train functional hypertrophy

Train For Functional Hypertrophy

Functional hypertrophy is one of those terms tossed around in the world of fitness that eludes a lot of people. This is unfortunate because training for functional hypertrophy is one of the best things you can do for your health and performance.

What is functional hypertrophy?

First, we need to clarify what it means. Functional hypertrophy is a fancy way of saying “usable muscle.” The term “functional” refers to the fact that you are training in a strategic way so that you perform at your best in athletics and everyday life. Hypertrophy means “muscle growth” and it occurs because the existing muscle fibers get larger due to mechanical loading (weight lifting).

There are two types of hypertrophy:

Sarcomere hypertrophy is the increase in the size and number of sarcomeres in the muscle fiber. Sarcomeres contract to make a muscle move. This type of hypertrophy leads to greater strength.

A second kind of hypertrophy is sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which occurs when there is an increase in non-contractile proteins and fluids in the muscle fiber. This makes the muscles larger. However, the density of muscle fibers decreases, which means that strength is reduced per cross-sectional area. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the opposite of functional hypertrophy. Body builders who want to make their physiques more imposing often use sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

Benefits of Functional Hypertrophy

To better understand the distinction, let’s look at functional hypertrophy in different sports. Consider sprinting: A sprinter needs to maximize speed and explosiveness without gaining too much total body weight. The heavier a sprinter is, the more force will be necessary to propel the body forward during a race. Therefore, a sprinter needs to train in a way that maximizes functional hypertrophy, making them more powerful without inducing too much gain in total body weight.

In comparison, a football linebacker needs to be explosive and quick, but they also need to be heavy to be able to block and push players who weigh around 300 pounds. A lineman who is very strong who only weighs 180 lbs would be run over by a 300 pounder even if the 180 pounder is stronger and can bench press more weight.

What about people in the general population?

Most people in the general population are spinning their wheels trying to lose body fat with exercise when really they should attend to their nutrition and shift their training to focus on building functional hypertrophy. Why is this?

First, by training for muscle, you will support your metabolism, raising the number of calories your body burns at rest.

Second, it can help you get rid of chronic pain. A lot of the pain we experience on a daily basis is due to faulty movement patterns and strength imbalances. Training for functional hypertrophy will correct those imbalances and train us to move correctly. It also counteracts the inflammation that develops in joints, leading to arthritis.

Third, muscle mass is the strongest predictor of longevity. It is linked to greater survival of a number of diseases including cancer. Muscle mass is protective because it is your reservoir of lean tissue that will sustain you during times of disease when your body is in a catabolic, muscle degrading state.

What Does Functional Hypertrophy Training Look Like In Real Life?

A functional hypertrophy training program will be unique to the individual, but an example would be to use Giant Sets. A giant set is a group of four exercises that target one part of the body. For instance, a lower body giant set would be as follows:

A1. Eccentric enhanced squats

A2. Heel-elevated squats to isolate the quads

A3. Lunges

A4. Trap bar deadlifts

Final Words

Functional hypertrophy training is an excellent way to shock the lower body into getting stronger while also training cardiovascular fitness.


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