How to Build Muscle : Client Hypertrophy Goals

How to Build Muscle: Client Hypertrophy Goals

In today’s blog, you’ll learn how to build muscle and understand how to plan for a client to achieve hypertrophy goals

You’ll discover:

  • Why clients want hypertrophy
  • Hypertrophy guidelines – how to build muscle
  • What is hypertrophy physiology?
  • How do hormones relate to hypertrophy?
  • Changing stimulus to build muscle
  • Learn anatomy and physiology with ease for your exam

Why clients want hypertrophy

Hypertrophy is one of the most common goals of resistance training. Clients express this using different terminology, including gaining size, toning, add muscle mass, get bigger, leaner, more dense muscle, add shape… etc

Even though they are all different descriptions all of these happen from the same physiological adaptation, which is to increase the diameter of the muscle fibre.

Hypertrophy guidelines

When training for hypertrophy the number of sets performed per muscle group is far greater than for muscular endurance.  Baechle et al (2000) suggest that higher volume (i.e. 3 or more sets per muscle group) is the most effective strategy for increasing hypertrophy.

With volume being so important, it is key to consider FREQUENCY and understand that the more training sessions a client does (as long as they reach overload) the greater their likelihood of building muscle.

The training intensity (expressed as % of 1RM) is also significantly higher for hypertrophy than it is for muscular endurance. 

It can therefore be stated that a key feature of hypertrophy training is high volume combined with moderate to high exercise intensities.

The guidelines are to reach overload within 8-12 repetitions

This means that the ideal training guide for hypertrophy goals is to reach overload between 8-12 repetitions and perform at least 3 sets on each muscle group.

What is Hypertrophy physiology?

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As with many of the physiological functions of the body, the precise mechanism by which muscles increase size is not yet completely understood. 

There are many competing theories attempting to explain the adaptations that take place at a cellular level, but no one theory has been universally accepted as yet.

Robergs and Roberts (1997) define hypertrophy as the increase in size of skeletal muscle resulting from the increased size of individual muscle fibres. 

McArdle et al (2001) suggest that the primary driving force that initiates skeletal muscle hypertrophy is increased muscular tension, typically generated through resistance exercise.  It has been reported that the fast twitch fibres of weightlifters are on average 45% larger than those of sedentary individuals and aerobic athletes.

Training to significantly increase muscle size is not particularly easy.  Convincing the human body to synthesise and sustain higher level of muscle mass than it would ordinarily support requires planning, application and sustained effort. 

Individuals wanting to increase size need to carefully consider the training stimulus, ensure appropriate nutrition and plan adequate recovery.  These three variables need to be considered and managed well.

Hypertrophy training should not just be considered the domain of body builders and young males wanting to “get big”. 

Phases of hypertrophy training can be utilised by all individuals that participate in a wide variety of sports and athletic events. 

Newton and Kraemer (1994) contend that hypertrophy training can prove highly beneficial to power athletes, provided that they also include dedicated power exercises and do not exceed the ideal optimal muscle mass for the sport or event (especially if power to weight ratio is a key consideration).

How do hormones relate to hypertrophy?

Hormones can be divided into two general categories:

  • anabolic
  • catabolic

Anabolic hormones promote the building of structures within the body. 

With the aim of a hypertrophy training phase being the building of skeletal muscle, it would be prudent to maximise the effects of the anabolic hormones.  The characteristic male sex hormone testosterone is known for its anabolic properties. 

Testosterone plays an important role in muscle growth due to its role in protein synthesis.  Males exhibit approximately ten times greater testosterone than females (Hedick, 1995). 

This is one reason why males are able to achieve significantly greater levels of hypertrophy than females.  Hedick also suggested that exercise guidelines for maximising an anabolic response should include the following:

  •  Select exercises that involve a large amount of muscle mass (compound lifts)
  • Utilise a relatively heavy resistance (~85% of 1RM)
  • Use a moderate to a high volume of training (multiple sets)
  • Emphasise short rest periods between sets (~ 1 minute)

Catabolic hormones break structures down within the body. 

Chronically high level of catabolic hormones within the body would be counterproductive to the objective of hypertrophy. 

Cortisol is one of the most catabolic hormones found within the human body.  One of the major roles of cortisol involves the conversion of stored protein (muscle) into glucose and glycogen.  As well as catabolizing existing protein, cortisol decreases protein synthesis, thereby inhibiting any muscular gains (Jalali, 2003). 

Based on the stresses of day to day living, family, work, traveling, finance, food, and exercise itself, cortisol levels are exceptionally high. 

Maybe this is why it seems like; two steps forwards and one step back all the time with clients.  What they do outside of your session is key to success and managing cortisol is key.

Jalali (2003) suggests the following tips for controlling cortisol levels:

  • ensure that an adequate quality and variety of nutrients is consumed on a regular basis
  • Avoid overtraining.  Try not to train 3 or more days in a row without a break, and keep workouts under an hour
  • Avoid stress.
  • Try to sleep at least 8 hours every night
  • spike insulin levels after a workout.  Insulin levels may enhance post-workout cortisol clearance, promoting the switch to anabolism.  Consumption of high glycaemic carbohydrate drinks or snack will generate an insulin spike

Changing the stimulus

Approximately every 4 – 8 weeks you should look to modify the programme variables in such a way as to generate a new exercise stimulus for the client.

If planned correctly, this practice should help ensure physical progress as well as minimizing the risk of retention problems through boredom.  Care should be taken to ensure that the progressions in volume and intensity from one programme to the next are both progressive and manageable e.g. conducting a strength endurance phase in between endurance and hypertrophy phases.

These progressions in programme design can be timed with pertinent re-evaluation and review dates.

Choosing Advanced Resistance Training Systems For Hypertrophy

More advanced clients will tolerate higher levels of overload in each session and require more volume. Advanced training systems like:

Drop sets = are a great way of increasing overall volume, as each drop set has 4 points of overload on one muscle.

Pre/Post Exhaust systems = These are a good way of achieving overload on a prime mover twice in each set, by combining isolation and compound exercises on one muscle, without rest.
Find out more about Pre and Post exhaust training systems for hypertrophy here

Forced Repetitions = will be very effective at challenging the load lifted to achieve maximum overload. This is where the trainer assists the client in two additional reps past overload.

Tri sets and Giant sets = These involve multiple points of overload power muscle in each set. This is great for increasing the amount of volume in each session. This is also great for endurance goals as it removes the recovery in between exercises.
Find out more about Tri sets here
Find out more about Giant sets here

There’s not just one Resistance Training System For Hypertrophy

As you can see there are many training systems that are appropriate for hypertrophy, the key is to use the right training variables within the training systems.

There are over 17 resistance training systems that are taught in the Level 3 PT syllabus which can be overwhelming to distinguish which system to use and when. to plan them. Our FIT-Progressions online programme breaks down each of these in detail with clear protocol to follow for each one.

Plus you learn how to periodise your planning of these systems to allow for logical progressive overload so your client can get their goal every time.

>>>> Join us for FIT-Progressions here

Become a knowledgeable and confident FITPRO, with a clear strategy to get results with your clients every time.

There’s no more self-doubt. There’s no more guessing what to plan or how to get client results. FIT-Progressions has 8 modules and 18 video tutorials that guide you through every stage of your Level 3 Personal Trainer case study, and how to work with clients effectively.

This is for you if you’re…

  • struggling to complete your coursework for PT, Yoga, or Pilates
  • a newly qualified FITPRO that feels stuck or overwhelmed
  • unsure where to start when planning a client session
  • worrying about applying your course knowledge with a real client
  • doubting you could get results and lack structure to client packages
  • anxious and confused about how to get found and get busy

Click the link to find out more and join us:

Test your knowledge with today’s planning mock questions:

[NOTE: The answers are below the 3rd question]

Q1: What is the ideal rep-range for Hypertrophy goals?

A. 1-7 reps
B. 8-12 reps
C. 13-20 reps
D. 1-5 reps

Q2: What causes hypertrophy?

A. Microtears to the actin and myosin which adapt in recovery to be stronger and more powerful
B. Microtears to the tendon which creates long term injury
C. Microtears to the tendon which adapt in recovery to be bigger and more resilient to volume
D. Microtears to the actin and myosin which adapt in recovery to be bigger in size and more resilient to volume and fatigue

Q3: Which hormones break structures down within the body?
A. Catabolic
B. Anabolic
C. Hypertrophic
D. Hypotrophic

Answers to the mock questions are :

Question 1= B, Question 2 = D, Question 3 = A

If you want more mock questions like this, then you can download more Free Mock Questions: DOWNLOAD NOW

Dedicated to More

Hayley “how to build muscle” Bergman

Parallel Coaching

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