Do you even hypertrophy, bro?
Just playing! We’re not whipping out the meathead math and swoll science just yet. But if you’ve set foot anywhere near a weight lifting room, no doubt you’ve heard tell of this magical, mystical, muscle-maximizing methodology. But what is hypertrophy exactly? Is it everything it’s jacked up to be? Or is it all just a load of hot air and hype? (Seriously, you can’t spell hypertrophy without hype, for Pete’s sake!)
Well we won’t keep you in suspense. Hypertrophy IS ALL THAT! And we’re here to explain what it is, why it’s effective, and how to maximize hypertrophy in your strength training routine. Read on, beefy bros and shredded sisters!
What Is Hypertrophy?
Hypertrophy is a process your body undergoes when faced with a certain kind of stress on your muscle tissues, which results in your muscle cells growing bigger. That’s not to be confused with hyperplasia, which occurs when your body produces more muscle cells.
Strength vs. Size vs. Endurance
Every muscle-builder will have to ask themselves one crucial question — what is the main goal of your weight training routine? Are you looking to increase your overall strength, your muscle mass, or your endurance? At first, you’d think the goals went hand in hand (in hand). But when you look at some of the extremes, it just doesn’t add up. Bodybuilders are notoriously known as “Mass Monsters,” with enormous bodies that can barely make it through the doorway. Yet, even the largest Mr. Olympia winners have never come close to winning any lifting records. Compare that to the phenomenon known as “Farmer’s Strength,” applying to those seemingly diminutive people who are capable of lifting a ridiculous amount of weight. And as far as endurance goes, both powerlifters and bodybuilders are severely lacking when it comes to that arena.
This is because each end goal comes with an entirely different training protocol. Those looking for strength — think heavy weight, low rep. Those for endurance — light weight and high rep. And if you’re looking for actual size gains, muscle hypertrophy is achieved somewhere in the middle of those two.
The Five Elements of Hypertrophy Training
To achieve proper muscle hypertrophy, you’ll need five crucial components in balance. Let’s take a look at each one:
First, let’s get into volume. If you’re looking for strength alone, you’d probably focus on lifting extra heavy weights, just a couple times. Not so with hypertrophy training. If you want growth, you’re going to have to reach higher training volumes.
Next up, we’ve got frequency, which is how many times a week you work. If you’re only working each muscle group once per week, that’s a problem. To achieve proper hypertrophy, you’re going to want to shoot for at least a few times per week on each muscle group. Split routines allow for this increased frequency.
Another factor is the actual weight you’re lifting, which translates to the intensity of your workouts. To reach hypertrophy, you want to increase the amount of weight you’re lifting over time, which is called Progressive Overload. Avoid jumping straight to super heavy weights, yet consistently push yourself. Make sure you use a weight where you can complete 8-12 reps with during each set. So what’s the balance? Pick a medium-intensity weight for your warm up set and work up to a weight that pushes you incredibly close to failure – that’s where the gains come in.
There is such a thing as achieving artificial strength gains. This is what happens when we cheat during our workouts, by little underhanded tricks such as:
- Using momentum
- Limiting range of motion
- Relying on other muscles to help us out
The only way to get hypertrophy is to sit your muscles down and say, “YOU ARE DOING THIS”. That means no shortcuts – focus on form, every single rep.
Hypertrophy involves maxing out your muscle groups, right? Well you can’t do that without the right amount of rest between sets. Shoot for a two-minute rest period between multi-joint movements, and about 90 seconds between isolation movements. And be sure to rest those muscles up thoroughly between workouts — that is, after all, when the actual muscle growth happens.
In summary, muscle hypertrophy is achieved through higher reps, medium loads (yet steadily increasing), frequent training sessions, proper form, and adequate rest.
Got it? Good.
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