This month in our Make Life Richer Hub, we've got a Men's Health focus and we were delighted to collaborate with personal trainer and all-round nice guy, Ronan Murphy.
Ronan is a 15-year veteran of the fitness industry having trained in South Africa + Ireland in Strength + Conditioning, is an IRFU accredited S+C Coach and member of the National Strength + Conditioning Association, has his Weightlifting Coach L1 cert, owns and runs Toned Fit gym in Howth and volunteers for the RNLI in his spare time. Phew. Busy man.
Here, he introduces us to hypertrophy. Follow along over the next few posts as he takes us through the theory basics of muscle gain, alongside some key workouts you can do at home!
What is Hypertrophy and how do you increase muscle?
Gains? With Little to no weights? Yep. It’s possible! When we say ‘gains’ we’re talking about muscle size and definition. Gains, believe it or not, isn’t actually the scientific term for muscle growth. Shock! It’s called ‘hypertrophy’.
Hypertrophy is the increase in size of muscle tissue due to the increase in size of its component cells. There are a number of things you can do that contribute to hypertrophy, including:
- Increased volume (in-session)
- Eccentric loading (in-session)
- Decrease rest periods (in-session)
- Increased protein intake (recovery)
- Calorie surplus (recovery)
- Increase in sleep (recovery)
You'll notice there's an absence of directive to ‘increased resistance’. That's purposeful on my part for two reasons: a) we're focusing on at-home workouts and you won't always have the ability to increase resistance the way you would at the gym; and b) it’s a shortcut that a lot of people think makes a big difference. In reality it actually hinders growth due to a breakdown in movement patterns and time under tension.
Now, looking at this list there’s not going to be much of a return on investment if you only focus on one of them. In a perfect world you’ll hit them all, but being realistic, you should be happy with 3-4 of them being achieved with your training-lifestyle balance.
How long until hypertrophy takes effect?
If you’re a newbie to resistance training (that’s lifting heavy stuff up and putting it back down again, over and over) then you’d probably see gains in about 8 weeks.
If you’re an experienced lifter with about 2-4 years already under your belt then you’re looking at about 4 weeks before a noticeable difference as you add to your training.
Regardless of which category you fall into you need to be doing at least 3-4 sessions a week and also hitting another 3-4 of those above bullet points alongside the training too (recovery is key). This means focused reps with little rest between sets; a high calorie intake daily, to get you into a surplus of calories, and loads of extra sleep - about an extra hour or two each night would work nicely.
Monitor progress and check in for results
Are you ticking all the points on the list? Great! Keep 'er going and monitor the results. Are you finding that life is getting in the way and causing you to not attend the gym as much as you want / need? Let’s say in the form of global pandemic of biblical proportions causing life as we know it to come to a standstill?
Well then you’ve come to the right article. Here’s how you still get an increase of muscle mass and definition with reduced access to weights.
Let’s look at those main focal points in their simplest form:
- Increased Volume: This means more reps, not more weight! Continually increase the number of reps you do in a set and you'll start to see a difference.
- Perfect the pattern: Make sure your movement pattern is on point and use visualisation to ficus on the muscles being targeted - you won't see results if you're not working your muscles the right way.
- Eccentric loading: This means more emphasis on where the muscles are working as a braking force against full extension. Emphasise the time the muscles spend under tension in each rep.
- Decrease rest period: Self explanatory really. Take less time resting between sets and exercises.
- Increased protein intake: Drink more protein shakes and eat more protein at the right time and ensure it’s justified!
- Calorie Surplus: Eat more! Well, to be a little bit more specific; eat more of the right stuff! Good carbs, good fats, lots of veg and lean protein.
- Sleep more: Stop scrolling through your phone and go to bed!
Now, look at those points and tell me where it actually refers to a weight being used needs to be increased. I’ll hang on while you scan through it again. Not there, right? So by this reasoning, it’s possible to increase size (hypertrophy) and definition without reliance (or maybe even access to) your typical gym weights and increased resistance.
Now, with everything there’s a drawback… it requires two things, in spades:
The above requires you to be dedicated to a specific training regime that emphasises reps over weights, work over rest, and massive amounts of focus on getting the movement patterns dialled-in perfectly with an enormous focus on the time under tension and the range of movement.
Sounds easy, right? Give it a go over the following workouts and see for yourself. I'll be in the Hub periodically to answer any questions you might have!