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How to Build "fake" Muscle

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy vs myofibril hypertrophy. First off, HYPERTROPHY is the growth of muscle. The process in which the muscle gets bigger. Swole. Buff. Pumped up. There are two main types of this. One type brings substances in and swells up the contents around the cell, making it bigger. The other way involves the process of repair and adapt to increase the muscle tissue length or girth.

Fake Strong

Fake strong.. I'll never forget this because I had a professor in college who asked me if I was "fake strong". I was confused. Caught off guard a tad. So I said, how any intelligent person would respond, "Huh".. She said, "You know, like are you a bodybuilder? Bodybuilders aren't strong, they just look strong."

I don't really remember how the rest of the story went, but that's okay, it doesn't really matter. The point is, and at the time I didn't know that, she was asking me how I trained. High volume, high intensity, little rest, fill the muscle with blood til it pops, kind of training. That's sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Sarcoplasm is the substance that surrounds the muscle fiber. It usually consist of ATP, creatine, glycogen, water and other various proteins. Some argue that this type of hypertrophy isn’t “real” growth (like my professor, maybe one day she will read this). Technically, she was right. Technically, she was also wrong. Let me explain.

This type of growth is a quicker and more efficient adaption of the muscle that allows it to increase in size without truly increasing in size. Training stimulation will drive the uptake of fluid into area around the cell. This increases the overall diameter, thus resulting in a larger and more efficient muscle. This is deemed more “bodybuilding style” of training because you get the look of a larger muscle without some of the other benefits we see with true tissue growth. This adaption is quickly lost if training stimulus is not maintained. For example if you introduce more volume than normal (more sets or more reps), it may result quickly in a larger, more full muscle; but if that volume is taken away the muscle may seem to “deflate” or seem flat. That can also be due too a decrease in nutrition (that's for another day).

So in a nutshell that is "fake strong". This muscle adapts to the demand of intense sessions that force it to failure. The end result is an artificially "larger" muscle. It has more surface area. More surface area means it can work more efficiently without having to make true change in the tissue.

Here is where she is wrong. You can't choose to only have sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. You just can't. Not even if you tried. It's not up for discussion. BUT.. you can have myofibril hypertrophy without noticeable sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

You ever see those guys at the gym who don't really look that big but they are ridiculously strong? Almost break ya neck strong because you aren't sure what the heck you just witnessed? Yea, those guys are probably powerlifters and yea they probably have a substantial amount of actual built muscle tissue. More muscle tissue + greater ability to recruit that muscle = a crazy strong dude who doesn't look "pumped up". These guys don't train in a way that demands the muscle to hold and keep excess substances around that muscle to aid in performance. It's all about how the training stimulus is presented to the body.

"Not" Fake Strong (terrible heading I know, it's Monday, give me a break)

So Myofibril hypertrophy is true growth of the protein fibers actin and myosin themselves. This adaptation takes longer. Increases in diameter are sometimes greater in type II fibers, these are muscle fibers that produce force quickly (like powerlifting). Type I fibers seem to grow in length, these are more endurance based muscles.

This post won't dive into the difference in type II hypertrophy and type I hypertrophy, we would be here for a long time if we did. So I'll leave this post here. Hopefully you now know that you can build "fake muscle" kinda. But if you workout for very long at all (more than a few weeks), you're going to slowly build real muscle tissue over time (if you have a well made training plan)