I know you’re putting work in at the gym. They say when it comes to fitness and bodybuilding, our efforts and choices directly show on our physiques. That’s what I love about this lifestyle. We are a mirror reflection of the work we put in and the foods we consume. But sometimes we might question if our physiques truly reflect our life style. Have you ever asked yourself, why am I not growing or developing like I feel I should be?  (or was that just me?) 

Researchers have been studying the science behind hypertrophy for decades. Many theories come and go or evolve But there stands 3 principles to growing muscle that are here to stay- they just might be worded differently in the various journals.

The 3 Mechanisms of Hypertrophy:


1- Mechanical Load– How much load you place on the muscle during contraction (in other words- LIFT HEAVY)

2- Metabolic Stress – Pumping as much blood into the muscle using high reps to reach muscle failure repeatedly which releases metabolites such as lactate and phosphate into the muscles . (In other words- Chase The Pump!)

3- Muscle Damage- Exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD). Doing exercises your body hasn’t adapted to and training in a way which damages the most muscle fibres in turn creates several different responses.  This leads to protein synthesis and eventually hypertrophy. In other words- Do things that your body hasn’t adapted to.

I will expand on the others in upcoming emails, but today I want to focus on Metabolic Stress


My Client Mel

Clearly using all the given artillery for gains <3

Metabolic Stress.

What does this mean when it comes to hypertrophy?

Metabolic stress happens when we thoroughly fatigue the muscles. By exerting effort after reaching muscle failure we are calling on higher threshold motor units to take over for the tired ones. Do this over and over and we are damaging more muscle fibres. 

The term Metabolic Stress comes from what happens when we do this type of training. When we reach muscle failure over and over: We release metabolites and blood which gets trapped in the muscle (hence the pump) which stimulate hormonal responses.

There’s a lot of research out there that conflicts or argues the theories around  metabolites, their role in training and  “hypertrophy”.  The one thing seems to be consistent is that exerting effort past muscle failure calls on more motor unit recruitment which means more muscle fibres get involved.  They get damaged, then call on the lower tier muscle fibres to take over and help with the lift.. wash rinse repeat.

When we put in effort and push past muscle failure over and over we can get more muscle fibres in on the gains party.


In the final reps of our sets our muscles are on fire. If we keep going we are bringing more glycogen to the muscle, We are forcing more blood in and the cells swell up. The pooled blood makes it hard for oxygen to reach the muscle which leads to metabolites like lactate and hydrogen building up.

This leads to hypertrophy through a hormonal response and more metabolite signalling which has a great anabolic affect (but doesn’t cause recruitment of more muscle fibers alone.. you’ve gotta WORK!!).  

In other words, if you feel like you’ve got more in you at the end of a set, burn the muscle out with light weight, high rep sets. 

How to apply this in the gym today:

If you’re subscribed to the Savage Training programs, you’ll notice the workouts are designed to utilize these protocols. Sometimes, even with Savage Training- we still can still squeeze more effort in to make the absolute most of our sessions.

Here are a few methods I like to add to my program-even if it isn’t scheduled in.  

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1 – Use bands to pulse at peak contraction at the end of your final set such as the “flap flaps” we sometimes see on delt days. Or resistance band kick backs after some cable kick backs etc. You can really get creative with bands with some imagination.

Finish with a 30 or 50 rep rest GO set

Don’t allow the muscle to relax at the bottom of the rep– maintain the tension.

2 – Timed sets such as doing 3x 1 minute side lateral raises after your delt workout. 

3 – Standard drop sets to failure where you start heavy, do as many reps as you can, then drop the weight a bit and keep going to failure – drop again..etc. You’ll see these on your plans often.   You’re cheating yourself if you don’t hit muscle failure or if you are resting at the bottom of your reps. 

You can also do a pyramid which is like a double inverted drop set. Start light and go up 3 or 4 increments in weight, then go back down in drop set style. 

 4 – Tabata style training:  Set a timer and pulse at peak contraction for 20 sec without rest. Next rest 10 seconds and repeat 8 times.  You can do this with most exercises! 

These are all ways to increase muscle fatigue, get the blood in the muscles, release more metabolites and make the most of your sessions. 

REMEMBER, when we are trying to build muscle, we want to attack from every angle. Applying only one protocol may feel challenging, but it’s not enough to bring you to your full potential. So… 

  2. Chase the pump
  3. Damage the muscle/ We’ll touch on this in the next post.

If you’re interested in joining us for Savage Training, I welcome you to give it a try!




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