Strength vs Hypertrophy vs Endurance

When designing a workout program for lifting it is important to decide what your goal is: to get stronger, increase muscle size (hypertrophy), or improve endurance and subsequently design a program that is effective in achieving that goal.

When training for strength the main goal of the workout program should be to increase the overall force that the muscle is able to produce. This is done primarily from neuromuscular changes, through which the muscle is trained to activate more muscle fibers for each lift and thus produce increased force.   Training for strength is typically done at a high load, approximately 85% of 1RM (one rep max) with 3-5 reps per set, and 3-5 sets. Following the principle of task-specific training, this is most effective for people trying to increase their overall load they are able to move, such as those participating in lifting competition.

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Muscle hypertrophy refers to an increase in the size of the muscle. This is done through the production of micro-tears in the muscles, as the body repairs these tears the size of the muscle will increase. Tears are produced when the muscle tissue is overloaded. This type of training is typically performed at approximately 60-80% of 1 RM, with 8-12 reps per set and about 5 sets. The number of repetitions that can be completed prior to failure determines the appropriate number for a set. Bodybuilders commonly use this method of training as it makes their muscle look larger for the purpose of aesthetic, but that is not to say that strength gains cannot be made while training for hypertrophy. A common argument in favor of hypertrophy training is that allows increased time for the muscles and tendons to be under tension thus increasing the number of micro tears. Additionally, it can be argued that because the weight is lighter and more manageable, the quality of form is improved and intern more focus can be put towards activating the muscle that is attempting to be targeted.

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Endurance is typically anything performed at less than 60% of 1 RM and with greater than 15 repetitions per set. Although this type of training is not very effective in increasing muscle size or strength, it may have more functional carry over to everyday situations. For example, it’s not too often in daily life that we are required to deadlift 300 lbs. but is it much more realistic that we may need to push a lawnmower for 15 minutes. In this case, endurance training would be much more beneficial than strength.

When determining your goals at the gym it is important to train in a way that supports them. Although you may design most of your program primarily around your specific goal, it can be useful and more challenging for your body to mix in different loading/rep/set schemes. It is also important to notice what works for your body and train the way that allows you to perform the greatest number of quality repetitions over time. Personally, I usually train for hypertrophy in most of my larger compound lifts and endurance when I am trying to target smaller/more specific muscles. That’s what I have found works best for my body in terms of balancing recovery and gains, but it took me a long time to pinpoint so don’t get discouraged and take time to try a variety of training strategies!

Work Cited

AvatrinAvatrin 24918, K88k88 20614, Rrirowerrrirower 6, & JaredW82JaredW82 473213. (n.d.). The n sets and m reps formula. Retrieved from

Nuckols, G., Nuckols, G. N., Piotr, Nuckols, G., Petka, Nuckols, G., . . . Axtschmiede. (2019, February 13). The “Hypertrophy Rep Range” – Fact or Fiction? • Stronger by Science. Retrieved from

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