The Big Guide to Muscle Hypertrophy

Pro wrestlers, your favorite masked (or caped) superhero, and your older sibling all have something in common — at a young age, they probably seemed larger than life. A big part of that kind of heroic image comes down to being in fantastic shape. Specifically, having heaps of muscle

Hypertrophy is the process by which you grow muscle. For bodybuilders, it’s literally everything. For strength athletes, it is a tangential but welcomed benefit of dedicated physical training. And, for the average human, hypertrophy is an insurance policy that helps guarantee a long and healthy life.

muscular upper backCredit: restyler / Shutterstock

No matter your motivation for gains, you need to know how hypertrophy works before you can get after it. Consider this your introduction to the machinery of muscle growth. Here’s the skinny on getting brawny.

The Guide to Hypertrophy

  • What Is Hypertrophy?
  • What Causes Hypertrophy?
  • Benefits of Increasing Hypertrophy
  • How to Train for Hypertrophy
  • How to Eat for Hypertrophy
  • Best Supplements for Hypertrophy

Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns.

  1. The Guide to Hypertrophy
  • What Is Hypertrophy? 
  • What Causes Hypertrophy?
    1. Protein Synthesis
    2. Calories, Calories … Calories? 
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    1. Your daily calorie needs: Calories Per Day
  • What Is Hypertrophy? 

    In the simplest terms, hypertrophy is synonymous with "getting bigger." In the medical and scientific communities, hypertrophy describes the growth or enlargement of any organ or tissue. 

    However, in the world of fitness and physical training, hypertrophy refers to the process by which exercise creates and encourages muscle growth. (1)

    If you’re a sucker for specificity, there’s another distinction worth noting — muscular hypertrophy is about enlarging your existing muscle tissue, and not necessarily creating new muscle from scratch. 

    The latter is called hyperplasia, which hasn’t been conclusively confirmed to occur as a result of exercise habits in human beings. (Though some researchers have managed to elicit some impressive muscle gains in cats and other animal trainees.) (2)(3)

    For all intents and purposes, hypertrophy is merely what happens as a result of dedicated physical activity paired with a proper diet and the secret ingredient — time.

    What Causes Hypertrophy?

    The beauty of the scientific method is its consistency. When you mix the right ingredients together, you can (usually) produce a reliable result. The same holds true for muscle growth. 

    When your muscles are tasked with challenges they’re not used to, such as resistance training, they experience trauma. That trauma is mended in the hours and days following a bout of exercise, and in the process, your muscles rebuild stronger — and bigger — than they were before.