Hypertrophy vs Strength Training: Are you in for more muscle or strength? What’s the best way to go about it?

What’s your primary goal whenever you hit the gym floor? Are you simply trying to put on more muscle, or get stronger, or a bit of both?

Well, much as all of these goals typically involve lifting weights, you’ve got to know the best ways to maximize your results. That’s why it pays to know the difference between Hypertrophy and strength training methods/approaches.

A little more detail on how you can tweak your workout routine to get the most out of your time can make a world of difference. So let’s get straight to the meat and discover what these methods are all about, how they differ, and whether there is any research evidence to warrant their place in your workout routine.

Hypertrophy vs Strength training

The key difference lies in the primary goals associated with the two modes of training.
Hypertrophy training focuses on increasing muscle size. The primary aim is to get a more aesthetic and bulkier look, which makes it the go-to option for most body builders. Strength training focuses on increasing muscle strength, or improving your muscles’ ability to generate force. The primary goal is to get yourself stronger and lift heavier.

This translates to differences in the way the exercise programs are formulated. Hypertrophy training uses high exercise volumes (sets and reps), shorter rest periods between sets, and relatively lower intensities(loads). On the other hand, Strength training involves lower exercise volumes, longer rest periods between sets, and higher loads.

But how much (loads, sets, reps) is ideal for an effective Hypertrophy or strength training program?

Hypertrophy training (Loading and Volume)

Here are the typical ranges associated with key exercise parameters in this type of training:

  • Load/intensity: 60–80% of your 1 Repetition Maximum(1RM). In case you’re new to weight lifting, the term 1RM refers to the weight you cannot lift beyond one repetition before a visible break in exercise form. It’s basically a reflection of the maximum force that a particular group of muscles can generate in a single effort/contraction.
  • Reps and sets: 10–12 reps, 3+ sets.
  • Rest Periods/Intervals: 30 sec-1 min between sets.

However, it’s important to note that the recommended loading levels are not written in stone. If you’re already an advanced lifter, you can stretch the load to 85% of your 1RM while maintaining the recommended exercise volume.

Strength Training (Loading and Volume)

  • Load/intensity: +80% of your 1RM.
  • Reps and sets: 4–6 reps, 1–3 sets.
  • Rest periods: 2–5 minutes.

Again, advanced lifters can stretch the load to around +90% of the 1RM at lower volumes of 1–6 reps, 1–3 sets with the same rest interval between sets.

Evidence: Are they worth your time?

These recommendations are based on a robust body of scientific research evidence over the past decade. Numerous studies have shown a positive relationship between Hypertrophy and Strength Training approaches with their associated effects. For instance, 2017 saw the Journal of Sports Science publish a large scale review of available research studies(Systematic Review) on the relationship between exercise volume and Hypertrophy Training. The study established a direct relationship between exercise volume and muscle size, thus supporting the high-volume, low-intensity approach in Hypertrophy training.

When it comes to strength training, there seems to be an appreciable amount of evidence supporting the use of a high-load, low-volume approach. For instance, J Giessing and colleagues compared high-intensity, low-volume, to low-intensity high-volume approaches. Although both approaches were associated with significant strength gains, the high intensity approach proved to be far more superior in terms of results.

Another large scale statistical analysis(Meta-analysis) led by Mathew Rhea provides some support to the high intensity approach in strength training programs. The meta-analysis investigated the relationship between intensity and effectiveness of strength training programs. The results showed that higher intensities (about 80%) were more effective for trained individuals. This means that exercise intensity is a more relevant parameter whenever strength gains are a priority.

Bottom line

If your primary interest is putting on more muscle, a high-volume, low-load approach should be the go-to option. On the other hand, if you are more into improving muscle strength and performance, your routine should reflect a focus on high loads with relatively low volume(sets and reps). However, if you want a balance between the two, it’s prudent to set your routine in such a way that combines the two approaches.



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950543/#:~:text=Muscle%20hypertrophy%20occurs%20when%20muscle,muscle%20protein%20breakdown%20%5B8%5D.
  2. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/fulltext/2012/07000/resistance_training_is_medicine__effects_of.13.aspx

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950543/#:~:text=Implementation%20of%20training%20with%20moderate,inducing%20muscle%20hypertrophy%20%5B57%5D.

  1. https://www.verywellfit.com/muscle-size-versus-strength-what-you-need-to-know-3498216
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305455324_Dose-response_relationship_between_weekly_resistance_training_volume_and_increases_in_muscle_mass_A_systematic_review_and_meta-analysis
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4993139/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12618576/

Originally published at http://healthnuggetdotcom.wordpress.com on March 4, 2022.



Just an ardent physiotherapist and crypto-enthusiast with years of experience and passion to share...

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