Endurance vs Hypertrophy: Which is better to train in your early 20s?

There are generally 2 groups of people: Those who do endurance training only, and those who mostly train for Hypertrophy, but incorporate some endurance training as well.

And there’s also a 3rd group, which we could call outliers.

That is: I have ditched endurance training altogether.

It might seem silly at first, but there are very important benefits and negatives that need to be outlined for both Endurance and Hypertrophy training which aren’t often discussed. In my era it’s often said that it’s important to train Endurance type exercises, but most of the times we don’t even know what are the real benefits behind that. And are those the ones you would like to focus on? We’ll determine that next.

Endurance vs Hypertrophy for beginners

We’ll discuss the topic step by step for beginners, and those who are more advanced.

First is to make an important point: Endurance training can be seen as jogging, walking on a treadmill, cycling or any activity that bumps your heart rate consistently. The main benefits of endurance training: Improved health, mainly thanks to improving the blood flow and ability of your muscles and blood to handle more oxygen.

This is obviously helpful even at rest, with being able to stay calmer for longer for example. You could notice that if you start lacking oxygen, you will be put into more “alert” and fearful state, because your brain reacts to the conditions and forces you to seek out more oxygen.

Endurance has two drawbacks

The first is the biggest one: It takes time to do valuable endurance work. When compared with weight lifting, the benefits on health are far outweighed by lifting weights, and both activities could take same or even more time in case of cardio.

Usually a jogging session could take 60-120 minutes depending on your usual time in the schedule, which would be generally longer than weight lifting sessions, which are crucial in your schedule.

If you try to fit both at the same time, that could be double of your usual working out time in the day. For many people – unfortunately an impossible task.

Second drawback

The second drawback: If you are choosing to do cardio (endurance based exercises), and if you are after hypertrophy and increased size, you are basically generating a “two-hit” – you are burning more calories by doing additional work, and your metabolism in general improves, forcing you to burn even more calories further.

This will in the end result in having to eat more in order to gain size, but also your weight lifting sessions might (does not mean they will) suffer from a decrease in energy due to previous endurance exercise.

We have all been in a situation where we have had a rest day, and the best lifting session happened exactly after a day of pause.

Cardio directly impacts your neurons and muscle groups which have similar pathways (or the same) to the muscles you use for hypertrophy training, which will make you more fatigued.

When is the best case to train for endurance as well?

Training for endurance seems to have the biggest impact once you completely change your schedule around and with it. To explain:

Our typical schedule while trying to achieve hypertrophy and size increase might revolve training 6 days a week in the gym, or for every other day.

It makes complete sense why endurance-based training might just not fit that schedule, and the current purpose of exercises training when trying to gain size.

Endurance has amazing benefits to your body as we have outlined above, but many more as it also directly impacts your brain, helps oxygen flow to it and improves your connections in specific neuron’s pathways that will benefit you even outside the gym, as in work for example.

However, the effects of endurance training still pale in comparison to an increase in muscle size with hypertrophy training. Which is most if not majority of young male’s goal at the start of their fitness journey.

Time to train endurance is for older men

Therefore, the best time to shift your focus is once you have built up your physique and have reached 30-35 years old, if you worked for it. This will shift depending on if you have put the work in the years prior to building up your body. Male body gets the largest density and increase in bone size by 30 years old, which is why it’s also much easier to keep your stature well into your 30’s.

At that point it is very much possible to stick to doing perhaps 2 or maximum 3 days of hypertrophy per week to maintain your size.

Then you can focus instead more on endurance-based workouts in the week, with more rest days in-between. This could be called as 3-2-2, with 3 hypertrophy days, 2 endurance-based days and 2 rest days.

If you would be really trying to maintain your size and not wanting to grow further, a 2-3-2 might be ideal, with switching 1 hypertrophy day for 1 day of endurance-based training. But not in your 20’s, where the most ideal scenario for males is to grow their bodies, and endurance will hamper some of that progress we should be striving for.

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