Hypertrophy training is a type of exercise that helps you build mass. Hypertrophy is similar to traditional strength training but has different goals. Both focus on building strength while the other focuses on building muscle mass.
Hypertrophy can be defined as the “enlargement of skeletal muscles fibers in response being recruited to increase tension levels, such as in resistance training.” It is defined as an increase in cross-sectional area in individual muscle fibers due to an increase of myofibril protein (myofilaments).
Specific Adaptation To Imposed Demands Principle (SAID) states that adaptations are tailored to the stimulus. General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), as described by Hans Selye, describes the response pattern that the body exhibits to a stressor. The muscle will atrophy if the stressor is not applied to it over time.
What is Hypertrophy?
Research suggests that a minimum of six sets of difficult hypertrophy exercises per week are the best stimulus for increasing muscle size. It is best to spread out the work load throughout the week, as maximal muscle response can only be achieved by performing 5-6 sets of one exercise.
This means that training beyond the maximal growth stimulus you will disrupt the stimulus-recovery-adaptation (SRA) curve by delaying the recovery phase, which is counterproductive to muscle growth. The SRA curve is directly affected through exercise selection, time, injury, nutrition, and client recovery ability.
Consider a range of exercises. Because muscle damage is caused by tension and loading, it will take longer for muscles to recover from high-tension and high-damage exercises. These exercises will stimulate muscle adaptations which will enable the muscles to withstand greater tension during subsequent training.
Five sets of heavy bench press is far more damaging than five sets of pushups. High-tension or high-damage exercises require longer recovery times but are more adaptable. To maximize muscle hypertrophy, exercises with a greater range of motion, longer eccentric portions, more tension, and a higher load are preferred.
Muscle Hypertrophy can also be a function of Maximal Voluntary Isometric Contraction, loading/unloading, and Maximal Voluntary Isometric Contraction. This means that the demand for stimulation is greater if there are more muscle fibers activated by a particular exercise or loading. The hypertrophy response will be greater.
Mechanisms for Muscular and Hypertrophy Development
1) Exercise-Induced Muscle Injury
The contractile elements (actin, myosin) within working muscles exert resistance that causes small tears in the contractile elements and the surface membrane (sarcolemma). This can cause minor damage to the muscle fibers and contractile elements. Muscle repair (recovery), which is the next step, strengthens the tissue in order to prevent further damage (adaptation).
2) Metabolic Stress
The buildup of metabolites such as lactic acid and inorganic phosphate can cause metabolic stress. This is mainly due to training in fast glycolytic energy systems where carbohydrates are used anaeroically to fuel performance.
3) Mechanical Tension (force).
This refers to the force/tension in the muscle fibers when they respond to a dynamic or static stimulus. This reaction results in increased protein synthesis and larger muscles. To maximize the response, activate as many muscle fibres as possible.
For more information about the biomechanics behind hypertrophy, check out this NASM CPT podcast episode.
4) Fascia Stretch Training
In a short time, pumping oxygenated blood into specific muscle groups causes fascia tissue to expand and contract like a balloon. To promote growth and repair, this injects oxygen rich blood and nutrients into the muscles.
Hypertrophy and stretching are closely related to each other, which you can read more about below.
How to train for hypertrophy – Rep Ranges & SEts
Hypertrophy/Muscular development training is usually moderate-heavy (75-85% 1RM), 6-12 reps and 2-0-2, or 0-60 rests.
Sets – You can adjust the number of sets as you train. Start by doing three sets of several exercises (or complex movements) for each major muscle group. Intermediate lifters can increase the volume of your sets to 6-8 sets. Advanced lifters and athletes may see up to 6 sets of work per exercise.
Reps – Reps can be used to increase training volume. The best way to increase strength is to do 6-12 reps at 75-85% 1RM with moderately heavy load.
Pyramiding up in weight over the course your work sets is a great way to get the best workout. This will increase hypertrophy while still working the high and lower end of the spectrum.
Force – Loading %1RM
Time under Tension (TUT – The length of time that a muscle stimulus causes tension
Cadence – This refers to the timing of your eccentric and concentric movements during a lift. This will vary depending on what goal you are trying to achieve. For example, stability and strength-endurance type of exercises may use a 4/2/1 (seconds) tempo (eccentric/isometric stabilization/concentric) whereas the typical cadence for hypertrophy training is 2/0/2.
Rest Intervals – Another important acute variable that is often overlooked is the rest intervals. This is the time between sets. It is enough to replenish 85 to 90 percent of ATP or PC, and keep your muscles pumped. For most training, 0-60 secs is sufficient. It is recommended to rest for strength endurance and stability at 0-90 seconds. If you are training for maximal strength/powerlifting, be sure to rest 3-5 mins between sets to ensure your system is fully recovered.
Loading Vertical or Horizontal:
Hypertrophy training can be done in many different ways. The most popular method is horizontal loading. Horizontal loading is when each exercise or muscle group has been completed before the next one. Vertical loading can be seen in circuit training, where each circuit is made up of a series of back-to–back exercises. This is a combination of chest press > squats> rows and repeat. Both serve different purposes and have their benefits.
Horizontal loading is the best way to ensure hypertrophy and pump training, as well as those who are chasing the pump, that the muscle(s) remain flooded with oxygenated blood, nutrients, and tension.
Your body is constantly in an adaptation state. If you want to increase your cardiovascular performance and VO2 tolerance, you need to stress that part of the nervous system. To increase your maximum strength (i.e. Powerlifting), you need to do low reps and heavy loads in order to achieve that adaptation. Shift training should be done every 3-4 weeks or as often as necessary to create muscle confusion and force the body to adapt to stress.
Muscle atrophy is a decrease in loading (or unloading) over a prolonged period. This can lead to a loss of skeletal muscle mass or strength. Consistent training will help the body adapt to the changes and meet the demands of stress.
*Remember that progressive overloading allows you to stay in a particular phase (e.g. Hypertrophy/Muscular development for bodybuilding) for longer periods of time without reaching a plateau.
A Nutrition Tip to Maximize Muscular Hypertrophy:
Pre-workout meals should be eaten at least 15 minutes before you lift weights. Pre-workout meal macronutrients should consist of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. 75g carbohydrates, 25g protein and 10g fat are examples. To speed digestion and absorption, intra-workout meals should be consumed in liquid form.
While training, only amino acids and simple carbs should be consumed. The ideal ratio of carbohydrates and protein is approximately 5-10:2. These intra-workout nutrients can be obtained from simple carbohydrates and BCAAs. You should consume post-workout nutrients within 30 minutes to one hour after completing your training. Post-workout meals should contain a 2:13:1 ratio between carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fiber.
Micronutrition can also be a key contributor to muscle hypertrophy. It provides the body with the right nutrients, catalysts, and other ingredients that promote muscle growth. Amino acids such as L-citrulline and L-citrulline as well L-citrulline and Iso-Leucine-arginine, L -citrulline and Agmatine Sulfate will increase blood flow, provide building blocks for muscle tissue and buffer lactic acid.
Example Hypertrophy Workout Program
It is crucial to be familiar with common programming and periodization strategies when creating a strength hypertrophy program for muscular development. It is a good place to start when mapping out macro/meso cycles. Decide whether you will be using linear or undulating periodization.
Linear periodization refers to adding weight (or load) to an exercise every training session until the 4- or 8-week block has been completed. Undulating periodization is when you do a high volume / low intensity session and then a low volume / high intensity session the week after.
Most muscular development plans will use undulating periodization at (micro or meso) level and progressive overloading within limits of strength hypertrophy phase.
SAMPLE HYPERTROPHY TRAINING- SHOULDERS & ARMS
Clients Name:GOAL: Improve Body CompositionPHASE: Muscular Development – SHOULDERS & ARMS (high tension/hypertrophy)DATE:TRAINER: NASM Master Trainer Andre AdamsExerciseSetsRepsTempoRestNotesSMR Foam Roll: Calves, Low/Mid Back, Hamstrings, Lats130 sets eachHold tender/tight areas for 30s focus on relaxationStatic Stretch: Pecs, Lats130 sets eachCardio Warm-up: Any modality15 minutesMay choose any modalityACTIVATION (core & balance)Floor Prone Cobras120Controlled0-60 SecondsCrunches, sit-ups, etc.Push-ups120Controlled0-60 SecondsSingle Arm KB Clean and Press110 e/sControlled0-60 SecondsSL Shoulder Scaption115 eachControlled0-60 SecondsShoulder Press Machine /0/2/00-60 SecondsDB Side Lateral Raise /0/2/00-60 SecondsStanding DB Bicep Curls to OH Press /0/2/00-60 SecondsWide Grip Upright Rows48-122/0/2/00-60 SecondsSuperset: Single Arm DB Preacher Curls
Skull Crushers /0/2/00-60 secondsSuperset: DB Concentration Curls
DB Tricep kickbacks /0/2/00-60 seconds10 minutes free training – you choose110 Minutesi.e. Weak Points or CESAbs: Decline Sit-ups, Hanging Knee Raises, Planks, Oblique Twists, etc5 MinutesRepeat from warm-ups1Post-Workout Cardio15 MinutesAndy Modality