The body has an amazing ability to adapt to its environment. Resistance training or applying repeated stress and trauma to your muscle tissue indicates and signals a need to build more muscle and strength to accommodate heavier loads, more workout volume, and increased workout intensity to protect itself from future stress. Muscle hypertrophy refers to an increase in the size of muscle cells and total muscle mass from physical stress. Hypertrophy is often achieved with resistance training and progressive overload to break down and rebuild muscle tissue, resulting in more total muscle mass and bigger gains. We’re going to cover how this process works and how to increase muscle hypertrophy in 3 steps.
How Does Muscle Hypertrophy Work
The human body is comprised of 650 skeletal muscles, composed of thread-like myofibrils and sarcomeres which can achieve growth, through two ways - muscle stimulation from repeated muscle contraction and muscle repair. The metabolic change for how muscles grow, is an increase in net muscle protein balance, which is simply the difference between muscle protein synthesis (I.e. the muscle building process) and muscle protein breakdown. An increase in net muscle protein balance, is a direct response to resistance training and nutrition which stimulates the anabolic response through muscle protein synthesis, increasing muscle hypertrophy [R].
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Muscle growth takes place in two different forms, hypertrophy and hyperplasia. Hypertrophy is an increase in muscle size due to an increased in the size of muscle fibers, while hyperplasia is an increase in the total number of muscle fibers. Hypertrophy is achieved through increased muscle tension and physical stress, breaking down muscle fiber. Growth is a result from overcompensation to protect the body from future stress, or what we call the repair process [R]. An immune system response is triggered during the repair process leading to inflammation, and the natural cleansing process, signaling the body to grow and repair muscle fiber.
Satellite cells, located on the outer surface of the muscle fibers, facilitate the growth and repair of skeletal muscle tissue, when activated from physical stress or trauma, and resistance training which can last up to 48 hours post workout.
During hypertrophy the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than muscle protein breakdown leading to greater numbers of actin and myosin filaments in the myofibrils. Muscle hypertrophy can also occur when muscles are stretched to a greater than normal length. Full range of motion through exercise movements cause new sarcomeres to be added to the ends of muscle fibers where they attach to the tendons. Therefore, exhibiting full range of motion is vital to induce muscle hypertrophy and stack on more gains. Research also indicates that peripheral fatigue, (I.e. burnout sets) induce a greater amount of muscle hypertrophy, as the muscles are worked to failure.
A hormonal response is triggered during hypertrophy, releasing growth factors such as insulin like growth factors, fibroblast, and hepatocyte growth factors. Other hormones are also released which stimulate muscle hypertrophy such as testosterone, cortisol, and human growth hormone, which regulates cell activity and stimulates muscle protein synthesis.
How To Increase Muscle Hypertrophy In 3 Steps
1. Resistance Training
Resistance training is an obvious requirement for muscle hypertrophy and building more muscle mass. The rate at which you build muscle however depends on several key variables such as training volume, load, workout intensity, and exercise duration. Maximizing muscle growth through training, will also depend on how many sets and reps you perform.
Training for a specific purpose will help direct what your training program will entail. For example, if your goal is to build more muscle, focusing on more volume with shorter rest intervals, and progressive overload will be crucial to build more mass. If your goal is to build more strength, linear progression, or adding more weight overtime, with sets consisting of fewer reps, moderate rest intervals and heavier loads, will help you get stronger.
If you’re not sure where to start, we offer several different training programs, with multiple workout modalities, to help you reach your goals, from HIIT, HIFT, and resistance training programs to help you gain strength, lose weight, build more muscle, or achieve your body aesthetic goals.
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2. Nutrition Plan
The second foundational pillar of muscle hypertrophy is nutrition. Hypertrophy of course cannot occur without resistance training, or the physical stress placed on the muscle fiber. For your body to build and rebuild muscle tissue, it must be in a positive protein balance, and without enough protein in your diet, you’ll be in a protein deficit. With a higher rate of muscle protein breakdown or degradation you’ll lose muscle mass, not gain it. Even though you work out a few days a week, your body requires fuel from high quality proteins, heathy fats, and complex carbohydrates to maximize muscle hypertrophy.
If you’re not sure of exactly where to start with your nutrition, hire a certified nutrition coach from The Swole Kitchen. Learning the fundamentals of nutrition and how to create a sustainable and well-rounded diet from the beginning will save you a lot of time and wasted effort.
In addition to your training and nutrition program, supplements can help support and maximize muscle hypertrophy. For example, let’s start with protein. You need at least 1g of protein/lb of bodyweight to effectively build more muscle and achieve optimal muscle protein synthesis. That means, if you weigh 200lbs, you need to eat 200g of protein per day. Have you ever tried eating four chicken breasts and a couple of steaks in one day? It gets old, quick. Not to mention, it’s hard to stomach that much chicken. Well for most of us that is. Supplements such as whey protein isolate, or plant protein powder, can help you hit your macro nutrient goals, improve recovery, and maximize muscle growth. It’s also convenient way to get a fast-absorbing form of protein directly before and after your workout to build more muscle mass. Protein intake is a potent stimulus for muscle protein synthesis. Without protein, you won’t be able to build the mass you want. No matter what your level is, any recreationally strength-trained individual or bodybuilder needs protein as muscle fuel to achieve hypertrophy and bigger gains.
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Protein isn’t the only supplement that helps build more muscle mass. Several studies show that performance nutrition supplements such as Kre-Alkalyn Creatine, Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine, and Complex Carbohydrates can help increase muscle hypertrophy as well. In fact, carbohydrates are crucial to maximize performance outcomes and recovery post workout in addition to protein to adequately replace glycogen and optimize your results.
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What Is Muscle Hypertrophy: Takeaway
Muscle hypertrophy is simply the growth of muscle cells by activated trauma, stress, or more commonly known as lifting weights. For muscle to grow two fundamental things must happen – stimulation and repair. But building more muscle requires more than just lifting heavy weights. Nutrition and supplementation are also critical in achieving a net positive protein balance, to keep your body in an anabolic or muscle building state to maximize muscle hypertrophy. That means eating enough protein, and supplementing with key amino acids, to help you build more muscle and optimize your recovery. With a proper nutrition program, training plan, and supplement protocol, you’ll be able to build more muscle and reach your goals in no time.
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