The choice between hypertrophy training and strength training has to do with your goals for weight training:

  • If you want to increase the size of your muscles, hypertrophy training is for you.
  • If you want to increase the strength of your muscles, consider strength training.

Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of each.

Weight training is an exercise regimen that involves moving items that offer resistance, such as:

  • free weights (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells)
  • weight machines (pulleys and stacks)
  • your body weight (pushups, chinups)

These items are moved in a combination of:

  • specific exercises
  • the number of times exercise is done (reps)
  • the number of cycles of reps completed (sets)

For example, if you did 12 consecutive dumbbell lunges, rested, and then did 12 more, you did 2 sets of 12 reps of dumbbell lunges.

The combination of equipment, exercise, reps, and sets is put together into a workout routine to address the goals of the person working out.

Starting out: strength and size

When you start out with weight training, you’re building muscle strength and size at the same time.

If you decide to take your weight training up to the next level, you have to choose between two types of training. One type focuses on hypertrophy, and one type focuses on increasing strength.

The exercises and equipment used for strength training and hypertrophy training are pretty much the same. The primary differences between the two are:

  • Training volume. This is the number of sets and reps you do in an exercise.
  • Training intensity. This refers to the weight you lift.
  • Rest between sets. This is the amount of rest time you give your body to recover from the physical stress of the exercise.

Hypertrophy training: more sets and reps

For hypertrophy, you increase the training volume (more sets and reps) while slightly decreasing the intensity. Typically, the rest period between sets for hypertrophy is 1 to 3 minutes.

Strength training: fewer reps with greater intensity

For muscular strength, you reduce the number of reps in a set (exercise volume) while increasing the intensity (adding heavier weights). Typically, the rest period between sets for strength is 3 to 5 minutes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training may help you:

One of the benefits of hypertrophy training is aesthetic if you think large muscles look good. Other benefits of hypertrophy training include:

  • increased strength and power
  • increased caloric expenditure, which may aid weight loss
  • increased symmetry (avoids muscular imbalance)

While there are many benefits associated with lifting weights, there are some things to consider:

  • Lifting too fast or too much can result in injury.
  • Movements beyond your normal range of motion can result in injury.
  • Holding your breath while lifting can result in a rapid increase in blood pressure or cause a hernia.
  • Not resting enough between workouts can lead to tissue damage or overuse injuries, such as tendinosis and tendinitis.

So, which is better, hypertrophy or strength?

This is a question you’ll have to answer yourself. As long as you don’t go to the extreme with either decision, both offer similar health benefits and risks, so the choice comes down to your preference.

If you want bigger, bulky muscles, choose hypertrophy training: Increase your training volume, decrease the intensity, and shorten the rest period between sets.

If you want to maximize muscle strength, choose strength training: Reduce the exercise volume, increase the intensity, and lengthen the rest period between sets.