Strength Training and Hypertrophy Training: Four Differences

Do you know the difference between strength training and hypertrophy training? We'll tell you in this article.
Strength Training and Hypertrophy Training: Four Differences

Last update: 11 August, 2022

Looking to improve your performance and increase muscle mass? Then strength and hypertrophy training must be present in your routine. However, some questions often arise when it comes to targeting one, the other, or a combination of both. Read on to learn four differences between them.

Strength is the physical capacity we use to carry out a job or perform a movement. It’s a quality we possess and use to oppose resistance.

Hypertrophy, on the other hand, refers to muscle growth. Although one can go hand in hand with the other, this is not always the case.

The main differences between strength training and hypertrophy training

Which one should you start with? This will depend on your goals.

For example, if you’re looking to increase your weight, it will be better to target hypertrophy exercises. On the other hand, if you want to improve your athletic performance, perhaps the key is to gain strength.

However, you can also opt for hybrid routines – that is, those that combine both.

Strength training and hypertrophy training have a close relationship. If we keep this in mind, we will discover that focusing work on one will also help us improve in the other aspect.

A study conducted in January 2022 suggests that training with higher loads leads to greater gains in muscle strength compared to lower loads. In contrast, muscle hypertrophy gets similar results regardless of the magnitude of the load.

Here are four differences between strength training and hypertrophy training.

1. The number of repetitions

In strength training , more sets are performed on each exercise. However, the number of repetitions will be less than that which we will implement to develop hypertrophy.

For example, if we perform five sets of an activity to obtain strength, we could do three to aim for muscle growth. Regarding repetitions, if we perform 1 to 5 sets with the maximum possible load, for hypertrophy work, we can reach 10.

hypertrophy strength training with weights
Using external weights leads the muscles to develop more fibers and increase their size.

2. The loads are different

A study on strength and hypertrophy adaptations indicates that maximal strength benefits are obtained with the use of heavy loads, while muscle hypertrophy can be equally achieved across a broader spectrum of load ranges.

3. The rest and recovery time is different

When performing maximal effort to increase strength, muscle fatigue is greater and recovery times between exercises must be considerable. Generally, two to three minutes are used before moving on to the next activity.

For hypertrophy work, on the other hand, rest times will be shorter. They’re usually between 30 and 90 seconds.

4. The planning is different

The number of days of the week to work one or the other variant also changes. At this point, hypertrophy prevails, since it’s possible to work out more times in fewer days.

The fact of performing specific work on each muscle allows us to spread out the routines and cover different muscle groups each day. According to the plans drawn up, we could work 5 or even 6 days a week with sufficient recovery time.

As for strength training, three or four days a week will be more than enough. Remember that the demand is greater, so more wear is generated and we need more time to recover.

These are some ideal exercises to work strength and hypertrophy

Strength training and hypertrophy are complementary and work on one also provides benefits to the other. Anyway, if your idea is to focus only on one of these qualities, here are some specific exercises that can help.

Exercises to gain strength

  • Rowing: In this case, the aim is to strengthen the lateral muscles. If you choose to use a barbell for this, you have to stand up, bring your hips backwards and lean your torso forward. In that position, you must perform the arm movement to bring the bar down and up.
  • Squats: These consist of bringing the hips back and bending the knees to bring the torso down, as if we were going to sit down. Then, we go back up to the starting position. Squats are ideal for strengthening the leg muscles and joints.
  • Planks: This is an isometric exercise that works the whole body, but mainly helps to strengthen the middle zone. This type of activity improves balance, stability, and strength.
  • Burpees: This is a combination of jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. The level of intensity will depend on the physical condition of each person. Emphasis is placed on coordination and strength building.
hypertrophy strength training
 Burpees are known for their multi-joint work and the intensity with which they can be performed.

Hypertrophy exercises

  • Dead weights: This is ideal for strengthening the abdomen, buttocks and legs. Emphasis should be placed on technique to reduce the risk of injury. With your back straight, bring your hips back and, without bending your knees, lower the bar in a controlled manner.
  • Benchpresses work the pectorals and triceps. Lying on your back, lower the barbell to your chest and raise it until your arms are straight. Then, repeat the movement until completing the series.
  • Incline presses: These are performed on a bench with a 45-degree incline. Lying down and with your feet flat on the floor, lift the dumbbells until your arms are fully stretched. Then, bend your elbows for the descent.
  • Incline barbell row: To do this exercise, keep your back straight to lift the barbell from the floor towards your chest. Always keep your knees bent. This works all the back muscles, but also the buttocks and legs.

Strength or hypertrophy: Which one should you choose?

Strength training and hypertrophy training are mutually reinforcing and can both be worked on at the gym. However, it’s also possible to opt for a specific one if you have a particular goal in mind.

If you want to decide on one of the two to start with, it will also depend on your goal. There’s no definitive answer to this question when it comes to choosing between the two.

The best thing to do is to have professional advice to develop appropriate routines, achieve the technique for each exercise, and respect the rest times. You’ll definitely increase both your strength and muscle tone in the long run.

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  • Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Dec;31(12):3508-3523. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002200. PMID: 28834797. Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28834797/
  • Carvalho L, Junior RM, Barreira J, Schoenfeld BJ, Orazem J, Barroso R. Muscle hypertrophy and strength gains after resistance training with different volume-matched loads: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2022 Apr;47(4):357-368. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2021-0515. Epub 2022 Jan 11. PMID: 35015560. Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35015560/