Last time in our RC series we talked about muscles fiber and motor unit types and how the work relative to getting stronger or getting bigger. For a review, HERE is a link to the article to get you caught up.
So we have a general understanding of the different types of hypertrophy (myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic). This time we’ll look at how we accomplish each type of hypertrophy through different forms of resistance training, sets, reps and so on.
There are 3 main pathways to hypertrophy, each of which will develop myofibrillar (stronger) and sarcoplasmic (bigger) to a certain extent. Each pathway can be linked with a certain number of reps, or time under tension, to help accomplish the goal you are shooting for:
1) Progressive Tension Overload
This is basically a fancy way of saying “put more weight on the bar”. This form of training tends to lend itself to more myofibrillar (stronger) hypertrophy. To accomplish progressive overload effectively we need to keep our repetitions and duration low. You are looking at 1-5 reps for strength gain, or less than 10-15 seconds for speed work. Isometrics and eccentrics also fit into this category, inducing myofibrillar hypertrophy.
2) Muscle Damage
When you perform an exercise, there are 3 different types of contractions that will happen while performing the exercise: eccentric (lengthening), isometric (static) and concentric (shortening) contractions. Eccentric contractions are the type that will cause the most overall damage to a muscle. Between 5-12 repetitions is where this will take the best effect, causing mostly sarcoplasmic (bigger) hypertrophy. This rep scheme gives you the best time under tension for this type of hypertrophy.
3) Cellular Fatigue
Cellular fatigue is pushing your muscles to the absolute max to induce total fatigue. These rep schemes typically include anything from 8 – 20 repetitions. Anything after 20 reps will be considered endurance, or aerobic based.
Now you have a general outline of what type of repetitions you should be doing for your goals. If your goal is to get as strong as you can, it’s probably not a good idea to do sets of 15….stick with 3-5 repetitions. Conversely, if your goal is to get as big as you can be, you need 8-15 repetitions per set to hit the sweet spot.
So you see, the RC starts at the left with short duration, small repetitions for strength, and works its way to the right with longer duration, high repetitions for hypertrophy and endurance. This should give you some idea of where to go with your next workout.
For part III of this series, we’ll look at what a couple of programs would look like depending on your goals.