Mitchell Hooper and Dr. Mike Israetel Dissect Training for Size Versus Strength

On March 28, 2024, the reigning World’s Strongest Man (WSM) and Arnold Strongman Classic (ASC) champion Mitchell Hooper published a video on his YouTube channel featuring an interview with exercise scientist Dr. Mike Israetel. Together, they explain the science behind building muscle and strength and explore the optimal training approaches for bodybuilders and strongman athletes.

Mike Israetel’s Three Critical Elements For Hypertrophy

Per Isretel, the three factors a lifter must consider when training for size include:

Challenge the body with “heavy resistance”

Hard training (sets to near failure)


Check out the video below:

[Related: The 2024 Rogue Invitational Will Feature Debut of Strongwoman Competition]

Training Volume

Israetel believes there’s a significant overlap between size and strength training, particularly for beginners. Many newcomers mistakenly believe building muscle requires low reps and heavy weights. However, Israetel emphasizes a wider rep range, from one to 50, can be effective for muscle growth.

The most productive rep range for muscle growth training is five challenging reps…close to failure…up to 30 repetitions.

Bodybuilders typically focus on higher rep ranges (eight to 12) and controlled movements to sculpt their physiques, while strongmen prioritize moving the heaviest weights possible.

Israetel suggested analyzing the potential for injury risk for each exercise before adding it to a training regime.

The heavier a weight gets, the more injury risk it has. Big weights can hurt more than small weights.

Strongman athletes must train heavy to be competitive. Since bodybuilders prioritize aesthetics, they have more flexibility in their training approach. 

In the off-season, Israetel recommended hypertrophy-focused athletes who prefer lifting heavy to perform five sets of 10 reps per exercise. However, as they near a competition, they should switch to 20 to 30 reps with lighter weights to limit injury risk. Hooper added:

For [strongman athletes], our tendons and soft tissues are much more of a consideration than muscle.

Israetel advised strongman athletes to focus on hypertrophy training for a few weeks post-competition. Doing so can help rebuild muscle lost during peak week, boost overall strength, and reduce stress on joints and connective tissue.

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A post shared by Michael Israetel (@drmikeisraetel)

Per Hooper, lighter-weight training can benefit strongman competitors in two ways. First, it allows the tendons to grow thicker and stiffer, reducing the risk of injury. Second, it allows the nervous system time to recover.

Burnouts in Bodybuilding and Strongman

Hooper shared that most strongman athletes usually take a week off after six weeks of intense training to avoid burnout and allow for recovery time. Israetel uses a deload week every four to five weeks. Deloads involve a purposeful reduction in training demand to prepare for future training cycles. (1)

Many bodybuilders train with insufficient weekly volume, limiting physiological challenges and fatigue accumulation. This allows them to train for eight to 16 weeks without requiring a deload.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is vital for strength and muscle gain. This training principle involves challenging the body by gradually increasing difficulty over time.

Progressive overload can be achieved in several ways, including lifting heavier weights, performing more sets or reps, or shortening rest periods between sets.

Per Hooper, the differences in periodization strategies between strongman and bodybuilding are that most strongman athletes meticulously determine how much weight they should lift each workout. In contrast, bodybuilders rely more on instinct and feel in the moment.

Israetel explained that training close to mechanical failure in each workout is enough to promote hypertrophy.

You will get more jacked and strong by pushing your body and resting and repeating this cycle.

[Related: Are Treadmill Dancing Workouts Serious? Yes. A Treadmill Specialist Explains How to Do it Right]

Train For Your Goals

Strongmen and bodybuilders can benefit from incorporating aspects of the other’s training into their routines. Hooper suggested the future of strength training might be the convergence of the two disciplines.

As bodybuilders and strongmen embrace a more well-rounded approach, we might see a new breed of stronger, more well-defined physiques emerge in future eras of both sports.


Bell L, Nolan D, Immonen V, et al. “You can’t shoot another bullet until you’ve reloaded the gun”: Coaches’ perceptions, practices and experiences of deloading in strength and physique sports. Front Sports Act Living. 2022;4:1073223. Published 2022 Dec 21. doi:10.3389/fspor.2022.1073223

Featured image: @drmikeisraetel on Instagram

The post Mitchell Hooper and Dr. Mike Israetel Dissect Training for Size Versus Strength appeared first on BarBend.


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