Functional Hypertrophy Training
How to increase muscle cross sectional area with functional hypertrophy training
We know what you might be thinking when you hear the term functional hypertrophy training, multiple sets of 10-12 on everything or performing a functional, single leg squat balancing on a kettlebell with an overhead press. That may look cool, but it is far from functional, has absolutely, no adaptive qualities and cannot be sustained to gain maximum results.
THE VIDEO: Functional Hypertrophy Training – How To Increase Muscle Cross Sectional Area
Muscle hypertrophy is essentially, an increase in muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) with pretty significant physiological adaptations such as muscle fibre and strength development and maintenance. The need for this type of training modality can branch out a few ways; specific sports requiring size (rugby, NFL, bodybuilding), a requirement for increased strength through the increase in lean muscle mass or for good old aesthetics aka looking good. The reason for the term ‘functional’ is simply down to 3 factors within this sort of programming.
3 Factors within functional hypertrophy training
- Specific movements in order to improve gross athleticism.
- Becoming Stronger.
- Increasing in size.
Muscle hypertrophy stimulation and development principles
There are a number of science-based principles that effect the stimulation and development of muscle hypertrophy such as mechanic stress from types of contraction, training age and experience, metabolic stress from volume of work, intensity of %RM and hormonal responses. You will see first-hand how this can be programmed whilst taking all of these in to account. However, you must understand that this level of training and programming is for an intermediate to advanced level individual and will only be sustainable for approximately 4-6 weeks before de-loading and/or recycling.
Below is an example of a single session for a 2-day week micro-cycle along with a more in-depth justification.
Exercise selection and order
Multi-joint exercises or compound movements such as jumps, squats and deadlifts can produce higher levels of anabolic hormones due to their ability to create greater mechanical stress. We are also able to safely and effectively lift significantly more load and volume of work through these multi-joint movements before going on to more specific unilateral exercises. It has also been shown that implementing the maximal intensity (power), maximal strength and maximal work in this order allows for not only a better flow of application but greater adaptation in these qualities.
Hypertrophy, getting bigger, increasing CSA…all the same thing, and there are quite a few ways in which to achieve this when it comes to load or weight used. Whether it be eccentrics, drop sets, ladders, German volume training GVT or high intensity work, the important bits are; is it actually achievable in a session, balanced in terms of muscular symmetry and sustainable in order to continue and progress within that cycle. A maximal force movement followed directly by strength training, utilising eccentrics and isometrics and incorporating lighter loads with greater volume have all been shown to elicit greater developments in maximal force and/or neuromuscular responses which, in turn will allow for higher loads at a greater volume meaning, hypertrophy.
Time under tension (TUT)
The total amount of time your muscles are under stress in all contraction phases (eccentric, isometric or concentric). TUT can be an effective tool in eliciting muscular hypertrophy through various time tension strategies such as 2-4 Ecc / 1-2 Con or a 2:1:2. However, utilising a longer eccentric and shorter concentric phase has been shown to increase Growth Hormone whilst reducing levels of Cortisol (stress hormone). It is important to note that the effects of TUT variations differ between loads used therefore a strength/hypertrophy emphasis would suit a lower TUT total per set (90% RM – 20sec) in comparison to a sole hypertrophy emphasis suited to a higher TUT (75% RM – 60sec)
Rest and recovery
Rest comes into play for two reasons. First of all, it has an integral role in stimulating hormones so that they are constantly circulating in order to help promote muscular hypertrophy. You will have noticed that there are varying rest periods in the programme example above and this is simply down to the other factor, recovery! We aim to increase power, maximal strength and hypertrophy whilst inducing high levels of mechanical stress. In order to achieve this then, rest periods have to be set accordingly to their specific adaptation goal i.e. power, max strength etc. It has been shown that 1-3 minutes is more than adequate rest for these training modalities within a strength/hypertrophy programme.
Now, it’s time to get in to the gym and give it a go. This type of training is extremely enjoyable but at the same time very strenuous. Movement mastery and injury prevention should be at the top of your agenda so ensure you work through full range of motion.