If you’re looking for muscular hypertrophy, you need to go to the gym with a specific purpose. If every workout has a purpose then you will adapt and grow. Time and time again, research has confirmed heavy resistance training is the most effective method of achieving hypertrophy. The reason being, heavy weight stimulates the type II muscle fibres. These are the ones with most potential for growth and development.
So we understand heavy resistance training is a good place to start for increasing muscle size, but if we start to dig deeper, there’s three major pathways that actually induce this hypertrophy. According to Brad Schoenfeld in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, mechanical tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress are the factors that will induce the results you desire.
Mechanical tension is a result of heavy resistance training. It is created by muscle stretch, strict form and heavy weights. Increased weight isn’t the be-all and end-all of maximising tension though. Try experimenting with the tempo or speed at which you perform an exercise. A five second eccentric will certainly jack up the tension!
Increased mechanical tension is very efficient at doing muscle damage. Around two days after a workout your DOMS will likely reach its peak. This soreness is somewhat indicative of the amount of damage you did. Damage is created by doing something unfamiliar to the body. This could be more weight, more reps, reduced rest periods an alternative tempo etc. Otherwise known as progressive overload. The human body desires a state of homeostasis. When this pattern of balance is interrupted, adaptations will take place.
Metabolic stress results from several factors including:
1) The hypoxia or lack of oxygen supply to the muscles during a set.
2) The trapping of blood in the muscle that creates the swelling look. The feeling that many bodybuilders chase known as “the pump”.
3) The byproducts of anaerobic metabolism, such as lactate buildup. Plus the increased hormonal surge that goes with it.
There we have it, three factors that all go hand in hand for maximum hypertrophy. If you take home one point from this post – don’t judge the effectiveness of a hypertrophy workout on how much weight you just bench pressed. But rather how much mechanical tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress you created.