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SP_COACH_DEAN SparkPoints: (114,244)
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6/28/13 3:07 P

I'd have to see that specific study to know exactly what it said, but here are a couple general things to consider when you're trying to figure out the most effective ways to increase strength. There are two basic factors involved. One is what's called "neuromuscular adaptation," which is about training your existing muscle fibers to operate at their maximum capacity. This involves lots of factors, like increasing the amount of fuel stored in muscle cells, and recruiting more muscle fibers to perform a given activity. Most of the time, our daily activities only activate a relatively small number of the muscle fibers available. So, the first step in increasing strength is to do things that activate more muscle fibers and you can accomplish this by "fatiguing" your muscles in various ways--by lifting a relatively heavy weight a few times, by lifting a lighter weight more times, or simply by doing things you don't normally do, so your muscles get trained to operate in different ways. In this situation, muscle "fatigue" simply means progressively pushing your muscles a little bit further than they routinely go. Basically, your muscles will keep getting better at whatever you make them do, until they get to the point that they can't get stronger without also getting larger. Doing lots of repetitions with relatively low weights tends to increase endurance more than strength, and vice versa, so the best approach during the neuromuscular adaptation phase may involve using both approaches.

When you get to the point that increasing strength requires more muscle mass, "muscle fatigue" starts getting more technical. The second factor involved in increasing strength requires actually increasing the size of your muscle fibers (larger muscles can exert more force)--this is called "muscle hypertrophy." Once you've gotten your muscles to the point that they are producing all the strength they can at their present size, then increasing strength will require adding new muscle mass. To do that, you have to work the muscle hard enough to actually break down the muscle tissue, which typically means using maximum force in a short time (ie, doing sets with low reps and very high weights). Muscle fibers get bigger during the process of recovering from this "breakdown." So, in this situation muscle fatigue literally means getting to the point that you can't do another repetition, and the most efficient way to do that is use higher resistance and lower repetitions.

So, it's not surprising that the study you mentioned could show similar gains in strength using those two different training approaches. It would only be surprising if the people in the study were experienced bodybuilders who were already at the point of maximum neuromuscular adaptation, and their goal was to increase muscle size.

Since most of us don't typically use all our muscles every day in ways that push them to their current limits, it's very possible to achieve significant increases in strength and functional fitness using a wide variety of activities and intensity levels. As I mentioned earlier, your muscles and your cardiovascular system will get better whenever you consistently challenge them to do a little bit more than they are used to doing. That can include improving muscle endurance, increasing the maximum amount of force you can exert one (or a few) times, and using your muscles in different combinations and ways (swimming instead of running, or power yoga instead of weight training, for example).

If your goals include adding new muscle mass to increase muscle strength even further, then at some point you'll need to include the kind of training normally associated with bodybuilding--i.e, the traditional high resistance, low reps, working to total muscle fatigue approach.

Hope this helps.

Coach Dean

WADINGMOOSE Posts: 1,048
6/28/13 10:12 A

Those with joint issues will also find that the repetitive motion caused by lifting light to fatigue will also be a problem, or may cause new/different problems.

While I believe that as a new runner, I'm building muscle in parts of my body, I also believe that there will come a time when that rate of muscle growth slows as my body has adapted and built sufficient muscle to do the work required.

Another study of ultra marathon runners would contradict your idea that performing cardio to fatigue will build muscle.

From the press release:
"One of the surprising things we found is that despite the daily running, the leg muscles of the athletes actually degenerated because of the immense energy consumption," Dr. Sch├╝tz said.

So basically, there will come a point of diminishing returns on this. That point comes when your body runs out of readily available fuel (glycogen) and has to start getting energy from somewhere else - fat and muscle stores. It's called overtraining and it comes with it's own set of problems.

And at the end of the day, I'm looking for an efficient way to increase my fitness. Running my muscles to fatigue day after day is not what I consider efficient.

Edited by: WADINGMOOSE at: 6/28/2013 (10:14)
YOGAGEEK SparkPoints: (6,917)
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6/28/13 9:07 A

LEC358: You're right, something like swimming can fatigue the muscles; I just meant that it's not invariably the case.

This is the news release from the university:

Unfortunately, it looks like the study itself is behind paywalls. The most interesting part of it, to me, is the researchers' comment that it's useful for people who *can't* lift heavy weights, for instance those with joint problems. Yes, it's less efficient that lifting heavier weights for fewer reps, but it's a good sight better than nothing.

JENNILACEY: That's a good point about diminishing returns; I suppose any study done on it would have to be relatively long-term in order to assess how long it takes to get to a point where there are no longer significant increases in strength.

JENNILACEY SparkPoints: (81,912)
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6/28/13 7:44 A

I guess... if you want to spend 90 mins of lifting vs. 30 mins of lifting.

I don't know of any studies but I couldn't see why you wouldn't build strength/muscle doing certain cardio activities over time. It would just be an incredibly slow progress and your strength increase/muscle gain wouldn't compare to that of a strength training program. There would also be a point of diminishing returns where you are no longer challenging the muscles and continuing to build strength as your body adapts to the cardio you're doing. You can only take cardio so far.

Edited by: JENNILACEY at: 6/28/2013 (07:48)
LEC358 SparkPoints: (11,135)
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6/28/13 7:37 A

Would you mind posting up the link to the study? This sounds interesting.

Though I will disagree that sports like swimming and martial arts don't fatigue your muscles. After a good session in the pool, my legs are so weak that it can take a bit of concerted effort to get out. But this occurs after about an hour of swimming laps so like the study you quoted, I'm working my muscles to fatigue, it just takes a long time because I'm not moving much weight around. I think higher weight/low reps is popular because it is more efficient (less reps = less time) and it forces me to use proper form. Just my $0.02.

Edited by: LEC358 at: 6/28/2013 (07:41)
TCANNO SparkPoints: (329,359)
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6/28/13 6:11 A

Going on what I have read most have said low weight and more reps
It must depend on the person whether more is best or more weight.

YOGAGEEK SparkPoints: (6,917)
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6/28/13 4:24 A

I recently read about a study done at McMaster a few years ago that tested the heavy weights/fewer reps vs. lower weights/higher reps thing, and they found that, as long as exercisers worked their muscles to fatigue, there was very little difference in strength gains between the two groups (one was lifting 80% of their maximum weight for 8-12 reps, the other 30% for 25-30 reps).

This got me thinking: what about activities that don't fatigue your muscles? Things like sports, martial arts, swimming, walking, etc. Naturally, the strength gains aren't going to be as rapid or as high as from working the muscles to fatigue, but personal experience tells me that these activities do build strength, so I'm wondering if there's any information on it, especially in comparison to the heavy weight/fewer reps standard.

Edited by: YOGAGEEK at: 6/28/2013 (09:07)
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