June 15, 2024

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The Sports Fanatics

Hypertrophy Training: Benefits, Risks, Tips

Hypertrophy is an increase in your muscle size. Most of the time, this increase is accomplished through exercises and workouts that incorporate strength training—lifting weights is the most common way to increase hypertrophy.

There are two main types of muscle hypertrophy—sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibril hypertrophy. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the physical increase of your muscle and is what most people mean when they refer to hypertrophy training. Meanwhile, myofibril hypertrophy is when a muscle becomes more dense and compact. 

If increasing your muscle size is your goal, your workout routine should be designed to optimize and increase muscle mass. Generally, this means that you should lift weights and gradually increase the volume of your workouts in order to change the size and shape of your muscles.

Hypertrophy training is a type of resistance training that involves focusing on specific techniques that will increase your muscle tone, size, and mass. Although everyone has different workout goals, a lot of people pursue hypertrophy training to support their health goals. Others might engage in this type of training to prevent injury, change their appearance, or even to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Developing adequate levels of muscle mass plays an important role in your health and wellness. For example, having low levels of muscle mass is associated with an increased risk of several diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Low muscle mass also can influence the development of cardio-metabolic issues, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and even increase the risk of falls.

Regardless of your goals, hypertrophy training is a great option for building muscle mass. Research indicates that you can build muscle mass by focusing on mechanical tension—using a heavy weight and performing exercises through a full range of motion for a period of time—and metabolic stress, which is essentially the pump you achieve as a result of working out at a higher intensity with shorter rest periods. In fact, consistently implementing this type of training regimen is essential to getting results.

Building muscle mass through hypertrophy training can benefit your health in a number of ways. In fact, it is so beneficial that the American Heart Association recommends that everyone incorporate muscle strengthening activities at least twice per week into their workout regimen. Here are some of the potential benefits of hypertrophy training.

It Manages and Improves Metabolic Function

Not only can developing your muscles reduce body fat and increase metabolism, it also can lower your blood pressure, improve your blood lipid profile, and improve glucose tolerance. This is particularly important if you have type 2 diabetes or are at risk of developing the condition.

In fact, one study found that people with type 2 diabetes who engaged in a hypertrophy training program of two to three sets of eight to 10 repetitions showed significant improvements in their glycemic control, insulin sensitivity, and triglycerides.

It Improves Quality of Life

Increasing your muscle mass also can lead to an improvement in your movement and your functional capacity—both of which improve your overall quality of life. This is particularly important as you age. In fact, research shows that regular physical activity in mature adults is not only important for healthy aging, but also reduces mortality and injury risk.

Plus, physical activity like hypertrophy training promotes both physical and mental health. It can even lead to more social interactions and a happier overall countenance. Hypertrophy training can even be effective at reducing the likelihood of age-related muscle mass loss and age-related diseases.

Reduces Risk of Osteoporosis

When you build muscle, you also can prevent—and sometimes even reverse—osteoporosis. For instance, research indicates that the mechanical load placed on your bones when you engage in resistance training also leads to an increase in bone strength.

In fact, researchers believe that working to build muscle—either alone or with other exercises—may be the most beneficial strategy you can implement to preserve, and sometimes even improve, bone mass. It is particularly useful for postmenopausal people and those in middle age as well as those who are seniors.

When done properly, hypertrophy training is typically a safe and effective way to build muscle mass. The key, though, is to make sure this type of training is appropriate given your medical history and current fitness level. Talk to a healthcare provider about your goals to determine if this type of workout is appropriate for you.

Additionally, make sure you are using good form when you are training in order to decrease your risk of injury. If you are unsure of how to perform an exercise, it may be helpful to talk with a certified personal trainer or look for detailed instructions online.

Another way to reduce the risk of hypertrophy training is to focus on building a strong base first. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), this approach will help you build muscle mass naturally without putting your body at risk. You also should focus on lifting an appropriate amount of weight. Lifting too much can put you at risk for injuries.

It is also important to recognize that in some cases, increasing the size of your muscles does not always equate to more strength. Likewise, if you do not carefully plan out your routine, or if you try to do too much, there is a possibility of getting an overuse injury.

When it comes to hypertrophy training, it is important to note that there is no well-established consensus on how your training variables should be implemented or changed in order to promote muscle growth. For this reason, there are a number of ways to approach your training. Try experimenting with different sets and reps until you find an approach that works for you.

The NASM suggests doing approximately 15 to 20 sets of challenging hypertrophy exercises per week to increase your muscle size. But, they note that you should spread these exercises out throughout your week—especially because the maximum muscle response is achieved through five to six sets of a specific exercise.

You also may want to increase your volume each week or so, keeping in mind that some body parts require more volume than others. It also might be helpful to work with a certified personal trainer to determine how much to increase your volume and for which muscle groups. Remember, too, that some body parts—such as your biceps, shoulders, and calves—require more volume than others.

According to NASM, you should focus on multi-joint exercises in order to promote muscle growth. Some examples of these foundational movements include squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, and rows.

If you are looking to grow your muscle mass, here are some exercises you can try at home, but you will need more exercises than these to build muscle mass.

Dumbell Squat

  1. Stand with your feet just more than hip-distance apart, your toes angled slightly outward.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your hands at your chest.
  3. Bend your elbows, so the weight is positioned right at the center of your chest.
  4. Engage your core and look straight ahead keeping your back in a neutral position. 
  5. Press your hips back and bend your knees to perform the squat keeping the dumbbell close to your body.
  6. Keep your weight evenly distributed and slightly more weighted toward your heels.
  7. Press through your heels to reverse the motion and return to the starting position. 
  8. Do three sets of six to 12 reps, with a zero to 60-second rest between each set.

Dumbbell Skull Crusher

  1. Lie face up on a bench with your entire body on the bench, except your lower legs. 
  2. Make sure your knees are bent, and your feet are flat on the floor. 
  3. Extend your arms above the chest, elbows shoulder-width apart, and hold dumbbells in each hand or hold one dumbbell with both hands.
  4. Bend your elbows and lower the weight toward the top of your skull.
  5. Continue lowering the weight behind the head. (The bottom of the dumbbell head should be about in line with the bench.)
  6. Reverse the movement until the weight is above your chest in the original starting position. 
  7. Do three sets of six to 12 reps, with a zero to 60-second rest between each set.

Dumbbell Row

  1. Get into a lunge position keeping a soft bend in your front leg. 
  2. Tighten your core by squeezing your belly button toward your spine. 
  3. Lower your dumbbell toward the floor until your arm is fully extended.
  4. Begin pulling upward by sliding your shoulder blade toward your spine, lifting the weight toward your torso, and driving your elbow to the ceiling. 
  5. Keep your elbow close to your body as it passes the ribs. (At the end of the movement, the dumbbell should be in line with your chest and your elbow should be pointing up toward the ceiling.)
  6. Do three sets of six to 12 reps, with a zero to 60-second rest between each set.
  7. Switch sides and repeat the same movements.
  8. Do three sets of six to 12 reps, with a zero to 60-second rest between each set.

When it comes to hypertrophy training and strength training, the two approaches overlap quite a bit, but have overall different goals. For those who engage in hypertrophy training, they are working on building their muscle size. Meanwhile, those who have implemented strength training into their workouts are focusing on making their muscles stronger.

Historically, bodybuilders and those who want observable muscle growth have been most interested in increasing their muscle size. Meanwhile, building strength is important not only for athletes, but also for your day-to-day life. Improving your strength enables you to lift and carry things as well as move well.

Because of these different goals, the approach to training and working the muscles varies slightly. For instance, when you are strength training you will work your muscles at a higher intensity with fewer reps. Meanwhile, with hypertrophy you will work at a lower level of intensity with more reps. In other words, when intensity goes up reps go down.

Likewise, the rest periods will be different as well. For instance, with hypertrophy you typically want shorter rest periods of about 60 to 90 seconds. But you don’t want to make them too short. Research indicates that recovery periods that are too short—or too long—may interfere with the hypertrophic effect of training.

If you are strength training, you will likely need longer rest periods due to the intensity of your workout. In fact, research indicates that three to five minutes are needed for a muscle group to recover completely. If your rest period is too short, you run the risk of not seeing any increases in strength.

Hypertrophy is an increase in muscle mass that is achieved through exercises like resistance training. People pursue hypertrophy training to support their health goals, prevent injury, and improve appearance. To get the results you want, it is important to maintain good form and focus on multi-joint exercises.

While there is no well-established consensus on how your training variables should be altered to achieve muscle growth, hypertrophy usually involves working at a lower intensity with more reps than those doing traditional strength training.

If you are interested in implementing a hypertrophy workout regimen, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider first to determine if this training approach is right for you.