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10 Hypertrophy Methods

There’s a method in the muscle…..

How many of these hypertrophy methods have you tried? and with how much success?

Pick one and try it out to accelerate your gains, or if you’ve already tried all of them, why not revisit one method. Nothing revolutionary here, just tried and tested methods for improving muscle gain.

20 rep Set Method

  • Following your working sets on your main lift of the workout (eg. Squat) you take   50% of your unequipped 1RM, and perform a 20 rep set of the same exercise.
  • Next workout, if you got all 20 reps, you increase the load by 5% and attempt to hit 20 reps again. If you do not hit all 20 reps, you stay on this weight each time you do this workout until you can.  Once you hit the 20reps then you make the 5% increase.

The ‘Boring But Big’ Method

  • This one is taken from Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 notes.  Simply perform 5 sets of 10 @ 60% or above  following your main working sets on the exercise. 

EDT – Escalating Density Method

  • Pick 4 exercises. 2 for one bodypart, 2 for an opposing bodypart (agonist / antagonist). Set in agonist / antagonist supersets (A1-A2 and B1-B2).
  • Perform exercises A1-A2 back to back for a 20min timed period. Attempting to get as many sets in as possible in that time.  Rest time is ‘as required’ and expected to go up as fatigue sets in.  Normally you would use a 10RM load for each exercise but only aim for half the reps possible, in other words a 10RM load would mean aiming for 5 reps per set.
  • Then have 5 mins rest, and then repeat process for B1-B2.

Pre-exhaustion Super-set Method

  • Use an isolation movement to ‘pre-exhaust’ a particular muscle group, before performing a more compound exercise straight afterwards.  In other words a same muscle group super-set.  So A1 might be a dumbbell chest flye for a set of 15 reps which will preexhaust the pectorals muscles prior to performing A2 which could be a heavy flat bench dumbbell press.  These are typically used when there is a lagging muscle group which the trainee wants to bring up, or when a trainee has trouble feeling a muscle working or activating it sufficiently. 

Post-Exhaustion Super-set Method

  • Basically the opposite of pre-exhaustion.  Following a compound movement, you pick an isolation exercise to perform to focus on a specific muscle group.  To use the same example as above, you would perform the chest flye straight after the heavy dumbell press.  This would be to further recruit any motor units within the muscle and provide more stimulus for tissue damage (leading to hypertrophy) as the muscle would be ‘finished off’ by an exercise which specifically targets it.

The Drop Set Method

  • Very simple here.  Load the bar / machine etc up with multiple plates allowing for suitable drops in weight each time fatigue is reached.  You will need at least one very attentive spotter here who can be ready to strip weight off the bar when needed.  Essentially what you will do is start your set at a given weight which you can get a certain number of reps (for example your 10RM, depending on your goal though this may change and be as high as 20 or as low as 3-5 reps). Perform a set until very close to absolute failure, when you cannot complete any more reps unassisted or without a significant breakdown in form, then your spotter should take 5-10% off the bar and then you will perform as many more reps as you can at this weight, your spotter then reduces the weight still and you once again perform as many reps as you can.  How many ‘drops’ you do if up to you and again dependent on work capacity and training goal, however 3-5 is usual and probably recommended. 

Basic agonist / antagonist Super-set Method

  • By super-setting opposite muscle groups / types of movements you allow more work to be done in a session than when performing classic station training where you do one exercise after another.  You will also increase muscle activation because the ‘resting’ muscle is still active during the opposing movement. You will also increase work capacity because more work is being done in a shorter period of time, however you actually end up with more rest time per set. It also ensures that you balance your training in terms of how much time you dedicate to both the agonist and antagonist muscle groups.(ie. balancing bicep training with tricep training etc).

The High Rep Finisher

  • Simple concept with lots of different protocols that will work.  The simplest one is the 100 rep challenge. Perform at the end of your workout, focussing on one or a few muscles you have focussed on for the rest of the session.  Pick a load which is comfortable to perform at least 25 reps on.  Then perform 100 reps in the shortest time possible.  If using a unilateral exercise like a split squat then perform 50 per leg. An example might be perhaps performing 100 reps on a tricep push down after a chest and tricep workout, or 100 reps on a bicep curl after an arms specific workout.  Bare in mind these methods do not only apply if you split your training by body parts and are also very effective when using upper/lower splits or even full-body training programmes. 

German Volume Training

  • Couldn’t leave this one out.  I won’t give all the details of the GVT programme, but understand the basic concept that you have two primary exercises per workout, and two secondary (assistance exercises).  The primary exercises are performed as a superset for 10 sets of 10 reps per exercise, usually at a 4010 tempo, with minimal rest in between exercises, and only 60-90seconds rest in between sets.  The assistance exercises are normally only for 3 sets for anything from 8-12 reps.  This is a great system for those wanting exclusively to focus on muscle gain and perhaps a little fat reduction.  For those wanting to maintain/build strength however this perhaps is not a method to use for great lengths of time as it does involve using relatively light weights due to the high volume, time under tension and short rest times.  It can however be utilised by strength athletes during a ‘rest’ or post competition phase, used to recuperate and gain some muscle in preparation for the following heavy strength phase of training. (for heavier training with this type of method, see Advanced GVT)

The continuous tension set.

– This can be used for many exercises, one such example would be the back squat.  You make the exercise more challenging by never locking out the weight at the top and keeping continuous tension on the muscles involved.  This is a technique used by many bodybuilders.  Muscular tension is a key factor when trying to develop muscular mass, and you must focus your mind on the muscles involved and consciously contracting them as hard as you can each rep. In other words a set of 20 would involve 20 hard contractions of the muscle to move the weight, and not simply being concerned with moving from point A to point B 20 times.