Does Hypertrophy Make You Less Athletic?
Does Hypertrophy Make You Less Athletic?
You always hear coaches saying, “I don’t want to see you get too big. If you get too big and bulky, you will be slower. You’ll be too muscular to be a better athlete.”
You need to start by understanding what type of muscular hypertrophy is to be achieved in the world of sports performance. Or in its simplest term, what makes muscle bigger?
Myofibrillar hypertrophy can lead to you having a larger gain of muscle mass. It means you are hypertrophic. When you have myofibrillar hypertrophy, you have more myofibrils which lead to greater force production. For instance, if you are lifting heavy while doing power cleans, performing 7x2 over 3 to 6 months will lead to you gaining muscle mass. You will also produce more force which allows you to run faster on the field.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy can be achieved by doing things rapidly, like plyometric work, and absolute strength work, like 7x3 back squats which lead to more muscle mass and greater force production.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy lets you have aqueous fluid that comes into the muscular cell and helps the cell explain. Say you are doing a 5x17 dumbbell military press to get a huge pump in the shoulders, leading to you achieving sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
Finally, 20% of our hypertrophy is based upon connective tissue. If your joint structure gets thicker ligaments and thicker tendons, you will be able to store more energy to allow you to produce more force.
So if you are gaining hypertrophy through more myofibrils, also training in sarcoplasmic rep ranges, and your tendons are gaining size, you can produce more force and handle more force.
You can achieve hypertrophy through mechanical tension. If you do bicep curls or Zottman curls for 5x17 the mechanical tension will force hypertrophic gains in your muscles and tendons. On top of that, say you are a wrestler and wrestling an opponent for over 30 minutes, you will achieve some sense of sports-specific muscular hypertrophy.
You can also do exercises that lead to some sense of muscular damage. The idea is that when the muscle gets damaged it grows. If you do exercises with a slow eccentric, there will be more muscular damage and the body will mobilize satellite cells to proliferate around the area where there is muscular damage. The satellite cells will repair the muscle and lead to greater hypertrophy.
Blood flow restriction is a great tool to use if injured or wanting to go lighter. BFR creates a higher degree of metabolic stress. Metabolic stress can maintain or even increase strength even without having a tremendous load.
Gymnasts are athletes who are extremely hypertrophic from specific sports training.
Wrestlers are another group of athletes who have absurd hypertrophy from grappling on the mat with an opponent.
Football players will achieve hypertrophy in their legs, shoulders, and inside their back from grappling, carrying a load, and making contact. You will find this leads to more resistance and the mechanical load forces the body to adapt and get bigger.
Charles Poliquin talked about the challenge of achieving hypertrophy in the abs. Shot putters and discus throwers rotate so much, you can achieve muscular hypertrophy in the love handles.
CrossFit athletes do a lot of weightlifting, powerlifting, and gymnastic movements. You will find CrossFit athletes are hypertrophic freaks.
Same thing with weightlifters. You will see their enormous hamstrings, quads, and glutes.
Finally, if you walk past sprinters at the World Championships, you will see that every sprinter has massive hamstrings and a massive butt.
Men produce more force than women. The reason being is that men have more muscle mass than women.
A big thing to do is identify which type of lifts you benefit from as an athlete and contribute to gaining muscle mass. You can then improve your system so that your muscles are improving and firing on all cylinders.
What Does It Mean?
Targeting one aspect of adaptation is easy. But it is also ignorant. Look at the global system of training to optimize performance.
Sports performance is technical. To be great, you need to constantly train the technical aspect of the sport you are training for.
Look at the human body as an organism. Football athletes will make gains from wearing their pads, sprinting, and colliding. You will also achieve hypertrophic gains from work done in the weight room.
By building bigger muscles and focusing on the rate of force production, you will increase your impulse. That means you will produce more force in a short period. You will have a larger contractile structure that innervates quicker. You will be able to fire the larger muscle at a higher speed because of a better nervous system.
The large muscle achieved from hypertrophy and trained properly with innervation techniques will produce more force. Down the road, it will lead to you having better force performance.
It comes down to you as the coach planning how the hypertrophic gains will be elicited. From there, you have to train the hypertrophic gain through plyometrics and technical coordination movements because the muscles are forced to fire at a higher speed.
Hypertrophy leads to better performances as long as the rate of coordination is trained properly and effectively over a long time.
Yo, It's Dane
Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!
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