Muscle gains…explained

Lu Xiaojunlu1

172cm, competes in the 77kg class
Known best for Snatch 176kg, C&J 204,
ATG oly-style squat over 300kg
Multiple World champion, Olympic Gold Medalist and World Record Holder


Ronnie Coleman

183cm around 135kg
8 times Mr Olympia
Youtube evidence of a squat around the 300kg-350kg mark…but very questionable depth.
Known best for being huge, and yelling ‘light weight baby’


Lu Xiaojun is almost half the weight of Ronnie Coleman, yet can squat a similar amount…. How does Lu Xiaojun do it?

In simplified terms, there are 2 types of muscular development or hypertrophy. These aren’t very well researched or documented as most professional athletes (like Lu and Ronnie) kind of need their muscle, and can’t afford to donate any for biopsy and analysis, so these two categories are still somewhat ‘loose’… but for your reading pleasure, we’ll try to explain the two using them as an examples for both.


A muscle is made up of fibers or cells. The wall or membrane of the cell is known as the sarcolemma, which contains (amongst other stuff) two important elements; 1) the sarcoplasm, and 2) myofibrils. Imagine the sarcoplasmic reticulum is the gel that stores the energy, and myofibrils are the contractile fibers that create the muscle action.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy is when the muscle cells themselves increase in cross section, largely due to an increased volume of sarcoplasm. As this is primarily just fluid, it has no ability to create force. Therefore this type of development produces non-linear size to strength ratio. What this means is that at some point, when we increase muscle size we aren’t necessarily increasing strength, we might just be getting bigger. That said, a larger sarcoplasm allows for a greater ability to store and produce fuel for our muscles (ATP) which increases our muscular endurance.

Myofibrillar Hypertrophy: this is when the muscle fibers (the myofibrils) become denser. The cross section of the muscle stays the same, but the theory tell us that when the muscle develops in this fashion we are increasing density of contractile fibers within the muscles cells. Subsequently, we are able to increasingly produce more force.

A CrossFit Hawthorn East we look to achieve in a balance of these two types of muscle adaptation to increase our power output, and the duration we can maintain this output for.

Coach Jake.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”


CrossFit Hawthorn East is a physical fitness gym close to both Camberwell and Hawthorn.  We offer group fitness classes, personal training and regular workshops.  Email to book your free intro class.

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