Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hypertrophy and the Competitive Athlete

“Although two athletes may possess similar physiques, what's inside may be vastly different based on their genetic makeup and training methods.  In other words, muscular growth is not created equal” (Defranco, 2009).  There are two types of hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar.  Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is characterized by an increase in non-contractile fluid volume of the muscle called sarcoplasm (Defranco, 2009).  This type of hypertrophy is trained through low intensity, high repetition training.  However, training for "show" doesn’t always mean training for "go". 

Far too often, an athlete’s time is wasted training the wrong things.  Athletes spend too much time standing in front of the mirror training what I call the “show” muscles; those being the ones that the athlete can see in the mirror.  The “go” muscles are the ones that make them successful on the playing field and on the platform which will be explained further in my next blog.

“Myofibrillar hypertrophy is an enlargement of the muscle fiber as it gains myofibrils” (Defranco, 2009). These myofibrils work to stimulate muscle contraction.  As myofibril density increases, so too does a muscle's ability to exert maximal force in the form of strength, power, and speed.  Myofibril hypertrophy is trained using high intensity and low repetitions.  The strength and conditioning professional must know and understand the demands of the athlete’s sport and determine what type of training is needed.  For example, if an athlete is looking to increase lean body mass, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy training would benefit this athlete while myofibrillar hypertrophy training would benefit an athlete who wants to improve strength and power. 

As a strength and conditioning coach, my job is to educate myself in this area of athletic performance in order to get the most out of my athlete’s and keep them injury free.  Hypertrophy is very misunderstood in the fitness profession.  Most people aren’t even aware there are two different types of hypertrophy and think the bigger the muscle, the stronger but we now know this isn’t true.   
To be fast AND strong, choose myofibrillar hypertrophy!        

Defranco, J. (2009). Why All Muscle Was Not Created Equal. Retrieved from

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