What is Muscle Hypertrophy?

When you’re in the gym, it’s not all about what exercises you’re doing, but also how you’re doing them.

We’ve already covered the benefits of doing low reps with heavy weight for powerlifting. However, this is a slightly different, more vain approach. I’m talking about hypertrophy workouts. This is when you’re training for muscle size, not strength.

What Is It?

Hypertrophy training is essentially working out your muscles in a particular way to make them grow in size rather than in strength.

It all comes down to the muscle fibers in your body, and how your training them.

Here, in the most basic form, I will explain the difference between lifting for strength and hypertrophy training.

It all comes down to the tension on your muscles. When you’re powerlifting, you’re only doing a few reps per set. They’re heavy reps, so you’ll need a lot of power, but you won’t need all your muscle fibers to pull it off. You’ll just need the main ones that you use for that exercise, and they’ll need to be tough.

With hypertrophy exercises, you’re doing much larger sets with many more reps. Although the weight isn’t as heavy, the tension that you’re putting your muscles under is a lot longer.

This means those main muscle fibers that you use for powerlifting will tire out into the set, and other supportive muscle fibers will have to be recruited to support the lift.

In doing so, you workout a lot more of the muscle fibers in the muscle group and damage them. These muscle fibers don’t get much of a look-in when you’re powerlifting. When you damage muscle fibers they have to repair themselves bigger and stronger to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Hypertrophy helps expose more of the muscle fibers in your body be trained, and in doing so helps the muscle group as a whole grow bigger in size.

How Does it Work?

Hypertrophy and muscle growth in general comes down to two main factors: stimulation and repair from that stimualtion.

When you’re exercising your muscles, you’re stimulating the muscle fibers. This stimulation, especially if you are working hard, causes internal damage to the muscle fibers. Although this may sound dangerous, this is not a bad thing, especially in a controlled environment.

After a workout, your body and muscles enter a resting phase. It is during this time that your body starts to repair itself from the work that you’ve done. New fibers are made by your body to help support the damaged ones. This is where you get your muscle growth from.

Over time, with continous, regular exercise, you can push your body through endless cycles of stimulation and repair. The end result is more and more muscle growth.

The Best Ways to Train for Hypertrophy:

If this is the kind of training you’re looking for, there are several things you can do to help yourself get the best out of this kind of routine.

Here’s a few things that you should keep in mind:

Make Sure You’re Eating Enough

When you’re building muscle, you’re adding more to yourself than what there already is. You need to eat more to compensate for that.

Not only that, your body needs the extra energy if it’s going to be constantly in a state of stimulation and repair.

Ensure that you’re getting enough calories in your daily food intake and that you’re giving yourself a healthy supply of protein, fat and carbohydrates.

These are your building blocks of muscle, energy stores and general body maintenance to help you grow bigger and stronger.

Sleep Is Vital

This is another key point. Half the battle here is making sure your body has what it needs to repair itself, that includes sleep.

You want to be aiming for 8 hours of sleep a day. This will give your body a good amount of time to repair itself while you’re resting.

It is possible to get away with only getting 6 hours of sleep a night, but for the full benefits I recommend you get the full 8.

Have Goals

It’s all well and good hitting the gym 5 times a week, but if you’re not improving on what you’re doing, you’re going to reach a stopping point in your results.

You want to be ensuring that you have something of a progressive overload in place. A progressive overload essentially means that you’re increasing the intensity of the workouts that you’re doing over time.

This allows you to keep seeing improvements and to make sure you keep that stimulation fresh, so your muscles can keep recovering at the same rate.

Example Workout

Here’s a good example of a Hypertrophy workout for your abs and shoulders, courtesy of the guys from Bodybuilding.com:


Hypertrophy training is great if you’re looking to grow your muscle size when you’re not bothered about making strength gains. It’s definitely a slower process, but the end result looks a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

Happy training!

– JD