Let the science talk – Hypertrophy

By Tom 0
09 July 2015

Recently I attended a conference at Bedford University where hundreds of Personal Trainers and Nutritional Therapists alike all came together to hear from top specialists and PHD researchers in our industry. The event was absolutely spectacular; there were hundreds of enthused PT’s and not to mention the ever-so knowledgeable research staff.

One of the seminars I attended was based on resistance training – ‘Guidelines for Gains’. Now this topic caught my eye because there is a lot of conflicting research out there, including do’s and dont’s. The speaker was a gentleman called Chris Beardsley who is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Sports Science degree holder. Chris is the founder of Strength and Conditioning Research and I would urge anyone who has interest or a desire to learn more to take a look at his site. Chris and his partner publish research studies that contain facts, tested, proven facts.

Here is a snippet of what Chris has to say about hypertrophy training:

 Hypertrophy is an increase in muscular size. Research comparing the effects of training programs over time can help identify which features are important for maximizing hypertrophy and which features make no difference.

If you have some resistance-training experience, using higher training volume, training more regularly while spreading volume over the week, and performing more eccentric muscle actions may lead to greater hypertrophy.

If you have little resistance-training experience, lifting heavier loads (>65% of 1RM), training closer to muscular failure, using higher training volume, and performing eccentric muscle actions (when using variable resistance) may lead to greater hypertrophy.

Understanding the basic foundations of hypertrophy training states that we should work within a certain repetition range for maximal gains. This figure is currently set between 8 and 12 repetitions. With certainty, we can say that the following facts are true (as proven through evidence-based research):

  1. Muscular Failure – Taking your muscles to failure has shown to increase hypertrophy. I would tend to work in periodization for this. Do you really want to go to failure every single time? We need recovery as much as we need the work; introduce this slowly and maybe do 1 set of failure and 3 sets with one repetition still in the bag.
  2. Volume – It has been proven that multiple sets (thus higher volume) would give an increase of muscular hypertrophy.
  3. Eccentric Loading – Eccentric loading is the opposite movement with the muscle from it’s contraction. For example, in a bicep curl, the eccentric contraction is lowering the weight back down. Negative sets are a great example of this as they are purely eccentric contractions.

You can see a table with all the above information with the evidence based research at the Strength and Conditioning Research website.

Of course the training has to be right in order for our bodies to respond the way we want so we need to ensure that we are hitting the ‘repetition range’ for our desired goal. Research has shown that a range of 8 to 12 repetitions is the best range for this type of training; more can be found at this article I found by Jim Stoppani.



For more information on Periodization and training plans, check out the personal training section or contact us to find out more.

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author: Tom

Tom has been in the fitness industry for over 8 years. He is qualified in functional movement, Kettlebells, Boxercise, Nutrition and many other qualifications. Tom is also the founder and director of ActivityX. For more information on Tom, see his trainer profile.


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