Strength Training vs Hypertrophy

Strength Training vs Hypertrophy
Written by Bradley Lawson: BA(Hons), Level 2&3 Personal Trainer.


In the realm of fitness, a discussion crops up time and time again. It pits Strength Training for the purpose of gaining strength and functionality, against Hypertrophy for the purpose of increasing muscle, and honing the overall physique.

The two are not mutually exclusive, and there is crossover in the development of strength and muscle.

The Difference Between Strength and Hypertrophy Training

Strength training and hypertrophy training are two different approaches to achieving different fitness goals.

Strength training is focused on increasing the amount of weight you can lift, while hypertrophy training is focused on increasing the size of your muscles.

Strength training involves lifting heavy weights for fewer reps, with longer rest periods in between sets. The goal is to increase the amount of weight you can lift over time, which will lead to increased strength and power.

Hypertrophy training, on the other hand, involves lifting moderate to heavy weights for more reps, with shorter rest periods in between sets.

The goal is to increase the size of your muscles, which will lead to a more aesthetically pleasing physique.

The key difference between strength and hypertrophy training is the number of reps and the amount of weight you lift.

Strength training focuses on lifting heavier weights for fewer reps, while hypertrophy training focuses on lifting moderate to heavy weights for more reps.

Both approaches have their benefits, and the key to success is to choose the one that best fits your fitness goals.

However, training specification can elicit difference responses in the body. This article will examine Strength Training Versus Hypertrophy. 

How to Determine your Fitness Goals

Before you start any training program, it's important to determine your fitness goals.

Are you looking to increase your overall strength and power, or are you more interested in building bigger muscles?

The answer to this question will determine which training approach you should take.

If your goal is to increase your overall strength and power, you should focus on strength training.

This means lifting heavier weights for fewer reps, with longer rest periods in between sets.

Your workouts should be focused on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, which work multiple muscle groups at once.

If your goal is to build bigger muscles, you should focus on hypertrophy training.

This means lifting moderate to heavy weights for more reps, with shorter rest periods in between sets.

Your workouts should be focused on isolation exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, and leg extensions, which target specific muscle groups.

 We shall cover the following points:
  • What's strength training?
  • Types of strength training
  • How to train for maximal strength
  • Explosive
  • Ballistic 
  • Functional
  • Hypertrophy
  • Who trains for it?
  • Confidence
  • Hypertrophy training
  • Why should we?
  • Importance of progressive overload
  • Testosterone benefits
  • Powerbuilding
  • Conclusion

What is Strength Training?

strength training vs hypertrophy

Strength Training put simply is the goal of exercise to accrue strength.

The Origins of Strength Training

Solving the quest to be stronger is a uniquely human endeavour. Our collective past indicates that ancient cultures sought out strength through a variety of martial practices and feats of brawn. [1]  

One such contest of strength that has survived the test of time is stone lifting.

Respectively done in ancient civilization, as well as in early Neolithic tribes, history demonstrates that lifting heavy has always been emblematic of strength.

It has been understood that for prehistoric tribes, lifting a particularly heavy special stone was a rite of passage – a trial of strength and test of manhood. [2]

In prehistoric times it was achieved with a large stone, and in Ancient China it was performed by weightlifters and imperial warriors who lifted metal bars and pots weighing hundreds of kilograms. 

Bybon’s Stone

Bybon’s stone was discovered as a relic from Ancient Greece; a 143kg sandstone weight inscribed in Boustrephedon: “Bybon, son of Phola, lifted me over his head with one hand.” [3]  

We can be sceptical about how such feats were done, but what remains true is that strength training has been a feature of our history.

Lifting stones has been a part of that history, and yet, after all this time lifting stones is still around.

It appears in the modern-day sport of Strongman, with Tom Stoltman setting a world record lift of a 286kg Atlas Stone.

 The point is that history is alive with evidence of Strength Training, and it is clearly important to us as a people.

In the past, and in the modern day, Strength Training has been used for sport; to gauge and train the relative strength of warriors and athletes, and for the improvement of the human condition. 

Benefits of Strength Training

Strength training offers numerous benefits beyond just increased physical strength. One of the most significant benefits of strength training is improved bone density.
As you age, your bones become weaker and more brittle, which can lead to a higher risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Strength training can help to increase bone density and reduce your risk of these conditions.
Strength training also helps to increase your metabolism, which can lead to increased fat loss and weight loss.
When you lift weights, your body burns more calories both during and after the workout, which can help you achieve your weight loss goals faster.

Another benefit of strength training is improved joint health. When you lift weights, you're not just building muscle, you're also strengthening the ligaments and tendons that support your joints.

This can help to reduce your risk of injury and improve your overall joint health.

Types of Strength Training

There are many training methodologies that classify as strength training – that you can use to develop strength as a primary goal, but we will only cover the most popular and beneficial types in relation to strength gain, sport, and health.

There is some overlap with the three, but we will dissect how to train them and why you would want to train these modalities to get stronger.  

  • Heavy Lifting / Maximal Strength Training
  • Explosive Strength Training
  • Functional Strength Training

Heavy Lifting / Maximal Strength

When we refer to maximal strength or maximum strength, we are talking about the maximum force a muscle can generate in a single contraction.

In exercise, your maximal strength can be observed in a variety of exercises and lifts through your one rep max. [4] 

The sports and training methodologies of powerlifting, strongman and weightlifting all incorporate heavy lifting, and periodized training that seeks to achieve a one rep max that is as heavy as possible. 

In each of these sports, the competition stage places them head-to-head with other elite athletes, each vying for 1st place on the podium by accomplishing the heaviest lift out of a series of lifts to rack up a score. 

Below are the three main strength training sports summarised. 


In powerlifting the aim is to have the heaviest total across three compound exercises: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift


In weightlifting the aim is for the athletes to perform two maximal strength lifts in the snatch, and the clean and jerk.

Similarly, the results are determined by the combined total of the two events. Explosive strength is also at work, in both of these lifts, as it would be not possible for many of these athletes to lift their max weights strictly.

Instead they leverage their high rate of force development in conjunction with the capacity for heavy lifting to explosively throw weights of up to 263kg above their heads. 


Strongman stands as one of the most extreme shows of strength in strength sports, and for a long time was synonymous with circus acts due to how Strongman often teeters at the edge of what is humanly possible.

They have covered a wide array of events sometimes testing maximal strength, and at other times testing strength endurance.

Events include variations of the squat, deadlift, stone lifting, keg tossing, log press, farmers walks and much more.

What you need to train Maximal Strength

Whether you want to focus on a sports specific lift, or there is an exercise or activity you would like to excel in, we can all get stronger from training our maximal strength. 

Before you do so, there are a few important components to cover when considering training maximal strength. 

A Foundation of Strength - It is advised that you have a foundation of strength or a degree of relative strength before you begin maximal strength training.

This is so your body has made the physiological adaptations for your muscles and joints to sustain heavier loads. 

Correct Form

In addition, it would be extremely helpful to have some familiarity with an exercise or activity that you wish to develop with maximal strength before you train it.

This is so you are already able to perform the activity with a full range of motion, and that you have the proper form, cues, and muscle memory when you are performing the exercise under heavy loads, and/or for your one rep max. 

RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) 

Rate of perceived exertion is a subjective measurement of the intensity of an activity, e.g., how it feels.

It can be a useful tool for you to personally gauge how close you are to your one rep max based on feeling.

By implementing this scale and using a journal or notepad, you can track how your exercises weigh up.

It must be noted that this could change based on how well rested you are, your diet, energy levels, and your psyche to lift.

Using the RPE scale can be a good recordkeeping practice to document exercise intensity throughout a workout, and for you to retrospectively see your improvements as once heavy loads become lower on the RPE scale, signifying development in strength. 

Here is an example of an RPE scale you might like to use: 

( 1 ) VERY LIGHT = Barely any exertion
( 2 - 3 ) LIGHT = Not much exertion, you could perform this for hours
( 4 - 6 ) MODERATE = Breathing actively as it becomes increasingly more difficult.
( 7 – 8 ) VIGOROUS = Uncomfortable, challenging, shortness of breath.
( 9 ) HARD = Very difficult, two or three repetitions in the tank – close to max.
( 10 ) MAX EFFORT = All out, nothing left, your one rep max.

How to train for Maximal Strength 

strength training vs hypertrophy

To get stronger, you need to lift heavier. However, there is a science to getting stronger, and to effectively managing the variables that impact strength gain.  

Keep reading on to see how we unpack training for Maximal Strength. 

Reps and Sets

For the quickest strength improvement, studies have found that the optimal number of repetitions is between 3 and 9.

This was the same across the board for 2RM, 4RM, 6RM, 8RM, 10RM, and 12RM for one set. [5]

For sets, it should be between 1 – 3 sets per exercise or activity for achieving peak muscle strength gain.

Research also found that periodically training to maximal effort (your one rep max), is necessary to recruit all possible motor units and muscle fibres.

However, it would be detrimental to train your 1RM, or to train to temporary muscle failure in every workout.

It is therefore suggested that if you want to optimise strength training you should use periodised programming to alternate between reps that stay within 80-90% of your 1RM, as this is correlated with a significant spike in the development of bone mineral density.

Then, periodically training your 1RM with adequate rest and nutrition to optimise maximal strength gain. [6] 

How to work out your 1RM Percentages

You can use a reliable 1RM testing protocol after a warmup to figure out your 1RM Percentages. [7]

Once you have warmed up with submaximal repetitions you may determine your 1RM by progressively adding resistance of 2.5kg to 20kg until you discover your definitive one rep max.

Once you have your 1RM, you can divide it by the percentage you wish to train for progression in strength.

When testing your 1RM, training it, or training close to it, it is advised to have a training partner, a friendly spotter or a strength and conditioning coach to provide a safety reassurance whilst you train at a high intensity. 

Lifting Accessories

For heavier loads, it can be advised but not essential to use wrist wraps, a slingshot, bodysuit, weightlifting belt, chalk, sleeves, and other support accessories to minimise muscle failure and to protect joints by adding stability.

This of course, varies from exercise to exercise and is not necessity. However, training without these tools will allow your own stabilising muscles and joints to become accustomed to the training stimuli more naturally, albeit it may take longer for this physiological adaptation to occur.

At an upper level though, they could be the deciding factor that closes the margins between a successful 1RM and a failed lift.

Rest Intervals

For maximal strength, it is better to have longer rest periods with 2 – 5 minute interset rest harbouring better strength gains as it allows for consistent intensity in each set. [8] 


The American Dietetic Association recommends appropriate food and fluid intake, along with the use of supplements for optimal nutrition.

Physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise can all be enhanced through proper nutrition. [9] 


For maximal strength training you should use this type of training twice a week, as it can be strenuous on the nervous system, joints, and requires you take adequate rest to come back stronger. 

Periodisation and Exercise Rotation 

If your focus is on a set of exercises or a single activity, you can benefit from training it for a period of 12 weeks at a maximum.

Then you might want to alternate by training differently, perhaps by deloading by training with lighter weights, or changing the exercise selection.

This is a circumspective way to minimise long-term risks and injuries from repetitive exercise strain and super loading of the joints and muscles.

In the same strain, at the end of a cycle of maximal strength training, you would have a positive response to a week off, posited to give you a week of extensive recovery after such an intense period of strength development. 

This kind of training with foresight; using planned cycles of exercise, recovery, and load management is extremely effective at mitigating injury that appears in the form of muscular tears, tendonitis, or overtraining syndrome and rhabdomyolysis. [10] 

How to plan your Maximal Strength routine:

You might do this by selecting 3-5 exercises or lifts you wish to improve, and then training these with maximal strength training repetitions, sets, and intensities for a duration of twelve weeks before changing your program, training cycle or taking on a deloading period. 

You might want to incorporate maximal strength into your strength training regime to get stronger, to eliminate weakness, or for strength sport, or hobbyist enjoyment. 

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Explosive Strength Training 

Lifting heavy loads, however, is just one aspect of strength training.

For many athletes, fitness enthusiasts, martial artists and combatants, explosive strength is better used to emulate the rate of force development required for those physical engagements. 

Current research draws that explosive strength is how quickly we can increase torque or force from low or resting level. 

Training explosive strength can improve rapid muscle activation.

This ability to create contractile force fast, reflected by a high rate of force development is important to both athletes who need to respond quickly and powerfully, and the elderly, who benefit from this by being able to repurpose this to counteract falls and postural imbalances. [11] 

You might have seen explosive strength training in boxing montages, or in the support training for athletics.

Training the mechanism to ‘explode’ is pivotal in sports that require the force generation to powerfully jump, punch, kick and so forth. 

Sports that benefit from explosive strength training include combat sports, gymnastics, weightlifting, jump sports, and many more. 

One of the major reasons why this is beneficial, apart from it increasing the recruitment of Type II muscle fibres (fast twitch), is the ‘transfer of training effect’ whereby explosive strength training can be sport specific and help replicate movement patterns that can closely translate to the sport in mind.

This gives performers and trainers another tool in their arsenal to train different components of their sport in isolation. [12] 

Ballistic Training Exercises

strength training vs hypertrophy

Ballistic Training is a form of explosive strength training that often use medicine balls, kettlebells, weighted bags and other objects to use in a variety of ways to train rate of force development, and explosivity.

It uses the trajectory of objects, or the swing of objects to develop explosive strength. 

The most well known of these exercises is the Medicine Ball Throw.

Variants of this throw exist with different objects, thrown at angles, through different planes of motion.

The most straightforward one goes as follows:

You take a medicine ball or weighted, throwable object in two hands.

With a tight core, you enter a partial squat and spring into standing to throw the ball up along the wall.

The aim is to throw the ball towards high up along the wall as if you were to try get the ceiling, but the ball will be interrupted by the wall and fall back into catching range.

With this exercise you can perform it doing from 12 to 15 repetitions, really trying to improve that ‘spring and release’ mechanism in the ballistic exercise.

Other variations can be incredibly lucrative in sports and training, with variations such as the ‘side throw’ and the ‘rotational throw’ incorporating powerful force generating movements, using the hips, and training the lesser targeted muscles of the obliques and the serratus.

You might have also seen ‘ball slams’ used in strength and conditioning programs, whereby you would stand with your feet shoulder width apart and drive a heavy throwable ball (medicine ball or sack) into the ground a foot or two in front of you.

Ballistic exercises are a good method of explosive strength training, as well as improving core strength and co-ordination using projectile throws, and manipulating objects through space to maximise force generation. 

Plyometric Exercises

Similarly, plyometric exercise can be done as a method of explosive strength training.

Research into plyometric exercise with athletes, found an increase in explosive strength adaptations after only 7 weeks of plyometric training.

The same research found much more significant gains to the untrained individual over the same period of time.

Considerations for plyometric exercise encourage its usage, especially for developing explosive and reactive strength, as well as specific neuromuscular adaptations. [13]

Plyometric exercises compared to ballistic exercises require no objects or tools and be done practically anywhere.

The plyometric pull up is used in gymnastics, climbing and calisthenics. It is used as a warmup, as a strength-building exercise to gain fundamental strength to further progressions, and ultimately, to increase overall explosive strength in dynamic movements.

Great plyometric exercises include the burpee, the squat jump, the plyometric push up and lateral skater jumps.

These exercises can be great for beginners to get used to using their bodyweight and have been used countlessly in military drills and combat drills, interchangeably, for both explosive strength training and strength endurance

Functional Strength Training 

strength training vs hypertrophy

Functional Strength Training is a broad term, but it is an important perspective to look at training, that the average person can benefit from.

Functional Strength Training answers how people can train to resolve and deter nagging injuries that result from a working day – whether that is a sedimentary work lifestyle, or one that has you on your feet all day.

In standardised exercise programs it is popular to have workouts geared towards a single muscle group, containing many isolation exercises.

Functional Strength Training tends to expand the focus to exercising multiple muscle groups consecutively, with an end goal of improving how you might be able to perform tasks at work.

Therefore, functional strength can be best developed by training it in the movement patterns you do predominantly.

This is highly personalised to you and your working schedule, however, there are five core movement patterns: 

Movements that require:

Rotation, bending over, using one side of your body, pushing, and pulling.

Injuries often result from a lack of strength and awareness; in everyday people this can typically be seen in injuries in the back.

For the working person the back is vulnerable to pulled ligaments, strains, and overtime even conditions such as slipped discs, sciatica, misaligned bones or the swelling of spinal joints. [14]

The NHS recommends staying active with regular exercise.

Functional Strength Training can go beyond what is required and protect the body, specifically in movements such as rotation, bending over and using one side of your body – which are rarely trained movements yet are closer to what you might perform in the real world.


This is particularly worth training as the transversal plane is rarely trained by the average gym goer, yet we rotate our bodies a lot throughout a range of jobs and activities.

Some exercises that can be performed in the transversal plane that can develop functional strength with real world carryover, are exercises like sledgehammer swings, landmine presses with rotation, twisting abdominal crunches, kettlebell rotational swings, and wood choppers with a plate. 


Another movement that can result in a lot of body breakdown over the years is bending over.

You might see or heard anecdotally tonnes of stories of people pulling their back. Part of this is due to not understanding how to properly bend your back to lift objects, and another is due to a weak lower back and posterior chain.

In the gym, two neglected exercises that are practiced by strength athletes that do a lot of movements that require bending and pulling are that of the hyperextension and the reverse hyper extension.

Both of these exercises strengthen the core, and reduce lower back tightness, developing some stable posterior chain strength... and both exercises can be trained progressively from bodyweight to adding small increments of weight over time.

Turkish Get Up

A larger step up from these two exercises is the Turkish Get Up, which can at first be performed with light weight.

This full body exercise which takes the body through multiple planes and starts lying and ends up in standing is phenomenal at training the body as it transitions through different movement patterns.

It is a complex exercise so it can take some time to get familiar with the movements but can be a worthy one to add to your arsenal if you wish to use functional strength training to bolster your fitness regime with injury prevention in mind.

Onto this end, exercises such as weighted carry’s, farmers walk and lifting boxes which simulate work environments can be an excellent opportunity to teach you how to bend over and manipulate weights that place stress on your muscles and spine.

It might sound belittling or patronising to be taught how to lift something as rudimentary as a box, or to revert to simple movement fundamentals such as bending but ingraining strong movement fundamentals is the best path to injury prevention.

Before bending and lifting, you can benefit from a standing warm up. You can do this by twisting side to side, with arms loose and swinging which can sometimes produce a cracking sound as trapped air or fluid is released from stiff joints.

Twisting your body, kicking out your legs behind you until you feel your lower back, and turning your torso on your hips left to right are good warm up movements to increase blood flow before you place stress on your back. 

You can start by planting your feet shoulder width apart and mentally noting where you might be lifting the box or object from.

Bend with a natural curve in your back, not stiff straight, but as if your back was diagonally straight and a ruler could be laid across your back and onto the back of your hips.

With a tight midsection, and weight in your heels that are flat and grounded on the floor you can grip the box with a compression grip from the sides, or if it’s an object with a handle or frame, carefully take the frame from the outside using your shoulders, back and forward gait to grasp the object.

Stand slowly, without a herky jerky movement, allowing your back to naturally gain to standing as you absorb the weight of what you’re lifting.

Pressing into the ground with your heels and using your most powerful muscles in your legs allows you to pick up the object more effortlessly without creating a straining force on your lower back from where you hingelift the object without your legs.

Finally, you can carry or move the box – focusing on controlled movements, rather than frenetic movements that cause you to bend unnaturally or throw you off balance. 

There are plenty of instructional videos for lifting boxes, bending, and moving heavy loads at work that you can really learn from.

It takes only a cup of modesty to be mindful about your body and the stresses upon it that can be greatly preventative in the accumulation of workplace injury. 

Strength Training Conclusion

 strength training vs hypertrophy

To conclude on getting stronger, we can see that there is a time and place for strength training that can suit everyone’s individual goal.

Whether it is to achieve peak athleticism, maximise strength, generate force explosively, or to have functional and practical carryover to your working day.

Evolutionarily, one of the first functions of the human body is to move. In this capacity, the human body responds well to stimuli that strengthen movements, and it can be physiologically rewarding to train strength.   

Strength training benefits 

  1. Strength Training for the workplace

A study on strength training and its application in the workplace found that it prevented deterioration of work ability among manual workers that suffered with chronic pain and injury through forceful and repetitive activity at the workplace. [15]

  1. Strength Training for Sports performance

Strength training for the athlete can improve performance, prevent injury, and prolong a competitive career. [16]

  • Explosive Strength Training has been shown to allow athletes to break limiting performance plateaus, improve RFD and acceleration. [16]
  1. Strength Training for older men

Strength training for older men found a significant increase in total lean tissue mass, and a decrease in fat tissue mass.  [17]

  1. Strength Training for the elderly

Strength training for elderly men and women found approximately 2 decades worth of age-associated losses in strength and muscle mass regained in several months of heavy strength training. [18]

  • Strength training also induces growth hormone and testosterone release, regardless of age, though the elderly response is not to the degree of younger individuals. [19]
  1. Strength Training on endogenous hormones

Studies concurrently prove with exercise tests, that strength training results in the response of endogenous hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone.

The importance of these hormones to health and strength is understated as they internally set off a large domino effect of benefits to the body and brain. Findings tend to show a larger response relative to the increase in strength. [20]

  • Strength training may create optimal conditions for long term strength gains as intensive strength training may influence the pituitary and hypothalamic levels, resulting in boosted serum levels of testosterone. [21]
  1. Strength Training for children and adolescents

Children and adolescents are understood to benefit from strength training, specifically plyometric training to begin with – as it allows them to become physically fit and appropriately prepared for youth sports due to a gradually developed foundation of strength. [22] 

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The Value of strength 

Our stories, mythologies and mythicizations, particularly of men, revel in strength.

In the Homeric Iliad and other texts of classical literature, Herakles, or Hercules, as we more commonly know him as symbolised strength.

Characterisations of strength in figures such as Hercules don’t simply stop at physical brawn, they are often one side of a coin, with the other being spiritual strength or resilience. [23]

This was reflected in Greek and Athenian society, where a sound body was associated with a sound mind.

Similarly, Sport through the venues of the Pythian games, and the Olympics gave athletes an arena to contest a variety of masculinities.

These events like ones of modern sport; helped foster healthy competition and high levels of athleticism.

It was thought that the strength and conditioning training, and the combative mindset hewn in competition, was useful preparation for the potential of war. [24]

Following physical culture through different ages, we can see there is a longstanding tradition of strength that has survived to the modern day.

It's appearance has often been seen in connection with military or sporting discipline, martial practice, and masculinity.

In these arenas of masculinity, we see men thrive and glow, exploring the potential of their strength and overcoming difficult labours in Herculean fashion. 


If you want to get big, you need to employ a hypertrophy routine.

strength training vs hypertrophy

What is it?

Hypertrophy is brought up in conversation regarding muscle and muscle gain. It is described as the phenomenon whereby an increase in tissue mass occurs due to the implementation of exercise.

One of the dominant modes of exercise that is most commonly used to achieve hypertrophy today is through resistance training.

Strength training delivers hypertrophic results of muscularity but training specifically for hypertrophy places the sculpting and building of muscle over strength. 

How is it achieved?

Muscle grows when it is stimulated. Traditional resistance training provides an overload stimulus that triggers a myogenic domino effect.

The end result is that the proteins responsible for converting our cell stored energy increase in size and amount.

Physically, this increase of cells, along with a new total of sarcomeres, results in a lengthening of the muscle cross-sectional area that is worked by an exercise.

It is also training the muscle to be more efficient in converting that mechanical energy required to perform exercise movements against certain amounts of resistance, and for certain amounts of repetitions. [25] 

The science behind muscle growth gives us a good idea of how to map out progressive overload in an exercise routine. However, it is important to know other factors that are significant to muscle building

Muscle Protein Synthesis 

After resistance training, the muscle breakdown is to be repaired by a process called muscle protein synthesis.

During this time, muscle protein synthesis is optimised for 24 hours. In this window you are advised to eat a meal or supplementary meal with a high protein intake in order to keep muscle protein synthesis stable.

If your muscle protein breakdown is too much for the process of muscle protein synthesis to repair, then you lose muscle mass.

It is therefore important to know this series of events because what it does is inform you to be vigilant about recovery, diet, and overtraining. [26]


In terms of hypertrophy, recovery is a major component as it is the helping hand that affords your muscles the ability to return stronger, larger, and fuller. 

Below is a list of factors that can improve your recovery: 

Who is this for and who trains for it? 

strength training vs hypertrophy

In the modern day, most strains of physical culture such as strongman or bodybuilding descend from the weight-trainers of the 19th century.

A hybrid of bodybuilder and strongman, these men cultivated a following by reviving strength training traditions of old, along with new protocols that resulted in physical statures that people retrospectively comment as being close to the peak of naturally attainable musculature, at least for the decade.

Sandow’s idea of symmetry and proportion harkened back to the statues of the Greeks, which celebrated the beauty of the body. 

In 1901, The Royal Albert Hall hosted the first bodybuilding competition, hosted by arguably the father of modern bodybuilding and strength traditions, Eugene Sandow.

The Great Show as it was dubbed, would be a precursor for the bodybuilding explosion in the 1950s and 1970s. 


Coming to major popularity by the 1980s, the golden era (1950s-1970s) just before it saw the sport catapult out of obscurity.

Sculptors of their bodies, they reinvented themselves through hypertrophic training, posing routines, and by competing for the spotlight of the best physique under a panel of judges, and against their peers. 

The bodybuilder physique transcended the bodybuilding sport, and the stage of the Olympia.

Hollywood from the 1970s through to the late 1980s saw an enormous surge in the action genre that celebrated these physiques on the big screen.

Cinema action iconics such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone and more, propelled movies that involved and ingratiated physicality into the story, which would splinter into all manner of action, fighting and adventure film. 

What it said about popular culture was that the imagery of the idealised hero was synonymous with a proportional or defined physique.

It is no surprise then, to know that muscle, mostly in relation to men, is indicative of female to male attraction.

Research found that various muscle groups were associated with different considerations for a man’s health and attraction.

The abdominals were highly rated as an attractive muscle group, associated with a man’s diet and health for example. [27]

Other muscle groups, and musculature in general give off similar signals. The point being made here is that an aesthetic physique can largely be called an attractive physique.

Training for hypertrophy is the dominant exercise modality for achieving a lean physique, complete with full muscle bellies and attractive portions.

Hypertrophy & Confidence

So why might you want to have a lean physique and full muscle bellies?

It is a curious question, not everybody is interested in sports, performance or strength.

Aside from physiological health benefits, training for hypertrophy can be an easy way to uplift self-confidence.

Some people derive confidence from filling out clothes better, trimming back body fat, or they feel more physically capable by having a body that is muscled.

All of these answers are nothing to be ashamed of, and they all generally create a tie between a confident person and what we perceive to be a confident body. A confident body is one that suggests aspects of strength, health, fitness and has its own aesthetic value.

For these reasons training for hypertrophy is one of the most popular avenues of resistance training and is opted for as it fits in nicely with most peoples working days.

Training for hypertrophy can be achieved without massive strain on the body, it can be personalised for each individual, and it can raise a person’s self-esteem. 

Training For Hypertrophy 

Research in maximising hypertrophy shows us that higher volume should be considered over the lower and more intense rep ranges that belong to maximal strength training.

Therefore, it is advisable to do a higher volume of repetitions, focusing less on the weight of the load being used in per exercise but more on the range of motion and contraction with a moderate load.  [28]

The reason for this is that a higher hypertrophic response has been correlated with multiple sets, and higher training volume. [29]

In terms of repetitions hypertrophy can be best accomplished in repetitions of 8-12 within sets of 1-3 per exercise.


When considering a routine for your hypertrophy training, consider a split routine.

A split routine is a common training arrangement that schedules an individual for training muscle groups twice per week.

It combines various muscle groups into training days save the days between training for rest and recovery.

Research points towards split routine training as resulting in increased muscle mass and muscular strength in both young men and middle-aged men.

It found that even a small increase in frequency of muscle groups trained would result in a bigger response than those who train muscle groups once per week.

It should be understood then that working muscle groups twice a week, can increase the stimulus to those muscles, and consequently allows for larger increments of muscle growth over time.

An upper lower split routine might look something like:

Monday – Upper Body

Tuesday – Lower Body

Wednesday – Rest & Recovery

Thursday – Upper Body

Friday – Lower Body

Saturday, Sunday – Rest & Recovery 

Why should we build muscle?

In Xenophon’s Memorabilia, Socrates is attributed with the following quote:

“It is a base thing for a man to wax old in careless self-neglect before he has lifted up his eyes and seen what manner of man he was made to be, in the full perfection of bodily strength and beauty. But these glories are withheld from him who is guilty of self-neglect, for they are not wont to blaze forth unbidden.”

[30] (3.12)

This translation speaks to a persons’ self-discipline and unfulfilled potential. It suggests that through discipline and physical training, a person can admire the physical representation of their hard work and possibly reach the potential of their physique that would be otherwise lie dormant through inactivity and negligence.

On a side note, some critics believe this was Socrates appealing to the Epigenes to encourage him to get in a condition apt for war.

Whatever reason he said this for, the quote can be appreciated as it is perhaps historically, the earliest motivational gym quote.

Whether or not this quote comprised from around 371 BC strikes true with you, what should be is that we all owe ourselves a duty of care to stay health and fit, and to strive to be better versions of ourselves.

Building muscle can be a tool to develop confidence, a social hobby, a means of regulating your weight, and/or a way of keeping your body healthy, and attractive. 

The Importance of Progressive Overload

Progressive Overload Like with any skill-based goal, starting small and gradually increasing its complexity is key for reaching strength training success.

Doing the same workout over and over or lifting identical amounts each week without experiencing soreness could cause your body to reach a plateau, meaning your muscles no longer require that much load in order to increase in strength or build muscle mass.

Progressive overload can help break this stagnation through planned and controlled increases to volume, resistance or rest periods to drive continued adaptation.

This could involve increasing reps or sets or decreasing rest times while increasing weight on the bar is an obvious method but other variables like rest periods and frequency could also play a part.

Not to worry! As this process is not linear, you may experience weeks where you cannot lift as much.

That's okay as long as your load increases steadily over time; periodization and Progressive Overload can work hand-in-hand to produce optimal results.

Hypertrophy & Testosterone

strength training vs hypertrophy

 Studies suggest that the higher training frequency associated with training aimed towards hypertrophy, which promotes further circulation of anabolic hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone.

It indicates a cyclical outcome, as the circulation of these endogenous hormones has a positive influence on the effect of hypertrophy and strength. [31]

Benefits of Hypertrophy

Training hypertrophy through resistance exercise has been demonstrated as not only safe but preventative of various negative health implications, and diseases.

Weightlifting for examples has been well documented as a strategy that health professionals use to combat cardiovascular diseases, osteopathy, diabetes, and sarcopenia.

Data specifically encourages higher volume with resistance as preventative treatment, proving to be regenerative for the individual.

It has shown to be useful particularly in reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure through high volume resistance training.

Using frequency of training for the purpose of achieving hypertrophy appears to be a beneficial method for different individuals to maintain health and muscle growth, without having to have exposure to an intensity of exercise that might otherwise be detrimental.

This is perhaps why it is recommended by health professionals, due to the angle whereby individuals can lift moderate loads without strain. [32]

Hypertrophy training in some sense can be more convenient and accessible than strength training.

You require less weights, and less time resting. The rests in comparison should be between 30-90 seconds between sets for hypertrophy training, which is considerably shorter to maximal strength training.

This might be more convenient if you wish to be in and out of the gym, and don’t have time to spare.

Hypertrophy can also be reached through different pieces of equipment and through different training styles.

While hypertrophy is predominately achieved through weightlifting, you can also train for hypertrophy with:

  • Calisthenics
  • Resistance machines
  • Resistance Bands


A relatively new coining; the powerbuilder encompasses the heavy compound lifts of the powerlifter with hypertrophic accessory training of the bodybuilder.

While the name is new, the training methodology is closer to the training of early strength and bodybuilding hybrids like Eugene Sandow.

It might seem convoluted to some, but to others a mix of both is a worthwhile balance that appeals as an ideal of strength and aesthetics.

It is best for those who already have their foot in the door with exercise and fitness, not a beginner. Instead, a beginner would benefit from a steadier routine that focuses on fundamental training principles and simplicity. 

Combining Strength and Hypertrophy Training

If you're looking to achieve both increased strength and bigger muscles, you can combine both strength and hypertrophy training into your workouts.

This means lifting heavy weights for fewer reps one day and lifting lighter weights for more reps another day.

One effective way to combine strength and hypertrophy training is to use a training method called "periodization." Periodization involves dividing your training into different phases, each with its own focus and intensity.

For example, you might spend several weeks focusing on building overall strength, followed by several weeks focusing on building bigger muscles.

Nutrition for Strength and Hypertrophy Training

Nutrition is an essential component of any fitness program, and this is especially true for strength and hypertrophy training.

To build muscle and increase your overall strength, you need to provide your body with the right nutrients.

One of the most important nutrients for muscle growth is protein. Aim to consume at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.

You also need to make sure you're consuming enough carbohydrates and healthy fats. Carbohydrates provide your body with the energy it needs to fuel your workouts, while healthy fats help to support overall health and hormone production.

Recovery and Rest for Strength and Hypertrophy Training

Rest and recovery are just as important as your workouts when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. When you lift weights, you're breaking down your muscle fibers, and it's during rest and recovery that your body repairs and rebuilds those muscles.

Make sure you're getting enough sleep each night, aim for at least 7-8 hours per night. Also, make sure you're giving your body enough time to rest between workouts.

If you're doing strength training, aim to rest for at least 48 hours between workouts. If you're doing hypertrophy training, aim to rest for at least 24-48 hours between workouts.

Measuring Progress and Tracking Results

To ensure you're making progress towards your fitness goals, it's essential to measure your progress and track your results.

Keep a workout journal to track the weight you lift, the number of reps you perform, and the rest periods you take between sets. This will help you to see how far you've come and make adjustments to your training program as needed.

You should also take measurements of your body composition, including your weight, body fat percentage, and measurements of specific body parts.

This will help you to see how your body is changing and whether you're making progress towards your fitness goals.

Hypertrophy Training Vs Strength Training Conclusion 

In the longwinded study of these two types of training only one can be victor, and that is the one that suits you best.

However, if you are yearning to be stronger, not only will strength training be the best course of action, it will result in higher amounts of anabolic hormones secreted naturally.

Specifically, high-intensity exercise (70-80% of 1RM) which can be accomplished via strength training with heavy loads.

Studies show that strength training procures a significant increase in testosterone – the vital male hormone that keeps us strong, healthy, and mentally active. [33] 

Final Thoughts

Both Hypertrophy Training and Strength Training are credible methods of keeping active, staying healthy and increasing longevity.

It is up to you to decide whether you prefer one over the other, considering the benefits of each, and how they might be personalised to your life – work schedule, family time, and which goals appeal to you – the pursuit of strength, the pursuit of aesthetics or both.

What matters is that you align yourself with a training philosophy that you believe in, and most importantly, that works. 

military muscle testosterone booster


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