Guide to Hypertrophy Training:
In terms of achieving a desired fitness goal, understanding how to specifically train towards one’s goal is imperative when wanting to optimize results. This article aims to provide insight over the specific training principle of hypertrophy training. Different styles of training serve their own purpose depending on the desired outcome. The main variable that differentiates styles of training is the overall volume, or the number of repetitions performed during each set during a given training session. Each style of training imposes a different type of stimuli on the targeted muscle groups, which in turn forces the muscles to react in a certain way. This process determines which style of training will be the most effective for the desired training goal.
If the desired objective is to preserve lean body mass or increase overall muscle size, then the training principle utilized should be hypertrophy training. This principle involves the action of muscle fibers splitting due to the imposition of tension on the muscle, which leads to muscle fiber growth thus increasing the overall size of the muscle. A common misconception involving hypertrophy training is the concept of hyperplasia, which refers to an increase in the total number of fibers in a muscle. Hyperplasia has not been empirically proven as evident in humans, meaning the only proven method regarding building muscle involves forcing the existing muscle fibers to split and rebuild. In order to maximize hypertrophy training, the concepts of progressive overload and total time under tension will carry the most importance. The progressive overload concept simply means increasing the load (weight) with each set over a period of time. The total time under tension concept simply means completing slow and controlled repetitions, which forces the muscle to hold tension under a greater duration of time.
Hypertrophy focused training is optimized when performing multi-joint compound movements, such as bench press, back squat, deadlift, and barbell overhead press. Compound movements promote the most muscular damage and cellular fatigue which ultimately leads to overall muscle growth. In addition, compound movements promote the release of human growth hormone and lead to greater fat oxidation. However, due to compound movements being extremely taxing, the body requires an adequate amount of rest paired with optimal nutrition in order to optimize total progression. In terms of nutrition, the body will need to be in a slight caloric surplus in order to promote muscle growth and adequate recovery. Without proper nutrition, achieving a specific fitness goal is nearly impossible, which implies that nutrition needs to be a priority.
The underlying variable that differentiates hypertrophy training from other styles of training is total volume per set. In order to stimulate muscle fiber splitting without reaching complete muscle fatigue, the goal number of repetitions will fall between 6-12 repetitions at 67-85% 1RM (one rep max). With the given target set of repetitions, the target number of sets for each exercise will fall between 3-6 sets. Conjoining the set/repetition scheme, the concepts of progressive overload with total time under tension, and compound multi-joint movements will help to maximize hypertrophy focused training.
Bench Press: x 12, 10, 10, 8
Bench Press: x 10, 8, 8, 6
This example shows two different repetition schemes that fall under the hypertrophy focused style of training. The objective is to fall within the target repetition and total set goals for hypertrophy training. The different repetition schemes listed fall in line with the progressive overload concept due to the decreasing number of repetitions per set, which implies increasing the total load (weight) with each set.
Hypertrophy focused training is geared towards increasing overall muscle size and can also help an individual tone up due to the muscular and cellular demands imposed. Understanding different styles of training is the best way to maximize results when wanting to achieve a specific fitness goal. Hypertrophy training is often overlooked due to misconceptions in the fitness industry but can be very beneficial if performed properly. This training style is not the only way to build muscle, but it is a very effective way to do so. I hope this article helps to provide some insight pertaining to this style of training, as understanding different styles of training leads to maximizing results when striving to achieve a specific fitness goal.