Hypertrophy Vs Strength Training – An Essential Guide

Last edited: April 29, 2020
by Reda Elmardi

Right now, it’s safe to say that many of us have a little more time on our hands.

Those that are fortunate enough to be able to train right now will not take the gym for granted again and those that aren’t can take solace in the fact that normality will soon resume.

Now, as we have more time on our hands, rather than sitting around doing nothing, why not take the opportunity to educate ourselves and do something productive with our training.

As well as training our muscles, we also need to train our brains and keep our minds sharp, which is what we intend on doing today.

When people hit the gym to train, they do so for different reasons.

Some are looking to burn fat and tone up, whereas others want to pack on as much beef as is humanly possible.

This has led to a fair amount of confusion over the years, as some people wrongly assume that hypertrophy training is the same as strength training.

In reality, other than sharing some of the same equipment, the two are like night and day.

But what are the key differences between hypertrophy vs strength training, how do we get the most from them, and how are they done?

Let’s find out, shall we?

What Is Hypertrophy Training?

We’re going to kick things off today by taking a look at what hypertrophy training is.

People hear ‘hypertrophy’ and automatically think of bodybuilders.

Now, on the surface, that is indeed the case but when you dig a little deeper there’s much more to hypertrophy training than that.

Hypertrophy is basically a form of training designed to promote increases in muscle mass.

Delve deeper and you’ll find that there are two forms of hypertrophy, which are ‘Sarcoplasmic’ and ‘Myofibril’ hypertrophy.

Both of these promote increases in muscle mass, but the main differences come from how they enable athletes to perform in terms of strength and power.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy Vs Myofibril Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy Vs Strength Training

Now, whereas there’s still some skepticism, the general consensus is that when an athlete is training with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in mind, they will find those sarcoplasmic fluid volumes within the muscle cell increases, though muscle strength and power doesn’t increase.

On the other end of the scale when talking about hypertrophy vs strength training, myofibril hypertrophy results in myosin and contractile proteins increasing in order to promote enhancements in muscle power and size.

Now, from an athletic standpoint, myofibril hypertrophy is considered beneficial as this leads to increases in muscle strength and size.

Bodybuilders generally see larger rates of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, and elite athletes see higher rates of myofibril hypertrophy.

Achieving Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

As a bodybuilder, when you train you will likely do so because you want to increase the size of your muscles and enhance your physique.

Training with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in mind, therefore, is considered important.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is important because it enhances the size of your muscles.

Because your muscle cells are so engorged with sarcoplasmic fluid.

This forces more of the fluid into your muscles and they expand in size, just as a piece of chicken would expand if you pumped it full of water.

After a while, you’ll notice a slight burning sensation in the muscle due to lactic acid.

Most bodybuilders train in a specific way, which is usually with a moderate weight that enables them to perform 8 – 12 reps before they begin to fatigue.

Rest periods are also kept short at around 60 – 90 seconds.

Achieving Myofibril Hypertrophy

Not everybody lifts weights just to build muscle and look big.

Some people lift weights so that they can perform better athletically.

If you train with myofibril hypertrophy in mind, you are training in order to make the muscle more efficient, not bigger.

You likely won’t notice any real increases in the size of the muscle, but your strength will increase and you’ll likely have more energy as well.

In order for myofibril hypertrophy to be achieved, you should aim to train with heavier weights and aim for 2 – 6 reps per working set.

Because you’re lifting heavier weights you will also need to give your muscles more time to recover, so 2 – 4 minutes of rest will be ideal.

So, What Is Strength?

Myofibril hypertrophy is a form of strength training, but as we’re talking about the differences, we need to ensure that we’ve covered all bases.

Strength training is where you hit the gym to train with the goal of increasing your strength and power outputs.

You likely won’t care too much about having abs or being shredded, but you will care about how much weight you can lift.

With strength training, the goal is to lift heavy weights in a safe and controlled manner.

Powerlifters follow strength training principles, as do strongmen.

Even Olympic athletes such as Olympic weightlifters follow basic strength training protocols in order to improve the way that their muscles function and increase the amount of weight that they can lift.

Hypertrophy Training Tips

For people that are training for muscle growth and aesthetics, it’s important to understand how to get the most from your training.

A few tried and tested hypertrophy training tips include the following:

Choose A Weight That You Are Comfortable with

Remember, when you train for aesthetics, you’re training with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in mind.

Because of this, you need to be mindful of how you train.

It pays dividends to choose the right weight.

Ideally, you need to aim for 8 – 12 reps.

If you choose a weight that feels tough after the first couple of reps, you won’t be able to comfortably and safely hit 8 reps.

Ideally, you want a weight that begins to feel tough when you hit 7 reps or so.

Switch Things Up

If you’re training for muscle growth, you need to make sure that you switch up your training regularly to help keep the muscle guessing.

Rather than focussing on compound exercises or isolation exercises, try to perform a healthy variety of both.

Compounds help to promote muscle growth all around, whereas isolation exercises are great for targeting stubborn muscle groups that won’t seem to grow.

As well as that, try to perform different exercises for different muscle groups.

Increase Your Protein Intakes

Another very important thing to remember when training for muscle hypertrophy is to increase your protein intake.

Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, and we, therefore, need to ensure that we’re getting plenty on a daily basis.

Aim for around 1g of protein per pound of body weight, and be sure to eat a variety of healthy protein sources, rather than focussing on just one or two

Don’t Forget Your Supplements

It’s essential to make sure that you are following the right training programs and eating the right foods.

With that said, if you are confident that you’ve got those things under control, the next thing you will need to do is focus on your supplements.

In terms of muscle hypertrophy, supplements play a number of essential roles in muscle growth, performance, and recovery.

Protein supplements, BCAAs, creatine, omega 3s, and multivitamins are all hugely beneficial for starters.

Get Your Head In The Game

When it comes to muscle hypertrophy, it’s important to get your head in the game and establish a strong mind-muscle connection.

This will not only help to keep you motivated when training, but it will also help to ensure that you perform the exercise with perfect form.

Before beginning your set, clear your mind of any negative thoughts or distractions and focus solely on the exercise you’re about to perform.

Get Enough Rest

As a result of being so incredibly driven when it comes to building muscle, many bodybuilders find themselves training too frequently and too hard.

They train for hours a day, maybe even twice per day, 7 days a week and as a result, they never allow their muscles and their bodies the time to recover.

If you want to build muscle, it’s important that you allow your body plenty of time to recover.

We actually build muscle when we rest, which is why rest days are so important.

Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night, and at least two entire days off from training.

Strength Training Tips

If you’re looking to lift some impressive weights and are more concerned with how much weight you can lift, rather than how you look, this next section is for you.

If you aren’t lifting the weights you may have been hoping for, here’s a look at several strength training tips to follow.

Work On Everything

One of the best tips we can share with you today based upon lifting more weight is to focus on everything, rather than just one or two things.

If you’re a good squatter, don’t just assume that you can neglect squats and focus on deadlifts to get better.

If you do that, your deadlift may improve, but your squat will suffer.

To get the most out of your training, you should work on both your strengths and your weaknesses in equal measure.

Don’t Neglect Your Least Favourite Exercises

Everybody has their own list of favorite and least favorite exercises in the gym.

If you hate squatting but love bench pressing, which exercises, realistically, do you expect to do more of?

Most people will do the bare minimum when it comes to squatting but will train extra hard when bench pressing because they enjoy it.

Just as is the case in life, though, we have to do things that we don’t enjoy doing in order to improve.

If you have an exercise that you hate, don’t put off doing it, do it twice as hard and twice as enthusiastically.

Always Train With A Spotter

Because you are training with the goal of increasing your strength, you are going to need to train heavy.

One of the best strength training tips going is to train safely with a spotter.

If you’re going for a new personal record on the bench press, you will need a spotter there not only to help you lift off the weight but also to help lift the weight off of you if it becomes too heavy and you fail.

A spotter’s job is to keep their training partner safe, and when training heavy you should never lift without one.

Don’t Forget Bodyweight Training

One of the biggest myths associated with strength training is that you can only build strength if you lift heavy weights.

This is not the case.

You can, in fact, increase your strength dramatically with your own body weight for resistance.

Bodyweight training is actually great for increasing your strength as it helps to strengthen your core, improve your grip, and work for multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Some bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups and push-ups, for example, are amongst the most popular compound exercises you could imagine.

So, Hypertrophy Vs Strength Training – Which Is The Best?

In reality, we can’t give you a definitive answer to this question because there isn’t one.

The answer is subjective and is based upon what you want to get from your training.

If you’re training for a bodybuilding contest, then you’ll likely favor hypertrophy training.

If you are a powerlifter or strongman athlete, though, and you are looking to boost your strength, you’ll find that strength training is more beneficial.

One thing we can all agree on, however, is the fact that both are hugely beneficial and advantageous in their own right.

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About the Author

Reda Elmardi is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.

About Reda Elmardi

Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.

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