Strength Training

Maximizing Hypertrophy for Your Client’s Strength Goals

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, Hypertrophy, Maximizing Hypertrophy for Your Client’s Strength Goals

Hypertrophy training increases muscle growth and strength. It can be achieved through various training styles including resistance training. When the body's muscles are put under tension, it causes damage, or micro-tears. For muscle to rebuild micro tears must be repaired. Constant breakdown and build up puts a demand on the musculoskeletal system. This forces the body to respond by increasing lean muscle tissue.

In this article we define hypertrophy and explore the many benefits of having muscle mass.

Hypertrophy Explained

Sarcomeres are the basic unit of a muscle and coordinate muscle contractions. There are two different types of hypertrophy that often get confused. 

  1. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy: Increases the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in a muscle cell. This affects muscle cell size and does not affect muscular strength. 
  2. Sarcomere hypertrophy: Increases muscle strength only and not size. 

When you experience sarcoplasmic hypertrophy you achieve a greater muscle “pump”. This leads to more hypertrophy. Whereas is sarcomere hypertrophy only the myofibrils increase in size. This only influences strength because its main control is muscle contraction.

Why is this important? 

Knowing the two types of hypertrophy help you train more efficiently. The better your strength training program, the more results you encounter.

How to Maximize Gains

If your goal is to increase muscle mass you might consider hypertrophy training. To achieve muscle growth you need to increase workout volume. Gym goers tend to only focus on increasing the number of sets and reps to do so. Fortunately there are other methods of training to increase total training volume.

To maximize hypertrophy gains you must have the following:

  1. Muscle tension
  2. Hypoxia
  3. Muscle damage

A large range of motion and lifting tempos achieve muscle tension. Using a moderate weight for longer periods of time increases hypoxia and muscle damage.

Lifting weights causes metabolic reactions and a buildup of substances in the body. Tension causes blood vessels to constrict and condense. This creates a lack of blood flow and oxygen. Also known as a hypoxic environment.

Muscle hypertrophy is at its greatest potential during hypoxia. Hypoxia leads to more muscle breakdown and repair processes. Over time, the human body adapts by becoming stronger and bigger.

To help promote hypertrophy, try the following in your training:

  • Lift heavy weights
  • Focus on form and technique
  • Progress your routine
  • Use eccentric training
  • Increase range of motion

If you focus on these muscle building techniques, you will speed up muscle growth and increase size. This affects total strength, power, and calorie burn.

Training for Hypertrophy

Now that you know what causes hypertrophy, let’s look at training factors. One of the most common training styles for muscle growth is progressive overload. The progressive overload principle says the body needs to be forced to adapt to new demands. To grow bigger muscle fibers, you need to give the body enough stimulus to react.

Adjusting one or more of the following workout modalities can help you do this:

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Time
  • Type

Clients who work out for the first time will notice gains a lot quicker. Those with higher fitness levels will need to try harder to notice change.

The FITT principle (frequency, intensity, time, type) aims to help clients increase total volume and overload the muscles. Adjust these factors and prescribe accordingly to each client.

Frequency simply refers to the number of days you workout each week. Starting off with two workouts per week and advancing to three workouts per week increases total volume.

The intensity of the workout is based on how hard you work. Anaerobic training intensity is decided by the amount of weight lifted. Whereas aerobic training intensity is measured by heart rate.

The time it takes to perform an exercise is important. Because performing sets for a longer period increases muscle stress and fatigue.

The type of exercise will also determine the amount of stress applied to a muscle. The greater the load on the muscles, the better the gains. For example, you can perform two exercises, one right after another. Performing a bent over row and then a lat pulldown with no rest will overload the back muscles.

Learn more on how muscles work to understand how they respond to resistance training.

Planning a Hypertrophy Workout Outside the Gym

To get the most from hypertrophy training aim for 3-5 workouts per week. Complete each exercise for 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps. Aim to rest 45-60 seconds in between each set. Shorter rest periods help cause volitional fatigue. Full exhaustion of muscles will maximize hypertrophy.

The number of sets should be dependent on your client’s fitness level. Start by choosing four exercises and add more accordingly. It’s not just what you do inside the gym that gets you results. Planning what foods to eat before and after is a crucial factor.

Help clients develop a nutrition plan along with their workout program. Clients should consume complex carbohydrates at least two hours prior to a workout. This will ensure they have stored energy to use for the workout.

Workouts deplete glycogen stores, so remind clients to refuel after a workout with simple carbs and protein to help increase recovery. Nutrition absorption is at its highest immediately following a workout.

For every 1 gram of protein aim to consume 1 gram of carb. Carbs aid in protein transport through blood and increase protein synthesis.

Hydration and Recovery

Did you know that 70% of the body's cells are composed of water? Water helps regulate body temperature, plays a role in sweating, nutrient absorption, and removal of toxins.

Without water, carbohydrates and proteins are unable to transport through the body. Water also helps lubricate joints in the body, which supports the demand for exercise.

Dehydration is a result of losing more water than you take in. This leads to high blood pressure and other health complications. It slows down the buildup of protein in the body affecting protein synthesis, which diminishes fat loss and muscle growth.

High volume workouts take longer to recover from compared to low volume workouts. The amount of muscle damage and fatigue can linger for days after. To help promote faster recovery, focus on hydration and nutrition. 

Don’t forget to implement other methods of recovery like self-myofascial release techniques, sleep, and de-load weeks. These are crucial in assisting central nervous system recovery. It helps eliminate overreaching or overtraining. 

If you are looking to expand your knowledge on how to build muscle. Check out the ISSA’s Bodybuilding Specialist course. This course will teach you how to train and recover for hypertrophy.

ISSA

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