The 3 Muscle Building Mechanisms of Hypertrophy Explained

There are 3 mechanisms that are involved in the process of hypertrophy.

This is when the muscle is essentially torn, allowed to repair itself so that it comes back bigger and stronger, enabling you to lift even more weights.

Muscle Building The 3 Mechanisms Of Hypertrophy

Progressive overload is one of the keys to building more muscle. This is when you track the progress of your weight lifting, either increasing the reps or the amount of weight that you’ll be lifting.

This will determine how your muscles grow as well as the speed at which they grow.

But what exactly are the 3 mechanisms of hypertrophy? How can you implement them in your routine?

What is the relationship between muscle damage and metabolic stress? How can you integrate this into your workout to get better results?

Well, if you are looking to put on some serious muscle, then we would suggest you keep reading.

We have outlined some of the core tenets of muscle building, the foundation on which rests the fact of muscle building in general.

If you are looking to increase your muscle tone, then follow these rules to the letter.

How To Build Muscle Properly

What is the best method of building muscle? You might have been told that a high amount of reps are the best, or maybe somebody else has told you to do lower reps with a heavier weight. What about eccentric lifts?

Well, let’s put all that conflicting information to one side and start from scratch. What do you need to know about exercise and how to apply it to your daily routine?

Well, we would certainly recommend that you use these principles to influence your workout, rather than let others dictate it for you.

Mechanism 1: Mechanical Tension

This is when you are putting your muscle under certain stresses through an extended motion for a certain period of time.

If you are doing bicep curls, for example, then this will be the entirety of the range of motion that you’ll be performing with your workout.

The more time you subject your muscle to this load, then the greater the mechanical tension that will be provided.

However, lifting your weights in a sloppy way isn’t going to help you to build muscle. You’ll need the muscle to enter full hypertrophy, which requires you to complete the full range of motion.

This means that you’ll have to complete each motion completely, with as much control as possible.

This isn’t about speed or force, you’ll need to make sure that you have every bit of control that you need for this movement.

Completing the exercise with the correct form is way more important than reps.

Mechanism 2: Muscle Damage

This is another very important step in the muscle-building process. Have you ever experienced muscle soreness after working out?

Then this is a sign that you are properly tearing your muscle and increasing your mass overall. This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

The difference between eccentric and concentric muscle building will be how the muscle develops in your body.

This is why a lot of weightlifters will often mix in negative reps with their regular weightlifting to stimulate protein synthesis in the muscles.

This is where rebuilding the damaged muscle starts and overall muscle growth occurs.

Mechanism 3: Metabolic Stress

This is an alternative to the first mechanism, in that you are doing higher reps with a lighter weight that will lead to more metabolic stress that will also increase muscle growth.

This is when you are getting that pump or burn during the latter half of the exercise, which is an indication that you are burning muscle.

How To Apply Hypotrophy Process To Your Workout

This will increase the amount of hormonal response in the body through a process called blood pooling.

This is when the muscles will be contracting on a regular basis, causing a lack of oxygenated blood to get to the muscle, which will promote the release of hormones that leads to muscle growth.

Placing this metabolic stress on your muscles is a very good method of stimulating growth hormone which will lead to increased muscle definition.

This is what high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is meant to stimulate. It leads to increased definition, although it might not lead to the bulking that you get with mechanical tension.

Lifting heavier weights for a smaller amount of reps will have the same effect, although you might see the muscle expanding a lot wider than you would with high-intensity metabolic workouts.

How To Apply This Process To Your Workout

We would recommend separating your workouts into lower and upper body, as this will give you a chance to focus on one thing at a time.

Also, if you work on your lower body on Monday and then your upper body on Tuesday, then you’ll allow your lower body to relax on the rest day.

Here are some exercises that you can do to increase the strength and muscle tone in your lower and upper body.

Lower Body

Mechanical tension - Back squat/deadlift - 5 sets of 3 reps (3-4 minutes rest between sets)
Muscle Damage - Romanian deadlift - 4 sets of 8 reps
Metabolic stress - Leg press - 4 sets of 20 reps (60-second rests between sets)

Upper Body

Mechanical tension - Bench press - 5 sets of 5 reps (3-4 minute rest between sets)
Muscle Damage - Pull ups - slow lowering with explosive pull up (90-second rest)
Metabolic stress - Dumbbell curls - 4 sets of 20 reps (60-second rest)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We answer the most common questions about muscle building here:

Can you gain muscle without progressive overload?

While progressive overload is an important factor in muscle growth, it is not the only one. Other factors, such as proper nutrition and rest, can also contribute to muscle growth.

What is the best rep range for muscle building?

The best rep range for muscle building depends on individual factors such as fitness level, goals, and training style. Generally, heavier weights with lower reps create more mechanical tension, while higher reps with lighter weights create more metabolic stress.

How important is proper form in muscle building?

Proper form is essential for muscle building as it ensures that the muscle is fully activated and engaged during exercise, minimizing the risk of injury and maximizing muscle growth.

How long does it take to see results from muscle building?

The time it takes to see results from muscle building varies based on individual factors such as genetics, training style, and diet. Generally, it takes several weeks to several months to see noticeable changes in muscle size and strength.

Is cardio necessary for muscle building?

Cardiovascular exercise can aid in muscle building by improving endurance and promoting cardiovascular health, but it is not necessary for muscle building. Resistance training is the most effective way to build muscle.

Can muscle building be achieved without weights?

Muscle building can be achieved without weights through bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, as well as resistance bands and other equipment.


Most people who are hitting the gym are looking to significantly increase their muscle mass.

However, sometimes you can be going about it all wrong, either not tracking your weights or doing an improper number of reps.

Luckily, there is hypertrophy as a method you can follow to help you build muscle mass.

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