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For starters, I usually train specifically for maximal strength gains. As my strength has increased, I've trained to lift maximally using a belt. Unfortunately, I recently injured a couple of my floating ribs. Wearing a belt is now intolerable, so I am unable to train specifically for my goals. However, since I'm also currently in my bulking season (thank you, holidays), someone suggested I look into hypertrophy-specific-training.

The basics of that protocol (from my understanding) is to perform each lift (or for each muscle group) more frequently, but to have a lower volume per workout (but an equivalent volume for the week). Is this protocol enough to maintain current maximal levels of strength (or minimize their loss), or is there a better protocol to achieve this goal?

Note: I have seen a doctor for my injury. I was told to merely avoid things that cause pain (so no belt) and to be mindful of my lifting habits. I wasn't told to stop lifting until my ribs heal.

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Your question can be answered by yes and no, depending on the level of your understanding of what strength is. Strength isn't a monotonously increasing quantity, it's a very chaotic variable that goes through deep valleys (when you are overreaching and accumulating a lot of fatigue through high volume training) and high peaks (when you are coming out of a successful peaking cycle). There is an excellent blog post by Bryce Lewis called Peaks & Valleys on that very topic.

Most strength athletes spend a massive portion of their time in offseason training (searching for "offseason powerlifting" on Google yields a dozen fascinating results), which is usually hypertrophy specific. Research has shown that the cross-sectional area of a muscle is the most direct predictor of its strength and thus it stands to reason that increasing its size is the most reliable way to become stronger, in addition to the other benefits that it brings w.r.t health and longevity (bigger muscles can protect your joints in several physical activities, including lifting heavy weights, and help you maintain a leaner physique, which is good for both your lifespan and your quality of life).

That being said, staying a long time in hypertrophy specific training will decrease the strength you can express at that instant. That doesn't mean that your muscles are becoming weaker, just that they adapt to the required demand and the required demand at that instant isn't to lift maximal loads. The strength will come back extremely fast with an appropriate intensification & realization/peaking cycle (do some research on block periodization if you want to learn more about that). You can help this happen faster by still practicing the sports-specific skills on which you would like to express your strength all throughout your hypertrophy cycle (so for instance, if you were training for a powerlifting meet, keeping a large portion of squat, bench press and deadlift along with your bodybuilding exercises during your hypertrophy cycle in order to practice your form with lower weights).

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  • I think this a mindset I frequently end up trapping myself in (that focusing on hypertrophy will make me weaker in the long run). I appreciate the answer, and the articles you linked to. – Alex L Dec 24 '15 at 8:07
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No, I would suggest in reading the follwing nice explanantions about the different types of training styles for different goals.

On Hypertrophy: Why is muscle size not proportional to strength?

OnStrength focused Training (better neronal efficency) aka maximal strength: Neural Adaptation Training vs. Hypertrophy Training?

If you plan to do it for a longer period of time, you could see some decrease in your maximal strength output. In that case I would say that you should at least spend two days for covering the basic lifts like Bench, Deads, Squats and Overhead to lift above 85% of you max weight to maintain your strength level. There is a protocol covering this: P.H.A.T http://www.directlyfitness.com/store/p-h-a-t-training-layne-nortons-workout-system/

that you could use as an example or can give you an idea. Hope that helps

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  • I'm not sure if you fully understand what HST is. It's a training protocol / methodology, not a workout template. The exercises performed are up to the lifter individually. In my case I'm still performing mostly compound movements in near to 70% of my 1RM's which also ramp up through progressive overload from workout to workout. I do appreciate the input, though. I might look into PHAT once I've recovered a bit more / run a cycle or two of HST. – Alex L Dec 24 '15 at 8:12
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    I know what HST is, my intent was a different one. I want es to give you an example how the idea of keeping and even increasing stregth while beeing on a hypertrophy phase. The interesting thing is that strength (max) is also a skill that needs to be maintained because the human body adapts to everything we do - that said if we stop lifting 'heavy' (above 85-100%) the body adopts to that. – mitro Dec 24 '15 at 8:25
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    Additionally running one or two cycles of HST can be beneficial if applying a max strength cycle afterwards. Have a a look at Korte ' s 3x3 Protokoll as an example of what I mean. Have fun – mitro Dec 24 '15 at 8:28
  • Apologies for misunderstanding your intent. I do fully agree with you in regard to needing to train the skill of expressing maximal strength, something I'd much rather be doing right now, but stupid injuries are stupid. – Alex L Dec 24 '15 at 9:08

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