The differences between strength, hypertrophy, and endurance training
Previously, I have used weightlifting as a rather broad term and I have rarely specified what kind of goals my training achieves. Weightlifting can be broken down into three goals: strength, hypertrophy, and endurance. Each method accomplishes different things, as long as you follow their respective set/rep ranges and eat well. Establishing which is a priority for yourself is fundamental in constructing a training plan that will bring you results; if you are confident in the methodology of your training, you can be confident that you will experience growth.
This type of training refers to increasing the force that your muscles can exert over a
period of time. In other words- training to increase the weight that you can lift. Let's say that one week you set a personal record for a 100kg deadlift. For the next 6 weeks, you train hard and work your way up to a new record of 120kg. This is a great example of how, using the right techniques, you can increase the potential of your body. So what does this technique look like? To train for strength, it's largely about low reps. You need to go as heavy as you can for roughly 1-5 reps, rest for 2-6 minutes, and then repeat for 3-5 sets. These figures are the building blocks for a well-structured program. On top of this, details like exercise selection, nutrient consumption, and rest are also vital components.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines hypertrophy as "the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells". In the context of weightlifting, it means increasing the size of your muscles. This process happens very slowly but can be easily identified with progress pictures taken every six weeks or so. To achieve hypertrophy, the guidelines are to go as heavy as you can for about 8-12 reps, rest for 1-1.5 minutes, and repeat for 3-4 sets. As you can already see, there is a relationship between reps, weight, and rest; low reps, high weight, and high rest are related to strength training, while medium reps, medium weight, and medium rest are associated with hypertrophy. This brings us to the third goal: endurance.
Endurance training refers to your body's ability to repeat many repetitions of an exercise.
Picture yourself completing 20 reps at xkg one week, then, two weeks later, you can complete 30 reps at the same weight. This is the process of your muscles getting better at enduring metabolic stress for a longer amount of time. The guidelines for this type of training include low weight at high reps (12+), short rest of 30 seconds or less, and roughly 3 sets.
These 3 types of training can overlap with other- you can't increase the size of your muscles without getting stronger, you can't get stronger without improving your endurance, and you can't better your endurance without gaining muscle size. The purpose of committing to one or two is so that you can achieve a particular goal as efficiently as possible.
If your goal right now is to improve your fitness level overall, then give all of these methods a go! What's important is that you are tailoring your training to suit your needs and wants.