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Updated: Jun 17, 2022

Let’s Get Swole!

By Gina Redican, Owner/Personal Trainer at Accel Fitness

You hitting the gym with Hans and Franz later to get all swole? You know they’re gonna pump (clap) you up! Getting “swole/swol” and “pumped” refer to muscle hypertrophy (growth) resulting from weightlifting. Muscle hypertrophy is one of the main reasons people lift weights. Although we’d like to pretend vanity isn’t our entire driving force for exercising, it sure is nice to see those muscles tighten up and become more defined as a result.

Muscles are made of fibers (myofibrils) arranged and working together to help the body perform specific functions. For instance, the biceps’ and triceps’ jobs are to flex and extend the elbow; the sternocleidomastoid is involved in head/neck flexion and rotation. Trivia fact: sternocleidomastoid is the longest name for a muscle in the body! During a muscle contraction a signal is sent from the brain to the muscle where enough fibers are recruited to perform its function. To pick up something heavy our bodies will recruit a greater number of muscle fibers to complete the task. Fine motor skills involve fewer fibers. A great example of this is the plastic water mug: our brain may think it’s glass, and we pick it up with a greater force than necessary because the brain told our muscles to recruit more fibers than it needed to. To make picking up heavy objects easier, you should do it more often; and this is where pumping iron comes into play. We increase our muscular strength by increasing the size of our muscle fibers. Muscle fibers grow by repeatedly challenging our muscles which is why we perform multiple repetitions and sets of an exercise. Your muscles will not gain strength or size if not put under stress. If you’re lifting weights and do not feel challenged, then you should reach for the next set of heavier weights.

Muscles grow in two different ways: myofibrillar hypertrophy and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy refers to the increase in size of the muscle fiber by growing and repairing myofibrils and result in increased strength and size. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy occurs when the volume of fluid surrounding the muscle increases and gives our muscles that pumped, swollen look. The fluid only increases the muscle volume, but it does contain proteins to help with muscle contractions.

Many clients have expressed concern about getting “huge” from lifting weights. Well, you won’t, unless you want to. By choosing the right amount of weight, sets, repetitions, and proper diet you should be able to achieve your desired body shape. Regardless of whether you’re interested in getting big muscles or simply getting more definition, here are a couple “Do’s and Don’ts” when lifting:


Create some damage to your muscles by lifting an amount of weight that creates fatigue, damage and causes repair.


Perform your reps quickly! Slow and controlled is best. Perform repetitions in a tempo that puts you under stress longer. For instance, 1:3 concentric/eccentric motion. (Concentric refers to muscle shortening, eccentric is muscle lengthening: curl up fast, lower down slow if you’re doing a bicep curl.) Great resistance is caused by slowing down the lengthening phase of a movement.


Plan rest days by only training specific muscle groups on specific days and avoid overworking a certain muscle.


Wait too long between sets. You want your muscles to recuperate just enough to continue your workout: 35-60 seconds should be enough unless you’re power lifting!



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