Hypertrophy is something that many athletes train for. However, often it is found that a lot of workout plans do not give the desired results. This is because most of these plans focus solely on high volume isolation exercises.
This doesn’t work.
In this article, we will be discussing the topic of hypertrophy and how to influence it.
Two Kinds of Hypertrophy?
There are two separate kinds of muscle growth. Both have their pros and cons.
First of all, let us discuss sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This form of muscle growth can be acquired by lifting lighter weights: about 60-80% of your 1RM.
It shows progress quite fast and this is probably one of the main reasons why a lot of people tend to focus on lighter weights, while keeping resting periods short (0-90 seconds). In other words: training with a high volume.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is mainly made up by an increase in fluid within the muscle cells, rather than actual muscle fiber.
Now here’s the thing. Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy only makes up about 25% of our muscle growth. What’s worse, is that you have to keep working out in order to maintain your extra mass. If you go on vacation for a couple of weeks, it will definitely start to show, as your muscle start to flatten.
Lifting with lighter weights may indeed be fun, as it will give you a tremendous pump in the muscles. However, most people tend to forget what really matters when hypertrophy is your goal.
This form of muscle growth is there to stay. It can be initiated by lifting heavy weights that are within 80-95% of your 1RM. Furthermore, every set consists of only 3-8 reps and the resting periods are a lot longer (3-4 minutes). In other words: high intensity training.
Lifting heavy weights will make you strong at a fast rate. An increase in muscle mass will follow. The heavy loads on your muscles will increase the diameters of individual muscle fibers.
If you go on vacation for a month, you will still look the same afterwards. Keep in mind that you might lose some progress, but the muscle mass is still there.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy therefore is better for building functional and strong muscles.
Exercises For Hypertrophy
It is recommended to perform heavy compound exercises in order to stimulate myofibrillar hypertrophy. My personal favorites include the following exercises.
- Flat/Incline Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Bent Over Row
All of these exercises will not only increase muscle mass, but they make sure you gain functional strength. What’s the use of muscle mass if it’s only for show?
Do not expect miraculous results, though. Muscle growth is a slow process. However, if you remain consistent with your exercises, you are definitely going to see results.
Hypertrophy and Nutrition
Exercising is fun, but there is a less fun part of the whole ‘muscle gaining’ thing: nutrition. Sure, eating can be nice as well, but nonetheless, this is one of the biggest challenges for most people to overcome.
What should you eat? When should you eat? What diet should I use?
The list of questions goes on and on, but the key answer remains the same. Your nutrition should never be a punishment. This is why I am not a big fan of dieting. Sure, you can count calories. But the quality of food is more important than the quantity.
Diets often cut out one or more products, while increasing the amount of other products. But what if you really don’t like the foods that in the diet you just purchased?
I am of the philosophy that states that you can eat whatever you like, but with moderation. This is the easiest meal plan of all! Not only that, but it will keep you happy and therefore it is easy to maintain.
Low carb diets on the other hand, can be very difficult to maintain. The same can be said of keto diets. Are they effective? Well, to an extent.
The time at which you should eat is entirely up to you. Some people worship the method of intermittent fasting, which is of course their right. However, whether this method of dieting deserves all its praise remains an unanswered question.
Discussion aside, one should only commit to intermittent fasting, if they have a strong will. It requires a lot of discipline and therefore, it’s not for everyone.
So, what should you eat in order to promote hypertrophy? First of all, consuming enough protein is highly recommended if you wish to see any results at all. About 2 grams per pound of body weight is recommended.
Don’t consume too much protein, as this may be hazardous to your health! Furthermore, it is important to have a balanced and varied diet.
Workout Frequency and Recovery
Are your workout and meal plans up to par? Great, because now comes the final point I would like to discuss. First of all, I’d like to answer a question that pops up a lot in the fitness scene.
“How often should I work out?”
This question is difficult to answer properly, because everyone has something else to say. At Strength Perfected, we believe that the ideal amount of workouts per week should be three.
Taking a day off from lifting gives your body time to recover properly. This goes for muscle tissue as well as your central nervous system.
A lot of studies show that muscles can be loaded as often as every 48 hours. Not only that, but heavy lifting also takes a large toll on your nervous system, which basically controls your muscles.
Draining the central nervous system fatigues local nerves that activate their respective target muscles. When these nerves are fatigued, the corresponding muscle group will be short of strength until it is given enough time to properly recover.
The central nervous system needs about 48 hours to fully recover. Local nerves may even need up to twice that amount of time. This is why it’s important to alternate your workouts.
All in all, three workouts per week on non-consecutive days is probably the most effective method of growing muscles.
Hypertrophy, or muscle growth, can be influenced in many ways. First and foremost, your muscles need the proper stimuli. As far as muscle growth goes, it is proven that high intensity workouts are the most effective, as they stimulate myofibrillar hypertrophy.
The muscle and strength you build is there to stay.
Nutrition is another very important aspect of growing muscles. Following a diet is your own choice, but the best diet is one that you really feel comfortable with. In other words: eat what you like with moderation.
Do whatever works for you!
Lastly, it is good to pay attention to our workout frequency and the ability to recover. Working out is a great thing that makes you feel good. However, your muscles and central nervous system need to recover. Don’t take that away from yourself!
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