The truth about ‘Hypertrophy’…
These days ‘Hypertrophy’ is a term everyone seems to be throwing around from PT’s in park bootcamps to high level coaches in elite sport, but few know exactly what it is, how to elicit these changes and when to use them. There is a lot of false information available to you and everybody seems to know what’s what these days but unfortunately a quick google search does not cut the mustard with this subject.
Let’s go back to basic scientific evidence and review exactly what hypertrophy is and how coaches at Pinnacle Performance in Hong Kong address hypertrophy goals with our members.
What is it?
Hypertrophy is defined as an increase in muscle fibre size. This enlargement in cell size is often desirable but rarely achieved effectively. So let’s go through how we achieve muscle growth through programming?
The current scientific consensus is that we need to consistently activate 3 pathways, each being as important as each other. To do this coaches at Pinnacle will always have these 3 goals in the forefront of their mind when programming for muscular growth:
- 1. Muscular Tension
- 2. Muscular Damage
- 3. Metabolic Stress
But what is the best way to achieve each one?
You need to be hitting moderately heavy to very heavy weight and doing this with sufficient volume! The minimum intensity you need to lift at should be above 65% of your ‘1 Rep Max’ (1RM) for that specific exercise, in order to achieve some sort of protein synthesis in your larger Type II muscle fibres. These bad boys are also able to grow at twice the rate of Type I’s through a mechanism called Type II preferential double hypertrophy. Fancy lingo for say bigger, stronger legs to boost that
PGR deadlift score.
This another area of ongoing scientific debate, but the fact is for muscular gains with accompanying goals of strength, power and athleticism we want to stick to repetitions between 5-12 reps. At 12 we are recruiting motor units while causing a fair a amount of metabolic stress. At 5, we are already maximally recruiting muscle fibre units and causing optimal tension and damage. Generally the lower you go with reps, the more you will be targeting strength gains and the more sets you will have to compensate with keep volume high. At the end of the day, stick to your reps on your Strength and Power Programmes where much more than rep range has been taken into acocunt. We haven’t even started going into Pinnacle’s periodisation and cycling main lift progressions…
It is also a worthwhile note to throw up the higher reps later in your session. Also when Coaches at Pinnacle individualise your programmes with specific hypertrophy prescription we will never push more than 20 reps. (This, as you guessed is around 65% 1RM).
At Pinnacle Performance, volume is King. Higher sets and higher volume produce more gains, the aim being to hit all 3 systems. Some training philosophies, such as German Volume Training (GVT), use up to 10 sets, but it is just not as efficient as 4-6. Of course, the majority of Pinnacle members need to be in and out of the facility in close to an hour but intensity and volume must be kept high. Per week one needs to be hitting up to 20 sets per body part.
The debate here is if we rest for too long (to allow maximal motor recruitment) we do not achieve high enough metabolic stress. The flip-side to this is that small rest periods may not allow us to lift heavy and recruit.
- 5-30sec does not allow Type II fibres to recover and you end up having a very hard time maximally recruiting motor units. Unfortunately these are the ones that we want to target.
- 5min rests allows maximum tension but with no metabolic effect.
- 60-90sec is the sweet spot in the middle.
The subject of rest intervals is one you need to experiment with and find what works for you but use the Coaches at Pinnacle to assist and guide you through this, if they haven’t prescribed it already.
There is plenty that we did not delve into, such as loading variations, cluster sets, Kaatsu/ hypoxic training, multi-joint exercise focus, periodisation, nutrition, sleep etc.
Just rest assured the whole team at Pinnacle Performance will programme bespokely and individually according to your current ‘What’s Yours?’ goals. The most important thing you can do is communicate with your lead coach and discuss specific hypertrophy goals with them. We pride ourselves on individualising and tweaking programmes to support your personal athletic goals, so get in touch now with your lead coach if you would like to start this conversation in person. Junk season is only just around the corner!