Everyone that goes to the weight room does so to look better naked. If they tell you all they want is strength they are lying. There is nothing wrong with being vain or caring about your appearance, in fact you should to some extent.
However, there is nothing worse than a 160 pound bro doing arm day when he can't squat 225. If you aren't squatting every week don’t talk to me about hypertrophy training. There are still many mistakes being made in terms of hypertrophy training, and this topic can be very confusing if you read muscle magazines or talk to your local meathead. You will hear about drop-sets, muscle confusion, and partial reps. Fuck all that noise, let's make this shit simple. In this article I will give you context onto what you should be focusing on when trying to achieve hypertrophy. If you don’t know what hypertrophy is, its simply defined as the growth of muscle mass.
If you have read my previous posts you know I believe in a linear progression for all novice lifters using compound movements. If you can't squat 315, you are a novice. This is awesome because your program will be very simple. These compound movements are the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press and chins/rows. This is the best way to achieve massive hypertrophy because you are able to put stress on your body every workout that it has never had. If you squat goes from 225 3x5 and the next workouts it is 230 3x5 you're giving your body a stress to grow. If you have not done a linear progression, that is where you need to start. Close this article right now. If you don't believe me, go from squatting 135 for 5 reps to 405 for 5 reps, and see what happens to your body. If you want to make it really basic, if you can squat 500 for reps, deadlift 600 for reps, bench 315 for reps, overhead press 225 for reps, dips with 150 pounds around your waist and do Chins with 100 pounds around your waist, you will be really strong and really big, and you should strive to achieve this goal.
First, I want to start with what exercises to select because this is clearly the biggest issue I see. If you read bodybuilder logs you will think that you need to split up every body part and do a million isolation exercises a week. This couldn't be further from the truth for anyone reading this. This is because these men are trying to step on the Olympia stage and have decades before this in the weight room. If you ask any of them what they did when they first started training, their answer will be some linear progression with compound movements. You're not at the point where you need to do many isolation exercises. The best exercises are compound movements for hypertrophy, this is because greater load can be used and more muscles are being worked (more weight + more muscle being worked = more growth). You should still be squatting, deadlifting and pressing once a week. If you are able to add one more day a week of pressing movements you will have greater tricep development then doing cable pushdowns. The same is true for the squat. Don’t add the leg press to your arsenal if you can squat twice a week. Frequency of training that you can recover from is your greatest asset in growing muscle. If you can squat 3 times a week while adding load or volume every time you train you will cause a stress for you body to adapt to.
However, I'm not saying that you should not do any assistance exercises. Here I will give you a list of exercises based on body parts to choose from. You will notice many carryovers between different body parts, this is good. Less time in the gym and more time to recover and grow.
Pecs-Dips, DB Bench/Incline, Incline Bench
Triceps-Dips, DB Bench/Incline, Incline Bench, French Press, Skull Crushers, DB Extensions, Overhead Pin Press, Bench Pin Press
Biceps-Chins, Close Grip Chins, Hammer Curl, Barbell Curl, Incline Curls
Back-Deficit deadlifts, Rack Pulls, Krok Rows, Db Rows, Pendlay Rows, Bent Over Rows, Chins, Pull-Ups
Shoulders-ANY PRESSING movements, Lateral Raises, Rear Delt work (rowing variations)
Quads-ANY TYPE OF SQUAT, Leg Press, Lunges, Bulgarian Split Squat
Calves- FUCK OFF
As I have stated above, the balance between strength and hypertrophy is apparent. You're not going to grow a lot of muscle using 135 on the bench no matter what rep and set scheme you do. The classic hypertrophy set scheme is a few sets in the 8-12 rep scheme, with 60-75% of your max. Even with this example the sets and reps are chosen based off your max, which is obvious then that your max is important. While doing heavy doubles and singles will not do much for your hypertrophy, they will produce a higher max. When your max goes up and you go back to hypertrophy training you will be able to do more load on your hypertrophy cycle which will create a stress that your body will adapt to. Training for only hypertrophy is not the best idea, getting your max up will help you do more sets and reps with a higher weight. Now, why is this important?
A classic way of thinking about hypertrophy is to think that your muscles grow when the volume and load are at its highest. Volume can easily be explained by the amount of sets and reps you do and load is the total amount of weight you do in a workout. There always is a balance between the two, doing 5 sets of 10 reps with 500 pounds will do more for growth then doing 1,000 reps with the bar. As your sets and reps go up, your volume increases and your muscles will grow bigger. If you go from doing 5 sets of 10 reps at 405 to 5 sets of 10 reps at 500 pounds, your load is higher than before so you will be bigger. If you go from doing 2 sets of 10 reps at 405 to 10 sets of 10 reps at 405 your volume is much greater so you will grow. While these are very aggressive examples, you get the idea. Volume and load are important stressors to your body that cause growth. If you progress on either of these metrics you will grow.
Variation is another key to muscle hypertrophy. If all you do is the same sets and reps with the same exercises you will plateau at some point. When you do plateau a change is necessary to keep on growing. This can look like changing the sets and reps. Another simple solution is to go back to heavier weights and get stronger. This could also be a change in exercises, going from a regular bench to a close grip bench press. I urge you to not deviate too much from your compound movements. If your quads won’t grow, try doing closer stance high bar squats instead of the leg press. Variation is key to keep on progressing and not plateau, However don't change too often or make your changes too extreme. You need to find that balance for yourself.
Now that you understand some basic concepts of Hypertrophy, I can’t ignore the most fundamental parts. Both sleep and nutrition will have a greater influence on growth than your rep scheme. Sleep is simple. You need to be sleeping 8 plus hours of quality sleep a night. Go to bed earlier if you can't get enough, and if quality is your issue then you need to make sure your room is pitch black and noises don't wake you up. If you still can’t sleep, find an expert and figure this out. This should be your top priority. In terms of nutrition you need to be eating enough protein and calories to grow. In terms of protein shoot for around a gram per pound of body weight. In terms of calories shoot for a 17 calories per pound and if you stall add more food. It really is that simple!
The point of this article was to address the most simple methods of Hypertrophy. There already is enough confusion around the Internet. Strive to progress your volume and load. Progression is the key. You noticed I didn't get into drop sets or special super sets. Now I’m not going to say these dont work; I just want to give you the simplest solution to hypertrophy.