What you need to know about Hypertrophy Training

For many people, the main focus of their workouts is muscle development. Athletes and even people who are just working out to stay physically fit train toward a variety of goals. Some are after stamina and endurance. Some are primarily interested in developing muscle mass. For people interested in developing their muscles, hypertrophy training may be the thing to try. 

Hypertrophy training is really just a specialized form of weight training designed to build muscle. Certain types of athletes need to develop serious muscle mass, and there are many ways of going about this. The traditional weight training methods are fine, but hypertrophy training takes these traditional techniques to a specialized level. 

Hypertrophy training may not be for everyone, of course. The focus on building muscle is not the primary focus for everyone. But some people gear their workouts and training entirely toward building muscle, and hypertrophy training is designed to do just that. 

What is hypertrophy training? What are the types of muscles that benefit from hypertrophy training? And how can you do hypertrophy training to the best effect? This guide will introduce you to hypertrophy training. 

What is Hypertrophy Training?

Hypertrophy just means an increase and growth of muscle cells. Hypertrophy specifically refers to the increase in muscular size as the result of exercise. In many ways, this is just the definition of the process people have putting themselves through for as long as they have been exercising. Hypertrophic training differs in that it places the focus on increasing muscle size and strength at the cellular level. 

Hypertrophy training can focus on increasing muscles in two ways:

Myofibrillar hypertrophy training centers on the growth of the parts of the muscle that performs muscle contraction. 

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy training centers on increasing the capacity to store glycogen in muscles for sustained energy and stamina. 

The type of hypertrophy training you choose will depend on your fitness goals. People who are interested in increased strength and speed will benefit most from myofibrillar hypertrophy training. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy will offer increased energy for endurance athletes. 

Hypertrophy Training Benefits

Hypertrophy training is really a way of refining and focusing your workout in ways that conventional training cannot offer. It is essentially a scientifically informed addition to conventional workouts. Some of the benefits of hypertrophy training include:

Increased strength

It seems obvious, but increasing muscle makes you stronger. When athletes begin strength training, much of the work is simply training their bodies to undergo the rigors of these types of workouts. But with this, you will soon reach a plateau and your workouts need to become more focused and refined. This is where hypertrophy training comes in. By focusing your training on the structural and cellular level, you begin to increase muscle and strength in ways conventional workouts cannot attain.  

Increased anaerobic endurance

With increased muscle, we are able to store more of what is called phosphocreatine. This is metabolized from glycogens and serves as a rapidly available source of energy for skeletal muscle. It also facilitates the cycle that generates adenosine triphosphate which is the source of cellular energy. With increased levels of phosphocreatine, muscles are able to sustain bursts of energy even into anaerobic phases of exertion. This means increased strength and stamina for endurance. 

Improved health of soft tissue

Hypertrophy training can help improve the function of things like joints, tendons, and ligaments. This is especially helpful as we get older. Improved function of muscles with hypertrophy training strengthens and sustains soft tissues since the loads and distribution of stress are alleviated by improved muscle function and increased strength and stamina. 

Increase burning of calories

Muscle is the most calorically active tissue in the human body. There is the old adage that one pound of muscle added to your frame will burn an extra fifty calories per day simply existing and looking awesome. That's often debated and honestly, I don't really know or care if that's true or not. The point is lean muscle is very metabolically friendly and will go a long way toward a healthier, more active metabolism. The more lean body mass we have, the healthier our metabolism.


Hypertrophy training will simply make you look more fit. Since hypertrophy training focuses on muscle function and improved cellular function, it leads to more toned and symmetrical muscles which just look good. 

Types of Muscle

To understand just exactly how hypertrophy training works, it is important to know the different types of muscles in the body. Our muscles exist in different forms and each performs specific types of functions. The types of muscle include:

Large vs. Small

Large muscles include things like hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, back, and chest. Small muscles are the shoulders, triceps, biceps, and calves. It is extremely important to balance your workouts to increase both large and small muscles. While large muscle groups tend to stand out since these are the muscle groups where strength is focused, small muscle groups provide the balance necessary for large muscles to function properly. 


Skeletal muscles are often referred to as the musculoskeletal system. This is because skeletal muscles are tied directly to the skeleton and work with bones, tendons, and ligaments to make the body move and to provide balance. Skeletal muscles support the weight of the body and provide posture. Skeletal muscles consist of muscles that are made for sustained energy expenditures and other muscles made for short bursts of energy.    


Cardiac muscles are those that line the walls of the heart. Cardiac muscles are responsible for pumping blood throughout the cardiovascular system. The cardiac muscles are not voluntary which means they function entirely on their own. 


Smooth muscles are those that line the organs such as the bladder, stomach, and intestines. Smooth muscles are important to the proper function of these like the reproductive system in women, the urinary system, and the respiratory system. Smooth muscles are also essential to how we move waste through the intestines. 

Types of Muscle Growth


Sarcoplasm is the fluid that surrounds the cells of your muscles. This fluid contains adenosine triphosphate (ATP), glycogen, creatine phosphate, and water. These chemicals supply muscle cells with the energy to contract. They are the power sources for muscles. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy happens when the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in muscle cells increases. With increased sarcoplasmic fluid, muscles have increased energy. This increases muscle performance and endurance. 


Myofibrillar hypertrophy occurs when muscles are stimulated through exertion. This is in essence what happens with things like weight training. Repetitive exertion will facilitate myofibrillar hypertrophy in order to help muscles recover from the microtears and depletion that naturally come from heavy exertion. With increased myofibrillar hypertrophy, there is a natural increase in the volume and density of muscle tissue. 

The correct way to Do Hypertrophy Training

Hypertrophy training means focusing your workout on some key strategies.

First, you need to work toward exercise-induced muscle damage. This is the process of working muscles until you induce micro-tears in the muscle tissue. This controlled level of damage induces the process of repairing these tears which necessarily means muscle synthesis. The way muscles repair themselves is by generating new muscle tissue. This leads to increased muscle and strength. 

The other component of hypertrophy training is focused on the biochemical level of muscle cells. This process involves metabolic stress. Metabolic stress results from the buildup of various metabolites (e.g., lactic acid, inorganic phosphate, etc.), primarily because of training in the fast glycolytic energy system where carbohydrates are used anaerobically to fuel performance.

To achieve these two features of hypertrophy training you need a program that balances two sides of your workout. 


The volume will set in motion the process of exercise-induced muscle damage. By slowly but steadily increasing the volume of weight you use in your workout, you continuously but systematically break down muscle tissue and increase muscle synthesis. 


Sets and repetition push muscles into anaerobic forms of exertion. This uses up glycogen and other chemical sources of energy which are replenished continually. This will increase the sarcoplasm in muscle cells and expand muscle tissue leading to larger and more efficient muscles.  

Differences between Hypertrophy Training vs. Strength Training

Strength training is a program designed to increase strength rather than one that is focused on multiple goals that would also include endurance. It also differs from workouts designed to increase muscle mass. Strength training focuses on your ability to lift, push, pull, squeeze, squat, and jump. Powerlifters are the kind of athletes who focus on strength training. 

To build muscle strength you need to focus entirely on exercises that break down muscles and allow them to rapidly repair with increased muscles. It involves periods of intense resistance workouts and periods of rest. Strength training usually involves compound exercises that incorporate barbells and includes exercises like bench press, deadlift, squat, and military press. 

Strength training is distinct from hypertrophy training because of the way the workout programs are designed. Strength training usually focuses on heavy weights, whereas hypertrophy training employs lighter weights with increased reps and sets. 

While strength training and hypertrophy training both involve some of the same exercises, hypertrophy training is different in that hypertrophy training will focus more on using lighter weights with many more reps and sets to drive muscles to be as large as possible. Hypertrophy training also focuses more on isolation exercises like bicep curls, quadricep extensions, and dumbbell flyes. 

Hypertrophy training has become popular in the bodybuilding community because it provides the focus on muscle growth necessary for this kind of competition. Hypertrophy training makes it possible to focus on specific areas of muscle growth that enhance the physique. Sets for hypertrophy training will involve multiple reps whereas sets in strength training programs tend to have fewer reps with higher weights.  

Hypertrophy Training Risks

It is hard to imagine a downside of any form of exercise program, and all workout programs have their pros and cons. The main risks for hypertrophy training are injuries due to overuse of certain muscles. Since hypertrophy training tends to focus on isolation exercises, there is the danger of working these muscles in isolation to the point of injury. 

Hypertrophy training is also susceptible to limited strength gains. While you will see increases in muscle bulk and size, this may not translate into real muscle strength. Hypertrophy training will not lead to the increases in bone density that you see in strength training. 

Wrapping things up

One of the chief benefits of so much research in the areas of fitness and health is that we now know there are multiple ways of going about an exercise program. And the types of exercise programs we choose can be highly specialized for our specific needs. Hypertrophy training can be seen as one of these specialized workout programs. 

Hypertrophy training works with some basic physiological mechanisms to increase muscle size. By working on the level of the mechanics of muscle tissue and muscle growth, combined with the biochemical mechanisms at work at the cellular level, hypertrophy training will help you build muscles and increase the size of your muscles. 

Hypertrophy training can build strength, and endurance, and help you look the way you want to look. By focusing on the kinds of exercises and workouts that build muscles individually while working those muscles in a rigorous fashion, you can increase strength and build stamina. The size of your muscles will increase, and this can provide you with the physique you are after. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that hypertrophy training is different from strength training. Your goal in hypertrophy training is not to increase the amount of weight you can lift. Rather, your goal in hypertrophy training is to be able to keep up highly specific resistance exercises for longer periods of time. This increases muscle mass. 

Hypertrophy training works because it is based on some elemental physiological features of the human muscle. Muscles function mechanically through the processes of flexing, tearing, and rebuilding. Muscles work on the cellular level by increasing the fluids that provide energy to the muscle. Hypertrophy training combines the benefits of both these physiological processes. 


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