Muscle hyperplasia was once thought to be impossible in humans. But with more and more research made available we might be ready to change our minds.
Every bro worth his chalk knows that increasing muscle size through hypertrophy is the key to muscle growth. Lift heavy sh*t and you’ll be granted the gift of gains.
It’s as simple as that.
But delve deeper into the science and there might actually be more to the story. An increasing amount of research is coming out showing not only can you make your muscle fibers bigger… you might even be able to grow new ones too.
In this article we get all scientific on your ass and tell you exactly how to harness the solid power of hyperplasia.
Go forth and multiply…
Hypertrophy and Hyperplasia – The Science
As a reader of SpotMebro we’d like to think that you’ve graduated from schmedium stringers and are already rocking some pretty solid mass in an XL. If not, you better up your game bro.
If you lift weights on the regular you’ve noticed that after a few weeks of heavy training, your muscles increase in cross-sectional area.
Essentially, they look bigger, fuller and goddamn more aesthetic.
And as a a real lifter, you’ve likely heard of hypertrophy. If not, it simply refers an increase in muscle fiber size.
How does hypertrophy occur?
Through various chemical processes, lifting weights causes changes inside muscle cells that increase the size of muscle fibers. The functional compartments or ‘contractile proteins’ literally grow in size.
Once you overload a muscle through strength training, a cascade of events roll into play.
To be honest, we can’t fit all of them into an article like this, but here are the main ones you need to know about.
- Satellite cells located on the surface of the muscle fiber are activated after training. They respond to mechanical loading and muscle damage by multiplying so that they can fuse to the fiber and donate their nuclei. This increases the size of the contractile part of the muscle cell.
- Growth factors such as human growth hormone, hepatocyte growth factor and IGF-1 increase after hard strength training. As protein hormones they help trigger satellite cell activation and also help them find damaged cells to repair.
- Hormones such as testosterone increase after training too. They play an important part of muscle protein synthesis and the anabolic regulation of hypertrophy.
At the most basic level, muscles increase in size because of a load of different physiological processes coming together to help your muscles adapt to training.
What Exactly Is Hyperplasia?
For years and years, physiologists thought that hypertrophy was the only way that muscle tissue could increase.
But over the last few years, some scientists have suggested that you might not just be able to increase muscle fiber size, but also amount.
Hyperplasia is said to occur through 2 distinct mechanisms:
- The fusion of two pre-cells that join together to form a de novo fiber after muscle damage (through lifting) has occurred.
- Some muscle fibers split down their length forming two separate fibers.
Bro tip: Hyperplasia refers to an increase in number of muscle fibers.
Some animals show high levels of hyperplasia
There are actual studies where animals get jacked as f*ck in the weights room.
They don’t quite rock up in a two piece tracksuit and they haven’t got a discount code as sponsored athletes, but they do take part in resistance training in the name of scientific research.
Scientists literally give cats a modified bench press or forearm curl exercises as part of their program. There are studies where birds get dumbbells tied to their wings too.
All for the beauty of science.
Can a cat lift your max?
And that makes you the pussy.
What”s interesting is that when these animals take part in resistance training they don’t show signs of hypertrophy.
But if you analyze their muscles under a microscope, they do significantly increase the number of fibers per unit of cross-sectional area.
So What About Human Hyperplasia?
Muscle hyperplasia in humans has been one of those subjects that’s got more and more popular as time has passed.
Mostly because leading researchers have found a pretty understudied area of research… and the bros have found a potentially new mechanism for muscle growth that they didn’t know existed.
It’s still a pretty controversial and dark corner of muscle physiology though.
The first paper on ‘fiber splitting’ for hyperplasia actually came out as far back as 1970. Slowly but surely though, we’re beginning to see data suggesting you can actually induce hyperplasia.
And there’s a curve ball too which makes it harder to research hyperplasia in humans…
When you do research on hyperplasia you have to kill the animal, strip their skin off and then manually count the number of fibers within a cross-section.
Don’t know about you bro, but I am NOT volunteering for that.
We probably need more research to be sure though
In the grand scheme of science, the idea that we can induce hyperplasia is still a head scratcher. Yes, there’s a little bit of evidence to say you can, but not enough to say with any confidence that yes it does occur.
But, there are training methods that are said to induce hyperplasia.
And while the research might not be bulletproof, they are some pretty brutal workouts regardless.
Bottom line is that these are definitely something we’d suggest you try if you’re already an advanced lifter.
Because even if they don’t cause muscle growth through hyperplasia, they 100% do pack on huge slabs of lean muscle.
Could You Induce Hyperplasia With This Training System?
Search for hyperplasia online and you’ll get the same training method come up time and time again.
It’s called intra-set stretching.
And it all stems back to a research on quail (a type of bird).
In the most well know hyperplasia study, quails had 10% of their body mass attached to one of their wings for over a month. This was one to add resistance – much like a tiny dumbbell.
That only left one hand to scratch their balls or pull their pants out of their ass after squats.
Nevertheless the quail persevered in the name of science. It was worth it too as the quail reported an increase in muscle fibers of over 50%.
That’s a huge increase.
Half of them also changed their names to Chad and started wearing snapbacks in their Insta stories too with such massive gainz.
Intra-set stretch training
Born out of that quail research, scientist and trainer Jose Antonio devised a protocol that was as close to loading your wings as was humanly possible… and it became the intra-set stretching method.
How to intraset stretch for more muscle mass and hyperplasia
This method works well for exercises such as chest flyes, triceps overheads and bicep curls where you can hold a position at peak stretch.
It’s also absolutely disgusting on calf raise if you fancy the challenge.
Grab a weight and perform a normal set of 12 or more reps to failure. It has to be absolute failure or you’ll not get those beautiful (and painful) gains.
From there, hold the load at full stretch for at least 30 seconds.
Drop the weight to a lighter load and go again. Once you hit failure again, hold for another 30 seconds and drop once more.
Just don’t hold your breath while stretching or you’ll go redder than the gym’s resident roid head… and then pass out.
Welcome to a completely new world of pain.
Summary – Can You Induce Muscle Hyperplasia?
When it comes to the physiology of muscle fibers, it’s a complicated area.
We know that in human, muscles can grow in size – a process called hypertrophy. Lift weights, get big. It’s as simple as that.
But they might also be able to multiply too. This is what we refer to as muscle hyperplasia.
Intra-set stretching is a brutal method of strength training that involves placing the muscle in a loaded stretch between sets. And while we don’t know for sure that it causes muscle hyperplasia, it’s still a great system for developing slabs of muscle and grater strength.