Training

Ask the Thinker: Muscle Hypertrophy and Athletes


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The Question:

Could you set the record straight in regards to “functional hypertyrophy”? As an athlete, should you stay away from higher rep training to avoid excess sacroplasmic hypertrophy? And if so, what is that rep ceiling?

Things You Should Know

Muscle cells are made up of contractile fibers and the surrounding fluid, increasing the size of these elements is muscle hypertrophy.

  • Muscle Hypertrophy- is the increase in the size of muscle cells. There are two major types of hypertrophy, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, where the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cell increases, and myofibrillar hypertrophy, when contractile fibers (actin and myosin fibers in the sarcomere specifically) increase in size.  Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy has been said to be more responsible for muscle growth and myofibrillar hypertrophy results in more power and explosive movements. Supposedly.
  • The contractile elements of the muscle are the muscle fibers themselves, and the non-contractile aspects make up the fluid surrounding the muscle fibers and the cytoplasm the ‘fills’ the muscle cells.
  • “Cross section diameter”- refers to the actual size across the muscle fiber, when hypertrophy, or muscle growth occurs, the potential for new strength/power gains has been created.  Keep these concepts in mind when watching the video below.

This leads us into James ‘The Thinker’ Smith’s discussion on muscle hypertrophy and it’s role in athletic preparation and performance. CLICK the video below to view his response to the question.

In Summary

Don’t worry about the all the muscle physiology with an exercise type or rep number, both types of hypertrophy are occurring. Rather, when selecting exercises consider these four aspects:

  1. Training age of the athlete
  2. Physical preparation of the athlete
  3. The sport they play, and how will the exercise improve their execution of sport movements
  4. The time of year you are doing the exercises, does it fit in with your overall goals and practice/game demands?

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