Strength or Hypertrophy, Pick One!

You’ve heard it time and time again; set goals to achieve results. Everyone talks about it, but rarely do people actually do it. Working at a gym, you get to observe peoples training over months or even years. There’s something that most trainees share, they have no true direction. I see some people who have been working out for a year and have achieved neither a major increase in strength, or a major increase in size. The truth is you have to pick one!

Hypertrophy and strength take substantially different approaches to effectively achieve success. To make significant increases in strength or muscle mass,  one must program for such a goal.  Too many people come in without a plan and end up in limbo for years, not quite “ripped” or “jacked” and not really strong either.


In order to get the most out of your training programs, you need to have a specific plan for what you wish to achieve with that program. Looking for strength? Whether it’s an increased bench, squat or deadlift, lifting near maximal weights is the most effective way of gaining strength. If you’re new to heavy lifting, try doing 3-4 sets of 3 reps on one of your compound lifts 2 times per week on your next program. This will allow you to be in much more control than doing max lifts (1 rep max). As long as your are progressing and adding weight each week, a substantial increase after your 4-6 week program can be expected in your 1RM. Keep in mind that this is only for compound movements, this rep scheme should not be applied to single joint movements (curls, calf raises, etc.).

Hypertrophy can be achieved while training for strength with a proper diet, but training can be adjusted for more effective results. The trick to hypertrophy is maximizing time under tension. This is the amount of time that your muscle fibres are activated either resisting or contracting. A set of 12 repetitions done extremely quickly has many reps but does not actually contain a high time under tension. Try changing the tempo of your reps in order to maximize your hypertrophy. Try the 4010 tempo on some of your lifts of your next program in order to increase TUT. The numbers refer to the speed at which you move the weight. The 4, is the eccentric portion, the 0 is the transition from eccentric to concentric, the 1 is for the concentric portion and the final 0 is the transition back to eccentric. If we use bench press as an example, you would lower the weight for 4 seconds, 0 seconds at the bottom, 1 second to raise the weight and then 0 seconds again at the top. As a note, muscle soreness will increase with more time under tension.

Having a general program will produce general results. If you’re looking for awesome results, put in awesome effort. Try narrowing your focus on your next program and see what kind of changes you can accomplish!!


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