So you want the magical answers that turn you from an average human to a beautiful specimen of life?
Don’t we all!!!
Whatever your training background or preference when looking to improve your body composition it is worth listening a bodybuilder. They dedicate their time creating a symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing body with consistent nutrition and training.
The typical image of a bodybuilder is that of the orange bikini clad, over the top muscle-bound freak competing for Mr or Ms Olympia, but there is a wide range of recreational athletes who fall into the bodybuilding training niche, including the less freaky looking average guy or gal on the front of a high street fashion magazine.
Looking at their lifestyle can help us all without having to breakout the fake tan and man-kini!
I recently attended a seminar run by Phil Learney (see pic), an educator in the strength and conditioning world, and personal trainer to figure athletes, strongman, and plenty of sports people in the UK. He is an expert in strength, hypertrophy. (Geek word for muscle gains)
The seminar inspired me to write an article on hypertrophy to help you change your physique.
When we are trying to improve our appearance we wish to reduce body fat and enhance the appearance of muscles. To achieve this we should focus on great nutrition outside of the gym and hypertrophy in the gym.
Why? Because larger muscles increase metabolism by burning greater amounts of energy during activity and rest therefore you will be more efficient at burning fat making you look toned, lean and fit.
The definition of Hypertrophy is ‘increasing muscle mass and its cross-sectional area’. This is achieved by training to overload to the body, creating physical and neurological adaption.
So long as the overload is consistently increased, and specific to your goal, an increase in the number of muscle fibres within your muscles will occur. Don’t worry girls you will not look like a man you simply do not have the same capability to bulk up!
This said, here are the first 5 points to consider when creating a plan for your body reconstruction!
1. Maximise your bodies ‘recoverability’
Ensure your body has the right foods, liquids vitamins, and minerals available for repair, movement and growth.
‘Recoverability’ or to use the posh terms ‘adaptive reserve’ is critical to supporting the physical and neurological adaptions happening during hypertrophy. Can you honestly say you are doing all of the following from the list below?
- Eating adequate real unprocessed food? Protein being of primary importance to support muscle growth, along with balancing healthy fats and carbohydrates. When building muscle you are looking to have a small nutrient surplus, and not to be drastically cutting calories.
- Drinking 2-3 litres of water per day? Not including juice, tea or coffee.
- Sleeping 8 hours minimum in a dark undisturbed room?
- Using Massage/ stretching/ sauna/ foam rolling, to aid recovery? All of these increases circulation important for muscle repair, while enabling you to move better after leg day!
2. Stimulate the correct muscle fibres for your goal.
Ever wondered why a marathon runner and a sprinter look very different in muscular structure? It’s all in the muscle fibre types.
Training the correct muscle fibres is key to developing the physique you desire. The image describes different fibre types.
Your body always uses a variety of fibres because you switch between aerobic and anaerobic activities when training.
The type of training you do will enhance specific muscle fibres so pick your sports wisely to optimise your body composition (e.g. Aerobic training uses type 1 slow twitch muscle fibres = walking, swimming, dancing, cycling, jogging; verses anaerobic training using type 2 fast twitch fibres = sprinting, weightlifting, bodybuilding.)
For hypertrophy we want to work Type 2 fibres to their maximum potential.
3. Get your numbers right
You need to create muscle trauma (sounds gory!) to instigate hypertrophy.
Resistance training increases muscle trauma, and results in the body releasing a number of satellite cells. These cells are transported to the muscle to repair damage, and also trigger the production of growth factors which signal the body to create larger stronger muscles.
There are two types of muscle trauma involved in hypertrophy, sarcoplasmic and myofibrilar, neither occur in isolation but you can bias training towards one type or another. Most people benefit from using both types.
Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy = Increase in volume of the cell itself like a swelling which over time increases the size of the muscle. (Think bodybuilder.)
Myofibrilar Hypertrophy = Increase in muscle fibres and density giving greater strength without vast changes in size. (Think weightlifter, powerlifter)
Choosing the correct repetition ranges for your training will enhance sarcoplasmic or myofibrilar hypertrophy. If you want to focus on size aim to repeat an exercise 8-20 times, for an emphasis on strength before size aim for 3-5 reps, the in-between rep ranges (6-8) will incorporate both types of hypertrophy (see pic)
3. Use Illusions and work your weakness.
Correcting your posture and adding muscle in lagging areas will make you look more healthy even if you are carrying a few extra kilo-.
We all have postural traits affecting our bodies movement and growth. If you work to strengthen loose muscles and stretch tight overused muscles you will increase circulation, move freely and shore up weaknesses. Not doing this in the short-term will stall your gains or even cause injuries further down the line.
Use the power of illusion –
If you can create the illusion with your clothes you can do it with your body too.
E.G. create larger muscles around your upper body to draw attention away from wide hips and create more of a waist line; build stronger back muscles and stretch your chest muscles often to bring your shoulders into alignment, making you look tall, proud and never become the gym monkey!
4. Pick effective exercises – not just the ones your like or are good at!
Don’t waste time in the gym, select the most relevant exercises for your goal, if you have a great upper body but weak looking legs dedicate more time to your legs.
Use bang for your buck compound exercises that use multiple muscles in the full range of movement; ideally using two joints or more. For example the squat, pull up, or shoulder press.
These are often referred to as functional movements because they translate into real life scenarios and work your muscles in the way they were built for.
Compound movements create gains quickly and should form the bulk of your session.
Next are Isolation exercises and these focus on one primary muscle e.g a bicep curl, and are useful when trying to shock a lagging, or weak body part into growth, keep these exercises to a minimum in your session as used wrongly can create postural imbalances.
Finally there are isometric holds like the abdominal plank, where the muscle is contracted to fix a position with no movement. This can create great strength gains, used often by gymnasts, down hill skiers and in yoga. They are also useful in rehabilitation and building strength without undue stress on joints.
We all like to train our strong body parts but the key to building a balanced physique normally lies in working your weakest links, seek and destroy and never skip legs!
5. Keep Progressing – Trotting through the same stuff week in and week out will not produce new results,….. do something different, challenge yourself.
When working for hypertrophy if you continue to do the same routine with the same weight your body will adapt to the workout and your gains will plateau.
Write out your plan in a training diary and stick to it. (Contact us to order your diary – see pic – £15)
Focus on adding more weight OR increasing the reps each session, always use strict form, and stop before form fails because you will want to come back again tomorrow!
Increasing weights, sets, and reps, are the most common progressions used when starting out, but there are many more variables and considerations which can be manipulated to create hypertrophy gains and we will get stuck into these and more in Part 2 coming out in October.
Thoughts and comments are welcome and I am happy to help you seek and destroy your weaknesses while incorporating these techniques, for more information on my services please call – 07891646667