Hypertrophy Training: Why This Training Style Is So Popular

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December 20, 2021

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There’s a reason why strength training is one of the most popular training styles on the Sweat app - it feels good. 

Under the umbrella of strength training, there are several different ways of building your muscular power and endurance, such as heavy lifting, HIIT, plyometrics or progressive overload.

Trainers Kelsey Wells and Katie Martin are both fans of hypertrophy training, and it’s a big part of how they work out themselves and how they approached designing their Sweat programs. 

“My PWR program is based on the style of training I do each week to increase muscle strength, endurance and definition,” says Kelsey. 

“When I discovered hypertrophy training, I knew I had to create PWR so I could share it with women and help them feel confident with this training style.”

Kelsey and Katie are big fans of hypertrophy training thanks to its many health benefits — mentally, emotionally and physically! This training style isn’t something you’ll only do for a few months — it’s a sustainable form of exercise you can include in your life for the long term.

Let’s find out what it is and how to start.

What is hypertrophy training?

Muscular hypertrophy refers to an increase in muscle mass, and a hypertrophy workout is designed to do exactly that - increase the size and strength of your muscles through lifting weights to challenge and fatigue your muscles. 

Workouts are usually split to target specific areas of the body, which allows you to maximise your time in the gym and train a different area while the other area recovers, and a hypertrophy program will generally contain 2-5 workouts each week. 

Strength training vs hypertrophy training: what’s the difference?

The primary goal of strength training is to increase the total power or force that your muscles can exert, with the aim of lifting heavier weights. Strength training generally means using lower repetitions and heavier weights, and using training techniques such as 1RM or one-rep max

The goal of hypertrophy training is to increase muscle size, which means using higher repetitions (generally between 8-15), with weights that still feel challenging, but dont push you to your max. A higher rep range means your muscles spend more time under tension to encourage growth.

Hypertrophy and strength training can be complementary — combining both can help to accelerate gains in both muscle size and strength if your goal is to improve in both respects.

How is hypertrophy training structured?

Aside from the rep range, hypertrophy workouts can follow different formats. In Strength & Sculpt and Kelsey’s range of PWR programs, some of the different workout structures include: 

  • Supersets: where you alternate between two different exercises that target either opposing or similar muscle groups. 

  • Tri-sets: like a superset, but with three exercises.

  • Pyramid sets: where you increase the weight and decrease the number of reps in each set for an exercise, with a rest between each set.

  • Mega sets: where you perform a smaller number of exercises for a specified time or number of laps. These are a signature part of Katie’s Strength & Sculpt program.

  • Circuits: a series of exercises performed in sequence, with a short rest in between each exercise. You’ll find PWR at Home and PWR Zero Equipment feature circuits instead of pyramid sets as we know you may not have a large range of weights available at home. 

  • Burnouts: an exercise done at the end of your workout to exhaust the muscle and challenge your strength for one final push (this should leave you feeling powerful and accomplished!).

When will you see results from hypertrophy training?

Seeing your muscles increase in size depends on a wide number of factors, including your training experience, the foods you eat, your genetics, recovery and how consistently you follow the program. 

However, you should start to feel the results of your training within around four weeks, with workouts becoming easier and you feeling ready to increase your weights or challenge yourself further. 

“When I first began to exercise, I felt the benefits of working out long before I saw any physical changes,” says Kelsey. 

How much weight should you lift?

Weight selection is an important part of hypertrophy training and can help you get the most out of every workout.

You should choose weights that are heavy enough to feel challenging (especially for the last few reps of each set), but still allow you to perform every single reps with correct form. 

If your form is poor or you can’t complete the full range of reps, go lighter. If you don’t need the required rest time or each set feels easy, you might want to go heavier.

Katie recommends lifting at roughly 70% of your 1RM or one rep max - the heaviest you can lift for a single rep. Over time, what was once challenging will feel easy - a sign you’re ready to lift heavier! This is the magic of progressive overload in action.

Although it can be tempting to compare your weights to other people, try not to. Everyone’s idea of “heavy” is completely different depending on factors such as your fitness history, body type and even sleep or stress. 

Although you’re likely to see strength gains and be able to lift heavier weights over time, it’s also normal to have days where you need to go lighter as your body experiences changes in energy, stress and your menstrual cycle. Always listen to your body and adjust your workouts so you can always maximise the benefits of your training.

“It’s important to remember that not all progress is linear and making strength gains every single week is not expected,” Katie says. 

“Being consistent with your form and technique will go much further than increasing the weight to the detriment of the quality of your movement. Good form before anything else… ALWAYS!”

Benefits of hypertrophy training

There are several reasons why Kelsey, Katie and so many women in the Sweat Community have fallen in love with  this style of weight training

It helps to build muscle

Hypertrophy training can help to increase muscle size and strength, resulting in higher levels of lean muscle tissue and improved overall body composition. 

Building strength and muscle can also help to reduce your risk of injury, counter the effects of working in a sedentary job, and make all daily movement and lifting easier.

It’s empowering and feels great

Strength training releases endorphins, which can help improve your mood, and gaining physical strength is an amazing way to improve your confidence and sense of self-belief, which can flow over into other areas of your life. 

“There’s something so empowering about seeing what you are capable of, physically and mentally,” says Katie.

It can help to maintain bone density

According to the Mayo Clinic, weight training helps to maintain bone density and avoid osteoporsis, which is particularly important for women as they get older. 

“I focus on goals such as ageing gracefully without illness, maintaining healhty muscles and minimising my risk of arthritis and osteoperosis,” Katie says of her approach to fitness.

A great low impact training style

Although hypertrophy training can be very intense and challenging, it’s generally low impact. This means it places less stress on your joints while still being an effective way to exercise. 

Low-impact workouts also have the added benefit of being  quiet workouts that won’t disturb your neighbors if you live in an apartment — just remember your headphones before you hit play on your workout playlist!

It’s sustainable

A key part of building a positive, lifelong relationship with fitness is creating a routine you can maintain and enjoy for years to come, and choosing a sustainable training style is a key part of this. Both Katie and Kelsey find that hypertrophy training helps to keep them motivated, energised and strong without feeling burnt out

“I truly believe this style of training is something you can include in your life and keep doing for years,” says Kelsey.

Work out anywhere, anytime with Sweat

Ready for your first workout?

Consistency is key 

Excited to try one of Katie or Kelsey’s programs and see what all the hype is about? Start your Sweat journey today and get ready to build lean muscle, strength and endurance. 

It takes discipline, consistency and a commitment to yourself — but then again, what worth having doesn’t?

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* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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