Anyone who reads bodybuilding magazines, books, courses and so on will be aware of the proliferation of training systems and ideas. Many of the competing systems seem philosophically opposed. Some recommend brief training using a few sets. Other systems encourage you to do lots of sets and exercises. Who is right and how do we decide?
Well, in questions of matter of fact you have to test methods and see what happens. The best way to test for matters of fact is through controlled studies where you have criteria and procedures that make such comparisons possible. Unfortunately for us, scientists are not very interested in answering our questions. The few studies that have been conducted on training methods are not that relevant to advanced bodybuilding.
The other way we have to test various training systems is to see if they work. Thus, as we speak, many are trying those systems in gyms around the world. What usually happens is that people abandon what does not bring results. There are some people who seem to chop and change regularly and who don't seem to have a particular training method. What happens most of the time is that we do things and gets some results and slowly progress towards our goals, be they increased strength or size or both. The typical scenario is that building a reasonable physique takes about 5 years and most people can achieve a fair level of hypertrophy. Say a 16 1/2 inch arm on an average sized man. That is a good result and you should have more strength than anyone who hasn't lifted weights before. You might be able to bench press 300 pounds.
Now, it seems that most people start leveling out when they hit 17 to 17 1/2 inch arms. That cold 18 inch arm is difficult to achieve. Especially drug free. Somewhere along the line most people hit a plateau. What then do they do? Well, some use their heads and come up with strategies that cause them to keep growing. Others give up and resort to chemical enhancement. Most trainees tend to abandon the sport. Maybe they get married about the same time and have interests away from the gym? There are not many who persist and keep training all their adult lives.
What do we find with the long-time regulars? They stopped growing a long time ago. In our gym we used to award a *Consistency Award* to the regular who trained hard but did not progress. It was a bit of fun and no one was really offended. At a certain age it is amazing to retain a muscular physique.
However, can those long-time veterans still grow? I believe so. No drugs are necessary. What is needed is a method to keep growing. A few years ago I discovered a method and it was used to make me grow again and I still use it to keep my body in a perpetual state of growth. I lack that craziness that younger fellows have to want those huge arms, etc., but I have enough information to keep growing larger muscles, even at my age. Which really is an amazing thing.
It is my conjecture that typical trainees can gain an inch or two on their arms in a matter of a few short months if they apply the correct principles to their training. We are limited mainly by the slow adaptation of tendons and other connective tissue.
The muscles are capable of rapid growth. It is almost scary how fast they will grow. Of course it is absolutely essential that knowledge of nutrition is obtained and that the body is adequately provided for to grow larger. Sleep and rest should be ideal. Nutrition and rest are part of the overall training program.
Anyway, I have posted my theories but most people shoot them down with arguments and quote examples that falsify my theory.
They may be right, but all my experience doubts it very much.
Let me ask a few questions about the body. Suppose you take any human and ask them to do tasks that cause them to have sore hands. Things like digging a ditch with a shovel or chopping wood with an axe. What happens if we don't stop when there is pain on our hands? We get sore and cause blisters on them. If we still do not stop those blisters burst and we really have caused physical damage. If we stop just when the soreness isn't too severe we will find callouses there in a couple of days time.
The hands will be tender the next day.
Suppose we do a bit more shovelling or chopping the next day and stop when the soreness is moderate. Then we repeat these activities for a couple of weeks. Won't everyone build up callouses on their hands? Our hands then adapt to the activity and soon we will be able to dig for long periods of time without any pain at all. It might take a month for that adaptation to take place.
Can our hands adapt any more? Perhaps. What we would have to do is find other activities or do the ones we already did but in a different fashion until we got our hands sore again. We would soon find a limit to the amount of adaptation that is possible on the hands.
The same sort of thing applies to adaptation to sunlight. Most fairskinned people will tan when exposed to sunlight. There are some who will never tan because they lack the components in the skin to tan. Of those who can we find that the same sort of thing happens as does to the hands when stress is applied to them. If we do too much, too soon, we damage the skin. If we apply just the right amount then the skin adapts and soon we can tolerate long periods in the sun. Around the age of 50 the body loses some of that adaptation ability and you will start burning if out in the summer sun for too long. Ah, the joys of aging. Enjoy your youth while you still have it!!!
Now, are muscles the same as the skin? Is there a limited amount of adaption ability in muscle fibers and cells? That is not known at the moment. It is apparent that some drugs combined with training and nutrition allow muscles to be built far larger than what natural bodybuilders have achieved. Or at least this is what most believe. There has never been a study to determine what is possible. If we compare the physiques of pre 1945 bodybuilders then it is clear the standard wasn't high. Doctor John Ziegler brought Dianbol to sports after the second world war so it might have been that anabolic steroids were used by some bodybuilders and weightlifters before 1950. I don't think anyone ever confessed to using drugs then and you would think we would have heard something by now. If drugs were not used before 1950 then it is clear than some fine specimens were built without drugs. A few achieved over 18 inch arms and that is a high level of hypertrophy if in competition condition. One wonders what would be possible with modern training equipment, nutrition and training information. Surely Steve Reeves and John
Grimek would have been larger. If so, then their physiques approach what the pros have today.
I have scoffed at the scientific studies done in most universities concerning muscles because not one of those researchers seems to be interested in maximum hypertrophy. I have read the abstracts of over 100 studies done on the DOMS phenomenon but not one study considered it worth exploring to see what would happen if DOMS was a result of each training bout for a long period of time. Most considered DOMS an undesirable condition and several studies tried to find ways to lessen the phenomenon.
We all know that we experience delayed onset muscle soreness when we start training, resume training or do something extreme or different. I recall that I climbed a mountain in my youth and it took all day to reach the tree line. Even though I could not get my calves sore by training them hard in the gym they were extremely sore from climbing that mountain. The soreness went away within a week and I never gave it another thought. It was, afterall, a temporary inconvenience. That is what just about everyone believed. Scientists, experts, personal trainers, bodybuilders. No one thought it desirable to obtain DOMS after each and every workout. That was overlooked and never considered. I read where one person rejected the idea that the body would have a mechanism that responded to pain like that. He was convinced that evolution would not have allowed such a mechanism to happen.
I have thought about that. Suppose when mankind was half ape and half man. He had to survive any way he could as a hunter and gatherer. Suppose one day this man-animal encountered another animal and had to fight to near death to survive. He would crawl off to a safe place and sleep the night away. The next day he would have to do dangerous, physical demanding things again. So the muscles would be capable of doing that. If not then those animals wound not survive. It might be possible that primitive man-apes had to struggle and fight from day to day and therefore had to have adaptation systems that made frequent physical exertion possible.
That is exactly what I discovered when I applied the DOMS method to myself. I could train with a very sore muscle. Being a typical musclehead I reasoned that if DOMS was an indication of muscle damage and this would lead to growth then it seemed possible to keep the muscle continuously growing by keeping it continuously sore!! Imagine discovering this possibility at the age of 56. So I applied the keep-the-muscles-sore theory and gained an inch on my arms and over an inch on my calves in a month of training. My strength increase to almost frightening levels. Eventually that strength impacted on my muscular system and I had an injury in one of my elbows and in my achilles tendons. The elbow injury was an old one but the achilles tendon injury was new. I now realise why those injuries happened and I can avoid them in the future.
Part of the problem of maximum hypertrophy is that some exercises work up to a certain level and then no longer generate hypertrophy. That is where better exercises and better equipment are necessary. Proper techniques must be followed to avoid injury.
After my experience I concluded that keeping a muscle sore indefinitely was a dangerous thing to do. I talked to an orthopedic surgeon at my gym and he confirmed that connective tissue healed faster than bone but slower than muscle. The connective tissue is the limiting factor in rapid growth.
Do I believe large muscles can be built naturally. You bet. I can't see that there is a limit and I believe drugs are not required if we can duplicate the environment in muscle cells without them.
Now, this growth possibility is my conjecture. Some seem to need to refute my theory or dismiss it. Few are ready to give it some consideration.
I don't believe that just any method to obtain DOMS is sufficient. DOMS can accompany other types of muscle damage and not the beneficial hypertrophy inducing kind. I would suggest that you have to do the protocols that lead to muscle growth that have been proven in the gym. It is my belief that large muscle can do many sets with fairly heavy weight. Therefore, DOMS inducing protocols should be built around such programs. A sample protocol would be to warm up to a maximum poundage for your target reps and then repeat that maximum for about 5 sets. This is for advanced people. Beginners can get by with perhaps 2 sets and slowly work up to more. There is no utility in doing more exercise than is necessary to stimulate growth. One must always try to find the necessary amount and not the sufficient amount.
Am I wrong about this? I doubt it. Perhaps I am. We will see what the future brings. I would still advocate trying to get some feedback to see if growth is occurring and then keep that growth happening with additional workouts. My personal experience makes me think that frequency is related to the degree of soreness and that you resume training just before the soreness disappears. That means training every 4th or 5th day. I have no idea what exactly is required and would leave that up to exercise scientists to determine. There really isn't any methodological difference in my approach or the approach of HST. I, too, believe I am trying to apply an hypertrophy specific method to training.
I don't advocate trying to get all the muscles sore at one time or in one week! That might be too much stress in the body.
If my theory is true then we finally have an answer about which training methods are the best. Whichever ones lead to DOMS are satisfactory. It doesn't matter what method you used. Of course I insist that nutrition and rest conditions are ideal.
Anyway, that is my bold conjecture and it is easy to see if this method will work or not. I would say that it must be false if someone tries it for a month but that muscle does not hypertrophy more. I would hope that my method is both logically and practically correct.