First and foremost, if you’re a beginner this article likely has minimal benefit to you. Early on in training there’s ultimately no real need to perform separate training phases focusing on strength and size (hypertrophy) individually as you can generally develop both simultaneously.

With that in mind, on to the article…


Key points

  • Maximizing either strength or hypertrophy is done by performing blocks of training that focus primarily on developing one trait or the other
  • Your specific goal delineates specific training variables to follow
  • Regardless if you want to maximize strength or hypertrophy, both strength and hypertrophy training will be done in some way, shape, or form throughout the duration of a training program

“SAID” PRINCIPLE

SAID stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands.

This basically means that your body will adapt to whatever you make it do. For example, if you train with heavy weights you will get stronger. Likewise, if you train with lighter weight for more reps you’ll increase your endurance.

PROGRAM FOR STRENGTH OR HYPERTROPHY

LOADING

STRENGTH: 3-6 reps @ 7-10 RPE

HYPERTROPHY: 5-30 reps @ 5-8 RPE

RPE = Rating of Perceived Exertion

To give a little context to this: in practice, generally speaking, when you have lower reps it means you’re using heavier weights. On the other hand, when there’s higher reps you’re forced to use relatively lighter weight.

So, for example, if you’re performing 3 reps you’re theoretically going to be using weight that’s much heavier than you would if you were performing 12 reps, or more.

VOLUME

STRENGTH

The total volume of reps with strength training will typically be lower relative to hypertrophy training. This piggybacks off of the previous loading parameters in that you’re going to be doing.

Additionally, due to the heavier weights being used in strength training your body is going to accumulate a significant amount of overall fatigue. As a result it can be helpful to aim for performing a “Minimum effective dose” of training so that you’re doing just enough to get stronger but not more. In an ideal world this will help to avoid any unnecessary fatigue which will allow you to come to the next training session more refreshed and, ultimately, perform better.

HYPERTROPHY

Volume is the name of the game when it comes to hypertrophy. Being that weights are relatively lighter, we really want to increase the total amount of reps throughout the week.

Relative to strength training, hypertrophy offers us a lot of potential variability. Getting the volume just right isn’t quite as important as if you were strength training. For example, performing an extra set of 12 reps of a movement at moderate weight isn’t going to fatigue you nearly as much as an extra set of a few reps at very heavy weight (like you would in a strength session).

FREQUENCY

STRENGTH

Primary movements should be performed at least 2 times per week.

Muscle groups should hit at least 8 sets per week (the more advanced you are, the more sets).

HYPERTROPHY

Muscle groups should be hit at least 2-3 times per week.

Muscle groups should perform at least 10 sets per week (the more advanced you are, the more sets).

EXERCISE SELECTION

STRENGTH

The specific exercises you perform should be chosen based on specific exercises you want to get stronger at. i.e. if you want to get stronger at the squat, bench, and deadlift then you main movements are likely to be the squat, bench, and deadlift (or close variations of them).

Compound movements are going to be the meat and potatoes of your training. IF single joint movements are performed they’re only going used as assistance movements.

HYPERTROPHY

As with volume, the exercise selection for hypertrophy focused training has a lot more room for variability. In fact it’s widely considered that more variability is better for strength gains. So if you wanted to perform.

Single joint exercises are often emphasized with hypertrophy training so that you can isolate the specific muscle you want to focus on.

Even so, it’s still highly recommended to include compound movements (even if just a couple, one for upper body and one for lower body) in your training throughout the week. There’s a couple reasons for this:

(1) nothing increases strength like compound movements, even if they’re not done with that much weight compared to a strength phase

(2) performing compound movements, even at a light weight, allows you to focus on (and improve) your technique. This is important if and when you decide to train strength. In this way you can jump in to a strength block without having to completely relearn a specific movement since you’ve been doing it all along.

PROGRESSING WITHIN A BLOCK

STRENGTH

The bottom line of strength training is to, of course, increase strength. And as the SAID principle implies, we want to increase the amount of weight we’re lifting to force our body to adapt and increase strength.

Over the course of a training block we’re going to want to increase the weight from week to week. As a result of increasing weight we’re going to want to decrease the reps per set to account for that.

In regards to sets we can do one of two things: (1) increase the sets to maintain volume, or (2) maintain or lower the sets to decrease the volume.

Increasing the sets to maintain volume would look something like this:

Week 1: 5×5

Week 2: 6×4

Week 3: 7×3

If we were to decrease the sets from week to week it’d look something like this:

Week 1: 5×5

Week 2: 4×4

Week 3: 3×3

The differences between the two are obvious, but what’s the purpose?

As already stated, increasing the sets from week to week keeps our volume relatively stable from week to week. This allows as to move heavy weight for (roughly) the same amount of reps each session and our weight increases from week to week are going to be somewhat moderate.

Now, if you were to decrease the sets from week to week your volume is decreasing from week to week. As a result, your weight jumps can be higher than if you were increasing the sets. For example, 3×3 allows you to do significantly more weight than 7×3 because you’re doing significantly less overall reps per session.

Bottom line? Do what works best for you. There’s no one way of doing things. Experiment with both options and analyze the ideal way for you.

HYPERTROPHY

As previously stated, volume is the core of hypertrophy training.

From the start of the block to the end you want to focus on increasing your overall training volume. This can be done in a multitude of ways:

(1) adding weight

(2) adding reps

(3) adding sets

(4) a combination of all of the above

Again, hypertrophy has a lot of variability and as such there’s no real hard and fast rule(s) to abide by. Listen to your body and progress accordingly.


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