So you,ve probably heard that word being mentioned at the gym. Or maybe said in countless fitness videos or books. It’s a word often used when it comes to weightlifting and packing on muscle.
But what is hypertrophy training? Does it actually work or is it just some kind of whimsy idea from a few gym bros?
You might be wondering if this specific training method has proven results or if there’s a certain nutrition science that goes with it.
Well I can certainly tell you this for starters, hypertrophy is not only highly effective but crucial for muscle growth. And although you will increase strength through this process, it’s not exactly targeted for strength training.
I’ll dice this for you into 4 different points in a simple but effective way. I’ll begin with the explaination of hypertrophy and how it works. Second, i’ll talk about how hypertrophy applies in the gym. Then we’ll cover a few points about rest and repair and how it can effect your training. Then lastly, we’ll go over some proven nutritional strategies that promote muscle growth. So without further delay, let’s jump right in.
So in definition, hypertrophy is the increase in the volume of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells. So when it comes to muscle hypertrophy, it literally means muscle growth.
Now I don’t want to get too much in the scientific part of it because like I said, I want to make this explaination simple and effective. But there are two contributing elements to hypertophy which are important to lay out here.
One of these is sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. It focuses on increased muscle glycogen storage. Sarcoplasm fluid contains large amounts of energy resources such as glycogen, collegan, and an iron and oxygen binding protein called myoglobin. The process in which the volume of this fluid in your muscle cells increase is sacroplasmic hypertrophy.
The other one is myofibrillar hypertrophy, which is an increase in the size of myofibrils. Myofibrils are basically rod-like structures or protein strands in our muscle cells. The increase of these contractile parts allow our muscle cells to do more work and gives us an increase in force which translates to more strength and speed.
Hypertrophy and weightlifting. – The fundamental Truth.
Often, and I mean very often, a lot of beginners or intermediate lifters make the very common mistake of using momentum or leverage when trying to lift the weight. They focus on moving the weight instead of WORKING the muscle. Or some people add too much weight and instead of CONTROLLING the weight, they let the weight control them.
Working the muscle is what essentially results in hypertrophy or muscle growth. When we stimulate our muscles to where they contract, we are causing small microscopic damage within our muscle fibers. Because of our body’s amazing ability to adapt, these fibers will then not only try to repair itself but they will try to come back a little bigger and stronger than what it was as long as our nutritional intake is where it needs to be.
That’s why you should absolutely progressively overload your muscles over time in order to see gains. You can do this by simply increasing the volume of your training by adding more sessions per week, adding more sets, more reps, or more exercise movements.
Another way to overload is to add more weight or resistance force. If you feel like you can add another 5 or even 10 pounds, go for it. Remember that our muscles do adapt so we have to keep them confused. So keep the intensity high and make it heavy just as long as you have a good controlled form.
You also want to keep in mind not to go too heavy to where you are compromising your form and only doing a few reps. As long as it’s a challenging weight and you can be in a 10 to 12 rep range using good form and squeezing and focusing on the muscle you are working on, you will reap the results.
How much rest in between sets. – Charging your batteries
This is a subject that has a lot of variables and its a debated one. Rest overall is very important when we are training our muscles. But how much rest is necessary when it comes to rest in between sets?
It is suggested that when training heavy, you want to have a little more rest periods in between the 3 to 5 minute range and when doing more isolated workouts the rest periods should be a little shorter in the 1 to 2 minute range.
If you’re doing a heavy workout, for example a compound movement like squats, the first set of lets say 5 reps, should be relatively done a little easier. But if you go on to the next set without resting enough then you’d probably get out a few less reps which in actuality is reducing your volume.
If you are doing isolated movements with less weight and 1 to 2 minute rest periods, this will induce more metabolic stress, which is basically the burning sensation and pump that we get from our muscles contracting which leads to muscle growth.
So everything depends on what kind of workouts you are doing and even how you might be feeling that day. I would say experiment with it and try things out to see what works best for you. If you are on a time schedule, then that is also another factor to consider.
You might of heard people say that if you want to gain more muscle, you have to eat, eat, eat. Although this is true and would make sense in theory, we have to take into consideration what we are actualy putting in our bodies and if our nutrtional intake is high quality. Simply relying on calories isnt going to cut it.
We want to keep our calories as productive as possible. One way to insure that is by taking in our macronutrients which are made up of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Here are some examples of each nutrient to give you a better idea:
- Protein: Chicken, egg whites, fish, lean beef, greek yogurt, turkey, whey protein.
- Carbs: Oats, whole grains, pasta, wheat, vegetables, fruits, potatoes, rice.
- Fats: Avocado, nuts, egg yolks, flax seeds, oil, almond butter, peanut butter.
Now I will say that there are specific formulas and calculations to determine your caloric needs. I wont cover that in this article but I just want people to have a basic understanding of what you should know for now, especially people on the novice level.
If you are trying to lose weight or body fat, you want to be on a caloric deficit which basically means more calories out and less calories in. If you want to gain weight and get bigger then you want to apply the opposite which is to be on a calorie surplus, more calories in and less calories out.
Hypertrophy training is a great way to develope your body overall and I highly reccommed it especially if you want to see more defining results. I feel that it’s important to have an idea of how it works so you can have a better understanding of how the human body responds and what you can do to raise the quality of your training.
Following those basic principles that I mentioned above can elevate whatever level of training you are in as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort. Of course, there is so much more to learn when it comes to health and fitness and also learning more about your body and what works best for you.
I can say from my personal experience, ive learned through trial and error and also putting in the time and i’ve reaped the benefits because of it. So never stop learning, keep trying, and implement those strategies. Dont hold back and go at it with full capacity!