Fitness Key's Blog | Fitness Key What does it take to grow muscle? The 'Hypertrophy Triangle' - a simple analogy for a complex question!

Fitness Key Composition Coaching's Blog

Our Mission is to effect positive change in the communities we service, through education, motivation and the application of objective assessments to health coaching. We firmly believe that health-care starts with prevention through better general health.

Stacks Image 43771
What does it take to grow muscle? The 'Hypertrophy Triangle' - a simple analogy for a complex question!

What does it take to grow muscle? The 'Hypertrophy Triangle' - a simple analogy for a complex question!

Since 2014, we’ve educated many thousands of clients and have measured almost every variation in body type and shape, heritage, etc.  If there is ONE consistent ‘need’, that we could single out amongst almost all of the individuals we meet, it is this… 
Whether it’s a medical/metabolic need, or purely an aesthetic or sporting/lifestyle associated motivation for our clients, the goal of achieving hypertrophy of muscle (increasing overall muscle size) is almost universally a major component of our discussions.

Achieving hypertrophy of muscle is certainly a complex process, and is subject to many variations caused by many conditions. We strive to clarify the basic requirements and simplify the topic with this simple analogy;

Remember The Fire Triangle?
We all understand what it takes to create and maintain fire
🔥🔥🔥 - most of us learn it in primary school science class; 

- Fire REQUIRES three components, to exist.
- Oxygen (to feed/fan the flames)
- Fuel (to burn)
- Heat/Ignition Source (to start the fire in the first place)
- ALL THREE components are INEXTRICABLY linked.
- Removing just one of these components will extinguish the strongest fire almost immediately (or fail to start it).

Here's a picture of 'The Fire Triangle' to jog your memory...

Introducing The Hypertrophy Triangle

In a similar way, muscle growth essentially requires THREE factors. These must be provided, both consistently and concurrently. Fail to address ONE of these factors, and significant muscle growth is virtually impossible. Understand this and you’ll understand the fundamental building blocks for muscle growth… and a bit of self reflection with this in mind and you might just work out why you've had trouble growing so far!

So what are the three factors required to optimise muscle growth (and how is the Fire Triangle a relevant analogy)?

Hypertrophy also REQUIRES three components, to occur.

- SLEEP! (think of your sleep as the oxygen that fans the 'hypertrophy fire')
No matter how convincingly you set fire to even the most flammable of fuels, a fire will be extinguished almost immediately if you starve it of oxygen. In a similar way, starve yourself of enough quality sleep and you'll find it very hard to grow ANY muscle (no matter how convincingly you exercise, or appropriately you eat for growth). Sleep has a direct and profound impact on:

-The hormones that help us grow
-The conversion of protein into new muscle
-The hormones that control hunger and satiation
-Our adherence to exercise regimes and other active aspects of our lifestyle

- NUTRITION! (think of your nutrition as the fuel that feeds the 'hypertrophy fire')
Feeding a fire with quality fuel that has been appropriately prepared and progressively applied will ensure it burns and grows (you don’t cover a small fire with a huge log - you start with small manageable quality fuel and progressively add larger pieces to a progressively larger fire). In a similar way, appropriately timed, quality nutrients nutrients that are progressively increased in volume as the individual grows to utilise those nutrients will produce the best results for muscle growth.

- EXERCISE! (think of your exercise as the ignition source that starts the 'hypertrophy fire') 
You can start a fire with a match or a can of petrol - The fire is lit! Now please don’t mistake this advice to be suggesting that your workout is not important, but when it comes to bulking of muscle mass, in relation to a single workout, it is certainly fair to argue that it’s the least important of the three factors. Sure, appropriate techniques and programming methodologies are critical to the overall picture (and deeper discussion is beyond the scope of this article), but think of it this way… Light a fire, then starve it of the fuel and oxygen it needs - pretty quick way to stop it growing!

Here is a diagram of our 'Hypertrophy Triangle' to summarise our analogy...

We hope that our analogy helped you to simplify the rather complex set of fundamental requirements to maximise muscle growth. The take-home message here really is, that muscle growth is a difficult and often time consuming process that requires many aspects of your lifestyle to be deliberately approached and addressed - but with the right education and motivation, you can certainly improve your health to allow you to perform in all aspects of daily life, at an exceptional level.