Muscle hypertrophy, otherwise known as gaining muscle size, is the enlargement of muscle fibers due to overcoming force resulting from high tension (i.e. lifting heavy weights).
Lots of people want to gain muscle size, myself included. But like any other training goal, you have to train in a certain way to effectively adapt your muscles for gaining mass. As displayed on the infographic, to achieve muscle hypertrophy adaptations, you must be incorporating these variables within your workout:
Number of Exercises: 3-5
Intensity: 75-85% of your 1 Repetition Maximum (1RM)
Rest: 45-90 seconds
For you to bring about gains in muscle size, you need to be incorporating anywhere between 3-5 exercises per muscle and completing 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions per exercise. In terms of the intensity, you need to be working at 75-85% of your 1RM. For instance, if the maximum you can lift to complete 1 repetition of a bicep curl is 20kg, then to work on muscle size, you need to be lifting anywhere between 15 to 16kg ( (20 x 0.75) to (20 x 0.80) ).
In between exercises and sets, rest anywhere between 45-90 second. Take into consideration the load– if you’ve lifted a heavier weight and feel like you need more time to rest, then take anywhere between 70 – 90 seconds. If you’ve lifted a relatively lighter weight, 45 – 60 seconds should be sufficient to recuperate and get your muscles ready for the next set or exercise!
With relation to tempo, an optimal speed is 2/0/2 for the eccentric/isometric/concentric components of the exercise. So, for example, in a bicep curl, lowering the dumbbell (or barbell) is the eccentric component (2 seconds to complete) and reaching full extension of the elbow is the isometric component. In the case of 0 seconds, this means reaching full extension and immediately moving onto the concentric component of the curl, which entails flexing the elbow and using your bicep muscle to lift the weight (2 seconds to complete). So as soon as you’ve fully extended your elbow, don’t waste any time and life the weight right back up. This principal should be applied to every exercise you perform.
Again, based on my years of training, the best way I used to gain muscle mass and size was through Isolation Training, or working 1 muscle per day. This way, you can emphasize highly on each muscle and work at a greater volume (more sets, reps and exercise) which will most certainly help you grow muscle. Here’s how I used to split my days:
Sunday – Chest
Monday – Back + Legs
Tuesday – Shoulders
Wednesday – Triceps
Thursday – Biceps
Notice that I have incorporated legs with back day. I found my back days to be the easiest – I don’t know why. And I also wanted 2 days for some time to do cardio and yoga, or simply rest. Of course, you could dedicate a separate day for legs, or include them in on a day that is quite easy for you. With time you’ll be able to figure this out. I do recommend you keep at least a day’s worth of recovery during the week, whether passive (doing nothing) or active such as light cardio training, engaging in outdoor activities, or doing yoga.
Also realize that I have kept a day or so between the days of chest and triceps and back and biceps. As the triceps and biceps are worked during chest and back days, respectively, it’s important you keep a day’s rest in between these muscles, so come the time for triceps and biceps training, they’ll be fresh and ready to work!
You’ll be surprised at the amount of people I have come across that have a specific goal in mind yet participate in irrelevant training in the gym. Believe me, it’s vital to not only specify your training goals, but know how to work towards achieving these goals! You may set gaining muscle mass as your target, but work for muscle endurance in the gym without even knowing! I hope all of this makes sense. If there are any questions, comments or concerns on this feel free to comment below or ask any questions.