"Challenging some ATHLETIC CONSULTING beliefs"
"Dr. Stuart Phillips & muscle growth:
Response of muscle to training?"
- CHALLENGING "PERSONAL TRAINING" MYTHS
from "Champion Building" ISSUE # 56:
have visible abs you must decrease your body fat to 10% or
Lou Schuler, fitness editor of Men's Health, disagrees
with CB ATHLETIC CONSULTING. According to Lou, "I've
seen that number (suggested) before, and even printed it a
couple of times, but now I seriously doubt it. I recently
had my body fat tested on a Bod Pod and DEXA, at 22 percent,
and a trainer measured it at 17 percent with calipers. However,
I can see my abs most mornings when I wake up, and I can definitely
see them post-workout. Have you considered revisiting that
10 percent equation? Personally, I think if I could get down
to 14-15 percent (calipers) or under 20 percent (DEXA) I'd
be able to see my abs all the time, instead of just twice
addition to Lou's observation, other researchers have suggested
that males with less than 15% body fat will be successful
in developing a "4-pack", but that they may not
be able to achieve a cover-model shredded "6-pack".
Time to rephrase the 10% rule...How's about, abs are definitely
visible when % body fat is under 15% (as estimated by skinfold
caliper measures), but the lower the body fat, the more consistent
their appearance will be. And if your goal is to be a cover
model, continue to strive for single-digit body fat!
in all, this is good news for females because they require
greater levels of body fat for health. Given that a female
is considered very lean at 12% body fat, this means that females
can have both optimal health and visible abs.
Bioelectrical Impedence Analysis (BIA) is the best measure
of % body fat.
so according to Gianni Parise, Ph.D. candidate at McMaster
University. This experienced tester states that, "DEXA
(dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) is the best out there right
now for body composition testing. The best BIA would be any
multi-frequency unit (meaning it uses a different electrical
frequency for fat, muscle, etc.)." From experience, Parise
believes that BIA consistently overestimates % fat and also
that it is not very good for people at extremes (i.e. those
who are overly fat or very lean)." He adds, "We
compared BIA to DEXA in another study and found that directionally,
it seems to work quite well (i.e. if training and DEXA says
you lost 2% fat, then the BIA result will be similar). However,
it also consistently overestimated the body fat levels of
High volume, high frequency training programs get the best
with several years of training experience will likely have
tried numerous training splits throughout the past. Unfortunately,
most people's first training routines are extracted from the
fabricated training journals of famous athletes or bodybuilders.
It is too bad that most people will unsuccessfully follow
these programs, and may in fact develop overuse injuries or
a dislike for training as a result.
most common error in workouts today is overtraining. More
and more recreational lifters are learning from experience
that 3 sessions per week is the optimal number of training
sessions. Alternate day training enables effective workouts
because it incorporates adequate recovery time between workouts.
This is a far cry from the 5-6 workouts that were often possible
in the teenage years where recovery capacity was practically
unlimited (possibly due to raging hormone levels). Still,
young men and women are not free from the power of overuse
because small injuries occurred in youth often turn out to
be "training curses" as they age.
fall for the "more is better" philosophy or feel
that you need to train in an identical program to one that
a pro has prescribed. Prioritize your training based on your
competitive demands or fitness goals. Most artificial programs
published in magazines don't plan enough rest, so make sure
that when you or your training coach puts your regimen on
paper you include sufficient recovery.
the 7-day week has many intrinsic problems that result in
awkwardly constructed training plans. Do not hesitate to follow
a routine where the same workout is NOT performed each and
every Monday (i.e. most individuals choose to train chest
on Monday). If your workout plan calls alternating workouts
and gets interrupted by a weekend or holiday, don't get stressed,
just pick up where you left off the previous week. Many lifters
try to maintain a strict schedule based on the current 5-day
workweek and 2-day weekend. Unfortunately, when "something
comes up" this results in the neglect of certain body
parts and causes strength imbalances (i.e. they always make
the chest workout on Monday but miss the corresponding upper
back workout later in the week).
sure how some people made it through high school following
the crazy workout schedules read in magazines. After all,
all efforts follow the law of diminishing returns. Not to
jump on the 1-set is as good as 3-sets bandwagon, but really,
how much better 4-5 sets of a single exercise than 1-2 sets?
Are you really able to train at a sufficient intensity for
more than 2 or 3 sets? Remember that intensity is the key
to improvement, so when it suffers, realize that it is time
to move on.
In order to train with Plyometrics, you must be able to squat
one-and-a-half times (1.5x's) your own body weight.
the exact rules of the "test" must be clear. Are
we performing a full squat or a half-squat? Is our body weight
included in the squat total? Based on readings from the NSCA
(National Strength and Conditioning Association), this recommendation
refers to squatting to parallel (half-squat) with 1.5x's your
body weight on the bar before you should enter into a plyometric
test could be debated indefinitely as to its safety, effectiveness,
and specificity of transfer. After all, some chiropractors
believe the half-squat is more dangerous than the full squat.
Furthermore, athletes need strength through a full range of
motion around the knee joint, so isn't it somewhat counterproductive
to limit the athlete to performing a half-squat? Regardless
of these arguments, this statement remains the rule in the
eyes of the NSCA.
why set such a limit? Don't all kids jump and play and perform
plyometrics every time they are outside? Does this mean children
have to cease all play if they can't squat 1.5x's their body
weight? Well of course not. Common sense tells us that play
and jumping should be encouraged to help develop athleticism.
you do choose to enter into a plyometric training program,
the most important aspect to consider is proper volume. Since
nearly all plyometrics occur at the same general intensity,
the key is to start with a small amount of drills and progress
as your body adapts to the stress. Furthermore, don't even
think of performing plyometric training without including
an adequate warm-up. Refer to ISSUE #22 for tips, or better
yet, contact a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
(CSCS) in your area for a training session.
most important lesson to learn from these challenges is to
ask questions regarding commonly held beliefs, no matter what
the source of information. Be open to other views and be willing
to admit your mistakes. By doing so, you will get the most
out of your hard work and you will be able to avoid the training
pitfalls made by others in the past.
- WHEN DO THE RESULTS GET HERE?
onset of a weight-training program brings the inevitable question
from the beginner, "When will I begin to see the results"?
While the typical pre-programmed "personal trainer"
response is "Oh, in about 4-6 weeks", does the personal
trainer truly understand the complexities that determine the
length of time between the onset of training and changes in
Stuart Phillips, an exercise scientist and rugby coach at
McMaster University recently authored an article in the prestigious
Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology on this topic. This
article will review and comment on Dr. Phillips' summary of
the scientific evidence of a "training effect" (and
hopefully will do it justice). For readers unfamiliar with
the scientific community, a "training effect" is
defined as a statistically significant change in measurements
from the onset of training. This ensures that only the training
program could have led to the results.
Phillips states, "It is well known that strength (resistance
training) induces increases in muscle fiber cross-sectional
area (CSA) otherwise known as hypertrophy." Hypertrophy,
or muscle growth, is the result of myofibrillar proteins being
assembled in the muscle. Phillips further states that most
evidence suggests a "time-course for muscle fiber hypertrophy...appears
to require at least 6-7 weeks of regular (3 days per week)
resistive training at reasonably high (i.e., >70% of single
repetition maximum) intensity before increases of 10-12% in
fiber CSA are deemed 'significant'."
strength increases have been shown within two weeks whereas
significant muscle growth may occur in 4 weeks in the upper
body and takes as long as 6 weeks in the lower body (Eur.J.
Appl. Physiol. 81:174-180, 2000). The researchers suspected
that significant growth probably occurs even earlier than
these results indicate, however, current measurement techniques
may not be sensitive enough to pick up the smaller initial
positive muscle protein balance is observed following an isolated
bout of resistance exercise. It is obvious to all beginner
lifters that "something" is going on in the muscle
within hours of their first workout. It is likely that remodeling
takes place quite soon after training, although much to the
beginner's dismay, huge muscles are not achieved after a week
of "pumping iron". In fact, while most people get
very strong very quickly when they begin a strength-training
program, it is generally considered to be the result of an
increased "neural drive to the muscle".
while generally accepted, there have been few, if any quality
explanations of the mechanisms behind this "increased
neural drive". To be quite honest, it is difficult to
design a study that could invasively test for any "neural
drive" hypothesis in humans (as cutting open the skull
is often deemed unethical for some strange reason). The attributed
"neural component of strength" is nothing more than
a default explanation, but how is one to measure actual changes
in the neural tissues to prove changes at this level?
this, a beginner performs a few workout sessions, and within
a very short period a "training effect" (significant
increase in strength) will be evident. However, if you were
to take a muscle biopsy, there would be no change in muscle
fiber area, and thus scientists conclude that any strength
change are due to the "mysterious" neural factors.
However, if the nervous system is tested (i.e. by measuring
changes in the electrical activity of the muscle), these too
may be devoid of any significant changes. It is more likely
a combination of the two components of strength, that while
they are non-significant independently, they combine to produce
a significant increase in strength.
is also dependent on the exercise. Researchers found that
hypertrophy may contribute more to the strength gains in simple
machine exercises (i.e. machine biceps curl) whereas the neural
component may result in proportionately more strength gain
in complex free weight exercises such as the bench press and
squat (Chilibeck et al., 1998).
it known that the nervous system has a faster rate of physiological
adaptation to stimuli? What are the actual physiological adaptations
taking place in the nervous system? Is there more nerve tissue?
Likely not, are there more receptor sites or neurotransmitters
being released? Until it is shown that the nervous system
adapts more rapidly than contractile proteins are added, literature
from prominent organizations (such as the National Strength
and Conditioning Association) should avoid blanket statements
regarding the increases in early strength as being primarily
neural and not due to increases in muscle hypertrophy.
to Dr. Phillips' review, he emphasizes that protein turnover
is a constant occurrence in skeletal muscle. Training-induced
hypertrophy is the result of an increase in the rate of skeletal
muscle protein synthesis that chronically exceeds the rate
of skeletal muscle protein breakdown. He suggests several
mechanisms for hypertrophy, and while one must remember that
there are many different types of proteins in muscle, it would
seem logical that the contractile protein composition must
increase in order for an increase in strength to be evident.
Furthermore, structural proteins must be added. Just as you
need more equipment in a factory to do more work, you also
need more structure to house the new equipment. Growth depends
on the individual's initial muscle mass, genetics, their training
program, their nutritional habits, and other factors.
on research by Dr. Kevin Yarasheski showing that a net gain
of contractile protein may occur after one training session,
Dr. Phillips theorizes that as little as one "training"
session could cause an increase in strength due to muscle
growth. Unfortunately, the exact time courses for molecular
changes in the muscle and nervous system are not yet known.
Hopefully some researchers will attempt to answer this question
in the future, and CB ATHLETIC CONSULTING will bring that
info to the masses seeking mass.
AVAILABLE ON REQUEST
S.M. Short-term training: when do repeated bouts of resistance
Can. J. Appl. Physiol. 25(3): 185-193, 2000.