By: Michael Ruggeri
The concept of hypertrophy training (increasing tissue size through exercise) has always been a little comical to me. When you think about it from a biological and evolutionary standpoint, it doesn’t make sense for us to grow as humans. Biologically, the larger we grow, the more changes the body needs to make in order to send blood throughout the periphery and the harder our heart has to work within our lifetime. Evolutionarily speaking, possessing a lot of muscle mass could slow us down while trying to evade predators. Regardless of these facts, our species thrives on adaptation and will change based on the mechanical stresses we place on it.
All that said, becoming hotter than the sand and bigger than the ocean is not as simple as lifting weights a few times a week at a hard effort or until things feel tired. If building muscle was that simple, we’d be seeing ridiculously muscular individuals walking out of gyms everyday.
If you’re looking to become the next USDA choice buck steak or simply build muscle in a particular area, there are some things that need to be in place in order to find success.
First and foremost, you have to be able to actually break down. What I mean by this is you need to possess the ability to wind the central nervous system up enough to put a beating on a muscle in order to get the passive force breakdown or neuroendocrine response required. If someone is burnt out, tired, undernourished, overtrained, etc., took a few days off, then came back to the gym and did some body building, he or she, more likely than not, wouldn’t be in a hypertrophic situation, as his or her system will not be in a state to break down muscle. This is a very important concept to understand if you are looking to train hypertrophy.
Second, if you are in a state where you can break down, you need to be able to recover from that stress. Assuming you have a coach writing an individualized program based around your ability level, goals and lifestyle, the keys to recovery from hypertrophy work should primarily come down to digestion, correct immune system response and the right amount of macronutrients. If you don’t understand the effect of your training session or have misaligned nutrition/lifestyle practices, it will affect your ability not only to break down over time, but also to rebuild.
Rebuilding is ultimately where the magic happens. If you possess the ability to break down, and your training, nutrition and lifestyle have all been organized to allow the system to recover efficiently from the stress placed on it, muscles will repair, resulting in growth.
While building muscle for building muscle’s sake goes against our biology and evolution, our species will adapt to the mechanical stresses we place on it. In order for our system to respond properly to these mechanical stresses and lead to the desired outcome of building muscle, one needs to possess the ability to breakdown, recover, and rebuild from that stress. Since directly placing stress on the body with the intent of muscle growth is not a natural process, in order to lower the risk of developing compensatory patterns due to improper rates of tearing and rebuilding of muscle over time, I encourage you to seek out a coach who will design a program based around an assessment, your goals and lifestyle to help you along your journey. With a coach and an individualized program, you will be well on your way to Radio City Muscle Hall.