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I'm almost 19 years of age and I am regularly doing gym since 3 months. With the height of 5'10 and weight of merely 115 pounds, I initially joined the gym with the intention of becoming a little 'bulky' and put on some muscles.

I was very much a computer bug few months ago and didn't pay due attention to my own body or other's body as a standard of benchmark, but now that I do, I see in trains or other public places that most people already have bulky biceps and chest without maybe even visiting the gym once, then there are these bulky sorts of guys that come to the gym and the weight they lift or press, is laughable looking at their muscle mass. I mean it's obviously more weight than me, but not by a very large margin, just 2-5KGs more than what I do, so I believe its very attainable in near future.

Some time ago I came across the phrase hypertrophy vs strength training (for me strength training included all types of lifting earlier). Currently, my gym trainer has prepared a workout routine for me that is something like :

Everyday : Chinups : 15x5 ; Push-ups : 10x5 at start ; Wrist curls 20x5 and shoulder press 15x5 (with a weight lighter than I usually use for shoulder press) Monday: Chest 4x10 (consists of 4-5 exercises for chest) ; Triceps : 3x10 (again, 4-5 usual exercises for triceps) Tuesday : Back : 3x10 ; Biceps : 3x10 Wednesday : Shoulders : 3x10 ; Legs : 3x10 Repeat on tuesday, friday and satudray

There are some exceptions like for calf raise the reps are 20-25.

So from what I see, he wants me to train for hypertrophy? Again, I don't want to do all this hard-work and become simply fluffed, I want to genuinely get stronger, to lift more weights and strength that accompanies me everyday, not just the looks of it.

I have done some research of what hypertrophy is but I still remain largely a noob, so if I train for strength, lets say adding more weight than I currently do for 4-6 reps, that will make me neurologically stronger and also help with atleast some muscle gains?

Or perhaps I should go for both of them? How do you suggest I incorporate those changes so that I train for strength as well as size?

Also, I understand what is progressive overload, but under what method is it applied? Strength or Hypertrophy? and how do you properly incorporate it?

Eg- I do military overhead press with let's say 5 KG on both sides, now for progressive overload to occur, should I increase subsequent reps from 6 to 8 to 10 in next sets or should I increase weight from 5 to 7.5 to 10 KG? and the reps go down from like 10 to 8 to 6?

Which is better and is there a difference? or should I maintain my rep count whilst increasing weight?

Then again, looking at my body frame of height 5'10, weight 115 pounds, 26 inch waist, 11 inch biceps and just chicken legs, which will be better for me? I intend to continue going to the gym for many coming years.

  • strength till intermediate, then pick from there. – Eric Sep 14 '15 at 7:51
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It is a misconception that strength and hypertrophy are somehow mutually exclusive things. Keep in mind that the strongest powerlifters train like bodybuilders most of the time, where the main difference appears when peaking for a competition, where the powerlifters peak towards maximal strength rather than maximal leanness.

The strength of a lifter depends on three factors:

  • (1) the cross-sectional area of their muscles (how big they are)

  • (2) the neural efficiency of their muscles (how good they are at recruiting these muscles for lifting heavy things)

  • (3) their anthropomorphy (i.e. their leverages)

You cannot change (3) unless you go get very expensive surgery, so that's out of the question. Only (1) and (2) are somehow in your hands, and that's why we developed something called periodization, i.e. the training of multiple qualities (here hypertrophy, strength) over a period of time in order to maximize the overall performance of the athlete at the end of the cycle: you get bigger to improve (1), which gives your muscles more "room" to get stronger, which you take advantage of by then training for (2), which makes you stronger and lets you train for (1) with bigger weights, etc. They are two sides of the same thing! Now to answer your questions:

I have done some research of what hypertrophy is but I still remain largely a noob, so if I train for strength, lets say adding more weight than I currently do for 4-6 reps, that will make me neurologically stronger and also help with atleast some muscle gains?

You are correct, that would mainly be neural adaptation (the second factor) with some small effect on size.

Or perhaps I should go for both of them? How do you suggest I incorporate those changes so that I train for strength as well as size?

You could alternate them (look up something called block periodization which deals with that) or train them concurrently (frequent in daily undulating periodization, concurrent periodization and the western-style conjugate training à la Westside) and alternate the emphasis, depending on your preference. This article gives a good review of different periodization models, but a bit of googling can give you a lot more results if you are curious.

Also, I understand what is progressive overload, but under what method is it applied? Strength or Hypertrophy? and how do you properly incorporate it?

It is actually both. Progressive overload applies to a stressor, meaning something that causes adaptation in your body. If you progressively overload a stressor that generates hypertrophy, you will continue progressing for hypertrophy. Same for strength, endurance, etc.

Let's define volume as an abstract measure of "work". It is usually calculated as sets x reps x weight (also called "tonnage"). Let's define intensity as a measure of relative weight: it's the percentage of your 1 rep max in a lift.

Regarding hypertrophy, the main hypothesis at the moment is that volume in the 40%+ intensity range governs its progress. Volume is an abstract measure of "work". It is usually calculated as sets x reps x weight. Applying progressive overload to it would then be increasing volume: from 4 sets of 6, work up to 4 sets of 8 and that will be an increase in volume from 24xWeight to 32xWeight. From 3x10 work up to 5x10 and that will be an increase from 30 to 50 reps.

There is an alternative hypothesis which says that a better measure of volume for hypertrophy is the number of "hard" sets (meaning sets which you have a hard time finishing).

Regarding strength, the main hypothesis is that it is governed by volume in the 70% to 90% intensity range. That's where the traditional linear progressions with sets of 5 come into play. In that case you could progressively overload by adding a bit of weight to the barbell everytime you come in the gym.

Regarding work capacity (your ability to do a lot of volume in a short time), the main hypothesis is that it is governed by your ability to go back to your resting heart rate after training. You could progressively overload it by removing 10 seconds of rest between each set everytime you go in the gym. Or trying to do a number of repetitions with a given weight in a minimum number of sets.

Eg- I do military overhead press with let's say 5 KG on both sides, now for progressive overload to occur, should I increase subsequent reps from 6 to 8 to 10 in next sets or should I increase weight from 5 to 7.5 to 10 KG? and the reps go down from like 10 to 8 to 6?

You could do both. Increase volume first by adding reps up to 10, then increase the resistance and go back to 6 reps, rinse and repeat (that's called a double progression).

Which is better and is there a difference? or should I maintain my rep count whilst increasing weight?

As explained before, they complement each other.

Then again, looking at my body frame of height 5'10, weight 115 pounds, 26 inch waist, 11 inch biceps and just chicken legs, which will be better for me?

What would be better for you is to do a little of both, and a lot of sleeping & eating. You are still 19, when your hormones are still highly tuned for growing. Take advantage of the next 10 years before your testosterone starts naturally dropping and go train.

I would recommend that you read this article by coach, writer and world record powerlifter Greg Nuckols: Why powerlifters should train more like bodybuilders

  • Thank you for putting so much effort in the answer, exactly what I was looking for!! – Invoker Sep 17 '15 at 10:21
  • My pleasure. I simplified a few things regarding overload as there are many, many ways to overload for strength and hypertrophy, but it should give you an overall picture of "how stuff works". If you're looking for a good read, I warmly recommend the very general "The Science of Lifting", by Greg Nuckols, and "Scientific Principles of Strength Training", by Mike Israetel, James Hoffmann and Chad Smith, which is a good introductory book to the strength and conditioning literature. – Jérémie Clos Sep 17 '15 at 10:56
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If you want to get stronger you need to get muscle and you need to make sure to use all the potential the muscle has. A bigger muscle has more potential, a smaller muscle can however still be stronger.

Muscle growth is achieved by hypertrophy, Strenght is achieved by training the lift you want to be stronger at and train them in the couple of reps you want to get stronger. For strenght the exercises must have some overflow on your strenght goal.

Most people consider a set of 5 as best of both worlds. It is close enough to have overflow with a 1RM and it is still enough reps to achieve hypertrophy. To get enough volume most people make it a 5 sets of 5 reps, which would make a total of 25 reps which is even more than doing 3 sets of 8 reps (equals 24).

Progressive overload is a commenly used term, however as you said it doesn't really mean anything. One will not be able to progress every workout. Most strenght based programs are use linear progression. That means that you will add the same weight every week. This works pretty well for me, however this progression will eventually halt, this is when you'll have to look for what works for you.

I am currently running the texas method, split version. This program is created by a world famous powerlifting lifter/coach Mark Rippetoe. You can look the program up on the internet. Or download the book (e-book) Practical Programming written by Mark Rippetoe.

I can recommend this book very much, it teaches you about the most effective way of training for strenght. (My opinion)

BTW; age, height or weigth should not make difference in the training style your doing. Ofcourse you could do cardio for wanting to lose weigth, but that's the only thing. What should make a difference is the training goal, time and willingness.

  • Your answer contains many assertions that sound more like opinion than fact. Consider adding references to support your position. – rrirower Sep 13 '15 at 16:10
  • Could you be precise with the assertions? Most of the information comes from the mentioned book. I see the information you find subjective, it is indeed subjective. My source is, as said, the book, which is written by a professional, therefor I trust him. I've also found the information working for me and thus being reliable. Could still be broscience ofcoure – Marekkk Sep 13 '15 at 16:14
  • That's my point. If you are making assertions (ie. "...it teaches you the most effective way of training for strength"), please provide some basis as to why you state that. That may mean quoting from your source. Please keep in mind that while that system works for you, it may not be the "most effective" for others. As there's no one perfect diet, there's no one perfect training program. – rrirower Sep 13 '15 at 16:28
  • Im sorry, but I think it was pretty obvious that I'm just stating my opinion about a book there. I put my opinion behind it. – Marekkk Sep 13 '15 at 16:31
  • This answer definitely deserves an upvote from me but isn't the perfect answer as any of my queries are still left unattended or not explained properly. Thank you for your consent. – Invoker Sep 13 '15 at 16:46
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To start, I think that your current program is going to lead either to you burning yourself out, or to overuse injuries. Simply put, 75 (15x5) chin-ups is quite a lot to be doing everyday when you're still a beginner.

Progressive overload can work in various ways. It can be used for both gaining muscle mass (size) and strength. You can achieve it by increasing intensity (weight lifted), volume (number of sets / reps), or both. Which one you utilize will be dictated by both your goals and if you're trying to break through a plateau. I'll touch on this a bit more after my next point.

Hypertrophy can be broken down into myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy tends to be obtained through higher intensity (and is thus correlated with higher strength) while sarcoplasmic hypertrophy tends to be obtained through higher volume (and thus correlated with more muscle mass). Despite the distinction between the two, they exist on a continuum and are therefore obtained together to varying degrees. This is why 5x5 programs are rather popular, as they award the lifter with a relatively high intensity and volume to achieve both types of hypertrophy.

So back to your goals. Since you are more interested in achieving higher strength, your focus should be on an intensity based progressive overload. Simply put, you should be trying to lift more weight each time you touch the barbell (at least for now). Once you stall on a particular lift (you can no longer continue to add weight each time you perform the lift for several sessions), then shifting to a volume based progressive overload may help you break past that.

For example: Say over 2 months you add 5 kg to the barbell each time you do squat and get up to 100 kg. Lets say after this you get stuck and are unable to add anymore weight to the bar, despite trying in 2 or 3 different sessions. In this case increasing the volume that you squat at 100 kg may provide your body the stimulus it needs to lift more than 100 kg. So you might go from squatting 100 kg for 3x5 to 2x6 and 1x5 to 3x8 to 3x10 (for example). After that when you try to lift more than 100 kg, you are successful. In this scenario, changing your method of progressive overload allowed you to continue towards your original goal.

Lastly, in your situation, I would highly recommend ditching the program that your trainer gave you and use a program designed for beginners. Doing a Google search for 'beginning strength program' will yield a fair number of different programs that all work well for beginners. Each are slightly different in their own right. In the scope of being a beginner, the specific beginning strength program that you choose isn't a big deal. Simply choosing one that offers a schedule and set of exercises that works for you is better than getting caught up in the minor details of which is better than the next and then never actually starting one due to not getting a clear-cut-answer about which one you should do (since you can do any). Simply stick to a beginner program until you stall out of it, and then you'll have a solid foundation of strength (and a set of real one-rep maxes) that you can use towards your goals whether or not they change over those 6 months or so (an average amount of time it takes to go through one).

  • I suppose I misleaded you into believing that I do chinups on that hanging bar, its actually on a squat rack where my lower body is supported on the ground, which will ultimately help to tackle real chin ups. – Invoker Sep 14 '15 at 9:12
  • @Invoker: You'd probably find better success with negative chin ups, or band / machine assisted instead of using the ground. – Alex L Sep 14 '15 at 12:38

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