T Nation

Strength vs. Hypertrophy

If training for hypertrophy involves increasing the size of the muscle fibers to create more muscle mass, I’d like to know how the physiology behind training for strength…wouldn’t muscle fibers also increase in size when strength training? So what is the difference in the way muscles respond to these training techniques?

take the time to read a few Waterbury articles. Sometimes scientific, but it gives you a solid background on both techniques and the differences therein.

[quote]Lorne wrote:
If training for hypertrophy involves increasing the size of the muscle fibers to create more muscle mass, I’d like to know how the physiology behind training for strength…wouldn’t muscle fibers also increase in size when strength training? So what is the difference in the way muscles respond to these training techniques?[/quote]

Strength is more a function of neurological efficiency. Lower reps of heavier weights tend to produce greater efficiency in moving weight - strength, but less damage to the muscle - hypertrophy. The reverse is also true, the higher reps and lighter weight tend to cause more muscle damage but less improvement of the nervous system. Of course these arent absolutes so there is plenty of grey area.

[quote]Lorne wrote:
If training for hypertrophy involves increasing the size of the muscle fibers to create more muscle mass, I’d like to know how the physiology behind training for strength…wouldn’t muscle fibers also increase in size when strength training? So what is the difference in the way muscles respond to these training techniques?[/quote]

There isn’t much difference. Past neurological adaptation, a muscle does need to increase in size to get stronger.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Lorne wrote:
If training for hypertrophy involves increasing the size of the muscle fibers to create more muscle mass, I’d like to know how the physiology behind training for strength…wouldn’t muscle fibers also increase in size when strength training? So what is the difference in the way muscles respond to these training techniques?

There isn’t much difference. Past neurological adaptation, a muscle does need to increase in size to get stronger. [/quote]

It depends on what is meant by training for ‘strength’. Bulgarian weightlifters often train using only the two competition lifts and back squats/front squats. These lifts are trained many times per week. Training this way makes them freakishly strong, while many manage not to gain an ounce.

Conversely, if you’re a bodybuilder, you should endeavor to get strong on a fairly wide variety of lifts, addressing the entire musculature. But it probably doesn’t need to be as complicated. Strength athletes need to structure their training to achieve peak performance on a given date…hence the need for a structured dual factor plan. If you just want to get big, gain strength on your lifts, and back off for a week every 8-12 weeks when you’re feeling burned out, then pick back up where you left off.

I forget who said it but it made a lot of sense…

Those who focus on hypertrophy have the side effect of strength. Those who train for strength have the side effect of hypertrophy (not an exact quote but hopefully you get the idea).

I realize that what I wrote did not address the initial question at all. Sorry. Many coaches have observed the need for a minimum amount of volume required to elicit hypertrophy. This minimum may differ widely across lifters. But set/rep combos like 3x3 have been widely hailed for the ability to deliver quick strength gains, whereas most would consider this volume to be inadequate for maximum gains in hypertrophy.

I know that Kelly Baggett and Chad Waterbury, both of whom I respect a great deal, have suggested that optimal gains in hypertrophy require a volume of at least 25-50 reps/muscle group twice/week. That’s probably a good guideline most of the time, BUT protocols such as Dante Trudel’s fall short of these numbers and still deliver excellent size gains for many.

So…generally, where volume and reps per set are kept very low, strength can be gained (at least in the short term) without a significant increase in size.

There are three factors to strength:

  1. Neural
  2. Mechanical
  3. Muscular

As you can see hypertrophy is just one factor to strength.

[quote]Ramo wrote:
Professor X wrote:
Lorne wrote:
If training for hypertrophy involves increasing the size of the muscle fibers to create more muscle mass, I’d like to know how the physiology behind training for strength…wouldn’t muscle fibers also increase in size when strength training? So what is the difference in the way muscles respond to these training techniques?

There isn’t much difference. Past neurological adaptation, a muscle does need to increase in size to get stronger.

It depends on what is meant by training for ‘strength’. Bulgarian weightlifters often train using only the two competition lifts and back squats/front squats. These lifts are trained many times per week. Training this way makes them freakishly strong, while many manage not to gain an ounce.

[/quote]

So they perfect technique and neurologic ability to perform the exercise. That doesn’t mean that they continue getting stronger and stronger continually. Obviously, you wouldn’t go to someone who was originally weaker than average to join that group to begin with. Two lifters could weigh exactly the same but have two completely different strength levels. They would each need to get BIGGER past neurological adaptation and simply learning the mechanics of the movement to get any stronger beyond that.

This is getting tiresome. I keep having to agree with Prof X. I want to disagree with him so he can lay the smack down on me with pictures and authority. =)

The two are very similar. The main deciding factor on a strong vs. weak person is more the relative strength. However if you wanna get stronger, get bigger. Its pretty much that simple. You can improve your relative strength, (Cressey wrote an article on that a little while ago) but the sure fire way to get stronger is to get bigger.

In my training, I like to incorporate both. I don’t want to be a weak bodybuilder or a small powerlifter, and I really haven’t made up my mind which I really wanna be just yet.

Should answer your question well.

Taken from http://www.defrancostraining.com/articles/archive/articles_muscle-equal.htm

Why All Muscle Was Not Created Equal
by Joe DeFranco,

Owner, Performance Enhancement Specialist
DeFranco?s Training Systems

Have you ever noticed an athlete in the weight room who is built like Tarzan, yet lifts weights better suited for Jane? Yet, there are other athletes who are every bit as strong and functional as they look. Although an athlete?s genetic make-up is always a factor, the answer to this discrepancy in strength and functionality of the muscle can also be due to the different types of training performed by different athletes. Although two athletes may possess similar physiques, the muscle they have built using their different training methods may not be the same. In other words, all muscular growth was NOT created equal! There are actually two very different types of hypertrophy that can take place within the muscle. Being aware of this helps to answer the question of why some athletes possess superhuman strength and others are ?all show, no go.? The two types of hypertrophy to which I am referring are sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the volume of the non-contractile muscle cell fluid, sarcoplasm. This fluid accounts for 25-30% of the muscle?s size. Although the cross sectional area of the muscle increases, the density of muscle fibers per unit area decreases, and there is no increase in muscular strength (2). This type of hypertrophy is mainly a result of high rep, ?bodybuilder-type? training (3).

One of the biggest problems I see with the training of power athletes (football players, baseball players, basketball players, wrestlers and even powerlifters) is too much emphasis on training in the 10 ? 15 rep range. This type of training has its place, yet should not be the focal point for these athletes. For example, most football lineman benefit from added bulk to prevent from getting pushed around on the field. ?Bodybuilding? methods, using these rep ranges, can be beneficial if incorporated during the season to prevent muscle mass loss, as well as after the season to add bulk, which may have been lost during the season. Also, there is some scientific evidence that states a bigger muscle may have a better chance of becoming a stronger muscle once maximal strength training methods are employed. The key to remember is that this type of hypertrophy has little to do with such explosive movements as hitting, running, throwing, jumping or performing a one-rep max. This is why professional bodybuilders, whose training mainly hypertrophies the Type IIA fibers and causes an increase in the non-contractile components of the muscle (sarcoplasmic volume, capillary density, and mitochondria proliferation) are not the fastest or even the strongest of all athletes. This is despite the fact that they generally have more muscle than any other class of athlete! I consider this type of hypertrophy to be form over function.

Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

Myofibrillar hypertrophy, on the other hand, is an enlargement of the muscle fiber as it gains more myofibrils, which contract and generate tension in the muscle. With this type of hypertrophy, the area density of myofibrils increases and there is a significantly greater ability to exert muscular strength (2). This type of hypertrophy is best accomplished by training with heavy weights for low reps (3).
One must remember that the average football play lasts 4.5 seconds, it takes about 3 seconds to complete a 1 RM, it takes less than a second to swing a bat, less than a second to throw a punch and less than a second to jump for a rebound. As you can see, most athletic activities are explosive in nature. This is why it is imperative for athletes to incorporate maximal strength training methods (1-5 reps), which train the part of the muscle responsible for these explosive contractions, into their routines. Repetitions in the 1-5 rep range, using 85 ? 100% of a 1RM, also have the added benefit of training the nervous system ? which I feel is the most overlooked component of training the athlete. Some of the many benefits of training the nervous system are: increased neural drive to the muscle, increased synchronization of motor units, increased activation of the contractile apparatus, and decreased inhibition by the protective mechanisms of the muscle (golgi tendon organ) (1). These training methods also hypertrophy the pure fast twitch fibers ? the high-threshold, Type IIB fibers. Incorporating these training methods into your routine at the right time will undoubtedly improve your muscles ability to generate more force and contract maximally during any sporting activity. In essence, myofibrillar hypertrophy is what I would term functional hypertrophy.

Conclusion

Although the human eye cannot tell these two types of hypertrophy apart, the difference will always become quite apparent as soon as it?s time for an athlete to put his/her muscle to use. As athletes and strength professionals, I feel we all have a responsibility to prevent ourselves from getting into the ?3 sets of 10? rut. It is our job to educate ourselves, be creative, and put together the most result-producing programs available for our athletes or ourselves. This may mean incorporating both types of hypertrophy training into your routine, depending on your goal and training phase. But remember that no matter how bad those high-rep sets of leg extensions burn, they will never build the strength, power, and functional hypertrophy of a heavy set of squats or deads!

References

Poliquin, Charles. Modern Trends in Strength Training. Volume 1.
QFAC Bodybuilding, 2001.

Siff, Mel C. and Yuri V. Verkhoshansky. Supertraining. Colorado: Denver, 1999.

Tsatsouline, Pavel. Power to the People. Dragon Door Publications, Inc., 2000.

ahhha! so you see. then, there is no reason to not train for strength.

[quote]NE2000 wrote:
garbage

[/quote]

Nooooooo, please not this again

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Ramo wrote:
Professor X wrote:
Lorne wrote:
If training for hypertrophy involves increasing the size of the muscle fibers to create more muscle mass, I’d like to know how the physiology behind training for strength…wouldn’t muscle fibers also increase in size when strength training? So what is the difference in the way muscles respond to these training techniques?

There isn’t much difference. Past neurological adaptation, a muscle does need to increase in size to get stronger.

It depends on what is meant by training for ‘strength’. Bulgarian weightlifters often train using only the two competition lifts and back squats/front squats. These lifts are trained many times per week. Training this way makes them freakishly strong, while many manage not to gain an ounce.

So they perfect technique and neurologic ability to perform the exercise. That doesn’t mean that they continue getting stronger and stronger continually. Obviously, you wouldn’t go to someone who was originally weaker than average to join that group to begin with. Two lifters could weigh exactly the same but have two completely different strength levels. They would each need to get BIGGER past neurological adaptation and simply learning the mechanics of the movement to get any stronger beyond that.
[/quote]

Of course that’s all true…but when does neural adaptation just stop? When are mechanics of a movement ever 100% flawless? Competitive weightlifters (and some powerlifters in lower weight classes) nudge their already world class totals up year after year without getting bigger.

They are making neural adaptations and their mechanics are improving, but they aren’t growing. Does an increase in the amount of weight you can lift that owes to these processes not mean that you are ‘stronger?’ I don’t completely mean this question to be rhetorical…maybe it isn’t quite the same as saying ‘he’s not actually faster, he just has better sprinting technique.’

But it’s close. At least as far as strength athletics goes, strength = how much you lift, regardless of the adaptations that took place to enable you to lift it.

Now, most of this was just for argument’s sake. The olympic lifts are special because of the extremely low time under tension, and absence of a negative. I cannot say that steady long-term progression on a wide array of ‘bodybuilding’ exercises will not yield hypertrophy.

In most cases, what is required to make long-term progress on many grinding-type lifts at the same time requires measures that will at the same time support hypertrophy (i.e., caloric surplus, adequate rest, etc…)

The one point I’m trying to make is that neural adaptations and improvement in lifting technique aren’t only concerns for beginning and intermediate lifters, and they don’t get 100% maxed out. Of course diminishing returns kick in, but for those concerned only with strength, these qualities can always be improved.

[quote]NE2000 wrote:
A bunch of bullshit about sarcoplsmic hypertrophy that we have researched on this site and found to come from a study on rats and a SHITLOAD of theory that seems to be unsupported.
[/quote]

I am truly tired of that popping up over and over.

[quote]Ramo wrote:
Of course that’s all true…but when does neural adaptation just stop? When are mechanics of a movement ever 100% flawless? Competitive weightlifters (and some powerlifters in lower weight classes) nudge their already world class totals up year after year without getting bigger. [/quote]

They have to learm technique and push their mental ability to the limits if they are trying to stay in a certain weight class. It is why there are no 130lbs people pushing what someone weighing 200lbs more can push assuming both are elite powerlifters. At some point, you won’t be getting much stronger if you never gain anymore muscular body weight. That is just the way things are.

I know that short small guys love to believe that size doesn’t equal strength, but the truth is, the guy who was skinny but got huge got a HELL of a lot stronger on the way there.

Comparing two different people isn’t effective because no two people will have the exact same initial strength level.

If person A weighs 150lbs but can bench 180lbs and Person B weighs 150lbs but can bench 200lbs, it doesn’t mean that they both won’t have to get bigger to significantly increase their strength levels. People seem to forget that we don’t all start at the same place.

We can talk theory until the end of time, but the truth is, eventually someone will NOT be getting any stronger if they never gain any muscular body weight.

[quote]Professor X wrote:

We can talk theory until the end of time, but the truth is, eventually someone will NOT be getting any stronger if they never gain any muscular body weight. [/quote]

Why not? Is there a limit on muscular density? Just asking X…

[quote]Go heavy fool wrote:
Professor X wrote:

We can talk theory until the end of time, but the truth is, eventually someone will NOT be getting any stronger if they never gain any muscular body weight.

Why not? Is there a limit on muscular density? Just asking X…

[/quote]

If the “muscular density” increases then so will the mass and therefore the weight of the individual.

I think what people are trying to say is that neural efficiency will only take you so far - and at some point you will need to gain some extra muscle to continue getting stronger.

[quote]Dave_ wrote:
Go heavy fool wrote:
Professor X wrote:

We can talk theory until the end of time, but the truth is, eventually someone will NOT be getting any stronger if they never gain any muscular body weight.

Why not? Is there a limit on muscular density? Just asking X…

If the “muscular density” increases then so will the mass and therefore the weight of the individual.

I think what people are trying to say is that neural efficiency will only take you so far - and at some point you will need to gain some extra muscle to continue getting stronger.

[/quote]

The reason I was asking was because I’ve gained alot of strength without ever gaining any muscular size. So in essence, the muscles were getting denser possibly and no hypertrophy mass accumulation.

[quote]Go heavy fool wrote:
Professor X wrote:

We can talk theory until the end of time, but the truth is, eventually someone will NOT be getting any stronger if they never gain any muscular body weight.

Why not? Is there a limit on muscular density? Just asking X…

[/quote]

Muscular density is a made up term. It usually relates to how a muscle LOOKS when dieted down and dried out. It also relates to “muscle maturity”, another made up word that refers to the LOOK of a muscle. If a muscle actually became more dense, as in added fibers, like the poster above wrote, that would mean a size increase and/or an increase in the number of muscle fibers.