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September 22, 2022

Same exercises work for building muscle and strength?

Same exercises work for building muscle and strength? with Annie Miller

Touching on the question – do the same exercises work for building muscle and strength?

The fitness industry loves to categorize exercises and approaches to movement as if they are specific to a given result. Rarely does it work that way. A single exercise doesn’t create a training stimulus. All factors – intensity, load, volume, rest, tempo, etc come together to create a stimulus and ideally lead to a desired result. Be that result performance, aesthetic or both.

With that, we need some definitions in order to make a claim in one direction or the other.

Let’s put our thinking caps ON.

Strength is an expression of high force (performance based). This is typically practiced through lower rep schemes and high loads. Rate of preceived exertion of 7.5+ or working percentage of 75% +.

Hypertrophy (muscle fiber/cell growth) can happen along a very large span of volumes and loads, but challenging mechanical tension is needed for any development beyond maintenance. Aka we have to challenge the muscle fibers in order to demand they adapt, and GROW.

With that, some exercises are best used for high strength work, and others are lend themselves toward best use for muscle fatigue. Think about a shoulder press vs a lateral raise. Both can be used in strength and hypertrophy training, but 3×5 is not probably the best use of lateral raises. A trainee can really push the muscle fibers to fatigue with this exercise. And you can certainly do shoulder strict presses at any load or volume, but one can build strength at lower reps and higher loads very easily with this movement.

Strict Shoulder Press Demo by Annie Miller
Lateral Shoulder Raise Demo by Annie Miller

So, I am not saying “x” exercise is ONLY for building strength and “y” exercise is ONLY for building muscle. Not how it works. But also, we can look at different exercises and the stimulus they might provide in order to choose the BEST ones for the given goal – In this case, building muscle.

I have almost all clients squat, deadlift, overhead press and bench press as a “main lift” in some capacity. Benefit outweighs risk in terms on their long term goals and preferences.

I am simply saying that:

1. You don’t HAVE to do those to build muscle

2. If you can’t or aren’t currently do one of those, you CAN still build muscle! In fact it might even be better!

3. You can do them + other exercises that might favor larger ranges of motion, load, or other variables.Swipe for the gains, drop questions below.I hope you’re not MORE confused now. Much love. Much gains.

Do you have experience with strictly training for strength vs training a given area for GROWTH?

Tell me about it below.

P.S. Want more educated gains and programming done for you? Get on the Built By Annie waitlist!


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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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