Strength Gains Precede Hypertrophy?

Hey Dr. Darden,

I was reading a comment that stated strength gains always precedes hypertrophy. Is that always the case? I’ve heard bodybuilders stating strength gains didn’t always come with size gains. If strength gains does not always equal hypertrophy, please let us know why not and how to maximize both.


This is an interesting question. Sort of chicken vs egg. I’ve heard both this, but also the opposite, where, at least from a bodybuilding standpoint, increases in strength can be seen as an indicator that you’re progressing in building muscle. So, the idea isn’t that you should focus on getting stronger, thinking it will then make you build muscle, but focus on building muscle and use strength as a check in.

What needs to be kept in mind, though, is the neurological and technique improvements that also lead to strength gain. So, it’s a better gauge for simple movements or ones where you already have a lot of experience and aren’t changing technique.

Sorry, this isn’t an answer to your question. I’m just jumping in, hoping to add some other angles for discussion.


Going by movements I’m somewhat experienced in actually seems to make a ton of sense. Thanks for the tip brother.

Any thoughts on the original question?

What people fail to ask is does strength loss increase or decrease hypertrophy

What do you mean? I know an increase in strength does not automatically result in an increase in size but I always assumed a decrease in strength would never result in an increase in size.

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That’s what I mean,

Don’t think of things like that…
Strength is the product of all the neural and coordination skills using the muscles.
So strength and muscle size are related but hooked together more like with a bungee cord over a steel strap. You have strength a ‘range’ per muscle size.

OT question: It depends. If you stimulate hypertrophy and all else is in line, you grow, you don’t have to get stronger ‘first’. In fact, if your strength is coming from muscle growth, they happen together ‘in line’.
Strength having to preceed hypertrophy? that’s silly… that’s like saying the horsepower of an engine has to go up before you add the turbo charger… no the turbo ‘causes’ the increased horsepower just as muscle growth can be a factor for increased strength. Although you can increase strength while not stimulating much hypertrophy via neural and practice.


What I can never figure is these fellows who are strong as hell but don’t look it. I know this guy who is about my size and he’s 3 times as strong but you might not guess he even trains by just looking at him. He can bench 350 25 times and perform all these other incredible strength feats yet he is only built slightly more muscular than an average guy . He must have incredible tendon or something strength because it sure ain’t muscle size.

People can get very strong without getting very big, but I flat out don’t believe anyone can bench 350x25 without looking like they lift.


He looks somewhat muscular but nothing like he should with all that strength. A little stronger than I look but he should look way way stronger . Of course he doesn’t train for size at all, just strength and he’s been at it since he was a little kid. He was benching 400 by the time he was 20 and no drugs.

He did most of his insane feats when he was a teenager weighing about 170 pounds or so. The sad thing is I think he quit serious lifting?

We have a lot more ‘strength’ per muscle size than people think.
Look at Chen here…

Chen Wei-ling

Here he is at 15. I’m sure I was lucky if I could bench 150 at that age. Probably less!

When I’ve seen videos of guys who are stronger than they look, it is usually because the put up a much better 1 RM than you expect. So, for example, someone 5’ 10" and 180 lbs pulling a 600 lb deadlift, or squatting 500 lbs. That same guy benching 350 or 400 for a max single would fall into the same category.

But 350 for 25 reps? That would be the kind of stuff you’d see at the NFL combine, and typically from some big dude with a barrel chest.

Not exactly the hulk but almost as strong as!

Ken Leistner fit this category , he was much stronger than he ever looked.

He was 230 lbs at one point. Couple of picture around some where. He did not want to eat what necessary to maintain that weight as he got older.

Strength gains probably need to be in the rep range most strongly associated with hypertrophy (5/6 - 10/12) and supported by adequate nutritional strategies, if the primary aim is hypertrophy.

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I did see a pic of him when he was up there in weight, Thing is he was still incredibly strong at 165 many years later.