Optimal Protocols to Build Strength & Muscles | Dr. Andy Galpin

Contents

Benefits of Strength & Hypertrophy Training, Aging

In the second episode of the guest series, Dr. Huberman, talks to Dr. Andy Galpin, a professor of kinesiology at Cal State University, Fullerton and an expert on the science of increasing strength, hypertrophy and endurance.

In this episode, the two experts discuss the benefits of strength and hypertrophy training and how it can be beneficial for people trying to get stronger and grow bigger muscles, as well as for those who have other goals, such as longevity and health.

Dr. Galpin starts by saying that strength training is not just for athletes or those who want to grow bigger muscles, but that it is beneficial for everyone.

He also mentions that one of the major disservices that has been done in the field is convincing people that things like strength training are only for athletes or for growing bigger muscles, and that cardiovascular training is only for things like fat loss and heart health.

This leads to a lot of false assumptions and poor actions.

He then goes on to say that there are many other benefits of exercise that people may not be aware of, such as mood and focus, cognitive tasks, better immune function, and mortality.

He also mentions that resistance exercise and strength training is the number one tool to combat neuromuscular aging, and that it is the only way to preserve or fight the loss of aging.

Strength & Hypertrophy Training, Aesthetics 

There are three main reasons why people exercise: to look good, feel good, and play good.

When it comes to aesthetics, one of the major benefits of strength training is the fast responses. With consistent training, you can see noticeable changes in muscle size within a month or even six weeks.

This is a powerful motivator for people who are not as dedicated to exercising, as it provides quick wins and a sense of progress.

In contrast, fat loss tends to be a longer journey that is more reliant on other factors, such as nutrition.

Exercise adherence is a key predictor of the effectiveness of any training program. When you get immediate feedback and see results in your appearance, it drives adherence and keeps you motivated to continue working out.

So, if you’re looking to change your aesthetics, strength and hypertrophy training may be a good option for you.

Strength vs. Hypertrophy Training: Adaptations

Strength and hypertrophy training are two different types of adaptations that represent different goals.

Strength training is about the ability to move more weight and includes a number of other things as well.

On the other hand, hypertrophy training is about the growth of muscle fibers and represents an increase in size. However, there is a strong relationship between strength and hypertrophy.

A good example of the difference between strength and hypertrophy is the sport of powerlifting versus bodybuilding.

Powerlifters are significantly stronger than bodybuilders on average, but bodybuilders have more muscle.

In addition, weight classes in sports such as Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and World’s Strongest Man demonstrate that strength and muscle mass are not always directly correlated.

It is important to note that strength is not just about muscle size, but also about the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce force.

Mechanics, such as technique and skill, also play a role in strength. On the other hand, hypertrophy is simply about how big the muscle is.

Ligaments, Tendons & Resistance Training

Ligaments, tendons, and resistance training is a topic that is not well understood.

The question of whether ligaments and tendons grow and get stronger when strength and hypertrophy increase is a difficult one to answer.

Connective tissue is not as vascular as skeletal muscle and its plasticity is significantly lower. Skeletal muscle is one of the most responsive and adjustable organs in the body.

When we talk about muscle being an organ, it is not just referring to its size, but also its function.

Muscle is both listening and talking, controlling the immune system, blood glucose regulation, and being the central depot for amino acids.

Connective tissue, on the other hand, does not have the same level of communication and adaptation.

Despite the difficulty in measuring connective tissue adaptations, it is known that strength training reduces injury risk.

This is likely due to the adaptations that occur in connective tissue, making it more tolerant to load.

This is particularly important for individuals who have not exercised in a long time and are looking to jump back into a routine.

If the connective tissue has not been prepared for the load, it can lead to sprains, tears, and other injuries.

Dr. Galpin, during his doctoral studies, used patella tendon biopsies to study connective tissue adaptations.

He has performed over a thousand biopsies on himself and others, and has found that there is no loss of function or scar tissue as a result.

He emphasizes that while it is difficult to assess connective tissue adaptations, strength training plays a crucial role in injury reduction.

Bone Strength & Resistance Training, Age, Women

When it comes to exercise and bone health, many people focus on bone mineral density. However, there is another important aspect to consider: whether or not bones themselves can grow and get stronger.

This is a question that Dr. Huberman, a researcher in the field of exercise and aging, is particularly interested in.

One of Dr. Huberman’s favorite results comes from the lab of Eric Kandel at Columbia University. Kandel won the Nobel Prize for learning and memory, and his lab has studied the effects of exercise on both learning and memory.

They found that load-bearing exercise stimulates the bones to release a hormone called osteocalcin, which then travels to the brain and enhances neuron health, thereby improving memory.

This result led Dr. Huberman to wonder whether bones themselves can get stronger through resistance training. Dr. Galpin, confirms that this is clearly demonstrated and has been known for decades. However, he notes that the ability to enhance bone mineral density diminishes with age, and that the best time to start resistance training for bone health is in the teenage years and 20s.

He also explains that axial loading, or up and down, vertical loading, is particularly effective for enhancing bone strength.

Dr. Galpin also notes that resistance training alone may not be enough for women to improve bone health, particularly if there are underlying issues with hormonal imbalances or nutrition deficiencies.

He suggests that women should work with a qualified physician and consider getting blood chemistry tests, as well as nutrition supplementation.

He also notes that birth control can affect bone health, and that it is a complex issue that requires specialized knowledge.

Despite these challenges, Dr. Galpin emphasizes that there is still hope for older individuals to improve their bone health through resistance training, but it is important to work with a specialist in the field.

Strength Training & Major Adaptations

The first major adaptation is in the nervous system. As Dr. Galpin explains, for human movement to occur, a nerve must send a signal through a motor unit, which then innervates multiple muscle fibers.

With strength training, there are improvements in the firing rate and synchronization of the nerve signals, as well as faster release of acetylcholine from the presynaptic neuron.

Additionally, calcium recycling is improved, allowing for faster signal transmission from nerve to muscle.

Another major adaptation is in the muscle fibers themselves.

With strength training, there is an increase in contractility, meaning the muscle fibers can produce more force or more velocity without changing in size.

This is due to improvements in the sarcoplasmic reticulum, the place that stores and releases calcium, as well as a stronger bond between the cross-bridge of the myosin and actin.

Finally, there is the potential for muscle fiber type to change with strength training.

Slow-twitch fibers can be converted to fast-twitch fibers, which tend to be larger and produce more force. However, this may not always be the case, especially with consistent endurance training.

Hypertrophy Training & Major Adaptations; Protein Synthesis

Protein synthesis is the process by which our body creates new proteins, and is essential for muscle growth and repair.

When we engage in strength training, we create small tears in our muscle fibers. These tears are then repaired by our body, and in the process, new muscle fibers are created.

This process is known as muscle protein synthesis, and it is the primary driver of muscle growth.

Another important change that occurs during hypertrophy is an increase in blood flow. As we engage in strength training, the demand for oxygen and nutrients increases. Our body responds by increasing blood flow to the muscles, which helps to deliver the necessary oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. This increased blood flow also helps to remove waste products, such as lactic acid, from the muscles.

There may also be changes in neural innervation, which is the process by which our nerves communicate with our muscles. When we engage in strength training, our nerves may become more efficient at communicating with our muscles, which can help to improve muscle strength and endurance.

Another possible change that occurs during hypertrophy is changes in fascia, which is the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles. Fascia is important for maintaining muscle integrity, and it may also play a role in muscle growth and repair.

It’s important to note that these changes are not mutually exclusive, and may occur simultaneously. For example, when we engage in strength training, we create small tears in our muscle fibers, which triggers muscle protein synthesis. At the same time, blood flow increases, and our nerves may become more efficient at communicating with our muscles.

Dr. Galpin also added that these adaptations are similar when we talk about hypertrophy and mode of training is close enough.

Nerves are not smart enough to differentiate between a set of five reps or a set of eight repetitions. But primary difference with hypertrophy is a couple of things.

So if you think about the muscle microstructure, we have a whole series of videos on YouTube if you want to see the visuals behind this.

The muscle protein synthesis, generally what we’re talking about there is contractile units. And so when we say contractile units, we’re talking about the myosin and actin.

And so what we’re really trying to do is say, okay, there’s some amount of protein turnover where we’re coming in and we’re trying to add more proteins to the equation.

Dr. Galpin also emphasize that the muscle protein synthesis can come from stretching of the cell wall, which is what happens with exercise. But it can also come from simple things like an amino acid infusion.

This is just eating protein. This is why protein ingestion alone is anabolic. It will help you grow muscle independent of even moving.

It’s also interesting to note that if you do the exact same study again and you just did strength training, you would also see an improvement in protein synthesis.

But those factors are independent and the mechanisms are independent such that if you do them both together, they stack on top of each other, which is really wonderful.

And if you were to add carbohydrate into that mix, now you’re actually adding fuel for the entire muscle protein synthesis process and now you’re going to see even additive

Endurance vs. Strength Training & Cell Signaling, Protein Synthesis

Dr. Huberman asked if the same benefits of strength training, such as an increase in protein synthesis, can be achieved through endurance-type exercise, such as a 45-minute jog.

Dr. Galpin stated that this is not the case.

In fact, endurance training has the opposite effect, and it is difficult to measure protein breakdown. The reason for this is that there is a unique molecular cascade that occurs during strength training.

This cascade is activated by different signals, such as glucose uptake, protein intake, or a physical stretch. These signals activate a series of cascading signaling proteins, which then activate a whole set of gene cascades that lead to protein synthesis.

This process is fundamentally the same, regardless of the type of insult, but there are different pathways.

The pathway from strength training or protein ingestion will activate an anabolic signaling cascade that leads to protein synthesis, while the pathway from endurance training will activate a different cascade, such as AMPK and energy signaling. However, there is a crossover point where endurance training can also activate the mTOR and AKT cascade, leading to protein synthesis.

Dr. Galpin also highlighted that the process of protein synthesis is not as simple as it seems.

It involves a combination of amino acids that form peptides and polypeptides, which ultimately form proteins.

The process is the same regardless of the type of protein being synthesized, whether it be a red blood cell, hair follicle, or skeletal muscle.

Muscle Hypertrophy, Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Skeletal muscle hypertrophy is generally thought of as an increase in contractile protein. This means that the myosin and actin fibers in the muscle get thicker, which can affect the lattice spacing within the muscle cell.

In response, the body increases the diameter of the entire cell to maintain this spacing. This is similar to two people sitting in a room and one person doubling in size, causing the other person to also double in size to maintain their personal space.

However, there is another type of muscle hypertrophy known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This refers to an increase in muscle size that has no functional benefit, as there is no increase in contractile units.

This concept was often considered bro science in the past, but recent studies by Mike Roberts at Auburn have shown that sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is likely happening.

This type of hypertrophy is caused by an increase in fluid within the muscle fiber, which allows for the diameter to be larger without any increase in force production.

Dr. Huberman also mentions the concept of neuroplasticity in the nervous system, which is the ability for the nervous system to change in response to learning, experience, and damage.

He compares this to the different types of muscle hypertrophy, stating that there are many paths to what we think of as hypertrophy and strength increase.

Certain forms of exercise and different sets and repetition schemes tap into different mechanisms, which is why strength increases are often associated with hypertrophy changes and vice versa.

Muscle Physiology & Plasticity, Muscle “Memory”

Skeletal muscle is unique in that it is large in diameter and multinucleated, meaning that it has thousands of nuclei rather than just one. This gives muscle fibers a great deal of plasticity and allows them to up-regulate, down-regulate, and repair more easily.

For years, scientists believed that the amount of hypertrophy a muscle could experience was limited by the number of nuclei it had. However, recent research has shown that the number of nuclei in a muscle fiber can be increased through the process of myonucleation.

This process involves satellite cells, which are dormant cells that can be found on the periphery of muscle fibers. When these satellite cells are activated, they turn into myonuclei and can increase the diameter of the muscle fiber.

This discovery has led to a new understanding of the concept of muscle “memory,” which is the ability of muscle fibers to regain size and strength more quickly after a period of detraining.

This phenomenon is thought to be related to the number of satellite cells available to turn into myonuclei, as well as other factors such as the ability of muscle fibers to up-regulate and down-regulate in response to changes in muscle use.

However, it is important to note that the concept of muscle memory is not limited to muscle physiology.

It is also used to describe the ability of the nervous system to remember certain movements, such as riding a bicycle or playing an instrument. This is a separate phenomenon, but one that is closely related to the muscle physiology.

Non-Negotiables & Modifiable Variables of Exercise Training

Dr. Galpin explains that training needs to be differentiated so that you can optimize either strength, hypertrophy, or a combination of both. This allows you to get the adaptation you want and avoid ones you don’t want.

There are a few concepts that are non-negotiable in any training program.

The first is adherence. Consistency beats intensity. The literature shows that adherence is the number one predictor of physical fitness outcomes.

The second is progressive overload. The body works as an adaptation mechanism, and you have to achieve some sort of overload without going excess. If you don’t do that, you will not see gains in strength and hypertrophy.

The third concept is individualization. This is where you can take into account personal preference, equipment availability, and other factors that are unique to you.

The last concept is picking the appropriate target. If you run some testing and figure out where your biggest limitations are, that’s going to help you identify where you need to go.

In order to balance specificity and variation, it is important to make sure you are working the muscle or muscle group that you want to grow. If you over-rely on specificity, you are more likely to increase the likelihood of overuse injuries. However, if you go the other direction and you have too much variation, it’s not enough stimuli directly on the muscle or muscle group or movement pattern.

Overall, the non-negotiables and modifiable variables of exercise training are essential components of an effective strength and hypertrophy protocol. By understanding and implementing these concepts, you can optimize your training and achieve your fitness goals.

Tool: Speed & Power Training, “3 to 5” Approach, Periodization, Planning 

The 3 to 5 approach refers to training three to five days per week, picking three to five exercises, and doing three to five repetitions per set. You’ll also rest for three to five minutes between each set.

The key to this approach is to execute the exercises with high intent, meaning you’re trying to move as fast or as powerfully as possible. This is critical because you can’t improve speed or power by simply moving at a moderate pace.

It’s also important to note that when training for speed and power, you’ll be using submaximal weights.

The goal is to lift the weight as fast as possible, not necessarily to lift the heaviest weight possible. This approach allows for a wide range of training options, from as little as three days a week with low volume to five days a week with high volume.

To progress, you’ll need to slightly increase the load or volume, with a target of a 3 to 5% increase per week.

For example, if you’re lifting 100 pounds, you may need to add smaller increments if you’re doing a lower body exercise with a couple of hundred pounds on the weight.

Dr. Huberman raises a valid question about whether or not the 3 to 5 approach should be the only weight training someone does.

The answer is no, you can certainly combine this approach with other types of weight training.

Speed and power training are non-fatiguing, so you can finish a 20-minute session and then move on to other types of training, such as high-intensity anaerobic capacity work, steady state, or even hypertrophy training.

There are many different types of periodization, but two of the most scientifically supported are linear periodization and undulating or daily undulating periodization.

Linear periodization involves gradually increasing the load and volume over time, while undulating periodization involves varying the load and volume from day to day.

Both approaches can be effective, but it’s important to choose the one that best suits your goals and training schedule.

Warming Up & Training, Dynamic Movements

Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin discuss the different approaches to warming up and the importance of finding what works best for the individual.

Dr. Huberman mentions that he was taught to do higher repetition movements with lighter weights to warm up, but found that doing a moderate repetition warmup with a fairly lightweight and keeping the number of warmup repetitions low helped him with strength and hypertrophy training.

Dr. Galpin brings up the point that a good warmup is dependent on the person and that some respond well to a minimum warmup while others respond better to a longer warmup.

He uses the example of a professional baseball player he works with who has a longer warmup and the more volume they throw at him, the better he does.

Dr. Galpin also mentions that differentiating between training for speed, power, strength, or hypertrophy is important as the warmup should be tailored to the type of training being done.

In hypertrophy training, volume is the primary driver and in speed, power, and strength, intensity is the primary driver.

Dr. Galpin concludes by saying that the warmup should be as long as it takes to get to where mobility is in the right spot, joints feel good, and peak power is achieved. Anything before that is considered a warmup set.

Strength vs. Hypertrophy Repetition Cadence, Triphasic Training

Repetition cadence can be used as a way to work through weak points and to be strong in every position of the movement.

To understand the optimal cadence for strength and hypertrophy, it’s important to understand the difference between the two. Strength is about movement, while hypertrophy is about muscle size.

When trying to get stronger, the goal is to get better at producing a certain amount of force through movement.

This is done by practicing lifting heavier at a faster rate. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t phases of training where you’ll slow down. There are certain rules in different organizations where you have to pause at the bottom, for example.

On the other hand, when trying to achieve hypertrophy, the goal is to cause the most amount of muscle growth. The optimal cadence for this is up to the individual. You can do any combination of cadences and still achieve hypertrophy if you modify the other variables appropriately.

One popular approach is called triphasic training, where the first phase focuses on eccentrics, the second phase focuses on isometrics, and the third phase focuses on concentrics.

It’s important to note that it’s never advocated to move any sort of weight or load uncontrolled. When the suggestion to go fast is made, it’s always in the context of proper form and control.

Understanding the difference between strength and hypertrophy, and how to manipulate the variables of repetition cadence, can help you achieve your specific goals.

Tool: Breathing & Training, Valsalva Technique

The Valsalva Technique can be difficult for some people to master, but it is a skill worth working on. Dr. Galpin demonstrates this by pushing on different parts of his abdomen and being able to talk while maintaining tightness. However, if it takes a lot of effort to create pressure and you can’t even muster a breath, then you may not have the necessary abdominal control to create stability.

One of the main concerns with the Valsalva Technique is regulating blood pressure. During heavy exercise, blood pressure can reach high levels, which can lead to passing out.

To prevent this, it is important to release a little bit of pressure to get blood moving and maintain spinal stability.

Dr. Huberman suggests that if you can complete an exercise without a breath and it is of a maximal or close to load, this is the best strategy.

He also emphasizes the importance of visualizing the torso as a cylinder and filling it with air. This is similar to pushing down on a full can of soda, where it is difficult to crush the can if it is full, but easy to crush if it is empty or kinked in the middle.

Tool: Training Auto-Regulation, Specificity vs. Variation, Prilepin’s Chart

Auto-regulation is a new-ish model of training that allows you to adjust your training based on how you’re feeling that day.

By using biomarkers, performance markers, or your performance, you can adjust your training based on what’s happening. This allows you to not have as much long-term planning in your program design, because it’ll sort of figure itself out as you’re going.

When it comes to the question of how much margin for error is there in volume when doing this three by five program, it depends on if we’re going for speed, power, or strength.

While all those other variables are the same for three to five, the core difference between whether that is a power workout or the load.

If you’re going for strength, you need to be at least 70% or higher. Anything below that, we don’t really count. Anyways, that’s those are warm upsets, basically.

One thing to give you some very specific numbers here, is a chart called a Prilepin chart.

This chart has been around for a very long time and it’s been verified and validated by a few studies out of New Zealand. The chart basically tells you if strength is the goal, and this comes from the powerlifting, weightlifting sort of communities or optimizing for strength, then how much time do I need to spend at each intensity range? So 70%, 80%, 90%, etc.

Specificity is important, it means that if you want to get better, neuromuscular guy, at shooting a basketball, the most important thing you could ever do is shoot a basketball under the exact circumstances that you’re going to do it. Specificity always wins.

If you want to get better at strength, the most important thing you need to do is that exact movement at that load.

Training to Failure, Exercise Selection & Recovery, Standardization

When it comes to training to failure, it is important to remember that it always depends on the individual.

As Dr. Galpin points out, the majority of people who think they are advanced are actually intermediate.

For beginners, it can be useful to take them to 100% to give them a guideline of where it’s at. However, for more experienced individuals, it may not be necessary to go all the way to failure to see strength gains.

In terms of exercise selection and frequency of exercise implementation across the week, it is important to consider recovery. For example, if you are doing a three by five routine where one of the exercises for back is a bent over row, it is possible to do that on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and still recover and improve over time.

However, doing bent over rows five days a week may not be optimal.

Some people recover more slowly and may need to hit muscle groups once directly per week and once indirectly.

Dr. Huberman also brings up the important distinction between local versus systemic recovery.

Local recovery refers to the muscle group and related musculoskeletal systems becoming fatigued, while systemic recovery refers to the whole nervous system becoming fatigued.

Understanding the difference between these two types of recovery can help you establish an exercise selection that will help you make progress.

Tool: Power vs. Strength Training & Modifiable Variables; Supersets 

When it comes to power and strength training, there are a few key modifiable variables to keep in mind. These include exercise choice, exercise order, volume, and intensity.

Exercise choice plays a crucial role in power and strength training. In general, compound movements are best for power and strength development. These are multi-joint movements that involve multiple muscle groups, rather than single muscle groups. For example, a vertical jump is a great example of explosive hip extension, while a bench press is a good example of a pushing movement.

Exercise order is also important, as power and strength exercises should be done when you are fresh and well-rested. This is because these exercises are neurologically demanding and require coordination. Doing them when you are fatigued will only compromise results.

When it comes to volume, the general range for power and strength training is 3 to 20 sets per workout.

This can vary based on individual goals and needs, but it’s important to remember that these exercises should not be fatiguing.

Finally, intensity is a key modifiable variable in power and strength training. This can be measured in a number of ways, including weight, reps, and sets. It’s important to push yourself to your limits in order to see results, but not to the point of injury.

One technique that can be used in power and strength training is supersets.

This involves doing two or more exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between. This can be a great way to increase intensity and see results faster.

Sets & Rest Periods; Stretching

Dr. Huberman mentioned that he personally stopped bringing his phone into the gym in order to avoid the urge to distract himself during rest periods.

He also mentioned that he has heard that pacing around can help to diffuse some of the metabolic by-products of exercise, and that shaking out the muscles can also be beneficial.

He asked Dr. Galpin if he had any specific recommendations for optimal behavior during rest periods.

Dr. Galpin responded by explaining that for speed and power, it’s important to walk the balance of being stiff but fresh during rest periods.

He also mentioned that for strength, powerlifters and weightlifters will often sit down and not move during rest periods.

For hypertrophy, the focus is more on fatigue management and clearing lactate, but it’s not necessary to spend a lot of time stretching, statically stretching a muscle.

He also emphasized that stretching can be detrimental for maximum power production and that it’s been shown multiple times in multiple laboratories.

Dr. Galpin also mentioned that for hypertrophy, it doesn’t matter if you’re pre-fatigued or pre-stretched as the focus is on the internal signal, not the quality of outcome.

He recommended that if an individual needs to stretch to get into the right position and avoid injury, it’s okay to sacrifice a small percentage of power for safety.

He also suggested reactivating the muscles by doing a fast movement, such as a vertical jump or short sprint, before going into a working set.

Tools: Power Training & Modifiable Variables; Examples

Dr. Galpin begins by highlighting the importance of the repetition range for power training, which is typically between 30 and 70% of one’s one repetition max.

He then goes on to provide a variety of examples of exercises and training methods that can be used to develop power, including plyometrics, medicine ball throws, short sprints, weightlifting movements such as snatches and clean and jerks, clapping push-ups, speed squats, and kettlebell swings.

One key point that Dr. Galpin emphasizes is the importance of attempting to move quickly when performing exercises for power development.

He also notes that different exercises and training methods can be used depending on one’s preferences, exercise availability, and gym access.

Overall, the conversation provides a wealth of information and practical examples for anyone looking to improve their power and speed through targeted training.

Tools: Strength Training & Modifiable Variables, Cluster Sets, Dynamic Variable Sets

Dr. Galpin notes that when focusing on strength, the total amount of sets and the total amount of weekly load needs to be lower, and the intensity needs to be generally higher than 70%.

He also emphasizes the need to emphasize maximum speed, despite the heavier load, and the importance of complex exercises, such as barbells and machines.

Dr. Galpin also mentions other advanced techniques for strength training, such as cluster sets and eccentric overload training.

Cluster sets involve taking a mini break in between every single repetition, which can be incredibly effective for both strength, power, and even hypertrophy.

Eccentric overload training involves loading at greater than 100% of one’s one repetition max, but only doing the eccentric portion of it.

This advanced technique is also effective for strength development.

Both Huberman and Galpin caution about the importance of proper exercise and positioning, to avoid injuries and maintain progress. They also advise seeking professional guidance when attempting advanced techniques.

Power & Strength Training Protocols

When training for power, Dr. Huberman suggests picking three to five compound exercises, such as multi-joint movements, and performing them for three to five repetitions each.

He recommends doing three to five movements total per workout and resting three to five minutes between sets.

The weight loads on the work sets should fall in the range of 30 to 70 percent of your one repetition maximum.

Dr. Galpin adds that the larger the movement, the higher that number should be. For example, on a squat, you can use 50 or 60% of your one repetition maximum, but on a bench press, it should be closer to 30 to 40%.

When training for strength, Dr. Huberman advises using work sets that are 70% or more of your one repetition maximum.

Dr. Galpin notes that it’s okay to go less than three reps per set, so a single or a double is also effective. They both recommend avoiding going more than five reps per set.

Dr. Huberman also highlights the importance of being mindful of other forms of training when working on power or strength.

He suggests that if you perform a three by five program but also include hypertrophy work for other muscle groups, it’s okay to do it after the three by five training, but be aware that it can compromise recovery for the power or strength program.

To avoid this, you can throttle back on the intensity or volume, or if your goal is strictly power or strength, it might be best to leave out other forms of training.

Intention, Focus & Exercise

While specific loads and numbers are important in weightlifting and weight training, intention can play a significant role in strength production. For example, in a plank exercise, contracting as hard as possible while holding the position can lead to strength production, even though the load on the bar is minimal.

The same principle applies to other forms of strength training, such as body weight style training, low load implement training, and single leg training.

Dr. Galpin also pointed out that for these methods to be effective, intention must be present. He suggests avoiding distractions such as music and phones in the gym to improve training quality.

He also suggests setting a playlist before going to the gym to avoid wasting time between sets.

Dr. Galpin also mentioned that there are studies that show music can enhance performance, but it is not about the music itself but rather the focus and intent that the music brings.

Hypertrophy Training Program, Muscle Growth & Signaling 

What are the ways to induce hypertrophy? According to Dr. Galpin, a better way to think about this question is to consider the stimuli that need to be given to the muscle to induce hypertrophy.

There are hormonal and nutritional factors, but in the context of training, it is important to understand that the precision needed is less than what is needed for power and strength training. This is why there are countless styles of training that all work.

Hypertrophy training is often considered “idiot proof” because it has a broad range of applications.

Dr. Galpin notes that what drives changes in strength and power are the adaptations of specificity, but what drives changes in hypertrophy is much more well-rounded.

To induce hypertrophy, the muscle needs to be challenged to come back specifically bigger, and the nutrients need to be there to support that growth.

To activate the signaling cascade that leads to protein synthesis and muscle growth, the signal needs to be strong enough, frequent enough, or a combination of these things.

Dr. Galpin explains that as long as one of three variables is high (frequency, intensity, or volume), hypertrophy will occur.

There are different paths to achieve this, such as blood flow restriction training or mechanical tension. However, eventually these stimuli will reach a saturation point, and not all three mechanisms are required to induce hypertrophy. In fact, muscle damage or breakdown is not necessary at all.

Dr. Huberman adds that he still trains in a similar way, mainly once a week directly and once a week indirectly.

Tools: Hypertrophy Training & Modifiable Variables; Examples

Huberman and Galpin discuss hypertrophy training and its modifiable variables, specifically exercise choice, order of movements, volume, sets, and repetitions, and frequency of training.

One of the key points discussed is the importance of exercise choice.

Dr. Galpin explains that most people default to choosing exercises based on body parts, but research has shown that choosing exercises based on movement patterns can be just as effective. However, it’s important to keep in mind that most of the research on muscle hypertrophy is conducted on novice to moderately trained individuals, so the findings may not apply to highly trained individuals.

Another important aspect of hypertrophy training is the balance between bilateral and unilateral exercises.

Bilateral exercises involve both limbs moving in sequence, like a squat, while unilateral exercises involve one limb moving at a time, like a pistol squat or single-leg curl.

Dr. Galpin emphasizes the importance of incorporating a combination of bilateral and unilateral exercises to prevent imbalances and ensure overall muscle development.

The use of different types of implements, such as dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, bands, or bodyweight, was also discussed.

Dr. Galpin notes that the implement used is not as important as the insult created in the tissue, and that machines can be a great resource for targeting specific muscle groups, especially for beginners or those having difficulty with bigger compound movements.

In terms of volume, sets, and repetitions, Dr. Galpin advises that as long as the total amount of volume on the working muscle is equated throughout the week, any personal preference or strategy will be effective.

Finally, the topic of frequency of training was discussed, specifically how it relates to the so-called split, where people divide their body parts into different training days.

Overall, hypertrophy training is a complex topic with many variables to consider. Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin provide valuable insights and recommendations to help guide your training for muscle growth and development.

Balanced Muscle Development & Hypertrophy

Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin discuss the importance of balanced muscle development and hypertrophy.

Dr. Huberman brings up the topic of prioritizing specific body parts and exercises, and raises the question of whether it is appropriate for people to avoid training a certain muscle group if their goal is balanced development. He mentions that in his own training, he tends to focus less on his quadriceps, which grow easily for him, and more on his hamstrings and calves.

Dr. Galpin agrees that people should be given permission to tailor their training to their individual needs and goals. However, he emphasizes that it is important to maintain the motor patterns and balance that come with compound movements like squats, even if the volume is kept low.

He suggests rotating these movements in and out of a training program rather than completely disregarding a muscle group.

Overall, the conversation highlights the importance of considering genetic and natural variations when designing a training program for hypertrophy, and the importance of maintaining balance and stability in the body.

It also emphasizes the importance of not neglecting any muscle group in the pursuit of balanced development.

Tools: Hypertrophy Training & Modifiable Variables; Splits

Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin discuss various aspects of hypertrophy training, including modifiable variables, splits, exercise order, and volume.

The first topic of discussion is modifiable variables, which include volume, intensity, rest intervals, and exercise order.

These variables all interact with each other and can influence the overall effectiveness of a workout. For example, the heavier the load on a barbell, the less repetitions one can do. Similarly, the shorter the rest intervals, the lower the weight or rep range has to be.

When it comes to exercise order, the doctors note that for hypertrophy training, the order of exercises can be based on personal preference or a technique called pre-fatigue.

Pre-fatigue involves starting with isolation exercises before moving on to compound movements, which can help ensure that the muscle of most interest gets the most training.

The doctors also discuss exercise splits, noting that it’s important to consider the total volume achieved on a muscle group per week, rather than worrying about which muscle groups to package together.

They also emphasize the importance of not underappreciating the legs as a muscle group and avoiding imbalances in training between the upper and lower body.

Finally, the conversation turns to volume, with Dr. Galpin stating that the minimum number of working sets per week for each muscle group is 10. Dr. Huberman also brings up the topic of indirect targeting of muscles, asking if sets for exercises that indirectly target a muscle group (such as pull-ups targeting the biceps) should be included in the 10 sets per week.

“Non-Responders” & Exercise Plateaus, Volume

Drs. Huberman and Galpin discuss the concept of “non-responders” and exercise plateaus, specifically in terms of volume.

They explain that the ideal range for maintaining and initiating muscle growth is between 10 and 20 sets per week. However, they also note that it can get complicated when considering the number of reps per set, repetition type, and tempo.

The doctors mention that if someone is in this 10-20 set range, but still not seeing adaptations, it could be that the repetitions are not enough.

They also mention that there are other factors to consider, such as intensity, intent, sleep, nutrition, and overall stress levels.

Drs. Huberman and Galpin also discuss the concept of “responders” and “non-responders” in terms of muscle growth. They explain that some people may see rapid muscle growth while others may not see any gains at all, even with similar training and nutrition plans. They note that there is ongoing research to identify the molecular mechanisms behind this phenomenon.

Finally, the doctors discuss how to break through plateaus in training.

They suggest trying different protocols, such as switching to a higher or lower intensity range or increasing or decreasing volume. They also mention that it is important to consider individual differences, as what works for one person may not work for another.

Hypertrophy, Repetition & Rest Ranges, Muscle Failure, “Chaos Management”

Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin discuss the concept of hypertrophy, or muscle growth, and how it relates to repetition and rest ranges.

They note that the number of repetitions required for inducing hypertrophy can range from four to thirty, with a caveat that the first 20 should feel light. The goal is still to contract the muscle as hard as possible on each repetition.

The doctors also discuss the concept of muscle failure, which is defined as the point at which a person can no longer move the resistance in the concentric phase of the exercise movement in good form.

They note that failure is not always necessary for inducing hypertrophy, but that it should be aimed for and that getting close to failure is a good number to think about, such as minus two reps in reserve.

Dr. Galpin also mentions a recent review by Eric Helms’ team out of New Zealand, which went into detail about the definitions and caveats of hypertrophy and failure.

He notes that highly trained individuals may not need to go to failure as often as those who are less experienced.

The doctors also discuss the idea of “chaos management” in relation to hypertrophy, suggesting that taking certain exercises, such as barbell back squats, to failure multiple times a week may not be the best choice.

Instead, they suggest taking safer exercises, such as hack squats or leg extensions, to failure or hitting total failure on the last movement of the day to get the most stimulus without completely obliterating oneself.

Overall, the conversation provides insight into the complex nature of hypertrophy and the importance of understanding repetition and rest ranges, muscle failure, and “chaos management” in order to effectively induce muscle growth.

Frequency & Workout Duration, Splits

Dr. Huberman notes that combining different muscle groups on the same day can lead to shorter workout durations, while isolating specific body parts on different days can lead to longer workout durations.

Dr. Galpin agrees that frequency must be considered within the context of workout duration and notes that most people are not consistent enough to isolate specific body parts on different days.

He suggests that doing something like three days a week of total body workouts is a more practical and resilient approach for most people.

This approach allows for flexibility in case of unexpected life events and still allows for the appropriate load and volume to be achieved.

Dr. Huberman asks if this approach would result in workouts lasting one to two hours, but Dr. Galpin notes that it doesn’t have to be that long. In fact, a whole body workout could be done in as little as 30 minutes if the appropriate number of sets and exercises are done.

He suggests targeting 15 working sets per muscle group per week, which can be achieved with just a few exercises done three times a week.

Dr. Galpin also notes that some muscle groups, such as the hamstrings, may require more specific isolation exercises. However, most muscle groups can be adequately worked with just a few exercises done in a total body workout. The key is to hit the appropriate load and volume for each muscle group.

Training Frequency, Infrequent Training, Intermediate Repetition Ranges

There has been a growing belief that the ideal frequency for resistance training a given muscle group for hypertrophy is about every 48 hours.

Dr. Galpin states that while the protein synthesis adaptation response lasts around 48 hours, it is not the only step in muscle growth. He also notes that there is no reason to think that training a muscle group sooner than 48 hours is better for hypertrophy, and that there are no practical applications or successful athletes or bodybuilders who have found success in doing so.

Dr. Huberman brings up the idea of preloading the system by destroying a muscle and then waiting 7-14 days before training it again.

Dr. Galpin agrees that this is not necessary and that there is no benefit other than psychological.

Dr. Galpin suggests that 48 hours is a reasonable time to wait before training a muscle group again and that there is not a significant advantage in waiting much longer than that.

He also mentions that life circumstances may determine the training schedule, such as for athletes with games or competitions every few days.

Finally, Dr. Huberman asks about what happens to the muscle if it is not trained again for five or six days after the initial stimulus and adaptation.

Dr. Galpin states that there is no reason to think that the muscle will revert to its pre-hypertrophic state and that the only challenge with training that infrequently is getting enough total volume done.

Overall, while the protein synthesis adaptation response lasts around 48 hours, it is not the only step in muscle growth and there is no significant advantage in training a muscle group sooner than 48 hours. It is also not necessary to wait much longer than 72 hours before training the muscle group again.

The key is to ensure that enough total volume is done when training infrequently.

Hypertrophy, Muscle Damage & Recovery

When it comes to muscle growth and recovery, it’s important to consider not just the local muscle group being worked, but also the nervous and neuromuscular system as a whole. As Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin discuss, the nervous system can become fatigued and the whole body may need rest in order to recover properly.

But how do we determine when our body needs complete rest or low-level active rest?

Dr. Galpin offers some insight into this question, starting with a local approach and working back to systemic. He suggests using a subjective measure of soreness, with a rule of thumb being that if you’re more than three out of ten in terms of soreness, it’s time to start asking questions and reevaluating your training. If you’re higher than six out of ten, it’s best to take a break from training.

When it comes to systemic measures, Dr. Galpin and his team use a variety of biomarkers to assess muscle damage and recovery.

These include creatine kinase, LDH, myoglobulin, ALT, and AST. They also look at the AST to ALT ratio, which can be a sneaky good indicator of muscle damage.

Additionally, they pay attention to sleep behavior and function, as well as heart rate variability, to get a better understanding of overall training volume and systemic overload.

It’s important to remember that these are just guidelines and that everyone’s body is different.

It’s essential to listen to your body and adjust your training accordingly. If you’re consistently experiencing excessive soreness or muscle damage, it may be worth consulting with a professional to assess your training program and make any necessary adjustments.

Combining Cardiovascular & Hypertrophy Training, Interference Effect

Combining cardiovascular and hypertrophy training can be a tricky balancing act, but it is possible to achieve both goals with the right approach.

This is known as the crossover interference effect, and it is primarily an energy management issue.

The only time endurance exercise starts to interfere or block or hinder hypertrophy is when total energy intake or balance is off. To fix this, simply eat more.

The second issue is to avoid exercise forms that work the same muscle group, specifically the eccentric portion. For example, running on legs will interfere more with hypertrophy than cycling, which has less eccentric pounding and loading.

When it comes to higher intensity cardio, such as getting on an assault bike and doing sprints, or going to a field and doing bounds and sprints, there is less information available on the potential interference. However, there is some evidence that it may actually aid in hypertrophy, as it creates a metabolic disturbance in the muscles.

It is important not to do it to the point of compromising your ability to come back and do your primary training.

A recent study found that individuals who performed six weeks of steady-state endurance work prior to starting a hypertrophy phase had more muscle growth at the end of their hypertrophy training than those who did not.

This suggests that there are a lot of advantages to being physically fit when trying to grow muscle. However, it is important to be physically fit before beginning a hypertrophy training phase, as being too fatigued and damaged can limit muscle growth.

In summary, to achieve both cardiovascular and hypertrophy training goals, it is important to manage energy intake, avoid exercises that work the same muscle group, and consider adding higher intensity cardio to your routine.

Hypertrophy Training Protocols 

Exercise Choice

The choice of exercises is not critical in terms of specificity, but it’s important to target all major muscle groups across your exercise choices.

It’s also essential to pick exercises that you can perform safely and that can generate enough intensity to get close to failure without putting yourself in danger.

Large compound free-weight exercises like squats and deadlifts, as well as isolation exercises, can be beneficial for some people. However, for others, a bias towards more isolation exercises and machines may be more appropriate.

Machines, such as plate-loaded machines like hammer strength machines, can allow for substantial loads.

Picking two or three or more movements per muscle group can be valuable, but consistency is more important than variation.

Exercise Order

There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to the order of exercises. You can do large compound exercises for quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes first, like a squat or a front squat.

Then, if you deadlifted and primarily hit the glutes and hamstrings, you might want to target the quadriceps more directly with leg extensions.

Or, if you squatted and loaded the squat bar in a way that was predominantly quadricep and less so glute and hamstring, then leg curls would be a good choice.

It’s also important to train your calves, unless you’re a genetic freak or have a genetic predisposition that gives you large calves that don’t require any training.

Volume

The total number of sets per week is a strong driving force of program design and selection. Ideally, you should be performing 10 to 20 sets per week, probably more like 15 to 20 sets per week, per muscle group.

This volume can be divided up across multiple workouts or done in one workout. However, it’s important to note that this volume doesn’t take into account indirect activation.

So, if you’re performing 10 to 20 sets for biceps, your back work is going to hit your biceps a little bit, maybe a bit more depending on the exercise selection. But it’s really 10 to 20 sets.

Given that hypertrophy can still occur and maybe even occurs better with more volume, it’s important to include the indirect work unless something about the architecture of your body and the inability to engage certain muscle groups makes a pull-up really an arm exercise for you.

Tool: Neck & Rear Deltoid Exercises, Stabilization & Hypertrophy

When it comes to targeting the rear deltoids and neck safely, there are a variety of exercises that can be performed for stabilization and hypertrophy.

One great resource to check out is Eric Cressy, a strength and conditioning coach and Director of Pitching for the New York Yankees. He has many free videos and resources on shoulder girdle exercises, specifically for overhead and throwing athletes.

However, it’s important to be careful when working with these areas of the body, as the wrong positioning of the scapula can cause problems in the neck and low back.

One exercise that is great for targeting the rear deltoids is the reverse fly, which can be done lying on a bench.

This exercise allows for the stabilizing of the rest of the body so that the focus can be on using the rear deltas and positioning the scapulas correctly.

When it comes to neck exercises, it is important to be mindful of the joints and their specific movements.

Isometrics are a great option for the neck as they focus on stability, rather than movement.

There are also devices available that can be worn on the head to do various movement exercises for the neck. However, neck bridges are not recommended as they can cause damage to the discs.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani suggests that isometrics are a great way to go about neck exercises.

Hypertrophy: Reps, Sets & Progression, “Hidden” Stressors, Exercises to Avoid

In terms of sets and repetitions, Dr. Galpin recomms aiming for a range of six to 30 reps, with most of the training falling in the eight to 15 repetition range.

He also notes that the 7-9 rep range is a “no man’s or no woman’s land of power” and can be a good balance between strength and hypertrophy.

One important point emphasized by Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin is the importance of getting close to failure and occasionally hitting failure.

They also recommend incorporating intensity-increasing maneuvers such as forced repetitions or rest pauses into your training, but note that these will require more attention to recovery.

They also advise being aware of “hidden stressors” and “visible stressors” and taking steps to manage them in order to be able to train harder and recover more quickly.

Dr. Galpin also offers a bit of a “carrot” for those who may not like the idea of training to failure too often.

He suggests that if you can get your hidden and visible stressors under control, you will be able to train harder and recover more quickly.

In terms of sets and reps, Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin suggest hitting a range of 10 to 20 sets per week, with rest ranges varying from 30 seconds to 3-4 minutes depending on the weight you are training with and how close you are to failure.

They also note that there is a lot of “play in the system” and that different people will have different needs and preferences.

Deliberate Cold Exposure & Hypertrophy vs. Strength

Dr. Huberman and Dr. Galpin discuss the topic of deliberate cold exposure and its effects on hypertrophy and strength training.

Dr. Huberman brings up the common question of when to use cold showers and ice baths in relation to hypertrophy training, as he has heard that doing so too soon after a workout can reduce or eliminate the hypertrophy response.

Dr. Galpin, who is a proponent of cold exposure, confirms that this is true and advises against doing it immediately after a workout or even on the same day.

He also mentioned that the goal is different for recovery after game or other endurance activities, but for muscle growth, it is not good idea.

Dr. Galpin also notes that it’s important to understand the goal of the day, week, month, and phase of training before making decisions about using cold exposure.

He states that during phases when they are trying to maximize hypertrophy, they may not use any ice work at all, as the point is to cause overload and the cold exposure will attenuate and compromise the results in the long-term.

Nutrition, Timing & Strength/Hypertrophy; Creatine

Huberman and Galpin discuss nutrition and supplementation as they relate to hypertrophy.

They mention the research done by Dr. Lane Norton on protein intake and how much protein synthesis can occur by meal, throughout the day.

Dr. Norton suggests that the lower end of the range for protein intake is 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight, up to 2.4 or even 2.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This range is on the higher end of what most people think of in terms of protein intake.

When it comes to post-workout nutrition for hypertrophy, Dr. Galpin likes to see people ingest protein and carbohydrates to facilitate muscle protein synthesis and recovery.

He also mentions the work of Don Lehman and Stu Phillips, and how as long as you get to the total number of protein intake, the question about timing and types and quality of protein matter less.

The timing of macronutrients matters less for protein but it is important for carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen.

It is also mentioned that nutrient timing does matter with carbohydrates, but less so with protein if the total protein ingestion is high enough. It all depends on the training goal and what the person wants to achieve.

Wrapping Up

Strength and hypertrophy training have numerous benefits for everyone, not just athletes or those looking to build bigger muscles. 

It combats neuromuscular aging, improves mood and focus, and overall health and longevity. 

Strength and hypertrophy are two different types of adaptations that represent different goals, and understanding the distinction can help individuals optimize their training. 

Endurance and strength training have different effects on the body, specifically in regards to cell signaling and protein synthesis. 

The 3 to 5 approach is a simple and effective way to train for speed and power by training three to five days per week, picking three to five exercises, and doing three to five repetitions per set. 

The Valsalva Technique is a maneuver that can help create intra-abdominal pressure, spinal stability, and regulate blood pressure during exercise. 

Training to failure, exercise selection, and recovery are complex topics that depend on the individual. 

Power and strength training involve a number of modifiable variables, including exercise choice, exercise order, volume, and intensity. 

The key to strength production is the presence of intention and focus and avoiding distractions in the gym.

Hypertrophy is a well-rounded response that can be achieved through various stimuli and is important to remember that muscle damage or breakdown is not necessary to induce hypertrophy. 

Overall, they emphasize the importance of considering individual differences when it comes to training and nutrition, and following key principles such as exercise choice, exercise order, and volume to design a program tailored to specific needs and goals. 


Subscribe now


Related Posts


Huberman’s Sponsors

Supplements from Momentous https://www.livemomentous.com/huberman

AG1 (Athletic Greens): https://athleticgreens.com/huberman

Levels: https://levels.link/huberman

InsideTracker: https://www.insidetracker.com/huberman

Eight Sleep: https://eightsleep.com/huberman


Articles Mentioned

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy in Skeletal Muscle: A Scientific “Unicorn” or Resistance Training Adaptation?: https://bit.ly/3j4sXxq

Towards an improved understanding of proximity-to-failure in resistance training and its influence on skeletal muscle hypertrophy, neuromuscular fatigue, muscle damage, and perceived discomfort: A scoping review: https://bit.ly/3Dd9MIy


Dr. Andy Galpin Academic

Profile: http://hhd.fullerton.edu/knes/facultystaff/AndyGalpin.php

Website: https://www.andygalpin.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/drandygalpin

Instagram: https://instagram.com/drandygalpin

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe3R2e3zYxWwIhMKV36Qhkw


Huberman’s Links

Website – https://hubermanlab.com

Huberman Lab Premium – https://hubermanlab.com/premium

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/hubermanlab

Twitter – https://twitter.com/hubermanlab

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/hubermanlab

Newsletter – https://hubermanlab.com/neural-network

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@hubermanlab

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-huberman/


Disclaimer

The content above is a summary from the Huberman Lab podcast. I’m not affiliated with him.

If you’d like to support Dr. Huberman, you can do so by checking out the sponsors. All affiliate links go to Huberman.

Leave a Comment