Hypertrophy Training and Programming
Hypertrophy is the increase in volume of of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells. It is different to hyperplasia which is when the cells remain approximately the same size but increase in numbers. Even though they are different processes they often occur together.
Schoenfeld, B., (2010) states that there are 3 mechanisms of hypertrophy - Mechanical Tension, Muscular Damage, and Metabolic Stress
Mechanical Tension - is caused by force generation and the stretch of the muscle which usually results in more neural adaptations than hypertrophy. In other words it's caused from Time under tension (TuT). TuT is the amount of time your muscle is placed under a specific load. TuT is a key factor in bodybuilding as it causes the Muscular damage that leads to growth. Muscular damage is the tearing of the muscle fibres which during recovery causes satellite cells to travel to damaged area and cause hypertrophy. Lastly is Metabolic stress which is caused by a metabolite build-up in the muscle, due to lack of oxygen. The metabolites tend to consist of Lactate, Hydrogen, Co2, Creatine etc. This is also known as Hypoxia and one of the training types used to cause this training effect is occlusion training/blood flow restriction training (BFR)(explained later). Though these are the influencing factors when it comes to causing hypertrophy other factors such as Age, Gender, Genetics etc., limit ones possible muscle gain. Experience level is also a huge factor with individuals who are newer to the gym being capable of putting on more muscle than those who have been training for years.
Training Variables - There are a number of training variables that influence which mechanism of hypertrophy is targeted. One can target one or two of the mechanisms with it rare to find a training method that involves all three. The training variables that are used throughout resistance training are as follows - Intensity, Volume, Rest Intervals, Rep tempo, Exercise selection, and muscular failure.
Volume and Intensity - Both Volume and Intensity are heavily linked in terms of programming for any form of training whether it be Hypertrophy, Strength, or Power. Both are key when it comes to progressive overload, without this it is extremely hard to continue to make progress in lifts and could possibly cause muscle gain to become stagnant (stop). A Every program should be designed with incremental increases in each variable either from session to session or week to week. There are many ways of programming for progression with Linear, Non-Linear etc.
Intensity (load) is the percentage of your one rep max (1rm) that you lift on any given lift. Rep ranges of 1-5 tend to involve 85% or over, 6-12 usually use 75-85% of your 1rm, and over 12 reps tends to use less tan 75%. Schoenfeld, B., found that the 6-12 rep range is the sweet spot for hypertrophy, although in beginners studies have shown powerlifting style programming over 6 weeks induced the same hypertrophic response as a hypertrophy based program along with the same group becoming stronger. It goes to show that beginners are extremely sensitive to resistance training and can make hypertrophic gains through different training types than just hypertrophy style training.
Volume - is the accumulation of reps, sets, and load (weight lifted). RepsxSetsxLoad (weight lifted) = Total Volume. Increasing total volume over time is another form of progression insuring a hypertrophic response or whatever type of training response one is looking for.Higher volume has been shown to be better than lower volume for Hypertrophy. Although overload is key for progression it is extremely important that one plans deloading weeks within there program to prevent burnout and allow for super compensation (adequate recovery which results in an increase in performance).
Rest Intervals - can be divided into 3 different categories Short (30 seconds or less), Medium (60-90 seconds), and Long (3 minutes +). Short rest times are perfect for inducing Metabolic stress but are bad for strength training. Long rest periods are better for Mechanical Tension. Moderate rest times have been found to be the sweet spot for hypertrophy,causing metabolite build-up (hypoxia) in the target muscle.
Muscular Failure - training to failure has be found to aid in hypertrophy as it cause an increase in Metabolic Stress, however it can increase the chance of burnout/overtraining which would cause a decrease in performance.
Rep Speed (Tempo) - goes back the Time under Tension (TuT). Controlling of the weight and causing the muscle to placed under Tension for certain time periods has been shown to increase the Muscular Damage. The Eccentric (lowering e.g. Lowering the barbell towards your chest during the bench press) of the weight is where most of the damage will be done 2-4 second eccentrics have been shown to be the most effective. Isometric holds (squeeze e.g. Pausing at the bottom of a tricep push down) of 1-3 seconds are said to be best for hypertrophy, while during the Concentric (lifting of the weight e.g. Flexing of the elbow during a bicep curl) 1-3 seconds has been shown to be the most beneficial, as an explosive concentric movement causes more damage than a slow concentric.
Last of the variables with regards programming is Exercise Selection. Schoenfeld states that exercises should be multiplaned, and multiangular. Essentially hitting the muscle using different angles and movements (e.g. Chest - Incline bench, flat bench, dips, and flyes would hit the chest from different angles and different planes). Exercises used should be specific to ones individual goals, anatomy, flexibility etc. No two people in the gym should be doing the same program. Specificity is essential when it comes to programming for people if no two athletes in an elite sports set-up should have the same program then there is no reason why two people in a recreational set-up should have the same program.
Schoenfeld, B., (2011) looked at the use of Advanced training techniques on maximising hypertrophy. The use of Forced reps (use of a spotter to aid in lifting the weight), Drop sets (performing a set amount of repetitions of an exercise and dropping the load by 10-15%, and lifting again doing so twice within that set), Supersets (hitting the same muscle with 2 exercises in a row - no rest, or hitting antagonistic muscle groups - bi's and tri's, one after the other with no rest), Heavy negatives/eccentrics (using a load much heavier than one is used to and getting assistance during the concentric phase of the lift, and lowering the weight as slowly as possible), and Rest pause sets (performing for example 8 reps, then resting 3 seconds and lifting a further 4, then resting once more for 3 seconds and performing 4 more reps. Followed by the suggested 60-90 seconds rest).
In relation to nutrition one should make sure that they are in a caloric surplus and consuming roughly 0.8g - 1g of protein per pound of body weight. Carbohydrates should make up about 60% of ones macros while in that surplus with the remaining calories coming from fats (aim for unsaturated fats). Try and get as much of your calories from whole foods as possible.
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