In Part I and Part II of these series, we have looked at factors that are necessary to support muscle hypertrophy. The primary trigger, however – a trigger, without which all of the previously discussed contributing factors are going to remain largely useless – is exercise.
The truth is – if you don’t train your muscle – it won’t grow. No matter what magic pills, powders and potions you take. Hypertrophy is triggered by exercise and you need to know how to exercise properly, to produce maximum hypertrophy.
When you train to grow muscle, you get both sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (increase in the volume of muscle sarcoplasm – the liquid that surrounds your muscle cells) and myofibrillar hypertrophy (the actual increase in the size of muscle fibers). We have briefly discussed sarcoplasmic hypertrophy when we covered creatine supplementation in Part I. The volume of sarcoplasm also increases with the increase in stored muscle glycogen, since each glycogen molecule requires four molecules of water for storage (this is why you might have heard that initial weight lost by people who go on carb-restricting diets is “water weight” – as glycogen is being used up, the water is being released). Although some people view sarcoplasmic hypertrophy as “non-functional” and temporary, it does, after all, contribute to the overall muscle size. In addition, some researchers theorize that increasing pressure of sarcoplasm against cell walls triggers the reinforcement of cell walls through growth of actual muscle fibers.
In most cases, however, most bodybuilders target myofibrillar hypertrophy, which happens when the rate of protein synthesis surpasses the rate of protein breakdown in muscle. This is the real muscle growth that should also result in strength increase giving you not just better looks, but also the functional benefit.
There are many variables that you can manipulate – weight, speed, total exercise time, rest time, number of repetitions, number of sets, number of sessions per week, etc. To get the best results you have to choose the right approach – and to do that, you need to understand what causes muscles to grow.