View Full Version : Hypertrophy Training for the Athlete/Powerlifter/Oly Lifter

06-26-2003, 12:46 AM
I thought I'd kick off kind of a roundtable. It seems as though there's two schools of thought in training for hypertrophy for the athlete/oly lifter/powerlifter. On one side, guys like Poliquin, Ian King, Art McDermott, and Jud Logan seem to believe that one ought to train for hyertrophy at times. Their rationale is that you ought to increase your muscles cross-section, training with the intent to do so, in order to then be able to recruit that newly developed muscle. They generally feel that the 5-8 rep range is sufficient for this kind of training, and they feel that the reps are still low enough to contribute to the devolopment of max-strength and the IIB fibers. Now, on the other hand, you have the Westsiders, Pavel Tsatsouline, Tudor Bompa, the late great Mel Siff (I think), and Vladamir Zatsiorsky who seem to believe that the hyertrophy ought to be a SIDE EFFECT of effecient and well planned training. Your thoughts on this? I think it's obvious that the Western Model of Periodization is terrible lacking as its phases do not lend themselves well to developing any of the skills it attempts to, as Dave Tate states, "The muscle mass that was built during the hypertrophy phase isn't maintained throughout the full cycle. Same goes with the strength phase. The best training weeks are normally the first or second week of triples coming off the strength phase. Then your strength begins to shut down because it's very hard to train at or above 90% for longer than three weeks. This is another reason why you may be able to triple more in training than what you can display on the platform."

Personally, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, I think by having "accumulation phases" where you bump up the reps a bit and lower the intensity, you allow yourself to create useful hyertrophy whilst giving your nervous system time to recuperate from use of maximal weights (above 90%). I don't, however, believe that a powerlifter, athlete, or oly lifter ought to ever use bodybuilding techniques in their training, however, a program like Christian Thibaudeau's OVT certainly seems to be a good deviation for the natural trainee.

Your thoughts?

06-26-2003, 05:17 AM
I tend to agree with your assessment...hypertrophy stimulation is important for any kind of strength athlete, i like to operate in the 5-8 rep range myself *disclaimer-i'm a bodybuilder, but still like to be strong*...with brief periods of mega high intensity for optimal CNS stimulation. Powerman has designed various programs like these that i've been the guinea pig for, from our little experiments we found that periodization intertwined with high anaerobic threshold work did wonders...my 2ccs :)

Paul Stagg
06-26-2003, 07:44 AM
I agree, I think it's somewhere in the middle. I think there are valid reasons for a PLer to want to get bigger - to go up a weight class, for example, or to fit into equipment better, or build a bigger base...

Bodybuilding type stuff (that focuses on the limbs) is typically NOT what an athlete would need.

As someone who uses WSB, there are some things I can do in that framework for hypertrophy; in general, though, I'm more interested in getting my lifts up, and letting hypertrophy either happen or not. (It's happening)

06-26-2003, 07:59 AM
I don't think working in the 5-8 rep range exclusively, will adequately, or optimally stress type IIb fibres. They are a small percentage of your muscle makeup, but are also quite tricky to activate. I don't think 5-8 reps would be sufficient weight to regularly stimulate them. 1-3 rep weight I think is more ideal. That's how I generally have trained. I will warmup to a max attempt, or max double or triple, in either of the big 3 compounds for one or two sets, then I will follow this with further sets in the 5-8 rep range. If you really want the ideal method of type IIb fibre training, it would have to be explosive sets with pretty significant weight, or extremely heavy negatives.

When you lift in the 1-3 rep range, you aren't really fatiguing the muscle, so much as the CNS in my opinion. There isn't enough time for glycolitic processes to kick in. So it's almost like a free set for your body if you can stick with things mentally. Then you can get to muscle fibre fatigue with your sets in the 5-8 rep range, which will facilitate growth more efficiently. Of course all this is providing your diet will allow this to occur.

Unless you have a very clear cut goal, it is difficult to ever say with certainty what is the most optimal, or near optimal lifting strategy. But I find that the model I go with, fits a great many moulds, and works well enough for me. Not to claim ownership on that method of training, since I figure it's pretty damned common. I think often people get very hung up on details that really have very little applicable impact and would do well to just go lift some heavy weights.

Paul Stagg
06-26-2003, 08:30 AM
Originally posted by ElPietro
I think often people get very hung up on details that really have very little applicable impact and would do well to just go lift some heavy weights.

True, dat.

It's the message we should all keep in mind whn giving advice, especially to newbies.

06-26-2003, 09:06 AM
For strength/hypertrophy (not necessarily for a Powerlifter, but perhaps a strength athlete), how about simply cycling the intensity each week? Example:

Day I - Push/Hams, rep range 1-4
Day II - Rest
Day III - Pull/Quads/Glutes, rep range 6-8
Day IV - Rest
Day V - Push/Hams, rep range 6-8
Day VI - Pull/Quads/Glutes, rep range 1-4
Day VII - Rest

The key would be to work with compounds and not bother with isolation so that you can be sure to fit everything without exceeding an hour or so.

06-26-2003, 09:18 AM
Personally, I have very little concern on how long I'm in the gym. I will vary rest periods and things like that, so depending on what I'm doing it could take much longer. Some workouts require a lot of plate moving, and rest from plate moving, and then rest from work sets, that to try and cram things in an hour would be detrimental to my entire training scheme. I never timed it, but I bet nowadays, deadlifts take an hour at least by themselves, although I train with a partner now too.

06-26-2003, 09:21 AM
Just to elaborate for a quick thought. Time in gym to me is irrelevant as I said because it can vary depending on what I do, and how I do it.

If I was only concerned with hypertrophy, I would only be concerned with muscular fatigue, and would probably shorten the rest breaks. But if you want a combination of strength and hypertrophy, you must let yourself recover as best you can prior to your next set.

Rather than worry about time, I'd simply worry about volume.

06-26-2003, 09:28 AM
Oh wow...that changes a lot. On the program I'm doing now I've been needing to rest a little more between sets on bench, which takes up a lot of time. In an attempt to finish in under an hour, I would go through my other sets with minute rests or less :P

06-26-2003, 09:31 AM
What is your program designed to accomplish? Or if you want you can start another thread on it.

06-26-2003, 11:30 AM
Westside has been very successful in popularizing hypertrophy work interspersed with a strengh-oriented program.

But remember, Westside is only one potential application of the principles it uses.

As silles and Pup mentioned, I'm a fan of non-linear methods of periodization. I like to keep hypertrophy phases sequenced in the overall routine; that is, anywhere from 1-4 weeks of directed hypertrophy work placed in the routine when its needed.

06-26-2003, 01:52 PM
The routine I mentioned would work well for both strength and hypertrophy until the body adjusted to it, I would guess.

The goal would be for the 1-4 rep days to increase strength enough so that you can continue increasing weight in the 6-8 rep phase and thus continue progressing. 6-8 rep range is pretty ideal for hypertrophy I would say...

I sort of did a routine similar to this when I started out. I didn't know the science behind it, but it worked well (though I was a beginner)

07-01-2003, 11:57 PM
I've read that hypertrophy can be attained by using low reps and close to 1 2 and 3 rep maximal efforts, but it mostly makes the muscles denser as opposed to larger?

Course that sounds like some bull**** Arnold would say...

I find that while I can grow some and maintain size while training heavy for strength, I don't really grow much, no matter what my diet is. 8-15 reps are what I use when I'm trying to put on some actual size. Now I'm cycling between 6-8 weeks doing a hypertrophy routine (HST, HIT, etc...) and 6-8 weeks of some kind of heavy strength routine (powerlifting, olympic, dinosaur, odd object).

From my limited past experience, taking some time off to focus on growing can help me boost my results when I start back into strength training again.

I've also tried mixing them together with ok results. Still while I'm lifting in the singles doubles and triples rep ranges I find it hard to gain much mass overall...