Long gone are the days where hypertrophy was all about loading up the weights and swinging them around like an ape. Science, research and experience show us there are many more safer and effective ways to stimulate hypertrophy. If your progress has lagged recently, try incorporating some of these maximum hypertrophy methods into your exercise protocol.
Use a “back-off” set
Japanese researchers showed that applying the concept of a “back-off” set stimulated greater hypertrophy and strength gains that just doing low reps. The “back-off” set could improve glycogen storage and increase growth hormone output associated with high reps and lactate build-up. You’re workout might look like this as an example:
1: Bench press | 5 sets | 5 reps | 90 secs rest | 4010 tempo
2: Bench press (back-off set) | 1 set | 20 reps | 2010 tempo
Do a strength phase
Working in the 1-6 rep bracket for a month or two is great for inducing new hypertrophy gains for two reasons. Firstly, heavy weights and low reps recruit the fast twitch muscle fibres more so than light weights and higher reps. This is important because the fast twitch fibres have the most potential for growth, and will result in functional hypertrophy. Secondly, if you can increase your strength, when you go back to a higher rep protocol you’ll be able to manage heavier weights. Thus giving a greater training effect.
Use 40 secs of time under tension (TUT)
IFBB pro Ben Pakulski knows his stuff, so we should probably listen to what he’s got to say. He believes a total TUT for each set should last for 40 seconds for maximum hypertrophy. He’s even put together an entire training plan based on this – MI40. To take advantage of this method, simply make sure your reps and tempos combine to make each set last for around 40 seconds. A quick lesson in tempo – tempo can be defined as the speed at which we perform an exercise. It’s displayed as four digits.
Digit one: seconds on the eccentric or lowering phase of a rep.
Digit two: seconds pause in the bottom position.
Digit three: seconds on the concentric or lifting phase of a rep.
Digit four: seconds pause in the top position.
Here’s some common rep schemes with a corresponding tempo you could try:
6 reps | 5020 tempo = 42 secs TUT
8 reps | 4010 tempo = 40 secs TUT
10 reps | 3010 tempo = 40 secs TUT
12 reps | 2010 tempo = 36 secs TUT
Use a push/pull split
A push/pull split, like that used during the first phase of The 12 Week Lean Muscle Project workout manual is a great way to stimulate new muscle growth. With a push/pull split you can increase training frequency, which is an often forgotten about variable. For example, your week might look like this:
Monday: Push workout (quads, chest, shoulders, triceps, calves)
Tuesday: Pull workout (hamstrings, back, traps, biceps)
Thursday: Push workout (quads, chest, shoulders, triceps, calves)
Friday: Pull workout (hamstrings, back, traps, biceps)
The pushing muscles get stimulated twice during the week, as do the pulling muscles. And remember the more you stimulate a muscle to grow, the more you will grow!
Take a deload week
You might feel you don’t train hard enough to warrant a deload week, but I’d argue otherwise. I believe everyone should deload, it just depends on the training level and experience as to how often. For example, Average Alan who might workout three times a week for fitness and increased LBM, might take a deload week once every 6 months. Olympian Oliver might deload once every 5 weeks, as his training schedule is much more strenuous and intense than Alan’s. During a deload week don’t be surprised if your strength and size rocket to new levels. For a simple way to deload, keep your workout plan the same, just cut your volume in half (divide all sets by 50% percent). This way you can still train, move and keep the blood flowing whilst giving your tissues, joints and CNS a chance to fully recover.