This is the fourth article in the ‘strength series’. In the last three articles, I discussed maximum strength, power and strength endurance, and how to develop them. Now the thing is if you keep training for these components of strength, you’re not gonna gain much size. When you’re training for these components, you’re training to improve your performance and get more athletic rather than the appearance of your body. Of course, you’ll gain some size and get shredded like the athletes of the Olympic games but this type of training, fortunately, is not gonna make you look like a Mr. Olympia competitor. Your muscles are not gonna get freakish big or ultra ripped (5% or below fat percentage). This proves that bodybuilding training is useless in the world of sports and it’s not gonna help you win any real competitions. It’s not just useless, but, in fact, competing with extra mass that doesn’t serve any purpose also proves to be counterproductive because in most of the cases super big muscles are not functional, you can’t use them on the field or court or arena or in practical life situations or during self-defense. Let me put it this way. You have to make a choice between two engines for your car. The first engine is bigger in size, heavier and makes 300 horsepower. The second engine is smaller in size, lighter and makes 500 horsepower. Which engine are you gonna go for? That’s what I’m talking about. When you can generate more power with a lighter body, that makes you a superior athlete, a beast in the competitions. Since this article is about hypertrophy, I’m gonna tell you about gaining muscle size but before we dive into that pool, let me first tell you why Olympic athletes never train for size.
- Ratio of strength and size : A bodybuilder’s strength is not proportional to their size. Hypertrophy training doesn’t make you as strong as a powerlifter or as explosive as a weightlifter or as enduring as a strongman. Bodybuilders are mostly concerned about how big their muscles are, how many veins are popping out of their bodies, and how many striations are visible. Then they go on the stage and flex. And they call it a sport! How lame! Since when has objectifying oneself become a sport? FYI, hypertrophy training is the lowest form of training and it will always be looked down upon by real athletes unless it is balanced by all-around training.
- Exercise Economy : When you’re carrying some extra useless muscles (weight), your body is expending extra energy for every activity that you do. You’ll get tired very quickly. It compromises your ability to last longer and perform well, and makes you gas out much before your opponent. An efficient athlete expends less energy at any given workload. In short, an efficient athlete has a higher exercise economy. They carry only as much muscles as they can use while performing. Having muscles is good but too much is counterproductive.
There are two types of hypertrophy : Sarcoplasmic and Myofibrillar. During sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, there is an increase in the volume of fluid in the muscles with virtually no strength gain. This type of hypertrophy is dominant in the muscles of the bodybuilders. During myofibrillar hypertrophy, there is an increase in the size of muscle fibres making the muscles really strong with a small increase in size. It’s more dominant in weightlifters. I’ll discuss the two types of hypertrophy in detail in the upcoming articles. Now when I say hypertrophy, I’m mainly referring to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (the bodybuilding type).
Eight rules for gaining size
- Keep the intensity below 85% of 1RM. In simple language, don’t lift heavy. Intensity training is for developing power and maximum strength and not for hypertrophy.
- Keep the volume high but not as high that it turns into strength endurance training. It means repetition range should be between 8-12.
- Always perform every repetition with a full range of motion.
- To activate slow-twitch muscle fibres, train with lighter weights at a slower tempo. And to promote growth, damage the muscles with moderate weights and higher reps at a normal tempo.
- Hit the muscle from a different angle.
- In the training schedule, make sure to include, both compound movements (squats, deadlifts) and isolation movements (dumbbell curls and triceps pushdowns).
- Take proper rest and eat a lot as well as frequently. Make sure you are taking enough macros and are not deficient in any micronutrients.
- Follow the principles of progressive overload.
Number of sessions per week : 3-5
Number of exercises per session : 6-9
Number of sets per exercise : 3-5
Number of repetitions per set : 8-12
Intensity : 65-85% of 1RM
Rest Interval : 2-3 minutes
Tempo (Speed of execution) : Slow to Medium