Hypertrophy – you’ve probably heard of this term around the gym or on Instagram, but what is it? Surprisingly it’s not a trophy for hyper people like we first thought! The scientific term for ‘building muscle’, hypertrophy simply describes the process of tissue stimulation and repair. It’s the physiology of getting those gains.
The choice between hypertrophy training and strength training has to do with your goals for weight training:
- If you want to increase the size of your muscles, hypertrophy training is for you.
- If you want to increase the strength of your muscles, consider strength training.
Now, you’re probably thinking ‘I know how to build muscle already Stagger folk, I don’t need this’, and that’s fine, but if you want to utilise your time in the gym instead of wasting it, we suggest you read on.
What is Hypertrophy training?
In a nutshell, hypertrophy is a way of working out that maximises muscle growth. This includes resistance training (think deadlifts, squats, bench etc. that work multiple muscle groups at the same time) and isolation exercises (these target one specific muscle group like bicep curls).
One of the benefits of hypertrophy training is aesthetic if you think large muscles look good. Other benefits of hypertrophy training include:
- increased strength and power
- increased caloric expenditure, which may aid weight loss
- increased symmetry (avoids muscular imbalance)
While strength training can lead to muscle growth or gains it doesn’t always happen as most people plateau.
For beginners, you can gain muscle with just about any strength program, even bodyweight exercises. In the beginning, you’re likely to see incredible results! This is because your body adapts to new forms of working under tension with resistance training. Though once you become a more seasoned lifter, your gains will require a more strategic approach – in walks hypertrophy training.
Remember, while you may see increased strength, the goal of hypertrophy training isn’t raw strength. Think of Arnie and The Rock types – they are training for an aesthetic purpose of larger, more defined muscles, not for a heavier one rep max.
How to do Hypertrophy training correctly.
The main point to takeaway is that Hypertrophy = Volume over intensity
Volume, volume and did we mention volume? When you’re increasing the size of your muscles, volume is the goal, so the total amount of reps and sets you complete of a particular exercise.
When you’re first starting to train, you might find the volume of your program feels light. This is to allow for your body to adapt. As the training program increases, so will your volume.
Volume allows you to increase the amount metabolic stress on your body which means more potential for growth of our muscle fibres
Another consideration to volume is the tempo at which you perform these exercises. Controlling your movements with a few seconds down, pause and then a few seconds back up. This helps to put more stress on the muscles.
Now, what weight should you be using? Since you’re not lifting for a 1RM (1 rep max), the standard rule is approximately 75-85% of your 1RM. Though, everyone is different so you may lift less than this.
How often you lift is also very important. General rule is the more often you put various muscle groups under tension, the close you’ll be to your goals.
Once you are out of the adaptation phase, you should try to train a muscle group every 48 hours.
Don’t forget to rest!
They say there is no rest for the wicked, however we cannot stress enough the importance of resting to help your muscles recover. Even elite athletes have rest days scheduled into their training programs.
Also remember the rests your take while working out. You don’t want to rest for more than 60seconds. This gives your muscles some time to rest but not enough for them to completely recover before your next set.
Sample 12-week program
Dr Rachel Tavel, Doctor of Physical Therapy has suggested this rep scheme on core moves like bench press, squat, and deadlift during your workouts to build more muscle and strength.
- Week 1 (Load): 2×10 reps at 60% 1RM
- Week 2 (Load): 3×10 reps at 65% 1RM
- Week 3 (Unload): 3×10 reps at 60% 1 RM
- Week 4 (Load): 3×10 reps at 70% 1 RM
- Week 5 (Load): 3×5 reps at 70% 1 RM
- Week 6 (Load): 3×5 reps at 75% 1 RM
- Week 7 (Unload): 3×5 reps at 70% 1 RM
- Week 8 (Load): 3×5 reps at 80% 1 RM
- Week 9 (Load): 3×3 reps at 70% 1 RM
- Week 10 (Load): 3×3 reps at 75% 1 RM
- Week 11 (Unload): 3×3 reps at 70% 1 RM
- Week 12 (Load): 3×3 reps at 80% 1 RM
By week 12, you should be lifting significantly more weight than week 1 due to hypertrophy of the muscles.
Now you are ready to smash your next gym session and get those gains!