Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Tag: hypertrophy

Your Complete Guide to Sets and Reps

This is an updated guide to reflect the latest science and research surrounding sets and reps and how they relate to muscular strength, endurance, and hypertrophy (muscular growth).

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Focus on the areas in yellow, as these are the "optimal" zones for each training goal. Keep in mind that although you may benefit in various training ranges, there are just rep ranges to focus on based on what your training goal is. For example, you will gain some muscular strength from doing a 20+ rep set of an exercise, however choosing a resistance that keeps you in a 5 or under repetition range is optimal for strength gains.

Strength training is generally most improved in the 1-5/6 repetition range.

Power is generally most improved in the 1-4/5 repetition range.

Endurance is generally most improved in the 12+ repetition range.

Hypertrophy has generally been thought to be most improved in the 6-12 repetition range, although this is the one section that will be most discussed in this guide as some of our current knowledge is being challenged by recent research.

Core vs. Assistance Exercise

You may think a "core" exercise is one that involves the abdominals. The true meaning of a core exercise refers to one that recruits one or more large muscle areas (chest, shoulder, back, hip, thigh), involve two or more primary joints, and receive priority when one is selecting exercises because of their direct application to sport. An example of a core exercise would be a squat because it involves large muscle groups such as the gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, etc. and involve more than one primary joint (knees, hips).

"Assistance exercises" on the other hand, usually recruit smaller muscle areas (upper arm, abdonminals, calf, neck, forearm, lower back, or anterior lower leg), involve only one primary joint, and are considered less important to improving sport performance. An example of an assistance exercise would be a leg extension.

I generally don't recommend strength training for assistance exercises. For example, I wouldn't recommend using a weight that keeps you under 6 repetitions for something like a biceps curl.

How muscles contract

We sometimes perceive our muscles as self-controlling structures that abide by an "all or none" mechanism. This is simply not true. Your muscles are made up of muscle fibers, none of which are thicker than a strand of hair. When your muscle contracts, the entire length of the muscle shortens, however only a small percentage of the muscle fibers are doing the work. So, although all of the fibers are shortening in length, only a specific percentage of the fibers are actually completing the work at any given time.

For the purposes of our explanation, let's imagine a toddler biceps curling a 5lb. dumbbell. Because of the amount of overall strength required to lift the 5lb. dumbbell, the toddler will require quite a large percentage of the muscle fibers in their biceps to contract to lift the dumbbell. An average adult, on the other hand, could curl a 5lb. dumbbell with little to no effort at all meaning that a lower percentage of their muscle fibers are actually doing the contracting.

Why is this important? Well, when your muscle fibers fatigue, the fibers that were doing the work stop contracting and other fibers step in to complete the work. There are always at least a small percentage of your muscle fibers resting while others are doing the work. If we think of our dumbbell curl example again, chances are the toddler won't be able to curl the dumbbell as many times as the adult because they are recruiting a higher percentage of muscle fibers for every single repetition, leading to quicker fatigue and failure.

Muscle fiber recruitment is orchestrated by the muscle's neurons. One, often overlooked, positive adaptation to resistance training is the improvements in your mind to muscle connection. Basically, your neurons greatly improve their efficiency at "recruiting" muscle fibers.

So not unlike learning a skill, where your brain must train a synchronized orchestration of your muscles to act in a specific order of events, to say - throw a baseball, the brain must also learn how to actively recruit more muscle fibers in order to generate more force.

It should be noted that during the first 8 weeks of a resistance training program for beginners, nearly all of the "gains" achieved from resistance training can be attributed to neural adaptations. So, even though one may be experiencing strength gains, this is not due to an increase in muscle size or any measurable improvement in the strength of the muscle itself, instead, it is an improvement in the efficiency of the mind to muscle connection!

Repetition Goals

Use the following table to help yourself better estimate the loads you can lift at various repetition goals.

%1RM
Repetitions
100
1
95
2
93
3
90
4
87
5
85
6
83
7
80
8
77
9
75
10
70
11
67
12
65
15

Strength/Power

With our quick lesson on neural adaptations and muscle fiber motor units out of the way, let's discuss how this pertains to strength gains. In the most basic terms, strength is the ability for your muscles to generate as much force as possible. Power, on the other hand, is the ability for your muscles to generate a lot of force quickly. Strength is extremely beneficial for those looking to be able to lift or move heavy objects, but not necessarily within a specific amount of time.

Power, which is closely related, is about generating a lot of force (strength) in as short amount of time as possible. Power has very direct correlations to sport and athleticism. It should be noted that increasing your strength will also help to improve your overall power as strength and power are so closely related.

Keep a mindset that strength and power gains are primarily a "learned" skill. Like we discussed above, by training for strength, our muscles are getting stronger by training our brain how to activate high threshold muscle motor units more effectively. There is a limit to the amount of strength any given muscle in your body can produce, limited by a number of factors including limb length, joint angle, skill, technique, genetics, ratio of type 1 to type 2 muscle fibers, etc. Many of these topics will have to be covered in future blogs.

A definitive stance is proven time and time again with resistance training, strength and power output is most improved in individuals training in the 5 or fewer repetition range. Although endurance and hypertrophy training can be adjusted and benefited from varying repetition ranges (more on that later), we know that strength and power is most greatly improved with higher intensities (high weight).

Strength Repetition Goal:
1-6
Primary Energy System:
ATP-CP
Ideal Rest Periods:
2-5 minutes

Endurance

Like strength and power training, I would consider endurance training to also be a "learned" skill set for your muscle cells. Although strength and power can be considered a "learned" skill, considering the brain is becoming more effective at activating muscle fiber motor units, endurance training can be considered a skill on more of a cellular level as your muscle cells are learning how to become much more aerobically efficient.

Endurance training is highly beneficial for athletes that compete at longer-duration events such as distance running, swimming, etc. It should be noted that sports like hockey or even soccer, although they may be considered sports that requires a higher level of aerobic efficiency, are actually a series of highly intense intervals that would benefit greater from training plans intended for the work duration of such sport.

Endurance Repetition Goal:
12+
Primary Energy System:
Aerobic or Oxidative
Ideal Rest Periods:
30-60 seconds

Hypertrophy

This is decent video to get most of you up to speed on muscle fiber types and how resistance training can cause muscular damage leading to growth (hypertrophy). I will admit that I was a bit disappointed because the video seemed very rushed and ended abruptly, missing a lot of key points. I was also quite surprised that they even made mention of muscular hyperplasia. Hypertrophy is the actual enlarging of muscle cells (increase in volume) whereas hyperplasia is the division of muscle cells - increase in overall quantity. Although it is certainly possible to increase the overall number of muscle cells, the evidence for this isn't entirely clear and most likely does not apply to the general population.

While strength/power and endurance training could be considered a "skill" as I mentioned previously, hypertrophy should be considered a stimulus. In other words, our training is creating a specific demand within our muscle cells to signal growth. This is one area that not only generates a lot of interest amongst fitness enthusiasts, but researchers as well. For years, many thought that training within a 6-12 rep range was optimal for muscular hypertrophy or growth. Research, although not necessarily refuting that evidence, is trying to explain the greater picture in how or why muscles grow and how varying stimuli can promote muscular growth.

As it turns out, the number of repetitions you do does not entirely matter how much muscular growth is promoted. In other words, rep range does not matter for hypertrophy.

In conclusion, this study showed that both bodybuilding- and powerlifting-type training promote similar increases in muscular size, but powerlifting-type training is superior for enhancing maximal strength.

Ideally, your training should meet your needs, goals, and desires. If you wish to train to improve strength and/or performance, then stick to lower repetition ranges with higher intensity. If you wish to train for more aerobic events, then lower intensities and higher repetitions should be targeted.

This study demonstrates that both intensity and exercise-induced metabolic stress can be manipulated to affect muscle anabolic signaling.

What about our previously-thought belief that rest periods determine the growth of muscles? Well, apparently not.

In conclusion, the literature does not support the hypothesis that training for muscle hypertrophy requires shorter rest intervals than training for strength development or that predetermined rest intervals are preferable to auto-regulated rest periods in this regard.

One more variable we can throw into the mix is research that has looked at oxygen restriction and how it affects hypertrophy signalling. One study used tourniquets to restrict blood flow to working muscles to discover whether or not this would alter training stimulus or signalling.

Blood flow restriction resulted in significantly greater gains in strength and hypertrophy when performed with resistance training than with walking. In addition, performing LI-BFR 2-3 days per week resulted in the greatest effect size (ES) compared to 4-5 days per week.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Source: http://slidingfilament.webnode.com/skeletal-muscle/

Many coaches or gym bros may want to talk your ear off about how much physiology they know and spout off a very detailed explanation about the two different types of hypertrophy - myofibrillar vs. sarcoplasmic. As the story goes, you can enlarge your muscles either one way or the other. Myofibrillar hypertrophy refers to the enlarging of the structural framework of the muscle fibers whereas sarcoplasmic hypertrophy refers to the increased fluid of the muscle cell sarcomeres.

Anywhere from 70-80% of a muscle cell is made up of structural proteins. If you were to increase the volume of the sarcoplasm and therefore the sarcomere, you would have to increase the overall structural framework of the muscles too. It would be like making the inside your house bigger without actually building any additional walls. In order to increase the size of the sarcoplasm/sarcomere, you have to increase the amount of contractile proteins too. Don't believe me? Check out this study:

The linear distance between myosin filaments (38.7 +/- 0.3 nm before, 38.7 +/- 0.4 nm after training; mean +/- S.E.M.) as well as the ratio of actin to myosin filaments (3.94 +/- 0.03 before, 3.86 +/- 0.06 after training) did not change with training. 3. These results refute the concept that the increases in muscle strength or radiological density during short-term heavy-resistance training are caused by changes in myofilament spacing.

In other words, although the muscles got bigger, the framework didn't simply increase in distance, it had to increase in overall quantity. Both sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy happen at the same time making any discussion about differentiating them total bullshit. There is zero evidence to back up sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Period.

Hypertrophy Repetition Goal:
Any
Primary Energy System:
Varies
Ideal Rest Periods:
Based on goals/availability

Ok, so for the purposes of hypertrophy training, here is what we can summarize:

  • Lifting heavy things makes you better at lifting heavy things. The heavier you lift (fewer reps), the stronger you will get.
  • Lifting lighter things many times makes you better at, well, lifting lighter things multiple times. In other words, your muscles become more fatigue resistant, also known as endurance training.
  • Volume is the key. You must push your muscles to at least close to failure multiple times to promote growth.
  • Oxygen depletion seems to also promote hypertrophy signalling, so by training at a high rate of metabolism, such during high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you can still promote muscular growth.
  • Forget the term "toned." Nobody should train at higher repetitions to "tone."
  • Stimulating muscle cells to increase in size through resistance training can only take you so far, a proper diet rich in protein and sufficient calories is what makes or breaks most cases of hypertrophy. Oh yeah, hormones count too.
  • There is no such thing as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy so don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sets, Repetitions, and Training Goals Summary

Strength - High-load, low-repetition training to improve overall strength of the muscle(s) being trained. Should mainly be targeted by "core exercises." Long periods of rest between sets to allow full recovery of muscle fibers in order to produce maximum amount of force every subsequent set. Remember that many of the strength gains achieved come from improved neuromuscular patterns.

Power - High-load, low-repetition training similar to strength training but designed to increase the overall explosiveness of the muscles. Also designed to be targeted by "core exercises" only. Also intended to have long periods of rest between sets to promote full recovery. Like strength, many power gains are achieved by improving neuromuscular patterns.

Hypertrophy - Enough volume to challenge your muscles to fatigue as many of your overall muscle fibers as possible in order to elicit growth. There is also a potential for growth simply by working until extreme fatigue to create a lack of oxygen and energy replenishment to the muscles such as HIIT training.

Muscular Endurance - Low rest periods, higher rep goals, lower loads. Ideally used to improve the aerobic efficiency of the muscle fibers. Should be used by endurance athletes to improve muscular efficiency. Not intended to improve overall strength or power, however.





Can a program like Body Beast be modified to be more strength-focused?

I received this question the other day:

Could one tweak the Body Beast program into a quasi-strength training program by decreasing reps and increasing rest time, but sticking to the same exercises?

As I mentioned in my Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting blog, you will gain some strength from virtually any type of resistance training, especially if you are a beginner. Beginners mostly improve through neural adaptations, or in other words, their brain to muscle connection becomes more effective.

It just so happens to be that BEST way to gain strength, especially for those of us who have some experience resistance training, is to use much lower repetitions and longer break periods. This is because the muscle fibers are challenged the most during highly intense sets, and the long break periods allow you to fully recover from every set in order to maximize your effort on every subsequent set.

So, can a program like Body Beast be tailored to be more of a strength program? Possibly, but not really in the way that you think. Here's why:

  1. Let's get the obvious out of the way first and foremost. The break periods in Body Beast are designed to keep the muscles under "attack" and therefore keep the metabolic demand high. This is when you get that "pumped" or "burning" feeling in your muscles. Because you are playing around with various repetition goals with very short breaks (less than 90 seconds), the program is specifically designed to maximize hypertrophy with just a relatively basic selection of weights found at home.

    You could hit the pause button here and there to extend the breaks during the workouts, and in fact I highly recommend this as you become stronger and increase your weights, but in order to maximize your strength and completely recover after every set, your break periods may force the length of the Body Beast workout to become unacceptably long, especially considering the number of sets involved.

  2. Strength training is accomplished (mostly) through compound movements. Compound movements, also known as "core" exercises, work large muscle groups with more than 1 joint involved. For example, a bench press is a compound movement because it is working a large muscle group (pectorals), and it is using more than one joint (shoulders, elbows). This allows the body to better distribute the load being placed upon it.

    There are a lot of isolation exercises in Body Beast targeting a small group of muscles or a very specific muscle. This is what bodybuilding is all about, sculpting the body to look a certain way. In my opinion, only compound movements can and should be used for strength training. For example, a biceps curl, in my opinion, should not be trained with loads that target the 5 and under rep range. I believe that puts far too much stress on the muscle, connective tissues, and joint involved in the exercise.

So what can we do to increase strength. Well, if you are working out at home with a relatively small selection of dumbbells, then you can still continue to use Body Beast to increase muscle size and strength. Yes, you will gain some strength from Body Beast.

Another option that will probably be most common, and one that I have personally tried in the past, would be to try and lower your rep goals for compound movements. So, for example, if you were doing a flat dumbbell chest press, you could target 6-8, 8-10, and 10-12 rep ranges instead of the standard 8, 12, 15 reps that the program uses now. Keep in mind that the higher your resistance climbs to lower your repetitions, listen to your body and take extra/longer breaks when needed.

Also realize that Body Beast uses a wide range of pyramid-style sets (increasing resistance, decreasing repetitions), as I said, to maximize your fairly limited selection of dumbbells at home. Standard strength training involves doing compound exercises first in a workout (with warmup sets) when the muscles are rested and more capable of generating force. Once you start messing around with moving sets around, increasing break periods, and exercise selection, then the program starts to look less and less like Body Beast.





Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting - Hypertrophy and Strength Gains

A common topic of debate/discussion amongst strength coaches and fitness enthusiasts has been the optimal repetition range to train in for both muscle size (hypertrophy) and/or strength gains.

Studies in the past have shown that hypertrophy training (bodybuilding) is best achieved in the 6-12 rep range, forcing a metabolic demand of the muscles, therefore stimulating a demand for growth. Powerlifters, on the other hand, train at a much lower repetition range of 5 or fewer repetitions but with greater loads. It has been thought and believed in the past that training at a sub-5 repetition goal is less effective at increasing muscular size, however much greater at producing greater gains in strength.

Well, what if it could do both?

A recent study by Brad Schoenfeld wished to look at these differing training modes to discover any noticeable differences in both muscular growth and strength adaptations.

Abstract: Schoenfeld, BJ, Ratamess, NA, Peterson, MD, Contreras, B, Sonmez, GT, and Alvar, BA. Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. J Strength Cond Res 28(10): 2909–2918, 2014—Regimented resistance training has been shown to promote marked increases in skeletal muscle mass. Although muscle hypertrophy can be attained through a wide range of resistance training programs, the principle of specificity, which states that adaptations are specific to the nature of the applied stimulus, dictates that some programs will promote greater hypertrophy than others. Research is lacking, however, as to the best combination of variables required to maximize hypertophic gains. The purpose of this study was to investigate muscular adaptations to a volume-equated bodybuilding-type training program vs. a powerlifting-type routine in well-trained subjects. Seventeen young men were randomly assigned to either a hypertrophy-type resistance training group that performed 3 sets of 10 repetition maximum (RM) with 90 seconds rest or a strength-type resistance training (ST) group that performed 7 sets of 3RM with a 3-minute rest interval. After 8 weeks, no significant differences were noted in muscle thickness of the biceps brachii. Significant strength differences were found in favor of ST for the 1RM bench press, and a trend was found for greater increases in the 1RM squat. In conclusion, this study showed that both bodybuilding- and powerlifting-type training promote similar increases in muscular size, but powerlifting-type training is superior for enhancing maximal strength.

In case you don't know, hypertrophy training is selecting sufficient resistance to target a 6-12 rep range, with 90 seconds or less recovery time between sets. Strength training, on the other hand, involves higher resistance to target 5 repetitions or fewer, but with much longer rest periods between sets (3 minutes or more).

Bodybuilders have used the greater rep range with shorter break periods as a way to stimulate the muscles through metabolic demand. By creating a "pump" in the muscles, it can give an individual an almost immediate feeling of muscular growth. The "pump," however, is a collection of fluids in the muscles that does in fact increase muscular size, and can feel as though the muscles are expanding, although this is just a temporary adaptation and the muscles will lose this swelling within a few hours following a training session.

It is becoming more widely-accepted that although strength training doesn't necessarily deliver the same "pump" feeling that hypertrophy training does, it is stimulating muscular growth at a more structural level by forcing the muscles to adapt to the stimulus by increasing strength of the contractile framework in the muscle fibers.

A few studies in the past have found that hypertrophy training is superior in increasing muscular growth, however, there were discrepancies in the way the studies were completed, namely the amount of volume that was completed.

Volume is the amount of resistance used, multiplied by the number of repetitions. For example, a bench press of 100lbs. for 10 repetitions would be 1,000lbs. A bodybuilder may get to 3,000lbs. by bench pressing 100lbs. in 3 sets of 10 repetitions, whereas a powerlifter could get there with the same sets but fewer repetitions - 3 sets of 5 reps at 200lbs. The study mentioned in this blog worked to overcome this discrepancy in overall volume to really focus on comparing apples to apples.

When comparing strength training to hypertrophy training, volume corrected, this study found that both styles of training induced similar hypertrophy gains. However, the strength training program produced much greater gains in overall strength with the participants used in the study (MT = Muscle Thickness).

In conclusion, the results of this study provide novel insight into muscular adaptations associated with resistance training in well-trained individuals. Based on the findings, strength- related gains seem to be maximized by performing heavy- load training as compared with moderate-load training, although both protocols significantly and markedly improved indices of maximal strength. However, increases in MT in experienced lifters seem to be similar in body- building- and powerlifting-type when volume load is con- trolled, at least over a relatively short time period. The greater time efficiency of bodybuilding-type training would seem to make it a superior choice for those seeking to increase muscle mass, although these results are limited to the biceps brachii and cannot necessarily be generalized to other muscles. Whether combinations of different loading schemes would produce a synergistic response that enhan- ces muscular adaptations remains to be determined and requires further study.

What about Body Beast or other hypertrophy-centric programs?

Beachbody's Body Beast is an at-home workout program designed to maximize hypertrophic gains by using a small selection of equipment in a home setting. Body Beast works well by using varying repetition ranges as well as different styles of bodybuilding sets such as super sets, pyramid sets, drop sets, etc.

We know that lifting weights to the point of failure in virtually any repetition range will generate gains in muscle size (along with eating at a caloric surplus). So assuming you are pushing yourself with a program like Body Beast, and eating more calories than you are burning, of course you will gain some weight and muscle. We should note a couple things, however:

  1. Resistance training causes muscular adaptations as well as neural adaptations. Basically, your brain needs to learn how to coordinate muscle contractility more efficiently and effectively. You can squat because your brain knows how to coordinate the muscle actions in order to bend at the hips and knees in order to squat your butt closer to the ground. However, if you were to add resistance to said squat, your brain suddenly needs to learn how to synchronize more muscle fibers in order to "recruit" them to complete the action.

    Beginners' initial gains, when it comes to resistance training are almost entirely neural adaptations upwards of the first 8 weeks of a resistance training program. Sure, your muscles may be swelling a bit due to fluid and glycogen (muscle sugar) retention, but your strength gains are almost entirely due to your brain just getting better at contracting those muscle fibers.

    This is noteworthy when it comes to a resistance training program because it has been shown that nearly all beginners will have some sort of muscular growth and "strength" gains regardless of training style or mode used. This is why individuals starting a new workout program generally feel pretty good when they get started. Whether its P90X, Crossfit, Body Beast, Strong Lifts 5x5, Mad Cow, Ice Cream Fitness, etc., your brain is going to be trained to be more effective at lifting heavy things, so you will get stronger simply by getting better. This is not a bad thing, just remember that just because you are feeling good at your workout program that you started 3 weeks ago does not mean that that is the end-all-be-all of workout programs.

  2. Increasing muscular size does not necessarily make your muscles stronger, or in other words, increase their ability to generate force. Having said that, increased muscle size can increase the affinity for the muscles to become stronger with strength training.

    If an individual just wishes to exercise for aesthetics alone, then a hypertrophy-only program may work just fine for them. However, if someone wishes to increase muscular size and improve overall strength as well, then a program that uses strength training will likely be the best option.

Final Thoughts

I think that various styles of training have their place with a wide range of individuals and scenarios. Beginners, for example, could greatly benefit from a higher repetition training program due to the ability to "practice" correct form with safer overall loads and greater repetitions. Oftentimes, beginners need a feeling of a "pump" or that muscular fatigue associated with greater rep ranges, to feel as though their training session was effective.

As this study pointed out, there are pros and cons to each style of training. Strength training puts more stress on the connective tissues and joints involved due to the increased loads and can therefore increase the likelihood of injury. Strength training may also take longer to complete than hypertrophy training - when training volumes were equalized for both training styles.

The HT protocol took approximately 17 minutes to perform, whereas the ST protocol required a time commitment of more than 1 hour.

What has been known for quite some time now, and has just been further confirmed by this study is that overall increases in the amount of force one's muscles can generate (strength) is improved the most by training in a 5 or lower repetition range. What this study also tells us, however, is that strength training can also produce gains in muscular size, once previously thought to occur most optimally in a higher repetition range. 

Other training programs that use higher repetition training modes are beneficial for other purposes and will elicit some strength gains, especially for beginners to resistance training, however, standard strength training is superior to improving overall strength.





What's the deal with high protein diets?

seinfeld.jpg

Study after study has proven the effectiveness of diets with higher than recommended amounts of protein for healthy body composition. However, many individuals still believe discount these studies for a number of reasons including the belief that eating too much protein can be unsafe or unneeded.

Protein is the most important macronutrient vis-à-vis positive alterations in body composition. Previous work has suggested that protein intakes in the range of 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram (kg) body weight per day (g/kg/d) are needed in active individuals [1-7]. In contrast, the US recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg/d. The average protein intake for US adults is 91 grams daily or ~1.0 g/kg ideal body weight [8]. Thus, the average US adult consumes slightly more than the RDA; however, this level is inadequate for athletes or active individuals who engage in exercise/sport training for several hours per week.

There are a couple very interesting points of interest to discuss from this study. First, the participants in this study consuming a high protein diet (4.4g/kg/d) did not gain any weight (fat, or fat free mass) during the 8 week study, despite the fact that they consumed 800 calories more per day than baseline.

The current investigation found no changes in body weight, fat mass, or fat free mass in the high protein diet group. This occurred in spite of the fact that they consumed over 800 calories more per day for eight weeks. The high protein group consumed an extra 145 grams of protein daily (mean intake of 307 grams per day or 4.4 g/kg/d).

But calories are calories right? Most nutritionists or "experts" will tell you that in order to lose weight you need to consume less calories than you burn in order to lose weight. Well, that may still be true, but don't always assume that eating more will make you gain weight either. This is especially important for those of us that wish to either lose weight or maintain weight but are too damn hungry trying to stick to a specific caloric goal. Instead, reach for a high-protein snack.

One might suggest that the high thermic effect of protein may make it difficult to gain body weight during times of overfeeding. It has been shown that the greater the protein content of a meal, the higher the thermic effect [34]. Both young and old individuals experience an increase in resting energy expenditure after a 60 gram protein meal (17-21% increase) [35].

I would definitely be in the "high protein" category, and you could ask my wife, I am warm all the time. Even in the middle of winter, I am usually in shorts and a tshirt in our house. For those of you who remember your high school or college physics classes should remember the first law of thermodynamics. Heat is a form of energy. The heat that my body is constantly producing are calories being burned (used).

This study is also telling for those who are either too shy to do resistance training or are trying to add mass from resistance training.

First, those of you who may not do enough resistance training due to a fear of becoming "too bulky," realize that these study participants are training hard, eating 800 calories more than usual every day, not to mention consuming 4.4g/kg/d of protein, and didn't gain any weight at all.

Those of you who are trying to add some mass, realize that more protein is not always the answer. Sure, your body will need protein to build tissue, however, more protein is not necessarily better in building more mass. Your body can only synthesize so much protein at a time (around 0.25-0.5 pounds of new muscle/week) so aim for around 2g/kg/d of protein and fill the rest of your diet in with carbohydrates and fats.

Future research should focus on trained subjects using a single source of protein during overfeeding. Furthermore, a heavy resistance program geared towards skeletal muscle hypertrophy in conjunction with protein overfeeding needs further investigation.

I appreciate the mention of these topics of future research. The participants of the study used whey and casein protein powders to reach their daily protein goals, so it would be interesting to see what results a similar study found if individuals used only whole foods rather than supplements (is it even possible to eat that much protein?).

Also, would there be any difference in weight gain and fat free mass gain if participants were doing a hypertrophy-specific resistance training program.





How effective is Body Beast for hypertrophy?

One of the major hurdles faced by Beachbody when creating Body Beast was trying to create a program that could elicit measurable hypertrophy (muscle size) gains with fairly basic home workout equipment. Many people, including myself, was skeptical of the idea of being able to build mass without some of the heavy weights and equipment used in your standard gym.

Although, you may need a decent selection of weight in order to maximize your benefits from Body Beast - staying within specific rep ranges, it turns out, you may not need to train with as heavy weight as you may think.

When working with untrained beginners, personal trainers may be able to produce hypertrophy using lighter loads (15RM+ or <65% of 1RM). Such hypertrophy may be similar or only slightly inferior to that achievable using heavier loads and this may allow for greater variety and an initially less-challenging task for the client.

Here are a few points to be taken into consideration, however:

  1. All of these studies used untrained individuals. Virtually any form of resistance training could probably elicit some sort of muscle size increase in untrained individuals for a number of reasons, including water retention, increased glycogen storage, and swelling due to new stimulus. Virtually all "beginners" achieve some sort of muscular hypertrophy when they first begin a resistance training program (regardless of rep range or resistance used).
     
  2. Although a home workout program like Body Beast can result in muscle hypertrophy, it is just that, a hypertrophy program and oftentimes I see individuals confusing muscle size increase with strength gains. Sure, one may increase their overall strength due to the stimulus being used, however, Body Beast is not the optimal program in order to develop overall strength. (Refer to the following diagram)

Traditional strength training uses compound lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, barbell row, etc.), typically in the 1-5 rep range with longer periods of rest (2-5 minutes) to maximize the amount of force that you can generate every set.

Resistance training at any rep range will more than likely elicit improvements, especially with progressive overload (increasing resistance every or every other workout). Don't confuse the fact that increasing your weight for a 8-rep set of dumbbell squats as a tremendous increase in strength. Your muscles are getting better at squatting more weight for that rep range, but that doesn't necessarily mean that your 1 rep maximum (1RM) for the squat has improved by any significant means.

Traditional strength training has been thought to be better at producing "denser" muscles by increasing the size and strength of the myofibrils whereas higher rep resistance training (Body Beast) increases the size or volume of the sarcoplasm.

Well, it’s no secret that when you lift heavy stuff and eat enough food, your muscles will get bigger. In fitness circles it is commonly said that gross muscle hypertrophy can occur in one of two ways: Either through increases in the volume of myofibrils inside the muscles, termed myofibriller hypertrophy, or through expansion of the “other stuff” (usually the fluid) in the muscle, termed sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. In normal cells, the fluid inside the cells is called cytoplasm, and in muscle fibers, the corresponding volume is called sarcoplasm (“sarco” meaning flesh). Supposedly, heavy, strength-oriented training (big weights, few reps, long breaks) will grow “denser”, myofibrillar hypertrophy, whereas lighter, pump oriented training will induce “puffy” (often claimed “nonfunctional”) sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. “Non-functional”, because this latter type should not be associated with increases in strength, as the capacity to produce force is derived from the contractile, myofibrillar protein. The really funky part about this idea is that it is the purest broscience and it lacks both solid evidence as well as a sound biological rationale and somehow it has managed to creep into the scientific literature anyway.

I think that the research tells us that various rep ranges of training can generate a wide range of improvements to the muscle. We know that 12+ repetitions improve muscular endurance properties as well as increase muscular size of type-1 (aerobic) muscle fibers. We know that 6-12 reps is *typically* ideal for muscular hypertrophy, with the 6-8 rep range often considered as "functional hypertrophy" due to the added strength benefits. Lastly, we know that traditional strength training in the 1-5 rep range is best for improving the overall force the muscles can generate.

Ultimately, there seems to evidence that points to hypertrophy at all rep ranges. 12+ reps can increase the size of type-1 muscle fibers. 6-12 and 1-5 reps can increase the size of type-2 muscle fibers. Beyond that, you simply need to consume enough calories (surplus to what you burn on a daily basis) to increase muscular size/volume.

In my opinion, one of the most effective things about Body Beast is that the program does target both the 6-12 rep range as well as the 12+ rep range, targeting hypertrophy of both the type-1 and type-2 fibers.

No individual should stick to any program or training style for too long because their progress will eventually plateau. I always recommend an individual transition to another program that will help them reach their overall goals.

Hypertrophy training can be especially important, beyond aesthetics, for athletes or individuals who wish to gain weight for a specific sport or event. Football players, for example, could benefit from hypertrophy training early on in their training macrocycle, gaining weight and muscular size first, prior to engaging in traditional strength training to therefore make their larger muscles stronger. Big muscles don't necessarily mean they are stronger, but they can certainly have a higher affinity for strength gains.

I would personally like to see some studies conducted on the long-term effects of various forms of hypertrophy training. Is it possible to create denser, and therefore more resilient muscle fibers by doing strength training, therefore creating growth for longer periods of time? Will sarcoplasmic hypertrophy "fade away" quicker if resistance training is stopped due to insufficient stimulus increasing the volume of the sarcoplasm?





Neural Adaptations and more - What does this mean for you?

It is interesting to think about observable physiological changes caused by resistance training. Time and time again I see and hear individuals speak of the "gains" made from lifting some weights.

Most people do not understand the underlying processes taking place at a cellular level within the body. This leads to most individuals speaking of making immense gains in size and strength of their muscles after just working out for a few weeks.

Where am I heading with this? Well, increases in muscular size, as well as improvements in strength are not as quick as one might expect. It is all too common for an individual to either start, or return to an exercise regimen after an extended period of being sedentary, only to marvel at how big their muscles are getting, and how much strength they are experiencing.

Hypertrophy

First of all, let's discuss muscle hypertrophy, or the increase in size of your muscle cells. The "pump" individuals experience from higher repetition resistance training is known as "transient hypertrophy." Basically, this means an accumulation of fluids in the muscle cells, giving them the feeling of being swollen. This is a temporary increase in muscle size and should by no means be considered gaining long-term size. A measurable increase in muscle size will not be witnessed until at least 16 workouts into a resistance training program.*

Strength

Another observable and motivating symptom of resistance training is when an individual gains more strength. It can be an intoxicating feeling knowing that you are getting stronger. However, experienced strength gains witnessed by a beginner to a resistance training program are not necessarily what they think they are.

We sometimes perceive our muscles as self-controlling structures that abide by an "all or none" mechanism. This is simply not true. Your muscles are made up of muscle fibers, none of which are thicker than a strand of hair. When your muscle contracts, the entire length of the muscle shortens, however only a small percentage of the muscle fibers contract at any given time.

For example, if you were to pick a pencil up off of a table, a very small percentage of your muscle is actually doing the work to move your arm. However, if you were to be picking up a ten pound weight, more muscle fibers need to be "recruited" in order to lift the weight.

Muscle fiber recruitment is orchestrated by the muscles neurons. One, often overlooked, positive adaptation to resistance training is the improvements in your mind to muscle connection. Basically, your neurons greatly improve their efficiency at "recruiting" muscle fibers.

During the first 8 weeks of a resistance training program for a beginner is the improvement of said neural adaptations.** So, even though one may be experiencing strength gains, this is not due to an increase in muscle size or any measurable improvement in the strength of the muscle itself, instead, it is an improvement in the efficiency of the mind to muscle connection!

What does all of this mean?

For the average person, this should be a convincing argument towards practicing a lifestyle of consistency, especially when it comes to physical activity and resistance training. By going through constant cycles of activity and inactivity, your results will be mostly limited to neural adaptations.

If, however, you wish to gain muscle mass and/or strength, it should be of your best interest to stick to a consistent schedule in order to improve your neural adaptations and beyond.

On the flip side of this argument, and for those who go through periods of inactivity due to injury, etc. remember that strength gains return faster to those individuals who have used resistance training previously. Not only that, but your muscles tend to return to a state of previous strength level in a much faster period of time.

References:
*Staron, R. S., Karapondo, D. L., Kraemer, W. J., Fry, A. C., Gordon, S. E., Falkel, J. E., Hagerman, F. C., & Hikida, R. S. (1994). Skeletal muscle adaptations during the early phase of heavy-resistance training in men and women. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76, 463-475.
**Moritani, T., & deVries, H. A. (1979). Neural factors versus hypertrophy in the time course of muscle strength gain. American Journal of Physiological Medicine, 58, 115-130.






How Did I Get My Body Beast Results?

A lot of people ask me "how" or "why" Body Beast? More specifically, how come my results were "better" with Body Beast than any other program I have done?

I will fully admit that my results were "better" with Body Beast than any other program. Here are my thoughts on that:

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1. I have never been a guy that has needed to lose a lot of weight. Actually, growing up, I have always been very skinny. Now, think of some of the greatest transformations you have seen with Insanity/Asylum/P90X/etc. and most, if not all of the stories you see are of people who have had a lot of weight to lose. I personally never really used any of my previous programs to get thinner, or "ripped" necessarily, but used the programs to boost confidence, stay active/healthy, and to train for the various events I participate in.

2. Body Beast is definitely a program suited for a guy like me. As I said, I have always been skinny, so I knew that I could get a great transformation (opposite to those who need to lose weight) if I really focused on the program and set my mind to it. Not only that, but...

3. I also REALLY focused on my diet during Beast. I made sure to eat a ton during the first 2 phases in order to build muscle, then "cut" the fat away during Phase 3. Also,

4. Shakeology helped me a LOT. I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but it did! I just started taking Shakeology in November 2012. I started Body Beast towards the mid-way point of December 2012. Shakeology helped me to put on mass (used as a healthy snack throughout the day) but to also cut away the fat when I needed to make every calorie 'count'.

5. Body Beast is definitely a "glamour" routine. As I said before, I focused more on my strength and performance gains in the past over vanity, but with Body Beast, the goal is to grow your muscles and get ripped, so that is what I went for!

6. I really enjoyed the workouts! I am always an advocate for doing the things you enjoy...assuming I don't just mean "enjoying" sitting on your ass watching TV all day! Find something that you enjoy doing, and do it often! If you like running outside, go do that! If you enjoy swimming laps in the local pool, go do that! I enjoy a variety of things, and Body Beast happened to strike a chord with me, so I really looked forward to working hard every day! 

Hopefully that helps shed some light on my Beast results!

 





Day 363 - Periodization

Traditional periodization models are broken down into cycles. Macrocycles are the largest and usually involve an entire sport year, but can last up to 4 years for an Olympic athlete for example. Macrocycles are made up of 2 or more mesocycles which can last anywhere from several weeks to several months. Going further beyond that, mesocycles are broken up into microcycles which are usually a week long but can be as long as 4 weeks each.

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