strength and hypertrophy

by Jason Stallworth

November 24, 2020

As a weightlifter, there are two things you do not want to be:

  1. Jacked and weak
  2. Strong and fat

Have you ever felt like you’re ‘Caught in the Middle’ (that’s actually a cool song by Stryper!)? You want to get stronger but you also want to have that muscular look. But…

  • Three weeks into training for strength and you notice that your pants are fitting tighter around your waist and you’re packing on more body fat.
  • Or every time you want to get ripped so that you can see your muscles, you end up losing a lot of strength. You look lean and defined, but it’s all show and no-go.

Part of the problem is that most of us weightlifters feel like we have to focus on one or the other. It’s either train for strength or train for muscle definition.

In this post, I’m going to share the strategies you can use to get stronger and more muscular at the same time, and in the same workout.

You’re also going to get a complete workout routine for strength and hypertrophy.

And I’ll touch on food and supplements as that’s obviously a big part of it (I have some awesome resources to share with you for those towards the end of this post).

It Starts with Your Mindset

deadlifts low reps

This is the part that many neglect when it comes to training for combined goals like this. Mindset.

We have it in our head that you have to choose between…

  • Gaining a little fat in order to get stronger
  • Losing some strength in order to build defined, visible muscle

When you have that mindset going into it, you’ve already set yourself up for compromise before you even start. And you’re going to base decisions, make excuses, and accept it as reality with that type of thinking.

Chances are, you’ve probably been told that you have to choose one goal or the other; you can’t do both.

Now, if you’re at a professional level of bodybuilding or powerlifting, there’s some truth to that (read the ‘special note’ below).

But most of us do not compete at this level. And if you’re like me, you don’t compete at all. You simply love training, and you want to be strong and look muscular.

Still, it’s been ingrained in us that you can’t be successful at training for both strength and hypertrophy. I’m here to tell you this – don’t believe that lie.

Here’s are some practical ways to overcome that outdated mindset so that you can train for both strength and hypertrophy:

  • Visualize the end result, both in the way your body and muscles look and your level of strength
  • Write down those results and place it somewhere that you’ll see it daily (use a whiteboard or tape a piece of paper to your fridge…you know you’ll see it often if it’s on your fridge!)
  • Be ready to work harder than most, and harder than you ever have – this goal is achievable but it won’t be easy!
  • Make the commitment to yourself that you’re going to follow through no matter what – in fact, go ahead and commit right now to sticking with the below routine for 12 weeks
    I also have a premium version of this routine on my shop here called the Hardcore Muscle Building Program that will take you even deeper.
  • Measure your progress and always be honest with yourself, and be willing to make changes when needed

SPECIAL NOTE: There is one caveat here, and I touched on this earlier…

If you’re competing at an elite or professional level then you’re going to want to go all-in towards that one specific goal.

For example, if you’re a competitive powerlifter with a competition that you’re training for then that needs to be your focus. It’s not that you want to gain body fat during your training, but you’re also not trying to look like a bodybuilder.

And vice versa if you are training for a bodybuilding show and you know you have to get well into a single-digit body fat percentage. Being strong during that specific time leading up to your show isn’t your goal for that moment.

These tips and the workout routine below are for those who are either ‘off-season’ or like me, a recreational bodybuilder that doesn’t compete but loves to train and wants to be strong and look awesome.

Strategies to Combine Strength Training and Hypertrophy

Cable Flyes chest

Now let’s go over some actionable strategies that you can use to get stronger and build defined muscle at the same time.

But before we do that, you have to understand the basic guidelines for training for strength and training for hypertrophy.

Training for Strength

  • You have to lift heavy (that’s your primary goal)
  • You’ll train with explosive power
  • Lots of rest between sets
  • Calorie intake must be high

Training for Hypertrophy

  • You need to pump blood into your muscles during your workouts
  • Controlled reps, making the weight feel heavier
  • Using methods to make your workouts more intense and force your muscles to work harder
  • Calorie intake must be balanced to that you can grow new muscle without gaining fat (and in most cases, cutting fat)

How to Combine Strength and Hypertrophy Training

As you can see above, there are different strategies used for strength gains than hypertrophy and vice versa. In fact, they’re almost conflicting with one another.

However, you can achieve both and here’s how:

  • Start your workouts with heavy compound exercises using lower reps
  • Consider doing some heavy compound exercises twice a week, especially for back and legs, as those are your largest muscle groups
  • Add a secondary compound exercise using dumbbells (ex: dumbbell press, dumbbell rows) as this will help add more balance to your muscle development while also promoting strength gains
  • Add an isolation exercise and do multiple sets with higher reps
  • Eat the majority of your carbohydrates around your workout times, before and after, and especially after (we’ll talk more about this later)
  • Take the appropriate supplements to help give you a boost towards these goals (more on this later as well)

In the case of starting your workouts with a heavy compound exercise, you’ll often be performing two of those in your workouts below. And with your upper body workouts, you’ll sometimes perform these types of exercises for contrasting body parts (this will make more sense when you get to the workouts).

Those are the basic components of training for strength and hypertrophy. Now it’s time to get into the details, which will mainly be your workout routine below…

Strength and Hypertrophy Workout Routine

Dumbbell rows - back exercises

You’re going to be training five days per week with this routine. However, only four of those days will be heavy days. There’s one day where you’ll just focus on your smaller muscle groups. And that’s to help further achieve the results from hypertrophy training.

You’ll also notice that your heavy days are split up into upper and lower body days. In essence, you’ll be training some muscles twice a week, mainly legs and back.

Below is a sample training split. Of course, you can mix this up how you want to cater to your schedule.

  • Monday: Lower Body
  • Tuesday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Arms and calves
  • Thursday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Workout 1 – Lower Body

ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Stiff-leg Deadlifts5 x 8-10
Leg Press5 x 12
Leg Extension5 x 12
Lying Leg Curls5 x 12

Workout 2 – Upper Body

ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Barbell Rows5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Incline Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Dumbbell Rows4 x 8
Cable Flyes4 x 12
Seated Rows4 x 12

Workout 3 – Smaller Muscles (Arms and Calves)

ExerciseSets x Reps
Cable Pressdowns4 x 10
EZ Bar Curls4 x 10
Reverse Overhead Rope Extensions4 x 12
Dumbbell Hammer Curls4 x 12
Standing Calve Raises5 x 15
Seated Calve Raises5 x 15

Workout 4 – Lower Body

ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Deadlifts5 x 5, 3, 3, 2, 1
Single-leg Leg Extensions5 x 12
Single-leg Lying or Standing Curls5 x 12
Dumbbell Lunges3 x 12

Workout 5 – Upper Body

ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Rows5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
Standing Overhead Press5 x 8, 6, 3, 3, 3
T-bar Rows4 x 8
Seated Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Lat Pulldowns4 x 12
Lateral Raises4 x 12

Meal Plan for Strength and Hypertrophy

food - eggs oatmeal blueberries

This post would not be complete with addressing nutrition. The good news is this will probably be the most simple and balanced meal plan you’ve ever been on.

I’ll give you an example of a 1-day meal plan below. But first, let’s cover some basics of eating for strength and hypertrophy:

  • DO NOT go on some crazy diet like low or no-carb – this is not the time for that
  • Do not restrict calories – you’ll need adequate calories for energy to fuel those heavy workouts and for muscle recovery
  • You will be eating a balance of all macronutrients – protein, carbs, and fats
  • Your protein intake will be high
  • Focus on nutrient-dense foods (foods high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants)
  • Eat a balanced meal about every 3-4 waking hours (some may choose ot cut carbs more at night)

Where it’s true that different macronutrient ratios for for different people, you can start out with 40/35/25:

  • 40% protein
  • 35% carbs
  • 25% fat

You can always adjust those ratios as you progress.

If you’d like to read more about macronutrient ratios, check out my post: 5,000 Calorie Meal Plan for Mass Gains

Yes, this is a high-calorie meal plan but there’s a good explanation of macronutrients and how to calculate calories needed in that post.

1-Day Meal Plan

Here’s an example of a balanced meal plan for a day to help you achieve strength gains and hypertrophy:

Meal 1 – 6:00 AM:

  • whey protein powder
  • almond milk
  • banana
  • peanut butter

Meal 2 – 9:00 AM:

  • whole eggs
  • oatmeal
  • nuts

Meal 3 – 12:00 PM:

  • chicken or pork
  • whole grain rice
  • chickpeas
  • spinach

Meal 4 – 3:30 PM:

  • Greek yogurt
  • pineapple
  • nuts

Meal 5: 6:30 PM (possible post-workout meal):

  • whey protein powder
  • almond milk
  • banana
  • frozen dark berries
  • peanut butter

Meal 6 – 7:30 PM (full meal about an hour after your post-workout shake):

  • sirloin steak
  • sweet potatoes
  • broccoli
  • carrots

Again, this is just an example of a balanced meal plan. You can use this as a guide to creating your own.

If you’d like complete bodybuilding recipes, be sure to take a look at my post on Anabolic Cooking.

Supplement Plan for Strength and Hypertrophy

Creatine Monohydrate bodybuilding supplements

I’ll be the first to tell you that you don’t need supplements to get stronger and build muscle. But they can certainly help.

The problem is that it can be overwhelming to know what works and what doesn’t.

Most overpriced supplements don’t do a whole lot. And some of the most effective supplements are simple and inexpensive.

On top of that, you need to be taking the right supplements that cater to your goals, not because it’s the latest and trendy thing.

Below are the types of supplements that can help you gain strength and hypertrophy. I’ll also share why.

SupplementPurpose
Creatine monohydrateBuilding muscle, strength, and muscle energy
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)Helps with fat loss by inhibiting fat storage and boosts metabolism
Whey proteinHelps build muscle, helps meet daily protein requirements, and can suppress appetite
BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids)Promotes protein synthesis and can increase muscle recovery
Multi-vitaminEnsures you’re getting your daily vitamin and mineral requirements which can help promote muscle recovery and prevent illness (that would hinder your gains)

All of these supplements are relatively inexpensive and are essential to your goals of strength gains and hypertrophy. As you can see, there are supplements to help build muscle, get stronger, and get lean.

What about pre-workout supplements?

One thing I didn’t mention is a pre-workout supplement. This isn’t something that’s absolutely necessary.

However, taking a pre-workout drink before you hit the gym can help you get better workouts, which ultimately leads to more muscle and strength gains.

You can read about the pre-workout supplement I personally recommend here: Jason’s Recommended Pre-Workout

Be a Strong Bodybuilder

Going back to the beginning of this post, you don’t want to be strong and fat. And you don’t want to be ripped and weak.

You want that fine balance of being strong with a defined and muscular physique. And this is an achievable goal for you.

Just be prepared to work hard and stay committed. And remember to go into this with the proper mindset, as we discussed in the beginning of this post.

The tips and workout routine you have in this post will help you achieve that. So feel free to read through this again.

You can even pull this article up on your phone at the gym and follow the workouts.

Lastly, be sure to check out my elite programs here: Elite Programs and More

Train with Passion,

Jason