Leaflet: Strength training and hypertrophy
Musculoskeletal (MSK) Services
We’re here to help.
Date of creation: May 2019
Strength training and hypertrophy
Strength training is not just for body builders, there are lots of benefits that can be gained from completing this type of exercise on a regular basis. Participating in any sort of resistance training can help improve your success of rehabilitation after an injury. It can also be a valuable tool when you aren’t in need of physiotherapy as well.
Strength training is really easy to complete; weights and other equipment are not always needed and sometimes using your body weight is a good start. This leaflet has been designed to give you an insight into this type of training and hopefully it will encourage you to begin a strength training regime that will help improve your rehab from injury or if you just want to get fitter and healthier.
What is strength training?
The main purpose of strength training, also known as resistance or weight training, is to increase the strength of specific muscles or muscle groups. This can be completed through the use of an exercise programme which will usually include a variety of exercises. External resistance is used to challenge and overload muscles to a point of fatigue which will encourage growth (Hypertrophy) and an increase in strength.
Whether you want to recover from an injury or just improve your general health, there are lots of benefits through completing regular resistance training. Injuries often reduce your activity levels which can sometimes lead to muscle wastage (atrophy) – by completing strength training you can battle these effects.
The effects of ageing can also cause a loss in lean muscle mass (sarcopenia) over time, but don’t worry participating in regular exercise can slow this inevitable process down. It can benefit all ages and it is particularly important for some people with health issues.
Other benefits include:
- Increase in muscle strength and mass.
- Improves quality of movement.
- Aids in the prevention of injury.
- Increases bone density.
- Helps with weight loss.
- Improves posture
- Helps manage and prevent diseases e.g. heart and respiratory problems, diabetes.
- Delays the onset of arthritis.
- Increases energy levels and improves your mood.
- Improves quality of life.
Who will benefit?
People with a range of conditions will benefit from a strengthening exercise programme. Conditions include:
- Acute and Chronic soft tissue injuries.
- Orthopedic surgery.
- Movement dysfunctions.
- Poor posture.
- Health issues e.g. heart disease, obesity, diabetes etc.
What will it include?
A variation of exercises should be used within a training plan to maximize muscle hypertrophy. Exercises should begin at a relatively easy level and as you progress will gradually increase in difficulty. Types of resistance can include:
- Resistance bands.
- Body weight.
Different types of muscle contractions can be used within a programme:
- Isometric exercise is when a muscle contracts but no movement occurs around a joint such as a wall sit.
- Isotonic exercise is when your muscles contract to create a movement such as a squat or shoulder press. There are two types of isotonic contractions; Concentric and Eccentric.
- A Concentric contraction is when there is a shortening of a muscle. For example, a bicep curl will involve this type of contraction as the biceps shorten to pull your forearm towards your body.
- Conversely, an Eccentric contraction involves a controlled lengthening of the muscle. An example of this is the downward movement of a squat as the hamstrings will control this lowering movement.
Exercises using all these types of contractions should be utilised to allow for maximal muscle gains.
Guidelines suggest adults should complete muscle strengthening activities two to three times per muscle group per week to allow for adequate strength gains. Inadequate rest periods may impair the hypertrophy process, thus 48-72 hours of rest between training sessions for the same muscle group is required. This will allow the muscles to recover, re-build and will reduce the chance of an overuse injury.
To gain any type of muscle growth and to increase your overall strength of a particular muscle you must keep to certain training parameters:
- Exercises should be completed a total of 3-5 times (sets) and with 8-12 repetitions per set.
- A relatively challenging resistance should be used. Research shows that 65-70% of your 1 rep max leads to superior gains in muscle mass. (A 1 rep max is the maximal resistance/weight you are able to lift safely for 1 repetition for any given exercise).
- A rest period of 1-3 minutes should be given between sets to allow energy levels in the muscle to replenish.
- Each exercise should be completed with good technique, and movements should be slow and controlled or done at a slightly faster pace.
- The order that exercises are completed, the speed of repetitions and the time of rest between sets can all be manipulated and varied to provide a different stimulus to the muscles trained.
- A healthy and nutritious diet will benefit you when consumed alongside a training plan as it will allow the body to recover better.
Strength training is especially important in the rehabilitation of injuries and to improve general wellbeing. Hopefully this leaflet has given you a bit more information and confidence to begin a training programme. If you have not begun a regime yet, start by trying the exercises in our condition specific leaflet.
However, please always follow instructions and make sure you are using the correct technique for each exercise to avoid further injury. If these are not successful in improving your condition you may need to see a health care professional who specialises in MSK complaints.