I recently started a hypertrophy phase of strength training. The primary reason to train like this is that it helps promote growth of muscle. You might choose this method of training to isolate body parts to bring up muscles that are slacking off in the big lifts (squats and deadlifts etc), for aesthetic results, as an off season from a strength sport or to rest body parts suffering from injury. Training for hypertrophy involves generating muscle tension with lighter weights and spending more time under tension. So basically, lots of reps of lighter weights to make you swole.
Commonly, the repetition scheme is around 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps. I've done lifts in this kind of rep scheme with every powerlifting program I’ve followed in order to address muscle and activation imbalances. It’s helped me to develop muscle in order to support with the main lifts. I’ve done high repetition sets of movements when I trained Crossfit and even earlier than that, through HIIT Training, circuit training and even PUMP classes as a teenager. I’ve never specifically trained the muscle to build muscle, or at least when I have, I didn’t actually think that’s what I was doing (if that makes any sense whatsoever) – I thought I was just making myself sore so I didn’t feel so bad about eating aaaalll of the French toast…
I've sought out some of my swole moles to get tips on how they train like this, how they chase "the pump". And I’ve been looking back and reading alot of material more specific to this new (to me) type of training. I’m looking to Arnold because…well because um, ARNOLD…The living Bible of gainz.
Arnold is mostly famous for the body he built through hypertrophy training but he’s also memorable for many of the things he’s said.
"I'll be back..."
"It's not a tumour..."
And Arnold’s golden quote from the movie Pumping Iron where he was asked to explain the feeling of the “pump” he gets when lifting, he said, "It's as satisfying to me as, uh, coming is, you know?"
I found myself last week, approaching the dumbbell rack optimistically, thinking I was in for a bloody cracking afternoon. My program called for 3 sets of 5 separate movements, each set I was to aim for around 12-15 repetitions. The way I figured it, was that I was headed for a total of 15 orgasms! All within the hour I had before picking my kids up from after school sports. This was going to be awesome!
What transpired though was kinda different…I stumbled about like a blind, hungry woman looking for a snack in a ratsack warehouse. I found it hard to get the weight right, heavy enough to feel it by the end of the 12-15 reps but no so heavy I couldn’t get there. And I just couldn’t for the life of me reach any point at which any of the sets or lifts was feeling even slightly like Arnold explained. To be clear, no “pump” was found and no orgasms were had this day.
I asked for some advice in The Barbelle Club's facebook forum about mind muscle connection. Women who have trained hypertrophy either to get swole, build muscle mass for powerlifting and strongwoman or in order to compete in the art of bodybuilding. I asked them how they did it, what they thought about and what it felt like when they were doing it right. Here are a few tips they've given me.
“Focus on engaging the muscle and visualising it growing. Even close your eyes to find that connection” – Lucie K Thompson (coach, powerlifter, bodybuilder and CrossFitter)
“Keep the tension throughout the entire set. No re-setting as in powerlifting.” Kathy Genitsaris (Coach, bodybuilder & powerlifter)
“If you concentrate on the mind muscle connection, you end up better training the muscle you intend to. With something like a curl, if you aren’t paying attention, you start using a bit of momentum and the shoulders get involved etc. By focusing on the muscle, you train it better” – Jess Ford (coach, powerlifter, strongwoman)
“I am constantly thinking of the muscle I am working, squeezing and visualising the muscle I am working on. It makes a massive difference in my growth and keeps my form tight. Arnold knows his shit!” – Michelle Ring (bodybuilder)
Needless to say the second week has been better. I’ve felt the pump on a couple of the movements this week and while I wouldn’t compare it to the warm flood of orgasm, it’s more like a tsunamic burn of lactic acid and a barrage of tourettes. The day after training, I’m aware of the muscle groups I’ve used which confirms that things are moving in the right direction. Even though I’m not sure it’ll ever feel like “coming”, I’m hoping that like sex, it will get better with experience.
If you haven't joined in to The Barbelle Club closed forum, click on the link above. We'd love to chat with y'all x
You can check out She Show's Me #7 with Michelle Ring here
Anna Brown is an average though super keen