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In this article, I will be giving you the fundamentals on how to train for hypertrophy! I will do this by breaking down all the components that go into a good hypertrophy plan, explain them and relate them to your training! With that being said, there is a lot to go over, so let’s get to the information!
VOLUME For Hypertrophy:
Notice the emphasis on the word volume? That is because volume is the most important thing to consider and manage while trying to gain muscle. It has a dose-response relationship with hypertrophy, this means the more you do, the better the gains. This comes with a caveat, however, there is a certain amount of volume where it becomes counter-productive to gaining muscle due to its demand for recovery. The more volume you do, the more fatigue you simultaneously accumulate as well.
That is why I used the word manage, you need to manage the amount of volume you are doing, which means you can’t just throw numbers out there and put things on auto-pilot. You need to have an understanding of the volume that different muscle groups require to adapt for YOU, however, that still isn’t enough. You must also monitor how you are recovering throughout your program. Look for things like extended muscle soreness, tiredness, difficulty falling asleep, and a big tell-tale sign of using too much volume is a decrease in performance!
What are some guidelines to utilize this volume then Mr. FullAffectFitness, you may ask? Well, Dr. Mike Israetel created some really cool volume landmarks where he has found that between 10 and 20 sets of targeted work per muscle group, per week is where the majority of muscle growth occurs. You don’t want to keep this number stagnant, however, you want to utilize progressive overload.
You do this by starting on the lower end of sets and leaving room for rep and weight progression. You then slowly increment those training variables over the course of a program to achieve progressive overload. Always remember, no one person is the same, one person may be able to start at 8 sets of volume and end at 18 sets to achieve sufficient muscle growth for themselves. Meanwhile, another person may need to start at 14 sets and end at 24 sets of volume for the same muscle group to achieve gains. It is all relative to the individual.
Next up on the list, we have our exercise selection. Now that we know volume is the biggest thing we need to consider for hypertrophy, it is time to talk about exercise selection! This is important as the exercises you pick correlate to a multitude of other training considerations such as the order in which you perform the exercises, the volumes and weights you apply to them, as well as, how you progress the exercises from week to week/session to session.
Let’s start with the order in which we perform exercises, our big, compound lifts that are trained heaviest are performed first. This is because they are the most physically demanding, so executing them while we have the most energy available makes sense to maximize their effectiveness!
This translates into applying different volumes and other training variables, the closer to a primary exercise it is, the more likely it is to be trained heavier, with the main form of progression coming through reps and weight. Lastly comes the progression of these exercises.
As we know, the closer to a primary exercise it is, the more likely it is to be weight and rep progress dominant. You may be asking, why not sets if volume is most relative to hypertrophy? Well, the weight and reps is a part of the volume equation for one. But also, using the more strength-based exercises to progress with weight is more conducive the exercise itself and the adaptations you may achieve from doing this!
With that being said, progressing weekly sets is still hugely important as the volume through sets is the biggest thing to consider for a hypertrophy program. So for your secondary and accessory exercises, be sure to focus on progression through sets from week to week!
Rest Times and Tempo:
This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hypertrophy training considerations, however, still something to consider! Rest times correlate to the performance we achieve as well as things like injury risk. While tempos are a way to achieve a similar stimulus placed on your body, with varying weights. Let’s start with rest times!
For hypertrophy, resting 2-3 minutes on average is ideal. If you have some heavy primary work to do, between 3 and 5 minutes may best. Following the trend of primary to accessory movements, the further down the ladder you go, the more likely it is that the rest times will reduce. When you’re doing isolation work at the end of a training session, the rest times will typically be around 1 minute to 90 seconds. This will hopefully allow for lactic acid and other byproducts to build up which can cause a signal for muscle growth. Yay!
Resting adequately not only helps with performance, but it can also reduce your risk for injury. If you go into a set tired, you will be sloppy which makes it difficult to achieve proper form, therefore, increasing your risk for injury. This compared to entering a set while adequately rested, you reduce the risk for injury as you are more prepared to handle the set!
As far as your training tempo goes, allow me to explain the concept through an example. Let’s say you are doing a bicep curl, and your program calls for 4 sets of 8 reps. However, you aren’t feeling your strongest that day. You may want to consider lightening the load but increasing the time spent on the eccentric portion of the tempo. This will make the lighter weight feel more challenging, thus giving a similar stress response to your body while using a lighter load!
The Gist on Hypertrophy Specific Training!
As we talked about, the order of importance for training variables goes from volume to exercise selection to rest times and tempo. Of course, you need to have progressive overload properly implemented, while adherence to your training routine is the king of everything because if you’re not consistent, you will not see results!
I got the framework for this article from an infographic put in a book set called the training and nutrition pyramids, you can check that out here if you wish! It was created by Dr. Eric Helms, Andy Morgan and Andrea Valdez. I thank you for taking the time to read this article on hypertrophy specific training! As always, if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to leave them below and I will be sure to reply!
Until Next Time,
Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for use of this information after reading.