Can you train to build strength and build muscle at the same time?
That is a question you may have wondered. If you look around, there seems to be a big gap between the physiques of those who strive to only build strength, like powerlifters, and those who only strive to build muscle, like bodybuilders. So, is it possible?
The simple answer is a resounding YES.
Strength & Hypertrophy Go Hand-In-Hand
Not only can you build muscle and strength at the same time, but those two things go hand-in-hand. In fact, these go hand-in-hand so much so that if you were to pick one as a goal, you would get some of the other as a byproduct.
What I mean by that is that if you chose strength as your main focus, you would still see muscle growth and if you chose muscle growth as your main goal, you would notice your strength increasing. There is no way to avoid this completely because the same principles used to build muscle are used to build strength and vice-versa.
With bigger muscles comes the possibility of more strength and with more strength comes the possibility of bigger muscles.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at 8 Time Mr Olympia winner Ronnie Coleman. Obviously, his main goal was to build muscle and have the greatest physique on the planet, yet you can find videos of him deadlifting over 800 lbs and benching almost 500 lbs.
The Correlation Between Size & Strength
Why is there such a correlation between size and strength?
One reason is that because when you increase the size of the muscle fibers, there is more potential for them to handle the heavier weight, as there is simply more fibers to be recruited to handle the load. This just makes sense, as we typically associate bigger with stronger.
In line with that, greater strength means a greater ability to handle a heavier load, which should allow you to handle more volume than someone with less strength. Volume (weight x sets x reps) has been shown time and time again to be the driving force for size (and strength). So, if you can handle more weight, theoretically you have potential to build more muscle than someone weaker.
Training For Both
Here’s an example: Imagine someone with a one rep max (1RM) of 225 lbs (102 kgs) and another person with a 1RM of 315 lbs (142.8 kgs). Theoretically, the person with the 225 lb max would be able to comfortably do sets of 10 reps with around 150 lbs (68 kgs) while the person with the 315 lb max would be able to comfortably do sets of 10 with 205 lbs (93 kgs). Who do you think would build more muscle over time? Obviously, the person lifting the heavier load would be able to do more volume and would be more likely to experience greater muscle growth as a result.
Because of these things, I would say that it is not only possible to train for hypertrophy and strength but that everyone looking for either should train for both, at least to a degree. Since the two are not mutually exclusive, it is of great benefit to draw from muscle building and strength building practices. So, if you are trying to build pure strength, you should be looking to learn some things from bodybuilders. If you are trying to build massive muscles, you should be looking to learn some things from powerlifters.
A simple way to get the most out of your training for strength and hypertrophy is to vary the rep ranges you use in a week. Utilize lower rep ranges with heavier weights as well as more moderate loads with higher reps. This will help you get the advantages of both. Of course, you can favor one or the other more depending on your goals, but the variation will definitely leave you better off than just doing sets of 10-12 for hypertrophy or sets of 3-5 for strength every day, each week.
So, to recap, training for strength and hypertrophy is not only possible but unavoidable to a degree but definitely recommended. By training for both in a week, you will allow yourself to get the benefits of both, which will help you whether you are looking to primarily build muscle or gain strength.