The Best Hypertrophy Workout to Build Size & Strength
Building serious muscle and strength is one of the most common fitness goals clients of mine request during their initial consultations. If you're interested in boosting muscle size and getting stronger, this article is for you. The best hypertrophy workout to build size and strength awaits!
The truth is, strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth) are actually fairly simple goals. But "simple" does not always mean "easy." The bottom line is that you need to lift heavy weights using compound exercises to see the best results in both your maximal strength and overall muscle size. This does not change much whether you are a man or a woman, old or young, although the intensity and recovery you need may vary somewhat.
The most important factor if you want a workout that builds both muscle strength and strength is to lift in the five to eight-repetition range with a weight that is challenging or causes failure within that range. As a general rule of thumb, the closer you get to a one-repetition maximum (1RM), the more the workout will favor strength gains. The closer you get to a 12-rep max—meaning a weight you can lift for 12 repetitions prior to muscle failure—the more your body will favor hypertrophy. These are "ranges" as opposed to hard and fast rules. Generally speaking, I find five to eight reps is a solid sweet spot for building a combination of strength and size within the same workout program.
In all cases, the first workout you do in the program will usually establish the baseline for the full training program. Start light at the beginning, and work up to a set that causes failure in that range. For each exercise, perform one to two warmup sets as you work your way up to the "working sets." Perform three working sets with 90 seconds of rest between each. Once you can perform three full sets of eight repetitions with a certain weight, you can increase the weight by five to 10 percent the following week.
For the best results, combine this workout with a high-protein, healthy diet and and overall lifestyle that includes plenty of sleep, hydration, and minimal alcohol intake. Aim to perform the full workout twice per week, but you can split it up into shorter workouts performed more frequently, as long as you get roughly six working sets per exercise, per week. Follow the program for 12 weeks to get a complete full-body size and strength transformation.
Keep reading for the ultimate hypertrophy workout to build size and strength, and next, don't miss 9 Best Exercises for Men To Get Bigger, Stronger Legs.
Barbell Back Squats
The barbell back squat is a foundational lower-body exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, making it an essential movement for overall size and strength gains in your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.
To perform a barbell back squat, position a barbell at shoulder level on a squat rack. If available, set the safety pins just above waist level. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and duck under the bar to position it on your upper back, just below the base of your neck. Grasp the barbell with both hands, lift it off the squat rack, and take a few steps back to clear the rack. Bend at the hips and knees, keeping your chest up and back straight, to lower yourself into a squat position. Go as deep as comfortable without compromising your form. Push through your feet to return to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions.
Deadlifts are a powerful compound exercise that develops the posterior chain, improving overall strength and size in your hamstrings, glutes, and traps.
To perform a deadlift, stand with your feet hip-width apart, and position the barbell over the middle of your feet. Bend at the hips and knees, keeping your back braced and spine neutral, and grasp the barbell with an overhand grip or a mixed grip (one hand over, one hand under). Engage your core, and lift the barbell by extending your hips and knees simultaneously while maintaining a neutral spine. When you reach a standing position, lock your hips and knees, then reverse the movement by hinging at your hips and bending your knees to lower the barbell back to the ground. Repeat for the target repetitions.
Next up in this hypertrophy workout is the pull-up. The pull-up is an effective upper-body exercise that develops your lats, biceps, and upper back. You can use a belt attachment to add weight as needed.
To perform a pull-up, find a pull-up bar and grasp it with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hang with your arms fully extended and your feet off the ground. Engage your core, and visualize driving your elbows toward the floor as you retract your shoulder blades and pull your body upward. Continue pulling until your chin is above the bar, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position, avoiding shrugging throughout the range of motion.
Repeat for target repetitions.
The bench press is a staple exercise for building chest, shoulder, and tricep strength and size. The barbell variation allows the most weight to be lifted for the greatest stimulus, but if you have shoulder issues, the dumbbell bench press is a viable option.
To perform a bench press, lie on a flat bench, positioning your eyes directly below the barbell. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Unrack the barbell, and lower it to your chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body. Push the barbell upward until your arms are fully extended, maintaining a controlled motion throughout. Repeat for the target repetitions.
The overhead press is a fundamental upper-body exercise that targets your shoulders and triceps. Again, use the barbell if you can, but dumbbells are an acceptable alternative.
To perform an overhead press, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a barbell at chest level with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Engage your core, and push the barbell straight up, extending your arms fully overhead. Avoid shrugging throughout the range of motion and ensure your elbows remain aligned under your wrists. Slowly lower the barbell back down to the starting position, maintaining control. Repeat for the target repetitions.
Dumbbell rows are an effective exercise for developing the upper back and lats, as well as the biceps. I like using a dumbbell for allowing a deep focus on one side at a time.
To perform a dumbbell row, stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand. Bend at the hips and knees, keeping your back straight, and place your free hand on a bench or other sturdy surface for support. Let the dumbbell hang with your arm fully extended, palm facing your body. Engage your core, and visualize crushing a piece of fruit in your armpit as you retract your shoulder blade and pull the dumbbell up to your chest, keeping your elbow close to your body. Avoiding shrugging throughout the range of motion. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions, then switch sides.
This hypertrophy workout to build size and strength ends with the dumbbell lunge. This move is a versatile lower-body exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, contributing to increased size and strength. They also improve balance and coordination as a bonus.
To perform dumbbell lunges, stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Take a step forward with one foot, keeping your toes pointed straight ahead. As you lower your back knee, rotate your rear foot inward slightly for optimal biomechanics. Bend both knees, lowering your hips until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee is just above the floor. Keep your chest up and your front knee directly above your ankle. Push through your front foot to return to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions, then switch legs.