Health and Fitness is an industry that constantly tries to reinvent itself. It seems like every day there is a new product, program, or personality that claims to have the "secret" to getting the body everyone wants. However, the truth for those with a background in Exercise Science, is that most of these "new" programs are just re-hashed versions of training concept that have been around for decades. In worse cases, these programs may be ineffective or even dangerous. With all the hype in the industry, it is easy to lose sight of the concepts and science that is proven to work.
Today's article focuses on the techniques and science behind building muscle, or as exercise physiologists call it: hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the enlargement of skeletal muscle fibers. When trained the right way, the body will build more protein and other structures within those muscle fibers, which then causes them swell and muscles to appear larger.
In order to maximize hypertrophy, the body must be trained the correct way to create the stimulus to grow. Here are some key points needed to make this happen:
1. A heavy enough load (stress) must be placed on the muscle to signal the body to build up more protein structures. If the stress is not enough to create the microscopic trauma needed to start this process, hypertrophy will not take place. Research shows the optimal load to make this happen fatigues a muscle between 6 and 12 repetitions.
2. The more muscle fibers that can be worked (or recruited) during an exercise, the better. Multi-joint exercises like presses, rows, squats, and lunges appear to recruit the most fibers. Also, advanced techniques like super-setting and drop-setting will amplify this effect.
3. Rest between sets should be minimized to create a larger hormonal response by the body. This is perhaps the most under-utilized training concept out there. Testosterone levels appear to be best elevated when rest intervals are kept below 60 seconds. Testosterone is essential to start and maintain muscle-building processes in the body.
4. The goal of hypertrophy must be integrated with the larger goal of increasing overall performance. This is best accomplished by beginning an exercise program that focuses on improving joint stabilization and muscular endurance before training for hypertrophy.
This is by no means a complete list of everything needed to get the most out of your hypertrophy workouts; but it is a start. Focus on these and your results will improve.
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