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Photo taken by Julian S. Pritcher

Written By: Brian Harrell Date: March 6, 2014!


The aim of this description is to teach beginners interested in improving their personal fitness, about the process of muscular hypertrophy. This description will discuss both sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy but will emphasize and present more detail on myofibrillar hypertrophy. Muscular hypertrophy will improve strength and fitness if applied correctly, making everything from a game of pickup basketball to weekend chores, easier. For a 48 year-old businessman, a high school athlete, or a stay at home mother of three, physical fitness is an important aspect of overall wellness, and muscular hypertrophy is the key to improving it. Often times, when people begin strength and fitness training, they have the motivation and means to achieve their goals. However, many beginners often lack the knowledge and direction to create strength and fitness programs catering to their individualized needs and goals. While this paper does not discuss specific workout programs, it will explain the process of muscular hypertrophy in a way that helps beginners understand how strength training works to build muscle and why strength training programs work. The process of muscular hypertrophy applies to a wide range of goals and skill levels. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

! Muscular hypertrophy is the process of increasing the size and mass of skeletal and cardiac muscle by progressively overloading the muscles. This process can be divided into two distinct sub-categories, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibril hypertrophy, which are explained in table 1. !
Table 1. Shows the results and uses for both sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy

! Type of Hypertrophy Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

Results In:

Increase in sarcoplasm (fluid) within the muscle cells Increase in volume of the muscle Minimal strength gains

Increase in the size of myofibrils (contractile tissue) within the muscle cells Increase in volume and mass of the muscle Significant strength gains Athletic Performance Improving strength and stability Improving function in daily activities

Useful For:

Bodybuilding Muscle inflation

! This description will focus primarily on myofibril hypertrophy because it lends itself to a much broader audience than sarcoplasmic hypertrophy does. Beginners should concern themselves primarily with myofibril hypertrophy unless training to be a bodybuilder.


! Before diving into muscular hypertrophy, one must understand the physical structure and function of the muscle cell. A cellular view of skeletal muscle is shown in figure 1. !

Figure 1. Exploded view of a muscle tissue, containing cells, cell bundles and myofibrils

! ! Each skeletal muscle contains many tiny muscle tissues, which run lengthwise and connect to form muscles. The muscle tissue is labeled with the letter (A) in figure 1. Moving inward, one can see bundles of muscle cells, marked (B) which run lengthwise through the muscle fiber. Each muscle cell bundle contains many individual muscle cells, marked (C), again running lengthwise through the muscle fiber. Continuing inward, each muscle cell contains myofibrils, marked (D) and sarcoplasm. Myofibrils are tiny rod-like protein chains running through the muscle cell. Each myofibril in a given muscle cell contains many myofilaments (tiny strands that expand and contract to allow the muscle to contract and

generate force). Myofilaments and myofibrils are analogous to tiny rubber bands that contract when signaled by the central nervous system. Sarcoplasm is a fluid existing within each muscle cell which takes up the space not occupied by myofibrils. The sarcoplasm contains things such as adenine tri-phosphate (ATP), glycogen, creatine phosphate and water, which are important for cellular reproduction and maintenance.


! Myofibril hypertrophy is an increase in the cross-sectional area and mass of the myofibrils due to an increased workload. This, in turn, increases the size and mass of the muscle cell. On the other hand, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the cross-sectional area due to an increase in the volume of sarcoplasm within the muscle cell. Figure 2 shows a cross sectional view of a muscle cell after experiencing sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy respectively.

Figure 2. Cross sectional view of a muscle cell after experiencing sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy

Myofibril hypertrophy occurs when muscles are overloaded (placed under a greater stress than they are used to) during an exercise. This excess load damages the individual muscle cells and fibers. In response to the damage, the muscle will begin to heal with the assistance of satellite cells. Satellite cells are single-nucleus cells located on the outer surface of muscle fibers. They aid in growing and repairing muscle cells. Most of the time, satellite cells lie dormant, but when muscle cells are damaged, satellite cells multiply and the daughter cell (the cell produced after the satellite cell has reproduced) will attach itself to the damaged muscle cell. This leads to an increase in the size of the myofibrils within the muscle cell and therefore an increase in the size and strength of the muscle fibers. Figure 3 shows the process of satellite cells adhering to a damaged muscle cell in order to repair the damage. Note that the repaired muscle cell is larger and stronger than it was initially, due to the addition of satellite daughter cells.

Figure 3. Shows the process of satellite cell fusion in order to repair a damaged muscle cell

! A basic understanding of the hypertrophic process is important for anyone interested in beginning a strength and fitness regimen. Without this understanding, many people blindly follow strength and fitness plans, never understanding why they need to push themselves and overload their muscles to see results. Myofibril hypertrophy in particular will lead to increases in muscular strength and size. This information will help the casual exerciser become his or her own personal trainer, without the excessive cost. This concept along with a bit of motivation will help anyone achieve his or her strength and fitness goals. With the right approach, fitness training can make daily tasks and activities easier for people in all walks of life. ! !

Content Chee, Rosie. Hypertrophy and Physiology How To Lift Weights To Maximize Mass. Bodybuilding.com, 10 August 2010, Web, 2 March 2014, <http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/muscle-hypertrophyphysiology-how-to-lift-weights-maximize-mass.htm> Hernandez, Richard Joshua and Len Kravitz. The Mystery of Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy. Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy, Web, 2 March 2014, <http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/hypertrophy.html> Scudder, Will. Hypertrophy and Muscle Growth. Muscle & Strength, Web, 2 March 2014, <http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/hypertrophy-andmuscle-growth.html> Figures Figure 1: (see Scudder) Figure 2 (modified from): Luke, Myofibrillar vs Sarcoplasmic Muscle Hypertrophy. Fitness 101. 14 January 2014, Web, 4 March 2014, <http://www.fitness101.co.uk/2013/myofibrillar-vs-sarcoplasmic-muscle-hypertrophy/> Figure 3 (modified from): Bruusgaard, J.C. Myonuclei acquired by overload exercise precede hypertrophy and are not lost on detraining. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 24 August 2010, Web, 2 March 2014, <http://www.pnas.org/content/107/34/15111/F6.expansion.html>