post Best Hypertrophy Program (Goal, Principles & Tips Included)

Best Hypertrophy Program (Goal, Principles & Tips Included)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico | Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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Muscle hypertrophy isn’t easily achievable. But it can be with the right exercises, program, and training principles.

After hours of extensive research and based on my expertise and personal knowledge as a certified personal trainer, I singled out the best exercises and put them into a workout program so that you can experience the best muscle growth benefits.

Additionally, I’ll cover plenty of helpful nutrition and supplementation insights to maximize muscle hypertrophy and bring your resistance training to the next level.

Let’s get started.

Quick Summary

  • The best hypertrophy program for building muscle mass includes the principle of progressive overload, hits every major muscle group, allows for enough time to recover, and uses advanced nutrition and supplementation techniques.
  • To maximize muscle hypertrophy for multiple muscle groups, you must implement the basic hypertrophy principles for sets, reps, rest intervals, and training frequency (training volume).
  • According to a study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology, eccentric training can enhance muscle strength and thickness more than concentric-only training.
  • To build muscle and increase the hypertrophy of muscle fibers, I recommend eating enough proteins and carbs after each weight training session within your anabolic window.

Best Hypertrophy Workout Program

Doing machine rows inside the gym

From my experience, a 4-day split hypertrophy routine works wonders. I've personally followed this, dividing my week into four targeted workout sessions, each focusing on different muscle groups. It's a strategy that has brought me noticeable results.

Here's the breakdown:

  • Monday: Side delts and chest
  • Tuesday: Rear delts and upper back
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Abs and arms
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday and Sunday: Off

This is one example of how you may spread the workouts throughout the day.

Since many of you may have a problem organizing exactly like this because of your jobs, feel free to alter how these workouts are spread over the week. But remember the recovery factor, which is crucial for your muscle tissue to recover.

I suggest having four workouts per week, where a maximum of three workouts are done in a row before getting a day off.

Workout 1: Chest and Side Delts

Doing bench press with heavy weights

Here is the first workout of the week — chest and side delts.

Perform each of these exercises with the recommended sets and reps with a 90-second break between sets:

  • Incline barbell bench press: 2 sets x 12 reps
  • Flat dumbbell bench press: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Cable crossover: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Seated lateral raise: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Single-arm cable lateral raise: 3 sets x 10 reps

Workout 2: Upper Back and Rear Delts

The second workout of the week hits your upper back and rear delts.

Perform each of these exercises with the recommended sets and reps with a 90-second break between sets:

  • Bent-over barbell row: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Dumbbell pullover: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Wide-grip lat pulldown: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Dumbbell rear delt fly:  3 sets x 12 rep
  • Cable face pull: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Dumbbell shrug: 3 sets x 12 reps

Workout 3: Arms and Abs

Performing arm workouts using dumbbells

The third workout of the week targets your arms, muscles, and abs.

Perform each of these exercises with the recommended sets and reps with a 90-second break between sets:

  • Close-grip bench press: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Weighted dip: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Rope tricep extension: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Lying leg raise: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Cable crunch: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Barbell curl: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Hammer curl: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Cable curl: 3 sets x 10 reps

Workout 4: Legs

The fourth and last workout of the week targets your leg muscles.

Perform each of these exercises with the recommended sets and reps with a 90-second break between sets:

  • Deadlift: 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Lying leg curl: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Walking lunge: 3 sets x 8 reps per leg
  • Front squat: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Leg extension: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Dumbbell side lunge: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Seated calf raise: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Calf press: 3 sets x 10 reps

Workout Summary

Doing back workouts

Now that we've covered the workout plan, let's look at the fundamentals behind which I crafted this program

1. Main Goal

The main goal of this workout is building muscles, meaning we will use specific techniques for programming to increase muscle mass.

However, it's also important to balance the total volume and intensity of the workouts with suitable nutrition and supplementation strategies to guarantee effective recovery.

2. Workout Type

The primary workout type we are using is the split workout.

In my training experience, I've found split workouts to be the most effective for hypertrophy. Unlike full-body workouts, which I tried earlier in my fitness journey, split routines allow for more focused and intense sessions for each muscle group.

Full-body workouts don't allow you to have enough intensity for each muscle group since many of them must be hit in the same workout. 

This becomes a problem since we have limited energy stores, and our concentration tends to lower toward the end of the workout due to CNS (central nervous system) fatigue.

3. Training Level

Doing bicep curls

The training level of this hypertrophy program was created with intermediate users in mind.

This means that the percentage of 1 repetition max, sets, reps, rest intervals, and training frequency will be tailored to the group of intermediate lifters.

4. Program Duration

Based on my personal training schedule, I've found an 8-week (56 days) program to be ideal for a complete mesocycle. This duration has worked well for me, allowing sufficient time for muscle growth and adaptation.

Usually, mesocycles don't last more than two months, and my general recommendation is to stick to 42–45 days max.

However, since we want to achieve superior hypertrophy gains and there is no follow-up phase of strength or power, we may prolong it to 8 weeks in total.

Related Article: Macrocycles, Mesocycles and Microcycles

5. Days Per Week

Using an inclined bench for workout

The four-day split routine was chosen since that is the best number of sessions for intermediate lifters to achieve a superior muscle-building effect.

Also, four days per week allow for enough recovery between the sessions, and you can focus on one muscle group at a time, which is the best for hypertrophy training.

6. Equipment Required

We will use our body weight, regular machines, barbells, dumbbells, and cable machines.

7. Target Gender

The program is tailored for males and females since there is no difference between the muscular hypertrophy of both genders.

You may adapt certain exercises to your specific preferences and where you want to see your body grow.

Staring at a protein supplement

The recommended supplements for this program include protein, creatine, multivitamins, and BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids).

If you are on a tight budget, stick to a regular protein powder, and if you have more money to spend, then add creatine monohydrate to your supplements.

Principles of the Program

Couple performing a workout inside the gym

The principles of my program include those that facilitate maximum hypertrophy.

Here are some basic principles to follow during your workout sessions.

1. Rest-pause Sets

Push your entire set to failure within the recommended rep range.

Then, rest for up to 15 seconds and perform as many reps as possible.

For example, this is how a set of barbell curls would look like:

  • Complete 8 reps with 70 lbs
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • Then do 4 reps with 70 pounds

This assumes the four reps at the end of the set is the maximum number of reps you can complete after the initial set failure.

Simply put, this number will slightly change based on your freshness, training experience, and motivation.

2. Drop Sets

Asian man doing dumbbell rows

I love using drop sets, especially when I feel like I'm plateauing.

This technique is used after you finish all your reps in a set and then purposefully decrease the load to complete additional reps.

The difference between drop sets and rest-pause sets is the rest interval between the initial and additional sets.

While rest-pause sets allow you a 15-second between your "last" rep and finisher reps, drop sets don't use any rest intervals. Once you fail the drop set, you reduce the weight and continue to train.

Here's an example of how an incline dumbbell press with the drop set method might work:

  • Complete 10 reps with 60 lb dumbbells
  • Immediately do a drop set with 30 lb dumbbells for 12 reps.

Again, the 12 reps with 30 lbs is an arbitrary number and will depend on your fatigue and motivation, among other important factors.

Drop sets are excellent methods to induce hypertrophy effects, but if you feel intimidated or inexperienced enough, you may skip them for the first two weeks and use them at a later stage of your fitness journey.

3. Negatives

I've found negatives to be an excellent way to break in with an advanced exercise and gain initial traction before transitioning to a full-fledged exercise.

Negatives count for the eccentric portion of the lift.

For instance, a negative pull-up is simply an eccentric portion of the exercise or the phase where you lower yourself to the hanging position.

According to a study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology, eccentric training can enhance muscle strength and thickness more than concentric-only training [1].

In this program, we specifically use slow negatives because the biggest damage to the muscle is done during the lengthening of the muscles or the eccentric phase of the lift (those are the same things).

You will complete 5-second negatives for the desired amount of reps.

2. Drop Sets

Asian man doing dumbbell rows

I love using drop sets, especially when I feel like I'm plateauing.

This technique is used after you finish all your reps in a set and then purposefully decrease the load to complete additional reps.

The difference between drop sets and rest-pause sets is the rest interval between the initial and additional sets.

While rest-pause sets allow you a 15-second between your "last" rep and finisher reps, drop sets don't use any rest intervals. Once you fail the drop set, you reduce the weight and continue to train.

Here's an example of how an incline dumbbell press with the drop set method might work:

  • Complete 10 reps with 60 lb dumbbells
  • Immediately do a drop set with 30 lb dumbbells for 12 reps.

Again, the 12 reps with 30 lbs is an arbitrary number and will depend on your fatigue and motivation, among other important factors.

Drop sets are excellent methods to induce hypertrophy effects, but if you feel intimidated or inexperienced enough, you may skip them for the first two weeks and use them at a later stage of your fitness journey.

3. Negatives

I've found negatives to be an excellent way to break in with an advanced exercise and gain initial traction before transitioning to a full-fledged exercise.

Negatives count for the eccentric portion of the lift.

For instance, a negative pull-up is simply an eccentric portion of the exercise or the phase where you lower yourself to the hanging position.

According to a study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology, eccentric training can enhance muscle strength and thickness more than concentric-only training [1].

In this program, we specifically use slow negatives because the biggest damage to the muscle is done during the lengthening of the muscles or the eccentric phase of the lift (those are the same things).

You will complete 5-second negatives for the desired amount of reps.

How Much Weight Should I Use?

Woman holding two dumbbells

In my own training, I've found that using weights ranging from 60 to 87.5% of my one-rep max is optimal for maximizing hypertrophy. I try to gradually increase the weight each week, as this approach has proven most effective for muscle growth.

It's important to note that hypertrophy can be successfully achieved using any weight within the mentioned range of 60–87.5% of your one-rep max.

However, it's crucial to remember that the quality of your repetitions, the rest intervals between sets, and the overall structure of your workout routine play a more significant role in muscle development than simply performing a high number of reps.

The Science Behind Hypertrophy

Performing one of best hypertrophy programs

Hypertrophy, the enlargement of muscle fibers, leads to increased muscle diameter. It's distinct from hyperplasia, which is the creation of new muscle fibers, a process mainly occurring in childhood.

No amount of training can increase the number of muscle fibers in your body, but they can enlarge existing muscle fibers through appropriate weight training [2].

Post-workout, hypertrophy is facilitated by proper nutrition, a concept sometimes referred to as the theory of supercompensation.

This process involves replenishing glycogen and repairing muscle fibers, heavily influenced by consuming the right balance of proteins and carbohydrates within two hours after exercising [3]. This period is called the anabolic window — a crucial time when muscle cell membranes are most receptive to nutrient absorption [4].

"Hypertrophy is the process by which you grow muscle. For bodybuilders, it’s literally everything. For strength athletes, it is a tangential but welcomed benefit of dedicated physical training. And, for the average human, hypertrophy is an insurance policy that helps guarantee a long and healthy life."

- Jake Dickson, Certified Personal Trainer

Nutrition Tips

I suggest eating at least 1 g of protein per pound of body weight to support your hypertrophy program [5].

This has proven to be a bare minimum or a recommended dose to preserve or gain muscle mass, depending on your current fitness regime.

Also, eating enough carbohydrates after each intense workout session will be crucial to support the time of the anabolic window.

This is when supercompensation of glycogen occurs, and you don’t want to miss it because your muscles will lack energy for the following workout and feel exhausted.

This will decrease your overall performance and hinder hypertrophy results from the program.

"Proper nutrition is just as vital as bulking as it is for losing weight, if not more so. If your calories or macronutrients are off, even by a little bit, you could find yourself putting on a winter coat of fat rather than packing on quality muscle."

- Nick English, Certified Personal Trainer

Supplementation Tips

Holding a scoop of a supplement product

If there's one supplement I recommend sticking to, it's protein powder.

I suggest having a protein shake after every exercise routine and don’t exceed the 30-minute post-workout time. Taking protein powder in this time frame may have the best effect on recovery, rebuilding of muscle fibers, and increased performance.

The next supplement I highly recommend is creatine monohydrate. It will help replenish the fastest energy source in your body, called creatine-phosphate [6].

Your body uses creatine-phosphate during high-intensity activities such as weight lifting, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions, sprinting, etc.

However, the anaerobic threshold, or when your body starts using creatine-phosphate, will differ and is highly individual.

The most important thing you should know is that creatine-monohydrate will help you do more reps, lift more load, recover faster, and have more energy.

All these factors are crucial in general muscle gain and whole-body muscular development.

FAQs

What Is the 5 3 1 Program for Hypertrophy?

The 5-3-1 program for hypertrophy is the type of workout program that utilizes different rep ranges across the 3-week cycle. In the first week, you do 5 reps for each set; the following week, sets of 3 reps; and the last week, you are doing heavy singles.

Is 12 or 15 Reps Better for Hypertrophy?

The 12 reps are better for hypertrophy than the 15 reps. The best rep range for hypertrophy is between 6 and 12 reps or with a 60–87.5% of your one-rep max.

Is 20 Sets Too Much for Hypertrophy?

Yes, 20 sets are too much for hypertrophy. It is impossible to avoid exhaustion of your energy system if you complete 20 sets, so the best advice is to stay between 5 and 10 sets if you are an advanced lifter.


References:

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-022-05035-w
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950543/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3698159/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577439/
  5. https://examine.com/articles/should-one-gram-per-pound-be-the-new-rda-for-bodybuilders/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/
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