What is Hypertrophy?

So, you want a sculpted, muscular physique? First, ask yourself what your prime motivation for this is, because if it’s solely for aesthetic purposes, this could be mentally unhealthy – body image is a complicated thing, as is the social pressure on it.

That said, if healthy and self-confidence is your main motivation, what’s wrong with looking good while living a healthy lifestyle? The thing is, people oversimplify the human body when they consider the effects and implications of exercise. Well, that’s not really surprising, the “why and how” of this is only guaranteed knowledge if you’re either a fitness professional, a medical professional, or a biologist.

Unfortunately, to get the most out of your exercise and diet regimen, and most efficiently achieve that swole look, you kind of need to understand it. Specifically in this case, you need to understand anaerobic respiration, basic metabolism, and the concept of hypertrophy.

What’s Hypertrophy

While it may sound like a bonus prize better than first place, hypertrophy is a biological/medical phenomenon wherein muscles are stressed in various way (and to an extent, damaged), thus increasing the density and cross section of muscle present.

Proper exercise intended for body building and muscle gain, induces hypertrophy. Here’s the thing though, hypertrophy, and the things that induce it, will hurt. You will experience fatigue, soreness, cramps and just general aches and pains from it.

Well, the old saying goes, no pain no gain, right? We’ll talk in a minute about how this is induced, but let’s talk about the two scientific phenomena taking place during hypertrophy, and how it results in increased muscle volume and density.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in what’s known as sarcoplasm. This is a fluid volume inside muscles, that gives it that kind of “jelly” fluidic nature while relaxed. This creates muscular bulk, but being noncontractile, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy doesn’t increase strength per se. It is however necessary for the function and tensile power of your muscular tissue.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the increase of myofibrils, which are the thread-like contractile components which actually do the mechanical work. The increase of these is the increase in actual physical strength.

It is important to achieve the proper balance of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophies, though generally, the body manages that on its own. However, if you see increasing muscle mass, but the expected strength increase intended to come along with it isn’t present, you may need to see a dietitian or even a physician, because something may be wrong.

Stimulating Hypertrophy

Before we go over the ways to stimulate this, I want to again emphasize that some of this can be dangerous if you don’t do it properly. Consult your physician, and use your best judgment with this. Seriously, stressing your body can be dangerous!

Progressive Tension Overload

This sounds fancy and complex, but in all reality, it’s just what any good lifting regimen does – increase what you can and do lift over time, stressing your muscles and causing them to grow. Some of the best are curls, deadlifts, squats, military presses and bench presses. While the more dramatic increase in reps and lifts you can do will be logarithmically proportional to the resulting hypertrophy, this is where the being careful I talked about comes into play.

Muscle Damage

It’s commonly said that you have to break muscles to make muscles. This is actually completely true. This is also why constructive exercise is painful – you’re breaking the myofibrils and losing some of your sarcoplasm by overexerting your muscles.
When the body takes damage, it will reactively begin building more tissue to replace what was lost, or to bridge gaps formed by strain. While some tissues don’t heal gracefully (hence scarred skin, and misshapen bones that weren’t set right), muscle is very good at healing itself in an effective and constructive way.

Metabolic Stress

On top of tension stress/breakage, there’s also metabolic stress. This is where anaerobic versus aerobic respiration comes into play. Anaerobic respiration involves little to no exercise (where aerobic is very oxygen-heavy). Most lifts and similar exercises are anaerobic, and since anaerobic respiration is less efficient and more stressful, muscles are strained by it, causing them to “double up” to better handle the stress of it all.

On a side note, anaerobic respiration produces lactic acid, which causes that really sore feeling you get from an effective work out, where a burning sensation comes from broken muscle.

Supplements

You can make induction of hypertrophy safer by reducing the physical extremeness of it with supplements that let muscles rebuild faster, and stimulate muscle growth naturally.

Creatine

You may have heard some bad things about creatine, but seriously, it’s all bunk. Creatine has been clinically proven to be harmless, and effective. Creatine will help boost sarcoplasmic hypertrophy as well as stimulate more effective respiration all around. It also abates the soreness of lactic acid production, which quite nice.

Protein Powder

Muscle has to have raw materials to build with, and that means protein. Protein powders are an excellent way to deliver this rich nutrient to your body, while eliminating fats and other undesired things that come from animal protein.

To learn more about hypertrophy, and the science behind supplements and exercises, subscribe to my YouTube channel today!

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