Beyond Aesthetics

Strength training focused on hypertrophy leads to increased longevity and quality of life!

While most people associate hypertrophy with solely muscle growth, there is much more to be gained than aesthetics. Before we take a deep dive into the world of strength training for muscle growth, l would like to define a few key terms that will be used throughout this first part in a four part series:

  1. Hypertrophy: the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells.  This can apply to any cell or organ in the body, but for our purposes anytime you read “hypertrophy,” we’re referring to skeletal muscle growth.
  2. Fat-Free Mass Index (FFMI): the amount of muscle mass an individual has relative to their body size.  There is a limit to the amount of muscle that you can naturally add to your body based on your frame, genetics, and other factors. The higher your FFMI, the closer you are to the maximum limit of muscle mass for your body. 

As we prepare for our next block of hypertrophy-focused training in the gym, I’ll be making the argument that it’s in your best interest to achieve the highest possible FFMI for your body, stopping short of taking anabolic steroids or other pharmaceuticals.  I’ll also detail the basic mechanisms behind muscle growth, explain how to set yourself up for success, and finally, I’ll provide a sample hypertrophy program.  In part 2 of this series,  I’ll share some common roadblocks to success, as well as tools to help you navigate around these. 

Why should you care about increasing your muscle mass?

FFMI has been linked to several important factors related to your health, as outlined below:

1. Insulin Sensitivity: Several studies have found that higher FFMI is associated with improved insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well the body’s cells respond to insulin and absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Higher levels of lean muscle mass, as reflected in a higher FFMI, have been linked to enhanced insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

2. Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. It includes factors such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess abdominal fat. Some research suggests that individuals with a higher FFMI are less likely to have metabolic syndrome, indicating a protective effect of lean muscle mass on metabolic health.

3. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR): Resting metabolic rate refers to the number of calories the body burns at rest. Studies have shown that individuals with a higher FFMI tend to have a higher RMR. This means that having a higher proportion of lean muscle mass contributes to increased energy expenditure, even when at rest. A higher RMR can help in weight management and maintaining a healthy body weight.

4. Lipid Profile: Research has indicated that higher FFMI is associated with a more favorable lipid profile, including lower levels of triglycerides and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. A healthier lipid profile is important for cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

5. Aging and Sarcopenia: Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, is a common concern among older adults. It stands to reason that the higher you’re able to drive your FFMI, the greater buffer you’ll have as you reach an advanced age and inevitably begin to lose muscle mass.

6. Physical Function and Longevity: FFMI is closely related to physical function, such as strength and mobility. Studies have shown that better physical function is associated with increased longevity. As FFMI plays a crucial role in physical performance, it could indirectly impact longevity by supporting an active and functional lifestyle.

7. Physical Function and Independence: Higher FFMI is associated with better physical function and independence. Research suggests that individuals with greater muscle mass and strength have improved mobility, balance, and ease of daily activities. Enhanced physical function contributes to a higher quality of life by enabling individuals to engage in various activities and maintain independence.


8. Psychological Well-being: Maintaining muscle mass and physical fitness has been linked to improved psychological well-being and mental health. Regular exercise and higher FFMI are associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, increased self-esteem, and improved body image perception. Engaging in resistance training and having a higher FFMI may contribute to a positive self-perception and overall satisfaction with one’s body, thus influencing quality of life.

Now that we’ve covered how hypertrophy training is beneficial, our part two of this series will discuss how muscles grow! Specifically, the stimulus needed to promote growth and the aspects of recovery that most people neglect.

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