Hypertrophy-specific training is for those with muscle on their minds. Hypertrophy training is the direct manipulation of your workout program to focus on moderate weight and sets with higher repetitions. The goal is to bring the muscle tissue to the point of fatigue, spurning the body to adapt and create bigger muscles to handle the workload.
How to Use Hypertrophy Training to Build Muscle Fast
Are you looking to get jacked and move up a shirt size? Do you want to correct a lagging body part such as your legs or back? When muscle is what you have on your mind, hypertrophy training needs to be your go-to style of workout.
Hypertrophy-specific training is a training method that is designed to trigger muscle growth. While strength levels will also increase, the acute variables that you’ll follow on a hypertrophy training program maximize the growth of muscle tissue.
Let’s look at what is hypertrophy training, the difference between hypertrophy vs. strength training, and a comprehensive breakdown of hypertrophy-focused acute variables. We’ll even throw in a customized hypertrophy training program to get you started. What is Hypertrophy?
Always associated with muscle growth, studies show that hypertrophy literally means the increase in the size of muscle tissue due to an increase in the size of its cells. It’s not that your body will produce more cells to create an overcrowded effect and making your muscle tissue grow; rather, the cells currently in your muscle tissue increase in size due to the demands from hypertrophic-focused training. Hypertrophy and Muscle Gains
Your body is an adaptation machine, but it prefers a state of homeostasis or equilibrium. When a stressor is placed upon the body, it quickly begins learning how to adapt to it so that it’s no longer a stressor, but the norm. In other words, your body will adapt to a stressor so that the stressor is the new state of homeostasis.
Using weightlifting as an example: Let’s say that when you first tried to bench press 100 pounds, it seemed impossible. Maybe you had to start at 75 pounds. But you worked at it, increasing your weight slowly week by week. Eventually, you reached 100 pounds and you didn’t increase your weight after this. You kept benching 100 pounds every week until it became easy for you. Your body adapted to the stressor until it became the norm.
Behind the scenes, when it comes to hypertrophy and muscle gains, the way in which your body adapts to the new stressor – the weightlifting workout – is by increasing the size of its cells, ensuring they can provide plenty of energy to the muscle tissue to move the weight. In response to the cells getting bigger, your lean muscle tissue also increases in size.Hypertrophy-Specific Training
Hypertrophy training uses a different set of acute variables than traditional strength or endurance weightlifting. For hypertrophy, studies show that you’ll want to focus on a moderate amount of weight and sets with more repetitions. Here’s the breakdown of the acute variables used in hypertrophy-specific training:
Type of Exercises: Compound movements should be performed first followed by isolation movements (e.g., squats then leg extensions)
Weight Used: 65% to 75% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) or the greatest amount of weight you can safely lift with perfect form for one complete repetition
Tempo: 2 seconds lifting the weight / 0 seconds pausing at the top of the movement / 2 seconds lowering the weight to the starting position
The Principles of Hypertrophy Training
Rest Break: 60 to 90 seconds, depending on intensity, preference, and experience
Outside of a set standard of acute variables, there are specific principles that you’ll have to learn if you want to see real results from hypertrophy training. Let’s review the training, dietary, and lifestyle principles you’ll need to practice if you want to see maximum muscle growth.Training Principles Mechanical and Progressive Load:
The idea behind muscle growth is consistently stressing the tissue so that you’re doing more each week. Mechanical load ensures that you are lifting more each week, applying the ideal amount of stimulus on the muscle in order to trigger a growth response. You achieve this growth-focused mechanical load through a progressive load, which means you systematically increase the weight you use from week to week. Chronic Stimuli:
This idea of hitting each major muscle group once per week might be okay for maintaining your current levels of muscle, but if your goal is growth, then you need to be hitting the major muscle groups two to three times per week. Letting a week pass between training sessions for a muscle group is too long and it won’t encourage growth. Strategic Deconditioning:
Once you have reached the point of maximum load and growth, also known as a plateau, be sure to take a week or two off, allowing your muscles to fully recover and become re-sensitized to the hypertrophy-focused workload. After a week or two of no real training, only physical activities such as jogging and hiking, then begin the process all over again to break through that plateau. Dietary Principles
Did you know that the amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscle tissue? Studies show that focusing on a protein-heavy diet is key for muscle growth. Quality matters here. Don’t settle for processed or fried protein sources such as fried chicken. Instead, go for baked, broiled, or grilled chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Protein supplements, especially whey protein isolate, are always a great option. Aim for about a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Carbohydrates:
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbs digest quickly and immediately spike your blood sugar while complex carbs do just the opposite. Focus on simple carbs such as white rice or white bread after a workout. For the rest of the day, eat complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, lentils, dark leafy greens, and quinoa. Fats
: Healthy sources of fat are essential for the production and release of growth hormone, which promotes recovery and growth. When eating fats, select whole food-based choices and try to steer clear of fried or processed fatty foods. For example, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and salmon are great high-fat options. Snack cakes, fast food burgers, and anything that’s deep fried is not a good option for healthy fats.
Sleep for Recovery:
It’s during sleep that the greatest levels of growth hormone are released, supporting tissue healing and muscle recovery. Aim to sleep no less than 7 hours per night. As a rule of thumb, the more brutal your workouts, the more sleep you’ll probably need. Keep Catabolic Hormones Down:
When you get stressed, your body releases fight-or-flight hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. They’re great when you’re in a bind and need to think on your feet, but chronic stress can promote a catabolic (breakdown) environment. Practice belly breathing when you get stressed. We also recommend meditating for a few minutes each day. Spend Time with Friends:
Although it may seem counterproductive, giving yourself some time to be social and enjoy the company of friends can assist with recovery. This is not an excuse to hit up the bar and binge drink; rather, engage in positive activities that get you laughing and having a good time… but remember your muscle-building diet before going out. The Difference Between Hypertrophy Training and Strength Training
While both forms of training will produce gains in muscle and strength, there are key differences between hypertrophy vs. strength training: Acute Variables
: Hypertrophy training focuses on a moderate amount of weight and sets with higher repetitions while strength training uses a lot of weight with more sets and fewer repetitions. Splits
: Strength training will usually be focused on the essential or major muscle groups (e.g., quadriceps, chest, and back) while hypertrophy training targets every muscle group for the purpose of aesthetic balance. Overall Goal
: Hypertrophy training has one central goal: bigger muscle mass. Strength training doesn’t care for aesthetics and the focus is on setting new personal bests.
The Hypertrophy Training Plan
Below, you’ll find a hypertrophy training plan that focuses on full-body workouts. Perform these weight-based workouts three times per week, adding a fourth day once you hit a plateau. Be sure to break up your training days with cardio to support blood flow and recovery. Day One: Full-Body Weightlifting
Day Two: Cardio
- Barbell Squat: 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions
- Lat Pulldown: 4 x 8 – 12
- Hex Bar Deadlift: 4 x 8 – 12
- Dumbbell Chest Press: 4 x 8 – 12
- Woodchopper: 5 x 12 – 15
30 minutes of moderate to high-intensity cardio (e.g., jogging, swimming, biking, etc) Day Three: Rest
Focus on getting at least 7 hours of sleep and eating plenty of natural and whole food options Day Four: Full-Body Weightlifting
Day Five: Cardio
- Barbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions
- Deadlifts: 4 x 8 – 12
- Weighted Pull-Ups: 4 x 8 – 12
- Leg Press: 4 x 8 – 12
- Hanging Leg Lift: 5 x 12 – 15
30 minutes of moderate to high-intensity cardio (e.g., jogging, swimming, biking, etc) Day Six: Full-Body Weightlifting
Day Seven: Rest
- Barbell Rows: 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions
- Leg Extensions: 4 x 8 – 12
- Dumbbell Fly: 4 x 8 – 12
- Romanian Deadlift: 4 x 8 – 12
- Cable Crunch: 5 x 12 – 15
Focus on getting at least 7 hours of sleep and eating plenty of natural and whole food optionsConclusion
If you want to build muscle, you need the proper hypertrophy-specific program, but more importantly, you need consistency. When you begin the hypertrophy training routine above, stick to it for at least 12 weeks then measure your gains. If you want more muscle, tweak the program to include another lifting day and get back at it.