Category Archives: Gavin Van Vlack

Hypertrophy… The Different types and The difference it makes.


Everything in Margaux's training programing serves a propose to increase her athleticism.

Everything in Margaux’s training programing serves a purpose to increase her athleticism. Including putting on some good useful fat burning muscle.


There’s a good chance that if you’ve trained in the same circles that i have and hung around the right people you have heard the topic of muscular hypertrophy being discussed amongst coaches, athletes and clients. If you are new to this terminology let me first give you a definition of the word.


Hypertrophy- the increase in the volume of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells.

Now, to simplify this discussion, We are talking basically about muscle tissue here and the “increase in size” of said tissue. This often tends to send some people who are unfamiliar with the concepts of fitness, running in fear screaming “I don’t want to be bulky!!!” The simple facts are the if you don’t understand what the definition of and the different types of  hypertrophy you are kind of sabotaging you efforts to get healthy and this knowledge put into your toolbox can help you get and stay in the shape that both safe and sustainable in the long run.

First we need to understand that all muscle tissue is not the same. It is generally accepted that muscle fiber types can be broken down into two main types: slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers can be further categorized into Type IIa and Type IIb fibers.

Slow Twitch (Type I)
The slow muscles are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel (known as ATP) for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibers and can go for a long time before they fatigue. Therefore, slow twitch fibers are great at helping athletes run marathons and bicycle for hours.

Fast Twitch (Type II)

Because fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create fuel, they are much better at generating short bursts of strength or speed than slow muscles. However, they fatigue more quickly. Fast twitch fibers generally produce the same amount of force per contraction as slow muscles, but they get their name because they are able to fire more rapidly. Having more fast twitch fibers can be an asset to a sprinter since she needs to quickly generate a lot of force.

Type IIa Fibers
These fast twitch muscle fibers are also known as intermediate fast-twitch fibers. They can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism almost equally to create energy. In this way, they are a combination of Type I and Type II muscle fibers.

Type IIb Fibers
These fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create energy and are the “classic” fast twitch muscle fibers that excel at producing quick, powerful bursts of speed. This muscle fiber has the highest rate of contraction (rapid firing) of all the muscle fiber types, but it also has a much faster rate of fatigue and can’t last as long before it needs rest.

Keeping this in mind you can see that the different types of fiber serve us in different functions. For long range endurance athletes such as triathletes and marathon runners there would be a considerable amount of type 1 muscle fiber recruitment wherefore when looking at a power athlete such as a sprinter, olympic weightlifter, or a throwing athlete (shot-put, javelin, dwarf) you would see considerably more type 2 use. Then we get into other sports such as tennis, combats, soccer, lacrosse where you will see utilization of both. But I must digress at this point to bring it back around to the main topic of hypertrophy in the muscle cells and its different types.

Myofibrillar  ~VS~ Sarcoplasmic

In the bodybuilding and fitness community and even in some academic books skeletal muscle hypertrophy is described as being in one of two types: Sarcoplasmic or myofibrillar. According to this hypothesis, during sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, the volume of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cell increases with no accompanying increase in muscular strength, whereas during myofibrillar hypertrophy, actin and myosin contractile proteins increase in number and add to muscular strength as well as a small increase in the size of the muscle. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is greater in the muscles of bodybuilders while myofibrillar hypertrophy is more dominant in power athletes These two forms of adaptations rarely occur completely independently of one another; one can experience a large increase in fluid with a slight increase in proteins, a large increase in proteins with a small increase in fluid, or a relatively balanced combination of the two.

 Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the volume of the non-contractile muscle cell fluid, sarcoplasm. This fluid accounts for 25-30% of the muscle’s size. Although the cross sectional area of the muscle increases, the density of muscle fibers per unit area decreases, and there is no increase in muscular strength . This type of hypertrophy is mainly a result of high rep, “bodybuilder-type” training .

One of the biggest problems I see with the training of power athletes (football players, baseball players, basketball players, wrestlers and even powerlifters) is too much emphasis on training in the 10 – 15 rep range. This type of training has its place, yet should not be the focal point for these athletes. For example, most football lineman benefit from added bulk to prevent from getting pushed around on the field. “Bodybuilding” methods, using these rep ranges, can be beneficial if incorporated during the season to prevent muscle mass loss, as well as after the season to add bulk, which may have been lost during the season. Also, there is some scientific evidence that states a bigger muscle may have a better chance of becoming a stronger muscle once maximal strength training methods are employed. The key to remember is that this type of hypertrophy has little to do with such explosive movements as hitting, running, throwing, jumping or performing a one-rep max. This is why professional bodybuilders, whose training mainly hypertrophies the Type IIA fibers and causes an increase in the non-contractile components of the muscle (sarcoplasmic volume, capillary density, and mitochondria proliferation) are not the fastest or even the strongest of all athletes. This is despite the fact that they generally have more muscle than any other class of athlete! I consider this type of hypertrophy to be form over function.


Myofibrillar Hypertrophy

Myofibrillar hypertrophy, on the other hand, is an enlargement of the muscle fiber as it gains more myofibrils, which contract and generate tension in the muscle. With this type of hypertrophy, the area density of myofibrils increases and there is a significantly greater ability to exert muscular strength (2). This type of hypertrophy is best accomplished by training with heavy weights for low reps (3).
One must remember that the average football play lasts 4.5 seconds, it takes about 3 seconds to complete a 1 RM, it takes less than a second to swing a bat, less than a second to throw a punch and less than a second to jump for a rebound. As you can see, most athletic activities are explosive in nature. This is why it is imperative for athletes to incorporate maximal strength training methods (1-5 reps), which train the part of the muscle responsible for these explosive contractions, into their routines. Repetitions in the 1-5 rep range, using 85 – 100% of a 1RM, also have the added benefit of training the nervous system – which I feel is the most overlooked component of training the athlete. Some of the many benefits of training the nervous system are: increased neural drive to the muscle, increased synchronization of motor units, increased activation of the contractile apparatus, and decreased inhibition by the protective mechanisms of the muscle (golgi tendon organ) (1). These training methods also hypertrophy the pure fast twitch fibers – the high-threshold, Type IIB fibers. Incorporating these training methods into your routine at the right time will undoubtedly improve your muscles ability to generate more force and contract maximally during any sporting activity. In essence, myofibrillar hypertrophy is what I would term functional hypertrophy.


This also brings up the theme of what i describe as “educated muscle” or muscle that saves a purpose and function. Developing a higher rate of contractile power with myofibril hypertrophy will give you exactly that, the ability to perform tasks better by being able to generate more power. Many times we see an “athlete” who although they may be carrying muscle mass that muscle only seems to get in the way when they are given an athletic task to carry  out. In combat sports you’ve heard it said “Buff aint enough.” When a ripped and jacked monster gets beaten around the ring or mat by a seemingly less athletic opponent. Dick Butkis , legendary Chicago football coach made the statement “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.” although I know in this day and age “Jane” is fully capable of keeping up with with Tarzan or even surpassing his performance if she is put on the proper path of training.


Seeing this will also lead us to see that the “light-medium weight/ high reps” methodology that many people utilize might not be the most optimal way to actually get yourself down to a smaller size. I have many clients who have put on muscle mass and decreased size. In all actuality myself and my team have found great results for our athletes and clients by keeping them working in a 2-5 reps range using 80-90% of a modified 1 rep max. This is not saying that higher rep ranges are not at all useful but the point i am getting at here is the overall theme of getting strong, fast and explosive while decreasing overall body fat in the process.




Alexis works smart and eats smarter to attain the goals she has achieved

Muscle and Fiction

Common Myths and Misinformation in the fitness media

Alexis work smart and eats smarter to attain the goals she has achieved

Alexis works smart and eats smarter to attain the goals she has achieved

Here are some misconceptions and myths that I think we’ve all heard,read or encountered and some explanations and solutions to go with them.

If i exercise then it will negate all of my bad eating bad habits:
This always coincides with the “calories in calories out” concept. The flaw here is that a calorie is not just a calorie, that meaning that a calorie of Kale i not anything like a calorie of Pizza. Nutrient density is important in anyones diet who is looking to make long term productive changes in their body composition. Plain and simple, you cannot out exercise a bad diet.
I just want to “tone” my muscles:
Muscle tone is a totally misused and misunderstood word by fitness beginners and used by certain “fitness professionals” as deceptively as a used car salesman. The term “tone” when dealing with the musculo-skeletal system is in reference to motor unit recruitment. This is when the motor neuron (the nerves that send the signal from the brains to there respective body part) is able to reach out to as many muscle fibers as possible. High motor unit recruitment is what gives athletes both the edge in performance and that lean chiseled look (providing that their diet is in sync).
The other misconception that follows this one is that muscle tone can be achieved by using low resistance for high repetitions. Muscle tone is easiest to achieve if you perform multi joint exercises at 85% of muscle capacity and clean up your diet.
Women need different exercises than men.
This is honestly such a BS line and i’ve heard it used by “celebrity trainers” who try to make what they do seem special.
Although our hormonal make up obviously different our physiology is pretty much the same. the problem i see happening is that guys tend to do to much upper body(arms, chest, abs) and woman tend to do more lower body(legs, hips, abs). make sure that you train your whole body in all 3 planes of motion (sagital,frontal/coronal, and transverse) to keep it balanced.
Women should lift lower weights and do higher repetitions than men.
Flat out…WRONG!!! Without “Scientific Assistance” it is super difficult to achieve that kind of hypertrophy (muscle growth) in either men or women. The easiest way to directly affect change on the musculo-skeletal system is to add a level of resistance that will force the body to make an adaptive change and 3lb pink “lady weights” aint gonna do it. Again, being able to move 85% of your 1rm (1 rep max) using multi joint exercises is the best way to make this happen.
You should always stretch before exercising.
Static stretching before exercise has been shown to diminish strength and performance in athletes. Stretching is fine but save it for the cool down afterwards. a movement prep cycle using movements that will get the heart rate elevated, the joints lubricated, and the muscles activated will be much more beneficial and help to get your head in the frame of mind to do what ever the program of the day is.
it can take you anywhere from between 3 to 20 minutes depending upon what you have planned for your program for the day.
{if you need further information on this let me know and i’ll be glad to do a blog on concepts in movement preparation}
i can spot reduce (loose fat in one area):
this is one of the most abused myths in the industry and i really works my nerves because it plays on peoples fears.
The human body is an amazing organism that works systematically. Nothing in the body is meant to work in a vacuum. this being said, if you train the whole body, the whole body will benefit from it. I know we all have certain areas that we want to improve but again i stress, if you start to regulate your diet properly and also employ multi joint movement at appropriate resistance loads the benefits will come. The more muscles you use the more calories you’ll burn. exercises like dead lifts, stats, bodyweight pulling, push ups, overhead pressing and sprinting are optimal for this.
I’ll burn only fat at my target heart rate.
cardio equipment often features graphs listing target heart rates for fat burning, the body is too complex for them to be accurate. In all honesty the best time time spent burning fat is when you’re sleeping which is one of the best reason to make sure that you’re getting good rest. a good variety of interval training, both low and high intensity will help with this as well.
Shakes are great for weight loss.
This is so wrong!! Garbage in, garbage out!! Most shakes are made of inferior protein, sugars and coloring agents. They totally off set your blood sugar and insulin resistance. Eat real foods, lean grass fed meat, wild caught fish , colorful vegetables, and grains like quinoa, millet, and faro. These food also require more digestive work and use more energy burning more calories. as far as post workout nutrition i’ve found very few things that compare with sweet potatoes as far as nutrient density and convenience.
Eat only egg whites and not the yolks.
Egg yolks have taken a bad rap for a long time although they contain most of the vitamins and minerals in the egg including half of the protein. also, since the typical “egg white only” breakfast is usually neurotically fat free it can cause a significant insulin spike and promote hunger cravings as well as mood and energy swings later in the day. it was made as a perfect whole food and should be treated that way, in my opinion.

this is the most awesome 8am i've seen in a while

Training Abroad South of the border (bringing sandbags to the beach)……

Traveling with a client in Mexico. We’ll be staying at an eco-hotel in Tulum, Mexico about 15k down Boca Piala towards Punta Allen. The conditions here are phenomenal, sunny but with a great off shore breeze and temperatures in the high 80s. This Mornings training consisted of about 30 minutes of technical pad work (Muay thai) on a leveled out area with nice soft sand. She really has gotten into the technical aspect of Muay Thai recently because I’ve started working her in with some higher level competitors and although she has no interest in actually fighting herself she really likes getting to push herself to keep up with individuals who are ring ready. After that we hit the beach for some “tempo runs” which consisted of 15 second 75%sprints with a 1 minute rest. We hit 16 sets, 8 down the beach and 8 back up. After that we finished with some explosive low rep calisthenics and crawling patterns in the sand.

this afternoon i loaded up the 3 Ultimate Sand Bags the i brought with me as i really wanted to keep up with the resistance training program we’d had her working for the 3 weeks prior to this trip.  Tomorrow i plan to put her through some movements with the sand bags that will require a higher skill level, alignment and balance so i’m not so much worried about “volume” as far as weight goes so i’m setting the bags up so they will shift more. I’m also going to break out a Jungle Gym XT suspension trainer for some body weight training. most likely i’ll use a movement prep cycle and pad work for a warm up.

for tomorrow afternoon i’m planning on having her do some High Resistance interval sprints in the loose packed sand. These will consist of 6 seconds all out sprint with a 1:30 rest. We’ll hit about 16 to 18 of these. I don’t want to really do to many 2 a days but she really enjoys training and that’s my part on the trip. Hopefully she will take my suggestion to take a yoga class at Maya Tulum on wednesday.

I forgot to take photos today but will try to grab some tomorrow.



Using movement based skill training I will help you to design an effective, fun, & safe program that will both improve your strength and over all fitness.

With a focus on becoming stronger, faster and more movement capable the aesthetic goals are purely a byproduct.

You’re not going to just come in to a great facility and have a great time training but you will learn how to design your own programs so that you can virtually train anywhere with very little or even no equipment.

Focus, purpose, and intent are the basis of this concept because what we do outside the gym is as important as what we do on the training floor, diet, rest and recuperation are three key elements that we will work on together to modify your new lifestyle to fit your needs.

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