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 Hypertrophy or muscle growth is the phenomena where muscle grows due to some type of stress. This could be cardiac muscle, smooth muscle (organs), or cardiac muscle. However, what exactly is hypertrophy and how does it happen? Skeletal muscle hypertrophy is the growth of new muscle fibers in parallel or series. In parallel means the muscle grows by stacking new muscle fibers on top and increasing thickness of the muscle. In series means the muscle fiber is adding new fibers in length. Interestingly, scientists do not know the exact mechanism that triggers muscle growth. All of the articles and ads telling you, “Do this thing (insert thing) to gain muscle,” is a lie. However, this article will tell you the most strongly supported theories on how we believe muscle grows and how to lift to cause the muscle growth.

Generally there are two strongly supported mechanisms as to how much fibers grow. There is also another theory on how muscles, not muscle fibers, grow. The first is mechanical damage, or muscle damage. For the longest time, the theory was that you lifted weight, damaged muscle, and the muscle repaired itself bigger and stronger, which is how you got big, right? This is not entirely wrong, but it is not entirely true. The second theory is that the muscle swells, causing an inflammatory response that turns on the signals for muscle growth.

Mechanical Damage

Muscle damage is the process by which a lifter damages the muscle fibers at the cellular level. Muscles are bundles of smaller muscle units called fascicles. Fascicles are bundles of what we know as muscle fibers. Muscle fibrils contain myofibrils, which are the part of the muscle that shorten and lengthen when you are lifting. These myofibrils are divided into units called sarcomeres. Think of a myofibril as a long chain of sarcomeres. At the end of the sarcomere is an area called the Z-line. When you lift and cause damage to the muscle, under a microscope, you can physically see damage Z-line’s.

Ton BouSliman


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MSc Epidemiology MSc Exercise and Nutrition Science CITI Human Subjects Training for Research Certified Sports Nutritionist Certified Personal Trainer

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