Expert Nutrition

Design a Muscle Hypertrophy Training Program

D.I.Y Muscle Building Program

To design your own muscle hypertrophy training program you first need to understand a few basic concepts. First, we explain the theory and then we'll show you how to design your own hypertrophy program.

When designing a muscle hypertrophy training program there are a few basic things to consider. Unlike strength training, the goal is not to lift the heaviest weight you can. Instead the focus is on ensuring that you adequately fatigue the appropriate muscle and muscle fibers.

Two key phrases here to consider are 'appropriate muscle' and 'adequately fatigue'.

Appropriate muscle refers to the specific muscle that you are trying to target. For example if you want to get a bigger a chest, you need to adequately fatigue your chest muscle fibers. Its sound simple but so many people get it wrong. If you were to perform chest exercises like bench press but you fatigue more in the shoulders and triceps than you are unlikely to stimulate the chest enough to get the desired result. Essentially you have to be hitting the right muscle (or muscle group) during muscle hypertrophy training for you to maximise your muscle growth returns.

My single biggest tip ever for hypertrophy training is to identify which muscle (or muscle group) you are trying to target and emphasis the activation of that muscle throughout the exercise. You are much better off to reduce the weight a little and ensure you're using good technique to adequately fatigue the right muscle as opposed to just lifting heavy and recruiting other synergist muscles to help perform the lift. Using synergist (assisting) muscles to help perform a lift is better reserved for strength and sport specific training.

It is generally accepted across the research that higher training volumes are associated with increases in muscle size, however in regards to hypertrophy training, remember it's not about how much weight you can lift, it's about getting enough muscle fiber fatigue.

One important factor that distinguishes hypertrophy training programs from other forms of training is the shortened recovery time between sets. In you are trying to build muscle your goal is to have a rest period of less than 90 seconds such that the muscle group has not had enough time for full recovery before you start the next set.

To adequately fatigue a muscle to stimulate hypertrophy research suggests you apply the following training principles to design your program.

Training Volume

<10% increase in total training volume from previous training session

 

Number of exercises

 

2 - 4 exercises per target muscle

Load

Weight equal to that which produces full muscle fatigue between 6 and 15 repetitions.

Or

67-85% 1RM

Goal Repetitions

 

6 - 15

Sets

 

3 - 6 (per exercise)

Recovery

 

30 - 90 seconds (between sets)

Rest period (before training that muscle again)

Minimum 2 days rest

Maximum 4 days rest

 

*Eccentric training is the exception to the rule and may need up to 10 days rest.

 

One method that allows intermediate to advanced athletes to maximise the benefits of hypertrophy training is the use of split programs. A split routine may seem to violate the recommended guidelines for recovery, but grouping exercises that train a portion of the body (eg upper body) or certain muscle areas (eg chest, shoulders and triceps) gives the trained athlete an opportunity to adequately recover between similar training sessions.

Some example split routines are shown below to help demonstrate how you can increase your weekly training volume whilst maximising muscle recovery time and muscle growth. As a general rule athletes new to the gym are best to use a 2 day split program, as you become more advanced you can progress to 3 or 4 day split routine depending on your training goals.

Example 2 and 3 day split routines

Training day

Body parts / muscle groups trained

Sun

Mon

Tues

Wed

Thurs

Fri

Sat

Resulting training frequency

Day 1

 

 

Day 2

 

Lower body

 

Upper Body

 

Rest

Lower body

Upper body

Rest

Lower body

Upper body

Rest

4 x Week

Day 1

 

 

 

Day 2

 

 

Day 3

 

Chest, shoulders and triceps

 

Lower body

 

Back and Biceps

 

Rest

Chest, Shoulders and Triceps

Lower body

Back and Biceps

Rest

Chest , shoulders and Biceps

Lower body

5-6 x week*

Day 1

 

 

Day 2

 

 

Day 3

 

 

Chest and Back

 

Lower body

 

Shoulders and Arms

 

Chest and back

Lower body

Shoulders and arms

Rest

Chest and Back

Lower body

Shoulders and arms

5-6 x week*

 

*Frequency varies depending on the day of the week that is the first training day

Using the tables above in combination with the rest of the information discussed in this chapter (articles below) you should be able to design your own muscle building program. Remember focus on the muscle not on the weight and regardless of which exercise you do you will be fine. Enjoy!

Learn more about muscle hypertrophy training.

Related Bodybuilding Articles

Nutrition for Bodybuilders, Gym Junkies and Beach Bodies

Resistance Training 101

Muscle Building Nutrition Advice

Protein Powder and Gym Supplement Advice

Muscle Building Training Advice

Fit Body Photos and Images

These articles will provide you with the necessary tools to start a successful gym training or bodybuilding program. These principles are only the beginning. Remember that discipline, knowledge and consistency are the keys to achieving your goals. Good luck!

Over the coming months we will be developing this chapter. Please visit our blog and subscribe to our rss feed such that when new articles are added to this chapter you will be notified.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us for advice.

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