Over the years, I′ve tried to figure out the basis for muscle growth (like all of us). I′ve gone back and forth with certain theories and ideas. Once I find a contradiction to a theory, I know it is for sure false. That is one of the best ways to disprove a theory.
Well, all of the experimenting and thinking that I′ve done, in addition to research and the help of others has brought me to this conclusion. I′ve tried to find the common thread for all training programs, natural growth from everyday tasks, employment, etc. I believe that I′ve found the common thread.
I′ve pieced it together over many months and years with various emails and forum posts. I now wanted to take the time to write a detailed post about how I arrived at the conclusion for muscle growth.
Muscles Respond to Stress
It is no doubt that some type of stress is the stimulator for encouraging to body to add muscle mass. There are thousands of types of stresses the body is constantly dealing with. But out of those thousands, only one is the reason for gaining muscle mass.
I used to think that people needed to lift weights to gain muscle. I realized one day that this is false. Movement of the bones is not necessary for stimulating muscle growth. The simple fact that disproves this theory is how someone can have large forearm muscles from doing deadlifts and never working out their forearms directly. There are many other muscles we use in "static" fashion that have the same results.
The highest level factor that all training programs have in common is they use the muscles. If a muscle is not used, it won′t grow. Unfortunately, this is too generic to utilize in a training program. Merely using a muscle will produce little to no results. It has to be used for not only a certain amount of time, but a certain way. Both factors are equally as important (time and specificity).
I always knew time was somehow involved in stimulating growth. After all, if I went over and picked up a 115 lbs. barbell and curled it one time, I would see no growth. Similarly, if I picked up a 5 lbs. barbell and curled it for an hour, I would see no growth. Now if I picked up that 115 lbs. barbell and curled it 10 times, I would perhaps see growth. Why is time so important? We have all heard about TUL (Time Under Load) but what is it about time that requires it to be so precise for optimal results?
After looking at how lifeforms survive in the wild (we′re no different than any other animal), it was clear to me that energy was of utmost importance. Almost every survival trait in the wild is based around the idea of conserving energy, using energy precisely when needed to complete a task, etc. All matter is made out of energy. All forces contain energy. Energy is the key to the universe itself. Therefore, I believe energy loss is a very important factor in stimulating muscle growth. From my perspective, energy loss is essentially volume (inside the muscle). It′s not a real world volume (5 sets), but the volume of work the muscle is doing internally.
As mentioned earlier, there is a specific type of stress that stimulates growth. I hinted above that energy loss may be very important for stimulating growth. But, it′s not all that is important. How can we know this? Because curling a total of 1000 pounds over 30 seconds vs. curling that same weight over 8 hours will use about the same amount of energy. This is where the time factor is important. Time is a catalist for the growth process for a given amount of energy. What further complicates things in the real world though is energy loss isn′t proportional to the speed or distance our bones move. The reason is because there positions throughout movement where there are leverage advantages and disadvantages. There is also momentum. The only true way to eliminate these factors is to utilize static contraction training (no movement). The same angle must be used everytime from the same position to ensure energy loss is consistent. Even that is impossible to get it 100% accurate, but it would be pretty close.
Getting back to the point of specificity. The fact that time is a catalyst for stimulating growth means there may in fact be even more catalysts for growth. In fact, we know there are. Anabolic steroids and hormones can be catalysts. But are there more catalysts that are training specific?
Strength inroad is defined (by my definition) as the level of strength loss a muscle has at a given moment in time. When our muscles are fully recovered and at rest, they have an inroad level of 100%. If you could maximally lift 200 pounds, you could do this 1 time if your inroad level was 100%. If you had an inroad level of 80%, you could only lift 160 pounds 1 time.
It has been suggested by others, over the years, that intensity is the reason for stimulation. Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer had a certain idea of intensity for growth. Mike and Arthur′s definition of intensity is the level of momentary effort exherted by the individual. They felt that the higher the effort by the individual, the greater the stimulation will be. But there is one flaw in their thinking. If you notice in some of Mike Mentzer′s books, he′ll say intensity is what stimulates growth. But, he′ll also mention that you have to do a certain amount of volume, i.e., one set, in order to stimulate the growth. He also says that 1 rep won′t produce growth, likewise, 50 probably wouldn′t either. Well, if you′re exherting 100% effort at the end of each of those sets, why wouldn′t they stimulate the exact same way? The reason, is once again, specificity. Arthur was very close on his definition of intensity but he was off a little bit. Had he realized that strength inroad is the definition of intensity, he would had realized that time is important. Actually, he did know time was important but he didn′t really figure out why.
The reason it is important is because it produces a different strength inroad level. In other words, time can make you weaker by different degrees based on the exact same energy loss (volume).
A weaker muscle is extremely important for stimulating growth. After all, there is a double threat with a weaker muscle: 1) You, can′t perform the function you′re trying to tell it to do. 2) You are using up a large amount of energy. From the body′s perspective, this combination is deadly. One′s chance of survival rapidly decreases if they can′t resist forces they are instructing the body to resist as well as loosing large amount of energy.
The final piece of the stimulation puzzle falls back, once again, to the time catalyst. This makes it twice as important. The time factor here is in regards to duration of a given strength inroad (weakness). The longer a muscle remains weak, the greater the stimulation will be. This means inroad level (intensity) and inroad duration are equally as important.
In order to stimulate the maximum amount of growth, inroad level must be as deep (far away as possible from 100%) and as long as possible. This means that one could stimulate to different degrees based on intensity and duration. It is why volume trainees can produce muscle growth as well as HIT trainees. It′s why gymnasts are more muscular than manual laborers. It′s why sprinters are larger than marathon runners.
There are two ways to maximize growth stimulation (remember, stimulation does not equal actual witnessed growth because of recovery issues): 1) Inroad strength as deeply as possible (HIT route). 2) Inroad strength moderately over a long period of time (volume route).
Both can produce great stimulation levels. Those that have great recovery abilities for muscles will do better with volume. Those with great recovery abilities for systemic stresses (CNS) will do better with HIT. Some may do equally as well with either based on great overall recovery ability. The factor that slides what type of training will work better for you toward one side or the other is your muscle′s overall readiness to loose strength. If in general, your muscles seem to loose strength rapidly, you will do better with HIT type training. If your muscles recover strength very quickly, you will do better with volume type training. HIT being High Intensity Training (deep strength inroading/low volume-duration) and volume training being (moderate strength inroading/high volume-duration). Both types of training can be equally as effective because both means you are weaker for a given duration of time. The volume training makes you weaker for a longer time because you′re actually doing the exercises during the time! The HIT training makes you weaker for a longer period of time because you inroaded deeply and your muscles can′t get the strength back for quite a while (again, this is why people with high fatigue muscles do better with HIT and those with low fatigue don′t).
The one thing to keep in mind is this is just one side of the coin. The other side is recovery ability. Genetics affects both, growth potential as well as recovery potential. It is by far the most important factor for someone′s overall potential to be a certain muscular size. But we all can strive to be the best we can be based on following the theory of strength inroad level and duration and optimizing this in regards to recovery.
P.S. I′m not going to be reading any other posts on this forum (I only post at Analyzer′s), I just wanted to post this topic on this forum for anyone who may find it useful or interesting. This should keep everyone up to date on what I now think for any of the old forum members here.