Friday, May 30, 2014

Fitness Friday - Lyle McDonald on Hypertrophy Training: A 6-Part Series

For this week's installment of Fitness Friday, I am devoted the whole post to the first six entries in Lyle McDonald's "Categories of Weight Training" series. These parts focus almost exclusively on hypertrophy training, so they are natural set - part seven begins a discussion of maximal strength training, which I will likely share on a future Fitness Friday.

Lyle McDonald - Categories of Weight Training: Parts 1-6: Hypertrophy Training

In part one, he spends a little time on metabolic/depletion training, then the rest of the first six sections are devoted to hypertrophy training (getting bigger muscles). Beginning with part 7, he launches into the strategies of maximal strength training.

This is an excellent series.

Categories of Weight Training: Part 1

This is yet another republication of an old series of articles I did. It originally appeared in the now defunct newsletter and was later re-run on the site. If I’m very motivated, I might add a section on power training methods (I had some requests for such when it originally ran) but I’m not sure how relevant that is to most readers of the site. I’m running it here again as a lead up to a (somewhat late) look at a recent study comparing rep ranges and hypertrophy that has a lot of people talking.

What I want to look at over these articles is various “categories” or “types” of weight training, focusing on those of the most relevance to folks wanting to change body composition. That is, I’m not going to talk about things like power training or things aimed more at performance.

The three primary types of weight training I want to talk about are
  • Metabolic/depletion training
  • Hypertrophy training
  • Maximum strength training
I’d note that while I’m going to discuss each type of weight training as a distinct entity, it’s better to think of them as overlapping zones (some call this the rep continuum). For example, the low end of what is typically considered the hypertrophy range (perhaps 5 reps) is often considered the top of the maximum strength range.

As usual, rather than arguing for the inherent superiority of one or the other, I would rather look at the pros and cons of each as they might pertain to such things as fat loss, muscle growth, performance, etc. That is to say, depending on the goal of the trainee, their training age, etc. each type of training can have relative more or less relevance or importance or benefit (or drawback). You get the idea.

* * * * *

Categories of Weight Training: Part 2

Last time in Categories of Weight Training Part 1, I made a quick introduction to the series and talked about metabolic/depletion type training. I won’t sum any of it up here, just click the link. In that article, I also listed the three primary types of training I wanted to talk about and listed the second type as “hypertrophy training” which is what I am going to talk about for the next several parts of the series.

Today, in an effort to confuse everyone including myself, I’m going to re-categorize that one initially as “growth training”, then babble about a bunch of underlying physiology that nobody cares about and then go right back to calling it hypertrophy training.

* * * * *

Categories of Weight Training: Part 3

In Categories of Weight Training: Part 2, I bored you with some of the underlying physiology behind hypertrophy training In that article I discussed the issue of hypetrophy vs. hyperplasia as well as the idea that there are different types of hypertrophy (i.e. sarcoplasmic vs. myofibrillar), I also looked a bit at some of the underlying physiology of what stimulates muscle growth in terms of tension, fatigue and muscle damage (with some brief commentary about the hormonal response issue).

Today I want to use that as background to talk about hypertrophy training in more practical terms in the same way I did about metabolic training back in Part 1. I’ll start with some more general comments and then talk about intensity/rep range as a loading parameter, saving other aspects of hypertrophy training for the next parts of the series.

Now, compared to other types of training, it seems as if you see the greatest variety in what can stimulate or generate hypertrophy in terms of the different types of training that has been done or that seems to be “effective” on one level or another.

Basically, the phrase “hypertrophy training” covers a lot of ground and people have gotten bigger using approaches ranging from one or two sets of moderate repetitions to lots of sets of low repetitions to bunches of sets of high-repetition “pump” training. If you can conceive of it, someone has probably tried it or made it work.

* * * * *

Categories of Weight Training Part 4

In Categories of Weight Training: Part 3 I continued with a look at hypertrophy training by talking a bit about the impact of anabolic steroids (which has caused a lot of very silly ideas to come into vogue) and then began to talk about loading parameters focusing on intensity (with a bit of related commentary about repetition ranges).

As I discussed in that article, due to the variety of pathways involved in stimulating growth (which may act independently or interact somehow) combined with the potential for different “types” of growth and the further potential of fiber type specific growth, you tend to see the widest range of intensities being at least potentially useful for stimulating at least some kind of muscle growth.

On average, intensity for the hypertrophy range is typically given to be anywhere from 60% to 85% of 1 repetition max, yielding an effective repetition range of anywhere from 20 reps per set (at 60% 1RM) down to about 5 (85%). Some use a bit of a narrower range, more along the lines of 70-85% 1RM (about 12-5 reps or so), just for the record. Even lower repetition sets have been used to generate growth (again, I’ll address the new study by Brad Schoenfeld at the end of the series) but it takes a lot of sets and is often very time inefficient.

So with that background, I want to continue on with that discussion of loading parameters for hypertrophy by looking at the issue of volume. Other topics such as frequency, exercise selection and the rest will get discussed in the next parts of the series.

* * * * *

Categories of Weight Training: Part 5

So last time in Categories of Weight Training: Part 4, I continued with the discussion of hypertrophy by addressing the issue of volume. In that article, looking at a recent review paper by Wernbom, I threw out a value of 30-60 repetitions as giving the apparently maximal growth response.

Before moving on to other topics, I want to clarify a few issues from Part 4. After that I’ll address training frequency and exercise selection and save all of the ancillary topics for the wrap-up of this topic next week.

* * * * *

Categories of Weight Training: Part 6

On Tuesday, in Categories of Weight Training: Part 5 I clarified some things regarding volume and then looked briefly at the issue of both training frequency and a bit at exercise selection. Today I’ll wrap up the discussion of hypertrophy training, summarizing all of this mess and looking at some popular programs and how they do (or don’t) match the information I’ve presented at the very end.

This will allow me to talk about maximal strength in the next part of the series and then either look at Brad Schoenfeld’s new paper (comparing low and high repetition ranges on growth) or power training methods. I haven’t decided what order to write in.

Today is going to be sort of a grab-bag of topics, some of which will hopefully answer some of the questions I’ve seen in the comments, some of which will probably leave you with more questions than answers. Thus is the balance of the universe is maintained. Let’s just jump right in with one of the long-standing debates.

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