“Old-school VS modern-day fitness.”
If one thing is clear about the physiological mechanisms, variables and factors that induce muscle hypertrophy, it is that nothing is clear. In recent years, the understanding, at least partially, of the molecular mechanisms involved in it has been evident, all thanks to science, but when one door seems to close, many others open, always leaving many questions unresolved. The road is long and tedious, but every meter traveled is a prize.
However, sometimes it seems that taking certain steps is more of a burden than an impulse, a step backwards. And not so much because of the sender’s fault, although in certain cases this is also the case (conflicts of interest, data manipulation, etc.) but because of multiple other factors that will greatly condition what is said, or what is tried to be said, from the sender to what the receiver understands: Extrapolation of data from studies, misleading contexts, simplification of facts, misinterpretation of conclusions, confirmation bias, etc. In addition to all this, there is also the marketing of the fitness industry, trends, fashions, etc. All of this together sometimes greatly distorts what it really is.
Regarding muscular hypertrophy
There are nowadays certain “debates” regarding certain “methods” and variables in the planning of training whose objective is muscle hypertrophy, such as intensity, volume, frequency, muscle failure, etc. and much effort is put into the search for the “holy grail”, that is, that training that is “the best” universally to achieve this purpose, in this case muscle hypertrophy, as if it existed! We can and should look for the best way to train for the objective that we propose, but this will result from the correct individual adaptation of all the variables that interfere in that purpose, taking into account that it is not something universal, since there are many individual factors that will condition what suits you best. And I’m not talking so much about individualization in terms of programming training variables (which also), but in terms of other aspects that are often overlooked. How do you like to train? do you like to train this way? does it motivate you to train this way? does it create adherence or do you get bored training this way?
And I would dare to say that this is the most important thing, since there is motivation or there is adherence, and without adherence there is nothing. What does it matter if the best for hypertrophy is weekly frequency 1 or frequency 5, if you like it and it really motivates you to train full-body or on the contrary you like it much more and it motivates you to train only one muscle group with frequency 1, go ahead, why change it? Do you really think that one system or the other, as long as the rest of the variables are moderately well organized (such as equalizing volume) are going to be so conditioning for your progress? Do you think that one system or the other is going to be more conditioning for your progress than your own motivation and adherence to the training plan that you really want to do or that motivates you? Well, probably not.
As almost always, the human being tends to polarize, to go to the extreme, but as in almost everything, and especially when physiology is involved, the extremes are not usually a good option and it is the grays, or rather, the correct planning of the grays, which will surely guarantee the best way to the goal. Many position themselves with this training or another training, trainings with different names, and they position themselves as if it were a religion, as if it were a soccer team. I have never understood clinging to a type of training with a particular name as if there were a feeling of belonging to it, as if it were the absolute truth. In fact, I doubt that there is any perfect training, there is not. There will be the one that comes closest to what YOU need.
The most important thing: training
Trends, fads, fashions, fitness marketing all confuse people even more. When you walk into a gym, you find that they are conditioned and well equipped usually. A lot of people training in very different ways and sometimes I wonder, is he training for the goal he wants to achieve, does he even know the goal he wants to achieve? Nobody please take this the wrong way, but it is something very normal, as sometimes the focus is lost and someone who for example wants to achieve muscular hypertrophy, does not stop doing sessions of “Burpees”, Olympic exercises with heavy loads in “strength” features, etc.. Sometimes, perhaps blinded by certain fashions, trends, technology, supplements, etc., we forget the most important thing: TRAINING.
Mobile applications, new material, etc. I have nothing against all of this, in fact they are great allies if we use them well, but sometimes all this makes us forget the most important thing: training. And yes, if you want muscle hypertrophy you have no choice but to train hard, and lift weights. There’s no point in buying brand-name clothes, activity bracelets and knee pads if you don’t pick up the barbells, dumbbells and discs and train hard to achieve muscle hypertrophy.
To a greater or lesser extent, mechanical stress must be present for muscle hypertrophy, and therefore, the subjection to loads must be present. It is not always necessary to lift heavy, since metabolic stress has a positive effect on muscle hypertrophy and can be achieved with lighter loads, but you must go to muscle failure or close to it. Much was criticized to the “old school” when they talked about the “pump” and the supposed transient hypertrophy, when today we know that the “Cell Swelling” has certain physiological bases by which they can affect muscle hypertrophy. What I mean is that no one should think of gaining muscle mass (at least in a noticeable way) without effort, sitting on the couch or on the quadriceps extension machine looking at Facebook.
The “No Pain, No Gain”
On the opposite side we have, what was baptized as “No Pain, No Gain” that sometimes has led people to not progress as it should due to the extreme subjection of training intensity and / or exaggerated volumes, without ensuring proper muscle regeneration, nervous, etc.. and sometimes ends in loss of performance, overtraining or injury. As I often say NO PAIN, NO GAIN has done double damage, as it has led people to exceed the optimal threshold of stimulation as I just explained, but then, at present, I get the feeling that it has created an exaggerated fear of overtraining, which has made many people now train below what they should, without reaching the minimum threshold of stimulation. At least I am talking about what I perceive. Well, neither one thing nor the other, since the principle of hormesis governs many things in our organism, and the same thing happens with this.
Speaking of stimuli
The ideal frequency of weekly workouts for muscle hypertrophy is often debated, from the classic frequency 1 to frequency 2 or 3 as the latest studies point to a higher frequency being better. As I said before, individual profiles vary and it is not the same for example a trained subject than a beginner. There is no point in overdoing it in a single session. When a bucket of water is full, no matter how much water you pour in, it will run over. Spreading out the stimuli throughout the week, as long as the minimum threshold is reached, is likely to improve the anabolic effect. But how can I be sure that I reach the minimum threshold? What if I fall short? And above all, what if I like to train frequency 1 because it motivates me more and now I switch to frequency 2 because there are supposed to be slight advantages? Well, you will probably get worse, because as I said before, sometimes we get lost in details that although they may be important, they should be adjusted to the profile of each person and also create adherence, so surely a person who likes to train frequency 1 will get more out of that training simply because he likes it and will be more motivated to it.
This does not mean that other frequencies do not work, of course, they may even be better! But this must be adapted to each subject. Besides, as I always say, hypertrophy is multifactorial, many factors are indicated for its development, so let’s use them. Why do we insist on training always the same? Sometimes I am asked if I think it’s ok to change the training that someone has done and I see that they have only changed one exercise for another, one day for another, but the rest of the variables remain the same. Same rep range (6-12), same exercises, distribution, tempo, muscle failure, TUT, etc. I’m not saying that it’s about changing for the sake of changing, or changing every day, or changing like crazy. It’s about knowing what I want, what benefit I can get in one way or another and plan/periodize correctly. And there are a thousand ways to do it, but it is not appropriate to explain here.
The right combination of mechanical tension and metabolic stress would obtain optimal results (I’m not talking about muscle damage) and alternating ranges (6 to +20 rep), 1-5 minutes rest, cycling muscle failure (without abusing), weekly frequency 1 to 3, etc. are surely valid options. We must know how to incorporate this in the planning and programming of our workouts and above all and most importantly, that there are no absolute truths, that we must be open to what comes but with a critical and rigorous sense and knowing how to interpret what we read.