An Overview Of Hypertrophy Training

An Overview Of Hypertrophy Training

What is Hypertrophy and how do you pronounce it?

🔊 ” hai·puh·truh·fee “

Yep, that’s right – there’s no hyper and certainly no trophy in hypertrophy. Now we have covered that, why would you want to do it and what is it? ☟

WHAT IS HYPERTROPHY

By definition, hypertrophy is a noticeable growth of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells.

Hypertrophy training causes an increase of size of the skeletal muscles. This is due to the increased size of individual muscle fibres.

To achieve hypertrophy, you must increase muscular tension through resistance training. This means applying sufficient muscular stress under load. The benefit will be awesome muscular growth and definition. It is important to note that too much weight and too little reps will result in an increased emphasis on strength over hypertrophy.

The aim is simple: GROWTH OF SKELETAL MUSCLE ☟

Skeletal Muscle example (Quadriceps Femoris shown)

 

The word growth shouldn’t scare anyone, but in reality some women have been conditioned to be fearful of weight training.

This is due to the general perception of weights = huge bulky muscles. I explain why this is not the case for women in particular, in this vlog post: Stop Saying ‘I Just Want To Be Toned, Not Bulky’ (skip to 00:34 in the video)

Muscle growth = Leaner body

To maximise growth, it is important to tap into the effects of hormones. There are 2 general hormone categories:

  • Anabolic: Growth & Repair
    • Growth hormone
    • Testosterone
    • Estrogen
    • Insulin
  • Catabolic: Breaking down
    • Adrenaline
    • Cortisol “the stress hormone”
    • Glucagon

Quick tips for managing hormone levels to maximise anabolic and control catabolic

  • Consistent exercise under load (resistance training) 3-5 times a week.
  • Ensure you have an adequate protein intake for your bodyweight (more on this later in the article).
  • Be sure to eat your carbs! Carbohydrates are extremely important as an energy source for your hormones and play a huge role in recovery.
  • Avoid overtraining, as this can produce higher cortisol levels.
  • Prioritise sleeping and aim for 7 – 10 hours a night.
  • Find methods that reduce your stress levels, for example meditation.

Other benefits of hypertrophy training

  • Lifting weights under moderate-to-heavy loads, burns more calories!
    • The further we push our bodies away from its resting state, the harder our bodies have to work to bring it back to its stable and balanced state (homeostasis). This response requires a ton of energy and is called ‘Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption’ (EPOC). Ultimately, you carry on burning calories long after your training session has finished … so awesome! I explain this in more detail in my vlog post Stop Saying ‘I Just Want To Be Toned, Not Bulky’ (skip to 07:25 in the video).
  • Boost in muscular strength. Typically a big muscle is a stronger one. The more exposure you have to resistance training, the more you will be able to optimise the force you generate from your muscle fibres.
  • Hypertrophy training is typically carried out using a split routine of push/pull/legs, this is awesome for avoiding any potential problems with overuse of muscles, allowing sufficient rest of muscle groups and working on balancing out any muscle imbalances.
  • Your body will feel ‘tighter’. Muscles take up less space than fat because muscles are denser, so by gaining muscle you may not see a change in your bodyweight or it might even creep up, but you will actually look smaller.
5 pounds of fat vs. 5 pounds of muscle
5 pounds of fat vs. 5 pounds of muscle

HOW TO OPTIMISE RESULTS IN HYPERTROPHY

Working on increasing muscular size can be challenging. Once you have achieved growth, you then you need to be able to sustain higher levels of muscle mass than usual and this requires continuous effort and adhering to the key factors for hypertrophy.

There are 3 contributing factors to hypertrophy:

  1. Training
  2. Nutrition 
  3. Recovery 

Training 

Doing resistance based training is essential to bring on the adaptation to muscle that occurs in hypertrophy training. The following table displays the rep range, volume, intensity and rest periods required achieve hypertrophy. Of course, this varies across individuals, but this is best practice.

The more compliant you are with the intensity, load, rest and rep range, the more success you will have in your hypertrophy training plan.

Training for hypertrophy
Training for hypertrophy

Need guidance to figure out your load as % of 1RM?

Check out the Power Circle’s fitness calculators. Here you can work out what your estimated 1RM is and what your working weights should be.

Nutrition 

Water

✅ You need to stay hydrated all the time. Dehydration is known to have a negative impact on performance, so drink before, during and after your workouts and all day long!

Diet

✅ Your caloric intake should be in a positive energy balance, this means feeding your body enough so your muscles can successfully grow. Your calories should provide you with enough energy to fuel your workouts and you should eat a steady, spread out amount of carbohydrates, fats and protein throughout the day. Carbs are king!

Over 50-60% of your caloric intake should be carbohydrates.

Post-Training

  • Adequately replenish muscle glycogen stores immediately after workouts (first 30 minutes). Do this by having a small post-workout snack that is a high glycemic carbohydrate with protein, keep the carbs-to-protein ratio at about 3:1.
  • The glycaemic index (GI) provides an indication of the relative speed with which a food is converted to glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • My favourite high glycemic foods to eat post-training are: bananas, fruit smoothies and muesli/granola bars.
  • Post-training you should avoid meals with a high fat content. Fat slows digestion and delays the delivery of needed nutrients to your muscles.

Protein

✅ Ensure you have plenty of protein in your overall diet. The recommended protein intake for hypertrophy is 1.2 – 1.8g per kg of bodyweight. Getting your protein in is important because it contains amino acids, these are the building blocks used for muscle growth. Protein requirements can be met by consuming complete, incomplete and complementary proteins.

    • Complete: Contain all nine essential amino acids in sufficient amounts. Most complete proteins are animal-based foods. 
    • Incomplete: Are plant sources. Plant proteins usually lack one or more of the essential amino acids and contain smaller amounts of protein, making it difficult to get enough solely from plant sources.
    • Complimentary: These are a combination or coupled variation of plant based proteins that ‘compliment’ each other. This is useful for people who don’t eat animal protein sources. Even through most complimentary proteins are carbs, they also contain smaller amounts of protein, so it’s good to ‘double-up’.
Complete, Incomplete and Complementary proteins
Examples of Complete, Incomplete and Complementary proteins

Recovery 

Rest

✅ You must allow sufficient time for your body to recover from the training sessions. This includes during workouts and anytime in-between workouts. During the session you will have allocated rest intervals, as shown in the ‘Training for hypertrophy’ chart above. You will also and more importantly need to take rest days and space out your training days. See article: How To Prepare & Structure Your Workouts for examples of how to speed out your training to include rest days. 

Sleep

 ✅ 7 – 10 hours a night worth of sleep is crucial for good recovery. Poor sleep quality contributes to suppression of the immune system increasing the risk of falling ill. It also impacts overall functional performance, as reaction time, judgement and ability to concentrate are impaired. 

Relaxation and Rehabilitation

✅ It is a good idea to seek methods that will relax your body both physically and mentally. This includes having hot baths, getting a massage and listening to music or mediation. Check out this article for more information on this: Physical Health: Relaxation & Rehabilitation.

Mobility and Flexibility

✅ Last, but definitely not least is mobility and flexibility. This is one of the fundamentals to keep on top of to avoid injury and possible overuse of dominant muscles. I have a full lowdown in this article: Physical Health: Mobility & Flexibility. It covers what you should do to ensure that you can move freely and safely whilst exercising. 

To summarise, you must pay close attention to the 3 key principles to maximise results in hypertrophy training :

  1. Method of training

  2. Correct nutrition 

  3. Adequate recovery 

Hypertrophy isn’t just for bodybuilders.

The benefits that come with this style of training make it a universally awesome method of training. Leave a comment below and share if you agree!

Check out the Power Circle’s Muscle Gainer 6-week hypertrophy programme here.

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