How To Build Muscle And Increase Strength At The Same Time

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What Is the Best Way to Combine Hypertrophy and Strength Training?

 What Is the Best Way to Combine Hypertrophy and Strength Training?

Strength athletes must engage in hypertrophy training as part of their overall strength development, injury prevention, and performance. While the direct focus of many intermediate and advanced strength programs is to gain strength, defined as maximal strength (increase 1-rep maxes), there is also a strong reliance on the creation of new muscle fibers to aid in this process.


Combining hypertrophy and strength training into a single comprehensive program is necessary, and it is relatively simple if you understand how to monitor training volumes, distinguish muscle soreness from general fatigue, and know what outcomes to aim for when training for hypertrophy vs strength.


In this article, we will look at the differences between training for hypertrophy and training for strength, as well as what factors to consider and how to begin incorporating hypertrophy training into your existing strength training program.


How Does Hypertrophy Training Work and What Is It?

When you train in a way that promotes muscle growth, you're doing hypertrophy training (hypertrophy). While there are a variety of methods for doing so, the end goal is the same: to increase muscle mass (which may not be directly in line with increasing strength).


Strength Training vs. Hypertrophy Training

A set of 10 back squats will build muscle and general strength for most people (beginners and intermediate lifters). When it comes to defining "strength" training, there is a significant difference between the two terms.

For some, being able to lift relatively heavy weights is enough. Others use the term "strength training" to refer to MAXIMAL strength training, which is much more nervous system dependent than general hypertrophy training.

Because of the increased relative loading (closer to one's true maximum), most training that occurs below the 5 rep threshold is often referred to as "strength training." We'll go over different rep ranges for training hypertrophy, maximal strength, and general strength and muscle building, which are all common in beginner training but must be specifically targeted at higher levels.


For hypertrophy, rep ranges are important.

It's critical to understand the various repetition ranges that have been shown to promote muscle growth when you're on a mission to develop bigger muscles and create more raw material before transitioning to heavier strength training (which is not the same as maximal strength).

It's also important to realize that a lifter can become "stronger" without increasing muscle hypertrophy (size and growth), which occurs frequently early in a beginner's workout journey. Increased muscle coordination and nervous system adaptations are the main reasons for this. As a result, many lifters will frequently train TOO HARD in order to maximize muscle growth.


Strength and Fitness in General

For years, gym goers have been told that 8-12 reps are the best way to build muscle and strength. While these are excellent suggestions for beginners (and often what many people who are new to training SHOULD do), they are only general guidelines that no longer apply as one progresses.


HYPERTROPHY OF THE MUSCLE

When it comes to muscle hypertrophy, different muscle groups respond differently to rep ranges depending on generics, muscle fiber types, and the individual.

Individuals with more slow twitch quad muscles, for example, may experience better muscle growth when training in the 12-20 rep range, whereas lifters with more fast twitch muscle may simply feel beat up (and not experience delayed onset muscle soreness). In those cases, a lower rep range of 8-12 reps may be sufficient.

For most people, it's best to start with 8-15 reps and work your way up to 15-25 reps (with a lot of effort) and see what happens. Training with 5-10 reps, on the other hand, can be an effective way for some people to gain significant muscle mass. Training less than 5 reps, on the other hand, should be saved for more strength-focused workouts.


HYPERTROPHY OF STRENGTH

This is a good range for lifters who adapt better to heavier loads and 5-10 reps per set (and get a good muscle pump and soreness). This is also a good transition range for lifters who have spent some time training in the 8-15 range but want to move into a more strength-focused phase.


How Can You Tell Which Rep Range Is Right For You?

For many lifters, this is a difficult question to answer, especially when a friend has success with one exercise but your joints hurt with the same exercise and rep range. When training for muscle growth, look for the following three training outcomes. If a movement, rep range, or workout gives you all three, it's safe to assume that those movements and reps are good for your body and make-up.



DURING THE WORKOUT/SETS, DO YOUR MUSCLES FEEL PUMPED UP?

This is real-time feedback, and you should pay attention to it during a set. If you can't feel the muscle working or the local muscle fatigue (like a muscle burn or exhaustion), either lighten the load and concentrate on the movement, or go slower and feel the muscle stretch while using a wider range of motion (or better yet, do all three).


DO YOU EXPERIENCE MUSCLE SORENESS AFTER THE WORKOUT?

A good muscle hypertrophy session is marked by delayed onset muscle soreness. However, muscle soreness is not always a sign of a successful workout; however, mild soreness can be a sign of muscle stress, which promotes hypertrophy. It's also worth noting that soreness that interferes with your ability to train in subsequent workouts or that affects your daily life (for example, an overly aggressive workout that causes severe leg soreness) is a good indicator that you were on the right track, you just did too much volume (too many sets) or trained too hard for that session.


DO THE MOVEMENTS CAUSE PAIN IN YOUR JOINTS?

If you experience joint pain and/or discomfort during or after a workout, which is different from sore muscles, it's a sign that you're putting too much stress on your bones, ligaments, and tendons. Many factors can contribute to this, but the most common are  poor training techniques, excessively heavy loads, a lack of control in a movement...slow down, and/or  injury. If you've been hurt or think you've been hurt, it's best to stop doing what's hurting you, rest, and see if you need to see a doctor. If the pain subsides, try different exercises for the same muscle group.


Incorporate Hypertrophy Training into Your Strength Training Routine

There are four areas where hypertrophy training can be incorporated into a strength program. When you're fresh, focus on your strength lifts first, then transition into hypertrophy training, focusing on the key markers above rather than how heavy you're lifting.


EXERCISES THAT ARE UNILATERAL

Unilateral exercises are an excellent way to boost muscle activation, hypertrophy, and correct muscle imbalances. Lunges, split squats, single arm presses, and single leg hip raises are all excellent exercises to try. Coordination, proper technique and joint mechanics, as well as feeling the muscle, should be prioritized when training these.


MOVEMENTS WITH A SINGLE JOINT

Single joint exercises include hamstring curls (where the only joint moving is the knee), triceps extensions (where the only joint moving is the elbow), and chest flys (where the only joint moving is the shoulder). These are excellent for addressing specific weaknesses or areas where you want to add muscle mass. It's not a good idea to train these movements with low rep ranges, so aim for 8-15 reps for the majority of them, if not more.


LIFTS BASED ON MACHINES

Machines, like single joint and unilateral movements, are a great way to build muscle mass without putting undue stress on supporting muscle groups. While this is generally beneficial to overall fitness, isolating a muscle group after compound strength lifts can help you target a muscle group without relying on weaker supporting muscles. Let's say you want to increase the size of your quadriceps, so you do four sets of squats for strength. After that, you can do higher rep back squats, but your lower back may become fatigued or you may simply feel exhausted. Machine hack squats, on the other hand, may be a better option because they relieve pressure on your lower back while also allowing you to isolate your muscles.


LIFTS LIGHT COMPOUND

Compound movements, which are often used for strength, can also be used to increase muscle hypertrophy. Just keep in mind that some exercises, such as high-rep deadlifts, cause more systemic (and nervous system) fatigue and may not be the best choice for hamstring hypertrophy due to the overall stress they cause. Instead, you could focus on deadlifts for strength and then switch to a less taxing exercise like barbell good mornings to target the hamstrings specifically.


4 Last-Minute Muscle Hypertrophy Tips

Here are four suggestions to help you maximize muscle hypertrophy and improve overall strength.

CHECK THE VOLUME OF TRAINING

Accessory hypertrophy training should be done in conjunction with strength lifts. You may be doing too much training volume if you find yourself punishing yourself with accessory exercise that causes more fatigue (you aren't recovering from workouts) and/or your strength isn't improving. More specific recommendations for optimal training volume for muscle growth can be found in this hypertrophy training guidelines central hub.


BE AWARE OF YOUR REP RANGES

Keep in mind the rep range recommendations from earlier in this article. These guidelines will assist you in navigating your accessory training programs and better individualizing your muscle growth goals based on how your body responds to different rep ranges.


UNDERSTAND POSITIVE MUSCLE GROWTH MARKERS

When training for muscle hypertrophy, it's important to focus on how your body reacts to the stress of a workout rather than how much weight you're lifting. Use the three training outcomes listed above to assist you in your muscle-building endeavors. If you're having trouble meeting all three goals, take a look at your rep ranges, overall training load (are you doing too much or not enough), technique, range of motion (the more the better), tempo of movements (slow and controlled on lowering phases), and exercise selection.


UNDERSTAND WHEN TO STOP

Your strength goals should be supported by your hypertrophy training. If you find that your hypertrophy training is (1) causing excessive soreness that is interfering with your strength training, (2) causing joint pain and/or connective tissue issues, or (3) causing a general lack of recovery, back off slightly and do one or two fewer sets per movement for a couple weeks to see if that helps your body recover.


Notes at the End

Always monitor overall training volume when training for muscle hypertrophy so that you can maximize muscle growth, allow for recovery, and still train strength. Overdoing it can be counterproductive, but if you follow the guidelines above, you should be able to navigate those waters. Finally, certain training phases (6-12 weeks in length) can be dedicated to more hypertrophy-focused training, with the strength movements remaining in place to maintain while you focus on gaining muscle mass. This is frequently done before transitioning into a strength-focused period.


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