What is Muscle Hypertrophy?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 05 February 2020
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Muscle hypertrophy is the clinical name for the body’s process for making muscles larger. This is something that generally happens in response to increased muscle stress over a period of time. The process involves an increased number of proteins in certain muscle cells, which makes the cells themselves larger. Many people seek to increase muscle hypertrophy through weight-lifting exercise for cosmetic and athletic reasons.

The process of muscle hypertrophy is mostly associated with one particular type of muscle fiber. The body has different fibers for different purposes. One type is called "fast twitch" fiber, and it is used for extreme bursts of exertion. There are also "slow twitch" fibers, which are used for less extreme activities. The fast twitch muscles are the ones that grow larger, which is why intense exercise methods like weight lifting are the main activities used to cause muscle hypertrophy.

Experts differ on the best way to achieve muscle hypertrophy. One approach is to use very few repetitions of extremely difficult exercise. Other experts say that it’s better to use a more moderate approach with more repetitions on slightly less strenuous exercises. The experts in the latter case believe that the process is easier to start if the activities are something the body engages in more regularly.


Whichever fitness approach is used, muscle hypertrophy is something that happens as a physical response to damaged muscle. When someone lifts weights, they will generally break muscle fibers during the process. As the body heals these muscle fibers, it triggers a process which causes the new fibers to be larger than the ones they are replacing. This increase in size makes the fibers stronger so that future activity will have less ability to do damage to them.

Some experts suggest that a proper diet can be very important in accelerating muscle hypertrophy. Many people eat a lot of meat in order to increase their muscle mass, and most experts suggest an increase in protein intake. Some people use various dietary supplements to add protein to their diet or increase the levels of certain hormones in their bodies.

As a general rule, when muscles increase in strength, they will also increase in size, but size is not always the most reliable measure of strength. Some sport weight lifters may not have as much actual physical size as some body builders, but they will often be stronger anyway because their muscles are more efficient. Body builders train in a very specific way to maximize muscle size, and this can lead to muscles with a misleading appearance.


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