Everything about hypertrophy!

Everything about hypertrophy!

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I want to talk to you about different types of hypertrophy. We have already talked about different training methods several times and Mathias has also taken you through this topic a few times. However, I now want to take the story a bit more theoretically. As you in this article from Mathias have been able to read there are several types of hypertrophy. Research now seems to have found 3. I want to show them all 3 with you, explain what they all entail and also briefly mention the practical implications of this story.

This will be a bit more theoretical, as may already be clear. I try to alternate practical articles with more theoretical articles, so that there is something for everyone. If you have suggestions or questions regarding my articles, let me know in the comments.

The basis of hypertrophy

The term hypertrophy includes the increasing size of tissues. This not only applies to muscle tissue but an organ can also show hypertrophy. In the sports world, however, hypertrophy always refers to muscle growth. If you know what a muscle looks like under the microscope, or if you have had biology, you can probably imagine that a muscle cell can increase in size in several ways.

The 3 forms of hypertrophy that I want to discuss with you are:

  1. sarcoplamatic hypertrophy (an increase in storage; from here on called sarco.)
  2. myofibrillary hypertrophy (an increase in contractile protein; from here on called myof.)
  3. myonuclear hypertrophy (an increase in the 'brain' of the muscle cell; from here on called myon.

Unlike normal cells, muscle cells have multiple nuclei, or cell nuclei. Other cells have 1 cell nucleus, which contains the DNA from which all production of proteins, enzymes and processes is regulated.

Why does a muscle cell have multiple cell nuclei?

You can see this as the brain or the operating system of the cell. Muscle cells have multiple cell nuclei per cell, resulting in the ability to control multiple processes simultaneously.

example: we have 2 arms and 2 legs. Suppose (for some bizarre reason) that you would want several arms, then our nervous system should be more advanced, because there is more tissue to control. In muscle cells, the different nuclei do not necessarily control contraction, but rather control cell metabolism. Muscle cells are very active and very subject to different levels of energy use. Huge peak loads during an 1RM deadlift or all-out sprint, lying flat on bed opposite 8 hours.

Because muscle cells need to be able to switch output so quickly, and because muscle cells are exposed to a great deal of oxidative stress and free radicals, much maintenance and repair is needed to guarantee that the muscle tissue remains functional and healthy. Finally, muscle cells grow (in normal cases, cancer is of course an exception to this), certainly in adults, a lot more than the other cells of the body. As everyone knows from photos of professional bodybuilders, muscles can grow enormously in size. All this extra size must be constantly supplied with new proteins and quality control.

Research has still not given a clear answer to the question whether hyperplasia exists (increasing the number of muscle cells). That is why we increasingly assume that muscle cells do not increase in numbers, but only in size. 1 cell nucleus can only provide a certain area of ​​cell with all the necessary information. If this area grows 'too much', then multiple cell nuclei are required.

leg extension

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

This is the fastest form of muscle growth. In other words, the increase in size and weight can go very quickly. Because this form of hypertrophy is so fast and in a certain sense a direct reward in the mirror, this is the form of hypertrophy that many people get addicted to. In a sense, a 'pump' also falls under this form of hypertrophy.

A pump is nothing more than pushing more nutrients to the muscle cells. This is of course short term, but sarco. is the same in a slightly longer term. By manipulating our diet, taking certain supplements (such as creatine) or our training method (supersets, dropsets, large volume, or pump training) for this purpose, the muscle cell will absorb more nutrients and therefore more water. Anyone who has ever eaten low carbohydrate and / or has been ill for a few days knows exactly what I am talking about; you look flat, muscles are not round and you feel weak. When you start eating and drinking normally, you see that your muscles are fuller again. The same happens with one carbohydrate-rich refeed after a considerable period of cutting.

Each gram of glucose that we retain in muscle tissue, in turn, retains approximately 4 grams of water. That means that a few 100 grams of extra glucose will definitely make a visible difference. Apart from the improved self-image in the mirror, this definitely has advantages; more glycogen and more water in muscle cells can certainly increase recovery and performance; there is a direct correlation between glycogen levels and the amount of work that a muscle can do.

But the benefits don't stop there ...

Another advantage is that a body with full glycogen stores is less sensitive to training stress and inflammation. (If you want to know more about these topics I would like to refer you to the 2 articles that I am about to load have written). Once again an example from practice: anyone who has ever used a crank and cutters knows that during a bulk you can train a lot harder but especially longer and certainly also recover faster from such a training.

And with that we immediately address the problem of this form of training / hypertrophy. In calorie restriction it is impossible to maintain these amounts of glycogen. You can guess the result of this; when pumping is the only training method that you apply and then start cutting, you see your 'progression' disappear like snow in the sun. Many competition athletes do a lot of pump training in the middle of their prep and eat large amounts of carbohydrates. When they enter the final phase of their prep and scrap carbohydrates, they surrender huge amounts of mass and size.

When you understand this game, much less inflammation will accumulate in your system, so you retain less fluid, which in turn requires a much less rigorous approach in your peak week.


Myofibrillary hypertrophy

As said, myof. the form of hypertrophy that actually triggers more contractile protein, in other words, more muscle protein. Actual protein synthesis.

It is important that you realize that protein synthesis is a very expensive undertaking for the body, which costs a lot of nutrients. There are many more checkpoints in the system that can stop protein synthesis than there are checkpoints that can activate protein synthesis. Partly to save food and energy, and partly to prevent tissue from proliferating and causing cancer.

Building up effective muscle tissue is therefore more than just training and one protein shake tilt in as soon as you're done.

Proteins are in every cell in your body, so every cell in your body needs proteins for maintenance. Your skin, your intestines, your stomach, your red blood cells and so on ten and dozens of cell types. All the examples I mention here are more essential to survival than a thicker chest muscle. Being able to bench press 200 kilos is not necessary for survival, unless you can strongly convince your body with a well-designed training protocol and meet all the preconditions. An important factor for this is the relationship between mTOR and AMPK. These are 2 energy sensors in the cell, both of which say something about the available amount of energy. However, I do not want to delve deeper into this now, because otherwise this article will become very complex. If you want to know more about this, then of course I am always open to requests.


It is important to know that mTOR is a kind of starter motor for muscle growth, but it works over a spectrum mits the circumstances are correct. When AMPK is activated by, for example, a low energy status, no muscle protein synthesis will take place, because AMPK inhibits mTOR. This is the reason that muscle building in a calorie deficit is very difficult. For muscle building we want to turn the knob to mTOR as much as possible, for fat loss to AMPK as much as possible; do you see the problem?

However, mTOR and AMPK are not only influenced by the nutritional status of a cell, but also by training, mechanical damage and stress, inflammation, stress, hormones, etc.

In addition, a muscle cell not only consists of contractile protein, but every muscle cell, just like all other cells, organelles, has its own role. Some organelles ensure that enzymes are made, some clean up waste in the cell, some carry out what the cell nucleus commands, etc. Even if protein is reserved for muscle cells, all these processes will take precedence over actual contractile protein, because the above is more important. for the proper functioning of the muscle cell. Sufficient access to proteins is therefore absolutely important, since a surplus is needed for growth, but not the only 'checkpoint' that is needed for muscle growth. If this were the case, the bros with 500 grams of protein in their diet would be the largest bodybuilders.

And how do you achieve this form of muscle building?

This form of hypertrophy is to a certain extent well done with progressive overload. That is, building up the amount of tension from week to week or month to month.

I consciously say no pounds, since pounds on the rod itself says nothing about progression. In addition, I can write a very interesting article about why exercise volume is not the most important factor for muscle growth, contrary to what many people think. But this is something for next time.


Myonuclear hypertrophy

This is the last form of hypertrophy; as we saw earlier in this article, the nuclei are the cell nuclei. From the above name you could therefore already somewhat draw up the definition of this form of hypertrophy; this form of hypertrophy means that we direct the body to take in more cell nuclei in muscle cells.

Because cell nuclei are so small and this form of hypertrophy is also not directly linked to more cell volume such as with sarco. or more contractile protein as with myof. you will not immediately see an increase in size or strength. What it does do is give you the potential to build more muscle mass, turn on muscle contractile protein or store more glycogen. It therefore ensures that the capacity of muscle volume increases. This way of hypertrophy is therefore an investment in future progression.

To achieve this, you will have to stress the muscle cell further than is necessary for sarco. or myof.

There can definitely be an overlap between different forms of hypertrophy. Beginners are a perfect example of this. Because their treshhold for a stimulus is so low, every bit of volume they turn will cause progress, even in different areas. However, the more years of training experience you have, the more difficult it becomes to be especially myon. get it done. The requirements for this form of hypertrophy is namely a lot of mechanical damage or oxidative stress.

The reason for this is that muscle cells do not divide like normal cells do. The cells (and therefore cell nuclei) of muscle cells cannot split as is the case with normal cells. Muscle cells must attract satellite cells to get more cell nuclei. The problem with this is that the stock of satellite cells is limited and that these stocks are outside the muscle cell. The signal to attract satellite cells must therefore be many times stronger than the signal needed for 'normal' hypertrophy.

Apart from the fact that the amount of satellite cells is not infinite and for that reason it becomes more difficult to attract new satellite cells over time, we are also being trained and conditioned more and more as we train longer. This means that the muscle cells can cope better with (training) stress, making it more difficult to obtain an adequate incentive to attract new satellite cells. Finally, with age, we also see a decline in the hormones that support these pathways and enhance the attraction of satellite cells.

The longer you train, the closer it looks

That does not mean that it is impossible. With age and years of training experience, however, it is becoming increasingly important that you periodically adjust your training volume and approach to the type of hypertrophy you want to achieve. This form of hypertrophy is also the most important factor in muscle memory.

Sarco. takes place quickly, but also shows a very rapid decrease, sometimes even from day to day.

Myof. is a lot more permanent; even during long periods of cutting it is difficult to actually lose contractile protein when you properly manage your diet and training. However, if you stop exercising for weeks or months, your body will definitely want to get rid of this muscle tissue because it costs energy and serves no function.

Myon. however, is "permanent"; some people who read this will recognize themselves in this. Even after months or even years of non-training, they see extremely fast progression when they resume training. This is because the satellite cells once fused to muscle cells donate their cell nuclei and other organelles to those muscle cells. This process cannot be reversed.


How large must the energy surplus be for muscle building?

This strongly depends on the type of hypertrophy you focus on, your stress, your sleep, hormone levels and how advanced you are. This question is therefore difficult to answer in absolute values. However, if your focus is on sarco. you could even see hypertrophy in an energy deficit, if your carbohydrate intake is (very) high. So you can lose fat and increase muscle volume at the same time. After the above explanation, however, you realize (I hope) that this is 'false hypertrophy'.

Except in beginners is myof. very difficult to achieve in an energy shortage. Certainly in noticeable quantities.

If you want to turn on lean muscle mass without gaining body fat, it is important to map out a periodization in diet and training. When this is your goal, the timing of food, your macro ratio, the type of training, the use of any cardio becomes increasingly important, even though a lot of research says that timing does not matter. This is even more true for people who train and cut without hormonal support. In contrast to beginners, it is virtually impossible for experienced strength athletes to produce different stimuli at the same time.

A big piece of text! I have tried not to make the article too dry and to give some practical examples, but I am sure that this may all be very theoretical. However, when you acquire this knowledge and act accordingly, you will see that theory has absolute added value in practice!

Jan Willem van der Klis

Instagram: @Jay_Whey

This blog is written by

Jan Willem van der Klis

"My focus is on obtaining and disseminating the best possible knowledge to optimize training and nutrition"

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