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What Is Hypertrophy? – The Science Behind Muscle Growth

For those of you who are looking to get jacked out of your mind.

You’ll find that this ultimate guide to muscle growth is just as beneficial as that protein shake you chug on after finishing a workout.

Yep, today we’re focussing on hypertrophy and will be answering the question of what is hypertrophy.

As well as sharing a few key insights into what it takes to build muscle and get bigger, stronger, and leaner in the process.

As you know, building muscle is about as easy as juggling several flaming daggers whilst blindfolded, and only having the use of one arm.

That might be a bit of an over-exaggeration on our part, but you can probably tell that the point we’re trying to make is that building muscle is not easy.

There are people that have been lifting for years, yet as far as muscle growth goes, they’re lucky if they’ve gained more than a pound or two of lean mass.

It may be hard to increase your muscle mass, but it can be done.

It doesn’t matter whether you want to simply fill out your t-shirts a little better, or step on stage and dominate your next bodybuilding contest.

If you follow the advice listed below, you’ll find that the gains come to you easier than ever before.

Here’s a look at what is muscle hypertrophy as we provide you with the ultimate guide to muscle growth.

What Is Hypertrophy?

What Is Hypertrophy?

Starting as we mean to go on, we’ll kick things off with a look at what muscle hypertrophy actually is.

Now, although the term may sound fairly complicated and complex, in truth, hypertrophy is very simply a term used to describe muscle growth.

There are, in theory at least, two individual forms of muscle hypertrophy. They are:

  • Myofibril muscle hypertrophy
  • Sarcoplasmic muscle hypertrophy

Now, whilst the pair of these forms of hypertrophy has indeed been linked with muscle growth and repair, there are some key differences that will need to be considered.

Myofibril Muscle Hypertrophy:

First up we’ll be looking at Myofibril muscle hypertrophy.

This form of hypertrophy is ideal for increasing muscle strength and power, whilst enhancing muscle fiber growth in the process.

There is, however, a theory that doesn’t result in a visible increase in muscle size.

So, if you train purely for aesthetics, Myofibril hypertrophy is NOT the type of muscle hypertrophy that you should be looking out for.

Myofibril hypertrophy increases muscle fiber counts, as opposed to the size of the muscles.

Myofibril hypertrophy is, therefore, more effective when it comes to athletic performance.

Sarcoplasmic Muscle Hypertrophy:

Now we have Sarcoplasmic muscle hypertrophy.

Now, this form of hypertrophy takes place within the muscle cell.

Specifically, it takes place within the Sarcoplasm of the muscle cells.

Now, when this occurs, it results in muscle cell expansion.

Not surprisingly, when the muscle cell expands in size, you’ll find that the muscles themselves expand in size, which is how you get big and jacked.

Rather than just increasing the size of the muscle fibers, Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy helps to increase the space between the muscle fibers, which in turn causes the muscles to become larger in size.

Why And How Do Our Muscles Grow?

Now it’s time for us to take a look at precisely why our muscles grow, and how the process occurs.

Now, believe it or not, but muscle growth actually occurs as a form of self-defense by the body.

Despite exercise being incredibly healthy and beneficial for us, as far as the body is concerned, an exercise is actually a form of stress.

When you exercise you’re pushing your body hard, and it doesn’t like that.

In order for hypertrophy to occur, the muscles must be stressed beyond their normal capabilities.

This is known as overreaching.

When overreaching takes place, you’re basically exposing the muscle fiber to stress that it isn’t used to.

If for example, you are able to comfortably bench press 135lbs for 10 reps, doing 135lbs for 10 reps each and every time you train won’t benefit you if you’re looking to build muscle.

Your body is used to this and so it goes through the motions.

If however, you were to throw another 45lbs onto the bar and bust out 10 reps, you’d struggle, your muscles wouldn’t be used to being worked so hard, and you’d stress them.

This type of training causes microscopic rips and tears in the muscle fibers.

It is known as progressive overload training.

After causing this damage to the muscle, this is where muscle growth occurs as we rest.

After causing the damage to the muscle, the body doesn’t like the fact that it has sustained damage and so it looks for ways of preventing that damage from occurring again.

Its solution is to repair the damaged muscle fibers and build them up to be bigger and stronger than they were initially.

Now, as the muscle fibers are bigger and stronger, you’ll find that, even with that extra 45lbs on the bar, your muscles will again adapt.

This is where you need to gradually increase the weight you’re using, or perform more reps.

Basically, you’re constantly keeping the body guessing.

The goal is to breakdown existing muscle tissue and replaces it with stronger and denser muscle tissue than you initially had.

The reason why we constantly need to be stressing the muscles is because of the fact that we suffer from ‘General Adaption Syndrome’ which is exactly as it sounds.

Put simply, doing the same workouts for weeks, months, even years at a time will not carry over into any real progress.

Sure, it’s better than nothing, but in terms of muscle hypertrophy, you certainly won’t find your muscles getting any bigger or stronger anytime soon.

Different Forms Of Muscle Fibres:

So far you’ve seen us bang on about muscle fibers quite a bit already, yet you probably aren’t sure precisely what we mean.

Well, after reading this, all will become clear.

You see, there are two unique forms of muscle fiber.

They are slow-twitch muscle fibers, and, fast-twitch muscle fibers.

We’re now going to be looking at the key differences.

1. Fast-twitch Muscle Fibres

These are known as type-2 muscle fibers, though commonly people will refer to them as fast-twitch muscle fibers.

These fibers are targeted during high-intensity exercise and explosive movements such as sprinting and Olympic style lifts.

If you imagine sprinters, for example, you’ll know that their main goal is to get off their mark and get to that finish line as quickly as they possibly can.

If you look at the physiques of sprinters, you’ll notice that they’re carrying a lot of lean muscle mass on their frames.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers help to generate explosive speed and power for explosive lifts and activities such as sprinting.

2. Slow-twitch Muscle Fibres

Slow-twitch muscle fibers are also known as Type-1 muscle fibers.

These are the fibers needed for endurance exercise.

Sprinters, for example, will predominantly use fast-twitch muscle fibers whereas long-distance runners and endurance athletes will predominantly utilize their slow-twitch muscle fibers instead.

These muscle fibers are utilized during low-intensity exercise.

Now, if you compare the physique of a marathon runner with that of a 100-meter sprinter, you’ll see that the sprinter will usually have a lot more muscle mass than the marathon runner.

This is because they both target different muscle fibers when training.

So, How Do We Build More Muscle?

Right, you now know more about the different muscle fibers your body utilizes when training, and you’re probably now eager to start pumping iron and building muscle.

If you are looking to increase the amount of muscle you carry on your frame, here are some tried and tested techniques for maximum rates of muscle hypertrophy.

1. Progressive Overloading

First and foremost, we’ll start off by looking at progressive overload training.

We’ve already touched upon progressive overload training, but now we’re going to expand upon what we’ve learned.

Progressive overload training is a form of training in which you progressively overload the muscles.

The idea is that with each training session, you’re putting in more work and working harder than you did previously.

If during your last squat session, you were able to squat 225lbs for 10 reps, the next time you squat, you should either aim for 225lbs at 12 reps, or increase the weight slightly and again aim for 10 reps.

Basically, you need to make sure that you’re not doing the same workouts over and over again, otherwise, the body will adapt and you’ll stop enjoying the perks of muscle hypertrophy.

2. Get Enough Protein

So far, we’ve only focused on the training when it comes to muscle hypertrophy, but that’s about to change now.

Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for muscle growth and recovery.

Without protein, it wouldn’t matter how hard you were busting your ass in the gym, you simply wouldn’t be able to build any real muscle.

Bodybuilders consume a lot of protein because protein is needed when it comes to post-workout recovery.

Our bodies are able to repair our muscles via a process known as protein synthesis.

In order for that to occur, we need plenty of protein, especially when you are using any kind of performance-enhancing drugs.

Now, in terms of exactly how much protein you need, this all depends on whom you ask, or where you look.

Some articles out there will recommend that you consume as much as 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight.

Others will tell you that you only need 0.6g of protein for every pound that you weigh.

We say, why not split the difference?

There are scientific data that suggests that optimally, we should aim to consume 1g of protein for every pound that we weigh if we want to build muscle.

How true that is, we don’t know, but it seems to work for huge muscled up bodybuilders so who are we to argue?

3. Heavy Compounds

Remember, today we’re looking at what is muscle hypertrophy, so we’re looking at muscle growth.

The goal with hypertrophy is to build more muscle, and this is where heavy compound exercises prove effective.

A compound exercise is one that will simultaneously work for several muscle groups at the same time.

Most free weight exercises are compound lifts such as power cleans, squats, and deadlifts because they require assistance from other muscles to perform the lift.

The more muscles you are working, the more muscle tissue you will break down, and the more muscle you will ultimately wind up the building.

Isolation exercises like those performed on a machine, are also useful for targeting specific muscle groups, but if it’s purely muscle mass that you want to build, place an emphasis on heavy compounds as they will result in greater levels of muscle hypertrophy.

So we recommend you the Push-Pull Legs Workout, PHAT workout or PHUL Workout if you’re looking for a great hypertrophy training program.

4. Don’t Overtrain

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when training for muscle hypertrophy, is to simply train too much and do too much.

Their general thinking is that the more exercise they do, the more muscle they will build.

We’ve already established that in order for us to build muscle, we need to ensure we’re giving our muscles enough time to recover.

After all, muscle growth takes place when we recover, and mainly when we sleep.

If you’re training for hours at a time, 7 days per week, you aren’t giving your muscles enough time to recover, in which case they may suffer from muscle atrophy.

Which is muscle wastage and that’s the last thing you want.


As you can see, when it comes down to the question of what is hypertrophy, there’s a lot to get your head around.

If you take in what you’ve learned today, and make sure to vary your training and constantly strive to be better after each workout, you’ll find that the gains come faster than you could have ever imagined.

Reda Elmardi

Reda Elmardi

Reda Elmardi is a BJJ, fitness and bodybuilding fanatic. He's been writing about his experiences for over eight years and started his own publications on topics such as BJJ, Steroids, and Fitness.

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