BOOK REVIEW: Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy

Title: Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy
Author: Brad Schoenfeld
Publisher: Human Kinetics Australia, ISBN-13: 9781492519607
Details: Cloth back, 224pp
RRP: $77.20 OR $57.92 for Network Members who have joined the Human Kinetics Rewards program HERE and use the promo code NETWORK16 at checkout.

Review by Tony Boutagy PhD, AEP, AES

For many decades, the field of muscular hypertrophy development has been dominated by anecdote, opinion and legend: if a bodybuilder with an impressive physique says so, then it is so, and on and on tradition is passed to the new generation, with many of the assumptions and lore never questioned.

It is into this context that Brad Schoenfeld publishes his latest book. But this is no ordinary book, or even ‘another’ book on building muscle – this is a textbook of the most impressive magnitude, an authoritative tour de force that exhaustively compiles and reviews virtually every study ever published on hypertrophy (the reference list has 861citations!). Schoenfeld has produced the standard reference textbook for the next generation of trainers and all those interested in muscular hypertrophy.

The book is organised into the following sections: first, the hypertrophy-related responses and adaptations to exercise stress. Here, Schoenfeld discusses the neuromuscular system and the endocrine, paracrine and autocrine systems and their involvement in hypertrophy. The next section is on the Mechanism of Hypertrophy. Schoenfeld has published several excellent reviews on this topic and here he outlines the role of mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. The section on signalling pathways is the most complex writing in the book. Having an understanding of these concepts does help the reader better grasp the theory presented later in the text, but if you find this section a little daunting, then you will not be missing too much if you jump to the next chapters of Resistance Training Variables. Schoenfeld examines an immense amount of literature pertaining to volume, frequency, load, exercise choice, muscle action, rest intervals, set duration, ROM and effort. This is a very comprehensive discussion on seemingly every topic to do with program design and makes for ‘must reading’ for everyone involved with developing muscle hypertrophy. Schoenfeld is quick to remind readers that analysis of the literature and research studies do not tell you what to do in the weights room, but this section most certainly guides the diligent trainer to make better programming decisions, based on real science and not on hearsay, passed from guru to protégé!

Section four deals with the role of aerobic (only) training and also discusses the concept of concurrent training. Given many sports require both high levels of muscularity and aerobic capacity, this section provides the reader with an up-to-date understanding of the science of concurrent training with many practical points for optimising programs.

Section five addresses the factors involved in maximal muscle growth, including genetics, age, sex and training status. Sections six and seven offer the reader the most ‘news to use’ information and cover program design and nutrition. Again, being a comprehensive textbook, Schoenfeld does not attempt to provide numerous programs and eating plans, but rather, to explain and synthesise what the science says on these topics. These are very useful chapters for those writing programs and wishing to optimise muscular hypertrophy.

As with all textbooks, there can be an overwhelming amount of topics presented, but every chapter has summary section boxes and take-home messages, which makes the learning of key points much easier for the reader. As mentioned previously, the reference list is exhaustive (861 studies), and the index of authors cited is 15 pages! Schoenfeld is to be congratulated for producing the most comprehensive textbook ever written on muscle hypertrophy. This magnum opus should be on the desk of everyone writing programs for muscular development.


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