Strength Vs. Hypertrophy: The Difference and The Benefits
Part Two: Strength Training
Monday, December 29, 2015 | Max Barnhart
As referenced in the precursory installment concerning hypertrophy, the engenderment of great physiques is binary: comprising both muscular enlargement, and the optimization of strength. Initially, this conspicuous polarity can oft spawn consternation. However, after review, what appears to be a momentous disparity between strength and hypertrophy variables morphs into a symbiotic relationship. In example, the development of a muscle’s cross-section simultaneously sparks a burgeoning of maximal strength. (3) As the adage goes, two birds with one stone.
Strength training is oft vilified due to the notorious reputation that core barbell movements have acquired over the years; further damaged on a plausibly periodical basis by the erroneous dissemination of fallacies regarding the deadlift, squat, bench, and overhead press. In the spirit appeasement, relinquishing some credit to the multitude of denigrating claims respective to heavy lifting and compound movements is deserved. There are unassailable drawbacks to strength training; nevertheless, they can be averted if caveats are heeded.
Maximal strength is the highest contraction generated voluntarily against resistances. (3) For strength improvements to actualize, germane percentages of one’s One-Rep-Max (1RM) must be applied. Said pursuit involves the implementation of 1 to 3 repetitions, with the following percentages respectively: 100% (one repetition), 95% (two repetitions), and 93% (3 repetitions). These repetition maximums dictate the lifter institute weights that will allow no more than the listed number of repetitions to be performed; in short, a 3-Rep-Max (RM) denotes that the third repetition be a lifter’s last attainable. Bearing in mind the correlating weights to the antecedent percentages, in tandem with the customarily affiliated complex barbell movements, one can sympathize with a tentative approach.
It is the approach, however, toward procuring strength that is the most significant solvent to strength training’s inherent hazards. If one devotes ample time to the fortification of technique, and muscles correlating to the execution of the movement pattern, then the likelihood of incurring injury wanes dramatically. (1)
In addition to these concerns, strength training contrives paltry materialization of hypertrophy due to the wanting of mechanical work. Scarce repetitions expel trivial mechanical work, in turn fashioning irrelevant levels of protein degradation and an insignificant consequence on protein metabolism. Albeit an additional concern, it is of little relevance since the advent of prudent hypertrophy programming, and the unmitigated amalgamation of both the repeated effort method and the maximal effort method, explained in depth below. (1)
Having disclosed the drawbacks of strength training, it’s vital that all lifters be cognizant of the maximal effort method’s potency, not only to fathom its benefits and implement it for the realization of one’s physical potential, but also to conciliate concerns pertaining to the above endeavor. Defined by hoisting the heaviest weight possible, the maximal effort method is indispensable for its innumerable alterations to one’s physiological constitution.
The maximal effort method is second to none at improving intermuscular coordination and intramuscular coordination. The latter references the coordination between different fibers within the very same muscle, delineating three means by which our physiology controls fibers. The primary mechanism is number encoding, which controls muscle tension by either the activation or deactivation of involved fibers. The penultimate method entitled rate encoding commands muscle tension through the modification of the firing rate of each fiber. The tertiary mechanism by which muscle tension is moderated is referred to as pattern encoding, denoting the sequencing of the firing of various fiber types. Intermuscular coordination is the correspondence between fibers of varying muscle groups to work in concert in an effort to manufacture movement. (3)
Lifting maximal loads also decreases inhibition of the Central Nervous System (CNS). (1) Said decrease facilitates a maximal number of Motor Units (MUs) to be activated at a prime release frequency, the fastest of the activated MUs to be used, simultaneous activity of all MUs, and peak motor neuron expulsion. (1) Commonly, MUs with an elevated electrical catalyst required for activation (High-threshold MUs) are inhibited. The institution of maximal loads mitigates this inhibition, stimulating the activation of high-threshold MUs and the recruitment of other fast-twitch MUs, advancing nervous system efficiency. (4)
If an accession in neurological efficiency isn’t the most attractive lure, perhaps the fact that such high percentages of ones 1RM are necessary for the annexation of adaptation in the largest MUs. The size principle decrees that irrespective of the load, motor unit recruitment commences with the smallest MUs, as larger MUs are annexed respective to the force demands of the endeavor. If a 1-3RM load is utilized during training, then the largest MUs will be recruited and receive adaptation. However, if submaximal loads are stringently applied, larger MUs and their fiber constituents won’t procure adaptation. To anyone concerned with the maximization of fiber adaptation, all rep ranges must be administered to galvanize said adaptation. (2)
While many pursue the relegation, or all out excommunication of heavy lifting from their regimen on the basis of its assumed injurious nature, it’s far more detrimental to ostracize strength training. Unexpectedly, the same means that has been deemed hazardous is the consummate method for promoting longevity. Maximal effort training is misunderstood; consequently, its ability to prevent injury is woefully underrated. Heavy barbell and dumbbell work strengthens all connective tissue, from fascia, bones, ligaments, and tendons, to the muscle itself. (4)
Considering the above, in conjunction with the first installment in this series, the long-standing debate as to whether strength or hypertrophy training is superior is superseded by science. It is no longer a debate of which is the superlative, but rather how to integrate both within the same program to extract their undeniable benefits.