How does Muscle Hypertrophy Happen?

Muscle Science
Real science governs the muscular design of the body. By asking the question “How does muscle hypertrophy occur?” you may delve into the science behind muscle growth. By effectively making adjustments to your muscle-building regime so that it aligns with muscle science the result is increased lean muscle mass.

For muscle hypertrophy to occur, you must give the muscle a reason to grow.

This is done through an increase in stimulus. By increasing the load, opting for heavy vs what is tolerable, you can successfully supply this increased stimulus. You cannot merely lift weights. It is by actively going over and above your comfort level that muscles will respond, both in size and strength.
Muscles do not just grow because you are a man, or because you spent some time in the gym. Muscles must be forced to grow. By lifting a weight that is heavier than the last time you trained, the muscles get the message that they must grow to deal with the increased requirements.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy

  • Myo means “muscle.”
  • A fibril is a threadlike cellular structure
  • The myofibrils are proteins that contract in response to the increased stimulus.
  • When lifting weights, myofibrils facilitate the contraction
  • Each muscle fibre contains numerous myofibrils
  • Myofibrillar hypertrophy is defined as the increase in both the size and number of myofibrils within the muscle fibres

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

  • Sarco means “flesh”
  • Plasmic is the gel-like material that is present within the cell
  • This gel-like substance contains vital components, necessary for life
  • Sarcoplasm are the elements that are contained within muscle cells, including proteins, collagen, water, etc.
  • Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the increased volume of sarcoplasm in the muscle cell

Muscle Hypertrophy – How does it happen?

A workout, if done correctly and with enough intensity, will cause trauma to the muscle fibres (muscle damage). The disruption that occurs within the muscle cell organelles triggers satellite cells, which are found on the exterior of the muscle fibres, to proliferate to the injury site. White blood cells called “neutrophils” and specialised cells called “macrophages” enter the wounded muscle.
Signalling molecules called “cytokines” are then released to attract an increased level of white blood cells and satellite cells. With one single nucleus acting as the control centre, satellite cells are those that regulate gene expression.
Muscle tissue damage prompts satellite cells to replicate and differentiate into mature muscle cells.
Satellite cells fuse to existing fibres, becoming new muscle protein strands. The myofibrils of the muscle cells thicken and increase in number.
Satellite cells must acclimate the cell cycle. They must replicate the originating molecular pathways of your first muscle fibres during initial cell development.
Signalling pathways ultimately regulate and control the activation and dimensional increase of satellite cells.
Some satellite cells will become the source of new nuclei serving the needs of growing muscle fibre. Having more nuclei to access, the muscle can synthesise additional proteins. This also facilitates an increase in contractile myofilaments known as “actin” and “myosin”.

Strategies for Muscle Growth

1. Muscles Need To Experience An Overload – Lift Heavy, Low Reps

Muscular overload is achieved when an individual lifts a weight that is far heavier than what their muscles have lifted before. In doing so, this creates tiny tears (micro-tears) within the muscle fibres. The body will repair as it always does, but the muscles will adapt to the increased weight (stimulus) that caused the muscle damage. This is an example of muscle hypertrophy. Muscle growth is a result of adjusting to the increased stimuli. To create more micro tears and continually foster muscle growth, you need to increase the load once your muscles have gotten used to the current weight.
Don’t overdo it!
Trainers and training programs often have the client doing too many sets while overworking the same muscle groups with minimal rest time. Too many sets featured in a session may cause your muscles to make more micro-tears than the body can repair. Too many sets also lead to too much time spent working out. Cortisol levels tend to rise high as a response, and this fact alone hinders muscle growth. When a muscle group has been overworked and not given adequate time to recover the result is that you may end up overloading a muscle that hasn’t had the chance to repair fully. This can result in a loss of strength and muscle size.
Don’t forget muscle nutrition! 
Without the correct nutritional supplementation or rest and recovery after a workout, muscle growth will be stunted. To gain optimal benefits from your muscle-building regime, you must lift in a manner that increases micro-tearing, and provide your body with the nutritional sustenance it needs to grow.
What is Muscle Burn and Muscle Pump?
Muscle burn indicate the presence of lactic acid in the muscle:
Weightlifters often mistake the burning sensation they experience while training, thinking it means that muscular growth is taking place. This is not the case. The burn is the sensation experienced from the presence of lactic acid in the muscle. Lactic acid is produced when muscle burns stored energy. Lactic acid communicates to the body the message to start production of anabolic hormones.
Muscle pump indicates blood being trapped in the muscles:
Muscle pump is a familiar term used by those who frequent the gym. Again it indicates that the conditions in the muscle tissue are not optimal for building muscle. Muscle pump is not as some believe it to be – the primary driver of growth- but rather the result of blood being trapped in the muscles.

2. Compound Exercises and High Intensity

Compound exercises:
A compound exercise is a movement involving many major muscle groups. It includes a primary muscle group as well as one or more secondary muscles. An example of a compound exercise is a BARBELL SQUAT. In the barbell squat, the quadriceps are the primary muscles being exercised, and the secondary muscles include the gluteus and hamstring muscles.
Much more weight is lifted when a bodybuilder uses compound exercises rather than those that use isolation movements. Increased weight is essentially an increase in overload and this results in muscular gain. Some people prefer to do isolation exercises; however, the gains are minimal and do not utilise your time wisely. Isolation movements limit the overload necessary for optimal benefits.
When muscle hypertrophy is the ultimate goal, lifting heavy weight is the best strategy and stimulus for muscle growth. Every time you go to train, your efforts should be directed at getting that increased overload.
Think big, lift big, be big!
Muscle memory:
Your muscles have a memory. They remember your last workout where you pushed them far harder than the time before. In fact, the micro-tears are proof of this. As you complete your workout, your muscles having lifted a heavier weight than before will remember when it comes time to exercise again. Never make the mistake of decreasing the weight from your last set. This will be detrimental to the achievement of muscle growth.
Muscle memory is a physiological phenomenon. When you use it to your best advantage, the gains in muscle strength and size will follow.
Training intensity:
Training intensity is when you use high energy and power to fuel your workouts. Lifting heavy will always require some hard work. It is going to be hard work pushing for that overload. Merely going through the motions, cheating your training program by using momentum, will not maximise your results. By using slow controlled movements, that require focus and intensity, you will use your time efficiently and get the job done like a champ. Even if you increase the weight, by not using full extension when contracting and releasing the muscles, you slow down your progress.
Intensity stems from your motivation.
Whatever it may be, it is up to you to identify, regardless of how private or self-fulfilling it may be. It’s the source that separates the winners from the losers, and it’s the motivation that prevents you from quitting. The mental intensity is the fire that generates the physiological effects.
Lifting with high intensity initiates the accumulation of muscle protein. The repair begins once the rate of protein synthesis increases. This rate depends on how fast your amino acids are being transported into the muscle cells. Intensity and duration of this mechanical tension have a direct influence on the speed amino acids get transported into muscle cells.
Protein synthesis is the basis from which muscle is built. It can be increased with high-intensity training.

3. Growth Factors – Get Familiar with These

Lifting weights cause stress to the muscles. To counteract this stress, hormones that the body releases during and after a training session are important to consider. The ability for hormones to communicate within the body is a factor to consider when setting bodybuilding goals. Knowledge about growth factors is critical so that training results in steady muscle growth.
GH (Growth Hormone)
Cortisol – The Stress Regulating Hormone

4. Muscles need “Muscle Nutrition.”

What you eat and drink determines 70-80% of how you look. Consuming a proper diet is paramount in supplying your muscles with nutritional sustenance for growth. Learn more about muscle nutrition so that you have every strategy in place for maximum gains. This includes timing your meals around your training regime.

5. Muscles Need Repair and Recovery Time 

Muscle tears that result from intense resistance training damage cellular proteins within the muscle. The damage prompts cell signalling to communicate the message of repair and recovery.

  • Mangine, G. T., Hoffman, J. R., Gonzalez, A. M., Townsend, J. R., Wells, A. J., Jajtner, A. R., Beyer, K. S., Boone, C. H., Miramonti, A. A., Wang, R., LaMonica, M. B., Fukuda, D. H., Ratamess, N. A., … Stout, J. R. (2015). The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiological reports, 3(8), e12472.
  • Stark, M., Lukaszuk, J., Prawitz, A., & Salacinski, A. (2012). Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 54. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-54
  • Gentil P, e. (2018).Effect of adding single-joint exercises to a multi-joint exercise resistance-training program on strength and hypertrophy in untrained subjects.– PubMed – NCBI . Retrieved 15 November 2018, from
  • Thomas, M. H., & Burns, S. P. (2016).Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training. International journal of exercise science, 9(2), 159-167.
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