Note: This is highlighting the basics of hypertrophy training, and focuses on getting the best effect of your training in the shortest amount of time – basically how you can achieve the most amount of muscle growth within a given time frame. But, of course, there are many ways to Rome and this is not the only way to get the results you want!
Hypertrophy training – what is it and why should you focus on it?
Hypertrophy training is when you train to increase muscle mass. Muscle growth occurs through micro tears in the muscle fibres during training, which leads to stronger and bigger muscles as these tears repair themselves. Most people would benefit from putting on lean muscle mass, even if their goals are motivated by preventing (or improving!) pains related to postural stress or incorrect posture, injury prevention in general, becoming stronger, or purely for aesthetic reasons. Whatever your goal is, muscle hypertrophy is something many men work hard for and many girls fear. But how easy is it to “get massive” and how do you need to train to get there? After reading this, I hope women realise that gaining size is not as easy as you believe, and that others looking to increase muscle mass understand better which areas they can improve on. After giving you a short introduction to hypertrophy training, there are specific examples included at the end to further guide your training.
How should you train to achieve maximal muscle growth in the shortest time possible, and what can you expect?
The (very boring) answer to the first question is: it depends. It depends on your starting point, previous training background, eating, and your DNA. Some people respond very well to a given amount of exercise whereas others gain nothing from the exact same amount as the previous group. For some, it is a huge achievement to gain 4-5 kg of muscle in a year, even when working really hard towards increasing their muscle mass, other individuals can easily put on 4-5 kg over a 3-4 month period if all other factors allow for it.
How should you train to increase muscle mass?
Varying your training has shown to be the most efficient way of getting results. Periodisation is when you plan your training in phases where you focus on different things – you are, in a controlled manner, introducing variety to your current training. This sounds like a lot of work – and it is in the beginning – but you can make it as complicated as you need or wish for it to be. Usually, the different phases stretch over a few weeks each, but they can also vary from week to week or even day to day. An example is shown at the end of the blog post.
Time under Tension (TUT)
For resistance-based training, most people consider repetitions (reps) to be the most important factor. However, TUT should not be underestimated and in many cases, it is the time you spend doing the exercise (how long time you spend on one set) which is crucial to muscle growth. Hypertrophy is optimal if TUT is between 40-70 seconds – however certain individuals can easily achieve muscle growth with both higher and lower TUT than the above. Again, how you respond to exercise and different training methods is highly individual!
If you are new to resistance training, you can come a long way by doing 3 sets per muscle two-to-three times a week. The more ‘exposure’ you have to training, or the more advanced you get, the need for higher volume (amount of exercise) increases. Thus, to keep progressing, your muscles require either more frequent stimulation (read below) or a higher degree of stimulation once you are accustomed to doing the current amount of exercise. The easiest way of increasing your training volume is by doing more sets or more repetitions per set.
How often you should exercise is, again, highly individual, and additionally your personal life and other circumstances also tend to factor in. Famous bodybuilders swear by training each muscle once a week, but recent research has shown that the normal person in the gym quite possibly gets better results from training each muscle group 2-3 times a week.
The standard rep range is usually between 6 and 12 reps per set, but can in some cases be less and in others more. The weight should be at least 60% of what you are able to lift for one rep (60% or your 1RM, meaning that if you can squat 1 rep with maximum 100kg, you should not be lifting any less than 60kg for a set of 10-12 reps).
But there is more to it than that..
In addition, you need to get sufficient rest and eat enough food for optimal muscle growth to occur within a given time frame. Rest is important so that your muscles have time to recover properly between sessions, and are capable of doing the work in your next session. It is also an important element to prevent injuries. Eating enough food is also crucial if you want to put on as much muscle as possible. You should at least consume more calories than your body burns during a day, factoring in activity level and other exercise.
To sum it up: You need to lift heavy enough, with high enough frequency, and have sufficient variation between volume and intensity; making sure you get enough rest and also fuel your body with enough food.
Keep reading to see two examples, and do not forget that you can ask any member of staff for more information.
The Result Fitness Team
Here two examples of hypertrophy training schedules:
Alternative 1 – basics: you want to choose exercises yourself but need an example frame work
A training week looks like this:
Day 1: Chest and back
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Shoulders and arms
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: Full body
Day 7: Rest
Week 1-4: Giant sets (small circuits)
Choose 4-6 exercises per muscle group and do them all straight after each other without rest. Rest 2 minutes between rounds with 3-5 rounds in total.
Example (leg day): Squats with elevated heels 10 reps, Squats (flat) 10 reps, Hack squat in machine 10 reps, Split squats 10 reps each leg, Leg press 10 reps.
Week 4-8: Modified angle training
Choose exercises where you can do different variations of the same exercise (for example variations in grip). Do 4-5 series of each variant and alternate between opposite muscle groups. Rest 2 minutes between each set.
A1. Chest press (narrow grip) 4-5 sets x 6-8 reps
A2. Bent over row (narrow underhand grip) 4-5 sets x 6-8 reps
B1. Chest press (normal grip) 4-5 sets x 6-8 reps
B2. Bent over row (overhand, normal grip) 4-5 sets x 6-8 reps
Week 8-10: Circuit training
Choose 10-12 exercises per muscle and do them all in a circuit without rest. Rest 2 minutes and repeat three times.
Bench press x 10
Flat bench dumbbell press x 10
Dumbbell flyes x 10
Incline dumbbell press x 10
Incline dumbbell flyes x 10
Freemotion decline chest press x 10
Freemotion decline chest flyes x 10
Tricep dips x 10
Overhead tricep extensions x 10
Pushups x max reps
Week 10-12: German volume training
Do 10 sets of 10 reps of each exercise, and choose 1 exercise per muscle group.
A1. Squats 10 sets x 10 reps
B1. Leg extension 10 sets x 10 reps
Alternative 2 – specifics: if you want a specific plan
Split your body in upper and lower, and alternate between them. Each week should have at least 4 training days, so that you train upper and lower body twice each week. For example:
Monday – day 1
Tuesday – day 2
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – day 3 (same as day 1)
Friday – day 4 (same as day 2)
Phase 1: Volume (week 1-4)
Day 1 and 3
A1. Incline dumbbell press 4 sets of 6,8,10,12 reps (1st set 6 reps, 2nd set 8 reps etc).
A2. Chins (neutral grip) 4 x 8-10 reps
B1. Decline dumbbell press 3 x 10-12 reps
B2. Single arm dumbbell row 3 x 8-10 reps
C1. Bicep curl 3 x 10-12
C2. French press 3 x 8-10
Day 2 and 4
A1. Squats 4 x 8, 10, 12, 15 reps
A2. Hamstring curls 4 x 8-10 reps
B1. Lunges 3 x 15-20 reps
B2. Romanian deadlifts 3 x 10-12 reps
C1. Standing calf raises 3 x 20
C2. Hanging leg raises 3 x 15-20
Phase 2: Intensity (week 4-8)
Day 1 and 3
A1. Chest press 6 x 4,4,6,6,8,8
A2. Chins 6 x 4,4,6,6,8,8
B1. Incline dumbbell press 4 x 5-8
B2. Bent over rows 4 x 5-8
C1. Scott curl 3 x 5-8
C2. Dips 3 x 5-8
Day 2 and 4
A1. Front squat 5 x 4-6
A2. Hamstring curl 5 x 4-6
B1. Bulgarian split squat 4 x 5-8
B2. Good mornings 4 x 5-8
C1. Standing calf raise 3 x 8-10
C2. Freemotion cable crunch 3 x 8-10