Does it seem to you like your hard work in the gym is getting you nowhere? Do you feel like your muscles are not growing as well as they should be?
If you want to understand muscle growth and how to grow you muscles effectively I recommend reading this article!
When I was on the quest of transforming my skinny fat self, there were some principles I learned that helped me improve leaps and bounds in my workouts. They were something that I never gave much thought too as I would just go to the gym, do the same standard workout routine and use the same number of sets and reps.
As you can guess, nothing ever changed. Looking back, I think of how much time I wasted. Albert Einstein summed up perfectly what I was doing, with this quote;
Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
If this sounds familiar, then I urge you to stop what you’re doing right now. Don’t waste years like I did. If you want to change your body whether it’s to get ripped, build muscle or just lose a few pounds then you need a definite end goal and a PLAN.
Having these 2 things will seriously speed up your results and save you a heap of time. I want to explain these principles to you today in a simple and easy way that helped me out a lot. This article will cover muscle growth and the effects of training with light weight and high reps (you know getting that ‘pump’) and training with heavy weights and low reps. So lets dig in….
Muscle Fiber Basics
Muscle tissue is a complex structure which consists of bundled up fibers. There are 2 different types of these muscle fibers.
Type I; Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers
Type I ‘slow twitch fibers’ have more endurance and keep going for a longer period of time time than type II. They also contract slower than type II. The down side to them is they have the least potential for growth and power output compared to type II. High rep, low-load training appears to preferentially stimulate type II muscle fibers.
Slow twitch muscle fibers are stimulated by;
- Lighter weights for higher reps (10-15).
- short rest periods (0-3 min), and more volume.
- striving for the pump, when blood engorges the muscles.
Slow twitch muscle fibers are good for endurance activities like long distance running or cycling. As I mentioned before they can work for a long time without getting tired.
Muscles that contain a lot of slow twitch fibers are red, because they contain lots of blood vessels. Slow twitch muscle fibers rely on a rich supply of oxygenated blood as they use oxygen to produce energy for muscle contraction. Simple enough right?
Type II; Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers
Fast twitch fibers contract quickly and grow faster than type 1 fibers. As a result this gives them higher strength and power potential, but the down side is they rapidly get tired. Fast twitch muscle fibers are good for rapid movements like jumping, sprinting, explosive punching and kicking. They contract quickly, but get tired fast, as they consume lots of energy.
Building these components specifically involves;
- very heavy weight for low reps performed fast (1-6).
- long rest periods (3+ min).
- less volume.
Most of your muscles are made up of a mixture of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers. Low-rep, high-load stimulates type II muscle fibers.
There are 2 ways for a muscle to grow (This is known as hypertrophy);
- Myofibrillar hypertrophy
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy
1) Myofibrillar hypertrophy involves the increase of the ACTUAL SIZE and number of individual muscle fibers.
2) Sacroplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the VOLUME OF FLUID components of the muscle (Sacro means “flesh” and plasmic refers to plasma).
Simply put, Sacroplasmic hypertrophy increases the amount of ‘plasma’ or fluid in a muscle. And Myofibrillar hypertrophy increases the actual size and amount of muscle fibers (which are made up of proteins).
It would be beneficial to remember the above types of hypertrophy…
After this point it gets a bit choppy as to which hypertrophy is better for muscular size and there are many debates online. I am not a scientist so I’m going to explain my own personal experience with using these different forms of training to help you chose what will be best for you.
I started out training with a lighter load with 3 sets of 10.
When I started training I used a lighter weight for more reps to get that ‘pump’ (reps of 10). By the way, I didn’t purposely lift light weights, I tried my best to lift as much as possible. However when you have to lift a weight for 10 reps, naturally it inhibits the amount of weight you can lift when lifting lets say 5 reps. My muscles looked good, as in they were increased in size after training, but then they would go back down to their normal size after a couple of hours (obviously due to the blood pump). I did grow somewhat in muscle size, However it was very minimal and very slow (I near enough looked the same tbh).
Heavier load with 5 sets and reps of 5.
When I started training with heavy weights in reps of 5, and worked on compound movements to get stronger; I got a completely different experience. I lost fat and my muscles looked ‘thick’ and dense.
I also gained a lot of strength. However I didn’t get that ‘pump’ feeling but I didn’t care as my results were 10 times better.
Now if I want to bulk up, and get that pump feeling (which I do sometimes), I can do this easily. I can lift a heavier weight for more reps (8-10) as my strength has gone up. I do this by implement a specific training routine that allows me to bulk with minimal fat gains. This gets me excellent results and works very well as I can get the sacroplasmic hypertrophy as well as the myofibrillar.
So What Should the Beginner Do?
Using a mixture of high reps and lighter weight, and heavy weight with low reps, is the wisest option to get the best of both worlds (myofibrillar hypertrophy and sacroplasmic hypertrophy).
However, as a beginner, strength is the most important factor. The heavier the weights you lift for more reps, the more muscle you build. If you have not developed sufficient strength then you will be unable to lift a decent amount of weight for higher reps.
So, you need to get stronger before mixing the weights up with ‘pump’ sacroplasmic hypertrophy. This involves developing your fast twitch muscles through compound movements and applying myofibrillar hypertrophy.
If you have been lifting in the 10 rep range all this time (like most people do starting out), then I put it to you to try working out in a lower rep range like 5. Work on progressively overloading your muscles by lifting more weight over a period of time.
This should be done by adding small increments of weight by the use of small plates each workout (or each week). It will most certainly benefit you as the change in rep scheme alone will shock the muscles to grow. You will also develop thick, dense and strong muscles.
Once you have developed a good foundation of strength, then you can move to a higher rep scheme of 8-10 reps to get the ‘pump’ with a mixture of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy!
So there’s the key to thick dense muscles for beginners. You can try which ever rep schemes you like. If you have tried one way and have not got the muscle growth and results you want, then maybe its time for a change.
Keep the previous quote in mind,
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!” Albert Einstein.
Have you used different rep schemes? If so what were your results and what do you prefer? Let me know your opinions in the comments below. If you found the post useful please use the social media buttons to share the post with friends and family that can benefit from it. Thank you!