What Is Hypertrophy Training

You’ve been hitting the gym for a month. You’ve been dedicated to your discipline, but you still aren’t seeing the size and strength gains you’re gunning for.

Although this won’t surprise you. Just going to the gym and lifting weights and expecting to see differences right away is unrealistic, and not how the human body works.

You need to understand how to put your muscles under the correct load, applied with periodic overloading to reach new levels. Gains don’t happen overnight. It takes your muscles time to respond and adapt to stimuli.

You then need sufficient time to recover for your muscles to gain more strength, this will then help you hit new targets of higher weights.

This is the process of Hypertrophy training. In this article, we will discuss the points listed below.

WHAT IS GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME?

Over time, our bodies adapt to the stimuli we expose them to. Broadly, these stimuli can range from environmental to physiological, and even be psychological. The adaptations to these stimuli fall under the phenomenon of General Adaptation Syndrome.

As Hans Selye proposed, we all respond and adapt to stressors placed on us in a predictable manner. Muscle building is no different.

If you’ve worked out hard, but often missed on ensuring proper recovery, you may have found yourself wondering why your results were marginal at best. Very often this is also the case with others who are finding it difficult to see results in building muscle.

Looking at it through this lens, their bodies are not “adapting” the way they desire them to. In muscle building, this desired adaptation is known as muscular hypertrophy.

THE FOUR BUILDING BLOCKS OF HYPERTROPHY

In order to define hypertrophy, an explanation of the Principles of Specificity, Overload, Adaptation, and Reversibility should come first.

  1. The Principle of Specificity states that adaptations are specific to the stimuli provided.
  2. The Principle of Overload is that in order for a tissue (bone, tendon, ligament, etc.) to adapt to demand, it must be progressively overloaded.
  3. The Principle of Adaptation is that the human body will adapt physiologically to the demands we place on it.
  4. The Principle of Reversibility is that any gains are progressively lost when training is stopped.

WHAT DOES MUSCULAR HYPERTROPHY MEAN?

Muscular hypertrophy is an adaptation characterized by an increase in the cross-sectional diameter of muscle fibers that occurs as a response to those fibers being recruited to create increased levels of tension.

More specifically, it is a function of protein balance (synthesis vs. breakdown) and consists of three mechanisms: muscle tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress.

A BREAKDOWN OF MUSCLE TENSION

Muscle tension can be described by the mechanical tension placed on the muscle during an exercise, muscle damage by the eccentric load causing micro-tearing and initiating the inflammatory response, and metabolic stress as a result of the buildup of various metabolites such as lactic acid.

It is one of many adaptations experienced as a result of resistance training (Table 1).

TABLE 1. ADAPTIVE BENEFITS FROM RESISTANCE TRAINING

PhysiologicalImproved cardiovascular efficiency
Beneficial endocrine and serum lipid adaptations
Increased bone density
Increased lean body mass
Increased metabolic efficiency
Increased muscular hypertrophy
Decreased body fat
Decreased physiological stress
 
PerformanceIncreased tissue tensile strength
Increased power
Increased endurance
 
PsychologicalImproved mood
Improved self-esteem
Improved ability to cope with stress
Improved perception of body image
Decreased symptoms associated with depression
 

HYPERTROPHY WORKOUT

A hypertrophy workout consists of exercises utilizing low to intermediate repetition ranges with progressive overload. An example of this is 3-5 sets of 6-12 repetitions, performing the barbell chest press at 75-85% of the one-repetition maximum (1RM) with a rest period of 1-2 minutes.

The combination of these acute variables provides the stimuli needed for muscular hypertrophy. Below is a sample strength level, hypertrophy workout week based on a 2-day split routine. Ideally, these should be repeated for 3-4 weeks before progressing.

Simply put, if you want your muscles to grow larger, you have to utilize the proper programming to elicit the required physiological response.

TABLE 2. MONDAY: CHEST/SHOULDERS/TRICEPS

WARM-UP   
Self-myofascial ReleaseSetsRepsTime
Pectoralis Major/Minor2 30s
Upper Trapezius2 30s
Latissimus Dorsi2 30s
Dynamic StretchingSetsRepsTime
Push-up with Rotation215 
Ball Cobra215 

CORE, BALANCE, SAQ, and PLYOMETRICSetsReps  TempoRest
Stability Ball Crunch215 0
Stability Ball Bridge215  
Plank215 0

RESISTANCE SetsRepsTempoRestTime
ChestBarbell Bench Press
Standing Cable Fly
3-56-12Controlled1-2min
ShouldersSeated Barbell Shoulder Press
Standing Upright Barbell Row
3-56-12Controlled1-2min
TricepsStanding Tricep Cable Extensions
Bent-over Single-arm Tricep Extensions
3-56-12Controlled1-2min

COOLDOWN 
Upper Body 
Ergometer10min
Self-myofascial Release(same as a warm-up)
Static Stretch 

TABLE 3. TUESDAY: BACK/BICEPS/LEGS

WARM-UPSetsRepsTime
Self-myofascial Release   
Calves2 30s
IT-Band2 30s
Lats2 30s
Dynamic Stretching   
Prisoner Squat215 
Ball Combo II215 

CORE, BALANCE, SAQ, and PLYOMETRICSetsRepsRest
Single-leg Touchdown2150
Stability Ball Bridge2150
Plank215s0

RESISTANCE horizontal loadingSetsRepsTempoRestTime
BackAssisted/non-assisted Pull-up
Seated Cable Row
3-56-12Controlled1-2min
BicepsStanding EZ-bar Curl
Seated Single-arm Dumbbell Curl
3-56-12Controlled1-2min
LegsBarbell Squat
Dumbbell Side Lunge
3-56-12Controlled1-2min

COOLDOWN 
Elliptical Trainer10min
Self-myofascial Release(same as a warm-up)
Static Stretch 

Conclusion

In conclusion, muscular hypertrophy is nothing more than a physiological response to physical and metabolic demands. We see results by creating that demand and optimizing the environment to build and recover on a cellular level. Because of neuromuscular adaptation, it is not something that happens overnight.

However, changes in size may be noticed several weeks later. The key, as with many other endeavours, is consistency.

Kevin Harris
Latest posts by Kevin Harris (see all)