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The Ultimate Muscle Hypertrophy Guide (How to Build Muscle)

November 10, 2014

The Ultimate Muscle Hypertrophy Guide (How to Build Muscle)

When it comes to building serious muscle mass, many people believe that some individuals are simply blessed with a genetic advantage, and others are stuck with a soft or skinny physique for life.

While genetics do play a significant role, it’s also true that everyone is capable of transforming their physique and building strong muscles with the correct guidance.

Your ability to add lean muscle mass depends on your body’s ability to produce anabolic hormones such as testosterone, HGH, IGF-1, etc. Production of these hormones varies among individuals depending on genetics and lifestyle, and men produce significantly more than women.

It’s also influenced by how much cortisol your body produces. Cortisol is a muscle-building enemy and can be affected by certain factors such as genetics, stress, and lack of sleep.

Levels of anabolic hormones and cortisol vary greatly from one man to the next. This is the “genetic difference” that affects muscle building ability. So, while some people certainly have an advantage, it doesn’t mean that the rest of us are doomed.

We all have the necessary chemicals in our bodies, and as long as we train hard and intelligently, everyone is capable of growing bigger, stronger, and faster.

From skinny ectomorphs (hardgainers) to the largest endomorphs, there are advantages to each, and both can benefit immensely from a well-designed weight training program.

The Different Types of Muscle Fibers

There are two types of muscle fibers, and most humans are made up of about 50% of each.

1. Slow twitch muscle fibers

Type 1 muscle fibers are known as slow twitch muscle fibers and are considered to be endurance muscle fibers. Athletes such as marathon runners or cyclists who perform moderate intensity exercise for long periods mainly use these muscle fibers.

What do you notice about these “slow twitch” dominant athletes? Most have very little muscle mass. Cardiovascular-dominant training that mainly stimulates slow twitch muscle fibers does not produce substantial hypertrophy.

2. Fast twitch muscle fibers

Type 2 muscle fibers are referred to as fast twitch muscle fibers and are targeted during maximum intensity forms of exercise such as heavy weightlifting and sprinting.

Think of sprinters and football players as the ultimate fast-twitch athletes. What do these athletes have in common? Muscularity and power.

These fibers have much higher potential for hypertrophy than slow twitch fibers, so if you’re trying to build as much lean muscle mass and strength as possible, train like a fast twitch dominant athlete.

bar graph comparrison of athletes and their muscle fibersHow to Train Your Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers for Ultimate Hypertrophy

Heavy, progressive overload on the body’s largest and strongest muscle groups is the winning formula for stimulating muscle hypertrophy. This is achieved by lifting heavy weight with shorter rest times and gradually increasing the weight over time. This is the type of training that the world’s best bodybuilders have been doing for years, and is proven to result in the greatest amount of lean muscle mass.

An effective way of maximizing your training effectiveness is to track your weight and repetitions on all of your compound muscle building exercises. These are the exercises that work on your body’s largest and strongest muscle groups, and place the most overload on your muscles.

Since the muscles targeted during compound movements are the body’s largest, it induces hypertrophy the fastest. Your quadriceps and lat muscles are much larger than your bicep or calf muscles, so growth in those muscles will result in a much more noticeable overall gain in size.

Another benefit to compound exercises is that they work on multiple muscle groups. Not only do they emphasize the largest and strongest muscle groups, but also hit the smaller surrounding muscle groups as well.

For example, smaller muscles like the biceps will reap huge gains from back exercises like the barbell row and pull-ups.

The best compound exercises to emphasize for maximum hypertrophy

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Pull-Ups
  • Dips
  • Barbell Row
  • Barbell Shrug
  • Barbell Lunges
  • Barbell Incline Press
  • Dumbbell One Arm Row

For maximum hypertrophy, focus on hitting these 10 compound exercises every single week and perform at least 5 sets of each. Train primarily in the 4-6 rep range at 80-85% of your 1 rep max.

Also, don’t be afraid to drop down in the 2-3 rep range on some compound sets and push to 90% or greater of your 1 rep max. Lifting heavy is crucial for a natural athlete looking and building muscle fast.

Add in some accessory work with isolation movements such as curls, calf raises, front raises, face pulls, and skull crushers in the 10+ rep range.

The most important thing to remember is to aim to push yourself on each and every set. Leave the gym with nothing left in the tank, knowing that you put everything you had into your training.

It’s a good idea to keep a workout log and track the weight and reps performed on all exercises. Put major emphasis on progressive overload; placing a heavier load on your body’s largest and strongest muscle groups over time will cause it to respond and grow. Finally, make sure that your post-workout protocols are on point to maximize recovery and muscle growth.

For example, if you bench press 225lbs for 5 reps in your workout today, add 5 more pounds or go for an extra rep in your next workout. These are the small incremental changes that make progressive overload such a powerful muscle building tool.

Fast Twitch Muscle Training Emphasis + Progressive Overload + Compound Exercises = Maximum Hypertrophy


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