Since I’ve been on this hypertrophy kick, I might as well talk to you more about it. I will fill you in on some of my own training, and also some principles that I think have really made a difference during this training phase. If you aren’t up to date with my current goals please click this link “Self-Discovery. The Process is Part of The Journey”.
In that article, I talk about some deep thoughts during this time and also my training moving forward.
In this article, I want to cover some big key principles to help you get the most bang for your buck with hypertrophy training (some of these will crossover to any training but some are also specific to hypertrophy training).
Have a Plan
If you were like me when I first got into training I would just show up to the gym with my buddies and we would just ask each other what we wanted to hit and then just get after it.
We typically followed the standard “Bro-Split” (chest tris, back bis etc…) we then also would just do a ton of volume and go for the biggest pump possible.
Once we achieved that we were done. Most of us never wrote anything down or tracked our numbers. We would even do the opposite and come in some days and just see where our 1RM bench or squat was. There was really no rhyme and reason. But it was fun, and in the beginning, it worked. Well, of course, it worked because we were noobs!
I’m sure we all had that phase in our training. However, the unavoidable came when we hit that plateau in our training and had to re-think our approach. This is where having a plan comes in clutch!
You need to have a map to get you to where you want to go. First thing is to establish the goal and then work backward to plan out the steps to get there. I will say for this hypertrophy phase I’m way more structured with my training and using principles of exercise selection, progressive overload, frequency, and managing the intensity and volume appropriately.
For some reason, I think there is this notion that bodybuilding or hypertrophy doesn’t have to have the same drawn-out plan as strength training but it DOES and it MATTERS a ton! So, before you do anything make sure you have your plan and are tracking your training accordingly.
Without a plan, you are planning to fail!
This is very specific to hypertrophy training but getting the full range of motion on every exercise (to the best of your ability) there are a few reasons for this, first being we want to get as much stress to the target muscle as possible and full ROM is the easiest way to do that. What would be the point in not getting full ROM?
It’s like getting 50 free tickets to win the lottery but you only take ½. No stupid, TAKE THEM ALL!! Now say you can’t go all the way down in your squats (A2G) go as far as you can but make note of where that is!
This leads us to our next reason for full ROM. It sets up consistency in the movement if we are constantly changing the ROM how do we track progress with a certain exercise? How do you know you are getting better if you do a few full depth pushups and then cut a few short? You don’t.
ROM needs to be full and the same across the board. I’m sure you used to see people in the gym going to failure and then their buddy would basically spot them reps, but how can that be tracked? How much aid was their partner providing?
This is why it is not optimal to do that during training for tracking purposes.
Control the Eccentric
I will never believe someone who tells me they can do a 315lb row with the perfect technique until I see it with my eyes now.
I used to be that guy basically dry humping the air with a barbell doing 315lb barbell rows.
Now I do them with 155-165 lbs and it’s been humbling to understand what proper technique and control feel like. If we are trying to get the best bang for our buck technique matters and so does isolation of the proper muscles.
When it comes to doing these exercises control the eccentric. It doesn’t have to be a tempo (but those are nice) but it shouldn’t be wild or losing control of the connection to the muscles.
I’ve noticed how much more of a burn or pump I get in the target muscle from just being more in control of the eccentric.
Pay Attention to the Small Details
When doing hypertrophy training we are trying to cause the best stimulus to the muscles as possible to get an adaptation to occur and then get growth! So tiny things can make a big difference in the long haul.
Specifically, things like grip and hand placement during exercises. For example, on skull crushers, I feel it more in the long head of my triceps when I use a false grip. This false grip also takes some pressure off of my elbows for whatever reason and I can push hard and get more reps. Another example would be the stance width in the squat to hit the quads more. Does that mean it works for everyone?
Not necessarily, but I would play around with it and see for yourself!
As you go along this journey you will find little details can make a big difference so don’t be afraid to experiment a little and see what works best for you!
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in general with my training has been too low of frequency. This can be applied in strength programming as well as hypertrophy. As mentioned earlier I used to do “Bro-Splits” which consists of hitting one muscle group each week. This has been shown to be too low of a frequency for maximum gains.
It’s been shown in research that you can hit muscle groups 2-4x per week (depending on which muscle groups). I like to hit smaller muscle groups more on the higher end of the spectrum (bis, tris, delts). If there is a certain muscle group you want to increase the size of start with increasing the frequency and track how progress goes. There is a great article all about frequency and recovery by James Krieger Here “How often should I train each muscle group”.
I will be putting out an article in the future going on more specifics about frequency and training volume per muscle group.
You Don’t Need To Go To Failure All Of The Time
I used to make this mistake all the time and just hit all my exercises for tons of reps and going to failure for nearly all exercises when I was doing bodybuilding exercises.
Just like a strength program a hypertrophy program should be structured with micro/meso/macrocycles for progress and using progressive overload. At the end of a phase going to failure is okay as long as there was some sort of properly programmed progressive overload.
After the mesocycle, this will usually be followed up with some sort of low-stress week aka a de-load! Find out more on de-loads in this article… “Low Stress vs De-loads”.
Not All Movements Are Created Equal
When training it is important to find movements that allow you to get the best stimulus possible and allow you to continue to train as frequently as possible.
For example, maybe back squatting multiple times a week really fatigues you but if you back squat 1x a week and throw in hack squats of dumbbell work you can still keep the frequency up but manage the fatigue better to train more.
These are just a few pointers for you to consider when going into your next training block/hypertrophy training. If you implement what’s above early on you will find yourself ahead of the game and getting better results faster!
I’m just having fun enjoying the process and learning new things. I’m not an expert in this field but I want to share all my experiences in hopes it will provide you value and let you down your own rabbit hole of experimentation.