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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 02-26-2008, 09:02 PM   #1
Matthew Estes
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Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

Hello all,


A couple good friends of mine (and workout buddies) are on the local Pac-10 D-1 football team.

They do a workout routine similar to Starting Strength through team work-outs. Generally, a. Legs, b. Push, c. Pull with other minor lifts depending on position (example, offensive line adds some shoulder stabilization stuff).

Starting strength, as far as I can tell, does not advocate hypertrophy (5x10 reps) in STRENGTH development (I'm not talking about mass gain). Lifts are 5x5.

This Pac-10 football team does S.S. but with a month of hypertrophy followed by a month of lower reps (5x5 or 5x6) followed by a month of triples, doubles, and singles.

Granted, they are probably trying to put some size on their athletes, but their major concern is functional strength and speed for athletic performance. They swear by this hypertrophy phase, saying that added size is necessary for major increases in strength.

What do you all think? Should I add a hypertrophy phase to reach my STRENGTH goals?

Thanks,
Matt
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:05 PM   #2
Matthew Estes
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

**Note: They also do many met-con work-outs which are very similar to CrossFit work-outs posted on this site. Just thought I'd throw that in for a little CrossFit ego boosting. This does not relate to my question at all.
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:51 PM   #3
David Cooke, Jr.
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

I just don't see the point of hypertrophy training unless you are already exceptionally strong. Maybe if you have lost alot of muscle mass with age.
The thing about strength is, its a skill. Primarily a nuerological one. That is, "how hard can you flex your muscles"? There are alot of skinny strong men and women who can lift scary amounts of weight. If I just wanted to be strong, I'd pick the lifts (say, olympic lifts or power lifts) and I'd do them every day (or as close to every day as my body would allow). I'd lift as much (heavy) as possible as often as possible while being as rested and fresh as possible. This is what the strongest people in the world do. This is what I did when I increased my deadlift 50-100% in 5 months (I deadlifted 5 days per week for months on end).
Just my two cents.
-David
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:56 PM   #4
Matthew Estes
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

I remember a diagram or video I saw on CrossFit once showing how people with bigger chest muscles could bench more simply because they had greater size. This greater size provided a better angle from which to press the weight (based on leverage I guess).

I tend to agree with you, that strength is a skill and that the CNS is of the utmost importance. Any other opinions?
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Old 02-26-2008, 10:03 PM   #5
Derek Maffett
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

If you want to move more weight, period, then you want more muscle and strength. Not so sure about a hypertrophy "phase" but it's definitely not the small guys who have 1000 lb deadlifts.
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Old 02-26-2008, 10:38 PM   #6
Scott Mahn
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

Starting Strength is a novice program, in which stage you can add weight to the bar in a linear fashion (virtually every workout). But once your body no longer adapts so quickly there are all kinds of alternative ways you can program the lifts, including phases of hypertrophy.

But why not start with a strength phase? This way if/when you move on to a higher rep hypertrophy scheme you are doing so with heavier weights, thus increasing your potential to put on mass.

And in a game like football, where part of the value of your strength is exhibited as an ability to apply force against your opponent, mass is important in the same way that a bus traveling at 50 MPH carries more force than a motorcycle traveling at the same speed, even if the motorcycle is made with a stronger steel.

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Originally Posted by Matthew Estes View Post

What do you all think? Should I add a hypertrophy phase to reach my STRENGTH goals?
If your strength goals include slamming into people and knocking them over, or your being slammed into and not being knocked over, then perhaps so. If your strength goals are more like bench pressing and deadlifting then perhaps not. But even then, I think the body responds best to variation, and cycles of different rep schemes is probably helpful to force continued adaptations.
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Old 02-26-2008, 10:53 PM   #7
Steven Low
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

What kind of strength goals? If it's something like DLing like 500-600+ lbs then you might need to add the mass. If it's something bodyweight like one arm pullup you might need to add a bit of mass or lose a bit of mass to optimize your strength to bodyweight ratio. It all depends on what you're doing it for.

Strength can definitely help hypertrophy gains and vice versa but it is not always necessary especially with a good workout routine, good diet, sleep schedule and low stress.
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Old 02-27-2008, 04:44 AM   #8
Brandon Oto
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

Almost everyone puts on mass with SS. If they're not, they won't progress as far or as well. It's designed to increase both hypertrophy and strength.
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Old 02-27-2008, 06:37 AM   #9
Darren Zega
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

The two are related, but not exclusive. You can achieve hypertrophy without gaining strength and you can gain strength without becoming hypertrophic, but the easiest and most efficient way to do either is to get strong and big at the same time.
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Old 02-27-2008, 07:18 AM   #10
Ian Haya
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Re: Role of Hypertrophy in STRENGTH Gain

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Estes View Post
Granted, they are probably trying to put some size on their athletes, but their major concern is functional strength and speed for athletic performance. They swear by this hypertrophy phase, saying that added size is necessary for major increases in strength.
I would think that for the majority of positions, they are VERY much concerned with putting on size because:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Mahn View Post
And in a game like football, where part of the value of your strength is exhibited as an ability to apply force against your opponent, mass is important in the same way that a bus traveling at 50 MPH carries more force than a motorcycle traveling at the same speed, even if the motorcycle is made with a stronger steel.
Well, almost right. The engineer in me wants to point that you're really talking about momentum and energy.

Momentum = mass * velocity
Energy (Kinetic) = 0.5 * mass * velocity^2

but basically, the bigger you are, the harder you are to move, and the more energy you can impart at the same speed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Oto View Post
Almost everyone puts on mass with SS. If they're not, they won't progress as far or as well. It's designed to increase both hypertrophy and strength.
As long as you're drinking a gallon of milk!

A strength based program will primarily increase strength with some hypertrophy. A hypertrophy program will primarily increase size, with some increase in strength. They aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. I would say the size gains don't come as easy without the caloric excess.

An untrained person lacks the ability to contract their muscle fibers in unison. A strength program increases this ability. Your absolute strength would be the total amount of muscle fibers in unison. Percentages are made up, but the idea is that increasing your muscle usage from 25% to 50% of your muscles is a lot easier than increasing from 50% to 75%. But if you were to hypertrophy by 50%, and maintain 50% activation, theoretically you'd be able to lift the same as 75% activation at the smaller size.

So yeah...if your main goal is strength, I would say just do SS until you hit a wall (the example of going from 50-75%), then re-evaluate from there. At that point there are more advanced programs for strength gains once the gains slow down. If you don't mind pulling more weight around on chins and pullups, then a hypertrophy phase wouldn't hurt.

Last edited by Ian Haya; 02-27-2008 at 07:21 AM..
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