Bodybuilding and hypertrophy
Bodybuilding is an activity where participants attempt to achieve an optimally aesthetic physique, through weight training and proper nutrition. Bodybuilders attempt to maximise the size of their muscles, aiming usually for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, while minimising their body fat percentage. The goal of all bodybuilders is to win shows, and gain endorsements and media deals.
Muscular hypertrophy is primarily achieved through a combination of weight training and caloric surplus. For the purposes of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, bodybuilders usually lift weights for high repetitions, aiming to focus on contracting their muscles to a maximal extent, to create small tears in the muscle fibers, which will then encourage muscle growth. Eating more calories than is energetically necessary ensures that weight is gained.
Once bodybuilders have increased the size of the muscles to a satisfactory extent, they will attempt to ‘cut’ to decrease their body fat percentage to nearly nil. They achieve this through dropping their calories slightly below what is required energetically, alongside decreasing their carbohydrate intake to almost nothing, and maximising their protein intake. Adequate protein in the diet while in a caloric deficit ensures that muscle mass is retained through weight loss.
Why sarcoplasmic hypertrophy?
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is a process of increasing a muscle’s size through the increase in the size of its sarcoplasm and glycogen stores. This is brought about usually by lifting weights for high repetitions, say 12-20 and beyond. Such activity demands more of a glycogen energy response than a nervous system/phosphocreatine energy response, and so stimulates enhanced glycogen stores, increasing the muscle’s perceived size.
This is a different outcome to training with heavier weights for low repetitions, which is more a function of an individual’s neuromuscular excitability and the efficiency of their phosphocreatine energy system. It is arguably better to start individuals off with training in such a manner, as it is quite obviously more conducive to their structural integrity.
Indeed, most successful professional bodybuilders began their strength training with a myofibrilar hypertrophy approach to build a base of strength, before embarking on a sarcoplasmic hypertrophy focus. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a powerlifter before becoming a professional bodybuilder. Whether or not this has a positive impact on professional success as a bodybuilder is certain.
Another problem with focusing on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy to begin with, is that training with limited range of motion does not train the joints to the same extent as the muscles. So while the muscles become tighter and stronger in a short plane of motion, the joints are not used fully. So when people go to train with the same weight through a full range of motion, the joints are not used to the stress, and can often become injured.
Maximal muscle hypertrophy through excess calories
Muscle hypertrophy is a very common goal among young individuals. Too many individuals who start out with trying to gain muscle focus excessively on their protein intake, and prioritise it to a detrimental extent. The truth is, muscle gains can only come about when calories are prioritised. Eating more calories than is needed results in weight gain.
While protein intake is a requirement of muscle growth, adequate fat intake and carbohydrates are also required. The body cannot use protein in the absence of fat, and carbohydrates play a huge role in muscle growth too. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods stimulates insulin secretion in the human bloodstream, which has a very anabolic effect, as insulin stimulates the ‘suction’ of proteins into the muscles. A balance of all three macronutrients is essential.
But most of all, you need lots of calories depending on just how much muscle you want to gain. As long as you strength train frequently with a high level of intensity and effort, the more of your weight gain will consist of muscle rather than body fat. 6,000 calories per day would accelerate muscle gain to a large extent. Combining such an intake with high-repetition weight lifting will lead to massive muscle gains.
How to get big muscles fast
Many people want to get big muscle fast, but not many know that there isn’t any secret to it at all. In fact, it’s very simple, and very doable even if you think yourself a ‘hardgainer’.
It’s all about frequent strength training with a sarcoplasmic hypertrophy approach (8-12 reps) and ingesting at least 6,000 calories a day if you’re male. Many top bodybuilders eat far more than this to gain lots of muscle fast.
You won’t gain too much fat from such a high caloric intake, as long as you train right. Training with a bodybuilding mindset, with high repetitions, will ensure that those extra calories will become muscle.
Keep your carbohydrate levels high, along with your protein. Contrary to popular belief, an equal combination of protein, fat, and carbs is required for muscle growth, instead of drinking a gallon of protein shakes a day. Bodybuilders use high protein and low carbs to ‘cut’ body fat while maintaining muscle.
I would also recommend taking lots of creatine, as this helps your muscles retain lots of water, and help them to literally bulge with size. The creatine will also help your strength too.
Lastly, make sure you get enough rest. This is vital, and is the prime anabolic window for your body to build new tissue.