7 Benefits of Hypertrophy Work
Written by Dave Thomas
Say it with me now.
It pleases me greatly to see HyPERtruhPHEE work become cool again and it’s great to finally not be laughed at for doing rows, curls, pulldowns and “bro” work.
Aside from plain old looking good, adding muscle to your frame has major benefits to your health and performance. Whether it’s just a couple of pounds of lean body mass spread across the body in a “re-compository” manner, or the addition of twenty pounds, muscle has its perks.
Strength and Power Gains
More muscle gets you stronger. Not only that, but the further you progress along the curve, the more important hypertrophy work becomes in order to continue progressing. At the onset of a program, I’d say around one to two years, most of your strength gains occur at the neuromuscular level. That is, our body and brain working together more efficiently to perform heavier movement. However, once you’re past a certain point your body is no longer going to adapt like it once did and you need to focus on strength from a structural level, that is, building the muscle and soft tissue.
Think about it like this. At first, the soldiers you have are being trained on what to do. Then, they get really good at their task. However, at some point they’re as good as they’re going to be and you simply need more soldiers to take on more weight.
This is the process of adding muscle as you progress along the curve.
Improved Anaerobic Endurance
Building muscle is going to allow you to sustain more power for longer. The more muscle we have, the more phoshocreatine potential we have for immediate power use. If you recall from our 9 Steps to Measure a Complete Athlete, the first source energy system we used is the ATP-PCr, or the Phosphocreatine System. This is where we use burst power, and our body stores creatine in the sarcormere of the muscle. Creatine is largely responsible for repeat, high-power muscle contraction so by adding more functional muscle to our frame, we’re able to improve our creatine storage capacity and our strength/power endurance output.
Assistance Lifts in Disguise
One cool aspect of hypertrophy training is that it usually comes in the form of assistance lifts for your strength work. For example, a hamstring curl is meant to develop a larger hamstring complex. However, this has the added benefit of helping your deadlift and squat, as well as helping provide balance to your musculature which in turn aids in preventing injury. Extending the tricep in an isolated fashion (skullcrushers, kickbacks, pushdowns, etc) will benefit your bench and press lockout. Rows help build the back and strengthen the deadlift. The list goes on.
Even if you were to not be interested in the aesthetic benefit of hypertrophy work, the functional benefit goes a long way to developing your strength.
Focuses You to Dial in Nutrition
This is perhaps my favorite side effect of a muscle adding goal. Without proper nutrition, you will not add muscle so it forces you to focus and pay attention to diet. You’re forced to track what goes into your body rather than just blindly eating, and the likely side effect will be a cleaned up caloric level and content. That’s never a bad thing.
Soft Tissue Health & Symmetry
Isolation work and submaximal work in the range of 40 – 60% can improve the health and function of our joints, tendons and ligaments. This goes a long way in keeping us healthy as we continue to age and incorporate the rigors of training into our daily lifestyle. Further, isolating muscles also goes a long way towards better symmetry in the body, and we know that a leading cause of sports injury is asymmetry amongst large muscle groups.
Increased Caloric Expenditure
Muscle is the most calorically active tissue in the human body. There is the old adage that one pound of muscle added to your frame will burn an extra fifty calories per day simply existing and looking awesome. That’s often debated and honestly, I don’t really know or care if that’s true or not. The point is lean muscle is very metabolically friendly and will go long way towards a healthier, more active metabolism. The more lean body mass we have, the healthier our metabolism.
Aside from the functional benefits listed above, adding muscle is just plain fun and rewarding to see the visuals of your labor. You fill out your clothing better, you’re more confident and you have more of an athletic, powerful look to your frame. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to add muscle out of vanity. Don’t let any functional snobs tell you otherwise. While we will always believe “go” trumps “show”, the reality is you can usually have both.
The notion of ballooning up to a body builder by incorporating muscle strategies into your strategies is a false notion. Muscle is healthy for metabolism, strength, and function.