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Strength vs. Hypertrophy questions
Old Sun, March 25th, 2012, 01:42 PM   #1
jmike
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Default Strength vs. Hypertrophy questions

i have been doing strength training almost exclusively since July. In that time I moved my 1 rep max bench press from 185 in August to 255 in January.

I understand the concept of strength training and how to advance in strength training. (low reps - heavy weight - long rests between sets). I have done pretty good in this area. I know when it is time to drop weight and do medium weight at higher reps for a week or 2 and then get back to the heavy weight and low reps.


what I don't understand is how hypertrophy works. I understand it is stimulating the muscles in a way to increase size - not necessarily strength, although strength could be a byproduct.

What I don't understand is how or why hypertrophy does what it does or how to design an exercise program around hypertrophy.

any and all information is greatly appreciated.
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Old Sun, March 25th, 2012, 05:32 PM   #2
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These things aren't well understood at the scientific level. Even the most scientific sounding explanations are sort of bro science.
The "why" is a bit fuzzy. The general idea is that strength involves a lot of central nervous system training, and hypertrophy involves breaking your muscles down and letting them rebuild themselves.
The "how" is more well understood. For pure strength, do heavy weights at lower volumes, and focus on compound lifts.
For building up big pecs and guns, do higher volume, more isolation lifts, and sets to failure.

For example if you want to get a strong bench, just do 3x5 of the barbell bench a couple times a week. Move up 5 pounds a session.
If you want mega pecs, do 4x10 barbell bench, 4x10 incline dumbbell bench, 4x10 dumbbell flyes, 4x10 cable flyes, pullovers, etc.
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Old Sun, March 25th, 2012, 07:43 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wwwolf View Post
These things aren't well understood at the scientific level. Even the most scientific sounding explanations are sort of bro science.
The "why" is a bit fuzzy. The general idea is that strength involves a lot of central nervous system training, and hypertrophy involves breaking your muscles down and letting them rebuild themselves.
The "how" is more well understood. For pure strength, do heavy weights at lower volumes, and focus on compound lifts.
For building up big pecs and guns, do higher volume, more isolation lifts, and sets to failure.

For example if you want to get a strong bench, just do 3x5 of the barbell bench a couple times a week. Move up 5 pounds a session.
If you want mega pecs, do 4x10 barbell bench, 4x10 incline dumbbell bench, 4x10 dumbbell flyes, 4x10 cable flyes, pullovers, etc.
that makes sense .. i have seen x-rays of bones that have had a lot of trauma (martial artists) and the bones always knit back stronger and thicker.

more trauma = more growth .. in this case muscle failure.

that is good information

thanks wwwolf
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Old Wed, March 28th, 2012, 01:03 AM   #4
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Hypertrophy is more a by-product of strength than the other way around on account of the way we generally go about training for it. You can think of hypertrophy as one of a few possible responses to external stressors. Provide stimuli that stress the body enough often enough and it will compensate to try to decrease that stress.

In practical terms, hypertrophy is achieved by using progressive overload with sufficient volume in the presence of an appropriate diet (caloric surplus, suficient macronutrients) over a long enough time period. Hypertrophy can occur even while training with low reps and near maximal weights, but generally it takes more volume (and thus less weight) to see an optimal response. You do not need to lift to failure and doing so can sometimes be counterproductive -- particularly in an athletic environment because it increases the stress on the nervous system.

Recovery is an important part of training for hypertrophy. As the adage goes, you don't grow in the gym, you grow at home. On one hand, this involves eating well, so that the body has sufficient fuel to repair the damage training causes at the cellular level. On another hand, this involves sleeping and resting well, so that the body has sufficient time at low activity levels to enact repairs. Hormonal levels also increase during sleep, which are important for causing growth. For the advanced trainee, recovery periods can be manipulated and planned to increase the effect of training. One common method is to take advantage of the supercompensation cycle by intentionally over-reaching in your training -- training beyond the usual point of recovery -- or otherwise managing training type with periods of recovery to effect progress and reach long term training goals. This is the basis of periodization.

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Originally Posted by jmike View Post
that makes sense .. i have seen x-rays of bones that have had a lot of trauma (martial artists) and the bones always knit back stronger and thicker.
X-rays of weight-lifters will show significantly increased bone density at the attachment points of muscles on the skeleton, which is the bones' response to the similar stress of weight-lifting.
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Old Wed, March 28th, 2012, 01:10 AM   #5
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thanks chicanerous

i am sure i am going to have to read that twice a day for a week to make sure i understand it


ok .. last time i was doing 5x5 it was at 205 ... 5125 pounds lifted

got stuck and did 15, 15, 10, 10 (60 reps) and worked from 135 to 175 .. 10,500 pounds lifted

would the first be considered strength and the second be considered hypertrophy?

Last edited by jmike; Wed, March 28th, 2012 at 01:36 AM..
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Old Thu, March 29th, 2012, 01:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmike View Post
would the first be considered strength and the second be considered hypertrophy?
Its considered strength if it made you stronger and it is considered hypertrophy if it made you bigger. As Chico said, your body's response to the training (stimulus) is also based on other factors (diet & rest being key).

Either one could conceivably result in just strength increases (through CNS adaptations) with no growth if you don't consume enough fuel for rebuilding.
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Old Thu, March 29th, 2012, 04:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Its considered strength if it made you stronger and it is considered hypertrophy if it made you bigger. As Chico said, your body's response to the training (stimulus) is also based on other factors (diet & rest being key).

Either one could conceivably result in just strength increases (through CNS adaptations) with no growth if you don't consume enough fuel for rebuilding.
Right on.

I would only add that both strength increases and growth are processes, so you wouldn't necessarily consider one workout "strength" and another "hypertrophy."

If you did 5x5x205 one workout and then did 15x135/145, 10x155/165/175, you're doing more volume in the second workout, so one measure of progressive overload is satisfied. This means that, by that measure, you've provided a stimulus that is greater in the second workout than the first. Therefore, you should expect to see continued adaption. With that said, exactly what type of adaption is uncertain -- you increased volume significantly, but your average weight per rep was only 152.5 in the second workout whereas it was 205 in the first workout. Does the extra volume offset the decrease in intensity? It can be hard to say. It might mean that you potentially affected growth more than strength with the second workout. It might mean you didn't cause much of an effect at all (i.e. 5x5x205 wasn't challenging in the first place). It might mean that you didn't cause the desired effect (i.e. you weren't eating enough to support hypertrophy). It might mean that you successfully deloaded your workout, enhancing recovery and preparing you for even higher intensity next workout as part of your long term training plan.
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Old Thu, March 29th, 2012, 04:47 PM   #8
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ok ... sounds like hypertrophy and strength are the results of the workouts.

most workouts "need" to be designed around a specific goal.

how would you design a workout around one or both of those goals?
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Old Fri, March 30th, 2012, 04:00 PM   #9
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In the presence of a caloric surplus (with sufficient macronutrients and rest), something like 5x5 with increasingly challenging weights is going to give you a good mix of strength and hypertrophy. Something like Wendler's 5-3-1 is going to be more focused on strength. A Super Squats / breathing squat routine is going to be more focused on hypertrophy.
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Old Fri, March 30th, 2012, 04:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chicanerous View Post
In the presence of a caloric surplus (with sufficient macronutrients and rest), something like 5x5 with increasingly challenging weights is going to give you a good mix of strength and hypertrophy. Something like Wendler's 5-3-1 is going to be more focused on strength. A Super Squats / breathing squat routine is going to be more focused on hypertrophy.

awesome .. thanks chicanerous

i have more study materials
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Old Fri, March 30th, 2012, 04:09 PM   #11
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More study material on the topic - search on Prilepin's table. Supposedly he has studied intensity / rep ranges / total reps and outlined some guidelines for creating workouts based in strength, hypertrophy, or fat loss. I tried cycling through these various approaches for a while and didn't see positive results but I may not have given it enough time either.
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Old Fri, March 30th, 2012, 04:12 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by MT77 View Post
More study material on the topic - search on Prilepin's table. Supposedly he has studied intensity / rep ranges / total reps and outlined some guidelines for creating workouts based in strength, hypertrophy, or fat loss. I tried cycling through these various approaches for a while and didn't see positive results but I may not have given it enough time either.

Thanks MT .. i want to be where you are .. under 200, benching 300, and deadlifting 500

i lack the back strength for squats ... but eventually i would like to be able to do them without walking crooked the next day
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Old Fri, March 30th, 2012, 04:30 PM   #13
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Strength training naturally involves getting bigger, but I don't think you can look like, say, Steve Reeve, without specifically trying to target certain muscles for a certain "look."

http://www.schwarzenegger.it/mro/reeves/sr1.jpg

I'm just under 200 and can bench 295, but I only have about a 42 inch chest, which will probably be closer to 40 once I finish my cut. I'm pretty sure I won't get over a 42" chest even when I reach 315. Which is fine by me, but by no means do I look like a bodybuilder.
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Old Fri, March 30th, 2012, 06:05 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wwwolf View Post
Strength training naturally involves getting bigger, but I don't think you can look like, say, Steve Reeve, without specifically trying to target certain muscles for a certain "look."

http://www.schwarzenegger.it/mro/reeves/sr1.jpg

I'm just under 200 and can bench 295, but I only have about a 42 inch chest, which will probably be closer to 40 once I finish my cut. I'm pretty sure I won't get over a 42" chest even when I reach 315. Which is fine by me, but by no means do I look like a bodybuilder.
i know a lot of the strength to size ratios have to do with genetics -- and i will never look like a bodybuilder either.

i have 20 more days to reach my strength/hypertrophy goals before i start cutting and getting ready to go home


that guy has an amazing physique ... i would just be happy hitting 10% ... i haven't been around those levels since i got married and put on 60 pounds 10 years ago.
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