How to maximize the muscle hypertrophy of your clients?

How to maximize the muscle hypertrophy of your clients?

During muscular training, the muscle fibers of the tissues and/or organs worked by the athlete undergo a thickening: We then say that muscular hypertrophy is reached.

What does the expression muscular hypertrophy mean in concrete terms? What are its advantages and limitations?

Muscle growth does not happen overnight: When does muscle enlargement occur? How can a sports coach (or a physical trainer) use muscle hypertrophy to its full potential with his clients?

The answers in this article.

What is muscle hypertrophy?

 Muscle hypertrophy: Definition

Repeatedly stimulating the muscles allows them to increase in size and/or strength. Muscle hypertrophy is the increase in muscle size by constant stimulation of the muscles.

It is usually triggered by strength training (weight training), when the muscles are pushed to their limit (sometimes accompanied by muscle pain after the session). Muscle hypertrophy results in muscle growth and increased strength and/or caloric expenditure (calorie burning).

Who should take advantage of muscle hypertrophy?

Athletes who practice bodybuilding and whose main objective is to target their muscles and increase their muscle mass, are the first to be concerned by muscle hypertrophy.

In addition, muscle hypertrophy helps fight against muscle atrophy: while hypertrophy corresponds to the accumulation of contractile proteins in muscle fibers, muscle atrophy, on the contrary, refers to the loss of these proteins.

The muscle mass generated by muscular hypertrophy helps protect athletes, especially those who play contact sports such as field hockey and American soccer. However, muscle hypertrophy is not recommended for athletes in weight category sports such as freestyle fighting.

When and how does muscle enlargement take place?

When does muscle enlargement take place?

When the athlete starts to work a muscle, the nerve impulses responsible for the contraction of this muscle increase. There is then an increase in the strength of the muscle, without any particular change in its size. It is only when the athlete perseveres in the muscular exercise (after several sessions) during training that there is a complex interaction of the nervous system responses, which leads to an increase in protein synthesis. This leads to an increase in the size and (eventually) strength of the muscle cells over the months.

How do muscles develop?

The process of muscle hypertrophy goes through 3 stages: Stimulation, which occurs during the contraction of the muscle during exercise: The repeated contraction of the muscle during the workout damages the cells that make up the internal muscle fibers. This cellular damage causes an inflammatory response, which the body uses to promote recovery. The strain on the muscle also causes an increase in hormones related to muscle growth. At this stage, muscle growth is not yet effective, and the muscles need time to respond and adapt to the stimuli.

Muscle fiber repair:

It takes place after training, while the muscles are resting. Damaged fibers are replaced and/or compensated for by new muscle fibers, and it is the presence of compensating muscle fibers that actually corresponds to muscle growth.

Peripheral fatigue:

It occurs when the athlete is unable to finish the exercises (for example at the end of an intense physical activity). Studies are underway, and many scientists believe that: the greater the peripheral fatigue, the harder the muscle works (and therefore the more stimulated), and the more hypertrophy occurs.

Types of muscle hypertrophy

There are two types of muscle hypertrophy:

Functional or myofibrillar hypertrophy

Myofibrils are proteins that are capable of contracting and that ensure the functioning of muscles. Each muscle fiber contains many myofibrils. Functional hypertrophy refers to the increase in the size and number of myofibrils in muscle fibers. This allows for an increase in the force of contraction of the muscles.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy corresponds to an increase in the volume of the sarcoplasm (the non-contractile components and fluid of the muscle). It is obtained by depletion of the energy reserves available in the muscle cell: When there is no longer enough energy in the cell, the sarcoplasm is forced to seek energy elsewhere to prolong the muscular effort.

When the sarcoplasm can no longer find sufficient energy, the volume of intracellular fluid increases, causing the sarcoplasm and the muscle fibers to swell. The direct consequence is the swelling of the muscle. The amount of contractile protein structures does not increase (unlike functional hypertrophy), and therefore sarcoplasmic hypertrophy does not improve the athlete's ability to generate muscle force.

Basically, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is a kind of artificial muscle growth. You train the muscle for no other reason than to visually increase its size by increasing the amount of fluid it can hold, but you do not increase the density of the muscle fibers.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of muscle hypertrophy?

Pros and cons of myofibrillar (or functional) hypertrophy


  • Functional hypertrophy ensures a sustainable gain in mass.
  • The results of myofibrillar hypertrophy are therefore visible in the long term.
  • In addition to the increase in muscle mass, this method allows a gain in strength.


  • To trigger myofibrillar hypertrophy, it is necessary to perform exercises with heavy loads.
  • Beginners in bodybuilding are therefore, if they do not take precautions, exposed to injuries during training.
  • Beginners must therefore benefit from the 360° support of a coach. The latter will prepare the athlete with adequate programs in order to gradually bring him/her towards muscular hypertrophy.

Pros and Cons of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy


  • Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy preserves the nervous system of the athlete and the loads handled are less heavy (the practitioner therefore has less risk of injury).
  • This method also promotes the vascularization of the body.


  • This type of training causes a short-lived gain in muscle mass.
  • Furthermore, as we have seen previously, the gain in muscle volume through sarcoplasmic hypertrophy does not allow for an increase in contractile protein structures and the muscle therefore has no additional functionality other than to be voluminous.

An example of a consequence of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is that many bodybuilders are able to gain muscle volume, but are unable to handle heavy loads. It is necessary to note, however, that the ability of a practitioner to gain volume without gaining strength depends on his or her ability to withstand very intensive training and on his or her genetic makeup.

How to use muscle hypertrophy to its full potential with your clients?

As previously stated, hypertrophy is triggered when the muscles are pushed to their limits (this is often accompanied by muscle pain or soreness in the following days). In order to induce hypertrophy and have a good muscle volume, one must combine the concepts of metabolic stress and mechanical tension in his training. Metabolic stress refers to the "burning sensation" felt in the muscle when a certain effort threshold is reached during exercise. Mechanical stress refers to the resistance caused by training with weights or body weight, as well as the duration of contraction of the exerciser's muscles.

The combination of metabolic stress (which targets sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) and mechanical tension (which targets myofibrillar hypertrophy) during training leads to rapid and sustained muscle growth. Your training style may influence which hypertrophy occurs more, but be aware that both types of hypertrophy occur as your muscles grow.



Importance of protein intake in the body

After degradation of amino acids (protein synthesis in the body) in the muscle fibers during exercise, the body transports new amino acids into the muscle fiber. These rebuild the muscle and hypertrophy takes place.

The amount of protein consumed by the athlete therefore has a direct impact on the hypertrophy process, and the muscle cannot recover in muscle nor gain in volume without protein.

During training, in order to maximize hypertrophy, the athlete must eat enough protein and be in caloric surplus.

Food planning according to the needs of your customers

Muscle mass gain also depends on proper nutrition. During a weight training session, the athlete's muscles draw energy directly from the sarcoplasm.

Reminder: Sarcoplasm is the source of energy and fluid surrounding the myofibrils in the muscle. It is made up mainly of ATP, creatine phosphate, glycogen and water.

Muscle contraction is mainly dependent on the amount of energy (or quantity of ATP molecules) available in the muscle, but also on the quantities of creatine phosphate and glycogen available. Therefore, in order to stimulate myofibrillar hypertrophy, it is necessary that the muscles have enough resources to contract during a training session aimed at gaining strength (handling heavy loads, for example).

The sports coach must advise his clients to :

  • Drink at least 3 liters of water per day
  • Consume 3 to 6 g of fat
  • Consume at least 3g of protein per kg
  • Depending on his sensitivity to carbohydrates, the athlete should also consume 3 to 6g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight per day.

It is also advisable to consume good fats, especially omega 3 will reduce inflammatory phenomena (induced by training and protein consumption) and improve insulin sensitivity.

 Planning of muscular exercises

The induction of overall muscle hypertrophy begins with an excellent training program. In order to promote muscle growth, it is necessary to impose two forms of stress on the muscle: the search for muscle burn (allowing the swelling of the sarcoplasm), and load.

If you want to train solely for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, you should perform high volume workouts with rest periods of 60 seconds or less. The number of reps should be between 8 and 15 and the number of sets between 3 and 4.

When you train for myofibrillar hypertrophy, you will focus primarily on strength. This means that your reps ranges will be 1-5 and your rest times will be 3-5 minutes. However, you will do more sets, such as 5 to 10. You'll spend most of your time performing large compound lifts, such as the bench press, bench press, deadlift, squats and rows.

360° support

With a bodybuilding coach or a physical trainer, the practitioner benefits from an adapted program and a supervision that allows him to quickly obtain the expected results (increase in muscle mass).

The strength coach must provide his athletes with 360° support to keep them motivated, benefit from a personalized follow-up and develop their muscles safely.

The trainer ensures that his athletes practice the exercises in a safe and effective way, advises him on good eating and muscular exercise practices.


 Several elements come into play in the triggering of hypertrophy: the quality and type of training followed, genetic factors, diet.

In order to optimize the results, it is necessary that the practitioner has a good lifestyle: sufficient and regular diet (rich in proteins, but also in carbohydrates and minerals), hydration before, during and after physical efforts.

Camille Boutin

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