Hit the gym and odds are you’ll find gym goers doing one of two things: strength training or hypertrophy. Although both strength training and hypertrophy can help you lose weight and build muscle, both types of training are designed for distinct goals.
Let’s take a closer look at hypertrophy versus strength training and see if one is really better than the other.
What is Hypertrophy?
Put very simply, hypertrophy is a kind of exercise dedicated to building muscle mass and improving muscle endurance at all costs. As with any form of exercise, hypertrophy also causes you to burn fat and build strength simultaneously.
However, hypertrophy is distinct from strength training in its primary goal. As opposed to building functional strength for use in labor, competition, or combat, hypertrophy is mostly focused on increasing muscle size and definition.
In other words, you can think of hypertrophy as a specific type of exercise.
Benefits of Hypertrophy
Because of its focus on building muscle mass and definition, the biggest benefit of hypertrophy is to grow naturally larger muscles. If you do enough hypertrophic training, your muscles will rapidly increase in size and become stronger as a result.
As a side effect, your body will expend more calories, which could assist with weight loss efforts. You’ll also see increased muscular symmetry, as proper hypertrophic training involves knowing how to work out muscles across your body so you don’t suffer from muscular imbalance. These effects will be bolstered if you take a protein supplement at the same time.
All in all, hypertrophy is great if you want primarily aesthetic benefits with some other fitness benefits included as well. Hypertrophic training will also significantly increase muscular endurance.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is exactly what it sounds like: exercise intended to boost your functional strength.
The exercises prioritized in strength training may not necessarily make your muscles become bigger or more defined, at least to the same degree as hypertrophic exercises.
However, those who practice strength training will have more functional strength, such as for lifting objects or doing some other manual labor. Someone who trains primarily with strength training will be stronger on average than someone who practices hypertrophic training, even if the hypertrophic trainer seems to have larger muscles.
After a certain point, muscle size can get in the way of actual muscular function, limiting strength and mobility. Strength training focuses on making you as practically strong as possible.
Of course, this necessarily involves building muscle, as well as losing weight since you’ll burn more calories than you would otherwise. But you won’t build as much (visible) muscle as someone in hypertrophic training.
Benefits of Strength Training
As with hypertrophic training, strength training results in you losing weight and building muscle over time. But because of the different exercises used with strength training, you’ll also see additional benefits such as:
- Increased bone density, lowering your risk of osteoporosis
- Boosted metabolism, making it easier to lose weight
- Reduced symptoms from many chronic conditions like heart disease, arthritis, back pain, obesity, and more
Are Hypertrophy and Strength Training Similar?
Absolutely. After all, they are both training regimens focused on building muscle mass and helping you become stronger over time.
Down the line, many hypertrophic and strength training regimens utilize the same basic exercises until practitioners become more experienced or start lifting heavier weights. For example, both hypertrophic and strength training regimens will include:
- Training splits, such as full-body, upper-lower, and push-pull
- Progressive overloads, which is the practice of gradually increasing the weights or repetitions used during an exercise session to boost muscular fitness
- Compound lifts, which include deadlifts, bench presses, squats, pull-ups, and similar exercises
Training Differences Between Hypertrophy vs Strength Training
However, hypertrophy and strength training also have a number of distinct differences. Here’s a brief breakdown:
- Strength training typically focuses more on consistency so that you can build muscular strength on a progressive and continuous scale
- Meanwhile, hypertrophic training will switch up its exercises frequently so that all of your muscles grow steadily and maximize their aesthetic improvements
- Strength training focuses mostly on compound exercises, with the exception of certain assistance movements to prevent injuries
- Isolation lifts are favored by hypertrophic training regimens. These require compound lifts but also utilize isolation or single-joint movements (since they focus on building up one or two particular muscles)
- Strength training focuses on using free weights more than anything else
- Bodybuilders and other big fans of hypertrophic training will likely use machines for half or more of their total exercises
- Strength training typically includes fewer reps per set with the greater weights to build functional strength
- On the flip side, hypertrophic training will focus on including more reps to build muscle tone and definition
As you can see, both types of training focus on different exercises due to their distinct goals. Note that this isn’t to say that either regimen is strictly better than the other. Both will have you build strength by necessity, as well as lose weight.
Which is Right for You?
If you’re deciding whether to follow a strength training or hypertrophic regimen, which should you choose?
It all depends on your workout and fitness goals. If you want to become as fit as possible and enjoy more functional strength for your everyday work or for athletic competitions, strength training is the way to go.
On the other hand, if you want to look leaner and have muscles to show off during beach season, hypertrophic training could be a good choice for you.
Either way, hypertrophic and strength training are both excellent forms of training for those looking to build muscle and lose weight. Consider trying out both regimens over time if you aren’t sure which is the ideal regimen for your needs!
Perhaps the most important thing to note is you just need to move your body on a regular basis. Consistency is king. It doesn’t require you to go to a gym or spend hours working out. You can accomplish both of these goals in 10 minutes a day with our 10-Minute Workouts. You can accomplish your fitness goals by varying your intensity, adding weights and/or bands to build resistance.
Dr. Livingood, yes that is his real name, is the Founder of drlivingood.com natural health site and also the founder of Livingood Daily. He has authored two Amazon #1 Best Selling Books Livingood Daily and Make Food Simple. In 2007 after nearly losing his father to health conditions, Dr. Livingood was prompted to find a health care system to save his father’s life. Where medicine failed Dr. Livingood discovered solutions that got his father off 15 medications and overcame major heart and autoimmune conditions. As a Doctor of Natural Medicine and DC he now serves thousands of people in Morrisville, NC, and millions through his online and media presence. Dr. Livingood, his wife Jessica, and three kids spend their lives leading people nationally and locally in the hopes that others can experience real health.