The 2 Sides of Increasing Muscle Mass a.k.a Muscle Hypertrophy

One of the most frequently asked questions in the fitness world is

“What is the best way to increase muscle size?”

It’s also one that’s most debated, some will say its high weight with low reps, others will say its low weight with high reps,  the rest will say its somewhere in the middle. Good news is, if you are a beginner, someone just starting out, all three ways will increase your muscle size aka hypertrophy. It’s when you become more advanced that it requires a better understanding of the two types of muscle hypertrophy to really decide what type of muscle increase will give you the physique that you want.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy
One type of muscle hypertrophy comes from the increase of the sarcoplasmic fluid withiin the muscle. This fluid is where most of the cellular reactions occur such as production of energy, transfer of oxygen, breakdown of acidic build up and is what allows the muscle to function. By training in a way that emphasizes

-high volume; 3-6 sets of 10+ reps
-longer set duration; 40-70seconds
-lower intensity; 65-80% of 1rm
-less rest between sets; 1 minute or less

you increase the need for sarcoplasmic fluid because more cellular reactions need to take place, so the body adapts by storing more sarcoplasm in the muscle resulting in an increase in size. Under the right training conditions this type of hypertrophy can lead to a bodybuilder’s physique with large defined muscles. This type of training is the preferred method for those who wish to obtain a physique like Arnold, though that’s no promise.


Myofibrillar Hypertrophy
The other method is known as myofibrillar hypertrophy. The muscle increase here comes from an increase in myofibrils, which are threads in the muscle that cause it to contract producing movement and force. Here are guidelines that will help induce myofibrilar hypertrophy

-high resistance; 80-90% 1rm
-lower volume; 4-8 sets of 3-8 reps
-set duration between 20-40 sec
-more rest between; 2 minute or more

More force is required to move such high resistances so the body adapts by building up the myofibrils resulting in the increase in size. Training this way has been known to give a stronger and more functional body in a leaner physique. Often times people get strong this way as a result of their work, prime example are people who work in professions that involve a lot of heavy lifting ie. farmers or construction workers. Under the right conditions you could be making gains similar to this guy below, though that’s no promise either (specifically because there are a lot of other factors that come into play)


Which one is best for you?
To determine the best one you need to ask yourself two questions

1) How do I visually want to look?
2) How do I want to physically perform?

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is best known for creating large visual muscles which can help with muscular endurance and stamina, but does not necessarily increase your strength. Myofibrilar hypertrophy on the other hand does increase one’s strength and performance, but does not produce the visual size that sarcoplasmic hypertrophy does.

So which Ryu do would you rather look like?

Ryu sarcoplasmic


ryu myofibrillar

If you would rather look like yolked Ryu and larger muscles are important then you would want to train for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. If your physical performance is more important though and you want a leaner look than myofibrilar hypertrophy is the way to go.  A few important things to note though

1. It is not either or, you can create a specific program that combines both techniques to increase myofibril size and sarcoplasmic fluid improving both strength and size.
2. Genetics and one’s diet also play a big role into getting into the shape one desires. The above information refers to the physical training aspect only. The examples of Arnold and Bruce Lee are extreme physical specimens who are a product of their rigorous training and their unique eating and genetics. One shouldn’t expect to look like either of them.
3. Remember, everyone’s body is unique as well as their goals so the answer will ultimately be different for everyone.

If you have any questions or experience with either types of training you would like to share please leave a comment, I would love to read them. Also if there’s another topic you’d like me to go over let me know.


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