What is the Definition of Muscle Hypertrophy?

Learn About Muscle Hypertrophy and How it Occurs

man doing cross fit snatch
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Muscle hypertrophy is a term for the growth and increase of the size of muscle cells. The most common type of muscular hypertrophy occurs as a result of physical exercise such as weight lifting, and the term is often associated with weight training.

Hypertrophy Process

When someone starts exercising a muscle there is first an increase in the nerve impulses that cause muscle contraction. This alone often results in strength gains without any noticeable change in muscle size.

As one continues to exercise, there is a complex interaction of nervous system responses that results in an increase in protein synthesis over months and the muscle cells begin to grow larger and stronger.

Thus, there are two main, essential components necessary for the growth of muscles. The two necessary components are stimulation and repair. The stimulation occurs during the contraction of the muscle, or during the actual exercising of the muscle. Each time that a muscle is exercised, contraction occurs. This repeated contraction during a workout causes damage to the internal muscle fibers. These muscles fibers are broken down throughout the course of a workout. Once damaged, these fibers are are they ready to be repaired. This is where the muscle growth occurs.

The muscle fiber repair occurs after the workout while the muscles are in resting mode. New muscle fibers are produced to help replace and repair the damaged ones.

More fibers are produced to make up for the damaged ones, and this is where the actual muscle growth takes place.

Genetic Impact on Hypertrophy

Although the process of hypertrophy is the same for each individual, the results vary with each individual. In some individuals, the process of hypertrophy occurs to a much larger degree than it does for others.

It also may occur at a much faster rate for some compared to others. This variance in results is due directly to the genetic make-up of the muscles of the individual. It may take some people a lot longer to see serious results of hypertrophy, simply based on genetics.

The shape and appearance of a muscle are other factors that vary based on genetics. As badly as you may want a nice, round, plump bicep, it may not always be in the cards. The shape of a muscle is actually determined by the length of the tendons of the muscle. Tendon length is a genetic factor. Thus, someone with extremely long muscle tendons may see less growth and shaping of their muscles than someone with much shorter muscle tendons, despite doing the same amount, or more lifting of weights. In terms of muscle size, it is typically advantageous to have shorter muscle tendons.

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