When designing a workout program, should you be designing it for hypertrophy or for strength? At first glance, you might think the answer to this question is strictly based around your goals.
Do you want to get big without much worry about how strong you are?
Or, would you do anything to be able to push heavy weight and don’t care so much how large you get?
Generally speaking, the two don’t always go hand in hand. Take a look at some of the world’s best Olympic weight lifting champions. You’ll find some of these athletes pushing a great deal of weight but yet, they aren’t overly muscular in appearance. The guy in the gym lifting half of the weight they use may be more muscular overall.
So you might think that the best way to design your program is strictly based on your goals. But, is that always the case? Here are a few points to know and remember.
Strength Focused Training Breeds Size
The first thing that you should remember is that strength training will eventually lead into size gains. Think about it this way. If you train each day for increased size – you hit the gym and lift a maximum amount of weight for 4-6 reps, doing multiple sets per workout, you are going to get stronger.
This rep range isn’t exactly optimal for size gains, so you may not get all that much bigger while training this way.
But, when you then later move into size focused training, bringing your rep range up into the 8-12 rep range, because you are now stronger, you can hit this rep range while lifting more weight.
This means you’ll have an increased level of volume per session, which can bring about greater muscular size improvements. So while that strength focused training didn’t directly mean greater size, indirectly, it’ll help you along your way.
Strength Focused Training Prevents Injury
The second thing to remember is that strength focused training is going to work very well to help improve the strength of your ligaments, tendons, and bones. While these tissues don’t get stronger nearly as quickly as muscles do, slowly but surely, they will develop.
This now means you’ll be at a lower risk for injury when you do start performing higher volume training, which is required for increased muscle size development.
Once again, strength focused training leads to superior size focused training results.
Now, what if you are someone who is more focused on gaining maximum strength? What benefit is there to add some size training into the mix?
By stepping off the very heavy weights for a while and moving into size training, you’ll be giving your CNS a break from the very heavy loads that lead to CNS fatigue. This can go a long way in preventing overtraining from developing.
Taking a month or so off that heavy weight lifting will help give your nervous system a break so that when you do come back to it, you’re feeling stronger than ever before.
Size Focused Training Lowers Joint Pain
Finally, the last nice benefit to switching gears for a while and moving to size focused training from heavy weight lifting is that it can give your joints a break. Constantly putting high amounts of weight on your joints creates high levels of sheer force that can lead to pain and potential injury development. If your shoulders hurt, your back hurts, or your knees ache every time you squat, lightening the load may help relieve some of those symptoms.
So when it comes to answering the question size or strength, why not both? Having a program that alternates between the two in a periodized fashion is often what will yield the most optimal results and help you become a better well-rounded athlete.
If you are primarily focused on one goal over the other, not to worry. Just spend more time focusing on that goal and less time in your transition periods.
By utilizing both in your workout program, you’ll become strong while developing the size to match.