The Two Types of Muscular Hypertrophy and How to Use Them to Reach Your True Muscle Building Potential
May 1st, 2012
Hypertrophy is nothing more than a fancy word people use to describe their muscles growing larger, but most don’t understand much regarding the science behind it, or how to use the science of muscular hypertrophy to reach their full muscle building potential.
I’m an outspoken proponent of lifting relatively heavy weights that lead to reaching muscle failure in 5-6 reps. In case you’re wondering, there is a reason for my 5-6 rep dogma…
This specific rep range is perfect for maximal gains in muscle mass because it’s low enough in terms of volume to prevent significant lactic acid buildup, which will ultimately hinder the ability of your muscles to contract with full intensity while you’re training, while providing ample opportunity to stimulate and overload the targeted muscles.
And, this rep range is best suited for targeting what I believe to be the more important of the two types of muscular hypertrophy.
More on this in a moment…
But first, let’s quickly go over the two kinds of muscle hypertrophy by defining what they are and how they are most effectively achieved.
The Two Types of Muscle Hypertrophy Explained
The two kinds of muscular hypertrophy are:
- Myofibrillar hypertrophy
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy
Myofibrillar hypertrophy refers to the addition of muscle tissue, while sarcoplasmic hypertrophy relates to enhancing the size of your muscle cells by increasing the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid they can accommodate.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy (adding muscle mass) is what I believe to be the more important of the two types of muscle hypertrophy because it doesn’t just make your muscles look bigger and stronger, but actually does make them bigger and stronger.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy is best achieved by lifting heavier weights that cause failure in the 4 to 6 rep range. As I mentioned earlier, it is this rep range that most effectively overloads the targeted muscles, without causing lactic acid buildup, which will only inhibit gains in muscle mass.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (adding muscle volume) is accomplished most effectively by performing sets consisting of 9 to 11 reps.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the focus of a large majority of bodybuilders, as they build impressive looking muscles, but struggle to move heavy weights. Since this kind of hypertrophy enlarges the muscle cells, it gives the appearance of power and muscle density, but it actually does nothing in terms of adding muscle mass or strength.
In other words, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy will make you look big and strong, but because it adds zero additional muscle tissue, it will not add to your raw muscle mass or make you any stronger.
Because sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is a superficial kind of hypertrophy that doesn’t actually add muscle mass to your body, your focus should be on myofibrillar hypertrophy the majority of the time, which is why my system for getting ripped is structured in such a manner.
This is also why I believe myofibrillar hypertrophy to be the more important of the two.
That being said, neglecting the sarcoplasmic side of the equation altogether is a serious mistake. Even though it’s most important to build muscle mass and get stronger, if we can add to the volume of our muscles in a way that will compliment that, we would be fools not to!
Getting the Best of Both Worlds
Weight lifters tend to be very set in the way they train, choosing to either attack mass building by performing fewer reps with heavier weights or using lighter weights and performing sets consisting of higher amounts of reps.
For instance, most power lifters focus on moving as much weight as possible, while inexperienced bodybuilders use predominantly high rep ranges. This is why power lifters tend to have large amounts of raw muscle mass and strength, while many bodybuilders have full muscles, but couldn’t dead lift 400 pounds if their life depended on it.
Being narrow-minded in your training approach will only efficiently target one or the other type of hypertrophy, not both, and should be avoided by anyone looking to gain size as fast as possible.
This isn’t to say that myofibrillar hypertrophy can’t be achieved by performing a high number of reps. But the majority of gains you’ll realize from training with high reps will be sarcoplasmic in nature.
Periodically shifting gears from lifting heavy to training with lighter weights that’ll allow you to reach failure in 9 to 11 reps will set yourself up to reap the benefits of both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, leading to the best results possible.
In other words, combining these 2 kinds of hypertrophy allows you to maximize your muscle growth, and volume, giving you the most impressive muscular enhancements you can possibly achieve.
It’s important to note that switching between training heavy and training light provides benefits that extend beyond gaining muscle. I recently wrote an article that explains the other benefits of switching between light weights and heavy weights. Read it here.
It can be tricky determining how to structure your training so that you’re targeting each kind of muscle hypertrophy in such a way that’ll optimize your muscle building results.
I know because I’ve personally tested several different methods in an attempt to see what works best:
- Alternating between light and heavy weeks
- Cycling between 2 weeks of light lifting and 2 weeks of heavy lifting
- Lifting heavy for one month and then lifting light for one month
- Alternating between light and heavy each time I trained a specific muscle group
- Using high, middle and low rep ranges during each training session for every muscle I targeted
There are others that I tested, but I think you get the point. There are numerous ways to structure your training to achieve both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
That being said, some ways are better than others and you don’t want to waste your time on getting less than optimal results.
Maximizing Your Muscle Gains Via Hypertrophy Training
Don’t worry, you don’t have to figure out the perfect training combination for yourself…
After months of experimentation, I finally found what I believe to be the perfect balance of training for both types of hypertrophy that’ll give your muscles incredible strength, mass and volume, leading to the stream-lined development of both size and strength.
This specific combination is so powerful, I was sure to include it with my book, Ripped Out. Because my book is based on many months of personal sacrifice and research, I do charge a small fee for it.
However, it comes with a full satisfaction money back guarantee, so it’s a risk-free investment for everyone that trusts me to show them how to get ripped by simultaneously building muscle and shedding fat.
Anyway, I hope you’ve found this article to be helpful in your quest for maximal muscle hypertrophy. This information has had a tremendous impact on my ability to gain mass, size and strength, and I know it will do the same for you.