The Simple Down and Dirty About Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy (cell growth) training is what 99.9% of gym bros are after when they’re casually performing bicep curl/back extensions while hanging out in my squat rack. All joking aside, hypertrophy training has a very specific place in one’s workout regimen, and there are very specific ways (stresses) that are responsible for facilitating muscle growth. In this post, I’ll be discussing the best ways to achieve muscle hypertrophy. To clarify, by “best”, I mean what has been recommended by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

*This is a very simple post, and does not discuss the physiology of muscle hypertrophy, only recommendations for becoming a stacked ninja. If additional information is requested, I’ll write a follow up post.

Why Hypertrophy Training is Awesome:

Guys: You get those cannons you’ve always wanted.

Gals: You can’t get “toned” unless the muscle grows, or you shred body fat. Your call. Both is ideal.

Guys & Gals: More muscle means more calories burned. Yes, you can have that piece of cake now.

Everybody: People that look fit make 3% more than their unfit counterparts. I don’t know about you, but 3% more money over a lifetime makes me motivated to squat to full depth (not these quarter squats you see ALL THE TIME). I digress.

Basic SAID (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) Requirements

  1. High levels of volume
  2. Moderate to high levels of tension produced
  3. Minimal rest periods between sets

Duration of Training Cycle

  • 4-8 weeks
  • Routines should be changed at least every 4-6 weeks

Frequency

  • 3-6 times per week. Each body group 1-2 x/week

Repetitions

  • 6-12 is the sweet spot.
  • Occasionally, higher reps are used near the end of the workout (15-20 reps). This would used for intermediate to advanced exercisers.

Sets

  • 3-5 per exercise
  • Typically starting with 24-28 sets/workout during first 1-2 weeks, gradually increasing to 32-36 total sets/workout completed by end of training cycle.

Sets per Body Part

  • Should be doing at least 15-20 sets per body part/week. This can be done in one workout, or in several throughout the week (research supports both being effective for beginner lifters). More than 20 sets can be performed/week.

Lifting Tempo

  • Focus on fast/controlled concentric (lift), brief isometric (hold) at end range with tension, and slow eccentric (3-4 sec.)

Rest Intervals

  • 0-60 sec rest if performing different exercises in a circuit
  • 30-60 sec if doing the same exercise back to back.

Intensity

  • 75-85% max intensity for each lift
  • Since that probably meant nothing to you regarding application, focus on Moderate to High loads where you feel like you only have 1-2 reps in the tank. Advanced should go to failure, and maybe do assisted reps.

Exercise selection

  • Preference toward stable equipment – transfers to higher loads, therefore more tension on muscles. Use barbells, dumbbells, and machine weights for optimal gains. Complex (multi-joint) lifts ideal, but isolation (one joint) lifts are appropriate in this phase as well.
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