What is Hypertrophy and why is it so important?

If you're one of my clients, you hear me talk about Hypertrophy all. the. time. It is the BASIS of building strength which will lead to all of the other fitness and health goals you could ever dream up...so it's obviously very important.

So what is Hypertrophy?

By definition: Hypertrophy is an increase in the cross-sectional size of a muscle in response to strength training.

The important part: It's building muscles so you can lift heavier, move better, and feel stronger!

Does this mean that if you practice "hypertrophy" training you are going to get big + bulky? Absolutely NOT. Muscle building does NOT necessarily mean that the muscle itself is appearing to get larger; it simply means that there is "hyperplasia" occurring (increasing muscle fibers) and your body composition is changing. Who doesn't want to look and feel more toned?!

When you are beginning an exercise program of any kind, it is essential to build strong muscles and change your body composition to include lean body mass (aka muscles) before trying to restrict calories or perform any calorie-torching aerobic activities to ensure weight loss comes from fat loss as opposed to muscle tissue. Let's dig in-


Why is hypertrophy so important?

1. Muscle Tissue Composition.

Muscle tissue is the leanest tissue we have in our bodies. It requires a lot of energy to do the constant flexing and contracting

our bodies require throughout the day, making muscle tissue the most active tissue (kind of funny to say, right?). As a result, muscle tissue has the most mitochondria of any other tissue in our bodies, which are the "energy" centers of cells and, generally speaking, are equivalent to your metabolism (in fact, there is a Mitochondria and Metabolism Center at UW here in South Lake Union!). More muscle tissue/mass = More Mitochondria = Higher metabolism + burning more calories ALWAYS.

2. Support for joints, tendons, and ligaments.

The stronger your muscles are, the better they can support all of the daily functions your joints are put through every day. It allows you to move better, increase your range of motion in the complex joints like your shoulders and hips, and give extra support to the more elastic tissues that surround these joints. More muscle tissue/mass = less injuries. Just ask any runner- they will all tell you that they saw a reduction in injuries once they started incorporating strength training into their routine!

3. Lean body composition.

Due to the first point, the more muscle mass you have, the leaner you will be. And as you increase strength through weight training as well as add in other exercise techniques like aerobic activity, your body will naturally learn to burn fat instead of burn muscle. Without building a strong base of strength, aerobic activity will reduce your lean body mass because your body is simply burning any and all calories it can! More muscle tissue/mass = leaner body composition.


This is a given. But obviously being strong and seeing your body continue to amaze you with how much it can handle, change, and progress is extremely rewarding. Hypertrophy is the science behind that progress and strength. More muscle tissue/mass = More strength.

5. Build THE foundation.

Hypertrophy builds your foundation from which you can do ANYTHING in the fitness world. It makes jumping, lifting, running, swimming, biking, dancing, walking, pretty much anything much easier. A solid muscle base is essential to have a well-rounded, holistic health and fitness plan and build a long, lean aesthetic.

And just one more from ISSA- "Weight training stands out as the single best method there is for ensuring that gradually lost weight will come from fat stores and not hard-won muscle tissue. Why? Because aerobic training simple does not build muscle to the extent that weight training can. In fact, aerobic training alone with reduce your lean body mass and drop your BMR. This means you need to exercise more to burn more calories. But, on the other hand, if you gain 5 or 10 pounds of muscle, you are burning more calories all the time, even when you are sleeping."

I know sometimes weight training doesn't seem like the best option for when you're trying to "lose weight fast." Burpees + HIIT + cardio SEEM like much better options. But to achieve long term, sustainable, healthy fat loss, hypertrophy is ESSENTIAL (and I promise, you won't be disappointed with that STRONG individual staring back at you in the mirror!)

Happy muscle building!