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05.09.2015 12:58
Day 46. Myths about strength conditioning

Dmitriy Kalashnikov, Head Chief of FPA and certified ISSA coach, wrote series of articles named “Myths and legends of Bodybuilding” for the “FPA Journal”, where he busted famous myths, related to fitness (no matter, pumping iron or street workout). We have chosen 3 most popular myths specially for participants of our 100DW program!

Myth #1. Big muscles can be grown only if you are lifting heavy weights. Workout with lightweights or bodyweight will make you lean and fit, not more.

To be honest, your body doesn’t care what weight you lift, it doesn’t think like: “oh, this dude put not enough on the barbell, so I won’t give him chance and won’t grow”. If our body had some thoughts, it would be: ”holy dumbbells! This dude is gonna kill himself with this load, its time to change something or he will die right here, right now!”. Muscle growth is the result of adaptation process, adjustment of your body to the environment. If you want your muscles to grow, you need to create necessity of this growth.

This necessity we create during our training sessions. Speaking friendly, workout doesn’t grow your muscles. It calls different changes, negative changes in muscles and other systems. There is a whole list:

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Muscles depletes their “fast” energy sources – creatinephosphate and glycogen. Due to passing anaerobic processes of energy supply, chemical structure of muscle fibers changes. ADP (adenosinediphosphate), creatine, H+, lactate increase. These substances are spoiling muscle cells. Besides, some damage of muscles cells takes place. Nervous system takes heavy load. Central nervous system feels significant stimulation during workout, which turns to great inhibition as fatigue increase. Enormous intensity of neural signals to the muscles leads to fatigue of neurons. Neural signals between neurons and muscles start to fail. Endocrinal system also takes its part of stress. First, it needs to produce dozens of hormones that allow recreating energy urgently. Next, body needs hormones to repair and reconstruct muscles, damaged through workout.


But the main thing of this – if your training load overwhelms that level which is familiar to your body, it will initiate adaptation mechanisms, not only for this specific load. First, your body will restore all systems to the starting point (this called compensation), than it goes further and make some spare capacity (so called supercompensation). It works like defending your fortress. After enemy attack you will repair the walls and then try to dig a moat in case of future attacks.

This was about big muscles. Now lets get to the second part of the myth, about lean muscles. First of all, out muscles are not lean or bulky, sharp or something more else. Your muscles can change only in size (small or big), under the fat issue they always lean and sharp. So if we can talk about good shaped lean muscles than lets talk about lean body. Less fat – better view on your muscles. Bigger muscles – better view even under some amount of fat.

The only change we can do to our muscles is to make them bigger (hypertrophy) or smaller (atrophy), stronger or weaker. And lets make on more note.

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Muscle cannot change its shape. It cannot get bigger with one part, get longer or shorter. If muscle grows, It grows entirely, with every fiber. When you see all these bodybuilders, standing on a scene with absolutely different biceps, legs and chest, it means that they don’t used unique workouts, but have different genetics. Everybody does same exercises but result depends from our parents’ heritage.


So, the very thing you need to worry about is to pick up “right” exercises, which will stimulate your body to make proper adaptation. Of course it depends on many things, but there is one simple rule: more muscles involved in action – greater effect on your body it will cause.

Speaking friendly, every kind of strength training will cause hypertrophy of your muscles. But different protocols affect different structures of muscle fiber: myofibril (contractile structures), mitochondria (energy supply stations), sarcoplasma (cellular liquid) etc. Some protocols will be more effective for certain athlete and certain objectives, some – less effective. One can be more susceptible for hypertrophy of sarcoplasma, another – for hypertrophy of myofibrils. But all of them are used for one thing to do something bigger in your muscle.

Also, I would admit that there are almost no absolutely worthless or absolutely useful exercises. You always need to remember of your preparedness to specific load, restrictions of your body due to age, previous traumas. Novice, who has just started healthier, active life with 100DW program, who has low coordination, low tolerance to load, obese, insufficient range of motion in particular joints, these one should start their training very carefully. Basic exercises like squats, push-ups and pull-ups are quite enough to start. For some people even these exercises will be some goal need to work for.


Myth #2. Different exercises give load on different part of your muscle, so you can work with your muscles more precisely, hypertrophying inner or outer, upper or lower part of muscle. That’s why in order to get complete load on muscle you need change exercises, vary grips, stances, angles etc.

Lets get straight to the anatomy. You can train separate muscle heads, only if their fibers lay in different ways and have different places of contact with bones, taking part in different movements. For example, pectoralis major muscle has 3 different heads: clavicular (upper), sternocostal(medium), abdominal (lower part), that’s why push-ups with different stances (when your hands above, at same plane or lower than your legs) have point and give slightly different effects on your pecs. Instead, lats (latissimus dorsii) is one whole muscle and no matter what grip in pull-ups you will choose, you will contract whole muscle every time you pull yourself to the bar.

To get picture clear, imagine that our muscles are the same as elastic bands, connected to our bones. When you contracting your muscle, rubber band will move bones closer, when you relaxing, band will lengthen, moving bones to other position under external forces. And now answer one question. How can you force to shorten half part of rubber band? It its totally impossible. Muscle will contract in all its length.

This myth was born because of feelings during exercise. All we know about burning pain in muscle, related to accumulation of lactate and H+ ions or specific stretching pain. We feel this because of special receptors in our body, relevant to specific triggers. And these receptors have specific locations, giving us local feeling. For example we feel stretch around tendons (place where muscle sticks to the bone), nevertheless muscle stretches with all their length.
From the other hand, our body and muscles too can adapt to the load. That’s why you need to change your training conditions (number of reps, sets, tempo, etc.) periodically in order to give stress to your muscles. But change one exercise to another one the same only if you feel psychological exhaustion or if you feel uncomfortable doing some “very effective exercise”.

Myth #3. You can burn fat locally, making some specific exercises

As you can guess, this is not true. You cannot remove fat from your problematic zones only by your wish (most often its belly, butts and hips). Our body has chosen these places to depot fat for some vital reasons (protecting internal organs, keeping constant temperature of body core, keeping center of mass).

Processes, responsible for making fat issue or burning it, are regulated by hormones, circulating in our blood flow. These hormones have special target receptors. Amount of these receptors gives us specific reaction of tissue or organ for some action. In these so called problematic zones, receptors of lipogenesis (making new fat) are numerous, and receptors of lipolysis (fat burning) – few. Proportion and location of receptors are genetically identified and specific for every individual. That’s why you can burn fat in some local part only by burning fat in whole body (calories in are less than calories out for some time interval).