Do You Want to be Big or Strong?
Muscular hypertrophy is defined as the increase in size of a skeletal muscle. Hypertrophy training is common within the free weight and resistance section of the gym where guys and girls aim to improve the size of their muscles. The common consensus to novice gym goers is that the biggest guy in the free weight section is the strongest, this is not necessarily true and the reasons will be explained here.
There are two types of hypertrophy, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and sarcomere hypertrophy, which is also referred to as myofibril hypertrophy.
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy involves an increase in the amount of the sarcoplasmic fluid that surrounds the muscle. The increase in fluid leads to the size of the muscle being increased and appearing bigger. There is no increase in strength as the amount of contractile proteins (actin and myosin) stays the same.
- Sarcomere hypertrophy training will generate an increase in actin and myosin but no increase in sarcoplamic fluids, what this means is that strength will be increased but there will significant improvement in size.
Actin and myosin are the two protein filaments that exist within muscles and work together to produce muscular contraction. Whether you want to move a weight, object or to run, contractions need to occur for movement to happen. The more actin and myosin that exist within a muscle, the stronger they will become and the more force you can generate.
If wondering how you can focus on one type of hypertrophy and not the other, it all reverts back to the rep ranges used in training.
- For sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, working at rep ranges of 6 – 12 at 70% 1 Rep Max (1RM) will give the muscles the 'pumped' look and increase the size of the muscle. A good training system to use for this type of hypertrophy would be German Volume Training (GVT); this involves 10 sets of 10 reps with 60 second recovery in between sets. The high amount of reps and sets at a moderate intensity would trigger the release of sarcoplasmic fluid.
- Rep ranges below 6 working at 80%+ 1RM will mainly focus on the Sarcomere hypertrophy so strength will be increased but there may not be a dramatic change in size. A common training system for this type of hypertrophy would be basic multiple sets, working at 5 sets of 5 reps with a 2min rest in between sets. This will help with strength improvements
To summarise the physical size of an individual is not enough to determine the amount of strength that they possess. Firstly it is important to find out what the individual wants to improve on in the gym, and then work on a plan to achieve it. If looking to improve size, rep ranges of 6 – 12 working at 70% 1RM will be the best method to use to get bigger. Rep ranges of 1 – 6 at 80%+will be best suited for individuals whose primary goal is to get stronger.