Posts tagged muscle growth
Optimizing Strength Gains Using Repetitions In Reserve

Strength training remains one of the most important components of your exercise program. Research supports its’ utilization for improving pain, function, flexibility, strength, injury rates, and overall health. While a single session of strength training can lead to significant gains in strength and muscle hypertrophy research supports training large muscle groups 2-3 days per week. Another important component of strength training exercise prescription is intensity. Selecting an appropriate weight for a set of exercises can be challenging for most individuals and errors often lead to less than optimal improvements in injury and sports performance.

Traditionally, individuals would select a weight based off their tested 1 rep max on a given exercise which may or not be appropriate for every individual. More recently Physical Therapists have been advocating for a repetitions in reserve prescription where weights are selected based on how many repetitions an individual could complete at the end of a given set. For example, if a weight was selected and performed 5 times the individual would be asked how more repetitions they could complete with good form. If the answer is more than 2 repetitions the weight would be increased to dial in the appropriate intensity. A recent study compared the benefits of these two methods of repetition selection.

Graham and Cleather in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research randomized 31 experienced weight trainers to one of two programs (2019). The first program, fixed load, based weights on a percentage of the athletes 1 rep squat max. Conversely, the second group adjusted their weights based on the number of repetitions in reserve at the completion of their set. Volume (reps, sets, days per week) was standardized between groups. Each individual completed their 12 week squat training program based on these prescriptions. Authors reported both groups improved their front and back squat performance, but significantly better results were found in the repetitions in reserve group.

This study highlights the benefits of the repetitions in reserve model. In short, this model reduces operator error in weight selection because intensity is always adjusted to the individual.

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Timing Protein Intake For Optimal Workout Benefits

We are often asked when is the best time to eat following a workout. Meal timing is an important strategy to take advantage of the “anabolic window” for enhancing muscular adaptations. A common strategy involves consuming protein less than an hour after exercise to increase hypertrophic muscular gains. Past literature has suggested Muscular Protein Synthesis (MPS) is increased 3-fold in those who immediately consume protein after a workout. However, these studies primarily followed those undergoing aerobic and long duration cardiovascular exercise suggesting increased cellular aerbobic activity versus resistance training adaptations.

There are inconsistencies in the literature with nutrient timing within the resistance training population. Some studies claim increased MPS with pre-workout protein consumption while others claim increased MPS during a fasted state pre workout state. A recent article in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy concluded the “anabolic window” is short and less important than the day’s total nutrition. Specifically, total daily protein (1.6-2.2 g/kg of bodyweight per day) intake has been shown to be most important. For those with the goal of increasing cross-sectional area of skeletal muscle (hypertrophy), the window of consuming protein is dependent on when nutrients were consumed before the training bout.

In short, the anabolic effects of a meal last 6 hours. Thus, eating 3-4 hours before exercise reduces the importance of immediate post workout nutrient consumption. If you train in a fasted or partially fasted state, immediate intake of protein is suggested to elicit anabolism. The author suggested the most prudent protocol would include protein consumption (.4-.5 g/kg body weight) pre and post workout within 4-6 hours of each other.

Protein Supplementation and Resistance Training Improves Lean Muscle Mass and HDL levels In Older Females

Strength training is one of the most effective ways to slow the loss of muscle mass with aging (sarcopenia). Sarcopenia will occur in all aging adults, but key differences are found between active and inactive adults. As expected, inactive adults show faster declines in muscle mass, strength, and function compared to their active peers. Previous research on strength training indicates it is never to late to begin a safely implemented resistance training program. Even novice participants in their 70s and 80s can benefit from the effects of strength training. A new research paper highlights the benefits of resistance training and protein supplementation for female older adults.

Fernandes and colleagues studied the impact of resistance training and protein supplementation on cardiac, metabolic, and tissue composition in older adult females (Experimental Gerontology. 2018). 32 older adult females were randomized to receive either 35 grams of whey protein or 35 grams of placebo. Each group performed resistance training exercises 3 days a week for 12 weeks. Authors collected body composition (DEXA scan), blood samples, and body circumference measurements at the start and conclusion of the training period. They reported greater improvements in lean soft tissue and total cholesterol/HDL profile among the protein and resistance group compared to the placebo protein group. Both groups improved waist circumference measurements and other measurements of cholesterol, triglycerides, and C reactive protein but no differences were found between groups. This study highlights the importance of incorporating resistance training into your exercise routine. Participants are advised to speak with their primary care physician before beginning any supplementation program.

Is Aerobic Exercise Enough To Promote Muscle Growth?

Aerobic exercise should be a foundation of your weekly exercise program because of the mental, emotional, and physical health benefits associated with this type of exercise. Some individuals who complete daily aerobic exercise or training incorrectly believe this type of exercise is sufficient for muscle growth and strength development. Resistance training remains the gold standard for strength development, muscle growth, and injury prevention. A new review of the scientific evidence documents the importance of adding strength training into your weekly aerobic exercise schedule.

A review article was published in the journal Sports Medicine on the available evidence documenting the impact of aerobic or strength training on muscle growth (Grgic et al. 2018). Authors 21 studies of moderate to good methodological quality. The authors concluded aerobic training is not as effective as strength training for muscle type I (slow twitch) and II (fast twitch) muscle fiber growth (hypertrophy). Patient are encouraged to utilize both strength and aerobic training for optimal health and fitness benefits.

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IF I Lift Weights Slower Will I Improve My Muscle Size?

It seems there is not much eccentric exercises cannot do between healing injured tissue, improving mobility and strength, and now possibly contributing to muscle size.  We have long known muscles gain the majority of their strength after training because of the eccentric or lowering portion of any lift.  Athletes who skip or speed through this portion of the lift do not benefit as much from the same exercise as those who focus equally on the lift and lowering of the exercise.  New research compared the long term effects of strengthening either with a short or long duration eccentric or lowering phase.

A group of researchers put a group of participants, familiar with resistance training, through 2 workouts a week for 12 weeks (Pereira et al. Int J Applied Exercise Phys. 2016).  The participants were placed in either a slow group, who performed a 4 second lowering phase, or a fast group, who performed a one second lowering phase of an upper body exercise.  The exercise was performed for 3 sets of 8 repetitions to failure using either the slow or fast lowering phase, but every participant took 1 second to raise the weight.  The researchers then measured strength, muscle size, and body composition (fat and fat free mass) at the end of the 12 weeks.  As expected the slow group developed more strength than the fast group, but they also showed twice as much hypertrophy. This is the first study to report a relationship between eccentric loading and muscle growth.   


Eccentric Strength Training for Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy

Eccentric training involves a focused, slow muscle contraction in which the muscle lengthens.  For example, as you lower a weight from a bicep curl towards the floor the muscle simultaneously contracts and lengthens.  Eccentric contractions have been discussed in this blog for their ability to heal injured tendons, restore flexibility, and strengthen weakened muscles.  New research is looking at the comparison of this training with conventional strength training.

Authors studied untrained men and randomized to either strength training on workout machines or working with a flywheel focused on eccentric contractions.  Each group worked out 2 to 3 times per week for 5 weeks targeting the quadriceps muscle group.  The eccentric fly wheel training produced greater gains in muscle size and strength throughout the 4 quadricep muscles compared with the conventional machine despite similar workout frequency, sets, and repetitions.  This study highlights the importance of eccentric exercise for strength gains and muscle growth.