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What is Muscle Hypertrophy?
Simply, Hypertrophy is an increase in muscle volume or mass.
Evidence suggests that human muscles enlarge appreciably because of the increase in the volume of cylindrical muscle fibers rather than their numbers.
What stimulates an increase in the volume of muscle fibers?
Muscle fibers are known to respond highly when they are exposed to a certain level of mechanical loading. Individual muscle cells contain mechanoreceptor cells that detect this stimulus of stress.
However, many studies on hypertrophy due to strength training have build up the results that hypertrophy or muscle growth is not the sole reason for mechanical loading. So, researchers are searching for other mechanisms like metabolic stress or muscle damage as the probable cause to stimulate muscular hypertrophy.
How often to lift to attain muscular hypertrophy?Lifting (especially heavyweights) 3 days a week.
Lifting just two days a week, depending on your current fitness level.
Doing upper-body lifting and lower-body lifting on different days. It allows you to hit different muscles while allowing time for rest and recovery.
Training Tips to Induce muscle hypertrophy
- Lift ample weight
Lift enough weight rather than lifting very light weights because lifting lightweight won’t let you see any gain or results
- Perform the reps-and-rest cycle
Researches show that weightlifters should perform 6-12 repetition per set and allow 60-90 seconds rest in between the sets. This will fatigue your muscles and help in achieving hypertrophy.
- Perform different exercises
This is necessary to hit the different muscle fibers at the same movement.
- Consider hiring a trainer
A certified trainer can develop you create a weight lifting program to meet your goals.
“Remember, your muscles can adapt quickly to exercise. It’s important to continuously alter the exercise to challenge your muscles which enables you to see growth and increased definition.“
Best Ways To Achieve Muscular Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy is the process of increasing the volume of muscle fibers as a result of mechanical loading. The mechanical load that muscle fibers experience is determined by basic muscle physiology, including the size principle, the force-velocity relationship, the length-tension relationship, and fatigue.
Consequently, by looking at how basic muscle physiology affects mechanical loading during different types of strength training, it is possible to explain the results of most long-term training studies.
- Ensure adequate nutrition
A protein-rich diet is also important for muscle growth. Focus on lean protein sources like plant-based protein powder, lean meat, chicken, and fish. Try to eat or drink a protein source within 30 minutes of a workout.
- Perform Compound Movements
Concentrate on basic compound movements like Deadlift, squat, bench press, bent-over row, the dips etc.. Compound exercise works for your full body in less time, offers cardiovascular benefits, and importantly burns more calories.
Because it simulates real-world movements, it helps to build strength for everyday living. If you don’t like barbell bench press and want to do close grip bench press or dumbbell incline press that is fine. The results will be similar or identical.
Although the squat is great, if you perform only front squats you will not notice any difference in leg development.
- Add smaller Isolation-type Exercises
Isolation exercises are very fruitful in two essential conditions. The first one is when you have a lagging body part after a year or two of serious training. For instance, If your hamstrings are weak, go ahead and add up some glute/ham raises in your leg day. If you notice your biceps are lagging, add some concentration curls to spice things up.
The point of performing isolation exercises is to stimulate some extra muscle growth in your lagging body parts or wherever necessary. The second one is when you feel you have muscular imbalances or to prevent them.
Although the barbell bent-over row is awesome, add some face pulls to keep your shoulders in good health.
- More repetitions rather than volume
Frequency plays a much more important role for non-professional athletes.
Volume training is just overrated because no matter how important is the amount of weight you lift, the more important is how many reps you perform.
Doing 1 rep sets and leaving a gym is not gonna do a thing for you. Perform basic compound movements at least twice a week. Three times a week will be best for the majority of the people because muscles get repaired within 24-48 hours after your workouts. Most of the people mistake Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) with muscle micro-tears.
Being sore for 5 days does not mean you are growing. The growth stops occurring after 48 hours at the max.
Keep that in mind to keep the muscles growing the whole week focus on training three times a week.
- Design a Good Program
The good program consists of 4 basic parameters:
- Stay On Caloric Surplus Everyday
You have to eat enough food if you want to add muscle mass at the fastest rate possible. In the best possible scenario, you should be at a 0-10% caloric surplus every day. That means if your body needs 2.000 calories to maintain its weight, make sure you are eating 2000-2200 calories a day. Going further than +10% will possibly result in considerable fat gains as well, and going less than 0% means you are on a caloric deficit and this is not optimal for muscle hypertrophy. It is not impossible to achieve fat loss and muscle gain at the same time but it is not advised because of the difficulty factor.
Total calories matter more than individual macro-nutrients. Having said that, carbs and protein should be your priority. You do not need massive amounts of protein to build maximum muscle mass. For someone that weighs 160lbs, 80-150 grams of protein is enough to build muscle according to nutrition science.
If you want to sleep better at night, raise that up to 170. If you choose to go for higher amounts of protein (in the range of 250+), there are no considerable health risks but you have to understand that the majority of the excess protein gets converted to carbs by a series of metabolic reactions in your body. Essentially, you will be buying expensive carbs.
- Get Enough Sleep
The muscle repair process mainly takes place when you are sleeping. While 6 hours can be enough, 8 hours are probably optimal. It turns out that sleep is crucial for strength training recovery and helps with muscle repair after a strenuous workout.
Sleep is vital for cementing muscle recall linked to body movements. Together with the muscle repair and growth that happens during sleep, this allows for overall improved athletic performance.
- Progressive Overload
There are a lot of variables when it comes to training but what you should grasp from all this, is that you have to make progress and train for it. Make short term and long term goals.
If you are currently squatting 225lbs for 5 reps, set as a goal to be able to squat 315lbs for 5 reps in 6 months or to be able to squat 225lbs for 12 reps in 2 months. This is a realistic goal planning for non-enhanced athletes.
- Training To Failure
It’s is not ideally required to train to failure for increasing muscle mass rather it is important for the trained athletes or lifters who use low intensities for attaining hypertrophy. “It has been proposed that training to failure is a necessary strategy to maximize muscle growth. This paper examines the research behind these claims, and attempts to draw evidence-based conclusions as to the practical implications for hypertrophy training,” says Jozo Grgic in Strength & Conditioning Journal in October 2019.
Muscle hypertrophy FAQs
- What type of split should I use?
The answer to this is simple.
Just try to fit the exercises you want to progress within this program in a way that you can work each muscle 2-3 times a week without interfering with one another.
That means to give a muscle group at least 48 hours before you train it again, to make sure your recovery process is completed.
The easier way to do this is with full-body workouts 3 times a week or upper body/lower body split. A push/pull/leg split can work too but make sure you are recovering completely.
Check out how a 4-day workout split can help everyone build muscles.
- Which exercises should I use?
In essence, you want to create a balance in your program. If you choose the barbell bench press, which is a pressing movement, you have to add a pulling-type movement like the barbell row and possibly a leg movement like the squat. You cannot just do the exercises that you love because this will create imbalances which often lead to serious injuries. If you cannot train, you cannot add muscle mass so try to avoid injuries by smart training.
- How many repetitions should I do?
It really does not matter.
You can do 10 rep sets, 5 rep sets or 3 rep sets, and everything in between and you will gain maximum hypertrophy if you focus on progressing with the exercise. If you choose to stay at a low rep range like 2-5 you will gain more strength in relation to 5-10 reps.
But you will gain more strength endurance with 5-10 reps. The hypertrophy though will be almost identical.
Also, keep in mind that you do not have to train only for one or the other. If you increase your 10-rep max on the bench press, your 1-rep max automatically increases and vice versa.
- How many sets should I do for a muscle group?
This is highly controversial but exercise science dictates that 1 set is enough for muscle growth if done with concentration, heavy load, and max effort.
The first set of your first exercise will be responsible for up to 80% of the muscle stimulation you are going to achieve in the workout. Preferably you should do 3-5 sets in total to make sure you are getting that 100%, meaning maximum hypertrophy.
If a muscle group contains multiple heads or areas you can optionally add another exercise for the lagging area. For example, we know that as far as chest development goes, there the upper chest fibers and the lower chest fibers.
Although a standard barbell bench press will stimulate your whole chest, you can choose to add 2-3 more sets of an incline fly to make sure, your upper chest doesn’t get neglected.
Another option here, when you create your program is this: Do the flat bench press on your first workout of the week and the incline bench press on the next one.
That way you get the best of both worlds.
- After how long will I start noticing the change?
Most beginners can expect to see noticeable muscle hypertrophy within eight weeks of starting a new strength training routine, and more experienced lifters within as little of three to four weeks, says Smith-Ryan.
What is Myostatin-related muscular hypertrophy?
Myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy is a rare genetic condition characterized by reduced body fat and increased skeletal muscle size. Affected individuals have up to twice the usual amount of muscle mass in their bodies. They also tend to have increased muscle strength.
Muscular hypertrophy can be achieved through exercise. There is also a medical condition called myostatin-related muscular hypertrophy.
It is a non-debilitating condition and most people who have it don’t typically experience any medical complications. It’s caused by mutations in the MSTN gene.
The most common symptoms are a low amount of body fat and increased muscular strength. Body fat can be measured with ultrasound or with a caliper.
The easiest way to diagnose the condition is with clinical genetic testing. But this is usually only available on a limited basis. Let your doctor know your symptoms and if you’re interested in genetic testing.
Muscular hypertrophy can be achieved through weightlifting at the gym. But you need to continuously break down and challenge muscles in order to see growth.
Follow the principles explained above and you will be able to boost your strength, endurance, and muscle size dramatically.
Stay tuned and we will cover how to achieve that progressive overload in order to gain maximum hypertrophy.