Fitness, like most disciplines is littered with jargon. Let’s face it all of us like to throw around fancy terms every now and then to feel smart. The catch is, more often than not, the actual message gets lost in the process and the other member of the dialogue walks away knowing as little as they did before, or even less. We’d like to correct that. This blog is going to discuss a popular piece of jargon that goes by the term Hypertrophy. Not only will we define it but we’ll give you some insights on how to use this training approach in your exercise regime. Read on to find out more.
What is hypertrophy?
Hypertrophy is a term that refers to the growth and increase in size of the muscle cells. Hypertrophy training is the style of resistance training and programming that helps to stimulate the growth of muscles by forcing muscles to adapt to increasingly challenging loads. The saying “Train insane or remain the same” may be becoming a cliché but the principal is true; workout intensity and volume is important for making progress in the gym. This is why fitness buffs the world over will argue that you need to focus on progressively more difficult workouts in order to grow.
There are two types of hypertrophy:
- Myofibrillar hypertrophy
Myofibrillar hypertrophy is achieved when the body increases the number and size of myofibrils inside each muscle fibre. This occurs when the body, in response to stress induced by lifting heavy weights, overcompensates growing and multiplying the number myofibrils. Myofibrils are made up of actin and myosin contractile proteins that make the muscle fibre contract. Increasing the volume of these contractile proteins also has the effect of improving muscle strength.
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy
On the other hand, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is accomplished through the growth of plasma, organelles and non-contractile proteins. It is the resulting effect from your muscles demanding greater amounts of glycogen and ATP, effectively expanding the sarcoplasm (cytoplasm of the muscle) within your muscle fibres and increasing muscle volume. Your muscles demand more glycogen and ATP to support the challenge of lasting longer in the gym with this type of hypertrophy. It is important to note that while muscle growth is achieved, unlike as in myofibrillar hypertrophy, it is not accompanied by muscle strength.
How & when
Looking at those two definitions it appears to be a question of strength vs aesthetics. We’re not here to argue one form over the other but simply discuss the two, and help you understand how to achieve each type of hypertrophy. A study carried out by Hoffman et al (2015), provides some useful insights which you can incorporate into your training regime.
The study essentially compared the effect of high-volume training (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) and high-intensity training (myofibrillar hypertrophy).
The high-volume training involved a rep range of 10-12 reps with a short rest interval of a minute where as the high-intensity involved a low rep range of 3-5 reps and a longer rest interval of 3 minutes.
The difference in weight for each exercise was as follows:
- High-volume: 70% of a subject’s 1 rep max
- High-intensity: 90% of a subject’s 1 rep max
The take-home message
- When you want to purely grow size focus on increasing volume.
- When you want to improve size, strength and ultimately performance (weight to output ratio) focus on increasing intensity.
A great way to benefit from both and keep your workouts interesting is to incorporate both styles.
Benefits of hypertrophy
- Increases in functional strength and muscle mass
- Increase in lean mass
- Helps improve fat burning
- Boosts metabolism
- Improves overall body composition and aesthetics
We’ve alluded to it before and it’s still true; in order to maximise your muscle growth it is just as important to be conscious of what you put into your body as the amount of work it puts out as you train. This means that your body needs access to the right nutrients to support protein synthesis, muscle repair and recovery. Powerhouse has an extensive range of supplements to ensure you fuel your bodies muscle building process with all the right nutrients in the right quantities. Browse our online store today.
Mangine, G. T., Hoffman, J. R., Gonzalez, A. M., Townsend, J. R., Wells, A. J., Jajtner, A. R., … Stout, J. R. (2015). The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiological Reports, 3(8), e12472. http://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.12472
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