Home / Simplified Hacks to Hypertrophy

Gaining muscle or strength is a slow process, there is no doubt about that. However, your results can come faster if your workouts are tweaked according to your goal!


Based on your respective goal, you need a different workout program and more specifically, emphasis on different parameters. For example, if your goal is to build up endurance, lighter weight with high Time - Under - Tension(TUT) and shorter rest periods between sets are the way to go!


Such tweaks act as “hacks” that can up your game in the gym and result in faster gains.


Starting With The Basics

The major driving factor behind any progress in the gym or field is Progressive Overload. It is the phenomenon in which there are neuromuscular adaptations in response to increased exercise intensity(be it reps, weight, sets or tempo)


To explain this, let’s say your maximum bench press is 225 lbs(for a 5 rep - max) You would only gain muscle or strength by surpassing this limit. If you’re able to bench 230 lbs for 5 reps after some weeks, you’re bound to gain muscle in a while(provided your diet is in check). Likewise, even 225 lbs for 6 reps can elicit a hypertrophic response(muscle growth)


To many, this may seem like common sense, however, many make the mistake of overlooking this concept in favour of fancy - sounding workout programs. Scientific evidence has verified this numerous times, with decades of research behind its study.


The only way to “hack” your way to quicker muscle/strength gain is by achieving Progressive Overload(PO) faster. There is simply is no other way, no matter how sophisticated it sounds!


What Exactly Are These Muscle & Strength Hacks?

Simplistically speaking, these hacks are creating more efficient workouts that maximise PO in a short while. This in turn would produce faster muscle, strength and endurance gains.


These can be achieved by tweaking workout parameters like Time Under Tension(TUT), Force, Velocity, Rest Periods etc. These tweaks can have a profound effect on your training and results.


First, let us understand the meaning of these parameters.


Time Under Tension(TUT) and Tempo

This simply means the total time for which your muscles are under strain during a set. This is a parameter that is closely related to set tempo.


Rep tempo is the pace at which you perform the reps in a set.  It is denoted by a symbol like 3 - 1 - 2. Let’s say you’re performing a bench press, then the first value - 3,  would indicate the time taken to perform the eccentric portion of the rep. The second value - 1, would indicate the time taken at the pause at the middle of the rep. And lastly, the third value - 2, would indicate the time taken to perform the concentric part of the rep.


In simple terms, this means that a rep performed in the bench press at 3 - 1 -2 tempo would take 3 seconds to lower the bar to your chest, will take a 1 - second pause when the bar is at the base of the chest, and would take 2 seconds to push the bar away from the base of the chest.


TUT and Rep - Tempo are important in training for muscle, strength or endurance.


Velocity and Force

These two parameters decide how fast or powerful your reps are. Moreover, changing them can alter many other parameters.


Increased velocity translates to greater force. Reps with higher velocity or force will have more benefits for strength gains.


However, it should be stated that high - velocity training will too produce substantial muscle gain. As a matter of fact, any kind of training would produce muscle or strength gain provided there’s PO.


Rest Periods

The rest - time taken between sets is called as an inter - set rest period. This parameter is the major difference between training for strength and training for muscle growth.


Longer rest - periods between sets favour more recovery of strength(making you push each set with greater intensity) Whereas, shorter inter - set rest periods do not favour strength - based training.


As the rest periods get shorter, the training becomes more ideal for endurance/muscle building.

Again, this doesn’t mean that long rest periods between sets won’t produce muscle growth.


Range of Motion(RoM)

Your workout might have the perfect TUT, force, velocity or rest period between sets, but it won’t be effective unless you’re utilising a proper Range of Motion. This is used to determine the flexibility and movement of a joint.


The Greater the RoM, the more agility and flexibility the person has while performing the movement. The ideal RoM differs from exercise to exercise. By maintaining consistency of RoM throughout the reps(ideally 90 - 100 %) you can make sure that your exercises are being done properly.




Applying These For Progressive Overload

“Yes, knowing all this is great! But how will it help me build muscle/strength?” Well, you can hack your way to faster muscle/strength gains by applying these parameters for PO.


The following table shows how one can tweak the various parameters to “hack” their way to muscle & strength:-



Goal

Load On The Bar

(Weight)

TUT

Rep - Tempo

Velocity

Force

Rest Period Between Sets

Build Muscle

Heavy

High

Slow Paced

Low

Moderate

Moderate Duration

Gain Strength

Heavy

Low

Fast - Paced

High

High

Long Duration

Build Endurance

Light

High

Slow Paced

Low

Low

Short Duration


These are the parameters best suited for their respective goals.However, as earlier mentioned, it is not that one cannot gain muscle/strength with a different combination of parameters. These are simply what would be ideal for most people while pursuing their fitness goals.


For reference, these are the values associated with terms such as heavy, low, high etc.



Term

Heavy

High TUT

Slow Paced Rep - Tempo

Fast Paced Rep - Tempo

Low Velocity

High Velocity

High/low Force

Rest Period Between Sets

Value

65 - 90 % of your One - Rep Max

5 - 7 seconds per rep

3 - 5 seconds on the eccentric,

0-2 second pause and 2 - 4 seconds on the concentric.

1 - 2 seconds on the eccentric, No mid - rep pause and 1 - 2 seconds on the concentric.

Less than 0.5 m/s

Above

1 m/s

Dependent on weight.

Long Duration:-  2 minutes and more.


Moderate Duration:- 1-2 minutes.


Short Duration:- Within 1 minute.


Take these values into consideration when planning your workout. You’d be achieving results much faster in this manner. As a given, The RoM consistency should be between 90 - 100 %.


For a beginner, all this information might seem too hard to absorb at the start. Make sure you decide the overall volume(sets X reps) of the workout based on the intensity. It isn’t wise to do very high volume workouts when training purely for strength or have short rest periods with heavy weight.



You’ve Got To Eat Right!

Well, you didn’t think you’d gain huge muscles without eating right, did you? No matter how good your workout goes, it’s your diet what will make or break your results.


Aim to eat around 0.8 - 1.1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. While bulking up, eat only a small amount of extra calories per day(300 - 500 calories above your BMR)


A combination of wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy and poultry works best for improving muscle, strength and overall health.


It’s the small changes that can make a huge difference! Keep that in mind while “hacking” the game of gains!