Functional Hypertrophy?? Misleading to say the least…

Functional Hypertrophy?? Misleading to say the least…

Muscular Hypertrophy, for the uninitiated, is the the enlargement of existing muscle. Putting on more muscle mass. Getting buff. Beefing up. Pick your preference.

As as Personal Trainer I am asked, albeit, in a round about way, to put muscle on people as quickly and painlessly as possible. Tough job but manageable under the right circumstances and with a dedicated enough trainee.

If this is a subject that interests you (as it should all of us: sarcopenia is tracking us all down) then you may well have heard the term “functional hypertrophy”: meaning that the added muscle enhances function in some way.

Sarcoplasmic and myofibril hypertrophy are two phrases that pop up often in debates. The former refers to the increase in the fluid of the muscle that holds fuel and the latter refers to the actual components of the muscle that cause force production (a basic but sufficient explanation).

Thanks to Pavel and Power To the People for this image

The common “Bro Science” suggests that bodybuilders have larger amount of sarcoplasmic growth and strength athletes (Powerlifters) have greater myofibrilar growth, which is often used to explain the strength differences of the two (although I am yet to see any large body of science backing this). You may even here stories of how someone knows someone that “knows a massive bodybuilder that is weak as a kitten and also knows a dude that is small but waaay strong dude”.

I have yet to meet anyone that could be considered a bodybuilder that is “weak” by anyones standards other than specifically trained strength athletes.

Most heavily muscled individuals will be able to display huge amounts of strength if they trained specifically for it. That’s a whole other post for another day.

Weak and useless body builder?

Back to point: bodybuilding routines get a bad rep for creating this “fluid” hypertrophy and that because it is not the contractile elements growing that it is somehow useless and non “functional” hypertrophy…..


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For most of the sports world and life for that matter, there is a need for stamina, a need for the ability to repeatedly generate high levels of force. There are only a few sports that demand single attempts at strength.

With that in mind, if you increase your sarcoplasmic volume and thus your ability to generate force repeatedly….didn’t you just increase your function?

The word function is defined as:

” Designed for or adapted to a particular function or use”

What if my function falls outside the world of single attempt strength displays as found in power lifting, Olympic lifitng, shot put, discuss etc.?

Agreed, if your aim is to only be able to produce maximum amounts of force for a very limited amount of time then additional fuel storage may turn out to be a waste. But wait! what about the changes in leverage (pennation angles) experienced when a muscle is enlarged? Yup, that may actually help you produce more force!

Before you accept someone’s fancy terminology as gospel or tells you that you’re wrong or useless or ugly or mean or stupid……ask yourself if they even asked why you are doing what you are doing, chances are they didn’t and they just want to convince themselves or their own superiority and convictions.

For the gents to counteract to man shots – Aneta Florczyk “Worlds Strongest Woman”