Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It is about muscle fatigue

Here is an interesting report, for those of us with an interest in High Intensity Training (HIT).

Building muscle doesn't require lifting heavy weights: study

"Rather than grunting and straining to lift heavy weights, you can grab something much lighter but you have to lift it until you can't lift it anymore," says Stuart Phillips, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University. "We're convinced that growing muscle means stimulating your muscle to make new muscle proteins, a process in the body that over time accumulates into bigger muscles."
The report points to a recent study:

Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise in Young Men


The study used light weights that represented a percentage of what the subjects could lift. The heavier weights were set to 90% of a person's best lift and the light weights at a mere 30% of what people could lift. "It's a very light weight," says Phillips noting that the 90-80% range is usually something people can lift from 5-10 times before fatigue sets in. At 30%, Burd reported that subjects could lift that weight at least 24 times before they felt fatigue.

"We're excited to see where this new paradigm will lead," says Phillips, adding that these new data have practical significance for gym enthusiasts but more importantly for people with compromised skeletal muscle mass, such as the elderly, patients with cancer, or those who are recovering from trauma, surgery or even stroke.


It reminds me of Clarence Bass recent reports that the important thing is effort - Forget Heavy, Think Effort - which Matt discussed here, following up here and here. (incidentally the final link actually points to the original study I started with above).

19 comments:

john said...

This is interesting and nice to know since I prefer to train outside (longer sets--kettlebells, strongman) as opposed to a gym where I'd do low rep squats and/or deads. I tend to worry myself that lack of traditional heavy training hinders anabolism. I wish more was studied than simple leg extensions though...

Avi S. said...

Great study, however most recreational weight lifter do not train at 90% 1RM, I wonder what the results would have been like if 70%1RM was used. Also, "failure was recognized when a complete range of motion for the exercise could not be completed;" I would think that under 90%1RM, the set would be terminated quite soon since it is difficult to maintain a complete ROM under that load, so I wonder if the participants were allowed to "cheat," until concentric failure was reached, what the results would have been like. More work would have definitely been performed!

Raymond said...

I would love for this to be true as it would give my joints and ligaments a rest but unfortunately I spend a lot of time on the gym ( yes unfortunate) and have yet to see growth come from lighter high rep lifting from anyone.
But its great news for older people, injured and people who want to stay very lean and muscular.
Raymond

DG said...

Is this not already known? Great news if you want to be a body builder. It seems to say nothing of gaining strength. Until they tell me that squatting at 30% is going to up my max squat (pretty sure it won't) i'll continue going heavy.

Glenn said...

I agree with Raymond: the almost universal real-world experience of people who have been lifting for a while demonstrates the necessity of heavy reps (at least intermittently). A study of untrained lifters doing unilateral leg extensions for one workout doesn't have much probative value.

MAS said...

Avi S is right. The study would have been better testing a 70% 1-rep max.

Kindke said...

According to Clarence Bass effort theory, one could as he says in the article, hold the weight in a stationary position for sometime until you feel the moderately high strain, and then perform a set of reptitions. By this time, your already quote far down the effort scale into the region of the fast twitch fibres.

Steven Rice Fitness said...

Definitely an area where I hope there will be more research. So much of the S&C field is based on traditions which may work but not necessarily be optimal. I also think there's a preference to use big weights just for bragging rights.

Glenn said...

I agree that more research would help (although we already know things like the Size Principle of muscle fiber recruitment thresholds and Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand, which cast doubt on this theory), but let's trust the evidence of our own eyes.

If fatigue alone causes hypertrophy, then why do long-distance runners have totally different physiques than sprinters? Why do gymnasts look completely unlike, e.g., tennis players?

Kindke said...

.

P70S6k was highly elevated in the 30FAIL group and this enzyme has been linked heavily with fast twitch protein synthesis. My guess is that Marahton runners dont do resistence exercise and therefore dont lengthen the muscles. There is evidence from studies that when muscle is stimulated but not lengthened it actually grows shorter.

Performing full range of motion in resistence exercise is extremely important, further there is evidence that the way muscle works is that hypertrophy preceedes hyperplasia.

Or rahter, sarcomere's are first added in series until some set length is reached, before they are added in parallel. After that, once a fibre reaches a critical size in series and parallel, only then are new fibres made ( hyperplasia), This is when the muscle actually gets 'bigger'.

The bottom line is sarcomeres need to reach the critical length in series before other forms of hypertrophy come into play. And addind sarcomere's in series will only be stimulated when performing a muscle contraction from a stretched position.

Sifter said...

I agree with DG... this will build size, can't imagine it does anything for strength.

David Csonka said...

This seems like great news to body builders, but what about people who are interested in actually developing strength?

Muscles to go, not muscles for show.

primalliving said...

I don't think this study is really worth the paper it is printed on!

Although acute protein synthesis is used as a measure of a workouts effectiveness in numerous studies, there has never actually been any correlation shown between this measurement, and actual hypertrophy, which is what is important at the end of the day. (Brad Pilon's "How much protein do you need" Ebook has a good explanation of this).

While this study may raise some interesting questions and prompt further research, until a longer term study is conducted it really doesn't prove anything.

Anonymous said...

Why not have the best of both world'? Conjugate training, heavy days mixed with light/speed days. It seems to work for Louie Simmons' record breaking powerlifters just fine.

Good man said...

I dont agree completely.
As Pavel says- to build muscle you need to get a pump with a heavy weight.
Period.

This is like doing many back-off sets with 90% or 80% of the highest 'Work set'.

Anonymous said...

Hogwash, I'm afraid.

This piece of 'research' is thouroughly trashed here:

http://evidencebasedfitness.blogspot.com/2010/08/if-youre-going-to-claim-to-improve.html

Chris said...

I do not believe that that blog post does "trash" the study.

Nathan said...

Even Drew Baye bashes the study.

http://baye.com/study-claims-heavy-lifting-not-necessary-to-build-muscle/

And all that crap about bbers not being strong is retarded, pump and tone training only works for those on the juice or the extremely gifted. Watch any successful bodybuilder who has built himself up from a scrawny to respectable build and he will tell you that heavy weights are key.

Kindke is off his rocker, hyperplasia is most definitely accepted not to occur in humans except for underneath the most extreme conditions, even then, maybe. Muscle cells do not multiply, they only grow larger.

Chris said...

I accept there are valid criticisms to this study. What I thought was interesting was the implication that the important thing is effort and reaching fatigue.