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Muscle and Fitness Hypertrophy Training

Updated on February 24, 2011

Hypertrophy is generally a term associated with bodybuilding or weightlifting. A misconception some people have about bodybuilders is that their main goal is strength. This is not entirely true. While bodybuilders do get stronger, their main focus is increasing muscle size.  Hypertrophy is essentially the increased size of muscle cells. The end result is the the individual will get significantly bigger muscles than if he or she trained purely for strength. When it comes to muscle and fitness, there is no one way of doing something. Everything depends on what your goals are. If your someone who has a hard time gaining weight then hypertrophy is what you probably want. Your muscle size increases more when training for maximum hypertrophy(or muscle size) then pure strength training. So how does one attain a hypertrophy state?

Hypertrophy reps

For maximum muscle recruitment, hypertrophy is needed. When weightliting, your focus should be to perform reps between 8-12. This is generally the best range for max hypertrophy. This will lead to more muscle size and some strength. Muscle size is the priority, while strength and local endurance are second. Find a weight that you can do at least 12-14 times, but DO NOT do more than 12 reps your first set even if you can do it 13 or 14 times. Why? You will need your strength and stamina for the next sets. Do not burn out to much energy on your first set.

An example:

Bench Press 12x10x8 or 12x10xx6

Your third set should never be less than six. Six is the medium between strength and hypertrophy. As long as your first and second set are between 8 and 12, then that will be fine.

Arnold Schwarzenegger displaying his physique

An example of Hypertrophy training
An example of Hypertrophy training | Source

Hypertrophy sets

When performing reps between 8-12, rest should not be very long in between sets. To gain maximum hypertrophy, you'll need to rest a short period of time. This promotes more hypertrophy, which will lead to increased size and muscularity. Rest between sets should be about 1-2 minutes. There's some argumentation on what constitutes perfect number, but it will really depend on your body. However, do not rest longer than 2 minutes because this would be counter productive, and lead to fewer muscle cells being recruited for size. Also, do not rest less than 30 seconds because that's mainly for endurance training. The optimal rest time is 1-2 minutes for hypertrophy.

What exercises are the best when training for hypertrophy?

Compound exercises are by far the best for hypertrophy. Some of these include Bench press, squats, deadlifts, and shoulder presses. Supplemental exercises such as lateral raises can be kept in 8-12 range, but some of these exercises are more of a shaping movement and may require more reps(may not promote size as much as compound lifts). Compound exercises are what you really need to perform if you want maximum muscle size. Bench pressing in the 8-12 range will make your chest much larger over time than training in the 3-6 range. Same goes for squatting for the leg muscles, or any other compound movements.

Who can benefit from hypertrophy?

Hard gainers can benefit from hypertrophy, as it promotes an increased size in muscle "more" than other training methods, such as strength or endurance . Also, people who are trying to develop a large muscular physique can benefit from this type of training. All training ultimately has to do with your goals. This does not mean that you can not mix it up sometimes such as training with reps between 3-6 or 15-25 range. Hypertrophy training can be considered weight that is not to light, but not to heavy either. Its the medium rep range and rest.

Do keep in mind,however, even though your training for hypertrophy, you will still need a high calorie diet. Eat enough protein which should be about 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, then at least 150 grams of protein should be consumed daily. You will also need to consume 400-600 more calories than your maintenance level of calorie intake. Don't forget carbs and healthy fats as well.


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    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 6 years ago from USA

      Wow, a lot of really, really good information here. Well done!