11 Apr Hypertrophy Tips
A question we receive on our personal trainer courses more often than any other question is; ‘what’s the best way to make muscles grow?’
Over the years I have delivered thousands of personal training, group training and coaching sessions (I did qualify over a decade ago). It has taken this amount of time, number of sessions and variety of clients to have developed some knowledge regarding body transformations and how to grow muscle. Having said this, I am by no means a finished article and am definitely not an endless book of knowledge. However, what I will say is that the Diploma in Personal Training we which deliver at Fitness HQ is a great foundation and definitely the number one place to start if you wish to become a great personal trainer, but nothing will help you develop as much or as quickly as actually working with real life clients.
The purpose of this short article is to highlight some of what I’ve learned over the years in terms of muscle growth and also to give you a couple of tips on how to encourage hypertrophy quicker than usual.
Tip 1: In most cases when I start working with new clients, the first thing I do is lean them up. Even if their goal is to put size, in the majority of circumstances the client is insulin resistant or not as insulin sensitive as i’d like them to be. By leaning up the client initially, this will allow the body to utilise the carbohydrates which I’ll increase as we progress. I’ve never been a fan of bulking and I certainly don’t agree that clients need to put on 15-20% body fat when looking to increase size. This in my opinion is a lazy way of adding on size and certainly not the most efficient. Your client will inevitably put on some fat, but by controlling and monitoring it, the size they do put on becomes quality and not just fat! Lean up your client initially (3-4 weeks roughly) and watch them grow afterwards!
Tip 2: Intensity over volume! Quite often I see gym goers and other personal trainers expose their clients to a vast amount of volume hoping for growth. In most cases, these clients are training at a sub optimal intensity and who can blame them? If you are performing 30 working sets on one muscle then it’s almost impossible to train at an intensity that will encourage growth. I often use 1 or 2 working sets with my clients… however the intensity is high! So high that in fact most can’t reach the same rep range on the second set with the same weight because they’ve given the first set everything in terms of effort. This, in my opinion, is far more effective than 4 sets of 10 at a sub maximal intensity.
Tip 3: Focus on compound movements. No one, ever, in the history of strength or hypertrophy training developed a great physique by solely focussing on isolation exercises. When we deliver our personal trainer course in Manchester and Liverpool or anywhere else in the UK, we always emphasise the importance of compound movements. These are great for subjecting the body to a heavy load which increases intensity, they reduce the likelihood of injury (Chest Press V’s Dumbbell Chest Fly for example) and almost always result in a greater energy expenditure which means not only can they be used for muscle gain but also fat loss. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is crucial important to ensure all clients are capable of performing the exercise safely before encouraging a heavy load, but once they are capable, confident and happy to perform the compound movements this should then be prioritised over isolation based exercises.