What is Muscle Hypertrophy?

Do you take proper care of your muscles when working out? In this article, we'll take a look at muscle hypertrophy, what it is, and what causes it.
What is Muscle Hypertrophy?
Carlos Fabián Avila

Reviewed and approved by Doctor Carlos Fabián Avila.

Written by Lorena González

Last update: 26 May, 2022

Today, we’ll describe occlusive training and what it means, as well as muscle hypertrophy.

Depending on your fitness goals, you’ll need to know which exercises to choose to get the maximum benefits. If you’re still not sure, pay attention.

What is muscle hypertrophy?

Muscle Hypertrophy

Muscle hypertrophy refers to an increase in the size of your muscle fibers and body mass due to training and a specific diet. Depending on your training objectives, hypertrophy can be one of two types: sarcomeric and sarcoplasmic.

Sarcomeric muscle hypertrophy

Sarcomeric muscle hypertrophy occurs when the actin and myosin proteins increase in the body’s muscle fibers. This results in considerable muscle growth.

This growth has a major impact on your strength. Due to these characteristics, they also call this functional hypertrophy.

To achieve this stage, athletes must follow a strict training regimen: low repetitions with high intensity and a heavy load.

This should be approximately 80% of the weight you can lift, which you should increase progressively to achieve the desired effect.

In addition, it’s important to take a break of at least 48 hours for the muscle group worked.

You should also note that this type of training causes muscle damage, which is responsible for the increase in muscle fiber due to regeneration. This is why general and muscular rest is of the utmost importance.

We recommend you read: 6 Mistakes that Keep You from Increasing Muscle Mass

Sarcoplasmic muscle hypertrophy

Sarcoplasmic muscle hypertrophy is growth due to the increase in the muscle sarcoplasm, that is, the fluid that covers the muscle fibers.

This implies that there is no considerable increase in strength. Thus, many also call it aesthetic hypertrophy, which is the type of growth many bodybuilders look for.

The Importance of Training

Muscle Hypertrophy

To achieve this type of body growth, you’ll need to perform many repetition exercises: between 6 and 12 in each set, with moderate weight.

In addition, you should take a break between series of 1 to 2 minutes to prevent injuries, and also need to rest your muscles after training.

Also, there are certain physical activities that can favor this type of growth.

One example is occlusive training, originally called kaatsu. This technique involves restricting blood flow during training.

  • To achieve this, a tourniquet with an elastic band is applied to the area of the body to be exercised.
  • The pressure that is applied in this area will result in a decrease in blood flow, which is what is desired. It causes a local hypoxia; in other words, oxygen decreases in the area.
  • The stress caused to your body with this technique will induce the secretion of growth hormone. Then, it will lead to a considerable increase in protein synthesis, and accelerate the growth of new muscle fibers.

Do you want to know more? 5 Exercises to Increase Leg Muscles

Why try occlusive training?

With occlusive training, your routine may be smoother. You will do it with less amount of weight and you’ll get better results.

Although the body suffers considerable stress, this is compensated by the reduction of the weight during training, which is easier on the joints and reduces your risk of injuries.

  • For the correct application of this technique, the elastic band should not measure more than four inches wide.
  • This technique can only be used for training of lower or upper extremities.
  • If you apply it to an upper extremity, you should place it as close to the armpit as possible. However, if you exercise the lower extremities, it should be placed as close to the groin as possible.
  • It’s important to emphasize that while the goal is to restrict the flow of blood, it should not be completely cut off.

In addition, it’s also important not to leave the band on too long:

  • If you’re going to perform a low intensity exercise, use this technique for a maximum of 20 minutes.
  • If the exercise is of medium intensity, it is advisable to do it for only 10 minutes.

This technique has been proven to enhance muscle tone in athletes. After all, it’s highly recommended for weightlifting practitioners who want to achieve muscle hypertrophy.It’s even good for people who require some type of physiotherapy for the regeneration of muscle fibers.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Vanwye, W. R., Weatherholt, A. M., & Mikesky, A. E. (2017). Blood Flow Restriction Training: Implementation into Clinical Practice. International journal of exercise science, 10(5), 649–654.
  • Taber, C.B., Vigotsky, A., Nuckols, G. et al. Exercise-Induced Myofibrillar Hypertrophy is a Contributory Cause of Gains in Muscle Strength. Sports Med 49, 993–997 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01107-8
  • Loenneke JP, Thiebaud RS, Abe T. Does blood flow restriction result in skeletal muscle damage? A critical review of available evidence. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014;24(6):e415-e422. doi:10.1111/sms.12210
  • Hughes L, Paton B, Rosenblatt B, et al. 2017. Blood flow restriction training in clinical musculoskeletal rehabilitation: a systematic review and meta-analysis
    British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/13/1003.full
  • Loenneke JP, Fahs CA, Rossow LM, et al. Effects of cuff width on arterial occlusion: implications for blood flow restricted exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012;112(8):2903-2912. doi:10.1007/s00421-011-2266-8

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.