Many lifters think that the more scientific-sounding an article or program is, the more muscle it will build. This causes them to get distracted by the wrong type of research. If you are serious about your results, stop using "old" science to build new muscle!
|Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash|
Because training protocol X changes physiological variable Y the most, we think X will build the most muscle. Right?
- Joint comfort
- Your confidence in doing the exercise
- Target muscle recruitment
- Cost (risk, energy demand, recovery impact) vs. benefit (effect on muscle growth)
- Load you can use (higher is usually better)
- Ability to progress the exercise
Research shows that protein synthesis (tissue building) is elevated after training for about 36 to 48 hours after training (6, 8). This has led to the support of high-frequency training. However, recent research found that the higher frequency did not change the rate of protein synthesis (14). Research has also shown that short-term protein synthesis does not correlate to long-term muscle growth (7).
Protein Synthesis Application:
- Small number of subjects
- Often (though not always) use subjects with little or no (thus limiting application to experienced lifters)
- Short duration
- Remember, you are training for decades, not 6-12 weeks like these training studies. Things that may work well in the short-term (e.g. high volume or frequency) might beat you up, and hinder long-term progress.
- You cannot account for all the out-of-gym time which can drastically change training outcomes
A meta-analysis is a study of studies. For this, researchers gather all the studies that meet their criteria. Then, they statistically analyze the results of all these studies. This gives you a better understanding of research trends. You also get to see how things are working for a larger group of people. For example, if you take 10 studies that have 20 people in each study, you can now examine the effects of that training variable on 200 people.
- Training consistently
- Working hard
- Using mostly compound, multi-joint exercises
- Using good form
- Eating mostly nourishing foods
- Getting a modest calorie surplus each day
- Eating around 1 gram of protein per pound each day
- Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night
- Having some rest time to chill each day
Use well-designed training studies as a starting spot for your training discoveries. Chances are slim that you will be radically different from what is working for many people.
While you do not want to follow everything they say, you can learn a lot from veteran coaches and lifters – even if they do not have a bunch of letters behind their names.
- Body composition (weight, girth measures, use other testing methods if available)
- Note: body composition testing is not for everyone. It can be harmful for those who struggle with disordered eating and/or healthy body image.
- Training log
- Comments in your training log (e.g. this exercise is hurting my shoulder)
- Sleep log
- Food intake
- Monthly or bi-monthly performance on key lifts. (For example, if you are squatting the same weight you were squatting 6 months ago, there is a good chance your legs are not any bigger)
If you are making progress, do not start tweaking and changing things to make faster progress. Remember, most people who train make no progress. When using a program, give it several weeks to months so you can actually see what works. If you constantly program hop or are a compulsive tweaker, you will never learn what works best for you.
Step 6: Change one thing at a time
Many lifters try a new diet, a new training program, and 10 new supplements all at the same time. While this may yield good results, you now have no idea what actually worked. Instead, think like a scientist. Try one new thing at a time, so you can assess the impact of that one variable.
There is no point in taking time to gather data if you do not stop to analyze your data. After you finish a program or a least a few times a year, go back through your records, reflect, and discover.
As you go through steps 1-7, keep track of what you learn about how your body responds to training. I have wasted years of my training life re-learning the same lessons. Remember that every training experience be it a smashing success or complete disaster is a learning opportunity – if you capture that lesson.
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- Fink, J., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Nakazato, K. (2018). The role of hormones in muscle hypertrophy. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 46(1), 129–134. https://doi.org/10.1080/00913847.2018.1406778
- Grgic, J., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Latella, C. (2019). Resistance training frequency and skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A review of available evidence. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 22(3), 361–370. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2018.09.223
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