Principles of a Good Hypertrophy Exercise

By no means is this post law! These are just some of the best, most important principles that I have seen to be effective from working with clients and seeing results.


I will try to not get too technical here, but please just bear with me--I'm a nerd about this stuff! I am going to cover three big principles that should be considered when choosing exercises in the gym, and specifically when our goal is hypertrophy or to grow muscle.


First off, I always want to consider the accuracy of an exercise. Think of it like this: "How well does this exercise target the muscle that you want to grow?" For example, a squat is a great quad- builder, but we can't deny that when we squat, our low back, butt, and other muscles kick in to help and stabilize us through the movement. So to improve the accuracy, a hack squat would be a better choice. Due to how the machine is built, we can only use our quads to move the weight.

Another example is how well does a cable pull down the biceps, I would venture to say not too well. There might be some slight bicep work as a secondary muscle but I would never program lat pulls if you are trying to grow your arms.


The second principle is bracing. More often than not have good bracing in an exercise helps us to have better accuracy so this goes hand in hand with the first principle. By bracing, I mean that we can better work a muscle if we can brace our body and force ourselves to only use the target muscle. Back to the hack squat: this is a great example, having the back and shoulder pads on the hack squat give us tremendous support through the movement. I love squatting with a bar but anyone that has been doing it for years with heavy weight can testify that it can wear on your back and joints a lot. Just having some stable bracing can reduce the risk of injury and help us grow!


Lastly, the third principle to consider is the profile. I am stealing the name of this one from Joe Bennett, the Hypertrophy Coach himself. By profile. I mean the resistance profile of an exercise or how the load(weight) that is applied to a muscle changes though a range of motion. For our example, let's think about a dumbbell lateral raise, as we raise the dumbbells up the movement gets more difficult as you move from the bottom to the top. So with a dumbbell the weight is technically the heaviest at the top and lightest at the bottom. That is why you can do a partial rep with twice as much weight as with a full rep. If we do the same lateral raise exercise but swap a dumbbell for a cable or a band, the resistance profile just drastically improved. With a cable or band the resistance is the same through the entire movement. This more adequately challenges the muscle and will produces better results! Now I'm not saying only use cables and bands, there are defiant pros to free weights. This is just something to consider when choosing your exercises in the gym for muscle growth.


If you can start thinking about and implementing these principles a little bit more in your training, I guarantee you will see a difference!


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