'Bodybuilder' Muscle Vs. 'Strength' Muscle

3 min read

'Bodybuilder' Muscle Vs. 'Strength' Muscle

Hey Freak Athletes, today we will be breaking down the two types of Hypertrophy that relates to 'Muscle Mass'.

In a nutshell, there is Myofibrillar Hypertrophy which is an increase in Myofibrils (contractile proteins) and Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy which is an increase in Sarcoplasm (fluid).

Myofibrillar Hypertrophy Vs. Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Essentially when we are talking about muscle fibers and training for strength, we are referring to the myofibrils which generate force.

Strength athletes focus on growing their muscles by producing stress through lifting heavy weight. The heavy weights produce an increase in myofibrils in the muscle cell which are made up of the contractile proteins myosin and actin.

Muscle contracts by sliding the myosin and actin filaments along each other.

When we are referring to Sarcoplasm or.. how some people like to call it, "Bodybuilder Muscle" we are referring to the fluid within the muscle cell. This comprises of Glycogen, Myoglobin, Electrolytes and Water.

People often refer to Myofibrils as "functional muscle" and Sarcoplasm as "non-functional muscle" but this is not exactly the case, since we know that Sarcoplasm, due to what it's comprised of, improves work capacity.

As shown in the graph, Myofibrils are responsible for Strength, yes. However it is the Sarcoplasm that is responsible for your work capacity. Think about it. It holds  necessary elements for muscle contraction and let's not dismiss the fact that the Myofibrils are within the Sarcoplasm.

If we estimate the rep range for Myofibrillar focus is 1-6 repetitions and the rep range for Sarcoplasmic focus is around 10-20 repetitions. Then, by going by the graph, to maximize our Muscle Hypertrophy potential we should aim for somewhere in between or a combination of rep ranges. That is why it seems to be common gospel that the "Perfect" rep range for Muscle Growth is between 8-12 repetitions.

I suggest working with a variety of rep ranges but mostly to aim for working between 5-15 repetitions. That would be your safest bet to maximize for hypertrophy.


You Don't Get One Without The Other

It is a myth that you can work out for either more Myofibrils or more Sarcoplasm. They are not mutually exclusive. 

Even if you were to focus on one method of training over the other, you will still cause growth in both the Myofibrils and Sarcoplasm.

They typically remain in a ratio of 80/20 of Myofibrils to Sacoplasm when doing resistance training. It is uncertain of how much this percentage actually sways if more of a focus is presented to Sarcoplasmic type training involving high-rep "pump" sessions.


Do The Muscles Look Different?

It is often believed that Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy as a result of Pump-style training results in a rounded blown up looking muscle that Bodybuilders are famously known for.

On the contrary, it is believed that dense, streamlined and less blown up muscle is a result of Myofibrillar.

This is merely speculation and although it seems to be a valid enough theory there is unlikely any methods of proving this to be true.


In conclusion, don't follow the hype! Train with a variety of rep schemes and training variables and see what works best on your body.

As I mentioned earlier a good guide to follow is within the 5-15 rep range which will in theory, give you the most "bang for your buck!" But don't shy away from trying either side of the spectrum and playing around with it.

"Variety is the cure to boredom!" Just make sure you a following a solid plan and tracking your progress to ensure you are growing, improving.

If you liked this article or have anything you would like to ask or add on the topic, please comment below.

Co-founder, Freak Athletiq

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