Here’s what you need to know

  • Training for hypertrophy and training for strength are two different things.
  • Yes they both have some commonalities, but the focus of the program is very different.
  • Hypertrophy and strength training both have great amounts of variation within themselves and ‘experts’ are always willing to share their opinion.
  • The truth is most training modalities will work. Not particularly because of the brilliant training design, but because we are human. It’s our ability to adapt to a stimulus that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. It’s our specialty: Adapt & Evolve.
  • This post will give you a brief insight into how to gain muscle size with hypertrophy training.
  • Stay tuned for part 2 Strength programming.

Goals of Hypertrophy Training Phase

  • To get bigger (gain lean body mass)
  • To elevate the metabolism: Muscle tissue requires energy. Put simply, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day. Furthermore, muscle is metabolically active tissue; it’s the physical place where fat is burned.
  • To build up weaker/less developed areas of your body, this helps physique athletes achieve the muscle symmetry needed to excel in competition.
  • To help full contact athletes like football/rugby players gain some body-armour to better deal with constant impact.
  • To build tendon strength and muscle tissue density as a precursor to a more intense, heavy lifting “strength” phase.
  • To help the male fitness enthusiast look better naked and get more chicks – Girls like dudes with big muscles.


  • The intensity of each set is kept medium to high.
  • Beginner lifters or those in the first few weeks of a new program should keep the intensity of each set in the medium range. Basically, this translates into leaving 1-2 reps left “in the tank” at the end of each set.
  • Advanced level lifters or someone in the later stages of a program should push the sets to muscle fatigue and sometimes even beyond. Occasionally, we’ll use the old bodybuilding method of “do as many reps as you can, then do two more” to maximize growth hormone release.
  • The training volume in this phase is kept high to create a cellular/physiological change (aka: hypertrophy). The volume is really ramped up after the first 2-3 weeks, after the initial neurological change that occurs anytime your body performs new movement patterns has taken place.

The Training Approach

  • In the hypertrophy phase, we use predominantly traditional/ old school training exercises using mostly barbells, dumbbells, and machines where necessary.
  • Isolation movements may be performed in this phase.
  • Although free weight (barbells and dumbbells) exercises are preferred, machines may also be used. Machines allow for constant tension on the muscles due to their system design. For instance, a biceps curl performed with a dumbbell offers little to zero resistance at the bottom and at the top of the exercise; the resistance is only offered through the mid-range of the action. However, a biceps curl performed on a machine allows for tension to be maintained throughout the ROM; this constant tension can be of great benefit for increasing hypertrophy.
  • In this phase, we predominantly use the single-set method. For example: perform set #1, rest, perform set #2, rest, perform set #3, etc.
  • If using a unilateral (one-sided) exercise, use the single set method and be sure each side gets no more than 60-90 seconds recovery while the other side is working.