Lifting For Strength Versus Lifting For Hypertrophy

Lifting For Strength Versus Lifting For Hypertrophy

Every serious lifter hits this crossroads at some point. To aim training towards becoming jacked and aesthetic or to eat all the food and smash all the weights? That is the question. The answer is going to be very individual here.

Personally, I am of the mindset that both qualities should be strived for throughout a training career, but the emphasis should change from time to time. For example, if you want to get stronger, backing off a few months out of the year and doing some more general bodybuilding work isn’t a bad thing.

One the other hand, dedicating some time to specific strength training can help increase your maxes and allow you to use heavier weight for your lighter rep work when in you’re in your primarily muscle building phases.

Even so, I am going to go over some training principles and briefly outline how to manipulate them to get the most out of wherever your training is headed.


Tempo is typically written as eccentric: isometric hold: concentric in terms of seconds spent in that portion of the lift. Eccentrics are simply the lengthening phase of the lift where the prime mover muscle is being stretched.

So, like lowering a bicep curl from the shoulder back down to your side. The isometric hold is the transition point between eccentric and concentric. Concentric muscle action is the shortening of the muscle like the initiation of a bicep curl to raise it to the shoulder.

For strength, a typical tempo here in the main core lifts would be 0:0:0. The aim is to take advantage of the muscles elastic properties, store kinetic energy, and elicit a powerful stretch reflex. This will greatly increase the force produced and help you lift more weight

For hypertrophy, shoot for something along the lines of 3:2:1. Obviously that can be tweaked to basically any tempo you want.

The goal here is to increase the time during the eccentric to focus on perfectly controlled, deliberate reps, always make sure the eccentric phase is a little bit longer than the other two.

Sets and Reps

The set and rep schemes you are working with will greatly influence the training effect of your programming. These suggestions I am about to give are not set in stone but are a great place to start to figure out what works best for you.

For strength training, the goal should be to perform numerous first reps. What I mean hear is if you need to perform 30 reps of a given weight, instead of doing 3 sets of 10, you’d be much better off with 10 sets of 3.

This way, you get a lot more first rep practice with your set up and technical cues. A secondary goal here is to move every rep explosively. Limiting sets to 1-5 reps will allow you to perform more quality reps as opposed to fatigue setting in and just grinding out sets of 10+

For hypertrophy, the lines get a little blurry for these recommendations. Personally, I consider ideal rep range per set anywhere from 6 to 100. Yes, I am serious.

The goal with hypertrophy work is constantly pushing the amount of volume a lifter can handle. With that in mind, how that volume is accumulated has an infinite number of combinations.

Ok, What the Heck Weights Do I Use?

An excellent resource for researched based suggestions for set and rep schemes with accompanying percentages of weights to use for whatever your goals may be is Prilepins Chart.

Basically, the table gives you a percent range. The next column outlines the optimal number of reps per set. The next two columns suggest optimal reps and optimal rep ranges. Therefore, for strength training, if you wanted to work with 80% of your max, 5 sets of three reps places you exactly at the optimal number of 15 total reps.

For hypertrophy, using that same 80%, you could push the sets and reps to 6 sets of 4 to hit the maximum of 24 for the total rep range.

Additional Resources:

Hypertrophy: What type of training stimulates muscle growth?