Hypertrophy generally means an increase in size of cells or tissues of which skeletal/smooth muscles are composed of. A basic example would be an increase in skeletal muscle fiber’s size in response to a stimulus such as exercise. Hypertrophy is not limited to skeletal muscles, however, cardiac muscles and smooth muscles can also undergo hypertrophy.
What causes hypertrophy and how hypertrophy is achieved?
Generally, upon receiving a stressful stimuli, muscle cells and muscle fibers have to get accustomed to such stress and as a result they grow. The stress is usually achieved from tension caused by lifting weights, and for this reason, bodybuilding and strength training revolves around achieving hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy is of two types:
- Myofibrillar hypertrophy: Stimulated by lifting weights more than what your body is accustomed to. The myofibrils (individual muscle fibers) experience trauma and stress, causing microtears which our body considers as injury, and immediately start to repair the damage. The repaired fiber is now more robust and thicker purposefully so that the body can cater to the increased load next time.
Application of Myofibrillar hypertrophy in bodybuilding: Myofibrillar hypertrophy-based programs mostly consist of low intensity (lower rep range, usually 5 rep max) but higher volume (more sets, mostly up to 5 working sets) regimens. These programs are mostly focused on progression in strength and simultaneously building muscle mass.
- Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy: As the name indicates, this type of hypertrophy is dependent upon the reaction of sarcoplasm to the stress. Sarcoplasm is the matter within a skeletal muscle’s cell, that expands to accommodate more of the nutrients and material required for the muscle to exert performance. This gradual expansion of cells in response to stress ultimately results in an overall larger muscle.
Application of Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in bodybuilding: Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy-based programs consist of high intensity (high rep range, ranging from 8-25 rep max) but moderate volume (moderate amount of sets, up to 3 for beginners and 4 for advanced lifters) regimens. These programs are mostly focused on getting a sarcoplasmic overload (the almighty ‘pump’) for it to expand permanently overtime and fill up those shirts.
Hypertrophy-based training has been the root of bodybuilding regardless of the era. For years hypertrophy has been researched and with technological advancements, accurate mechanisms have been discovered by which it takes place physiologically. Achieving maximum hypertrophy through specific workout programs and augmented nutrition are the foundational aspects for achieving an immaculate physique and improved performance for relevant sports.