Current research indicate that there are three main mechanisms that contribute to muscle hypertrophy:
- Mechanical tension: main factor, weight/resistance training.
- Metabolic stress: buildup of by-products that increase MPS (muscle protein synthesis).
- Muscle damage: damage induced by training.
When it comes to hypertrophy we must focus on a lot of things like:
- Intensity: the weight you’re using. (more about HERE)
- Volume: how much you’re doing.
- Rest Intervals: how much you rest between sets. (more about HERE)
- Effort: how hard you have to train.
- Tempo: how fast or slow are you moving the weight.
- Frequency: how often do you train a muscle group.
- Exercise selection: what exercises you do.
All the above have a time and a place, but in this post I want to talk about the most important TWO when it comes to gaining muscle: Volume and Intensity (the progressive overload part of it).
1. Progressive overload.
Progressive overload is the gradual increase of the mechanical stress (weight used) placed upon the body during exercise. In order to gain muscle, become faster and stronger, you must be able to periodically increase the stress you’re putting onto your body in order for it to adapt to the new stimuli.
Think constant progress, but keep in mind that increasing weights or reps done by sacrificing your exercise form is the best way of getting injured. Don’t rush, sometimes you will add 2 kg/month on your bench press and it’s fine, it’s still progress.
2. Volume – King of Hypertrophy.
Everybody knows that volume builds muscle, if you didn’t, now you know. What is volume? It is the total amount of work (reps and sets) done in a week/muscle group. The higher is its the better, right? Not quite…
There are studies that show a clear advantage of multiple sets over single sets when it comes to muscle gain, more precisely 46% increase in strength and 40% increase in muscle mass (Krieger, 2010).
But how much is good enough and how much is bad?
A concept popularized by Dr. Mike Israetel is the MRV (maximum recoverable volume) which is individual for each muscle group.
In short there are 4 different volumes:
MV: Minimum Volume
MEV: Minimum Effective Volume
MRV: Maximum Recoverable Volume
MAV: Maximum Adaptive Volume
If you’re interested in how to gain more muscle, be sure to check out Dr. Mike’s guides per individual muscle group.
Coach Paul Potora, Dietitian, Personal trainer and Founder of CORE.
You can find me on Instagram: @potorafit