If you are looking to build muscle, it’s very important to incorporate the three mechanisms of hypertrophy into your training sessions. The three mechanisms of hypertrophy are as follows: mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. Incorporating all three of the aforementioned mechanisms into your routine will ensure that you get the most out of your workout.
This concept refers to lifting the heaviest weights possible without compromising your range of motion. Ideally, you need to be able to perform anywhere between 5-12 repetitions with that weight. Therefore, in order to generate mechanical tension, you do not need to lift extremely heavy but the weight needs to be heavy enough. For example, if you are doing bench press and your One-Repetition Maximum is 250 lbs, then you should not be aiming to lift 250 lbs when trying to create the most mechanical tension. Instead, for example, you should aim to do five repetitions with 200-210 lbs. Whatever weight you choose to do, you should be able to perform full repetitions without adversely affecting your form. If you lift too heavy, not only do you risk injury but you also don’t get the most out of your workout.
Another phrase for metabolic stress is “feeling the burn”. Many times, fitness competitors will refer to it as “going for the pump”. In order to do this successfully, you need to pick a weight that you can lift for 12-20 repetitions and for at least 3-4 sets. Your repetitions must be performed at a steady pace without any rest between repetitions. At the end of your set, you should feel temporary muscular failure. Additionally, your rest between sets should be kept to a minimum. For example, if you are doing bicep curls, rather than going as heavy as you can, pick a weight that you can do for 12-20 repetitions. As you are finishing your set, the remaining two or three repetitions should be very challenging but doable while maintaining proper form.
One of the best ways to tell how much muscle damage you’ve done is to assess how sore you are the next day (or two) after your workout (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness DOMs). Keep in mind that if you are sore, then that means you’ve damaged your muscles and they need time to heal before you can do another hard workout using the same muscle group. The idea here is that you will get micro-tears in your muscles which will heal, causing the muscles to get bigger and stronger in order to accommodate the demand placed upon them (How do muscles grow and recover). However, too much muscle damage is counterproductive because you will not be recovered enough to do another challenging workout. If you are only working a specific muscle group once a week, then, by all means, you can focus on muscle damage and get very sore. However, if you train a muscle group two or three times a week, you should not get too sore for too long, or else you will suffer the consequences during your next workout.
As we can see, in order to achieve the best results from your workouts, you need to incorporate all three mechanisms of hypertrophy into your routine.