How to Increase Muscle Mass: Strength or Hypertrophy?

We often hear people in the gym complain that they train too hard and don't get the muscle results they want. How can we increase muscle mass?

What builds more muscle strength or hypertrophy

What builds more muscle strength or hypertrophy

First of all, it is important to understand the difference between increasing strength and increasing volume.

When we seek to gain strength, we are actually increasing the power of the muscle, that is, the explosive capacity of the muscle fiber. Hypertrophy, on the other hand, attempts to increase muscle mass.

The goal of strength training is not the volume of the muscle, but the fact of lifting loads close to 100% of a RM (Maximum Repetition), to reach our maximum capacity. While hypertrophy reaches between 60 and 70% of an MR.


That doesn't mean that a person who works out looks skinny. Sprinters, for example, are high-intensity athletes who are trying to achieve 100% power and have a strong body.

But it doesn't compare to the body of a bodybuilder. Just think of the difference between Usain Bolt and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take a classic example.

An even better example is the difference between an Olympic weightlifter and a bodybuilder. Both are strong and have more muscle mass than most people. But the bodybuilder is older and the Olympic athlete lifts more weight.

There are other factors that we must not forget, such as the genetic factor or the tools available for training.

See also: Muscle Hypertrophy vs Strength - Yes, There is a Difference


Since the objectives are different, so is the training. In order to gain strength, we perform between 6 and 8 sets in each exercise. Each set contains between 1 and 6 repetitions with the maximum possible load.

To increase muscle mass, the number of sets is lower, but the number of repetitions is higher: between 3 and 5 sets, with 8 to 12 repetitions for each set.

The rest is different too. In weight training, we speak of a break of between 2 and 3 minutes, while the increase is between 30 and 90 seconds.

What does hypertrophy do?

Hypertrophy is the growth in the size of muscle cells; in other words, an increase in the size of muscle fibers and therefore of muscles.

Basically, the number of muscle fibers in the body at birth is determined. Therefore, you can only increase the fibers, not multiply them.

Weightlifting damages muscle fibers and creates small lesions that the body repairs by adding more tissue. And so the muscle grows!

Tips for beginners

The best thing to do if you are looking to gain muscle is to find a gym with the necessary equipment and instructors to guide you.

It is important to start with appropriate training, usually in the first few months. So if you don't see results at first, don't despair.

After the adaptation period, you can start the hypertrophy, to gain the muscle mass you want.

You also need to remember that the muscle needs to recover in order to develop and that this takes about 48 hours, so you need to divide your exercise program into different parts of the body. So when you retrain the same limb, it will already have recovered 100%.
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