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How Much Does Muscle Growth Differ Between Lifters?

Reference to the Study:

Hubal et. al. (2005). Variability in Muscle Size and Strength Gain After Unilateral Resistance Training. MED SPORTS EXERC.

 

 

Details of the Study:

 

  • 585 untrained adults performed the same arm training routine for 12 weeks.

 

  • Most lifters experienced around a 10-20% increase in cross-sectional area, but there was extreme responses on either end of the spectrum.

 

  • A small number of individuals experienced no detectable muscle growth (with some even seeing losses in muscle size).

 

  • On the other hand, a small number of individuals saw increases in biceps cross-sectional area of greater than 50%.

 

  • As with most biological traits, the response to resistance training generally follows a bell-curve relationship. This means that most people see an ‘average’ muscle growth response, but a small percentage of people experience extremely more/less growth than average.

 

 

Applications to training:

 

  • This study supports the idea of the importance of an individualised plan in order to optimise muscle growth in each person.

 

  • Furthermore, it is unavoidable that some people will find it significantly easier to add muscle more than others, rendering comparison between peers futile. If you want to progress, then track your progression against yourself.

 

  • Ultimately having a personal coach who has the skills to guide you on how to execute your exercises correctly to get the most out of each exercise will put you in the best position to see results with your hypertrophy goals from your training in the gym.

Adherence – WHATS YOUR WHY?

Dedication vs Motivation

 

Adherence to any program or plan is the number 1 factor that will determine success to reach a particular goal or failure where you quit prior to achieving it or even getting close to it.

 

Don’t make excuses find solutions!

 

In any pursuit of getting to a certain goal consistency is king, if you are not consistently putting in the effort for the most amount of the time you will be taking 1 step forward and 3 steps back rather than the opposite.

 

Motivation will fail you, when emotions get in the way when your not in a good mood, your stressed sad, overwhelmed. Motivation will seize you’ll quit or have a day off that turns into a weeks to a month off.

 

Dedication is something that you will do regardless of your circumstances, regardless if your stressed, tired, overwhelmed and regardless if your not in a good emotional state. You’ll always find a way regardless of the situation.

 

If your just motivated you will find any little excuse to stop yourself from doing the things that you need to do. When we are dedicated we will find a solution you’ll adapt to get what you need get done to progress.

 

That’s why it’s important to identify your Why, your why is an emotional thing which can change and progress or can remain the same through the course of your journey.

 

It’s really important that we really think about this and put some focus into it as we can use it to remain dedicated when things will get in the way of our progress and progression and having that awareness as we navigate through our journey on how it may change or progress.

 

Be attached to your why, write it down put it on your notes in your phone and review it periodically. When your making excuses to yourself read it out 10 times and you will see how your focus /mindset will change.

 

We have to set our self’s up for success we are living in a more stressful environment at present and each individuals allostatic load is much higher which means we are required to acknowledge all of these things that may happen along the way over the course of the month and year and say to yourself your reactions to these stimuli that may raise your emotions will be X or Y. For example I will not drink a bottle of wine when X happens at work. I will do a workout and do 10 mins of deep breathing and meditation, or I will book myself a massage so I can release the tension from my body. Often times it’s not the stimulus but our reaction to the stimulus how we perceive it and react to it.

 

Let’s look at examples of what someone’s WHY may look like?

 

  • I want to be fit and healthy for when I have children.
  • I want to be able to keep up with my Grandchildren.
  • want to be a good role model to my children so they can see me focusing on good habits toward my health eating good foods and exercising regularly.
  • I want to be mobile and active when I reach and elderly age.
  • I like to look good for my husband/wife/partner and myself.
  • I want to look good for my clients so they believe in what I advise them to do (as a coach you are your own business card).
  • I like feel good cognitively which by creating healthier lifestyle habits allows me to feel this way. (exercises has a positive impact on mental health).
  • I want to be healthy enough to continue to do the hobbies/sports I love.

 

Make note of yours, focus and review it regularly, use it as your fuel to keep your dedicated on becoming the healthiest and strongest version of yourself.

 

A good physique, health and vitality is created by consistent habits that will require a consistent dedicated approach. As coaches and personal trainers we help individuals navigate through this process and keep you accountable to your WHY!

 

 

Load vs Rep Progression

 

 

Reference:

Plotkin et. al. (2022) Progressive Overload Without Progressing the Load? The Effects of Load or Repetition Progression on Muscular Adaptations. PERJ.

 

Details of the Study:

 

  • Trainees performed the same lower-body workout 2x per week for 8 weeks, taking all sets to failure.

 

  • One group lifted within the 8-12 rep range and attempted to increase the load over time, still sticking to this rep range.

 

  • The other group also lifted within the 8-12 rep range initially. However they aimed to perform more reps overtime whilst maintaining the same load.

 

Results:

 

  • It was found that both groups saw increases in muscle thickness of all muscles measured, with no notable trends favouring either condition.

 

  • Furthermore, changes in lean mass of the legs were similar between groups.

 

  • This supports the main know drivers of hypertrophy are mechanical tension and metabolic stress are both great for hypertrophy.

 

Real World Application:

  • This study suggests that progression via load or reps results in similar outcomes, as long as the set is taken to failure. Therefore, if muscle growth is the aim then proximity to failure should be prioritized.

 

  • Once you know you can train to failure successfully and it comes the decision to either up the weight or increase reps. Exercise execution is vital for all lifts and movements it would be useful to hire a personal trainer to coach you on exercise execution.

 

  • A useful strategy would be to perform your compound more mid range movements with the progression of load and your isolation movements towards the shortened and lengthened ranges of the muscle towards higher rep ranges.

Why you may not maintain adherence towards the gym.

Exercise has never been more accessible than it is today. In terms of weight training, most areas in the UK have several gyms for every budget, ranging from £20 per month commercial gyms, right up to country clubs that charge several hundreds of pounds per month. Regarding outdoor sports, there’s plenty of clubs and cycle routes out in public and running solo will always be completely free. Furthermore, exercise from home became massively popular during the COVID 19 Pandemic, with the use of Peloton Bikes, as well as free home-based circuit training on YouTube becoming increasingly popular.

 

Despite this high amount of accessibility, only 6 percent of UK males and 4 percent of females meet the Department of Health’s recommended levels for activity. Why might this be the case? Giving exercise a go in the first place is not so much of an issue. Hence the massive boom in gym memberships every January, as well as the huge purchase of home gym equipment in the pandemic. The main issue is with adherence to these changes to one’s lifestyle. The ability to adhere to a training programme will differ between individuals. However, I have chosen some very common factors which, when stuck to, will make it significantly easier to stick to a training programme.

 

Firstly, there’s enjoyment of the exercise itself. Choosing a form of exercise that you actually enjoy (or in some people’s case, find more tolerable than others), is crucial. Whether it be exercise, food, a hobby, a relationship or a job, if you do not enjoy it then you are not going to stick to it for long. One caveat is that your chosen exercise must align with your goals. For instance, if you want to put on muscle but only love running, then this will not work, you will need to be resistance training regularly. However, there is plenty of flexibility within this: you can choose high vs low reps, the addition of drop-sets, super-sets, rest-pause sets, giant sets etc. So, you can tailor your sessions around your own preferences.

 

 

Next, having high quality goals is key. We can follow the acronym SMARTER to create a high-quality goal. S stands for specific. For instance, we would change the goal ‘I want to be able to run faster’ to ‘I want to improve my 5k PB’. This way, we know to focus the training on 5k performance and not just a general running programme. M stands for measurable. This goal has already partly been made measurable by adding in 5k. However, we can make it even more measurable by saying ‘I want to improve my 5k PB from 25:30, to 23 minutes’. A stands for achievable and R stands for realistic. Having an overwhelming goal can be very disheartening. Wanting to improve your 5k PB from 25 minutes to 23 minutes is very realistic. However, wanting to improve it from 25 minutes to 14 minutes will be near impossible for the majority of people. T stands for Time Bound. You need to set an end date on this goal to help create urgency. An example being, I want to improve my 5k PB from 25 minutes to 23:30 in 3 months is a realistic, time bound goal for a relative novice. E stands for Evaluate. Your goal needs to be frequently evaluated, to see if your training needs to be adjusted part way through, in order to increase your chances of actually achieving the goal. R stands for recognise. You need to recognise the little wins along your way to your end goal and appreciate how far you have come on your journey. If your goal satisfies all these conditions, it should provide a clear and motivating target to aim for.

 

Finally, we need to look at the social aspect of training. Often in life we associate our enjoyment towards an activity closely with the relationships attached to it. For instance, plenty of people enjoy drinking in pubs, however how much they enjoy this activity is hugely dependant on the relationship they have with the people they go with and exercise is no different. If you find yourself unable to adhere to an exercise programme, choose a training partner who you enjoy spending time with. Furthermore, having a training partner gives the added bonus of accountability. If you have a time set to meet someone at the gym, this makes it a lot more likely to happen as opposed to you planning to go alone and then not really feeling like it when the time comes around.

 

Alternatively, you can kill several birds with one stone and hire a good quality personal trainer. This will not only create a positive social aspect to training once a strong relationship is built, they will also help you create effective SMARTER targets and work closely with you to formulate a training programme which aligns with your goals, involving sessions that you actually enjoy performing.

 

Overall, I hope this article has helped identify some key elements for you to focus on when embarking on changing your lifestyle for the better.

Does Strength Training Potentiate Hypertrophy?

Study Reference: Carvalho et. al. (2021) is stronger better? Influence of a strength phase followed by a hypertrophy phase on muscular adaptations in resistance trained men. RES SPORTS MED

 

Study Details:

 

  • Men with an average training age of 4-5 years in the gym performed 4 sets of squats and leg press training 3x per week for 8 weeks

 

  • One group lifted in the 8-12 rep range throughout the entire 8 week programme (hypertrophy only training)

 

  • The other group lifted in the 1-3 rep range for the first 3 weeks, before lifting in the 8-12 rep range for the remaining 5 weeks (strength and hypertrophy training)

 

  • After 3 weeks, the hypertrophy group saw greater quad growth compared to the strength + hypertrophy group- as expected.

 

  • However, at the end of the 8 weeks, the strength + hypertrophy group saw superior growth compared to the hypertrophy only group.

 

Real world Applications:

 

  • The study supports the idea that, if you want to maximise muscle growth, then including a short strength phase prior to a hypertrophy phase may be beneficial.

 

  • However, there are plenty of other studies that show that a strength phase prior to a hypertrophy block shows no additional benefits. Therefore, it’s important to note that more research is required before this becomes reliable.

 

Journey of a 50kg weight loss transformation by Coach Jonny Molloy.

Celeste is a mum of 3 children. Her alarm goes off at 4:00am daily to begin her day. Her occupation is quite high stress as a highly successful manager at a supermarket. Celeste had never stepped foot in a gym in her life prior to this transformation.

 

Celeste had a consultation with Coach Jonny and discussed seeking help on improving her health and well-being, her main goal was to drive weight loss and some guidance and support on what program to focus on and how to begin her program as a complete stranger to the gym.

 

When most embark on a fitness journey a lot of the focus is on what the client needs to start doing but without the guidance and coaching of what the client needs to stop doing in order to achieve sustainable lasting results. A coach can help you navigate through all of this along your journey and provide you with the correct tools to stay on track with your goals.

 

Jonny believes that anyone can achieve life changing results as long they are willing to change and have trust in the process that their coach plans out for them.

 

Some people want to change but are you willing to change you?

 

Jonny’s coaching style strips back the shiny stuff and helps clients understand the fundamentals of what is required to lose weight and build lean muscle mass.

 

“It isn’t about what I can do for the client. The process is about what we can achieve when we work together as a team. When that clicks, anything is possible just like how Celeste has turned her life around by us working together.”

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Nowadays, many people have heard about SMART goals. An acronym telling us that our goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. Although I completely agree with this, there is more that needs to be considered when setting a goal.  This is not only to increase the likelihood of achieving it, but also to increase the enjoyment during the process of doing so.

 

Categorising Goals:

Goals can be split into 2 categories: process goals and outcome goals. To define each in my own words, an outcome goal is the desired end result and process goals are targets you will need to meet during the process of achieving the outcome goal. In my opinion, both are critical for success.

 

When someone embarks on a journey to achieve better health and fitness, they will often set themselves an outcome goal. For example, ‘I want to lose 10lbs in 3 months’ or ‘I want to run 5k in under 25 minutes in 6 months’. However, they rarely set processes for their goals along the way which will help them get there.

 

Which is better?

I believe neither outcome or process goals are better than the other. Setting process goals is expected to increase one’s motivation for a task. (Zimmerman and Kitsantas, 1997).  On the other hand, setting process goals, such as ‘set time aside for 3 runs per week’ without an overall outcome goal which you really want to achieve, may also leave you unmotivated. Therefore, setting both, effectively, is crucial.

 

Setting goals effectively:

Knowing how to do this, effectively, however, can be easier said than done. Referring back to the first paragraph, this is where SMART becomes very effective. This should be applied to all of your goals, both outcome and process, to increase the chance of success.

 

The issue with this for many people though is that they may not have the required amount of knowledge on a topic to fulfil the ‘realistic’ part of SMART. For instance, I know nothing about cars. Therefore, if someone approached me and said set a realistic goal for yourself for how long it would take for you to fix this cars engine, I wouldn’t know where to start. Therefore, I would have two options, either devote a lot of time to learning about car engines, or hire a professional to do this for me. I believe this is the same approach people should take to their own bodies. Don’t second guess when it comes to your training and nutrition, either devote the time to learn how to eat and train effectively or hire a professional to guide you the right way.

 

Reference List:

  • Zimmerman, B. J., & Kitsantas, A. (1997). Developmental phases in self-regulation: Shifting from process goals to outcome goals. Journal of educational psychology89(1), 29.

CLIENT SUCCESS STORY – RYAN COOPER

Ryan spent years feeling intimidated to join a gym believing that people would place judgement on him.

He reached out to us at Soma for our personal training services to help him with his body composition goals and with the focus on building some lean muscle mass and improving his posture.

To his own disbelief he never thought that he would actually enjoy his training sessions, due to our coaches professional approach to programming to all of our clients requirements to succeed.

Client Success Story – The Process

Matt came into Soma with the goal of putting on some muscle purely for aesthetic purposes. He began his personal training program for just twice per week along with following his nutritional protocol in which was tailored bespoke to him and his social life on the weekends with focus on making the correct nutritional choices when eating out on the weekend.

 

As you can see he has developed a good amount of muscle mass in the 8 week period however this is just the beginning of his journey. We have now increased training frequency to 3 times per week and made adjustments to his nutritional protocol to help drive further adaptations towards his hypertrophy goals.

From a functional perspective following his functional assessment we found limitations in his movement and function of his shoulder and hips which have also improved over the 8 weeks (shoulder external rotation, getting in the overhead position and hip internal rotation). Thank you Matt for trusting our coaches in the process and for your consistent work ethic.

Stay tuned to see Matt further progress his physique with the coaching and guidance of his personal trainer.