How to maximize your #gainz (Hypertrophy)

Jamie Verwey

Most people that train in our gym walk around with goals that include things like a first pull-up, a push-up or even a faster time on “Fran”.  To achieve strength based goals one training methodology called hypertrophy most likely is the one for you. Benefits of hypertrophy training are you will get stronger and can get swole. The good thing is big muscles aren’t only for looks, by gaining muscle you inevitably will get stronger in; bodyweight exercise, compound lifts and everything in between.

In this blog, I want to give you guys a few tools you can use to maximize your strength training, resulting in a greater stimulus a.k.a. more gainz.

 

In training there are 6 variables;

  1. Volume
    1. Amount of reps
  2. Frequency
    1. How often
  3. Load
    1. The amount of weight
  4. Training to failure
    1. This is what we do during TYQ (Till You Quit)
  5. Contraction type
    1. This consist of three types of contraction,
      1. Concentric, the muscle shortens whilst producing force

      2. Isometric, the muscle remains the same length but still produces power
      3. Eccentric, the muscle lengthens whilst producing force
  1. Exercise variation

As the name inclines they’re variables, you can change one and perhaps do more of one and the stimulus will change. By doing this towards your goals you can maximize the time you put into your strength/accessory work.

Three mechanisms which will come into play once you embark on your route to eternal gainz;

  • Metabolic stress aka Intensity
  • Structural damage
  • Mechanical tension

Let’s see what those mechanisms are about

Metabolic stress  (aka Intensity)
First of all, we need to have an understanding of muscle contraction and energy supply. Your muscles can contract because they’re building up between strings, these string can move closer to each other by contracting, therefore, shortening the muscle. You could see this as a rope pull by pulling on the rope the rope/string becomes closer to the object which is pulling, make’s sense right?
This process requires energy, this energy comes in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). A very fancy name but how you should see this as three energy bombs being held together by 2 connections. Energy is released by breaking the second connection.

By breaking this connection energy is released and a muscle can contract, the body has a restricted amount of ATP stored in the muscle cells. Thankfully your body is able to re-fill this system to a certain extent.
But now imagine contracting over and over (e.g. 20 bicep curls). By doing a lot of repetitions of an exercise you will ask your body to work hard to keep refilling this ATP, the work you ask from your body to refill ATP is metabolic stress.

Structural damage
This is the mini tears that occur as a result of training. These tears can have a negative effect short term on your performance and ability to walk up a set of stairs, but in the long term, these tears will result in the strengthening of the tissue, therefore, protecting the muscle against injury.
Research has shown that eccentric loading of the muscle will lead to the most muscle tears / structural damage thus resulting in a bigger response in strengthening the tissue #gainz. [1].
The eccentric can be emphasized by controlling or elongating the eccentric/negative of an exercise, e.g. lowering yourself from a pullup in a 3-4 second eccentric phase instead of going down once the hit the end of your rep.

 

Mechanical tension
The meaning of mechanical tension lies in the tension you put your muscles through.

Two factor to increase mechanical tension;
-duration muscle tension, this is also referred to as time under tension. What this means is the duration of time your muscle is delivering force, this can be eccentric, isometric or concentric. Take a bicep curl starting with a fully extended elbow, bring the weight up to the point where you feel there still is tension and start to lower it in a controlled slow manner. Once you’re elbow nearly extended stop there and continue on the next rep. By eliminating the short pause at the bottom and top of the rep the muscle is forced to produce force for a longer duration of time.
-Tension throughout the range of motion, meaning that you want to utilize the entire range of motion of the muscle. Going back to the bicep curl. Using the entire range of elbow by flexing and extending all the way whilst keeping tension though.[2]

 

Now comes the interesting part…
People used to think the structural damage and mechanical tension were the biggest factors in hypertrophy.  Recent research has shown this isn’t the case, these researchers suggest that a combination of the three mechanisms are what is needed to create hypertrophy[3][4].
To create a hypertrophy stimulus you need to hit two of the three mechanisms, this can lead to two do-able scenarios;

-Metabolic stress + structural damage, high reps with moderate weight. This leans towards TYQ orientated work. Think a TYQ sandbag squat, you perform a lot of reps with moderate weight until you cannot perform the exercise in the desired torque (see the previous blog).

-Mechanical tension + metabolic stress, Low reps with heavier weight and a short rest. This can be done with a heavy sandbag or heavy barbell and work for 3-5reps and keep the rest low (1min-1.5min) or for all you people who have their eye gazed on a pull-up or push-up. Perform slow reps, increase the negative of your movement and do fewer reps but with a shorter rest period.

 

Now what to take away from this. Next time you do a workout think of the three things we spoke about. Make sure are doing other of the two scenarios as shown above to maximize the time you spend working on those gainzz!
[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22344059

[2] https://www.t-nation.com/training/create-tension-build-more-muscle

[3] https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2010/10000/The_Mechanisms_of_Muscle_Hypertrophy_and_Their.40.aspx

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22344059

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