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The Misunderstanding Of Hypertrophy Training

muscle building workouts

Why create a DVRT program specifically about hypertrophy (building muscle)? The easiest answer is that it is one of the most common questions we receive and when we surveyed our DVRT community about what topics they would most like to have addressed, hypertrophy was the winner. Personally, I thought it was a great opportunity to dispel a lot of myths about how effective functional training and of course our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system would be in building muscle. The truth is that A LOT of people really don’t understand hypertrophy and therefore many myths persist and get passed onto the next generation leading us in circles.

So, how does DVRT functional training concepts help lead to better hypertrophy training? Let’s start breaking it down…

Functional Training Can’t Build Muscle

The idea that a training system like DVRT can’t lead to great gains in hypertrophy is rooted in a few misunderstandings about what is actually important in building muscle. For one, people see the lighter loads used with Ultimate Sandbags, kettlebells, and even bodyweight training and figure they can’t cause nearly the hypertrophy that loading up other exercises can achieve. Well, this is actually a very false and damaging idea and it isn’t my opinion!

If we look at muscle activity in unilateral to bilateral exercises we see that in almost every case that the unilateral movements either outperform or actually train the muscles to the same degree as heavier exercises in more stable positions.

glute workouts


glute exerciseglute exercise

sandbag lunges

I wanted to post just a few of many to help you see that this is pretty well founded in the literature and not me trying to find a reason to have you perform more functional based exercises (not that bilateral exercises can’t be functional but stay with me). Yes, a squat, for example, can be functional but my point is that people to judge what is a good or bad exercise for hypertrophy partly around the amount of weight that is used. However, in fact, we need to put context around it because one of my favorite examples from a study below shows how misleading such an idea can be in reality.


So, if we can agree that load needs proper context because other variables can impact muscle activation we can move onto the second misunderstood part of functional training being super effective for hypertrophy training. Of course that is the idea that you really can’t build a lot of muscle unless you include some isolated training. As I’ve recently shared more research, this just isn’t true either!


The above paper is one I love because this is not a single study, but a review of over 20 studies looking at multi-joint compared to single-joint training. The most ASTOUNDING part I believe is the last part of the sentence where it is stated, “no additional effects when single-joint exercises were included in a multi-joint exercise program.” When I mentioned this paper in a previous post I shared my thought that this had to do with the fact our bodies can only handle so much work. That hypertrophy is a result of our ability to recover from training, not how much work we can do in a workout.

Since the great majority of people are not on drugs to accelerate their recovery and have lives with plenty of stress already (which challenges our ability to recovery as well), we should aim for the optimal not maximal amount of stress we can be achieved. In fact, this isn’t just my idea, the concept of “minimal effective dose” has gained some great popularity in very well respected coaches. The idea is how little, not how much, we can do to get our desired training effect. That is because really good coaches know it is about recovery and our lives are far more complex than they may have ever been and that recovery can be very challenging.

This means functional training is ideal for just about anyone. The focus on movement patterns allows us to train SOOOO many muscles at once and have means to incorporating the whole body so that we ensure that our focus is on the type of workouts that give us the appropriate stress for hypertrophy, but respect the need for proper recovery. This really isn’t a new idea as we see from this 1924 bodybuilding book…


I know, you are probably wondering if everything I am saying is true (man, that would be A LOT of research to just make up) why don’t more people follow these ideas? For one, let’s face it, it is such an easier workout to go around the gym and trying to focus on every little muscle than doing an exercise that hits a lot of muscles at once. So, people want to believe the easier way is just as, if not more effective (note: I’m not saying you can’t build muscle isolating parts of the body, I’m just saying it is the VERY long way to do so). Second, if you look at a lot of bodybuilding programs from even just a few decades ago you would see the majority of the training look closer to functional based training than most would imagine. Yes, they were also adding in isolated movements, but can we be honest for a second? You can’t hold up a picture of someone on a bunch of drugs and tell me you are going to need to train the same way, sorry, I can’t make that comparison.

It is also easier to market to the public the idea of train “this part and that part” because most people don’t understand movement and I get it, not a lot of fitness coaches even do. So, from a marketing perspective, it is easier to sell a supplement, a nutrition plan, even a gym membership to people when they so easily can feel like they know what to do. Trust me, good even hypertrophy workouts don’t have to be complicated, but you do have to be a bit more knowledgable in how to put everything together (don’t worry, I already took care of that for you).

All these reasons and more is why our new DVRT Hypertrophy Program is even different for us! This program has two webinars I put together helping explain the science of hypertrophy in simple ways that empower your ability to see what is really important in your training. I also wanted to bring you the science to have confidence that even though we are asking you to train differently, we are actually helping you train better. Finally, we provide a year’s worth of programming so that you can see how to use great functional training tools like kettlebells (yes, you can use dumbbells too), bodyweight training, suspension trainers, and of course Ultimate Sandbags to not only develop better muscle, but a healthier body too!

We want people to really grab a hold of this program because it will not only show you how to train better, but it will forever change how you go about training in the future! That is why we are giving it 30% off this week with code “muscle” HEREAs someone who has spent almost the last 30 years helping problem solve people’s fitness goals and spending so much time to learn the real science of training, I hope you will jump on getting this program. You will be surprised how many fitness goals you can cover at one time with really smart training!

hypertrophy workouts