Types of muscle hypertrophy
We differentiate two types of muscle hypertrophy
- Myofibril hypertrophy
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy
This type of hypertrophy is referred to as the growth in size of the muscle fibers, also known as myofibrils.
It is accompanied mostly by the increase in the strength capabilities of the individual, due to the fact that the myofibrils play an essential role in muscle contraction.
This is the type of hypertrophy most powerlifters and strength athletes (Who’s disciplines do not require increase in bodyweight) aim for.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (also known as energetic hypertrophy)
During this process, we observe increase of the muscle fibers, at the expense of unsupervised elements (water, glycogen, etc.) in the sarcoplasm.
To achieve such hypertrophy, we need to apply flushing (blood-filling) workloads, using various specialized methods, and/or combinations of them: Shortened range of motion, partial reps, time under tension, prolonged sets, forced reps, etc.
The intensity used during workouts, that target this type of hypertrophy, is reduced at the expense of a bigger workload volume, where reps vary from 8 to 15 and even more during the last sets.
However, we should not exclude the basic myofibril hypertrophy, which is why we go through a pyramid that leads to a set of 5-6 reps until failure, followed by reduction in the working weight and a final set of 12-15 reps (Sarcoplasmic stimulation).
Which type of hypertrophy should I aim for?
According to your personal preferences and goals, choose to focus on the type of hypertrophy that will help you achieve them.
However, never exclude either of them. The best results, as we said above, will come, when you combine both.
Constant tension makes the muscle grow
Every beginner who enters the gym for the first time, has a start off period of 2-6 months where they see drastic progress in a short time span.
This is due to the fact that you expose your body to new workloads and tension it has never seen, which forces an adaptive reaction of the organism (hypertrophy), in order for the body to be prepared for the next workouts.
You need to increase the workload, so you can build more muscle mass.
Usually, beginners start off with a really low weight on the bar. For most newbies, 40-50 kilograms on the bench press would be enough to stimulate hypertrophy in the pectoral (Chest) muscles, however, over time the body adapts to this weight, by increasing its strength and muscle mass, hence why it gets easier and easier to use it for your working sets, up until the point where it almost feels like a warm up.
This is why we say- If you use the same working weight over and over again, the muscle adapts to it, the body is not exposed to new stress, therefore, an adaptive reaction, pronounced in the increase of the muscle mass is not needed.
Slow and steady wins the race
We shouldn’t go over the top with our attempts at increasing the working weight, as there is more than one way to manipulate the parameters of the workload.
In this case, slowly increasing the working weight, while keeping strict form is the best you can do, since it will grant you constant progress.
Overloading the muscle with extreme intensity, workout after workout, can lead to a counter-effect, mainly- Muscle exhaustion, inability to adapt, stall in progress.
Do not forget the muscles grow while they rest, meaning, no matter how hard you train, you need to have a recovery window that will perfectly fit the requirements of your organism, so that it can adapt to the “Hardcore” workout you just did.
Do NOT get carried away by ego lifting! Have a smart approach to your working weights, repetitions, exercises used, and last but not least – recovery time.
Now that we gave a basic definition to the Parameters of our workout, as well as the process of muscle growth, we can move on to some of the best principles and methods for beginners.