In this short article we will discuss muscle hypertrophy, a scientific expression used to explain the physiological process of new muscle tissues development. Muscle hypertrophy is a key training process for every athlete and lifter, no matter sport, training level, or age. In the below sections we will outline what hypertrophy is defined as, the benefits and potential negatives (yes, there are some) to training for hypertrophy, and why strength and power athletes need to be conscious of sarcoplasmic vs. myofibril hypertrophy.

What Is Hypertrophy?

Most of us think about a bodybuilder when we hear the word, “hypertrophy”. Truth of the matter is, there are potentially two different forms of muscle hypertrophy. I say potentially because some of this really is science theory, as we are still learning around we know concerning the training adaptations that take place in accordance with volume intensities.

Sarcoplasmic and myofibril muscle hypertrophy both can take shape muscle, but happen to be considered to possess some differences that play a critical role within the overall strength and power production capacities of an athlete. Below, we will break up just what sarcoplasmic vs myofibril hypertrophy is theoirzed as, and why coaches and athletes should completely understand the main difference to best develop strength, power, and fitness athletes.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is thought to occur within the sarcoplasm of the muscle cell, in which this space expands, therefore increasing muscle size. While muscle fiber growth does exist, it’s thought that sarcoplasmic hypertrophy may have a larger effect on sarcoplasm growth, instead of strictly increasing growth of the person muscle fibers/myofibrils.

Suppose you had five pull-and-peel licorice sticks in your hand, each representing a muscle fiber. When practicing sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, you’re essentially enhancing the space between the sticks (muscle fibers), rather than enhancing the size or density of the muscle fiber or it’s individual components (myofibrils, see below). Note, that this is still a theory which has not been proven (or disproven), and further research into this will need to take place. It’s also worth noting that hypertrophy isn’t a one or two, as it can occur in both sarcoplasm and individual myofibril.

Myofibril Hypertrophy

Myofibril hypertrophy results in increased muscle fiber growth and strength capacities, however it doesn’t necessarily increase the visible, measurable size of a muscle (as much as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy training). To use the example of the pull-and-peel licorice sticks from above, we have to actually have a deeper look within the muscle fiber itself.

In this situation, let’s say you have a whole sealed bag of pull-and-peel licorice sticks, which now represents one muscle fiber. Each muscle fiber (sealed bag) contains 10 sticks of pull-and-peel licorice, each now representing a myofibril (one pull-and-peel licorice stick). If you were to then unpeel each individual stick, you would be playing multiple contractile units (individual strand of licorice) inside the myofibril. The below image is a good idea within this breakdown.

During myofibril hypertrophy training, you boost the number of myofibrils (individual peel-and-pull licorice stick) within a single muscle fiber (increased muscle density) and therefore increase the quantity of contractile units within every individual muscle fiber (sealed bag).

3 Advantages of Hypertrophy

Below are three advantages of hypertrophy training, either specific to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy or myofibril hypertrophy. While there are some distinct differences forwards and backwards kinds of hypertrophy (see section above), the below benefits can generally affect both types and many lifters. Note, they are three main benefits of hypertrophy training, but not these.

More Muscle

At the easiest of levels, hypertrophy training has the ability to increase muscle fiber growth, muscle visible size, and capacities for strength and power output (when trained in a far more sport specific manner). Periods of hypertrophy training really are a normal part of every athlete’s year-long training cycle.

Injury Resilience

Increasing muscle growth, blood circulation, and foundational physiological outcomes (motor-learning, aerobic and anaerobic capacities, etc) essential for more rigorous training cycles all aid in an athlete’s ability to resist injury in their training career.

Greater Strength and Power Production Capacities

As discussed within the last section, myofibril hypertrophy accounts for increases in muscle fiber growth and contractile units (strength potential), whereas sarcoplasmic might not have as much of an effect (however, strength and power athletes can still benefit).

When taking times from the year to coach for hypertrophy (either type), an athlete can set themselves up for increased training demands as they approach competition/more intensity-driven cycles.

Potential Negatives of Hypertrophy

To be truthful, there aren’t lots of issues here with building serious muscle mass, strengthening a foundation of movement, or enhancing an athlete’s potential to deal with injury. That in your mind, there are a few things that coaches and athletes need to be conscious of when programming hypertrophy-focused cycles/session into an athlete’s regimen.

Decreased Power Output

Research shows that higher-rep, shorter-rest period training programs can in fact decrease an athlete’s maximal power output, especially in more advanced (stronger) athletes. This is just one potential reason why coaches program hypertrophy (moderate to higher rep) cycles farthest from competitions where peak force and power outputs are key (strongman, powerlifting, and Olympic weightlifting).

Practical Applications

When programming accessory work or hypertrophy phases for strength, power, and fitness athletes, coaches should have a solid grasp on which type of muscle hypertrophy would be the most beneficial for their athletes.

Training for General Hypertrophy

As a starter, most athletes and lifters at some stage in their development is going via a stage of hypertrophy that that uses moderate loading and repetition ranges. This really is is usually a starting point for beginner and intermediate fitness goers looking for general increased muscle growth, size, and increased work capacity. For many beginners and intermediate lifters, simply doing any type of hypertrophy (moderate to raised rep ranges) will get buff mass, size, strength, and increased readiness for additional advanced training.

How Should Strength and Power Athletes Train Hypertrophy?

For the majority of us, myofibril hypertrophy ought to be the focus, as it leads to increased muscle fiber growth and the capability to acquire strength (via increased force outputs). Additionally, it develops a muscle tissues right into a lean and compact unit. To build up myofibril hypertrophy, higher intensities (70-90% RM) for less reps (3-6 repetitions) can be best, however once more, nothing here has been shown or set in stone. Note, that higher rep-based hypertrophy training does have additional benefits that strength and power athletes should consider, such as increasing blood circulation and nutrient to damaged muscles, enhancing aerobic capacities from the tissues, and could be helpful in injury prevention.

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