So what is the best way to achieve hypertrophy? The reality is that there is not a single kind of hypertrophy, and you must do different types of training to target the two broad types of hypertrophy. What are the two types? Hypertrophy can be broken down into two broad types:
Myofibrils are essentially bundles of myofilaments (The contractile parts of a muscle, the parts that pull). They are found in each skeletal muscle fiber. Each muscle cell contains many myofibrils. Myofibril hypertrophy occurs due to an overload stimulus (lifting more than your body is used to) that applies trauma to the individual muscle fibers. Your body treats this as an injury and as such overcompensates during the recovery process by increasing the volume and density of the myofibrils so that the “injury” does not occur again. This is one of the reasons why you must maintain overload to continue making gains.
The sarcoplasm is the fluid and energy sources that surround the myofibrils in the muscle. It includes things such as ATP, glycogen, creatine phosphate and water. Increase in size of blood vessels that provide blood to the muscles can also be included in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and is commonly referred to as capillirisation. This occurs much in the same way as myofibril hypertrophy, through your body overcompensating during the recovery phase after your energy sources have been depleted during a workout. It therefore increases energy stores such as ATP and glycogen to prevent depletion during training. Ok, so I know the two types. What are the best ways to achieve both? Before I go on I want to stress that you:
CHOOSE THE WEIGHT FOR YOUR REPS NOT THE REPS FOR YOUR WEIGHT.
Progressive resistance exercise or progressive overload refers to the practice of continually increasing the stress placed on the muscle as it becomes capable of producing greater force or has more endurance. This means that you MUST use weights and rep ranges that you struggle with. You should choose a weight that you can only just complete the desired reps for. Do not choose a weight and get nearly the reps that are required, or one that is too light that you could complete many more reps. So for a 12 rep exercise, choose a weight that you can only just complete those 12 reps.
MYOFIBRIL HYPERTROPHY TRAINING:
Strength training with 80%+ of your 1RM and reps in the 3-8 range with 2-4 minutes rest produce the largest changes in myofibrillar volume and density. Therefore if you want to achieve myofibril hypertrophy you must lift heavy. The heavier the weights you lift the more muscle fibers are recruited and in turn damaged. However it is recommended to keep the reps between 3-5 as any lower and it is mainly neuro-muscular adaptations that improve the athletes strength rather than through myofibril hypertrophy
SARCOPLASMIC HYPERTROPHY TRAINING:
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is achieved through what is known as fatigue training. Fatigue training is training at an intensity ~75% of your 1RM with reps in the range of 10-15 and short rest periods 45-90 seconds. It is referred to as fatigue training as it rapidly and directly uses up a lot of the stored energy in your muscle cells and fatigues your muscles. When choosing the amount of sets for your workouts you must take into account the time under tension. There is a minimum amount of time under tension required for muscle hypertrophy to occur. Due to this it is generally required to complete more total sets for your strength training routine than your higher rep fatigue training routine.
In fatigue training you want to time under tension to be greater than the immediate energy available. The most immediate energy sources for short term anaerobic exercise is your ATP and creatine phosphate stores. These however are very short term and as such will be depleted in 7-10 seconds. After this your body will break down glycogen for energy, which will produce lactic acid (the burn). Therefore you must maintain a time under tension of over 10 seconds per set in fatigue training. The inclusion of slower reps, or methods such as same muscle supersets are a great way to achieve this.
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