Every aspect of physical fitness draws on the importance of building muscle. Whether you are going for strength, speed, size, power, agility you will need to gain muscle.
Most of us have encountered hulk-like men and women who lift weights because they want to get big. Those of us who haven’t come across such individuals in real life will have seen pictures of them in magazines, at the movies, or while watching TV.
Being big can be a vanity thing. Everyone likes to look good and, although it all comes down to personal perspective, some people think a hulk-like body looks very good indeed. It becomes a goal worth striving for.
The people who compete in bodybuilding competitions are at the top end of the scale.
They don’t just want to look good, they’re pinning their hopes on looking better than anyone else. Some may use bodybuilding supplements or legal steroids.
Competitive bodybuilders are not just building and sculpting muscle to look good, they’re doing it to try and win a prize.
Whatever their personal reasons for doing it, people who are trying to build the body beautiful are bodybuilders.
However, not everyone who wants to build muscle does so in an effort to look good. Some of them are doing it to build strength. Triathletes for example are building both strength and stamina.
Strength athletes can be very muscular-looking, but it’s a totally different game.
Take powerlifters as another example.
The ones who compete at the highest weight levels can be very big, but they don’t have the incredible muscle definition top bodybuilders have.
That chiseled look with muscles upon muscles has no place in their sport, but they could beat a top bodybuilder every time when it comes to strength.
The Sportsmen and Women Who Adopt a Size Doesn’t Matter Approach
There are lots of different types of strength athlete but powerlifters and World’s Strongest Man contestants are likely to be the most musclebound.
Just as competitive bodybuilders want to look better than the competition, these high-level strength athletes want to be stronger than anyone else.
However, the vast majority of athletes don’t train to be the strongest individual in their sport.
Nor do they aspire to have the best-looking body. They lift weights because they want to improve their sports performance.
In reality, increasing muscle mass is important for these athletes too but it benefits them in other ways.
Hypertrophy Is the Name of the Game
When you exercise your muscles a process called hypertrophy comes into play. It’s an integral part of most periodized sports training programs.
Many sportspeople need to be capable of delivering an explosive burst of energy.
Being fit and having strong muscles isn’t enough. One of the things specialized hypertrophy training programs do is give them the ability to deliver these rapid bursts of energy.
Hypertrophy training can also be very good for the tendons and ligaments. When done correctly, it also encourages the tendons and ligaments to adapt and become less vulnerable to injury.
It also improves muscle mass. This provides additional bulk.
However, there are two types of muscular hypertrophy:
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy
- Myofibrillar hypertrophy
Each type is different and the kind of muscle bulk they provide is far from being the same.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is what happens when fluid increases in the muscle cell sarcoplasm.
The muscle fiber itself does not increase, but the extra volume of fluid increases the muscle size. The muscles pump up and look bigger without becoming any stronger.
If you are training with this type of muscular hypertrophy in mind, you need to aim for 10-15 reps or more for each set.
It works well for bodybuilders and is very different from the way a powerlifter would train. That’s why some really big-looking people may actually be a lot weaker than you may expect.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy has its place in other sports as well, such as football and rugby.
Although athletes that play these sports don’t need to take their muscle growth to extremes, the extra muscle mass provides them with extra padding that can lessen the likelihood of injury when bodies collide. Though in reality, myofibrillar hypertrophy provides superior strength and speed.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy doesn’t pump your muscles up with fluid. It provides genuine muscle (fiber) growth.
Myofibrils are rod-like structures within the muscle cells. They are made from protein and, if you are training to increase strength, it’s the microfibers you need to build.
An effective myofibrillar hypertrophy training routine builds dense muscle tissue. A typical routine involves heavier weights than a sarcoplasmic hypertrophy training regimen. If you can comfortably do more than 3-5 reps, you’re using too little weight and need to add more.
In reality, myofibrillar hypertrophy training routines are the best option for most kind of sports. It provides more strength and speed.
Why Settle for One When You Can Have Both?
If you are a bodybuilder, size is the name of the game. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the best way to get it.
If you are a powerlifter, you’re probably going to need to stick to a good myofibrillar hypertrophy training routine.
Doing so will help you to build and keep the strength you need. If you are involved in other types of sport, you may want to consider a little of both.
One way to do this is to stick to a myofibrillar hypertrophy training routine and then add one big lift to the end of each of your workouts.
Training for Sports Isn’t Just About Muscle
Unless you are a bodybuilder or dedicated strength athlete, your gym time shouldn’t be your only time to train.
You will need to make time for cardiovascular activities too. You will also need to make sure you don’t put on too much bulk.
Football players, basketball players and iron man athletes all benefit from a little extra muscle bulk, but going too big and bulky would slow them down.
Building muscle is important for sportsmen and women of all kinds, but each athlete needs to look at their chosen sport and make sure they have the optimum amount of muscle and, of course, that it’s the right kind.