Hypertrophy Training – Introduction
Hypertrophy Training – The essential muscle growth principles you need to know.
Training for muscle growth, a process called hypertrophy, is hard work and requires both time and dedication.
Not only do you need to follow an appropriate muscle-building program, but you also need to eat healthily and plentifully, and get plenty of rest and sleep too.
Muscle growth doesn’t happen by accident! Make sure you get the most from your hypertrophy training by adhering to these muscle-building principles.
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1. Progressive overload
Progressive overload is arguably the most crucial hypertrophy program training principle.
Your muscles are inherently lazy and would prefer to stay small and weak.
To increase muscle mass, they need to be challenged.
That means lifting heavy weights to cause muscle damage.
After training, and with rest and proper nutrition, your body gets busy repairing this muscle damage and metabolic stress so that, next time, your workout is not as demanding.
This cycle of muscle damage and repair is the adaptive process that results in bigger, stronger muscles.
But, if you lift the same weights several workouts in a row, there won’t be any new metabolic stress, and that means your progress will soon grind to a halt.
Your workouts must get harder over time to keep the muscle-building process going – and this process has a name – progressive overload.
If your workouts stay the same, so too will your muscle cells.
Progressive overload means increasing your weights week by week or making other changes that raise your workout difficulty.
Other options include:
- Increasing the number of reps you do with a given weight
- Increasing training volume – the number of sets per muscle group
- Reducing the rest period between sets
- Increasing training frequency – more workouts per muscle group per week
- Increasing time under tension – the length of time each workout set takes
Long story short, you are only as strong as your last workout, and if you want to build size and strength, your hypertrophy training workouts must be progressive.
Progressive Overload: The Key for Size and Strength
Your body adapts to the type of exercise you do.
Therefore, if you have a specific training goal in mind, you need to train a certain way.
The principle of specificity, also known as the SAID principle, is a subcategory of Hans Selye’s general adaptation syndrome.
S.A.I.D stands for specific adaptations to imposed demands, and it states that your body will adapt to the type of demand placed on it.
For example, if you want to become a better runner, you need to run.
Conversely, if you’re going to build bigger, stronger muscles, you need to engage in weight training to trigger muscle hypertrophy.
Stronger muscles are generally bigger muscles, which means you need to challenge them with moderate to heavy weights to force them to grow, which will produce the muscle tissue damage that causes those muscle fibers to grow back bigger and stronger.
Rep ranges for muscle size vs strength
Lifting lighter weights for high reps won’t do it.
Instead, you need to train with weights that cause you to reach muscular failure in the 6-12 rep ranges, which research shows us, is the best rep range to build muscle.
While you can build muscle by lifting heavier weights for lower reps, this tends to increase muscle strength more than the size of your muscles.
Strength and muscle size ARE related, but stronger doesn’t always translate to bigger.
Physical strength is as much neurological as it is morphological.
That means it’s a skill in which the muscles learn to contract more efficiently to generate more force.
That’s why some small weightlifters and powerlifters are much stronger than their bigger bodybuilding counterparts.
It is because strength athletes train in the 1 – 5 rep range which is better for achieving maximal strength as opposed to size.
So, if it’s increased muscle mass you want, most of your hypertrophy training should be in the 6-12 rep range.
And don’t worry, you’ll still get plenty strong!
Low Reps vs High Reps for Muscle Growth
3. Rest and recovery
Muscles only grow when you rest and recover.
Hypertrophy training makes them weaker and smaller, and they only grow between workouts.
This is called muscle protein synthesis.
Because of this, you must pay attention not only to your workouts but what you do between workouts too.
Gaining muscle means breaking your muscles down with intense training and resting so they can adapt and grow.
Because of this, you should avoid training the same muscle more than once in 48 hours, and many experts believe that it takes at least 72 hours for muscles to fully recover from an intense workout.
You’ll need to experiment with training frequency to see what works best for you, but most exercisers do best when they train their body parts no more than 2-3 times over a week, and some go so as low as just once per week.
Serious exercisers looking to build muscle should also prioritize sleep.
Sleep is the most anabolic time of the day when your body has the time and resources required to repair and build skeletal muscle.
During sleep, your body produces hormones, such as human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone, which are responsible for muscle growth.
Not getting enough sleep can have a massive impact on your hypertrophy training.
The last important hypertrophy training principle you need to consider is reversibility, also known as the “use it or lose it” principle.
Your body will start to revert to its previous untrained state if you stop exercising.
For example, suppose you miss more than a few workouts.
In that case, your muscles will begin to shrink and weaken – a process called atrophy, and the opposite of hypertrophy, which means, apart from the occasional vacation or day off for illness or injury, you should endeavor to train consistently and without interruption.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have easy workouts from time to time – that’s actually a good idea to avoid overtraining and overuse injuries.
But, you do need to train consistently and, over many months and years, adhere to the hypertrophy training principles outlined above.
You can’t store fitness, and after a week or two of inactivity, you’ll start to notice the principle of reversibility in action.
Avoid losing your hard-won muscle by training consistently.
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5. Sample Hypertrophy Training Program
Here is a four-day split hypertrophy training program to try, which means that there are four workouts per week.
Each workout should take about 60-90 minutes.
There are two leg workouts per week for a very good reason – lower body training is the key to building all-over muscle.
Leg training increases total-body strength and may also increase anabolic hormone production.
|Legs (1)||Chest and back||Rest||Legs (2)||Rest||Shoulders and arms||Off|
This layout provides the ideal balance between training and resting.
You never work out the same muscle groups for more than two days in a row, but you also never rest for more than two days in a row.
If this timetable is not practical for you, feel free to train on different days, but make sure you keep the workouts in the same order.
You could also skip one leg workout making this a three-way workout, although that’s not recommended unless you are running short on training time.
Alternative Hypertrophy Training 4-Day Splits
If the traditional split shown above doesn’t fit your calendar, try one of these options:
|Legs (1)||Chest and back||Rest||Legs (2)||Shoulders and arms||Off||Off|
|Legs (1)||Rest||Rest||Chest and back||Legs (2)||Off||Shoulders and arms|
As long as you do not train three days in a row, almost any arrangement will work.
The best split routine choice will always be the one that fits the most seamlessly into your lifestyle.
You may even need to change your split from one week to the next.
However you do it, so long as you balance training and rest, you’ll make the progress you deserve.
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Workout 1 – Legs (1)
|2||Romanian deadlifts||3||8||90 seconds|
|3||Leg extensions||3||10||60 seconds|
|4||Hip thrusts||3||12||60 seconds|
|5||Standing calf raises||3||12||60 seconds|
How To Hip Thrust
Workout 2 – Chest and back
|1||Barbell bench press||4||6||120 seconds|
|3||Inc. DB bench press||3||8||90 seconds|
|4||Seated rows||3||8||90 seconds|
|5||Cable crossovers||3||10||60 seconds|
|6||Face pulls||3||10||60 seconds|
|7||Dumbbell pullovers||3||2||60 seconds|
The Face Pull
Workout 3 – Legs (2)
|2||Front squats||3||8||90 seconds|
|3||Leg curls||3||10||60 seconds|
|4||Bulgarian split squats||3||12||60 seconds|
|5||Seated calf raises||3||12||60 seconds|
How To Front Squat: The Rack Position
Workout 4 – Shoulders and arms
|1||Barbell shoulder press||4||8||90 seconds|
|2||Dumbbell side raises||3||10||60 seconds|
|3||Dumbbell reverse flyes||3||10||60 seconds|
|4||Barbell upright row||3||12||60 seconds|
|5||Skull crushers||3||8||90 seconds|
|6||Barbell biceps curl||3||8||90 seconds|
|7||Triceps pushdown||3||10||60 seconds|
|8||Dumbbell hammer curls||3||10||60 seconds|
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It is important to stress that performing each exercise properly is crucial for your hypertrophy training success.
Correct exercise performance ensures you keep the tension on your muscles and lowers your risk of injury.
Use the following to make your workouts more productive:
1. Daily Fitness Planner
- SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO ACHIEVING YOUR FITNESS GOALS: The best fitness planner,...
- DAILY TRAINING LOG: The daily Training Log allows you to track all exercise...
- DAILY FOOD LOG: Track as little or as much as you see fit. Spaces to track...
- GOAL TRACKING: Set your goals. Then use the goal tracking Templates to hold...
- WEEKLY PLANNER: The Weekly Fitness Planner page is your designated fitness...
Make sure your workouts are progressive by writing down your exercises, reps, sets, and weights.
When you train again, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to make your hypertrophy workout just a bit harder.
If you don’t record your workouts, adhering to the principle of progressive overload is much more difficult, as you may not remember what you did before.
2. Fractional weight plates
- Use progressive overload to your advantage with this kit of 8 count, 0.5 pound...
- Increase weight by 1 lb on any exercise and build more muscle and strength...
- Progressive overload should be used at all levels of conditioning. Beginners...
- By setting yourself a new challenge every workout, you are also setting yourself...
- The Iron Bull Fractional Plates are made from high precision casting for...
Your workouts need to be progressive if you want to continue making progress.
But, sometimes, going up a standard weight plate increment is too big a jump.
Using these fractional weight plates means you can make much smaller increases, ensuring that you can continue progressing, even if it’s just one pound at a time.
3. Insulated Stainless-Steel Shaker Bottle
- Double-wall vacuum insulated BlenderBottle, for mixing supplements and...
- Features a 316 surgical-grade stainless steel BlenderBall Whisk that mixes when...
- 26-ounce capacity (markings go to 18 ounces) offers plenty of room for...
- Twist-on cap with center-mounted spout seals with a quarter-turn and is backed...
- Made from high-quality BPA and phthalate-free materials; hand wash cup,...
Make your workouts even more productive by consuming a fast-acting protein and carb shake straight after resistance training, such as protein powder blended with a couple of bananas.
This protein and carb shake will kickstart the recovery process and increase protein synthesis.
This insulated bottle will keep your shake cold for hours, so you can make it at home and still enjoy a cooling, refreshing shake straight after your workout.
See additional items for better training in 26 Best Gifts for Weightlifters in 2023
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Hypertrophy Training – Wrapping Up
You can’t go to the gym, do a few random exercises now and then, and expect to make hypertrophy training progress.
Instead, you need to adhere to the muscle-building principles and follow an appropriately designed workout program.
Squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, the most powerful compound lifts, are the foundation of a suitable program for muscular hypertrophy.
You also need to eat right and get plenty of rest too.
In short, building muscle is among the most useful long-term fitness goals because it is a lifestyle as much as it is a training style.
And, even if you do everything right, you may find that your progress is frustratingly slow as your genetics also have a part to play.
Some people are just better at building muscle than others.
That said, if you work hard, commit to the process, and adhere to these principles, you can build muscle and transform how you look and feel.
Stick with it – hard work conquers all!
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