What is ‘Hypertrophy’?
Hypertrophy is the form of training commonly used by bodybuilders to increase size, using more joint specific movements such as bench press, bicep curls, or 'beach weights'. The focus being on size and shape rather than the usual Crossfit aim of strength and function.
In terms of weights and reps, hypertrophy typically sits between strength training and conditioning, with the range for weights between 60 to 80% of 1RM and 8-12 for reps per set. Each muscle group is then trained twice a week resulting in 'gainz' or 'swole'.
However, there's more to hypertrophy than simply building size. The benefits to a Crossfitter Include the following:
There is a very strong correlation between muscle size and strength. It is not one to one, but most of the time if you get bigger you will get stronger.
Generally speaking, there are two types of adaptations that result in strength improvements: functional and structural. Functional being your skill or control, and structural being muscle size.
Once muscle is built, you are also able to create new functional adaptations, and therefore even more strength!
Building extra muscle obviously requires an increase in calorie intake.
As well as improving maximal strength, hypertrophy can also lay the base for improvements in strength endurance (ability to lift lighter weights for longer), a critical component of performance in CrossFit competitions. Although most (not all) events are closer to the endurance side of strength endurance, hypertrophy training can still help to create the foundation to improve the athlete’s fitness with lighter weights.
Reducing the intensity of lifts allows for more focus on movement patterns and identification of any flaws.
Movement flaws generally represent a relative lack of strength in a particular muscle or muscle group. More specific hypertrophy training can help to improve in individual muscle group, improving mechanics, thereby raising the ceiling for their strength potential and reducing risk of injury.
For example, focusing on back muscles (e.g. bent over rows) can transfer to more upright torso required in squatting (front/back/OH) as well as the snatch.
Regularly changing exercises and training focus can help delay the onset of plateau and promote new adaptation (growth).
Hypertrophy training is also much less taxing on your ligaments and joints than heavy strength training, which makes up a good portion of your average crossfitter’s training schedule. Regularly cycling in blocks of lower weight, higher rep training can help to alleviate this stress, keeping the athlete healthy for long periods of hard training.
Lastly, muscle is also more metabolically costly to maintain, which has a tendency to decrease body fat levels.
Each muscle group will be worked twice a week, once in the hypertrophy section and once in a WOD, on a different day. This will be programmed Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday each week, with Wednesday and Saturday focusing on Crossfit specific skills (oly and gymnastics) and longer lower intensity WODs.
The hypertrophy section will consist of a main compound movement, generally bilateral (arms or legs working together), and one more isolated, typically unilateral movement (arms or legs working separately), for example:
- Chest = Bench press and DB flys
- Legs = Back squat and bulgarian split squats
- Shoulders = Strict press and DB lateral raises
- Back = Deadlift and DB bent over rows
Whilst each muscle group has a specific 'WOD' day, each will also be covered to a lesser extent in other WODs to get the required volume.
Shoulder and leg 'hypertrophy' days have been programmed for oly class days (Tuesday & Thursday) to reduce duplication.
The cycle will consist of three four week cycles. For three weeks the load of the main lift will increases by 5% followed by one deload week (<50%). Each new cycle will start with the load of the previous cycle's second week.
As with any training plan, nutrition and recovery are very important, both are required to make any progress. However, if increased size is your aim then you’re going to need a calorie surplus. There are lots of apps out there like MyFitness which can estimate this for you and a recommended macronutrient split.
Remember if increasing size is your goal, as well as increasing your food intake you need to be hitting the required volume and training each muscle group twice a week. If you miss a session try and make up in open gym, or if you have limited session then pick a muscle group to focus on and hit those sessions.
Catch me in the gym or drop me a line if you have any questions.
Good luck and enjoy, its nearly summer!