Different Goals = Different Gains
By Lydia Kraus
Muscle size and muscle strength are not always correlated. In other words, a super strong power lifter might not be shredded, and a perfectly sculpted bodybuilder might not be as strong as you’d imagine. This is due to different goals and the routes taken to meet those goals. A power lifter’s performance is based off of strength. What is the heaviest weight they can lift and what is their personal record? A bodybuilder, on the other hand, is judged based on aesthetic appearance. How conditioned, symmetrical, and balanced are they?
Did you know that your goals in the weight room should dictate how you lift? The focus of this article is to inform you of the different kind of gains you can be making in the gym and the best way to approach and meet your goals!
Strength focused training is the improvement of muscular strength by making biochemical changes within the muscle. With this high intensity style of lifting, increased enzymatic activity is inevitable to keep up with the energy demands required for heavy lifting. More effort is required in a short period of time when one is training for strength and is evidenced by a limited number of sets and repetitions, but for a higher volume of weight. Because of the high weight stress put on your body when lifting for strength, one’s nervous system is taxed. Longer rest periods are required between sets for neurological and muscle recovery. Lower rep ranges do not promote mass gain (chemically) the same way as a high rep range program. How it breaks down: 3 to 5 exercises per body group should be implemented with the number of sets ranging from 4 to 6. One should choose a weight that prompts muscle fatigue at 4-8 repetitions. Rest periods of at least 2 to 3 minutes (or more) should be utilized for maximal recovery.
Hypertrophy is the increase of muscle mass, or more specifically, the increase in the number and size of the muscle fibers which make up a muscle. Muscles grow to keep up with the demands of stress put on them, or they fail to be useful. If your goal is mass gain, this can be accomplished by focusing on volume (number of exercises, number of sets, and number of repetitions). When focusing on hypertrophy, one wants to lift a moderate amount of weight for a higher number of reps. This does not mean the amount of weight one is lifting is unimportant or should be easy. Rather, one needs to choose a weight that will allow their muscles to fatigue later than sooner. Weight should absolutely still be tracked and should be increased when the high end of the rep range is no longer challenging. How it breaks down: Aim for 3 to 5 exercises per body part of focus for that day. Attempt 5 to 6 sets per exercise. Aim for a high volume of repetitions before your muscle fatigues (10-15). Allow for short rest periods between sets (1-2 minutes).
Tips: Always track and record your weight, no matter what type of training you choose to reach your goals. Increase weight when the upper end of your repetition range is no longer challenging. Only increase weight if you can maintain proper form for that particular exercise. Don’t be afraid to mix aspects of strength and hypertrophy. If you’re new to weight training, any combination will likely yield results in both strength and mass gain. As always, ask a trainer if you have questions or are interested in getting started on a strength or hypertrophy program!