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Quantified training for Hypertrophy and Strength (Part 6)

Aditi Gupta
Aditi Gupta
In the last article we defined what training intensity is.
 
You can go through all the previous parts of this series here
Part 1: https://www.facebook.com/groups/squatsjc/permalink/2587752047950758/
Part 2: https://www.facebook.com/groups/squatsjc/permalink/2600648356661127/
Part 3: https://www.facebook.com/groups/squatsjc/permalink/2616893568369939/
Part 4: https://www.facebook.com/groups/squatsjc/permalink/2650727814986514/
Part5:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/squatsjc/permalink/2751995548193073/
 
 
As I have already mentioned in my last article, high or low load doesn’t matter as long as the goal is hypertrophy (given that the load is greater or equal to 30% of 1RM). What matters for hypertrophy are the effective sets, these are the sets which are taken either to failure or close to failure.
 
Just like how your training volume is going to decide if you are going to add muscle or not (to know more about this, Read the first four parts of this series), training intensity is going to decide how much you are going to gain in strength levels.
 
For someone, who is trying to gain strength they should be training at higher intensities more often.
Ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=28834797
Participants who trained above 60% 1RM gained more strength than the participants who trained at lower intensities as per the above meta-analysis.
 
But even if we have studies comparing, let’s say 85% 1RM vs 60% 1RM, you’ll definitely see more strength gains in 85% group.
(PS: This does not mean you’ll keep training always at the highest intensities. A proper exercise programming is required to track your results and manage your fatigue.)
 
However, Intensity is not the only variable responsible for strength gains. Even weekly volume to an extent can define if you are going to gain strength or not.
Ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28755103
Higher weekly volume (5-10+ sets per week) led to greater strength gains when compared to lower weekly volume (<5 sets). And interestingly this is common for both Compound and Single joint exercises.
 
But if you go through the above study results, you’ll find that you need to increase the total volume significantly to have additional strength gains.
With this we can say that strength gains do have a relationship with volume, but more than volume, it is the training intensity which is the primary driver.
 
 
Now with this information in hand. Let me put forward a simple scenario and how to program training plan for that.
 
We already know how many sets you need to do per week for hypertrophy goal.
and with the information above, you know that you need to train at higher intensities to get stronger.
 
But If we have scenarios like a powerlifter who is going to compete in a weight category, you don’t want this person to add too much muscle, as lifting heavier weight at a lower weight category in these competitions will give a benefit to this athlete.
(you might have seen some skinny people who lift very heavy weights)
 
So, an exercise program can be made to make this lifter train at higher intensities more often in a week but doing just enough sets per week to maintain muscle should do the job.
 
Also training at higher intensities will automatically limit the number of reps that person can do in a set thereby reducing the effective reps (sets below 4 or 5 reps) which thereby affects the hypertrophy.
 
However, if your goal is both Hypertrophy and Strength, you probably want to do enough sets at high and low intensities. And your fatigue management should be properly done (I’ll discuss this topic in this series separately).
 
 
Takeaway Points:
1.     Set Volume is the primary driver for muscle growth.
2.     Training intensity is the primary driver for strength gains.
3.     Volume has a small effect on your strength gains, especially if the total volume is too low.
4.     Gaining strength and Lifting heavier weight will help you in hypertrophy in long term (progressive overload).
5.     You can gain strength without adding more muscle.