On episode 7 of the Performance Plus Podcast Dr. Zach Long and Coach Johnny B sit down to talk hypertrophy for CrossFit athletes.
- What is hypertrophy?
- Can humans create more muscle fibers or just hypertrophy existing fibers?
- What is the ideal rep range for hypertrophy?
- Does hypertrophy style workouts like bodybuilding produce the best beach body
- Do CrossFitters need to focus on hypertrophy?
- What is the best way to program accessory work for CrossFit to produce hypertrophy?
- Where does blood flow restriction training fit into the goal of training hypertrophy?
Want more? Our six-week hypertrophy program gives you 10-12 minute finishers to your CrossFit workouts to focus on adding targeted volume to your arms and shoulders!
The Performance Plus Podcast is a short, actionable podcast that answers common questions from CrossFitters and other athletes. Featuring Dr. Zach Log (The Barbell Physio), Pamela Gagnon, and hosted by Coach Johnny Bouchard each short podcast episode will help you achieve your goals. Whether you are training for a competition or want to get stronger, our step-by-step guide is all you need to take care of your body.
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Follow Johnny @coach_johnnyb
Tune in each Friday for a new episode!
Hypertrophy For CrossFitters Transcript
Coach Johnny B: [00:00:00] what’s going on as a coach Johnny B. Welcome back to the performance plus podcast. I am joined again by Dr. Zach long today. We’re talking about a word that half of the population can’t say.
Zach: Uh, you know who can’t say Pamela Gagnon cannot say hypertrophy. I can’t even remember how she says it. I wish I could pronounce it the way she did, but every time she says it, I’m just like, I can’t talk to her for 10 seconds.
Coach Johnny B: It’s so funny. It’s so
funny because she knows exactly what it is. She knows a lot about it, but she just like, whatever, like just, it drives me nuts.
Zach: But at the end of the day, I’m going to text her and her.
Coach Johnny B: We were cutting into the end of this one so everybody could see it. [00:01:00] I love it. So. Let’s start first,
Zach: define hypertrophy.
I purchased the it’s just the growth of the muscle fibers. So basically making your, your muscles look bigger. So in humans, muscles get bigger by the individual fibers actually growing, not by us. Adding more fiber. To our body. So it’s just those what we have getting bigger, essentially.
Coach Johnny B: The question, how can we actually create more fibers?
Are we genetically limited to the fibers that we
Zach: have for the most part? We’re pretty much genetically limited. I think there’s been some recent research that has done. Some hyperplasia or the growth of more muscle fibers, but I think we’re pretty limited there.
Coach Johnny B: I had an interesting discussion with a PT from here the other day, who is convinced that there’s some mechanism out there that we haven’t discovered yet by which you could actually lay down more fibers, but, uh,
Zach: But it’s probably going to be some weird genetic [00:02:00] modification stuff or like weird stem cell
Coach Johnny B: injections.
I think w he was getting down the road up was like they’re hat, there’s drugs out there, CRISPR, like there’s ways to do it. And he’s on the camp of, he wants to be the first person to try it cause he wants to get bigger. So, uh, Yeah. Uh, so I’ve heard your fee, um, is huge in the bodybuilding world, right?
Like that’s pretty much what people are doing is just trying to gain mass. Uh, what’s the importance of high purchase fee for CrossFit athletes or powerlifters Olympic weights. So
Zach: for CrossFitters power electors, Olympic lifters, a bigger muscle has the potential to generate more force. A bigger muscle does not necessarily mean that it will produce more force.
So. Like a bodybuilder versus a powerlifter. A bodybuilder probably looks more muscular human to bodybuilders and powerlifter, same height and weight. The powerlifter is probably stronger. They’re better at using the muscle fibers that they have to produce force, but it [00:03:00] will have more potential. So if you want your squat to go.
Building bigger quads, bigger glutes, and then performing the right training afterwards to then kind of what we call it, realize that potential will then potentially help you squat more. Plus you tend to look better, which is what most of us actually really
Coach Johnny B: care about on that question. If you’re just trying to look good, you need to train anything outside of hypertrophy or should you just be in a constant state of hypertrophic different muscles?
Zach: So, I mean, I think if you walk into across the gym and you walk into a bodybuilding gym where people focus on more hypertrophy based training, I think most humans want to look like what more people in cross the chimps. So if I was, if most people came to me saying, Hey, I want to look good and have a good beach body.
I would actually say you should probably do more of a CrossFit style training routine than a bodybuilding routine. If your goal is to have as much muscle mass on it as possible. And that’s the look that you’re going for. Yeah. You probably need to follow something very [00:04:00] specific to
Coach Johnny B: that goal. There’s a lot of debate about this.
To accomplish hypertrophy and the human body. Is there an ideal rep range?
Zach: Well, so the loading is going to be anywhere over 30% of somebody. Who’s one rep max, but really the key with, with creating hypertrophic changes is going to high levels of. So there, we used to think that there was this like hypertrophy rep range between six and 12 reps.
And now we know that you could take your 30% of your one rep max and just lift it. It’s going to take you 40 or 50 reps to get fatigued. But as long as you take it to, you know, two or three reps away from failure, you’re going to create the same hypertrophy effect with that light load that you would with lifting 70% of your one rep max for 10 reps.
So in general, when we’re thinking, I purchased the I’m thinking about three things, number one, I want people lifting. So that’s going to be them at times, lifting over 70% of their one rep max, trying to build up more overall strength. We want to [00:05:00] break down the muscle fibers themselves with mechanical tension.
So that’s going to be like, um, doing slower lifts under relatively heavy load, or we’re focused on like going into a stretch position. Slow east centric, increased time under 10. And then we want to get what we call metabolite bill. So that’s the muscle burn that. So most of the people that, that follow performance plus our, across the athletes, or very similar styles of training to CrossFit, what they typically see in their workouts, that they see the heavy stuff that they’re coming in one day in the gym.
And it’s, you know, once a week they’re doing five by five back swaps at 75%. So they’re getting the heavy load. They’re also getting them the metabolic buildup. So they’re doing, um, Uh, a workout that has thrusters and running, where when you run your heart rates, getting jacked up, you’re, you’re depleting the oxygen, your body a little bit.
And then you go and do thrusters where now your legs in a low oxygen state or having a squat repeatedly, and your quads are [00:06:00] gonna burn like crazy when you do those thrusters, that’s the metabolite build-up. So they kind of get those pieces of the equation on the hypertrophy standpoint down. And that’s why we see cross centers not lifting that.
Super often, but still, if you take a skinny athlete, put them into CrossFit for a few months and have them eat appropriately, we’ll see that person put on some muscle mass. And it’s because of those two effects. What we typically don’t see CrossFitters do. This is kind of the third thing there though. The tension position, the time under tension.
So when they do their five by five squats, they’re doing those tasks. When they’re doing those thrusters, there they’re super, super fast. They don’t regularly take time to move slow and get increased time under tension and training volume on the muscles that they want. So that’s one big thing that CrossFitters could change if their goal was to be, have a little bit more hypertrophy.
The second thing is that they don’t do a whole lot of targeted work to bring out a specific muscle groups that would help create a more muscular physique. Like, if you want to look bigger, there are a few [00:07:00] areas you can put muscle mass on that will drastically change what you look like. Upper trap, shoulders, arms.
And I think that’s what most people want more of. And so we don’t isolate the upper traps right. Much. They just get some work with our dentist and our Olympic vest, but you know, doing some shrugs and upright rows, some lateral raises and things like that to put a little bit more focused volume on that area of the body can have really good effects on somebody’s stacks.
Coach Johnny B: So what I heard here is that if I do. Uh, heavy five by five back squat, and then follow it with like some tempo front squat work. And then finish the day with Karen that my list will accomplish all three phases, uh, trading for hypertrophy. And then I could just use CrossFit, hypertrophy, myself,
Zach: workout that, to be honest, it’s probably not going to work out very well because by the time you’re tired from the heavy squats and you do the tempo work of the.
Front squats, your ability to then do [00:08:00] something like Kirin is going to be significantly to that. So we’re going to really get in the way of your fitness. If we programmed like that, like it’s just too much volume. So for a CrossFitters, it is barely doable. To add in hypertrophy work. Cause you have to be really cognizant of your first goal is to push your fitness forward.
Your second goal then is hypertrophy. So that to me means we’ve got to do a really good job of choosing the right exercises and intensities to where we’re not overloading the body. We can’t just always throw more squats in if our goal is hypertrophy. So we have to be a little bit more creative and we’re doing.
Leg extensions or sissy squats, things that, that add more training volume to the muscle groups, but aren’t near as, as physiologically fatiguing so that, you know, we, we can’t work out again tomorrow. It’s a challenging thing to do.
Coach Johnny B: How much specificity from muscle group selection, we’ll call it a muscle group.
Targeting [00:09:00] is important for outside of just aesthetics. Right? So you’re talking about using it as a way to moderate volume, but then strike thinking from like a structural standpoint for a CrossFit athlete who, you know, needs to do big movements. If they start hypertrophy. The directors for more it’s too much because they like to start an exercise.
Is that going to create some other problems around, you know, movement, knee pain?
Zach: Um, it’s not going to be big online, like worry lists. Like I don’t really worry about anybody building fitness of any tissue up there that small percentage of people have enough of an imbalance already. Like take somebody that, that, uh, That has a really quad, dominant squad pattern.
When we go and put even more Claude hypertrophy on them, what’s going to happen. They’re going to stay a little bit more balanced that way. So I’d rather kind of rebalance that person and give them more gluten hypertrophy work. Um, but I think for most of us, it’s, that’s probably not that important in terms of injury prevention.
I think it probably is more important in [00:10:00] terms of like performance. If you already have some, some little imbalances on board already,
Coach Johnny B: um, how would you. Uh, how would you incorporate. Uh, hypertrophy work in is somebody that, and it’s somebody’s CrossFit diet. We’ll call it. Uh, is it pre-workout post-workout is it, uh, uh, another accessory strength piece?
Like what is the ideal situation
Zach: to me when I’m programming this most of the time, this is post-workout. So let’s do the stuff that is 90% of what you need to be focusing on. The CrossFit daily watt, the improving general physical fitness. Let’s get that in. And then at the end, and that’s put a little bit of extra work in there.
So that’s really going to also depend on kind of what are we focused on high purchasing. Like if it’s quads or glutes, some really big muscle fibers. I’m probably going to put a little less volume model. So maybe that’s only two or three days a week. We’re doing one to two [00:11:00] extra exercises that are a little bit more isolation in nature for those muscle groups.
That’s still like your quads and glutes after they’ve been taxed really well and cross it. That’s going to have a bit of a, uh, extra fatiguing effect on you. It’s going to get in the way of you being able to recover for tomorrow’s workout. If we’re talking more about like the arm. Our arms get worked in, crossed it, but they don’t get smoked in most CrossFit workouts.
Like of, if you got rhabdo doing Murph, like I did this year, really? Um, yeah. Yeah. Um, Um, you don’t really ever leave a CrossFit workout thinking it, gosh, my biceps are sore. You feel that about your quads or your low back, your loots quite frequently. So those are muscle groups that, that I think we could probably hit more frequently.
So like, you’ll see in our, we have a high purchase fee accessory program in performance, plus that. Um, four days a week, 10 to 15 minutes of work at the end of workouts that focuses on the upper traps, the shoulders, the arms. And so two to three days per week, [00:12:00] you’re hitting, you know, like a 10 to 12 minute am wrapper, four or five rounds for time that hits those muscle groups.
That adds a little bit of volume to them. A little bit of extra time under tension, focusing on contracting that, that muscle group, but not so much that it’s now blocking you from the next.
Coach Johnny B: W as far as programming hypertrophy for overall strength development, I guess we’ll would probably have to look at this maybe a little bit more from a lifting perspective or Olympic weightlifting perspective than necessarily CrossFit.
But, um, is there a way we want to program this in sequence? I mean, I think textbooks always say to start with hypertrophy work and then, you know, work in the heavy. Heavy sets are kind of the end, right? So then we have this middle period.
Zach: We work on strength, a session, or within like a whole training
Coach Johnny B: block, like a block or a cycle, like let’s say like you have a mezzo cycle and your end goal is going to be to add strength or add weight to a basketball.
Zach: Alright. So let’s say six months from now, you’ve got a competition coming up that you’re training for. [00:13:00] Like, I’m probably going to start you out early on. We’re going to do more hypertrophy general physical preparedness stuff. So like your squats are going to look like five sets of 10 and 50% of your wander at max over the course of four to six weeks.
That gets a little bit heavier. A little bit less volume, but still overall we’re working at, at pretty high volume. This is going to be a little bit more hypertrophy focused over that block. Then we spend a couple of months going from, you know, we started at five by 250% and we build that up to where we’re doing, you know, sensitive at 65, 70%.
Months, 2, 3, 4. We’re now working up until, you know, we’re in by, by five and 75%, we’re working up into 85 and maybe into getting close to 90% for some lower volume. And then when we get really close to that competition, that lasts four to six weeks. That’s where we’re hitting a lot of singles and doubles, maybe triples at 90 plus percent.
So we’re getting more specific. Time goes off for me though, when it comes to within session. [00:14:00] That’s where I typically am going to have my main list. An accessory lift that I know really drives that main lift. So that’s, let’s take the debit. For example, we deadlift, then we do a Romanian debit is our accessory extra job.
We know if you’re already yell, goes up, your deadlift is going to go up. And then I’m typically going to program a couple of exercises, no matter which of those blocks we’re in, that are a little bit more focused on what muscle groups specifically we need to bring up from maybe, maybe a bit more of like a hypertrophy loading standpoint of just trying to get volume.
So for the demo, that’s doing some. Uh, reverse hypers that’s doing, um, type of 45 degree. Hyperextensions that’s doing some snatch grip, GHD, epics engines to build up the back, the glutes, the hamstrings,
Coach Johnny B: et cetera. So let’s make it hard. So let’s say, uh, I am a CrossFitter and I do have some time to where I’m thinking more, uh, a little bit more complicated and just doing the class workout.
And that’s probably not most of the people that we’re working with them performance plus, but, um, and I want to incorporate these concepts into [00:15:00] CrossFit. How do you balance that from a volume standpoint? So we’re not getting injured and then, uh, from an effectiveness standpoint or advocacy standpoint.
Zach: So if we want to keep it really simple, not going super down in the weeds, let’s take our strength work.
And that’s add tempo to it. That’s increase the time under tension for that work. So when five by five is programmed, instead of dropping down into the whole bouncing out of the hole, as quickly as you can standing up as fast as you can, let’s take three seconds to lower down in each rep. Let’s pause for a second at the bottom, and then stand up as fast as we can.
That’s step one, step two, we get the general fitness in, in our Metcons and then step three is for the specific areas we’re trying to approach a beat. That’s finished off that at the end of the workout. With some high volume, essentially pumper. So let’s say it’s your quads. You’re going to have a day where you do a hundred band and leg extends.
You’re going to have another day where you do, yeah. You do three sets of 15 sissy squats, or you do some slant board stuff down. It’s [00:16:00] just things like that. That aren’t going to be seriously fatiguing, but we’ll add a little bit of extra volume and time and attention on how
Coach Johnny B: important for the average person out there.
Is incorporating some hypertrophy work into their fitness diet. We, we, we know less important than just general fitness, right? But like, yeah,
Zach: if there are some specific weak points, so that let’s say when you squat, you, you always have like a good morning squat fault where your hips shoot up fast, which is, uh, as an indicator that maybe your clods aren’t as strong as your hips, then, then maybe doing some extra work there could help you out.
But for the most part, I most people listening to this, I’m going to say that’s just stick to the CrossFit main workout, unless you have some really specific aesthetic goals. If you do
Coach Johnny B: have a good morning squat, uh, you should go download, uh, or check out our master, the squat diagnostic algorithm. That’s going to come out soon and, uh, learn how to start fixing that.
So learn how to assess it to, uh, [00:17:00] Is, uh, BFR or occlusion training. Is that a shortcut to hypertrophy or another way of skinning the cat? Is that a valuable thing for somebody out there?
Zach: Yeah, it’s another way to skin the cat. So it’s essentially going to blood flow restriction training is where we exercise and we use different devices to restrict the amount of blood flow going into a limb.
And that creates a bit of an exaggerated hypertrophy response to where. We get more fatigue quicker. And so it creates pretty similar hypertrophy effects as, as heavy lifting does, but with really, really light loads. So to me, It’s just a different way to get after it for, for individuals like you and I, if you’re injured and you can’t tolerate heavy loads than it is a really good thing to do, but that’s a, that’s a really deep rabbit hole for us to go down.
So if you want to know more about blood flow restriction, there’s four or five articles on the barbell, physio.com that you can check out. And we have a free ebook on that. That kind of really outlines the science and how to do it and that sort of stuff without [00:18:00] us chatting about it for an hour. Cause it’s really deep rabbit hole.
Coach Johnny B: It isn’t deep rabbit hole just like hypertrophy, right? Like, I mean, if you want to go get eight strength coaches and talk about hypertrophy, they’re all going to get in an argument about, you know, all kinds of really nerdy details that they’ve like got over the years. So it’s funny how much. It is really funny how much you don’t know if you do want to go down a rabbit hole at some point, we’ll talk about that on the podcast.
So join us on that episode, but that’s that today? So you over hypertrophied, your biceps, essentially Murph, uh, this year.
Zach: Yeah. So I’ve been, uh, I’ve been doing a little bit more bodybuilding focused work lately. So for me, it’s a lot of tempo, strength work and slightly easier. Metcons that because of how much tempo work I’m doing, I’m typically kind of trashed all the time.
I’m finished with like three tempo strength exercises. So I’ve been doing a ton of strict. Pull-ups not a lot of volume of them, so. Prior to Murph that six to eight weeks beforehand. I probably hadn’t done more than 30 pull-ups in a workout because they’re [00:19:00] all weighted. Pull-ups low volume. So I didn’t Murph with a weight vest for the first time.
And I tried to keep up with the wife of the gym owner during Murph, which was a horrible idea. And, um, I PR my Murph in my first time ever wearing a, that sounds was super proud of my performance, but I spent the rest of the next week, not able to fully straightened my arms.
I’ve seen this enough clinically, um, that I know, like I wasn’t in any danger of like renal damage or anything like that. So I just, it was self-diagnosed of conduct several times an athlete. So I kind of knew that I had it in mild case, but
Coach Johnny B: yeah, it’s really amazing. Uh, how many times people can rhabdo and not know, like I grabbed her two or three times, uh, early on in my CrossFit career.
And just didn’t know, is that right? You’re like, oh, my biceps are really sore, uh, straight my arms out and it’s been a [00:20:00] week and you’re just like, whatever, move on. And at that point, uh, Pamela, I’m sorry about this the other day, the dark ages of CrossFit back in like, oh, nine people were just like, that was a badge of honor.
Like I can’t straighten my arms out. Go do more. Pull-ups so. It’s interesting to see that I’ve, we’ve had a couple of people Abdo where they, you know, get on the GHD for the first time ever. And then, you know, try to do Tabata as fast as they can for 10 minutes or something like that. And it just, every time they end up in the hospital.
So it’s glad, I’m glad that you weren’t there. I’m glad you just PRG Murphy and gotten checked biceps. So. Very cool. So for you guys that are listening to this, that, uh, are like me and you just need a plan to execute something. And you’re interested in getting bigger and getting maybe some more aesthetics, uh, that around your arm, shoulder straps, um, make sure you check out our, our hypertrophy.
In performance plus, it’s great. Uh, I’ve done it once before. I’m actually going to do it again. Uh, cause I’m all skinny from doing a triathlon and I want to look like I work out again. [00:21:00] So, uh, it’s, it’s an awesome way of attacking this and not having to go, uh, Get really diagnostic and how to program your stuff.
So, uh, any articles on barbell, physio that you think people should check out?
Zach: Yeah, I think, I think I have two hypertrophy articles there. One is all on like how to cross it or see hypertrophy, like how the mechanisms that we talked about earlier. The other one is just in general. What are the, what are the three things that lead to the approach for change in the way.
Awesome. Check those out. I’ve written so many articles, I’ve written too many arguments. I can’t keep track with what I’ve done in that. Do you know how many articles you’ve written, uh, went through earlier this year and cleared out ones that needed to be deleted that were out of date or I’d written better updates to, and at that point was 200.
That was just on the barbell physio.com. So that I’m accounting. What we’ve written on performance plus or what we’ve done on, uh, across the journal or other publications like that. So I would bet it’s probably over to Debbie. That’s a lot of publishing for the kid [00:22:00] that should, that fail is elementary school writing tests.
I’m pretty proud of that.
Coach Johnny B: Do you ever think about hitting your teachers up and letting them know, like, look what I’ve done?
Zach: I think it’s an interesting thing because there’s a tangent. Um, you know, people are meant to do certain things and not meant to, I’m not a fiction writer. I can not sit here and write an article about like describing, um, I had to write an article this way.
I failed on describing my favorite. I don’t care about describing that, but I can write to you about a science on hypertrophy. That’s easy. It’s a very different health. How people’s brains work differently?
Coach Johnny B: Is that a desire thing? Like,
Zach: no, it’s like, can’t like, I don’t understand. I tell my wife all the time, “I don’t understand colors”. I’m not colorblind, but I don’t understand like what colors match and what don’t. So I can’t describe stuff like that. I can’t paint a picture with my words. Then you don’t have to paint a picture with your words. If you’re describing what hypertrophy is, just what it is or what it is in [00:23:00] science, science, and history I can write about because, in fact, abstracts don’t make any sense.
Coach Johnny B: Yeah, that’s fascinating. I like neuroscience and the way like our brains are work and the variance and all of them is amazing. Uh, but yeah. Uh, it’s just interesting to think that, like, if I asked you to write a beautiful oration on, you know, your favorite out. That it would just come out terrible because I’m so used to reading things on the website.
So we should try that. That’s an attempt to colorfully describe it. Well, very cool. Thank you guys for tolerating that conversation on sex writing skills. Uh, again, make sure you follow barbell physio. Plus program on Instagram, uh, check out the hypertrophy program on performance plus programming.com. Uh, we’ll be back next week talking about, uh, injuries, uh, and when you need to modify and when you need to scale, uh, thanks for joining us.[00:24:00] .