We will analyze in detail muscle hypertrophy, as well as how to gain weight with it as quickly as possible.
What is the best way to achieve hypertrophy? The truth is that there is no one type of hypertrophy, and in order to achieve the two main types of hypertrophy, you must resort to different types of training. So, all types of hypertrophy can be divided into two types.
Hypertrophy of myofibrils
Myofibrils are bundles of myofilaments (contractile parts of a muscle – that is, those parts that pull and squeeze weight). They are found in all skeletal muscle tissues.
Each muscle cell contains many myofibrils. Myofibril hypertrophy occurs due to increased physical activity (when you lift weights larger than what your body is used to), which results in damage to individual muscle cells. Your body reacts to this as a “trauma” and, during recovery, “compensates with a margin” for the damage it has received, increasing the volume and density of myofibrils so that the “trauma” does not happen again.
This is one of the reasons why, in order to continue to achieve results, the body must be subjected to an ever-increasing load.
Sarcoplasm is the fluid that surrounds the myofibrils in the muscles and is a source of energy. It contains things like ATP , glycogen, creatine phosphate, and water.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy generally occurs in the same way as myofibrillar. The body, in the recovery period after the depletion of your energy reserves, “compensates with a margin” for the lost. Thus, the amount of energy stores – such as ATP and glycogen – is increased in order to subsequently prevent their rapid depletion.
An increase in the size of the blood vessels that “deliver” blood to the muscles can also be implicated in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This phenomenon is often referred to as capillarization.
So now you know two types of hypertrophy. What’s the best way to achieve both of these? Before answering this question, I would like to emphasize: select weights for the number of repetitions, NOT the number of repetitions under the weights.
Progressive overload means a gradual increase in the load on a muscle that becomes stronger or more enduring. This means that you need to use weights and repetitions that will be very difficult to overcome.
You need to choose exactly such a weight with which you can barely do the required number of repetitions. Do not take such weights with which you cannot do the required number of repetitions, or, conversely, at the end of the set, be able to do many more reps. Therefore, if you need to do 12 repetitions in an exercise, pick up such a weight with which you can do exactly 12 repetitions.
Myofibril hypertrophy training
Strength training with weights of 80% or more of the one-rep maximum. 3-8 reps with pauses between sets of 2-4 minutes. Such a system will provide the maximum increase in the volume and saturation of myofibrils. This means that if you want to achieve myofibrillar hypertrophy, you need to work with large weights. The more weight, the more muscle fibers are recruited, and therefore damaged. However, it is recommended to stick to 3-5 reps per set, since fewer numbers tend to result in neuromuscular adaptation, which mainly develops strength.
In fact, low repetitions are critical for maximum growth.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy training
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is achieved through what is known as endurance training. Weights are taken in about 75% of those that you can do at a time, and the number of repetitions is 10-15. The pause between sets is 45-90 seconds. This is called endurance training because it very quickly expends a large amount of energy in the muscle cells, depleting the muscles.
When choosing the number of sets for such workouts, you need to consider the amount of time spent under load. There is a minimum amount of time under stress to achieve hypertrophy. And for endurance training, this time is longer than for strength training.
In endurance training, the time under load should be greater than the reserves available for energy expenditure. The main sources of energy for anaerobic exercise are ATP and creatine phosphate. They are short-lived and deplete after 7-10 seconds. After that, your body resorts to glycogen stores, which in turn causes the release of lactic acid (this burns in the muscles from it). This means that in endurance workouts, the time under load should exceed 10 seconds. This in turn means that doing slow reps and supersets is a great way to achieve sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
Why can’t I achieve both types of hypertrophy at the same time?
Here is the range of repetitions required for sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy:
- 1-5 repetitions – maximum increase in strength and myofibrillar hypertrophy.
- 6-8 repetitions – the “golden mean” between myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
- 9-12 repetitions – the maximum increase in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
- 13-15 repetitions – slow reaching hypertrophy.
The damage to myofibrils will not stop after 12 repetitions, but it will happen at a lower intensity and with fewer muscle fibers.
Why use the number of repetitions at which the maximum result is not achieved in either myofibrillar or sarcoplasmic hypertrophy? After all, you can achieve both hypertrophies separately at maximum efficiency. I’ll explain how to achieve this below.
So, we figured out that sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is achieved through endurance training, and myofibrillar hypertrophy through strength training. What’s the best way to achieve both of them?
I’m sure you know about the tendencies in power sports that dominated the socialist camp in the 50-80s. Periodization was one of these trends .
In the West, periodization was primitive until it was discovered by the coaches of the eastern bloc. Periodization is a method of training certain aspects in cycles. Periodization can be divided into three types:
- Microcycle – about a week.
- The mesocycle is usually several weeks.
- Macrocycle – several months and even years.
Today, people typically use mesocycles in their workouts – say, they use strength programs that last 8-12 weeks. Then they do the increased intensity program for the same 8-12 weeks. While this approach can yield good results in one area, it is very linear, so you can regress in other areas. Also, in programs lasting weeks and months, it is difficult to maintain a consistent increase in working weight.
And here the technique comes to the rescue from the USSR. Many Soviet trainers used very short micro-cycles, developing different areas over several weeks. For example:
- First week: strength training.
- Second week: training for speed and endurance.
This system can be repeated over many months with only small changes, and progress in training will be much easier, since the body will not be able to get used to constantly changing loads.
Therefore, to achieve maximum hypertrophy, I advise you to use two to three week microcycles, for example:
- First week: Strength training 4 days a week.
- Second week: Endurance training 5 times a week.
- Third week: recovery, 2 workouts per week for all muscle groups.
Even shorter sub-loops can be used. For example, start upper body strength training with 5-6 sets of 2-6 reps, then increase the number of reps to 8-15 and decrease the time between sets for the next 3-4 exercises.
A good example is a program that includes exercises for both low and high repetitions. It should be noted that in such programs, exercises with a low number of repetitions should go first. This is necessary in order to prepare the nervous system for the subsequent stress. In simple terms, the nervous system warms up well through strength training and subsequently allows you to work at maximum efficiency.
A study comparing the linear methodology and periodization showed that with linear training, the strength indicators of athletes increased by 14.15% in 12 weeks, while during the periodization during the same period, the strength increased by 23.53%.
So, here it is – the way to achieve muscle hypertrophy. If you like the idea, I recommend giving it a try. Personally, I have tried many techniques and without any doubt I can say that the best solution for me was precisely the combination of short micro-cycles of small and large numbers of repetitions. Many other professionals use this type of workout as well.