Question and Answers about Muscle and Fat: Something for Men & Women
This blog will help answer some of the most frequently asked questions about muscle and fat. Correct answers to these questions can help you eliminate misconceptions and greatly improve your training program.
WHAT MAKES MUSCLES GROW?
I will spare you the science. According to Darden, creatine has been identified as the messenger substance that turns on the RNA (ribonucleic acid) processing line to produce muscle growth. The RNA within a specialized compartment of the cell acts like an assembly line and hooks together various combinations of amino acids, sometimes in combination with complex sugars and fats, to form different compounds that result in the increased size of certain muscle cells. Bottom line: first, you stimulate growth through high-intensity exercise; then, you must provide the proper nutrients.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY HIGH-INTENSITY EXERCISE?
High-intensity exercise means the repetitive performance of a resistance movement that is carried to the point of momentary muscular fatigue. Generally, this means that one set of each exercise should be performed in a strict style for ten repetitions. At least eight repetitions should be performed and not more than twelve. If you cannot make eight, then the resistance is too heavy; and if you can perform more than twelve, the resistance is too light.
WHAT IS A GOOD FORM?
The good form requires all repetitions to be executed in a slow, smooth style. No throwing or jerking movements should be practiced. Special attention must be given to lowering the resistance (eccentric contraction). Research shows that for building muscular size and strength, lowering the resistance is much more important than raising the resistance. For example, if it takes two seconds to raise a weight, it should take four seconds to lower the same weight. All in all, it should take about one minute to complete a set of ten repetitions in good form.
WHERE DOES PRE-STRETCHING FIT IN PROPER FORM?
Pre-stretching is involved when a muscle is pulled into a position of increased tension before the start of the contraction. When a muscle is pre-stretched, a neurological signal is sent to the brain that results in a higher percentage of the muscle being contracted. Pre-stretching can be used effectively in strength-training sessions. Practice it properly, and you will be able to handle heavier weights and thus bring into action a greater percentage of your muscle mass during each repetition.
WHY IS HIGH-INTENSITY EXERCISE BEST FOR STIMULATING MUSCULAR GROWTH?
High-intensity exercise is best for several reasons. First, it is by far the safest way to train. Training injuries occur when a muscle exerts a force that exceeds the breaking strength of some part of the muscular structure. By performing ten repetitions, as opposed to heavy maximum attempts, the intensity is high and the force is low.
Second, high intensity produces faster results from less training time. Ten sets of any exercise terminated two repetitions short of a point of momentary failure will not produce results anywhere close to those that can be produced by one properly performed set carried to a point of failure. When you increase the intensity of an exercise, your amount of exercise must be reduced. A full routine for the major muscles of the body can be completed in less than thirty minutes. Training properly, it is not uncommon for the average man to double his overall body strength in less than a year.
Third, high-intensity training makes fewer demands upon your recovery ability than traditional training methods. Recovery ability is related to your system as a whole. Long, grueling workouts constantly force your recovery ability to work as hard as possible merely to replace a large amount of energy expended. As a result, very little is left as a reserve for growth, and strength increases.
High-intensity training and a large amount of training are mutually exclusive programs. You can have one or the other but never both. Therefore, for stimulating muscular growth, practice your exercise in a high-intensity fashion, but keep it brief and frequent.
WHY DOES FAT TEND TO ACCUMULATE AROUND MY WAIST?
There are individual tendencies to develop a high density of fat storage cells in different body areas. This is an inherited characteristic that cannot be altered. Some people naturally accumulate noticeable fat on their legs and hips, others on their back and neck; but generally speaking, most people (especially men after the age of thirty), tend to store fat around the waist.
HOW CAN I REDUCE MY PERCENTAGE OF BODY FAT?
To reduce your percentage of body fat, you have to force your body to burn its fat as a source of energy. To do this, you must keep your caloric intake below your maintenance level. Consuming one thousand fewer calories a day than your maintenance level will require your body to burn several pounds of fat a week as a source of energy. Doing lots of sit-ups and leg raises will not reduce your percentage of body fat.
IS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO SPOT REDUCE?
According to Wikipedia, spot reduction refers to the claim that fat in a certain area of the body can be targeted for reduction through tech use or exercise of specific muscles in that desired area. Now, does spot reduction work? The answer is NO! It is impossible to spot reduce. On a reducing diet, fat is mobilized out of the multiple fat cells all over your body, then carried by the bloodstream to the individual active cells in your body, and burned for energy. Thus, fat stores are withdrawn from your total body fat and not from one isolated location. Individual exercises will develop your muscles but they will do little or nothing to reduce the percentage of your body fat.
DON'T ANY SPOT-REDUCING GADGETS WORK?
No! Not only do they not result in permanent fat loss, but many of these gadgets are dangerous. Let us examine some of the most popular ones:
- Motorized exercycles: An exercycle is a motorized bicycle that moves your legs and torso for you. Since the machine is pulling your legs up and down, it is doing the work, not you.
- Electrical shock: This machine supposedly makes the muscles contract involuntarily through small electric charges. The muscle movements are too small to consume enough energy to cause a noticeable reduction in fat. Doctors believe certain of these machines can be dangerous to the heart and other organs which respond to electric stimuli.
- Vibrating belts: A mechanical vibrating belt may relax you and make you feel better, but it certainly will not remove fat. Fat cannot be shaken, tickled beaten, or stroked from your body.
- Rubber clothes: These clothes, which range from belts, shorts, and shirts to full outfits, are supposed to make you "sweat off" the fat and inches. Any weight you lose this way is simply the result of dehydration, which is quickly eradicated when you quench your thirst. None of the water you lose when you sweat comes from your body fat, since fat contains just a small percentage of water.
- Sauna wraps: In this principle, your body ( or the specific part you want to be reduced) is wrapped with tape, which has been soaked in a "secret" solution. You then sit in a sauna bath for thirty minutes and supposedly the secret solution draws the excess fat from your body. Again, you CAN NOT passively sweat fat off your body.
HOW CAN I BUILD UP MY "WIND"?
Three factors are important in developing cardiorespiratory endurance or "wind". First, exercise must be of sufficient intensity to increase the heart rate to at least one hundred forty beats per minute. Second, this heart rate must be sustained for at least ten to twelve minutes. Third, this exercise bout should be repeated three to four times a week. In general, the more the body's large musculature is involved in the exercise, the easier it will be for your heart rate to exceed one hundred forty beats per minute. For example, bicycling, jogging, swimming, and proper weight training are much better cardiorespiratory exercises that an equal amount of softball, golf, or tennis.
IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MUSCULAR SIZE AND STRENGTH?
Everything else being equal, a big muscle is a strong muscle. In other words, there is a close relationship between the size of a muscle and its strength. Increase one of the factors, and the other also increases.
Some confusion, however, occurs in the phrase: "everything else being equal." That is why you occasionally see a man with large muscles who cannot demonstrate strength as well as a man with smaller muscles; "everything else" is usually not equal.
The ability to lift a barbell (demonstrating strength) is composed of many factors. For example, bodily proportion (leverage), neurological efficiency, and skill at lifting a barbell are all important. This is why it is almost impossible to compare the muscular strength of one individual to the strength of another. Too many factors are involved. The best thing to do is to compare yourself with yourself. be keeping accurate records over some time, you will know if you are getting stronger if your muscles are also increasing in size.
WHICH TYPE OF EQUIPMENT CAN MAKE ME STRONGEST?
One requirement for developing muscular size and strength is a high-intensity exercise. You can use the high-intensity principle with most types of equipment. However, for maximum size and strength increases in the shortest possible time, you must use equipment that provides full-range exercise.
An exercise is full-range only if it provides resistance throughout the entire movement of the involved body parts. Resistance must be provided in the extended (starting) position, throughout the mid-range, and in the contracted (finishing) position. Exercise equipment that lacks any of these three basic requirements is not in full range.
Barbells, Universal, Isokinetics, and Nautilus all provide resistance in the mid-range of movement, but only the Nautilus provides resistance in both the starting and finishing positions. On the other hand, barbells and Universal can provide resistance in either the starting or finishing position (depending on the exercise), but never in both. Isokinetics exercises have no resistance in either of these two positions.
Nautilus machines are also superior because they provide rotary movement, direct resistance, variable resistance, and balanced resistance. Therefore, if you have access to Nautilus equipment, be sure to take advantage of it. You will get a faster and better result.
WHAT ABOUT STRENGTH TRAINING DURING THE SEASON?
Many players make the mistake of progressing in their strength training until the season starts, and then they slack off or ignore training afterward. As a result, their strength level decreases with each missed workout. Studies have shown that a high level of strength development shows measurable degeneration after as little as ninety-six hours of normal activity. Therefore, to maintain or increase muscular strength during the season, you should continue your high-intensity training at least twice a week. If possible, workouts should be performed the day after the game and then again three days later.
DO SOME ATHLETES TAKE HORMONES AND DRUGS TO DEVELOP LARGER MUSCLES?
Yes, some take a drug that is the synthetic derivative of the male hormone testosterone. It is prescribed and sold under the brand names Dianabol, Anavar, Nilevar, and Winstrol. Athletes, coaches, and even some medical people have assumed that if a certain amount of male hormone is responsible for muscular development, then adding more to this already adequate chemical balance will produce a stimulus for larger muscles. This is simply not true.
More is not better when it comes to your hormone balance. These drugs do have a place for patients with burns, glandular imbalances, etc.; but, at no time will a healthy athlete benefit physiologically from them.
The trouble with the whole drug scene is that athletes because they are some of the world's worst faddists, may "think" (placebo effect) they are getting stronger faster from a certain pill. As a result, they continue to take it in larger doses and more frequently (the old "more is better" syndrome). Eventually, if such drugging continues for a long time, the body may lose its ability to produce such hormones naturally; and a man could be turned into a eunuch.
DO PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS AND VITAMIN PILLS HELP?
You do need to have a certain amount of protein and various vitamins present in your body to carry forth the muscular growth processes once they have started. But, if you eat a balanced diet composed of a variety of foods, you are certain to get more than enough of the various nutrients for maximum muscular growth.
To simplify matters, nutritionists have divided foods into four basic groups: (1) Meat (optional), (2) Dairy (optional), (3) Fruits and vegetables, (4) Bread and Cereal (optional). For a well-balanced, nutritionists recommend at least one serving from each of the four food groups at each meal. Generally speaking, if you adhere to these guidelines, you will not need to waste your money on protein supplements, and vitamin pills.
- In the final analysis, your training programs should be designed with two goals in mind: (1) the production of the maximum strength of the muscles involved in your sport, and (2) the reduction or elimination of body fat to a minimum. Both of these goals can be accomplished through high-intensity exercise along with a reasonable diet.
Darden, E. "Question and Answers about Muscle and Fat: Something for Men". Especially for Women, Leisure Pressure, 1977, 74-85.