How your strength affect muscle growth?

People usually identify big muscles with great strength following them. But, this isn’t always a case. Powerlifters often have smaller muscles but they are significantly stronger than bodybuilders. Why?

First, we need to know what types of muscle fibers we have in our body. They are divided in three groups:

· Slow-twitch muscle fibers (Red, Type I) — they are developed when we perform sets contained of 15 or more repetitions. They have many capillaries, high fatigue resistance, but their contractions are slow and they don’t produce much strength.

· Fast-twitch muscle fibers (White, Type IIa) — they are developed when we perform sets contained of 6–12 repetitions. They are less durable but much stronger and faster contracted than slow-twitch muscle fibers.

· Fast-twitch muscle fibers (White, Type IIb) — they are developed when we perform sets contained of less than 5 repetitions. They are the fastest and the strongest, but they also get tired very fast.

The conclusion can be made that marathon runners have the highest percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers and power lifters have the highest percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Now you know what is difference if the goal is strength and how if the goal is endurance. Since type IIb fast-twitch muscle fibers get tired very fast, it is obvious that they can’t contribute to great amount of muscle hypertrophy (they have less capillaries and less oxygen is delivered to them). So, in order to improve muscle growth, our target are type IIa fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Now, let’s see how should the workouts look like if we want strength and how if we want muscle growth.

Note: It is important how you manage the bar or dumbbell, not how great is the weight on them. You need to be smart, your muscles don’t differentiate the numbers, only the load.

Training principles for muscle strength:

· Do low repetition, heavy, explosive sets (in order to hit type IIb muscle fibers).

· You should perform only compound movements (squat, deadlift, bench press, clean)

· Powerlifters almost never perform biceps curls or other isolation exercises (they simply don’t affect the strength).

· Number of reps should almost never exceed 5.

· It is very important to learn proper form of movement and to include as many muscles you can, so you can lift heavier.

· Rest between sets should be 4 minutes or more, due to complexity of movements.

· Recovery is very important here. Strength workouts affect central nervous system (CNS). Its role is to activate motor units that innervate muscles simultaneously and contribute to greater strength. If you get to the point where CNS is overloaded, there will be no more strength gains. That’s the reason why these workouts have to be smartly dosed and scheduled. Always include supervision of someone more experienced, especially if you are a novice.

· Nutrition approach is simple. Eat a lot of healthy food, proteins, carbohydrates, so your glycogen levels can always be full. Glycogen is the place from where fast twitched muscle fibers obtain energy. Caloric deficit is implemented only if you have to place yourself under certain weight due to some competition rules.

Training principles for muscle growth:

· Your sets should be in range from 6 to 12 repetitions (of course, with heaviest possible load, because that is the only way to stimulate growth). So, every set done until or close to muscle failure.

· Focus deeply on targeted muscle and convey all possible load on it.

· Your strength will also improve like this, but less than if you use strength training approach that is previously described.

· Rest time between sets shouldn’t be longer than 3 minutes, and often even shorter.

· We get to TESTOSTERONE. We all know how important it is for tissue building, and researches showed that greatest testosterone secretion is achieved when we perform heavy sets with load greater than 85% of 1RM (One repetition maximum). Therefore, if you want to grow, and don’t want to use steroids, you have to include some amount of really heavy sets into your workout.

· Recovery is also very important for growth. If your muscles are overtrained and you don’t provide them time to recover, consequences will not be pleasant. Testosterone, strength and muscle size will go down.

· Nutrition approach is the key part for building aesthetic body. Sometimes we need to maintain a caloric deficit for a certain period of time, in order to eliminate excessive body fat and make our muscles more pronounced. But, we need to know that this will bring some decrease in muscle strength. If our approach is smart, that decrease doesn’t have to be too large.

You should bring the decision about your current goal and to adjust your workout program according to it. Both strength and muscle growth require time and commitment. I’m here for all your questions.