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Hypertrophy – the gateway to muscular development and growth

Young sportswoman working out with training machine in gym

A common term people keen on exercising use frequently is hypertrophy. It is often allocated with sports and athleticism which is rightfully so. We shall try explaining why that is the case and what lies behind this term.

The name comes from ancient Greek and it is a combination of two words. First comes ὑπέρ or “hyper” which we can translate as “above” and later comes τροφή or “trophe” which can be translated as “food”. From this, we can observe that the process of hypertrophy has to do with a caloric surplus as well, and not only working out. It has been known since a long time ago that there is no muscle growth without proper nutrition.

Now that we’ve cleared the etymology we can focus on other parts of the explanation. What is hypertrophy, you ask? To put it rather simply, it is the main reason why people go for a workout – muscle development and growth. Muscular hypertrophy implies change (growth) in size, and therefore strength, of muscle tissue, usually as a result of strenuous physical exercise. If your body reaches hypertrophy it grows and becomes stronger.

What else do we know about it?

Scarred muscle tissue occurs as a result of hypertrophy. That might sound somewhat scary, and when you start to think about it is a weird process. However, it is a necessary part of any endurance and/or strength training since it is the only way for the muscle to develop. After the muscle tissue has been continuously torn apart it will gradually become stronger and stronger leading to an increase in stamina. Higher levels of stamina will allow for longer workouts, higher weights, more reps, etc.

So how is this hypertrophy achieved exactly? Well, the answer to that question is slightly more complicated, albeit, not the most difficult one. Namely, there are plenty of ways the human body might attain hypertrophy. With enough effort put the body will reach hypertrophy regardless of what your physical activity is. For the sake of the article, let us tackle some of the main points that we usually encounter in the field of physical activity.

Volume training

The number of sets/reps you perform

The number of sets and reps is important for understanding hypertrophy through volume training. The higher your rep or set number the higher your training volume is. Muscle fatigue occurs not only when you lift heavy weights, but also when the number of times you repeat your exercise increases. Whether it’s the reps or the sets that you increase, the result is mostly the same.

attractive man pumping muscles with dumbbell in hand in gym
High number of reps with a low weight helps with muscle toning

You can achieve hypertrophy with a higher number of sets, such as 5 or more sets of the same exercise. Some training methods such as the German volume training even go up to 10 sets. It all depends on what you find appealing to your body. Keep in mind that it’s not always about the number or the variety of exercises you do that determines how far you can go. Your workout can have only one or perhaps two exercises and that’s enough, given that you perform a high number of sets.

Intensity training

The heavier the better

Training intensity is determined by the weight you put on your barbell or dumbbells. That means that the higher weight you lift the higher the intensity of your workout will be. Reaching hypertrophy through lifting heavier weights is one of the most popular choices that athletes make and it is somewhat intuitive. When you’ve been lifting the same weight for some time you naturally consider lifting heavier. It is necessary for a person to increase the difficulty of his or her workouts after a certain time since your muscles need to be challenged in order to grow.

If you wish to achieve hypertrophy specifically through lifting heavier weights then switch up your routine after you can do a set of 10 or more repetitions comfortably. For example, if you can perform a set of 10 reps while doing the biceps curl with 8kg without much effort then you might want to consider raising the weight to 10kg. See how that weight fits you. If you can’t hold your form throughout the set then go back to 8’s since you’re not quite there yet.

Crossfit with weight
Lifting heavier weights immensely increases your strength

It is worth mentioning that you probably won’t be able to perform a high number of sets if you want to achieve hypertrophy this way. You will be fatigued quite quickly in the workout. In addition, give yourself more time between sets. This will give you an edge and you will be able to squeeze in a set or two more than you usually would.

Variations and negatives

Even though volume and intensity training are the most prominent hypertrophy methods, there are also other ways of increasing muscle mass and achieving muscular advancement. Here we should introduce two: implementing variations to your exercise and performing negative reps.

Variations:

What do variations or modes of exercise mean? They imply changing certain aspects of a given exercise in order to make it more challenging. How do we do that? There a plethora of different ways in which one can modify almost any exercise. If you’re doing pushups try changing the position of your hands, elevating your feet, etc.

The name of the game is creativity. Try inventing as many new forms of exercise as you can. The point of this method is to surprise your muscle by making it work in a yet undiscovered way. It will trigger hypertrophy in no time, and your muscles will have no other choice but to adapt and grow.

Strong athlete training biceps parts
A change in the grip you use also counts as a variation!

Remember that your body will eventually get used to any new change you make, especially if you’ve been doing a certain variation for a longer period. You have to persist in finding new methods of your favorite exercises.

Negatives:

A fairly overlooked method. However, extremely invasive. It will make your muscles burn like crazy and beg for mercy. Half of the work, if not more, is done by the muscle during the “negative” or the elongation phase of the exercise movement. Keep that in mind next time you go for a set of bicep curls.

Negatives rely on time, so the slower your movement is the better. Make sure not to compromise your stance at any point and just let gravity do the work. People who experience the perks of this method tend to implement it into all of their exercises since it’s that cool. This method also awakens your muscles fully which can help you develop a mind-muscle connection and therefore isolate the targeted muscle group.

Final thoughts

We hope that we’ve managed to provide you with some ideas to maximize your fitness efforts. The most important aspect of fitness is adaptation. The more adapt the body is to the strain it being put under the more it will grow. Keep swapping, changing, molding, and bending your exercise depot until you reach hypertrophy. There is no shortcut to a strong and healthy body.

Thank you for reading!

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