Sustainable Training & Performance: Hypertrophy Block For Weightlifting

Relative to the accumulation block, the hypertrophy block of training features increased training frequency, increased intensity (load), and increased specificity. In the video above, we discuss the significance of the hypertrophy block in the context of the larger macrocycle. We also discuss hypertrophy-related responses, as well as the general characteristics of a hypertrophy block, and how weightlifters, specifically, would incorporate it in their training. 

Exercise Considerations:

We recommend that a Hypertrophy Block for Weightlifting emphasize Snatch and Clean & Jerk complexes, as well as one-to-two Weightlifting Derivatives per workout, such as the Snatch Deadlift, Clean Deadlift, High Bar Squat, and Push Press. In the Accumulation Block, unilateral exercises were of secondary importance. Now, however, they take a tertiary role as specificity increases. Unilateral exercises are still to be performed in assisting with muscular hypertrophy and injury reduction.

As specificity increases in the context of the Macrocycle, complexes are introduced to emphasize volume accumulation, efficiency, and movement correction. One example of a Snatch complex is ~1-2 Snatch Pulls followed by ~1-2 Snatches, with very short rest, if any, between repetitions. We recommend that these complexes display variety in both exercise selection and start position (consider Technique Blocks or Deficit setups to accomplish this). 

Complexes also provided a metabolic stress, which is one of the primary mechanisms of muscular hypertrophy. Metabolic stress is a hypertrophic response to higher volume performed with lighter load. The other primary mechanism of hypertrophy is mechanical tension. Mechanical tension is the opposite of metabolic stress, as it is a response to greater load with less volume. This leads us to consider reps and sets for our Snatch and Clean & Jerk Derivatives, as well as for our unilateral exercises.

The "Hypertrophic" Rep Range & Rep and Set Considerations:

Until very recently, the scientific community believed there to be a "Hypertrophic" Rep Range, namely 3-6 sets for 8-15 reps that elicits the best results for muscle growth. Interestingly, the latest research highlights how all of weight-training, regardless of repetitions or load, is potentially equally hypertrophic. In practice, however, this "Hypertrophic" Rep Range may still hold true for optimizing muscle growth over time.

Consider an athlete who only performs light weights for high repetitions. Yes, it is true that this athlete can experience hypertrophy that is equal, it now appears in theory, to the "Hypertrophic" Rep Range. However, because lighter weights do not improve absolute strength, the athlete would eventually not be able to increase the weights they're using, only the volume. The athlete will find a threshold in which they've exceeded their recoverable volume, and would need more absolute strength for a growth response. Conversely, after enough training time only performed with heavier weights (85%+) for fewer repetitions, it would be very unlikely that the athlete would recover due to the neurological stress incurred by these weight. Therefore, the "Hypertrophic" Rep Range likely provides the best of both worlds, between load and metabolic effect, for gaining size.

Hence, we encourage 3-6 sets for 8-15 reps of the Snatch and Clean & Jerk Derivatives (Deadlifts, Pulls, Squats, and Presses) to allow for the best quality for work for hypertrophy. "Quality" would consider both recovery time, allowing for 4-6 sessions per week, as well consistency with technique to best add size to the targeted muscle groups. 

Weight Class Considerations:

Lastly, this block of training will improve performance during phases of both weight gain and weight loss. If the athlete is not on the cusp of a weight class, filling out their weight class will help improve absolute strength in the sport, which is why there are weight classes in the first place. Conversely, if an athlete is planning to cut body fat and drop a weight class, this type of training will help prevent unwanted muscle loss.

Stay tuned for next week's "Sustainable Training & Performance: Strength Training for Weightlifting". If you've enjoyed this series so far, please leave us a comment on Youtube, or share with a friend!

Zachary Greenwald