By Bruce Langdon, PTS
HYPERTROPHY is the increase in muscle volume that occurs through strength training. For many of us, it is the core reason we started lifting weights. Muscle mass can be added by either increasing the fiber length or increasing the diameter of the muscle fiber. What is common to both methods is the stimulation of the mechanical loading. A force which is too low will not stimulate the muscle and therefore, muscle volume does not occur.
So, how do we create this muscle loading stimulus? The two key phases of any exercise are: 1) “eccentric” – when the muscle lengthens and, 2) “concentric” – when the muscle shortens. Using the squat as an example, when we lower into the squat we are lengthening (eccentric) our quadriceps (front of the leg) then shortening (concentric) those muscles on the way up. The eccentric phase has been shown to increase the fiber length while the concentric has increased the fiber diameter. Research has shown that the eccentric phase is not only the most efficient, but it has the greatest force production. Research has also shown that the eccentric phase is where the most micro-trauma (damage) occurs to the muscle fibers. As strange as this sounds, you need to “break” muscle in order to gain muscle. It is the reason why you may be so sore for long intervals after a workout.
If your goal is to add muscle mass, then you need to focus on the tempo (speed) of the eccentric phase of your training. A slow, controlled tempo will stimulate the greatest increase in muscle diameter. It is what is commonly referred to as “Time Under Tension”. The longer you spend in tensioning the muscle, the more damage that occurs and greater hypertrophy. There is also an increase in muscle strength after eccentric training compared to concentric. You will need to lower the amount you lift when focusing on eccentric training, but if your goal is to gain muscle mass…lose the ego and reap the gains!
If you have any questions or comments, send me a message on Instagram (@Cricketnb2) or come and see me when I’m at the gym. Also, I am currently taking on new clients for personal training or I can create a workout plan tailored for you.
“You’re only one workout from becoming more fit!”