“Hypertrophy” is a term you hear very often in conjunction with bodybuilding and working out. But what is hypertrophy and how do you best achieve it?
Enlargement Of Cells
Basically, “hypertrophy” means nothing else than the enlargement of an organ or tissue due to an increase in the size of the cells it is made from.
Sarcoplasmic And Myofibrillar
Of course, in bodybuilding we are most concerned with one specific form of tissue we would like to enlarge: our muscles. And when it comes to muscular hypertrophy, there are two distinct kinds:
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which is an increase in the amount of fluid inside the muscles, making them larger without an increase in strength
- Myofibrillar hypertrophy, referring to the body using protein to enlarge the actual fibers muscles are made of, making them stronger
The Weak Bodybuilder
Wolf recently touched on it in an article: Many people believe that bodybuilders either knowingly or unknowingly reach for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, giving them huge size with comparatively little gains in strength.
As Wolf said, that simply isn’t true. You can’t have either kind in its pure form, because sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy always go hand in hand. The only thing you may be able to influence is where the emphasis is put, with the rule of thumb being low rep ranges (5 -8) aiming more toward myofibrillar hypertrophy, and higher ranges (8 – 12) involving more sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
There are people out there that claim that their workout plans will give you the maximum possible amount of either kind of hypertrophy. In reality, this can’t work.
Although all humans are made from the same blue print, there are variations between us that have to be accounted for: genetic makeup, sex, age, nutrition etc. Because of this, there can’t be a one-size-fits-all plan that lets everybody reach the maximum possible amount of hypertrophy. Every trainee needs a plan tailored to his needs.
In my opinion, the only fundamental rules you should heed in your quest for hypertrophy are these:
- Work against sufficient resistance, which means don’t go for rep ranges over 15, as around that point you will start to train muscular endurance, which involves neither kind of hypertrophy
- Get enough protein, because your body needs protein to build muscle
- Vary your workouts from time to time, as it will keep your body engaged
Here is the video to this article:
Picture courtesy of “Aunt Owwee“.