights as a result of increased leverage and a decreased bar path. It’s also easier for them to fill out their frames, given that 1 lb of muscle mass is more visible in shorter than taller people.

Hypertrophy vs Strength Training: Which One Should You Choose?

When comparing both types of weight training, keep in mind that none is exclusively superior. Doing strength or hypertrophy in isolation for the rest of your life isn’t optimal. Regardless of your goal, such as aesthetically, fitness, sporting, or functionally, the two training modalities serve a purpose.

Although one style is easier to program than its counterpart, the truth is, neglecting to undulate strength and hypertrophy training is leaving valuable improvement on the table.

Therefore, taking your pick between the two training styles revolves around your current circumstances. Whether you’re no stranger to weight training or just getting started, below are the key aspects to consider that will steer you on the right path.

Confidence

Performing squats, pressing movements, and heavy deadlifts demand unwavering self-confidence right off the bat. Someone familiar with the motions understands their body, has had a fair amount of practice, and most importantly, doesn’t crack under pressure. While practice boosts confidence, hypertrophy training is a great starting point for anyone with low movement confidence.

Mobility

The major compound movements call for excellent mobility coupled with the ability to comfortably and safely get through large ranges. For strength training, don’t make the mistake of loading up maximum weight if you have poor mobility and movement quality. People with great movement are an ideal fit for strength training.

Enjoyment

Some people prefer grinding it out in heavy strength training. Others gravitate towards the sweat and pump stemming from working hard with litter, which is what hypertrophy involves. As with everything else in life, doing something you disdain won’t last. Therefore, predominantly engage in what tickles your fancy without ignoring other modalities.

Nothing Works Forever

Remember, your body will plateau in function, muscle growth, and strength. You’ll experience this countless times throughout your training life. The good news is that it won’t last forever. To overcome plateaus entails systematically phasing your weight training to various modalities to force new adaptations and generate new stimulus.

If you focus on strength training, switching things up with hypertrophy can have a positive impact on your muscle power and size.

Skill Acquisition

It centers on how well you can move outside the gym, possibly on the field. It’s no secret that your skill level is low when you’re getting acquainted with a new movement. As such, we recommend practicing with lighter weights to get in more safe reps of better quality. Hypertrophy with large compound movements is a great starting point if you’re a beginner.

Intra-Workout Ladder

Typically, you’ll see people mixing hypertrophy and strength ranges of reps in the same week and, at times, in one training session. In this case, the order matters the most, so start with strength training and partition anywhere between 70% and 80% of your overall workout session to a maximum of 3 exercises. Only then should you do hypertrophy that’s less strenuous on your central nervous system. Fatigue at this stage is also bearable.

Volume Progression

It boils down to the intentional increment of your weekly training volume with more sets, weights, and reps across all your workouts. Once you reach your limits with strength training depending on your current size, it becomes an uphill battle to make material jumps in volume from one week to another. Contrarily, increasing your volume weekly with hypertrophy training is considerably easier.

The Bottom Line

In the hypertrophy vs strength training battle, neither is superior to the other. They’re intertwined, which means you should focus on both. However, if you’re still puzzled about how to start training, deciding on your main goal (hypertrophy or strength) will give you clarity.

Luckily, beginners can accomplish both goals concurrently with fairly straightforward training programs, which means you don’t need to think long and hard. Remember, the thrill of lifting is rooted in trying out various training styles before discovering the option that works best for you, so don’t be afraid to experiment.