You made it to the gym. Great! Now what?
Ever stood in the middle of the gym and wondered what you’re supposed to be doing? You have your goal–whether it’s to lose weight or gain muscles, or something else–but do you know how to achieve it? Sometimes when you go on Google and YouTube you hear all these experts talking about weight training, but then they mention hypertrophy, power, strength, and no wonder you get dizzy with all the new terms. Well, don’t worry. We got you.
Understanding the Basics
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction, which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.
Imagine your muscles are like superhero action figures. The more you play with them, the stronger they become. Strength training is like a special training camp where your action figures (or muscles) learn to lift heavier things, like picking up a big rock or carrying a heavy backpack.
Goals and Objectives:
- Increase Functional Strength: This means getting stronger in a way that helps you in real-life activities, like lifting a suitcase.
- Improve Muscle Tone: You'll look more “in shape” and your muscles will be firm.
- Enhance Bone Density: Stronger bones mean you’re less likely to break one when you fall or bump into something.
- Deadlifts: Excellent for building a strong back and legs.
- Squats: Targets the lower body and core strength.
- Bench Press: Primarily works on your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
If you don’t go to the gym but still want to work with weights, you can always use rubber flooring. Or, a cheaper alternative with multi-use: our large exercise mat.
What is Hypertrophy Training?
Hypertrophy training focuses on increasing the size of the muscle cells through resistance training, typically targeting the sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cells.
Think of your muscles as balloons. Hypertrophy training is like blowing up the balloons so they get bigger and more colorful. This doesn't necessarily mean they are stronger; it just means they are bigger and look awesome!
Goals and Objectives:
- Aesthetic Improvements: Bigger muscles for a more sculpted look.
- Increased Muscle Size: Expanding the actual size of your muscle cells.
- Muscle Endurance: Your muscles will last longer under strain.
- Bicep Curls: Targets the muscles in your arms.
- Leg Extensions: Works on the front of your thighs.
- Lateral Raises: Helps broaden your shoulders.
What is Power Training?
Power training aims to improve the rate at which mechanical work is performed, which generally involves both strength and speed to generate force quickly.
Imagine your muscles are like race cars. Power training helps your muscles to not only be strong but also fast, like a race car that can carry a lot of weight and still win the race.
Goals and Objectives:
- Increased Power Output: This means both lifting heavy and moving fast.
- Improved Athletic Performance: Helps in sports that require quick bursts of activity like jumping or sprinting.
- Power Cleans: A full-body exercise that improves explosive power.
- Box Jumps: Helps improve the power and agility of your legs.
- Kettlebell Swings: Works on your hips, glutes, hamstrings, lats, abs, shoulders, pecs, and grip.
When lifting heavy and moving fast, be very careful that you do the exercise correctly, as to not injure yourself. One thing that might help with better back posture is our waist trainer.
Comparing the Three
Alright, so you've heard all these terms—strength, hypertrophy, power—and you're probably thinking, "How do they relate, and how are they different?" Let's break it down in a way that blends science with everyday understanding.
Whether you're going for strength, hypertrophy, or power, you're going to be lifting things or pushing against some sort of resistance. Think of resistance as anything that makes the exercise harder to do—it could be a dumbbell, a resistance band, or even your own body weight in exercises like push-ups.
All these types of training tap into something called "neuroplasticity," which is just a fancy way of saying your brain and muscles are learning to work better together. Imagine your brain sends a text message to your muscles saying, "Hey, we need to lift this!" The more you train, the faster your muscles get that message and respond.
Here's where things start to diverge based on what you want—be it bigger muscles, more functional strength for daily activities, or more speed and explosiveness.
- Strength: Think functional power. You want to be the person who can easily help move a couch or open that ridiculously tight jar lid.
- Hypertrophy: This is where you're aiming to look like a Marvel superhero. You want your muscles to be bigger and more defined.
- Power: Imagine you're a sprinter at the starting line. When the gun goes off, you want to explode forward. That's power training.
Different Exercise Modalities:
- Strength: Exercises are like compound movements—squats, deadlifts—where you're lifting heavy but not for many reps.
- Hypertrophy: You're focusing on isolating muscles—think bicep curls, leg extensions.
- Power: It's about explosive movements—box jumps, kettlebell swings.
Different Rep and Set Schemes:
- Strength: Lower reps, let's say around 1-6, but with more weight. Rest longer between sets.
- Hypertrophy: Moderate reps, around 6-12, with moderate weight. Shorter rests.
- Power: Even lower reps, 1-5, but the key is to move lighter weights really fast. Rest longer because you're focusing on speed, not just lifting.
The Science Simplified:
So when you change the number of repetitions, sets, and how much weight you use, you're essentially sending a different kind of "text message" from your brain to your muscles. You're telling them whether to get stronger, bigger, or faster.
How to Choose the Right One for You
Okay, so we've laid down the groundwork for understanding the various types of physical training. Now the question arises: How do you pick the one that's right for you? Let's unpack this.
Assess Your Goals
What Are You Aiming For?
The first thing you need to do is identify what you want. Are you aiming to bulk up? Do you want to be that strong, dependable person who can carry all the grocery bags in one trip? Or are you looking for the kind of speed and explosivity that could help you in sports or other physical activities?
Consider Your Lifestyle
Think about how much time you can realistically commit to training. Also, what equipment do you have access to? You don't need a state-of-the-art gym for effective training, but some types of training might require at least basic equipment.
The Dopamine Factor:
Your lifestyle also affects your motivation. Dopamine is the "reward" neurotransmitter; it's what makes us feel good when we accomplish something. Pick a training type that you can stick with, and your brain will reward you with little hits of dopamine, keeping you motivated.
Health and Safety
Know Your Limits:
If you have an injury or a specific health condition, consult a healthcare provider before you dive in. Certain types of training can exacerbate health issues or injuries.
Pain and Gain - The Science:
Exercise stresses the body, but there's good stress and bad stress. 'Good stress' leads to improvements and adaptations; 'bad stress' can lead to injuries. Things like cortisol, the 'stress hormone,' can be both our friend and foe. It can help us adapt, but too much of it, especially if we're pushing too hard, can lead to problems.
So you've heard about strength, hypertrophy, and power training, and you're probably thinking, "Do I really have to pick just one?" The answer is a resounding "No." Life isn't always about choosing one path; sometimes, it's about blending elements to create something that's uniquely tailored to you. Let's explore how to do this.
Strength & Hypertrophy
The Best of Both Worlds:
Incorporating strength and hypertrophy can help you not only look good but also be functionally strong. You might follow a split routine, focusing on heavy, low-rep sets on one day for strength and moderate, higher-rep sets on another day for hypertrophy.
Think of this approach as sending mixed text messages to your muscles throughout the week. One day it's "Let's get strong," and another day it's "Let's look awesome."
Strength & Power
Mixing strength and power can be beneficial for athletes or anyone involved in activities that require quick bursts of intense effort. For example, a soccer player needs both the strength to shield the ball and the power to sprint quickly.
Here, you're asking your body to be like a hybrid car—sometimes efficient and strong, sometimes quick and sporty. The neurotransmitters and hormones at play here are like switching between diesel and high-octane fuel, depending on what your performance needs are.
Hypertrophy & Power
The Flash Meets The Hulk:
Combining hypertrophy and power turns you into a sort of athletic superhero. You'll not only have the muscle size but also the ability to use those muscles quickly and explosively.
Sample Workouts and Programs
Now that we've covered the what and the why, let's get into the 'how.' Here are some sample workout plans for each type, though keep in mind these are just some basic examples.
Strength Sample Workout
- Day 1: Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
- Day 2: Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 reps
- Day 3: Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps
When you do low reps but high weight, you're sending a "Be strong!" text message to your muscles. The rest periods are longer, say, about 3 minutes, so you can go all out in each set.
Hypertrophy Sample Workout
- Day 1: Bicep Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
- Day 2: Tricep Extensions: 3 sets of 10 reps
- Day 3: Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 10 reps
What's Happening Upstairs:
Your brain is sending a "Grow!" message here. Your muscles understand that they need to get larger, not necessarily stronger or quicker.
Power Sample Workout
- Day 1: Box Jumps: 4 sets of 3 reps
- Day 2: Kettlebell Swings: 4 sets of 3 reps
- Day 3: Sprints: 4 sets of 50m
Your brain tells your muscles, "Get ready to move fast!" Rest periods are longer, similar to strength training, but that's to recover explosiveness, not just to lift heavy.
Transitioning Between Types
To smoothly transition from one type to another, it's often best to have a 'bridge' week where you gradually shift the focus. For example, if moving from strength to hypertrophy, spend a week doing moderate weight and moderate reps to accustom your body to the new demand.
We've covered a lot, from understanding the basic concepts to delving into sample workouts. The key takeaway is to know what you want—be it strength, size, or speed—and then to tailor your approach accordingly.
If you’re still not sure, test it out! Feel out what works best for you and what will keep you coming back for more. Because, remember–the best workouts for you are the ones you can stick to.