If you are a regular at the gym, you have probably heard big guys throw around the word “hypertrophy” casually. But, what is hypertrophy? Is it a passing fad or is it a form of exercise backed by real science? 

Rest assured as the hype behind hypertrophy is real. By definition and in non-professional terms, hypertrophy is the enlargement of an organ or muscle by increasing the size of its cells. Thus, hypertrophy refers to the growth and increase of muscle cells. 

Muscle Hypertrophy can be achieved through hypertrophy training. If you want to tone or improve muscle definition, the most common way to achieve hypertrophy is to lift weights. 

Yes, hypertrophy is backed by true science. It occurs through a physiological process that results in an increased number of contractile proteins, that is, actin and myosin in each muscle fiber. With the right training and know-how, you can catalyze this process and achieve the results you are looking for.

Here is all you need to know about muscle hypertrophy.

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What is muscle hypertrophy?

You need to know about two types of muscle hypertrophy:

  1. Myofibrillar: The growth of muscle contraction parts
  2. Sarcoplasmic: The increased muscle glycogen storage

Both of these types have different target points and thus, give different benefits. Myofibrillar focuses on strength and speed training, whereas sarcoplasmic growth helps your body produce more sustained energy for endurance and stamina during athletic performance. 

Now, which type of muscle hypertrophy you want to focus on depends on your personal fitness and training goals. 

When weightlifting, the way you lift will determine the way your muscles grow and change. You can perform more reps at a lower weight or lift a heavier weight for fewer repetitions. 

No matter what you do, if you don’t lift weight to the point of saturation or fatigue. It won’t do you any good for your muscle hypertrophy training. 

It’s important to note that using a heavier weight load is an effective way to stimulate growth and definition in muscle fibers. It is also more efficient if you have less time on your hands. 

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Benefits of Hypertrophy Training 

One of the common benefits of hypertrophy is the aesthetic appeal, that is, your body looks big and bulked up. This is also the primary reason why most people are attracted to hypertrophy training in the first place.

Other benefits of muscle hypertrophy include: 

  1. Increased strength and power
  2. Increased caloric expenditure that aids the weight loss process
  3. Increased symmetry in your muscles (avoids muscular imbalance and makes your body appear proportionate)

Hypertrophy Training Vs. Strength Training 


One of the most frequently asked questions related to muscle hypertrophy and hypertrophy training is it’s relation to strength training. How different are the both and do they produce the same or more or less similar benefits?

Let’s explore Muscle hypertrophy Vs. Strength Training

The good news is that the equipment and exercises used in both strength training and muscle hypertrophy training are pretty much the same. There are some primary differences that include:

1.Training volume: 

Training volume refers to the number of sets and reps you do in an exercise regiment.

2.Rest between sets: 

Rest between sets is self-explanatory, it refers to the amount of rest time that you allow your body to recover from the physical strain of the exercise. 

3.Training intensity: 

Training intensity refers to the weight you lift.

How can you build muscle and increase muscle size? 

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If you want to build muscle through weight lifting or muscle hypertrophy training, you will have to have both mechanical damage and metabolic fatigue. That means, when you lift a heavyweight, the contractile proteins in the muscles have to generate force that will help to overturn the endurance provided by the weight you lift.

However, this can lead to structural damage in the muscles. The mechanical damage in the muscle proteins stimulates a sort of repair response in the body. Thus, the damaged fibres in the muscles result in an increase in the muscle cells and eventually muscle size.

Mechanical fatigue of the muscles occurs when the muscle fibres exhaust their natural source of ATP, that is the energy component that helps in the contraction of the muscles. In mechanical fatigue, they aren’t able to continue fuelling the muscle contractions. This lead to muscle gain.

Both mechanical damage and mechanical fatigue are crucial for achieving muscular hypertrophy. Studies suggest that for maximum gains, there has to be a significant metabolic stress on the muscles in addition to a moderate degree of muscular tension. 

Exercises that involve shortening movements at a fast pace and elongating them at a lower space are highly effective. Examples of such exercises are bicep curls and similar movements. 

How often should you lift to achieve muscle hypertrophy?

First things first, how often should you lift weights to achieve muscle hypertrophy should typically depend on your personal fitness goals. However, if you have no clue where to start from, you can try this sample weight-lifting schedule.

1.Lifting heavy weights three days a week: 

When you lift weights three days a week (especially heavyweights) it allows you one day in between to let your muscles recover before the next training session. You must remember that recovery is essential for muscle growth and achieving muscle hypertrophy. 

2.Lifting just two days a week: 

This depends on your current fitness level and how fast you want to achieve muscle hypertrophy.

3.Switching between upper-body lifting and lower-body lifting: 

You can alternate between upper-body lifting and lower-body lifting on different days with adequate rest and recovery periods in between. 

Courtesy: MyoJournal

Tips to make the most of your hypertrophy training:

  1. Lift enough weight. Don’t lift a weight that is too light as it won’t be effective.
  2. Consider hiring a personal fitness trainer.
  3. Pick a diverse range of exercises or activities that will help you target different muscle groups.
  4. Use a proper rep and rest cycle. 

No matter what you do and how you do it, remember to stay consistent. Achieving hypertrophy takes time. It won’t happen overnight, in a week or even a month. And, don’t overexert yourself. Be consistent and allow your body to rest. 

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