Muscle fiber structure and hypertrophy: the science behind getting jacked

If you find yourself in a gym for any reason you must keep one simple idea in mind at all times: your main goal is always to get stronger.  Strength is the most general physical ability; improvements in strength lead to improvements in all other physical abilities.  No matter what your specific purpose for training is, you can never stop increasing your strength if you want to really excel.

Strength is primarily a neurological phenomenon.  In fact, all physical movement is initiated by the nervous system.  For this reason all training programs must be focused first and foremost on developing the right neurological ability for the purpose of the athlete/trainee.  The only really effective way to train the nervous system in a progressive way over a long period of time is with the barbell.

If a program is focused on the developing the appropriate neurological abilities, then the work with Barbell Squats, Deadlifts and Presses will also build functional performance hypertrophy. If we use the right exercises in the right rep range, the resulting hypertrophy will provide our nervous system “software“ more effective “hardware” to produce force and power with.

There are two types of Hypertrophy – Sarcomeric and Sarcoplasmic.  For athletes one is much more important than the other.  Understanding the structure of muscle will make the distinction clear.


The Structure of Muscle


Muscle is made of Muscle Fibers which contain hundreds of parallel Myofibrils. Muscle fiber cells also contain membranes, cytoplasm, sarcoplasm, nuclei, mitochondria, ribosomes, and endoplasmic recticulum, all of which are important for muscle contraction and adapt to training.

Understanding the role of myofibrils and sarcoplasm in muscular action is essential for understanding how to build muscle mass. A Myofibrils are the basic contractile unit of muscle.  They are the genesis of a sequence of actions which result in a physical movement of our body: the sarcomeres of myofibril contract, a group of Myofibrils contract and a muscle fiber contracts, a group of muscle fibers contract and muscle contracts, then a group of muscles contract thus pulling on the skeletal system.  That is how we move our body.

Myofibrils are made of longitudinally repeating units of sarcomeres. Sarcomeres contain two primary proteins; a thin filament called Actin, and a thick filament called Myosin. At each end of a sarcomere, actin filaments are attached to Z-lines which mark the boundaries between adjacent sarcomeres. A myofibril contraction happens when the myosin filament slides over the actin filament and the Z-lines move closer together. This is caused by the expenditure of cellular energy called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).  Read More

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