Muscle Hypertrophy Training*

Monday, 9 May 2016, By Andrew Isaac


What is Muscle Hypertrophy?

Muscle hypertrophy involves an increase in size of skeletal muscle through a growth in size of its component cells.

Muscle Hypertrophy Training Principles

Optimal Resistance

Choosing the right amount of weight and right amount of repetitions is vital when it comes to growing muscle. One way to work out the correct weight is to perform your 1RM (one-rep max). To do this, you build up to the heaviest weight you can lift for a single repetition. Once you work out your 1RM, you then choose your training load (weight) based on a percentage of it. Here is a layout of the prescription:

70% or less of your 1RM = light weight: associated with endurance workouts (13 to 20 reps)

70 % to 85% = moderate weight: associated with muscle growth workouts (8 to 12 reps)

85% or higher = heavy weight: associated with strength workouts (4 - 7 reps) 

Optimal Rep Range

As far as muscle hypertrophy is concerned, it seems logic that we will be dealing only with the 70% to 85% weight range. This is somewhat true, however, we will also be dealing with the 85% or higher range because this will develop greater strength as well as greater muscle development. Adding in some occasional lighter sets can be helpful for giving your joints a break, building endurance, and inducing circulation, but it's a mistake to drop all your heavy work!

If you are like me, then you will not only be concerned with growing muscle you will also want to get much stronger. That is why it makes sense to train in multiple rep ranges, either in the same workout or in alternating workouts. So having strength days and hypertrophy days really do go hand in hand.

Optimal Volume

The optimal approach is to do multiple sets of each exercise. One review actually published that multiple sets are associated with a 40% greater increase in muscle growth as compared to a single set.

Three sets per exercise is a common practise for muscle hypertrophy, but there's no reason you can't throw in a fourth set!

Optimal Rest Interval

Resting 60 to 90 seconds between sets is a good rule of thumb for hypertrophy training. That gives you enough time to recoup your energy and work capacity just enough to perform the next set without too much residual fatigue from the last set.

Optimal Tempo

Tempo is how fast or slow you do each repetition. There are two phases to performing an exercise: the concentric (lifting) phase and the eccentric (lowering) phase.

The concentric action is where you lift the weight and the muscle shortens or contracts. This part of the rep should be done quickly but under control, typically 1 to 2 seconds.

The eccentric action is where you lower the weight back down and the muscle lengthens. Going a little slower on the way down may help increase your strength and muscle gains; aim for 2 to 3 seconds.


Changing your overall workout structure and individual exercises regularly helps prevent you from getting bored and losing motivation. It lets you work your body from various angles with different training stimuli. It also helps you avoid plateaus from adaptation and keeps the progress coming.

On the other hand, you don't want to change workouts too often. By constantly hoping from one program to another you don't establish continuity from one workout to the next, you don't allow time for progression on each exercise, you don't optimise your strength and growth gains and you really don't know what's working and what's not.

Milk each routine for all it's worth before switching to the next one. You can stay on the same program as long as it keeps working for you, but as a best practice, every 12 weeks is a good time for changing some of the exercises and trying new tactics.


*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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