What Is Muscle Hypertrophy & How Does it Work?

What Is Muscle Hypertrophy & How Does it Work?

Muscle hypertrophy is the scientific time period for a rise in muscle measurement.

Hyper means “over or extra,” and trophy means “progress,” so muscle hypertrophy actually means the expansion of muscle cells. And in case you’re curious, it’s pronounced hi-per-trophy.

To grasp what causes muscle hypertrophy and the way it works, you first want to know what muscle groups are composed of.

Muscle tissue is a fancy construction, with bundles of lengthy strands of muscle cells sheathed in a thick band of connective tissue generally known as the perimysium

Right here’s the way it appears to be like:


The three principal parts of muscle tissue are:

  1. Water, which makes up 60-to-80% of muscle tissue by weight. (Need to be creeped out? Learn how scientists found this.)
  2. Glycogen, which is a type of saved carbohydrate that makes up 0-to-5% of muscle tissue by weight.
  3. Protein, which makes up about 20% of muscle tissue by weight.

Theoretically, a rise in any of those parts would qualify as “muscle hypertrophy,” however the one weightlifters are most concerned about is the third component: 

A rise within the quantity of protein within the muscle.

This is named myofibrillar hypertrophy (myo means “muscle,” and a fibril is a threadlike mobile construction).

One other kind of hypertrophy is named sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which is a rise within the quantity of the fluid and non-contractile parts of the muscle (glycogen, water, minerals, and so on.).

Sarco means “flesh” and plasmic refers to plasma, which is a gel-like materials in a cell containing varied necessary particles for all times.

Right here’s a easy visible that illustrates the distinction between these two kinds of hypertrophy:


Bodybuilders have been debating for years whether or not sarcoplasmic or myofibrillar hypertrophy is extra necessary for constructing larger muscle groups and what coaching strategies greatest accomplish this, however right here’s the underside line:

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in all probability does play a small, oblique function in selling muscle progress, nevertheless it’s seemingly extra of a helpful aspect impact of correct power coaching, not an finish to pursue in itself.

In different phrases, by guaranteeing you obtain myofibrillar hypertrophy, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy will care for itself. 

And what’s the easiest way to set off myofibrillar hypertrophy? 

This course of entails a number of steps: 

  1. First, you need to create a variety of mechanical stress in your muscle fibers, and the easiest way to do that is to pressure your muscle groups to contract in opposition to exterior resistance. 
  2. This mechanical stress prompts specialised proteins in muscle cells generally known as mechanosensors. These mechanosensors are solely activated by very excessive ranges of stress, which is why low-intensity contractions, like strolling, don’t produce a really robust stimulus for hypertrophy. 
  3. As soon as activated mechanosensors, kicks off a cascade of genetic and hormonal indicators that stimulate the physique to construct new muscle tissue. These indicators enhance an enzyme within the physique generally known as mammalian goal of rapamycin, or mTOR, which boosts protein synthesis (the creation of latest muscle fibers). 

And voila, you get your self some new muscle proteins.

In different phrases, muscle hypertrophy works like this: 

Mechanical stress → prompts mechanosensors in muscle cells → will increase mTOR → boosts muscle protein synthesis → causes hypertrophy → you get swole.

As you would possibly guess, the easiest way to extend stress in your muscle groups is to raise heavy weights. 

Particularly, you need to spend the vast majority of your time within the fitness center coaching with weights which might be round 75-to-85% of your one-rep max, or that help you do about 4-to-10 reps earlier than reaching muscular failure (the purpose at which you’ll’t transfer the burden regardless of giving your maximal effort).

What’s extra, you additionally want to provide a enough quantity of stress over time. For instance, though squatting as a lot weight as attainable for a single rep produces a excessive diploma of stress, the period (quantity) of that stress isn’t sufficient to trigger a lot muscle progress. In different phrases, there’s a minimal quantity of stress required to stimulate muscle progress. 

Whereas there’s a lot debate about the best steadiness of quantity versus depth for hypertrophy, most analysis exhibits that the Goldilocks zone is about 10-to-20 units per muscle group per week, assuming you’re following the depth pointers I simply shared. 

Now, to ensure that your exercises to truly construct muscle, you additionally want to present your physique sufficient relaxation and uncooked supplies to create new muscle tissue, primarily enough protein and energy. 

Should you don’t give your physique correct diet and enough relaxation, you’ll dampen the anabolic (muscle-building) results of mechanical stress, decreasing the effectiveness of your exercises. What’s extra, this additionally will increase muscle protein breakdown—the alternative aspect of the coin from muscle protein synthesis—which cancels out a few of the positive factors attributable to mechanical stress. 

If this rationalization appears unusual to you, I perceive. 

Look on-line for what causes hypertrophy, and the outline you’ll discover nearly all over the place is that muscle progress is the results of damaging your muscle fibers with coaching. Tear down your muscle fibers with weightlifting, give your physique just a few days to restore the harm, and your physique “rebuilds” your muscle fibers to change into larger and stronger.

Whereas this rationalization appears to be like tidy on paper, it’s improper

There’s nonetheless an ongoing debate about whether or not or not muscle harm truly contributes to muscle progress in any respect, with most scientists saying that if it does, the advantages are minor, and others saying that it interferes with muscle progress by decreasing your capability to provide stress (to make use of heavy weights for enough reps). 

The excellent news is that we don’t must concern ourselves with this debate, as a result of nearly everybody agrees that mechanical stress remains to be the underlying explanation for muscle progress. Though excessive ranges of stress will end in some muscle harm, it’s in the end the strain that’s driving progress, not the harm. 

It’s additionally generally stated that mobile fatigue is the third “pathway” for muscle progress, and there’s in all probability some reality to this. 

Mobile fatigue refers to a number of chemical modifications that happen inside and out of doors muscle fibers once they contract repeatedly. While you repeat the identical motion time and again to the purpose of close to muscular failure, this causes excessive quantities of mobile fatigue.

Analysis exhibits that mobile fatigue contributes to muscle hypertrophy in some vogue, nevertheless it’s not precisely clear how. It might enhance muscle fiber activation, enhance mobile swelling, enhance the hormonal response to train, or work by another means. The necessary factor to recollect, although, is that mechanical stress remains to be the prime mover of muscle progress, and that mobile fatigue is a secondary contributor.

Thus, if you wish to maintain getting larger and stronger, you need to pressure your muscle groups to provide larger and larger ranges of mechanical stress in your exercises. The method of doing this is named progressive stress overload or simply progressive overload.

There are a number of methods to attain progressive overload in your coaching, however analysis exhibits that the best one is including extra weight to the bar (or dumbbells).

As power coaching is aimed toward bettering power, it follows that it must also be the best technique to acquire muscle (versus different kinds of coaching that concentrate on bettering muscle endurance or producing massive pumps).

And that’s what a rising physique of proof demonstrates:

Energy coaching generates giant quantities of stress in your muscle groups, and this produces a extra highly effective stimulus for muscle progress than conventional “hypertrophy” coaching. In different phrases, the greatest coaching program for hypertrophy is constructed round lifting heavy weights in average to low rep ranges (round 4-to-10 reps per set). 

This isn’t to say that lighter weights and better rep ranges haven’t any place in your exercise routine, nevertheless it ought to at all times play second fiddle to power coaching. 

+ Scientific References

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