Intensity to Stimulate Hypertrophy

If you want to know the best workout intensity to stimulate hypertrophy, this article will tell you everything that you need to know about it. Take note!
Intensity to Stimulate Hypertrophy

Last update: 04 October, 2018

Muscle hypertrophy is a term used to explain the growth and increasing size of muscle cells, which are as a result of physical exercise and weightlifting. The workout intensity needed to stimulate muscle hypertrophy depends on each person, although it’s possible thanks to weight lifting and cardio training.

Whenever you make progress at the gym, you expect to gain muscle. But the intensity that stimulates hypertrophy encompasses concepts such as, weight, repetitions and sets of each exercise. Essentially, any kind of weightlifting will lead to muscle hypertrophy. But, as you’ll read next, there are certain factors -such as genetics– that intervene in this process.

What’s the hypertrophy process?

After your first muscle training session, there’s an increase in the nerve impulses that cause muscle contractions. As you keep on lifting weights, your muscle cells begin to grow and get stronger.

Girl lifting weight to achieve muscle hypertrophy.

In fact, there are two fundamental components that intervene in muscle growth: muscle stimulation and repair. On one hand, muscle stimulation happens during the muscle contraction or during the exercise itself. This repeated contraction that you do during a training session damages your inner muscle fibers, which in turn, break down during the workout. Once they’re damaged, the fibers are ready to separate. That’s when muscle growth happens.

On the other hand, muscle fiber repair happens after the workout and while your muscles are at rest. Your body produces new muscle fibers to replace and repair the damaged ones. This muscle fiber compensation causes actual muscle growth.

What should you keep in mind if you want to cause hypertrophy?

1. Intensity

First of all, when we talk about intensity, we mean the amount of weight that you lift on each set. Don’t forget you must always listen to your body to avoid integrating other muscles into the movement and prevent the risk of injuries. The important thing isn’t how much weight you can lift, it’s doing the exercise in the right form without using any other part of your body as a support on the last repetitions.

2. Repetitions

When it comes to muscle hypertrophy, the number of repetitions that you do isn’t all that important. In fact, you can do sets of ten, five or even three repetitions and still experience maximum hypertrophy, if you focus on making progress in the exercise. If you choose to do a low number of repetitions such as two to five reps, you’ll gain more strength compared to five to ten repetitions. But with a wider range, you’ll gain more endurance. However, the hypertrophy is almost identical.

3. Sets

If possible, you should do between three and five sets in total, to ensure that you’re achieving maximum hypertrophy. In cases where a muscle group has multiple areas, you can add another exercise to work on the area that’s left behind.

Girl using the leg press in the gym.

“We all fall to the floor at some point. It’s how you pick yourself up that’s the real challenge. Isn’t it?”


4. How often you work out

How often you work out plays a very important role in sports. We recommend that you go to the gym between three to five days a week. Don’t forget that your muscles repair themselves within 24-48 hours after each workout. Therefore, you must alternate the muscles that you train on your weekly workout routine.

5. Diet

Just like weightlifting, diet is one of the keys to success in achieving muscle hypertrophy. Keep in mind that the combined effects of working out and eating the right diet promote muscle development. You also need to make sure that you eat a wide variety of foods that contain proteins and carbs.

Girl eating the appropriate diet for muscle hypertrophy.

6. Rest and recovery

Lastly, you must know know that the muscle recovery process mainly happens when you sleep. So, make sure you get eight hours of sleep a day to replenish your energy for the next workout session and to repair your muscle fibers.

How do genes affect hypertrophy?

It’s well known that the hypertrophy process is the same for everyone. However, results may differ from each other, even if people do the same workouts. This variation in the results is directly due to the genetic composition of each person’s muscles. For some people, the hypertrophy process happens at a much bigger or faster rate than others.

Likewise, the shape and appearance of a muscle also has to do with genetics. The shape of a muscle is determined by the length of that muscle’s tendons. The length of a tendon is a genetic factor.

To finish off, don’t forget that the exercises that promote muscle growth are the ones that contract the muscle repeatedly against resistance. You can choose from a variety of training methods that use free weights, machines or body weight exercises. The final results will depend on your dedication to the routines and your body type.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Schoenfeld, B., Peterson M., Ogborn D., Contreras B., & Sonmez, G., (2015). Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):2954-63. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000958. PMID: 25853914.
  • Martínez, J., (2012). NECESIDADES NUTRICIONALES Y PLANIFICACIÓN DIETÉTICA EN DEPORTES DE FUERZA. European Journal of Human Movement 2012;29:95-114.
  • Morán, R., Pérez, C., Mora, R., de la Cruz, E., González, J., Sánchez, L., Pallarés, J., (2017). Time course of recovery following resistance training leading or not to failure. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017 Dec;117(12):2387-2399. doi: 10.1007/s00421-017-3725-7. Epub 2017 Sep 30. PMID: 28965198.
  • Verbrugge SAJ, Schönfelder M, Becker L, Yaghoob Nezhad F, Hrabě de Angelis M, Wackerhage H., (2018). Genes Whose Gain or Loss-Of-Function Increases Skeletal Muscle Mass in Mice: A Systematic Literature Review. Front Physiol. 2018 May 22;9:553. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00553. PMID: 29910734; PMCID: PMC5992403.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.