What is Muscle Hypertrophy?

Muscle Building L-ArginineMuscle hypertrophy is the scientific term referring to the growth of muscle or muscle building. Knowing how the body is designed, and understanding the science behind growing muscle mass, leads to successful gains developed at a faster rate.

In order for a muscle to grow in size, there needs to be a significant increase in stimulus which will compel its growth. If there is no reason for a muscle to grow, no muscle hypertrophy (muscle building) will occur.

Increase the load. Go heavy. Go over and above what is comfortable for you. You will see your muscles increase in size and strength when you employ this muscle growth strategy. In the end though, it is all Science. Muscle Science. Know it and you stand to gain. 

Muscles don’t just grow – You need to force muscles to grow.

skeletal muscle hypertrophy

  1. Myofibrillar hypertrophy – Myo means “muscle” and a fibril is a cellular structure that has a threadlike appearance. The myofibrils are proteins which contract in response to the needs of the body – thus when you are lifting weights, these myofibrils allow the contraction to take place. Each muscle fibre has many myofibrils present and myofibrillar hypertrophy is defined as the increase in size and number of myofibrils in the muscle fibres.
  2. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy – Sarco means “flesh” and plasmic is the gel like material within a cell that contains vital contents which help us maintain life as we know it. Sarcoplasm therefore is the elements of muscle cells including the proteins, collagen, water and other substances. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the increased volume of this fluid within the muscle.

What happens during muscle hypertrophy?

  • After an intense workout, there is trauma to the muscle fibres, referred to as muscle damage. This disruption of muscle cell organelles triggers the satellite cells, which are located on the outside of the muscle fibres to proliferate to the injury.
  • Neutrophils and macrophages enter the injured muscle.
  • Cytokines are released to attract an increase in white blood cells and satellite cells to the area.
  • Satellite cells have one single nucleus acting as the control centre, which regulates gene expression.
  • Muscle tissue damage triggers satellite cells to replicate and differentiate into mature muscle cells.
  • Satellite cells fuse to existing fibres, becoming new muscle protein strands.
  • The muscle cells’ myofibrils will increase in thickness and number.
  • Satellite cells must become part of the cell cycle. Their job is to copy the originating molecular pathways of our first muscle fibres during initial cell formation.
  • Signalling pathways ultimately control the activation and expansion of satellite cells.
  • Some satellite cells will become the source of new nuclei to growing muscle fibre.
  • Having access to additional cores, the muscle can synthesise more proteins, make more contractile myofilaments known as actin and myosin.

Effective tips for muscle growth 

  • 1. Muscles Need Overload – Lift Heavy, Low Reps
  • 2. Compound Exercises and Intensity
  • 3. Know your Growth Factors
  • 4. Muscles Need Nutrition
  • 5. Muscles need Repair and Recovery

1. Muscles Need Overload

Overload is lifting a load more than what your muscles are used to. This, in turn, creates tiny tears(micro-tears) within the muscle fibres. As the body repairs, the muscles adapt better to the stimulus responsible for the damage. This is what happens in muscle hypertrophy (the muscle grows to adapt to increased stimulus) Muscles need overload to become large.

To create more micro tears and further muscle growth you will need to increase the load accordingly., once the muscles have become used to the current weight.

Muscle Overload - Muscle Hypertrophy
Don’t overdo it!

If a workout creates too many micro-tears, the body will not be able to repair the muscles fully thereby stunting the potential growth.

Don’t forget muscle nutrition!

In the same regard, if the body does not receive the correct nutritional supplementation or rest after an intense workout, muscle growth will be stunted.

For optimal muscle growth, you must lift in such a way that causes an optimal amount of “micro-tearing” and then you must consume what your body needs to grow and give it the proper amount of rest.

Don’t be excessive!

Training programmes often make you do too many sets alongside working for the same muscle groups with not enough rest. Too many sets in a training session can cause your muscle to make more micro-tears than your body can repair. This also leads to too much time working out which has an impact on cortisol levels going too high, hindering growth. Note too that when a muscle group hasn’t had adequate time to recover you end up overloading a muscle that hasn’t fully repaired. It can then lose strength and size.

Myths about Weight Lifting: The Burn and the Pump


The burning sensation that some weightlifters mistake as an indicator of muscle growth is not that at all. What a burn many refer to is lactic acid in the muscle. Lactic acid gets produced as muscle burns energy stored. Lactic acid communicates to the body that it is time to produce anabolic hormones.


Muscle pump is another term used in the gym, again indicating the conditions in the muscle tissue are not optimal for muscle building. Muscle pump is not the primary driver of growth. It is a result of blood finding itself trapped in the muscles.

2. Compound Exercises and Intensity

Compound Exercises - Muscle Hypertrophy Tips

Much more weight is lifted when using compound exercises, rather than using isolation movements. More weight is essentially more overload, and this equates to more muscle growth. A compound exercise is a movement that involves many major muscle groups. It involves a primary muscle group and one or more secondary muscles. A BARBELL SQUAT is an example of a compound exercise.

The quadriceps are the primary muscles, and the secondary muscles are the gluteus and hamstring muscles.

Some people prefer to do isolation exercises, but they won’t stand to gain much. Isolation movements limit overload. They are not suitable for increasing the size of the muscle.

If muscle hypertrophy is the ultimate goal lifting heavy weight is the best stimulus for muscle growth. Every time you go train, you must be going for greater overload.
Think big, lift big, be big.


The muscles remember your last workout. The micro-tears are evident of that. When you finish off, a workout with a heavy set is sure to remember when it comes time to exercise again. The muscles have retained the memory of this heavy set and will have adapted. Never decrease the weight on your last set. This will be detrimental to your muscle building goals. Muscle memory is an important physiological phenomenon. Use it to your advantage and you will gain the muscle size and strength you desire.


Using high energy and power in your workouts is what will maximise benefits. Lifting heavy is going to be hard work. It is hard work pushing for overload. You can’t go through the motions using momentum to get the weights lifted. Slow controlled movements are critical and will require your focus and intensity. Though it may seem harder, it is surely doing the work in the muscles. This way you get to use your time effectively, getting the job done like a champ. Even if you increase the weight, if you are not extending your muscles with control and intensity, you are not going to get maximum results. You must push through the pain and think gains.
Intensity comes from your motivation. Whatever it may be, figure it out and you will find that source inside you that doesn’t quit, that has to win no matter what. Your mental intensity will generate the physiological effects.
When you lift with high intensity, muscle protein accumulates. The repair will begin once the rate of protein synthesis increases. The rate of protein synthesis will depend on how fast amino acids are getting into the muscle cells. Intensity and duration of the mechanical tension will directly influence the speed amino acids are transported into muscle cells.

Protein synthesis is the basis for building muscle and can be increased by training with high intensity.

3. Know your Growth Factors
Growth Factors and Hypertrophy
Lifting weights is a stress to the muscles. To counteract this stress, the body releases hormones after or during training. It is important to realise the role hormones play in your goal to achieve gains. By having a sound knowledge about the Growth Factors, your training can be optimised for steady muscle growth.
4. Muscles need Nutrition
Muscle Nutrition
What you eat and drink determines approximately 70-80% of how you look. The proper diet will supply your muscles with the optimal environment for growth. Learn more about Muscle Nutrition including what is necessary to consume for your Pre-workout Meal and Post workout.

5. Muscles Need Repair and Recovery
Muscles - Repair and Recovery
Muscle tears from intense resistance training causes damage to the cellular proteins in muscle. This prompts cell-signalling messages for repair and recovery.
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