There are really a lot of ways to put on muscle, or I should say a lot of different kinds of muscle growth. The first problem is knowing what type of muscle growth is best suited for your particular goal. For today’s post we will focus on the 2 major types. The first type is the most commonly thought of, and the easiest to achieve. It is called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Its a big word that describes , making your muscular gas tank bigger. Essentially think of each muscle as several engines with each their own gas tank. There are several ways to improve the performance: bigger engines (larger contractile unit or sarcomere), bigger gas tank (larger sarcoplasm for storage of more metabolites), more engines (sarcomeric hyperplasia), more gas tanks (sarcoplasmic hyperplasia), and improving the efficiency of each engine (the nervous system).
So again, our first one here is that larger gas tank type. This is typically accomplished via a higher rep scheme (10 or more reps) such as that performed by body builders. This type of hypertrophy will result in mild strength increases, substantial improvements in local muscular endurance, larger muscles and increases in weight with little to no increase in relative strength (strength to weight ratio). This muscle is less dense, and commonly referred to as “show muscle” because of the lack of increase in relative strength. There are certainly benefits to this type of hypertrophy from a fatigue perspective. In addition, the type of work done to cause sarcoplasmic hypertrophy will increase lactic acid tolerance and yield large post workout increases in growth hormone which will greatly aid in weight loss (fat loss). On the downside, this type of muscle does not increase relative strength. In addition, it is low density (not as hard feeling as sarcomeric hypertrophy) and is also easier to loose. The is because it is primarily fluid storage, which is lost when training does not require it anymore (or when you stop training).
The second type of hypertrophy that I will address to day is sarcomeric hypertrophy (bigger engine). This type of hypertrophy will add density, little improvements in endurance, large strength increases, large increases in relative strength and less overall mass increases than sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Its major disadvantages are that the low rep training done to encourage this hypertrophy, do not improve endurance, body composition, or result in the same size increases. However, the strength increases will be substantial, and are great for further driving sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. In addition, the muscle is ydenser and harder. Plus, its two greatest advantages are that it atrophies very slowly (I went 8 months without any significant strength work on my legs due to a ruptured achilles, and only lost 15 pounds on my squat with no change in body weight. In 3 weeks I was back where I left off and striving toward new gains again). this is actually the best type is muscle for any power athlete, as it results in the largest increase in relative strength and therefor results in the most improvement in power, speed, and agility.
Combined, these two types of hypertrophy will yield the largest increase in strength, work capacity, size, and fat loss. I don’t care what any magazine tries to sell you, the best strive for both. If you want to be the biggest, strongest, baddest due on your corner of the world, you will need to combine typical body building high rep schemes, with the heavy, low rep schemes of power lifters. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, but personally I like a pendulum scheme. Essentially, you do body building schemes for 3-4 weeks, then power lifting schemes for 3-4 weeks, and back and forth, etc…. So for those body builders out there that haven’t lifted anything below 10 reps in a while, try 4 weeks of 10 sets of 3 on squats, deadlifts, bench and chin-ups. Then go back to your typical schemes for a month.