Optimal Hypertrophy For Sports Supertraining Extra

Optimal Hypertrophy For Sports Supertraining Extra

Mel Siff talks hypertrophy in this extract from his textbook Supertraining, as taken from health.groups.yahoo.com/group/supertraining - of which the best posts are listed at melsiff.com



In both Olympic lifting and powerlifting, optimal and not maximal hypertrophy

is a central feature of the game, unlike bodybuilding where it does not

matter whether one is relatively weak or strong with reference to one's

bodymass. All that matters is well-defined, symmetrical muscle bulk in

bodybuilding, but in the lifting sports, your size and impressiveness of

appearance earn you scant respect - all that counts is what you lift.

Optimal hypertrophy means continuing to develop building muscle only as long

as that extra bulk continues to provide you with significant increases in

strength and power. If you add 10kg to your bodymass and your total

increases by only 5kg in a higher bodymass division, then your relative

strength has decreased and that added hypertrophy is wasted on you.

This is a serious problem in contact sports such as football where the common

belief is that virtually any form of added mass is good for the game

(especially defensive players), whereas in reality it would be a lot better

if the added bulk was mainly solid, functional muscle which added strength,

power, speed and agility.


Research from Russia even suggests that there are two different types of

muscle hypertrophy: sarcomere hypertrophy (of the actual contractile

components) and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (of non-contractile proteins and

semifluid plasma between the muscle fibres), with the latter type of

hypertrophy being more in evidence in bodybuilding (Siff M C "Supertraining",

2000, Ch 1.13).


To provide some more relevant information on this important and controversial

topic, I have included this fairly lengthy extract from "Supertraining" (pp

67-69) for those who may be interested:

Other research has found that hypertrophied muscle fibres need a

significantly larger tissue volume to perform a given amount of work. With

the development of non-functional muscle bulk (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy), the

increase in muscle mass outstrips the development of the circulatory system,

resulting in decreased nutrition and oxygenation of the muscle, slowing down

the metabolic processes in the muscle and less efficient disposal of

metabolic waste products from the musculoskeletal system (Zalessky &

Burkhanov Legkaya Atletika 1981: 1-7).

Furthermore, adaptation occurs more slowly in connective tissue (such as

tendons and ligaments) than in muscle and any increased tension made possible

in the musculotendinous complexes by the increased muscle mass can cause

damage to these structures (Zalessky & Burkhanov, 1981). Thus, excessive

hypertrophy usually leads to slower muscle recovery after exercise,

deterioration in speed, speed-strength and speed, as well as an increased

incidence of injury.


This might suggest that all muscle fibre hypertrophy lowers work capacity.

Hypertrophy is an adaptive response to physical stress and does offer the

benefit of increased mitochondrial surface area, which provides for more

efficient energy processes than would an increased number of mitochondria.

With a rapid increase in loading, the size of the mitochondria continues to

increase markedly, but their number decreases and the concentration of ATP

drops, thereby diminishing the partial volume of the contractile myofibrils.

The resulting energy deficit soon inhibits the formation of new structures

and the decreased amount of ATP stimulates various destructive processes

associated with decrease in the number of myofibrils. This process is

referred to as irrational adaptation.

Growth of any living structure is related to the balance between its volume

and its surface area. When muscle hypertrophy occurs, the surface of the

fibres grows more slowly than their volume and, this imbalance causes the

fibres to disintegrate and restructure in a way which preserves their

original metabolic state (Nikituk & Samoilov, 1990).

It would appear that light and medium increases in loading require less

energy, facilitate cell repair, minimise the occurrence of destructive

processes and stimulate the synthesis of new, non-hypertrophied cellular

structures. Medium loads applied with a medium rate of increase in loading

produce intense muscular development, the process in this case being referred

to as rational adaptation.

The fact that conventional isometric training improves performance in static,

rather than dynamic, exercise may be due to the different structural effects

of isometric training on the muscle fibres, muscle cells, connective tissues

and blood capillaries.


This work seems to corroborate the hypothesis referred to earlier that there

may be an optimum size for muscle fibres undergoing hypertrophy (MacDougall

et al, 1982; Tesch & Larsson, 1982). The importance of prescribing

resistance training regimes which produce the optimal balance between

hypertrophy and specific strength then becomes obvious. Thus, it is not only

prolonged cardiovascular training which can be detrimental to the acquisition

of strength, but multiple fairly high repetition sets of heavy bodybuilding

or circuit training routines to the point of failure may also inhibit the

formation of contractile muscle fibres.

Therefore, it is vital to monitor regularly changes in muscular structure and

function alongside changes in size and mass. In most cases the taking of

biopsies is not possible or financially practical, so that indirect

assessment of the adaptive processes is necessary. Increase in hypertrophy

of a given muscle zone may be assessed from muscle girth and skinfold

thicknesses at that site, while factors such as relative strength, maximal

strength and the strength deficit (see "Supertraining", Ch 1) serve as useful

indicators of functional efficiency.


Bosco (1982a) cautions against the indiscriminate use of resistance training

that typifies much of the 'cross training' prescribed with weights and

circuits by Western personal trainers and coaches. He emphasizes that,

although heavy resistance training serves as a powerful stimulus for the

development and hypertrophy of both ST and FT fibres, the invaluable role

played by FT development can be impaired by the accompanying growth of ST

fibres, because the latter appear to provoke a damping effect on FT

contraction during fast movement.

This is due to the fact that, during high speed shortening of muscle, the

sliding velocity of ST fibres can be too slow and therefore, may exert a

significant damping effect on the overall muscle contraction. He concludes

that the central role played by the storage and release of elastic energy by

the connective tissues of the muscle complex should never be ignored in sport

specific training programmes.Dr Mel Siff

Author of Supertraining + Facts and Fallacies of Fitness


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