What Is Hypertrophy Training?
Muscular hypertrophy (also known as muscle growth) refers to the increase in size or strength of skeletal muscles. Muscles are made up of fibers which contract together to produce force when the body needs it most. When these fibers become overused, they begin to lose their ability to perform this function effectively and eventually atrophy, resulting in a loss of strength and power.
In order to build new muscle mass, your body must break down existing muscle tissue. This process is called protein synthesis. Protein synthesis requires energy and nutrients such as amino acids, glucose, and oxygen in order to occur.
If you do not provide the necessary nutrients for protein synthesis then no additional muscle will be built.
The best way to stimulate protein synthesis is through resistance exercise. Resistance exercise involves using weights or other implements to apply force against resistance. This forces the muscles to work harder and thus building more muscle.
Some examples of resistance exercises include: bench press, squats, deadlifts, chin ups, rows, bicep curls, triceps extensions and leg presses. Other types of exercises include: pushups/pullups/chin ups/leg raises etc…
How Does Hypertrophy Work?
Through various studies, it has been determined that the number of muscle fibers you have is unchangeable (unless you suffer from a medical condition such as muscular dystrophy). When you go through periods of resistance training, you are actually breaking down the number of muscle fibers and causing minor tears. These tears cause an inflammatory response in your body that calls for nutrients to come and fix the tears in your muscles.
The body CANNOT tell the difference between damaged muscle fibers from exercise and damaged muscle fibers caused by, say, getting in a car accident. When this response occurs, your body sends nutrients and builds tiny little fibers within the fibers that you are already using to repair the damage. This is called hypertrophy or muscular growth.
As you continue to train, your body becomes better and better at repairing itself. In other words, the time it takes for your body to repair these tears is much less than it took the first time. Thus you are able to build more muscle.
The more you train, the more efficient your body becomes at rebuilding your muscles in the wake of damaging them (like when you lift weights).
This is why people who strength train as they age tend to be stronger and less prone to injury than the average person of their same age. This process can be disrupted by not giving your body the nutrients it needs or by not giving your body time to rest and recover.
What Is The Best Workout For Muscle Gain?
Muscle growth occurs primarily with resistance training (weight lifting, or resistance exercises). Muscle growth can also occur through proper nutrition and other biological factors. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of muscle growth.
What Is Strength Training?
We have all heard of people who go to the gym and work out “to get big.” This is impossible without proper training. Your body doesn’t just decide one day to get huge, it takes months of planning, eating, and training to get to that point. When you begin training, your muscles do not instantaneously pop up. You will begin with strength training. This is the first and most important step to getting huge.
You can gain muscle in several ways:
Weight lifting (resistance training)
Cardiovascular training (running, biking, swimming, etc.)
Loaded Carrying (holding a heavy backpack, farmer’s walk, etc.)
Isometric exercises (plank, pin press, etc.)
Core Training (toes to bar, ab rollouts, etc.
Strength training is the cornerstone of all exercises. This is what gives you a solid foundation to build on. You can gain size without ever doing cardio or doing isometrics, but in my experience, your body looks better when you do incorporate these other types of exercise into your routine.
What Are The Other Benefits To Muscle Gain?
When you gain muscle, you increase your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. This means that even at rest, you are burning more calories than you would if you had less muscle.
You also improve your bone density and prevent osteoporosis. This, along with the higher metabolism, will keep you strong and less likely to break a bone as you age.
In addition, when you are bigger and stronger, you tend to feel better about yourself. You have more energy, you look better in the mirror, and most people treat you with more respect.
So, there are many benefits to strength training. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to do to get there.
Do I Have To Join A Gym?
You do not have to join a gym in order to gain muscle and get fit. You can do all of this at home with only a few inexpensive pieces of equipment (such as a bench, barbell, dumbbells, and a chinup bar).
That being said, I highly recommend that you join a gym. Here’s why:
Most gyms have employees that are trained in various types of training. For example, they can teach you proper lifting techniques and how to use the various machines.
Most gyms have trainers that can design a program for you, take you through it, and check your form. In other words, they can make sure you are doing everything correctly so you don’t get injured.
Most gyms have a competition bench, barbells, and dumbbells. This way, you don’t need to buy your own (which can get very expensive).
Most gyms also have a place for you to do your cardio (treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical, etc.). Again, this saves you the money of buying your own.
The social aspect can’t be overlooked. When you work out with other people (whether it’s your buddies or everyone at the gym), you are more likely to stick with the program.
Who wants to let the team down?
If you still aren’t convinced, read The Complete Muscle Primer and it should clear up all your doubts.
What Kind Of Exercise Should I Do?
There are many different types of exercises you can do to gain muscle. You can lift weights, use resistance bands, do body weight exercises (pushups, chinups, etc.), use machines, run/bike/row/swim, etc.
The type of exercise isn’t as important as the fact that you are actually doing it consistently. Some exercises are just harder than others. For example, let’s say you are a big guy who just can’t do pullups.
You have 2 options:
You can step up to the pullup bar, focus on form, and use as much weight as you can so that you are straining at near the point of failure by the time you hit your max rep count.
You can just jump up and hang from the bar for a minute, then drop down and pat yourself on the back for “finishing”.
Obviously the first option is going to be a lot harder. But that’s why it will work better.
In any case, there are 2 types of exercises you should focus on: compound and isolation.
An example of a compound exercise is the squat. It works multiple muscles at once.
An isolation exercise is where you target one specific muscle. The most common are the bicep curl and the tricep extension (the exercise that the dumbbell curl is derived from).
Most people (especially beginners) should focus on compound exercises. They are more effective, and you can get very strong doing only these.
Once you get very strong, you can start doing some isolation exercises to work on your weak points. For example, many powerlifters cannot do a single pullup. Their back is enormously strong, but their actual back muscles (the lats and associated groups) are not developed because they don’t need to be for lifting weights.
Many powerlifters perk up when they learn that chinups are an excellent way to build up those “weak” areas.
How Many Reps And Sets?
The short answer is: it depends.
First off, you have to be prepared to get tired. This isn’t going to be like a walk in the park. You’ll be challenging your body and, if you’ve never worked out before, it’s going to feel weird at first.
But stick with it and, before long, you’ll notice that you’re getting stronger and more defined.
Option 1: Light Weight/High Reps
If you pick this option, you are going to be doing a high number of reps with low weight. This is great for muscle definition and for people who want to sculpt their bodies. It’s not so good if you’re interested in gaining strength or size.
Option 2: Heavy Weight/Low Reps
This is the option for people who just want to get big and strong as quickly as possible. The weight is really heavy, but your muscles are growing all the time.
So which option is best for you?
If you’re a complete beginner, start with option 1. This will help you get used to the feeling of working out and getting stronger. After a few weeks, choose between option 1 and 2.
Option 1 is good if you want your muscles to be defined or if you don’t have a lot of time to train. It only takes half as long to do “high rep” training than it does “low rep” training (which we’ll look at later).
You should also choose this option if you don’t have a lot of weight-encouraging hormones (like testosterone) flowing through your body. If you’re young, you probably fall into this category.
Option 2 is good if you want to get strong as quickly as possible. If you’re over thirty or past your prime, you probably also want to choose this option.
The reason is your testosterone levels are probably dropping every year. This means it gets harder and harder to encourage the muscle-building hormones to flow. By the time you’re forty, it might be more effective to do a lot of weight-training than high-rep training.
So what’s the best option for you?
Don’t worry about it too much. Just pick one and focus on that. As you get more experienced, you can always change your training style later on.
Option 1: Go For Definition
If you want to sculpt your body and get very lean, this program is for you. The key is to keep your reps very high (15+) while still using a limited amount of weight.
Sources & references used in this article:
Be At Your Best and Stay Pain Free With Optimal Flexibility by W Herbs, D Da Jow – plumdragonherbs.com
The Pain Jungle Assessment and Treatment with Gunn Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) by N Snazell – istop.wildapricot.org
Inflammation for Muscle Growth by PI Anti-Inflammatory – Inflammation, 2011 – androseries.wordpress.com
The 14-Day Pain Free Diet by J Tait, N Pineault – Health (Larchmt), 2012 – functionalfitnesssolution.com