November Fitness Theme – Muscle Hypertrophy
Muscle Hypertrophy, or muscle growth, is a common and well-founded workout goal for many people.
Health Benefits of Muscle:
Some of the health benefits of having the right amounts of muscle mass are:
- It increases your metabolism and helps you keep those unwanted pounds off your midsection. - Muscles that are bigger are usually stronger, and stronger muscles help you perform better physically, prevent injury and maintain mobility into old age. - Athletes that have more muscle can store more energy in their muscles, and they can use it for powerful movements such as jumping, throwing, lifting, pushing, pulling etc. - People who have more muscle also have stronger bones, which means their bones are less likely to break if they fall. - Having more muscle and body mass may help you weather a sickness better than someone who is unusually thin. - As you age, you steadily lose muscle mass – thus, maintaining your muscle mass can be thought of as an anti-aging treatment. - Having more muscle is associated with an increase in ‘insulin sensitivity’ – this helps to prevent diabetes and other chronic diseases related to poor blood sugar control.
These are some great benefits, so why doesn’t everyone want to put on muscle? Some women think that having too much muscle makes them look too masculine, and unfortunately many men feel the same way. I say unfortunately because women in general probably benefit more from building muscle than men do. This is for several reasons:
- Women have a higher risk of osteoporosis (weak bones) than men do. - Women naturally have less muscle relative to men, and maintaining it into age is important to maintain mobility and independence. - Women typically have slower metabolisms than men do, and thus it becomes hard for them to keep their weight under control. Especially with the larger meal portion sizes that are available these days. - Women who have more muscle and are stronger are often more confident, especially in scenarios where they might feel physically intimidated.
Downsides to Increased Muscle Mass:
There are a few downsides to having too much muscle mass, especially when that muscle mass becomes extreme. For instance, when muscles become very large, it puts excess stress on the heart – after all, the heart has to supply all of that muscle with blood. And because bodybuilding types of exercises can be very anaerobic, or ‘non-cardio’ in nature, this means that individuals with lots of muscle often have an imbalance between their cardiorespiratory fitness and their anaerobic fitness which may put them at risk of a heart attack. Increased muscle can also lead to less flexibility – this is easily kept in check by exercising with a full range of motion and stretching when necessary to prevent excess tension in key muscle groups like the hip flexors, hip extensors, latissimus or chest muscles for instance.
How to Hypertrophy your Muscles:
It’s easy! Work extremely hard anaerobically, anywhere from 30-120 seconds, taking your muscles to the extremes of exhaustion, take a short break of about equal or slightly more time, and do it again!
For strength training, the typical recommendation for promoting hypertrophy is to perform anywhere from 8-12 repetitions per exercise, at a medium to slow tempo, for 3-5 sets, taking 60-120 seconds off between sets. If you were to alternate muscle groups, you would perform 10 bicep curls for instance, then 10 Tricep presses without taking any rest, followed by a 60 second break before redoing both exercises. Your workouts should never be too long when trying to gain muscle (>45 minutes) to avoid increasing any stress hormones in your body that would cause the breakdown of muscle tissue. However, this means that you have to perform more workouts during the week also!
This 8-12 rule is not steadfast. Many people advocate much heavier weights for less reps, others advocate doing hundreds of bicep curls until you can’t even lift your arms. The most important factor seems to be whether or not you push yourself to complete failure. A set of 40 squats to complete failure will stimulate more muscle growth in the legs than a set of 8 squats with much heavier weight, but wasn’t performed to the same level of fatigue.
So there you have it, now you know the ins-and-outs of muscular hypertrophy. Now go watch Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger and have a few laughs!
Looking forward to seeing you ‘get pumped’ in the gym this month everyone!!
Dr. Ryan Oughtred, ND