4 Things You Need To Know About Muscle Hypertrophy [How to tone]


Being toned is more than just being skinny or losing fat.

You have to have actual muscle tissue to show through to get the toned, or muscle look.

And do not get this confused with needing a ton of muscle and getting “bulky”.

You have no idea how hard it is to get bulky, so don’t be naive.

The key to being toned is muscle hypertrophy, so let’s dive into what it is and how to do it.

What is Hypertrophy

Muscle hypertrophy is an increase in size/growth of muscle cells.

Let’s break down the science of a muscle fiber and how it works.

Muscle fibers are made up of myocytes.

Each myocyte contains myofibrils – which allow the muscle to contract.

Hypertrophy happens when the number of myofibrils in the muscle fiber increases, which in turn means the strength and density of the muscle increases.

This is achieved through strength training, with the proper stimulus.

There is muscle hypertrophy and there is muscle strength.

Muscle hypertrophy deals with the size of the muscle, while strength deals with the…strength of the muscle.

If your goal is tone, and definition, muscle hypertrophy is what you should be doing.
Let’s talk about hypertrophy and what you need to know about it.

1. Hypertrophy happens with less sets and higher reps.

You cannot just exercise and hope whatever you are doing is the path to your goals.

Unless of course your goal is just to move, then whatever you are doing is going to get you there.

But, if your goal is to get toned and see some muscle definition..then you need to be doing more than just moving.

Muscle hypertrophy occurs with higher reps, and less sets. But, you still need weight.

Most people tend to lift lighter than they actually can.

If you are just showing up and going through the motions, the changes you want are not going to occur.

Achieving muscle hypertrophy is strength training with reps between 10-15 and sets between 3-4.

You are working on size, and abundance of the muscle tissue, rather than the strength of it.

2. You have to lift enough weight to maximize muscle tissue.

Even though hypertrophy is focused on higher reps, you still need a stimulus.

This stimulus comes from weights that are heavy enough for you.

Like I said before, muscle strength is going to be lower reps with heavy weight, and hypertrophy is higher reps with still heavy weight (just not as heavy as muscle strength reps).

Women tend to assume that weights are going to make them bulky, so they reach for the 5lb dumbbells.

Well for most people, 5lbs is not going to be enough of a stimulus to illicit hypertrophy.

This means, don’t be afraid of the weights!

Go for something heavier and test it out, you won’t know if you can do it until you try.

But again, if you are just going through the motions you aren’t going to see the muscle tone or definition you are after.

So buy heavier weights for those home workouts and put your muscles to the test.

3. Consistency is key.

We know all good things take time, and toning is no exception.

You cannot workout for 3 weeks and expect change.

I mean, you could, but they aren’t going to happen.

Muscle building takes a lot of time. And it is usually only beginners that can see quick results, but they will start to slow.

We call these “newbie gains” and they are typically from the body adjusting to the new stimulus.

Take advantage new lifters, because these gains are hard to come by.

You will also notice that you cannot build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

They are counteractive. Losing fat means you are in a caloric deficit, while gaining muscle needs food/energy to be able to grow.

This is where consistency comes in.

Spending enough time eating maintenance calories, following a program with progressive overload and making sure recovery/sleep are in order are how you are going to see muscle definition results.

The average person should strength train 3-5 times per week to see results in both strength and size.

But don’t forget, if muscle size and definition is what you are after, make sure you stay in the muscle hypertrophy rep range of 8-12.

4. You need muscle to be toned.

A common misconception with toning is that people assume they just need to lose weight.

They think if they lose enough weight, they will miraculously have the body they imagine in their head.

Typically, that is not the case.

Muscle needs to be under the layer of fat in order to be “toned” after fat loss.

If you just lost more and more weight without any muscle, you would be a skinny mini toothpick with no definition or shape.

And usually, that isn’t what women are after.

So you need to spend time building and developing muscle tissue in order to be toned after losing fat.

And while we are here, let’s touch on the idea that “liFtInG wEIghTs mAkES yOU BulKY”.

You have to lift heavy weights, eat tons of food, and train for years and years before you will ever get “bulky” like some women.

You aren’t going to do two strength training workouts and all of a sudden you are ripping through your shirt sleeves.

It takes a lot of time to develop muscle tissue, trust me, if it was easier, I would be bulkier!

Besides the fact, wouldn’t you rather be strong and be able to take care of yourself than be a skinny twig who can’t open their own pickle jar? I mean…independence, ladies!

That is the gist of muscle hypertrophy – what it is, how to achieve it if your goal is toning and definition.

Just don’t forget, if you want to build muscle (whether it be size or strength) you have to make sure you are lifting heavy enough weights.

Using 2lb dumbbells and doing 25 reps is going to be muscle endurance and isn’t going to do anything for muscle size.

You have to put enough of a stimulus on the muscle to get it to breakdown and therefore repair itself stronger and bigger.

I hope this blog was helpful.

Do me a favor and share on social media if this cleared up some confusion and has you on a better path to your goals.

Haley Rowe March 5, 2021