Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Build Muscular Size and Strength - By Lanier Athletic

Originally Posted on NaturalStrength.com on December 17, 2002

Most people need to add to the muscle on their bodies. This extra muscle, for most people, is just to replace the muscle lost by aging, dieting, and a sedentary lifestyle. The inevitable effect of this lost muscle is 1) Extra fat due to slower metabolism, 2) Bodily proportions showing less muscle and more fat, and 2) Decreased functionality due to decreased strength.

For more of the reasons to add muscle, see "Loss of Muscle Mass is the Real American Fitness Problem".

The purpose of this article is to address many of the misconceptions that exist concerning how to add muscular size and strength.

The basic principles of proper strength training are rather simple. The bottom line is that it requires "hard work" to gain muscular size and strength.

What Do You Mean by "Hard Work"

Many people confuse "hard work" with "lots of work". These phrases are not the same in exercise. In fact you can’t do both. You can not work really HARD for very long. If you are working out for a long time, you are not working hard. Hard work (also called high-intensity training) means each exercise should be continued to the point of temporary momentary muscular failure.

What method should you use to strength train? The method used in a strength training program is called its protocol. The protocol describes such things as frequency of training, number of repetitions and sets, number of machines, what weight to use, and how to progress to more weight as you get stronger. There are lots of different protocols which all work to some extent. For the beginning weight lifter we recommend either Standard Nautilus Protocol or Super Slow® Protocol. Write ups of these protocols are included in your membership packet. The reason for choosing these two very similar protocols is that they are simple, time efficient, they stress form by being relatively slow, and they get results. Both protocols call for a single set of exercises and has the advantage of producing good results in a short time (30 minutes, 3 times per week). Super Slow® Protocol places an emphasis on safety and form, and research has shown it to be the most productive method for beginners when a personal trainer is used. This method is very intense and is best learned with a personal trainer. Once you have learned Super Slow®, however, a workout partner works very well. Eventually you may decide to try some of the multi- set protocols, working different body parts each day, etc. These topics are well beyond the scope of an introductory document such as this one.

But It Really Hurts

Unfortunately, high-intensity strength training is quite painful toward the end of each exercise. This is only bearable because the exercise does not last very long. In fact, there is less than 1/2 minute of discomfort for each exercise. The results of working out this way are dramatic and well worth the temporary discomfort. Also, the discomfort will not bother you nearly as much, once you have become used to it. Don’t try to achieve maximum effort at the beginning. Just try to work a little harder each time.

Should a Beginner Work That Hard?

This depends on factors like age, physical limitations and experience with the equipment. If you have no health problems, you should be able work hard fairly soon. It is more important, however, to learn good form at the beginning, than it is to finish that final repetition

Size vs Strength

Most people think there is a difference between muscular size and muscular strength and that you can increase one without increasing the other. This is physiologically impossible. A muscle becomes stronger by becoming bigger. If a muscle is bigger, it is also stronger.

But I’ve seen people with small muscles lift more weight than people with large muscles.

There are two principles involved here, 1)neurological efficiency, and 2)skill. Neurological efficiency is a hereditary characteristic referring to a person’s ability to use his/her muscles. Those with greater neurological ability are able to utilize a higher percentage of their muscles than those with lower neurological ability. If the person with the smaller muscles (and better neurological ability) increases his muscular size, he would be even stronger. A person can only be compared to himself when comparing muscle size and strength relationships. Also, many weightlifting feats which are thought to be a test of strength are, at the least, equally a test of skill. A skilled weightlifter can easily lift much more than an unskilled person of similar strength.

The Role of Heredity

A potential range of strength has been set for everyone at birth. This range is usually quite large, especially for men. The average untrained male can improve his strength by 300% with proper training. This figure is 150% for the average female. The message here is that though everyone can make major improvements in their muscular size and strength, very few can be competitive bodybuilders..

What Causes Muscle to Grow?

Muscle growth is a defense mechanism in response to the body perceiving that it is not strong enough to meet environmental demands. In this case, the environmental demands come from high intensity strength training. Other forms of exercise also cause the muscle growth response, but to a lesser extent.

The Importance of Rest

The purpose of the exercise is to stimulate the body to grow. The growth takes place during a time of rest. If there is inadequate rest, some or all of the strength improvements will be inhibited.

What About Nutrition

Nutrition is the third requirement. The average American diet provides more than enough of the nutrients needed for good health and muscular growth. Eating a balanced diet of moderate portions is more important than Food supplements and Protein Powders.

Use Good Form and Don’t hold your breath. Whatever method of strength training you use, learn and use proper form. When done incorrectly, weight training can lead to unnecessary soreness and even injury. Also, it is dangerous to hold or control your breath during lifting because it raises your blood pressure.

Don’t work through pain.

This is referring to joint pain rather than muscle discomfort. When starting on weights, learn how to safely and productively strength train. Strength training is the most productive of exercises, but only if done safely. If you have trouble with pain in a joint, ask Lanier Athletic Center staff. Remember, you’re supposed to be exercising for your health. Surgical procedures, a possible result of repeatedly working through pain, is not health enhancing.


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Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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