There are so many different approaches to workout goals that it can be so tough to disseminate which is the right one for you.
Would you rather build strength or would you rather build muscle? If you are someone who is keen on developing the aesthetics, hypertrophy is the way to go. Hypertrophy is just a posh term for muscle growth. But in order to stimulate this, there are some specific training methods that encourage your muscles to adapt to the stimulus and grow. So, let’s explore some typical methods, and a couple that you might not have heard of.
Blood Flow Restriction Training
This is something that has been deemed very popular in certain sectors, especially those that have tried every workout method under the sun. Blood flow restriction, or BFR, involves using special BFR cuffs or bands to restrict blood flow to a muscle while performing exercises. The benefit of doing this is that you can stimulate muscle growth with lighter loads. When performing exercises, it has to be between 20% and 40% of your one repetition max. But one of the fundamentals of BFR and hypertrophy training, in general, is to perform higher repetitions per set. Each set should have between 15 and 30 reps. This is because hypertrophy is about inducing as much muscle fatigue as possible.
Because hypertrophy is about fatiguing the muscle this is in many ways the total opposite of strength training. Strength training is about keeping the reps and sets between three and five. When you focus on higher volume with more sets and repetitions this is creating metabolic stress and muscle damage which is essential for hypertrophy. When training at a higher volume it becomes harder to do it safely which is why you have to remember that form is critical. You can certainly lift heavy however if you can’t do it safely you could compromise form and give yourself an injury.
Stretching In Between Sets
This is something that was popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline, the man who famously brought the kettlebell to the West from Russia. Because hypertrophy is about stimulating muscle growth in a physiological sense, we have to change the shape of the muscle. A muscle is essentially blood and water and if we can change the shape of it by elongating it, i.e. stretching, this can help us to stimulate hypertrophy. One of Pavel’s key approaches was to stretch in between sets. Although stretching in between sets can potentially hinder your potential for strength, if hypertrophy is the complete goal, stretching in between sets can make all of the difference.
A very old-fashioned tactic that was popularized by strong men over 100 years ago but it’s slowly coming back into fashion again as a low-cost alternative to the gym. Isometrics involve holding a muscle without elongating it as you would when lifting up and putting down a weight. There are two different types of isometrics: yielding isometrics is when you are trying to maintain a position, for example, holding a dumbbell in the middle of the air for as long as you can. The other type is overcoming isometrics, when you are trying to move an immovable object with as much force as possible. There are benefits to both. You can perform isometrics by pulling, pushing, or holding. One of the benefits of performing isometrics is that you soon get used to holding yourself in a specific position. The key to performing isometrics for strength is doing it for as little time as possible, up to seven seconds, but if you want to stimulate hypertrophy the goal is about muscle fatigue, in which case you need to hold a position for as long as possible.
Time Under Tension
This is similar to isometrics in the fact that you are holding something for a specific amount of time, but doing a very slow movement. Time under tension will promote hypertrophy and is something that many people prefer because of the efficiency of the exercise. There are different ways to conduct time under tension but as long as you are giving it your all, for example, by holding a weight in the air until failure under proper form, you are stimulating that fatigue that will result in muscle growth. But it’s important to remember that you have to rest to allow these adaptations. And because you are depleting your muscle glycogen, in other words, the blood sugars, you need to replenish this, which means that yes, you can eat carbs because this will stimulate recovery much quicker.
Hypertrophy is, for many people, the goal, and hopefully, some of these approaches will give you a better understanding of how you can get those muscles you’ve been after for so long.
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