Looking to learn more about hypertrophy? I’m a BSc qualified exercise scientist, and I’ve got you covered. This article starts with a quick hypertrophy definition, before moving on to cover why it’s important, what causes it, and how to train for it. Here’s are some shortcuts so you can get straight to the content you want…

Hypertrophy definition in exercise and more

Hypertrophy Definition

If you’ve ever visited a gym or had a conversation about training or working out, you’ve probably heard about Hypertrophy, but what does it really mean? Actually, it’s pretty simple, Muscle Hypertrophy is defined as the increase in the size of a muscle or in a more science-y term, it is the cross-sectional area ( the area of the cross section of a muscle perpendicular to its fibers) attributed to an increase of the size or the numbers of myofibrils (actin and myosin) within a given muscle fiber. So basically, lifting weights induces muscle damage and then your body repairs that damage by increasing muscle size, thus hypertrophy!

Purpose of Muscle Hypertrophy (Why is it important?)

The purpose of hypertrophy in exercise varies. Generally, hypertrophy creates a lean body mass that enhances performance in physical activities (especially if you are training for a sport). Plus, there is the general idea that folks who train for hypertrophy will have an improved appearance with things like leaner muscles, cuts, bigger biceps, or the overall enhancement of muscle groups that makes us look and feel fit.

Other than appearance, Hypertrophy also offers great benefits as there is a strong correlation between muscle-cross sectional area (size) and muscle strength (NSCA 2024) meaning that more muscle mass created greater potential for developing maximal strength, and who doesn’t want that right? It also has a great positive effect to the body on the body composition hitting two of the three factors that comprises our energy spending which are the resting metabolic rate (RMR), physical activity, and thermic effect of food.

What will cause hypertrophy?

Hypertrophy as mentioned earlier is caused by creating damage to your muscle fibers that makes your body generate bigger, better muscle fibers, which in turn leads to larger and stronger muscles. Pretty cool right!? There are three primary factors to induce muscle hypertrophy in resistance training:

  1. Mechanical Tension induced is primarily determined by intensity (the amount of weight you lifted) and time under tension (duration of the applied load).
  2. Muscle Damage is induced when your resistance training session that creates an overload situation causes muscle damage and an inflammatory response , potentiating the release of various growth factors.
  3. Metabolic Stress is created by performing repetitions of a challenging enough load, through a full range of motion, for a specific period of time. (Think of that intense burning sensation!)

These three causes an anabolic response (which means a gain in muscle protein), stimulating recovery of the body wherein it will go through lengths to repair the itself and regulate so that the same workout will not cause the same amount of damage in the future.

How to Train for Hypertrophy (Simplified)

In order to create a program focusing on Muscle Hypertrophy here are the recommended sets and reps to target muscle groups during a workout: Reps 6-12, Sets 3-6, Rest 30-90 sec.

Recommended workout program

Remember though, this is PER EXERCISE, and you might do 1-3 exercises per muscle group depending on your weekly hypertrophy training routine.

If you want a program in hypertrophy, we have a couple of already designed programs that you can check out here! And if you are interested in a program that is specifically designed for you, you can check it out here!

FAQ

Why is it called Hypertrophy?

The prefix hyper- refers to “beyond, exceeding” while -trophy is from the Greek word “trophia” which means nourishment, this literally means the exceeding of nourishment. It can also be derived from hypertrophic which means the enlargement of an organ where its function is affected, now that might sound extreme but when in comes to hypertrophy in muscles, this enlargement can cause greater strength and greater appearance (to an extent of course! we want everyone to be safe and healthy here).

Is hypertrophy good or bad?

Hypertrophy in muscles is very good for your body, there are loads of studies to prove this and hopefully this article helped you learn about it and its benefits. Muscle Hypertrophy doesn’t just focus on JUST enlarging muscles, it has great benefits for our bodies such as increasing muscle strength, a positive effect in our resting metabolic rate, and general improvement of physical fitness.

Next Steps

Well that’s enough for now. I think it’s time to get our bodies going!

  1. Go on over to how to train for hypertrophy and apply them to different muscle groups while incorporating your own flair to your own workouts.
  2. If you’re interested to having a hypertrophy program, check this program out right here and we got a lot more right here.
  3. And if you want a program that’s custom made for someone like you check this one out!
  4. Lastly, if you liked this article, make sure to share it with others who might like it too.

References

Hedrick, Allen MA, CSCS, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. Training for Hypertrophy. Strength and Conditioning 17(3):p 22-29, June 1995.

“Hypertrophy.” National Strength and Conditioning Association, www.nsca.com/contentassets/d27e2ba7e56949229d3eb1aaef7ddcfa/trainertips_hypertrophy_201601.pdf. Accessed 27 Jan. 2024.