Hypertrophy Training vs. Strength Training: Overview, Benefits and Risks

Whether strength training is right for you or if you should opt for hypertrophy training has a lot to do on what goals you have set for weight training. While hypertrophy training is the path to choose if you want to increase your muscle size; strength training, as the name suggests, will help you build up the strength of your muscles. Let us take a look at the pros and cons of hypertrophy training and strength training, and how they can benefit your goal for weight training. Read on to learn more about hypertrophy training vs. strength training.

Basics of Weight Training

In order to understand which type of training is right for you, you need to follow certain basics about weight training first.(1)

Weight training is a type of exercising routine that focuses on moving different items that offer resistance. This may include:

  • Your body weight (by doing chin-ups and pushups)
  • Weight machines (using stacks and pulleys)
  • Free weights (by using kettlebells, dumbbells, or barbells)

These resistance items have to move in a repeated combination such as:

  • Repeating specific exercises
  • Number of times the exercises are repeated (known as reps)
  • Number of cycles of repetitions of the exercise you complete (known as sets)

For example, if you are exercising by doing 12 repetitive dumbbell lunges, then resting, and then doing 12 more lunges with the dumbbell, then it is said that you did two sets of 12 reps of dumbbell lunges.

The exact combination of exercise, equipment, reps, and sets you do, combined into an exercise routine, will help address the goals you have set for weight training.

When you first begin weight training, you will be able to build your muscle size and strength together at the same time. However, if you want to take your weight training routine to the next stage, then you will have to ultimately choose between two types of weight training, that is hypertrophy and strength. While hypertrophy focuses on increasing muscle size, the other focuses on improving muscle strength.(2)

Hypertrophy Training Vs. Strength Training – Overview

To begin with, the equipment and exercises that are used for hypertrophy training and strength training are almost the same. The significant difference between both these types of practice are:

  • Training Intensity: Refers to the amount of weight you lift
  • Training Volume: Refers to the number of sets and reps you are doing in an exercise routine
  • Resting Time Between The Sets: Refers to the rest time you give your body to recover between each set to recover from the physical stress of the exercise routine

Hypertrophy Training

If you want to go in for hypertrophy training, then you will need to increase your training volume, and you will need to do more reps and sets while lowering the training intensity slightly. The rest period between each set for hypertrophy training is only 1 to 3 minutes.

Strength Training

If you have chosen strength training, then you will have to reduce your training volume, meaning the number reps you do in a set and the number of overall sets you do, while also increasing the training intensity by adding heavier weights. The rest period between each set in strength training is longer and lasts between 3 to 5 minutes.

Hypertrophy Training vs. Strength Training: Benefits

Benefits of Hypertrophy Training

The primary benefit of hypertrophy training is only aesthetic, that too if you think large muscles look good and appealing. Some of the other benefits of this type of training include:

  • Greater power and strength
  • Increased caloric expenditure to boost weight loss
  • Greater symmetry which avoids muscular imbalance
  • Other than this, there are few other known benefits of hypertrophy training, even for your health.

Benefits of Strength Training

The benefits of strength training are many, including:

Helps you manage your weight

Help you replace body fat with lean muscle mass(3)

Helps boost your metabolism

Increases bone density (especially in the elderly, reducing the risk of osteoporosis) (4)

Decreases the symptoms of chronic health conditions, such as:

Hypertrophy Training vs. Strength Training: Risks

There is no doubt that there are many benefits associated with weight training, but there are also certain things you should consider before you opt for either hypertrophy or strength training, such as:

  • Lifting too much weight or too fast can cause a grievous injury.
  • Movements that are well beyond your normal range of motion and strength can lead to an injury.
  • Holding your breath as you lift the weight can lead to a sharp increase in blood pressure, or it may also cause a hernia.
  • Not giving sufficient resting time to your body between each workout can cause tissue damage or overuse injuries, such as tendinitis and tendinosis.

Conclusion

There is really no clear answer on whether hypertrophy training is better or strength training is better. The answer depends on what your individual goals are and what you want to achieve at the end of the day from weight training. And as long as you do not go to the extreme with either type of training, both these exercises have similar health benefits to offer, as well as the same risks. The choice ultimately comes down to your preference. If having bigger and bulky muscles are what appeals to you, then hypertrophy training is the right choice for you. But if you want to gain muscle strength, then reduce your exercise volume and increase exercise intensity to practice strength training.

References:

  1. Ebben, W.P. and Watts, P.B., 1998. A review of combined weight training and plyometric training modes: Complex training. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 20(5), pp.18-27.
  2. Kraemer, W.J., Ratamess, N.A. and French, D.N., 2002. Resistance training for health and performance. Current sports medicine reports, 1(3), pp.165-171.
  3. Chilibeck, P.D., Calder, A.W., Sale, D.G. and Webber, C.E., 1997. A comparison of strength and muscle mass increases during resistance training in young women. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 77(1-2), pp.170-175.
  4. Going, S.B. and Laudermilk, M., 2009. Osteoporosis and strength training. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 3(4), pp.310-319.
  5. Holten, M.K., Zacho, M., Gaster, M., Juel, C., Wojtaszewski, J.F. and Dela, F., 2004. Strength training increases insulin-mediated glucose uptake, GLUT4 content, and insulin signaling in skeletal muscle in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes, 53(2), pp.294-305.
  6. Häkkinen, A., 2004. Effectiveness and safety of strength training in rheumatoid arthritis. Current opinion in rheumatology, 16(2), pp.132-137.

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