Episode 20. New Research on Muscle Building and Innervation Training

Aug 29, 2016 | Episodes | 4 comments

Show Notes

What rep range is best for muscle building? Do you have to “train heavy”? (And what does that even mean?) Is 1-RM strength the ultimate arbiter of your muscle gain and hypertrophy? Scott and Mike discuss a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology that directly addressed some of these questions: “Neither Load Nor Systemic Hormones Determine Resistance Training-Mediated Hypertrophy or Strength Gains in Resistance Trained Young Men.”

Load, Rep Ranges, and the Study:

  • A common critique of studies like this is that they are on un-trained young men. This one wasn’t.
  • One of the key findings of the study:

“Our data show that in resistance-trained individuals, load, when exercises are performed to volitional failure, does not dictate hypertrophy or, for the most part, strength gains” (p. 129).

  • Examples of this in the real world: Scott new guys with way better world-class physiques than he had… and they were doing dumbbell bicep curls with 20 lb. dumbbells when Scott was using 50s. And Scott was never known as a “strong” guy.
  • It’s more about ranges and planes of motion than “load.”
  • For Scott, this supported a few of the most important tenets of Innervation Training — far more than load, what is important is the angles of contraction, the excitation thresholds of the CNS, the intensity of the contraction, etc.
  • An earlier study that Scott cites in The Abel Approach (regarding intensity) is Behm 1995, which shows a few things:

“Movement speed is not essential as long as the intent of the contraction is explosive” (p. 270).

“Maximal strength training methods with their high intensity resistance but low volume of work do not elicit substantial muscle hypertrophy. Therefore a higher volume of work […] is needed to ensure a critical concentration of intracellular amino acids to stimulate protein synthesis” (p. 271)

  • The study compared high reps versus low reps, to failure.
  • Interestingly, the “high reps” was 20-25 reps (the weight at ~30-50% of the subjects’ 1-RM) and the so-called “low reps” was ~8-12 reps (with the weight at about ~75-90% of the subjects’ 1-RM).
  • Scott read out this bit:

“In congruence with our previous work, acute post-exercise systemic hormonal rises are not related to or in any way indicative of RT-mediated gains in muscle mass or strength” (p. 129).

  • …and interprets it as a knock against the supplement industry (i.e. pre, peri and post-workout stuff).
  • Scott and Mike went through a few key terms: Motor Units, Excitation Thresholds, Functional Differentiation, Segmented Utilization of Muscles in Action, and so on. See SSP Episode 2 for more on these, and the innervation primer (linked below).

Links / Resources:

Behm, David G. “Neuromuscular Implications and Applications of Resistance Training.” Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association 9.4 (1995): 264–274. Web. [Link]

Morton, Robert W et al. “Neither Load nor Systemic Hormones Determine Resistance Training-Mediated Hypertrophy or Strength Gains in Resistance-Trained Young Men.” Journal of Applied Physiology 121.1 (2016): 129–138. Web. [Link]

The Abel Approach [Link]

Some of the research of Ralph Carpinelli

The Innervation Training Primer:

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