Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fact or Fiction: Utilizing a Hypertrophy Focused Program is Better than Strength for Muscle Size

By: Andrew Jagim

According to a lot of general strength training program design concepts put forth by various organizations, it is typically recommend to identify a primary training goal/outcome and design your strength training program around this goal.  For example, according to the NSCA (See tables below), your primary training goal (i.e. Maximal Strength vs. Muscle Hypertrophy) should dictate a specific load (% 1 Repetition Maximum) and training volume (sets x reps) in order to maximize the desired outcome.

Based upon this type of program recommendation it appears as the strength training program design and the potential of eliciting different physiological adaptations are mutually exclusive and there is little transference from one training style to the other.  Now don't get be wrong, there is pretty strong (pun intended) evidence to suggest that lifting heavy weights is the best way to get stronger (STR) while at the same time there does appear to be a dose-response relationship between training volume and increases in muscle hypertrophy (HYP) but you may be wondering if it's possible to increase muscle size while lifting heavy??
Recently a review paper was published that tackled this question.  The purpose of the review was to examine the acute anabolic responses and training-induced muscular adaptations between the two different training styles, and their corresponding program variables that are commonly used.  I decided to just copy and paste the authors conclusions directly in here as they worded it so eloquently. 

"Despite the classification of training paradigms,

HYP and STR resistance training routines appear to elicit similar magnitudes of muscle growth, although STR routines appear to be more conducive to increasing strength in resistance-trained individuals.

Current evidence suggests that the classification of HYP and STR is an oversimplification, and practitioners are advised to look beyond the classification of resistance exercise protocols when aiming to elicit specific physiological responses. "
What the authors found was rather interesting. A lot of the results confirmed a lot of we already know about strength training. The Hypertrophy focused training recommendations, regarding load and volume, appeared to maximize the acute anabolic response and provide an ample stimulus to elicit muscle hypertrophy over time. Makes sense right, if this was not the case, it wouldn't have been classified as a hypertrophy program.  These acute stimuli seem to include the perfect storm of mechanical tension, exercise induced muscle damage, increased blood flow and increased metabolic stress that appears to maximize muscle growth.  The typical recommendations for maximal strength development also appeared to be an effective strategy for increases strength; again really just confirming what we already know. However, interestingly, the authors also found that the conventional "strength" style of training also appears to provide acute anabolic signaling factors that can also increase muscle hypertrophy over time, even to the same extent as muscle hypertrophy training. So it appears as though you get the best of both worlds, the strength and the size! This has some profound implications for athletic performance as a lot of athletes focus on developing strength but also trying to maximize lean body mass as these adaptions can help enhance performance in a lot of sports.  So, it appears as though our traditional way of programming is not as black and white as it looks on paper and there may be a lot of overlap in terms of multiple physiological adaptations occurring simultaneously.

Click Here for Review Article

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