• Introduction
  • The basics of muscular hypertrophy training
  • Best methods to train muscular hypertrophy
  • Straight sets
  • Drop sets
  • Split training
  • Pyramid set training
  • Physiological effects of muscular hypertrophy training
  • Samples of muscular hypertrophy training programs
  • Suitability for developing athletes and physical education
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources

Introduction

Muscular hypertrophy training describes different workout methods that aim to increase contractable muscle mass in your body. If you haven’t already read about the performance benefits of muscular hypertrophy, we highly recommend you check it out first.

If you’re confident enough and just want to get to training, you’ve come to the right place. Here you can find all the information you need to create your own muscular hypertrophy training routine. You can even find free sample routines below!

The basics of muscular hypertrophy training

Muscular hypertrophy training utilizes weights of around 60-85% of your maximum with repetitions ranging from 6-12 within each set. The amount of sets varies between three to six and is often determined by which muscle groups you are working with and your personal training background. As your goal is to exhaust the muscle and work it to its limits, you need only 1-3 minutes of rest between each set, which lasts about 20-60 seconds. This means that your main energy source is from the muscle glycogen. Since this relies on anaerobic energy production you’ll also experience lactate during a maximum performance.

Muscular hypertrophy training utilizes relatively heavy loads to overload the muscle and causes micro-tears inside the muscles. This is also the reason why people experience delayed onset muscle soreness, or doms, after a heavy workout. Since our bodies have a tendency to overcompensate the recovery process, our muscles become stronger than they were before. This is known as supercompensation and it is the cornerstone of strength training.

However, you must also constantly make your muscles work harder than they are used to in order to maintain progress, be it strength, power or endurance. This is known as the progressive overload principle. Not only that, your training must also be specified to your own sport and individualized according to your needs. After all, it is you who is focusing on improving your own performance.

Lastly, you must also incorporate rest and proper nutrition into your lifestyle if you want to gain more muscle mass. Pay special attention to protein intake, especially branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to maintain an anabolic state (growth) that actually builds more muscle instead of breaking it down.

Here’s a quick chart on how to build your own muscular hypertrophy strength routine.

Muscular Hypertrophy Training


Full-body training & isolated muscle exercisesWeight at 60 - 85% of your maximum6 - 12 repetitions3 - 6 setsRest for 1 - 3mins between sets3 - 5 times a week outside of the competitive season

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Best methods to train muscular hypertrophy

Muscular hypertrophy training requires medium-to-heavy resistance with more repetitions and shorter rest periods than muscular strength training. This ensures that you can fully exhaust the muscles and cause microtears (small tears inside the muscle). This will help kickstart muscle rebuilding and make them stronger than before (supercompensation). In addition to traditional “straight set” weight training, muscular hypertrophy can be effectively trained with drop sets, pyramid sets and a variety of different split training methods.

Straight sets

Straight sets are the most common and simple to use training methods for improving strength. The biggest benefit of this is that it uses the same amount of weight and repetitions during each set. This makes them great for beginners and more experienced athletes alike. You can also design your workouts according to the effect you want it to have. More weight increases maximum strength whereas smaller weight and more repetitions focus on building more muscle mass. Naturally, the same principle can be used for endurance training as well.

Straight sets can also be combined in various ways to create supersets, trisets or giant sets that utilize back-to-back exercises that stimulate different muscle groups with no breaks in between. Supersets refer to performing two exercises with no break in between whereas tri-sets consist of three back-to-back exercises. Giant sets, however, consist of four or more exercises with no rest in between. The benefit of these exercises is that you can keep your heart rate up while only focusing on a certain muscle group at a time. 

Drop sets

Drop sets are exercises that are performed to failure and then reducing weight 10-30% to perform more repetitions with less weight. This ensures that you can keep stimulating the muscles with smaller weights even after they have been exhausted.

Drop sets can also be divided into two variations; wide drop sets and narrow drop sets. Wide drop sets are exercises where the resistance reduces around 30% from set to set. Narrow drop sets, on the other hand, have a smaller change of 10-25% between each set. However, it is important to note that these definitions are not exact and therefore used somewhat freely.

Drop sets often done with weight machines because you can reduce the amount of resistance very quickly. However, they can still be effectively trained with dumbbells and free weights.

Pyramid set training

Pyramid set training describes exercises that change 5-10% in weight from set to set. Usually, these exercises start with less weight and more repetitions while slowly growing in resistance. Of course, as you add more weight the number of repetitions will become lower. After a few sets, the resistance will decrease again. This will make sure that you can still perform a few extra repetitions to maximize muscle growth.

Pyramid training is often divided into wide pyramids and narrow pyramids, which describe the changes in resistance or repetitions from set to set. Wide pyramids have a wider range of repetitions and weights during a single session whereas narrow pyramids have a smaller change from set to set.

Pyramids are also the only training method that sometimes uses weights above the maximum amount of weight you can lift (110%). Therefore, it can also be effectively used maximal strength training. Changing the resistance in a single workout session is especially effective because it offers a varied stimulus for the muscle. Some athletes even perform reverse pyramid sets to challenge themselves more.

Split training

Split training describes splitting specific muscle group or body part workout sessions for a certain day of the week. This means that you can let certain muscle groups recover while training others. Split training can be divided in a few different ways. The most common being the upper body/lower split, agonist/antagonist split and push/pull split.

Upper body/lower body split alternates between upper body and lower body training in a single workout day. It is also an effective way to improve general fitness rather than your athletic performance.

Agonist/antagonist split (the muscle responsible for a movement/its opposing muscle) works out opposite muscle groups between training sessions. For example, a bicep day followed by a tricep day. Agonist/antagonist splits are often divided into three workouts a week.

Push/pull split (or sometimes push/pull/legs split) usually involves both upper and lower body exercises during a single workout day. However, one day focuses on pushing motions whereas the next session concentrates on pulling exercises. For example, focusing on curls & rows on one day and biceps, triceps & shoulders the next day.

”Muscular hypertrophy training relies on fully exhausting the muscle - and then doing a few more repetitions.”

You can also split your workouts between every major muscle group; legs, core, chest, shoulders and arms. In this case, each training session aims to fully exhaust the muscles to cause microtears and stimulate growth, while giving other muscle groups time to recover and rebuild. This is also known as a body-part split, and it is often used in bodybuilding due to its ability to significantly increase contractable muscle mass. On the other hand, there are countless split training variations for the advanced trainer.

However, studies have shown that multiple weekly training sessions for the same muscle groups are more effective for overall strength development. These compound exercises (utilizes more than one muscle group) are often better for athletes. Therefore, isolated exercises that focus on a single muscle are better for size, not strength.

Drop sets are one of the most effective methods to build muscle mass.

Physiological effects of muscular hypertrophy training

Muscular hypertrophy training increases the size of a single muscle cell and eventually the whole cross-sectional area (CSA) of the muscle itself, leading to a stronger muscle contraction. However, most studies have concluded that the actual amount of muscle cells does not change even under extreme physical stress. Training for more muscle mass can also have other physiological effects on your body such as; enhanced anaerobic energy production, reduced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), improved injury prevention, increased caloric expenditure and higher anabolic hormone levels.

Anaerobic energy production describes how well your body can perform using anaerobic (without oxygen) energy sources. Not only does regular strength training improve your anaerobic endurance, but it also increases the amount of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), Creatine Phosphate (CP), free Creatine and Glycogen inside the muscles. This means that they can be used for energy production more efficiently during exercise. Muscular hypertrophy training also improves your ability to tolerate lactate and resist fatigue. 

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) describes the muscle soreness you experience after an intense workout. Its main cause are the small micro-tears that occur inside the muscles after training, especially if the training involved heavy resistance or performing at your maximum effort. However, heavyweight training can significantly reduce the soreness you experience, which means you are able to train harder and more often. 

Improved injury prevention is a great benefit of muscular hypertrophy training. The reason behind this is that working out with heavier weights also strengthens your bones, joints and ligaments. This means that your body is strong enough to withstand the forces it faces even during the most intense physical performance. 

Increased caloric expenditure is a result of increased muscle mass in the body. And, since muscle tissue uses more energy than fat cells even while resting, it also promotes a healthy body composition. 

Higher anabolic hormone levels are a natural result of strength training. Because anabolic hormones, such as testosterone, are growth hormones, they can provide a significant boost in bone density, muscle mass and strength development. 

Aside from the physical benefits of added muscular hypertrophy, it can also have a significant impact on your mental health. This is due to the fact that increased muscle mass and a better physique can have a positive effect on how you see yourself. Muscular hypertrophy related training also encourages to focus on nutrition, which can open up a whole new avenue for overall health improvement. 

You need rest and plenty of nutrition to build more muscle.

Samples of muscular hypertrophy training programs

Are you interested in building muscle mass and getting stronger? Well, you’ve found the right page for it! Here you can find some sample training programs that will kickstart your training. Just click on the tab that interests you the most and get training!

Intermediate leg training routine

1. Squat

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 8 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • 2mins of rest between sets

2. Leg extension

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 8 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • 2mins of rest between sets

3. Seated Leg press

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 8 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • 2mins of rest between sets

4. Lunge

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 8 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • 2mins of rest between sets

5. Seated leg curl

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 8 repetitions
  • 3 sets
  • 2mins of rest between sets

Intermediate chest routine

1. Cable crossover

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 6 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between sets

2. Bench press

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 6 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between sets

3. Incline dumbbell press

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 6 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between sets

4. Peck deck flies

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 6 repetitions
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between sets

Intermediate pyramid leg routine 1

1. Squats

  • Set 1: 8 repetitions at 60% of your maximum
  • Set 2: 6 repetitions at 70% of your maximum
  • Set 3: 4 repetition at 80% of your maximum
  • Set 4: 8 repetitions at 70% of your maximum
  • Set 5: 6 repetitions at 60% of your maximum
  • Rest for 2mins between sets

2. Leg extensions

  • Set 1: 8 repetitions at 60% of your maximum
  • Set 2: 6 repetitions at 70% of your maximum
  • Set 3: 4 repetition at 80% of your maximum
  • Set 4: 8 repetitions at 70% of your maximum
  • Set 5: 6 repetitions at 60% of your maximum
  • Rest for 2mins between sets

3. Leg curls

  • Set 1: 8 repetitions at 60% of your maximum
  • Set 2: 6 repetitions at 70% of your maximum
  • Set 3: 4 repetition at 80% of your maximum
  • Set 4: 8 repetitions at 70% of your maximum
  • Set 5: 6 repetitions at 60% of your maximum
  • Rest for 2mins between sets

4. Leg press

  • Set 1: 8 repetitions at 60% of your maximum
  • Set 2: 6 repetitions at 70% of your maximum
  • Set 3: 4 repetition at 80% of your maximum
  • Set 4: 8 repetitions at 70% of your maximum
  • Set 5: 6 repetitions at 60% of your maximum
  • Rest for 2mins between sets

Advanced arms superset routine

1. Bicep curls & weighted dips

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 8 repetitions
  • Perform both exercises back-to-back
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between each set

2. Bench press & cable rows

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 8 repetitions
  • Perform both exercises back-to-back
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between each set

3. Weighted pull-ups & incline bench press

  • Weight at 70% of your maximum
  • 8 repetitions
  • Perform both exercises back-to-back
  • 4 sets
  • 2mins rest between each set

Intermediate arms drop set

1. Bicep curls

  • Set 1: 12 repetitions at 80% of maximum
  • Set 2: As many repetitions as possible at 60% of maximum
  • Set 3: As many repetitions as possible at 40% of maximum
  • 2mins rest between exercises

2. Barbell row

  • Set 1: 12 repetitions at 80% of maximum
  • Set 2: As many repetitions as possible at 60% of maximum
  • Set 3: As many repetitions as possible at 40% of maximum
  • 2mins rest between exercises

3. Lat pulldowns

  • Set 1: 12 repetitions at 80% of maximum
  • Set 2: As many repetitions as possible at 60% of maximum
  • Set 3: As many repetitions as possible at 40% of maximum
  • 2mins rest between exercises

4. Incline dumbbell press

  • Set 1: 12 repetitions at 80% of maximum
  • Set 2: As many repetitions as possible at 60% of maximum
  • Set 3: As many repetitions as possible at 40% of maximum
  • 2mins rest between exercises

Note that we are not responsible for any injuries that may occur during these drills or practices. Always remember to train within your own limits and at the guidance of a professional instructor. 

Utilize the muscle's full range of motion to prevent it from becoming stiff.

Suitability for developing athletes and physical education

Consistent and varied training is essential for developing athletes since it creates a foundation for sports-specific skills to improve upon. Additionally, since you grow taller and heavier you must also maintain an adequate level of strength, especially in the core, if you want to become better and stay healthy in the process.

While strength training is often regarded as unsafe for growing athletes, there’s little science to back up this claim. In fact, both muscular strength and muscular hypertrophy training can be perfectly safe as long as you make sure that your technique is in order and you don’t use too much resistance too quickly. And, just like with any other training methods, muscular hypertrophy training has to be periodized correctly for the most benefit.

But you have to remember that heavy resistance training can be very straining for your muscles, joints and ligaments. That is why any heavy resistance training requires professional guidance. It may even be smart to teach younger athletes to assist others in lifting to gain a deeper knowledge of how the human body works.

With this in mind, muscular hypertrophy training can be somewhat utilized in physical education as well. As long as the resistance is moderate and the repetitions are higher, there’s not a serious risk of injury. Teaching students the basics of increasing muscle mass can even provide a great motivational boost for an active lifestyle.

Final thoughts

Muscular hypertrophy training is a great way of increasing muscle mass and strength at the same time. So, if your sport or your playing position could benefit from added muscle mass, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t incorporate muscular hypertrophy training into your workout routine. On the other hand, if your goal is to be as strong as possible without any bulkiness you might be better off focusing on muscular strength training.

In addition to the progressive overload principle of strength training, the most important factors in building muscle are nutrition and rest. Both of them are crucial in order to maintain muscle growth. If you can balance these factors accordingly, you can easily keep developing your muscle mass faster – and without injuries. So, eat lots of clean ingredients and have plenty of rest to reap the full benefits of your training.

Did you learn anything new about muscular hypertrophy training? Let us know in the comments below!

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