Guy or girl, beginner or advanced, strength training is vital for a leaner, fitter, healthier and injury resistant body. By understanding the key mechanisms needed for maximum results, and the many effective methods to be used, with a well structured and individualised training plan, everyone can achieve the healthy, happy & stress free being they desire by making the most of their training time.
The 3 keys to muscle growth:
The main factors physiologically, that are involved in hypertrophy or muscle growth are Mechanical Tension, Muscle Damage, and Metabolic Stress. All of these 3 factors generate responses in your body that ultimately leads to bigger, stronger muscles, so ensuring structured periodised programming, addressing these factors, will lead to maximum results.
Mechanical tension: Mechanical tension when referring to muscles is the force and stretch that a muscle might go through in a particular exercise. These means at times you need to lift heavy and hard, high load, low reps, but only with safe and correct technique.
Muscle damage: Muscle damage refers to damage of the muscle tissue that is caused by exercise, and this damage is then believed to stimulate muscle growth after if the recovery is done correctly through supercompensation. The body has to rebuild in case it has to deal with that kind of stress again. This means you need change things up occasionally, use unaccustomed eccentric exercises, like slow lowering phases on all your lifts.
Metabolic stress: The effect on your body that exercise has due to build up of things like lactate, hydrogen ions, creatine etc. These metabolites and others in balance can create an anabolic, or muscle building response in the following days. This means at various phases you need to train with some serious high volume, low rest period strength work.
Now don’t let that scare you girls, strength training won’t turn you in to Arnold Schwarzenegger, hormonal balances will mean you will simply create a healthy body, not a bulky physique.
Now that you know what the key mechanisms to get those muscular changes you want are, it’s time to go through a few different methods to achieve the them. This list is far from extensive but is fantastic start.
Wave Loading for Mechanical Tension: Wave loading involves performing a ‘wave’ of sets using progressively heavy loads and fewer reps, such as sets of 5, 4 and 3 repetitions, resting several minutes in between each set. Then perform a second ‘wave’ of sets using the same repetition configuration as the first ‘wave’ but using a slightly heavier weight.
Example with Deadlifts: Perform the first ‘wave’ of sets, ie the first 5, 4, 3 rep sets, with a weight just under maximum and the second ‘wave’ of sets at maximum. Set 1: 5 reps @ 80%, Set 2: 4 reps @ 85%, Set 3: 3 reps @ 90%, Set 4: 5 reps @ 85%, Set 5: 4 reps @ 90%, Set 6: 3 reps @ 95%. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
Super Slow for Muscle Damage: Super slow training is where you will still perform the same amount of reps for any given set but the tempo of the lift will be at a much slower speed. This creates greater time under tension and volume for the muscles, thus stimulating growth.
Example: Squats; a normal squat lift will consist of a lowering or eccentric phase between 1-2 seconds for hypertrophy immediately followed by a 1 second concentric phase, making the overall time per rep between 2-3 seconds. Super slow training has no set tempo, the slower you go the greater the volume so the less load required. You could set yourself 6 second reps for each set, with a 4 second eccentric phase, and a 2 second concentric phase.
German Volume training for Metabolic Stress: GVT method is to complete 10 sets of 10 reps with the same weight for each exercise. For most people, on most exercises, that would represent 60-70% of their 1RM load. The large amount of volume, the rest periods of only 60 seconds between sets, and the slow tempo of lifting is what creates the effect.
Example: If your target muscle group for the day is legs, then you could start with doing 10 sets of 10 with a leg exercise that recruits a lot of muscle mass like squats, and then supplement the workout with 3-4 sets, 10 reps of a couple other leg exercises such as leg press, and hamstring curls.
With individualised and structured strength training, addressing the key mechanisms to create change, leads to a more successful a productive training outcome. Come on in and visit us at 199 William St to ensure you are maximising your training time and potential by experiencing the difference of world class Performance Coaches and Sports Medicine professionals.
Written by Performance Coach David Smith