If you're reading this article, chances are you're a guy who's looking to get a bigger more chiseled physique. There's a lot of workout routines out there and it can be overwhelming to choose which is best for you. The two most fundamental elements of any workout routine revolve around either size or strength. Rarely do we see a smaller guy lifting a lot of weight and on the other hand rarely do we see a huge guy struggling with lighter weight. In this article we're going to look at what's the best type of workout routine you should focused on: one based on strength or one based on hypertrophy, or even a mix.
Simply put, strength training is executing exercises that increase your power output, most often measured by your One Rep Max (ORM). The most common exercises used to gauge strength are squats, deadlifts, and bench. The squat is a good measure of your core and leg strength. The deadlift is a measure of your core and back strength. And the bench is a measure of your chest and tricep strength. Strength training is usually focused on lower rep ranges (from 1-8 reps per exercise) with longer rest periods. Usually you are exerting maximum effort in a short time frame (30 seconds or less).
Hypertrophy is defined as "the enlargement of an organ or issue from the increase in size of it's cells". Whereas strength training is about power output and strength, hypertrophy is about size. In relation to bodybuilding/fitness,
hypertrophy training revolves around exercises that pump and enlarge the muscles. This type of training usually works in higher rep ranges (12+ reps per exercise) over a longer duration of time with a strong focus on muscle
contractions. There is more focus on form and full range of motion.
As mentioned earlier, rarely will you see a male with little muscle development lift large amounts of weight and rarely will you see a male with large muscle development struggling to lift light weight. Strength and Hypertrophy are intricately related- you can't get big without getting strong, and you can't get strong without getting big. There are some extreme exceptions such as Olympic powerlifters; their impeccable form makes up for their smaller frames but they still carry a lot of lean mass. So this begs the question, is size depends on strength and strength depends on size, which do I focus on first?
For beginners, it's important to build up a strength base first. Without a good strength base, it's very difficult to make advances in muscle growth. Another way to think about this: it takes more muscle to bench 315x10 than it does 135x10 - you can do all the hypertrophy work you want, but if you don't have a good strength base then you don't be able to work on hypertrophy at higher weights. A good strength program consists of the three fundamental movements: bench, squat, deadlift. Once you can hit 225 for reps on the bench, 315 for reps on the squat, and 405 for reps on the deadlift you can proceed to the intermediate group.
At the intermediate stage you should start to incorporate hypertrophy training to start building on size. This means incorporating accessory lifts and isolated movements - exercises that just focus on isolated muscle group and focus on the contraction and the burn. Here we're not looking to lift the most amount possible (although we should slowly progress in increasing load over time). We want to focus on the best pump possible to engorge the muscle and literally tear muscle fibers. Only by tearing muscle fibers can you recover and grow back bigger muscle tissue.
Advanced athletes know best as to what works and what doesn't for their body. Most athletes at this stage will incorporate both strength and hypertrophy training, but at different ratios depending on how their individual bodies react. For example, pro bodybuilders Ronnie Coleman and Branch Warren are often known for going super heavy strength training. Whereas physique competitors tend to focus more on hypertrophy high rep training.
Both strength training and hypertrophy training are crucial components to a well-planned workout routine. The two are closely related and build off of each other. A reoccurring theme you'll see us theme/idea you will see us promote is that everyone is different in what works for them. Looking at guides online or with a coach are great ways to get your feet wet, but you'll always want to customize and tailor your own training, diet and lifestyle plan around what works for you. Especially when viewing the diets and workouts of top level athletes - often they have access to supplements and drugs that are not applicable to the regular gym-goer. So in conclusion, go out there, lift, and see what works best for you!