Episode 20. New Research on Muscle Building and Innervation Training

Episode 20. New Research on Muscle Building and Innervation Training

Episode 20. New Research on Muscle Building and Innervation Training

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:

Episode 19. Ten Questions to Determine If You Have Food Issues (And How They Manifest For You)

Episode 19. Ten Questions to Determine If You Have Food Issues (And How They Manifest For You)

Episode 19. Ten Questions to Determine If You Have Food Issues (And How They Manifest For You)

Show Notes

Scott and Mike go through 10 (plus a few) questions that will help you understand, first, if you have food issues, and second, what the nature of the issue is for you, or how it manifests for you. This is what Scott calls awareness training. It’s about digging deep into your own cravings, beliefs, thoughts, and so on.

The questions come from a questionnaire that was originally in Scott’s book, Beyond Metabolism. However, the complete questionnaire can also be downloaded from:


The Ten Food Issues Questions:

(Note that each question in the questionnaire was also accompanied by an “intensity scale.” This is just to remind you to think about which questions resonate more or less with you, and help you note which areas should be your focus.

1. Are your waking thoughts consumed or dominated by issues that deal with how you eat, why you eat, resisting the urge to eat, or equating any of the above to how you feel about yourself? – and note the intensity scale as well

2. Is food or diet never far from your conscious mind?

3. Are you easily distracted or even upset by having indulgent food (goodies) in your presence?

4. Do you have an emotional conception of right and wrong foods? (Note that in the full questionnaire this is a two-part question.)

5. Do you ever participate in post-indulgent guilt practices like ‘guilt-cardio’ the day after an indulgence, or cutting carbs and restricting food the day after an indulgence?

6. Address honestly how you respond to a food cue. If your favourite food is put in front of you, do you find it hard to resist no matter if you are not even hungry? Does such a scenario create an inner struggle with you?

7. Do you wake up each day and start a battle of ‘food is my enemy?

8. Do you stick to a diet for a few days then always blow it?

9. Do you feel remorse, shame or guilt after a diet sabotage? If so, rate that emotional state on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest?

10 A. If someone says something hurtful to you, do you often react by thinking about or taking part in a food indulgence?

10 B. Similarly, if you have a bad day do you find yourself reacting to this by thinking about or taking part in a food indulgence?

Final Conclusion Question:

Do you find yourself tired or even exhausted over your inner emotional reactions to your thoughts and feelings about food/diet/weight? In other words do the related feelings of fear, guilt, anger, shame, exhaust you?

Resources Mentioned

Scott’s Book, Beyond Metabolism.

Scott’s Questionnaire.

Episode 18. Goal-Setting: Process Goals Versus Ends Goals

Episode 18. Goal-Setting: Process Goals Versus Ends Goals

Episode 18. Goal-Setting: Process Goals Versus Ends Goals

Show Notes

A debate! Scott, Kevin and Mike debated the relative values of process-focused goals versus ends-focused goals. They all acknowledged that you obviously need “both,” but the debate surrounded where the emphasis should be placed, or how the relationship between the two worked.

Scott argued that many clients need to “let go” of their end-results goals, and instead embrace process-focused goals. In his four decades of experience, many clients cannot embrace process goals until they finally stop focusing so much on their end-results goal (e.g. “lose 50 lbs”), and indeed “letting go” is precisely what allows them to finally achieve those end results. He argued that there is a difference between people who are born with or socialized into an emphasis on the process, and they can get away with end-results goals, but for those who don’t have that experience or upbringing, their needs to be a much, much greater emphasis on process than the result.

By contrast, Mike argued that part of the value in end-results goals is having the ability to work backwards from them, to figure out your process goals based on what you want the result to be; then, as you move forward with your plan or roadmap, you can use that end-goal as a personal heuristic or test: “Are my actions taking me towards my goal?” “If I have to choose between A or B, which choice will take me closer to my goal?” Moreover, creating your own process or roadmap instills a sense of self-efficacy (which creates motivation, and makes it possible for you to see how this whole thing will work, which in turn makes the goal seem more realistic, especially if at first it seems like a particularly ambitious goal or stretch goal.

Both Scott and Mike agreed that most people do need to dig deeper on their goals, and understand why they want to achieve them (…to summarize a much more complex theme that emerged in the episode).

Kevin fell in the middle, acknowledging that he had both types of goals, but that on a day-to-day level, he had to be focused more on the process goals: what does he need to do today? Next week? The week afteR? And, indeed, many of clients in his experience do need to focus more on the process and be more realistic in their expectations, both in terms of what’s possible for an end goal and in terms of what it will take to get there.

Links / Resources mentioned

Scott’s Mindset of Achievement. It’s free here: http://scottabelfitness.com/achieve/

Episode 17. Overtraining and Lifestyle, Reading Biofeedback, and Physique After 50

Episode 17. Overtraining and Lifestyle, Reading Biofeedback, and Physique After 50

Episode 17. Overtraining and Lifestyle, Reading Biofeedback, and Physique After 50

Show Notes

Scott received a few excellent questions over email about one of his training programs, as well as the Cycle Diet, with respect to fitness over the age of 50, lifestyle, and more. Since they were so good, and because they were fairly representative, Scott cut and pasted a few of them and sent them to Mike, and together they turned that into an episode.

The questions were specifically about Hardgainer Solution and Scott’s Cycle Diet, but they are by no means specific only to those things.

Notes for Hardgainer Training, Overtraining, and Physique After 50

Hardgainer Solution doesn’t need to be tweaked necessarily just because you are over 50, but being over 50 might very well make you a “hardgainer,” and that is very much a consideration when prescribing training protocol.

With any program, it’s important to “condition into” the program. So for example, HGS contains 80 different workouts, but to get acclimated to the program, yeah, you can just do the first workout over and over (since it’s whole body, you can get away with this).

Mike mentioned the five-part training model: Effort, Training Strategy, Workload Capacity, Recovery Capacity, Internal Hormonal and Biochemical Environment.

The trick with hardgainers, and also with anyone over 50, is avoiding overtraining. It is absolutely better to UNDER train than to over train. You can make progress while undertraining. When you hit overtraining, you burn out.

No, HIIT is not a good fit with a hardgainer-specific training program, since HIIT is a) not very muscle building, and b) is a form of cardio that more easily invites overtraining.

At the end of a workout you should feel invigorated, not exhausted. In the words of Lee Haney, stimulate, don’t annihilate.

Reading Biofeedback

Sleep and work stress will absolutely sap your vitality and energy. It can be harder to read your biofeedback as this happens.

It isn’t necessarily “harder” to read biofeedback because you are over 50, but as more and more factors “might” be affecting you, yes, that can complicate things. Also, not “knowing” if you’re eating or training optimally can make things more difficult (and this is the advantage of having a coach).

Cycle Diet and Biofeedback

Reaching supercompensation mode is hard to read if you have mindset issues, and — as above — it can be harder to read if you’re also experiencing work stress, lack of sleep, etc., again, that makes things difficult.

Here is an example: one of the key indicators of supercompensation is increased hunger.But lack of sleep can increase hunger by as much as 30%. So: are you in supercompensation, or are you lacking sleep? You need to be real. Try seeing if you a “catch up” day of sleep takes care of hunger.

Supercompensation mode *can* be tricky over 50 just because of hormonal changes. It can be a great fit, but not always.

Regarding the compatibility of the Cycle Diet and HGS: yes, they are compatible, but as with all training and nutrition, BOTH should be individualized. It might be the case that neither of them is right for someone, or just one, or both.

Links / Resources mentioned

The Cycle Diet

The Hardgainer Solution

Episode 16. The Bodybuilding Industry’s Steroids Subculture and Its Dangers

Episode 16. The Bodybuilding Industry’s Steroids Subculture and Its Dangers

Episode 16. The Bodybuilding Industry’s Steroids Subculture and Its Dangers

Show Notes

Steroids. Everyone knows, on some level, that there are those who use them, and that at the highest levels of bodybuilding they’re just part and parcel of the culture. But how rampant is it? How much are people really taking, and how has that changed over the years? Scott spent years in the fitness and bodybuilding industry’s, and witnessed all of these things — indeed, it was one of the reasons he eventually left that world and turns down such clients; things were getting out of control.

We’re now at a point where Scott has read the stacks of female figure competitors who are taking more drugs than Arnold would have been!

This episode was all about giving you a truthful, inside look at what really goes on, so that you can be a more informed consumer.

Bodybuilding Steroids Subculture Notes:

  • Scott read out a huge contest prep diet with lots of sugary foods (syrup and so on) that, in Scott’s words, “I would have been happy to have in a bulking diet!”
  • The diet also included the injection of 10 IUs of insulin before, during and after the workout. A lot of what you read about pre- peri- and post-workout nonsense is only useful if you’re actually shooting insulin (plus other stuff, during other parts of the day) in order to affect where the sugars are going.
  • The litany of the huge stack or steroids cycle included:

Test Enanthate
Trenbolone Enanthate
Anadrol (one of the more toxic androgens)
GH, or Growth Hormone

  • For the contest diet cycle, some of the above was adjusted, and the following was added:

Testosterone Propionate
Testosterone Enanthate
Trenbolone Acetate

  • The physiological changes going on in the above cannot be reproduced naturally.
  • In addition to the anabolic steroids, synthol is now used a lot. People see the pictures where it’s gone wrong and looks absurd… but it’s also used in more subtle ways.
  • In addition to the aging of the cells, side effects include things like enlarged hearts, which is partly why you see a lot of bodybuilders dying young of heart attacks .
  • Steroids are also a gateway drug, at least in the subculture that Scott saw.
  • There is a huge identity surrounding these. A lot of people can’t stop BECAUSE they can’t stand seeing themselves small after, because no, you can’t keep all the gains.
  • Scott was actually told he wouldn’t be able to let go.
  • As with other eating disorders, one of the big problems is when body image just is your self-image, and your self image is “reduced” to your body image.
  • People will often take steroids without knowing what they’re taking, yet the coaches telling them what to take are by no means doctors, and even doctors know very little about what this kind of stuff will do to the human body, at least not in the doses bodybuilders are taking.
  • In addition to the natural competitors who just lie about what they take, there’s a new trend of claiming one is “drug free” even when taking nolvadex, proviron, clomid, cytomel, and so on.
  • A similar but related kind of thing that goes on, on the flip side, is that supplement manufacturers have dosed their protein powders or creatine with steroids in their first batch in order that their early adopters get good results, testimonials, before and afters, and so on. (Of course, this is not to paint the whole industry with the same brush, but it does go on.)
  • Scott was given a chance to private label a well-known protein powder… but with a special “proprietary blend” they would add “no questions asked.” Hint: they were suggesting he add steroids.

Links / Resources mentioned

Scott’s early Guest Posting at the 1987 Great Lakes

Scott’s last Guest Posing in 2004 (when all the conversations were steroids related)