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Hypertrophy Training: Building Size And Muscle Mass

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Hypertrophy Training: Building Size And Muscle Mass

If you're just starting out in the muscle-building game, then you might be wondering how bodybuilders continue to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Their secret? Hypertrophy training.

Hypertrophy training increases your muscle mass and the size of your muscles. Hypertrophy workouts focus on creating that bodybuilding aesthetic, so if it's large muscles you're looking for, this is the weight training style for you.

Keep reading as we explain what hypertrophy training is and why it's beneficial to bodybuilders. 

What is hypertrophy training? 

So, what is this magic training? Hypertrophy training is carried out by athletes, bodybuilders, and gym-goers to dramatically increase muscle mass and size. The term 'hypertrophy' means to increase the size of an organ or the size of body tissue. In this case, the term refers to training our muscles to increase their size.

Hypertrophy training is a form of resistance training, and like all bodybuilding efforts, you'll need barbells, dumbbells, gym machines, bodyweight exercises, or pull up bands to create that resistance. 

By working your muscles against resistance (like bicep curls with free weights or resistance bands), your body's muscle mass increases as it remains under tension.

However, to build bigger muscle mass, it's vital for hypertrophic trainers to carefully select the duration of their sets, the number of reps, and the rest time between sets. To see an increase in size, body-builders focus on volume rather than intensity and speed. 

So, what is hypertrophy training if it's not fast?

The more time under tension lifting weights, the more significant the muscle growth. Hypertrophy resistance training is characterized by a large number of reps, a large number of sets, and a short rest period between sets. 

Hypertrophy training is a slow game, so it's not a race here. Don't speed through the reps. 

Strength training vs. hypertrophy training 

Okay. So we've answered the question, 'what is hypertrophy training?', but you might be wondering how a hypertrophy workout actually differs from any other form of resistance training - be it a hip circle session or a weightlifting circuit. 

The differences are subtle, and to understand why hypertrophy training is unique, we need to look at how it differs from strength training workouts. 

There are two significant forms of weight training:

  •  strength training with the sole intent to gain strength
  •  hypertrophy training with an end goal of building size 

The two forms of weight training aren't mutually exclusive (building larger muscle mass also brings with it improved strength, of course), but the primary goal of strength training isn't to bulk up; it's to increase strength through toning and streamlining existing muscles. 

Strength training differs in the way that muscle and strength are achieved through exercise. Muscles are continuously worked against resistance, but they spend less time under tension. Strength training requires short, sharp bursts of high-intensity resistance, while hypertrophy training requires high volume and a large number of repetitions. 

A strength training workout is characterized by a lower number of reps, a lower number of sets, and a longer rest period between sets. However, strength training exercises are carried out at a higher level of intensity than hypertrophy training exercises. Hypertrophy intensity should be 80%, while strength training intensity should be 90-100%. 

Hypertrophy training takes time to see muscle growth, increased bulk, and to build that bodybuilding look. On the other hand, strength training provides quicker results like toning, definition, and physical strength that you can apply in sports. Muscle growth, however, isn't as sustained in the long term, and results can quickly drop off.

The benefits of hypertrophy 

Based on our definitions above, you might have already realized that hypertrophy training isn't for everyone. 

If you're looking to bulk up and are aiming for that traditional bodybuilder look, then hypertrophy might be for you. If you're looking to gain functional strength and improve your performance and muscle growth through weight training for sports, then strength training is the best workout. 

However, the benefits of hypertrophy training can still be achieved by gym-goers even if your ultimate goal isn't increased mass but increased strength. Ultimately, the best way to go is to combine hypertrophy and strength training for a balanced look and a balanced level of muscle growth. 

Let's take a look at the benefits of hypertrophy training in more detail:

  • Build body mass and size (completely change your body shape, if you desire)
  • Gain that 'bodybuilder' aesthetic
  • Increase bone density (and avoid injuries)
  • Improve your level of endurance
  • Workout for longer
  • It's low impact, protecting your muscle fibers and joints from damage
  • Burn calories, and lose weight
  • Improve overall fitness
  • Release endorphins
  • Build strength with mass

As with all forms of fitness, keeping your body in shape is essential for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. In addition to reaching your fitness targets and body shape goals, hypertrophy training will help you feel good about yourself. You'll also be less susceptible to illness as you boost your immune system, and you'll be leading a healthy, sustainable lifestyle in the long run. 

We think the benefits of hypertrophy training are particularly excellent!

Different types of muscle growth 

To learn how to build muscle effectively, you need to understand the different types of muscle growth and how to achieve muscular hypertrophy through weight training.

We can break hypertrophy training down into two specific types of muscle growth: 

Sarcoplasmic muscle growth

Sarcoplasmic muscle growth is temporary muscle growth typically used by bodybuilders just before a competition when they need their muscles at peak size. 

Pumping weights at high intensity causes your body to release fluids that temporarily inflate the muscles. This type of muscle hypertrophy is similar to strength training, and it's always short-lived rather than sustainable.

Myofibrillar muscle growth

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the long-term goal of bodybuilders. This form of muscle growth employs the sustained, low-intensity hypertrophy exercises that we've been talking about throughout the article. 

Myofibrillar hypertrophy results in long-term muscle hypertrophy, and this is what bodybuilders do to bulk up over extended periods. 

Remember, if you're learning how to gain muscle mass, it's a slow process. You need to be focusing on myofibrillar hypertrophy, as this is the only way to build bulk over time. 

The best way to start hypertrophy training

Hypertrophy training isn't a form of weight training that you can just pick up whenever or however you want. If your goal is to build strength and mass, you'll need to put in hours upon hours of hard work to see the results you desire. 

Muscle mass growth only occurs when it's sustainable. That means you need to work out several times per week throughout the entire year. Hypertrophy training needs to be long-term, as it's the only way to develop larger muscles through myofibrillar hypertrophy. 

Soon after beginning hypertrophy training, you'll see impressive results quickly. However, your muscle growth may start to slow down after a few weeks or months. Don't become disheartened! A growth plateau is normal, which is where you have to really commit if you want to bulk up!

Avoiding injury in the early stages is essential, too.

If you're practicing bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups, we suggest using pull-up bands to start without tearing ligaments or tendons. Pullup bands are a great way to tone and strengthen existing muscles to help prevent injury later! Resistance bands can help you with warm-ups, stretching, and muscle growth while you ease into lifting large weights.  

As with any fitness regime, it's equally important to stay hydrated and well-nourished throughout training. To build muscle, you need to ensure that you're consuming enough protein; otherwise, you'll simply be streamlining your body and losing weight rather than gaining mass!

Ready, Set, Go!

Hypertrophy training involves sustained sets, increased repetitions, and shorter breaks, and it's the best way to build muscle mass over time. Gym rats use this type of weight training when looking to build bulk and increase their size, with the ultimate goal of bodybuilding aesthetics. 

However, there are also several other great benefits that everyone can take advantage of. Hypertrophy training is low impact, and it improves endurance and burns calories.

There's much more to gain, too, so why not bookmark our guide to muscle hypertrophy training for future weight training inspiration? Make the decision and go for it! Find out if muscle hypertrophy training is the right regime for you.

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Katherine is a CrossFit expert with humble origins. Starting out on a ranch, ever since she was nine, she spent most of her life roping and competing in team roping. After finding bodyweight exercises interesting she sought after a career in CrossFit and dedicated her life towards achieving the body of her dreams. Today Katherine is a personal trainer that loves to travel the world and change the lives of her clients.

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