Weight and Resistance Training - Muscle Questions




View Full Version : Muscle Questions


alaskanlaughter
01-19-2014, 04:15 PM
I love weight training...I've been working on it since last August...And I'm still confused...

I've been able to make gains on every single machine that I've worked out on, from biceps to leg press to back....everything...

Does this mean I'm gaining muscle? Am I gaining strength but my muscles are the same size? Am I gaining both strength AND muscle size? And does this affect my metabolism in any way?

For example, I started with a 180-pound leg press weights back in August and can now barely (but do-able) press 390 weights and am doing sets of reps between 310-370 pounds regularly....I've made gains from 15-pound bicep weights to 37-pound etc....


Chardonnay
01-19-2014, 04:22 PM
I would say you are definitely gaining strength and upping your metabolism at the same time. As for muscle size, have you done a before/after measurement? I know that as I increased my weights, I lost inches, especially around my calves, biceps/triceps and abs.

It takes more effort on your muscles when you lift weights, so you use more energy, and you continue to burn more energy longer after a weight training session than just with a cardio session.

nelie
01-19-2014, 04:56 PM
So muscles have inactive and active fibers. When you start weight training, the inactive fibers can become active but that doesn't really change their size. This means you get stronger without having muscles grow. Depending on hormones and what not, you can gain size and strength but we see this mostly in men due to testosterone.


alaskanlaughter
01-19-2014, 06:30 PM
thank you :) I think it makes more sense now

Defining
01-19-2014, 11:17 PM
Gonna throw in my two cents as well ;) ...this is a really fun question. And it gets technical pretty quickly. But to cover the basics (ish) ...

The important thing to keep in mind is that our bodies exist within spectrums; that is, there is no 'all or nothing', it's pretty much always 'mostly something'. Also, your body likes to be efficient.

To make things easier to explain, I'll talk about muscles in terms of 'fibres'. Just like when people talk about cutting 'against the grain' with a steak, or 'flaky' fish, our muscles are built in layers - or fibres. And the fibres are pretty much just big chains of protein.

There are two main types of fibres in your muscles. They are usually called Type I (slow twitch) and Type II (fast twitch - actually, there are types IIa and IIb, but we won't get into that today). Type I tends to do better with endurance work, or repetitive low-resistance contraction - like distance running, or high rep resistance work (as in, 18+ reps per set). And Type II tends to produce stronger contractions for shorter periods of time - like the heavy weight side of lifting (1-6 reps per set). Type I fibres are efficient in using oxygen to create energy (ATP) whereas Type II fibres create fuel without oxygen; this is where people get the terms aerobic and anaerobic activity (again, it's actually more complicated than that: IIa fibres can actually metabolize energy both aerobically and anaerobically, while IIb are exclusively anaerobic - but we're trying keeping things simple).

But this isn't an on/off switch; for short bursts of movement, it's mostly Type II fibres with a few Type I thrown in. And for more repetitive endurance work it's mostly Type I with Type II pitching in a teeny tiny bit. The further along either side of the spectrum (eg. 1 rep vs 30, or sprint vs marathon), the bigger difference in which fibres your muscles choose to recruit (use). Type II fibres tend to have a greater potential for growth, and are usually what people are talking about when discussing 'building muscle' in strength training.

To grossly generalize, there are several things that can happen in your muscle when you start to lift weights. A. Your body learns how to recruit more fibres at once (also sometimes called motor unit recruitment). B. Your body makes your fibres able to contract harder. C. Your body makes the fibres able to contract for longer. When you first start to lift weights, your muscles are forced to work harder (A), and very quickly they come to limit of what those fibres can accomplish. At which point, you undergo what's called hypertrophy - or an increase in muscle mass. This happens in two ways (B+C): your body adds more pieces that can contract to the fibres (B) so they can work harder, and your body adds more pieces that create energy in the fibres (C) so they can work longer. (C) tends to add more volume, and is often what people think they're talking about when using the term hypertrophy. Thinking logically, if you ask your muscles to work harder (ie. lift heavier weights) then your body will add more contracting bits (B) - but if you ask your muscles to work for a longer period of time (ie. lifting weights for more reps) then you body will add more energy bits (C).

So, actually, you are building your muscles whenever you increase the weight you move! The difference in how you SEE it in your muscles is affected by how your body adds to the fibres. This can be affected by 1.the type of exercise 2.the resistance and 3.how long your muscles work for. If you are using a full range of motion you actually get extra bits on the end of the fibres, so your muscles literally get longer! If you use a shorter range of motion, your body might add more 'side by side' contracting pieces to the fibres. Again, this is a spectrum; your body does both regardless, it just swings from one side to the other depending on the variables.

You will sometimes hear people talking about 'strength' lifting routines or 'hypertrophy' lifting routines. You'll even get different rep ranges recommended for each.

It's often said that for:
Strength, lift with 2-6 reps per set
OR
Hypertrophy, lift with 8-15 reps per set

This varies a bit depending on the muscle group, weight, individual, etc. And past the 15-18 rep mark, you're looking more at endurance work, or a greater focus on Type I fibres.

There are LOADS of different ways to structure your workouts; you can alternate rep ranges within your different weekly workouts, you can do 12 weeks of low reps and then switch to high reps, you can work in the middle range (5-10 reps). That is completely up to you, and the experimentation involved with what works best for YOU is half the fun! :)


If you want to continue to increase your strength (or muscle mass! ;)), you need to make sure you are always challenging your muscles. If you can lift a weight for 15 reps, but only do 6, you're not really challenging yourself. But, by the same token, it's not always a healthy thing to force yourself to do rep #7 if 6 is your absolute max with that weight (this is sometimes called 'lifting to failure', when you literally force your muscles to fail in their attempt to move the weight). Personally, I think it's healthier to lift until just before this (or when you can probably manage 1-2 more reps, but choose not to) so you don't burn out. How much you eat, and what you eat, also has a significant effect on building muscles and strength.

Being well hydrated, and/or supplementing with creatine, can also cause your muscles to 'swell'. This is just because there is more water in your cells and they literally get a bit bigger, but this is not considered to be hypertrophy.

Also, muscles have the potential to grow much faster than ligaments and tendons. While muscles produce the force to move your body and limbs, tendons are what hold the entire structure together, and they take on a great deal of stress to do so! That means that it's actually healthier to put on muscle at a gradual rate, because it allows your body the time to also develop your connective tissues; this keeps you stable, and helps prevent you from pulling or tearing stuff. Tendons (as far as I know) tend to respond better to the endurance side of the equation; that is, higher reps. The takeaway? Vary your workout routine to include both strength and endurance work, and don't be stupid about adding too much weight to your lifts at once. Connective tissue heals much slower than muscle, can be more painful to injure or irritate, and those sorts of injuries take WAY longer to heal than just straining a muscle - try not to do it :p. Regular mobility work and foam rolling also help prevent strains and tears long-term.

Women can put on muscle just as quickly as men; it's just that (as I understand it) we tend to have lower 'genetic ceilings' for muscle growth. Which is to say our genes don't want us to grow as big as men, and our hormones make it harder to go past a certain point. A caveat on the speed of female muscle building: while women can usually match lower body muscle growth to men's (think squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, etc.), men usually put on upper body muscle (push ups, pull ups/chinups, etc.) faster than women. Women also carry more essential fat ('cause of the whole baby making thing ;)), and will rarely show the same muscle definition as men because we have just a little bit more soft stuff. :)


alaskanlaughter, it sounds like you've made some pretty impressive gains, with the numbers you're talking about. After lifting with machines for a while, have you considered trying out some free weights? I like them because they allow for a more 'natural' range of movement, instead of restricting your body in the direction that the machine is built. Just a thought, anyway.


Erm, sorry for the essay. 'Hope this helps? :o


Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, dietician or even a fitness professional – I just read too much. Take the time to research any new fitness/diet strategies, and make sure they are SAFE and EFFECTIVE for YOU!

nelie
01-20-2014, 07:01 AM
Actually, I wasn't even thinking of slow twitch, vs fast twitch, I was thinking back to my anatomy class. Your muscle will only engage as many fibers as it needs for a certain task so you tend to have a lot of inactive muscle fibers unless you start weight lifting or any progressive load work.

Defining
01-20-2014, 12:03 PM
Ooops! :o Sorry nelie! Am I correct in thinking of muscle fibre engagement as similar to/same as motor unit recruitment?

alaskanlaughter
01-23-2014, 12:37 AM
wow thank you for the essay!! I didn't realize those responses to my question were there since I've been so busy lately :)

I choose not to do free weights because I am terrified of re-injuring my back...I've been sidelined from all activity often over the years because of ruptured discs in my lower back...I've been told by medical professionals that another ruptured disc (which could happen from coughing, it has before) would likely end up in me being medically flown to a bigger city for back surgery...I also have scoliosis and an extra vertebrae which makes my lower back a tangle

i'm not willing to risk another back injury....one wrong move with free weights could be disastrous...so I stick with the weight machines instead

Defining
01-23-2014, 06:04 PM
That is super legitimate; the only reason I asked was because some ladies are a little intimidated by the whole 'free weight' area, and I like to remind them it's a good option. :D

IanG
01-23-2014, 09:01 PM
My muscles only got bigger and I only started noticing increases in the weights I could lift when I started eating more and upping my protein. On my old, tiny, highly calorie restricted diets I was not making much progress other than just burning calories (so the scale would drop a little quicker). Now I am trying to delicately balance getting enough of the right stuff to eat to fuel my weight training with weight loss. It's not easy and slow going compared to those that can just eat what they want and "bulk" before going on a "cut". I am on a permanent "cut" but my calorie intake is higher than when I started my diet. I eat about 1700 calories a day now compared to probably about 1200 when I was heavier and started weight training. Still, I like to be able to lift heavier! It's nice to find a hobby in weight training and exercise rather than just shifting the pounds.

And I love free weights but the machines are just as good.

ReillyJ
01-24-2014, 04:41 PM
wow thank you for the essay!! I didn't realize those responses to my question were there since I've been so busy lately :)

I choose not to do free weights because I am terrified of re-injuring my back...I've been sidelined from all activity often over the years because of ruptured discs in my lower back...I've been told by medical professionals that another ruptured disc (which could happen from coughing, it has before) would likely end up in me being medically flown to a bigger city for back surgery...I also have scoliosis and an extra vertebrae which makes my lower back a tangle

i'm not willing to risk another back injury....one wrong move with free weights could be disastrous...so I stick with the weight machines instead

I'm glad you said this (although i prefer free to machine) because the huge push now (and probably legitimately so) is a lot more strength training and a lot less cardio which is doable for probably a hefty portion of the population but for people like you and me, it is not

i have knee problems to the point where i even had to quit walking outside, i now do a treadmill and no way can i do ANY lower body weights, even stretching can aggravate knee problems however i do upper body weights--sorry to butt in--just venting! :)

Defining
01-24-2014, 08:40 PM
It's an awesome point - thanks for pitching in, Reilly J. I'll admit, I often take for granted that I can generally move my body as I like (more or less ;)) without worrying about aggravating any cranky bits. I've actually caused shoulder problems for myself in the past, using machines - hence my strong bias for free weights. :D

I really appreciate the reminder that we all need to find our own lifestyles and choice of activity, that fit with our body and needs. Cheers ladies!

TooWicky
01-24-2014, 08:55 PM
Really appreciated this question being asked, and all the informative answers that followed.

I am an apple shape (although with weight loss it's not quite so exaggerated) and would like to build a bigger caboose, actually!

ReillyJ
01-24-2014, 10:17 PM
It's an awesome point - thanks for pitching in, Reilly J. I'll admit, I often take for granted that I can generally move my body as I like (more or less ;)) without worrying about aggravating any cranky bits. I've actually caused shoulder problems for myself in the past, using machines - hence my strong bias for free weights. :D

I really appreciate the reminder that we all need to find our own lifestyles and choice of activity, that fit with our body and needs. Cheers ladies!

oops, sorry, Defining,

i didn't mean it as a personal to you, i think i was just really lamenting that i can't do weights anymore and taking it out on the forum yesterday! Apologies!!

Defining
01-24-2014, 10:33 PM
Nono, I was serious! :) I am genuinely saying thank you. I can be a horrible know-it-all, and it's important (for me) to constantly remind myself that there is more than one right answer.

And you're allowed to vent! ;) If not here, where? Would love to pick your brain sometime about your own weight loss journey - it looks like you managed to hit your goal and then some! :)

ReillyJ
01-24-2014, 11:13 PM
Nono, I was serious! :) I am genuinely saying thank you. I can be a horrible know-it-all, and it's important (for me) to constantly remind myself that there is more than one right answer.

And you're allowed to vent! ;) If not here, where? Would love to pick your brain sometime about your own weight loss journey - it looks like you managed to hit your goal and then some! :)

Having knowledge and sharing it does NOT mean a know it all!!

i just wish there were answers for people like me who can't even do stretching w/out their knees hurting but i haven't found any :( Usually the rx for knees like mine is some kind of PT like modified weight training but even pilates hurts them BUT... i can do ab and upper body workouts, right?
So as not to hijack this thread even further:

http://www.3fatchicks.com/forum/goal-photo-album/278629-cant-believe-i-made-goal.html

alaskanlaughter
01-25-2014, 12:42 AM
you're not hijacking it! i'm in that same boat...where I can't just do free weights and not have constant fear of re-injuring myself....i'm soooo paranoid about that, especially after narrowly escaping back surgery in the past...I had to walk with a cane for almost a year while the chiropractors put my back together again and even now, it's nowhere near perfect, still twisted and one vertebrae is completely backwards

RideRunRepeat
01-25-2014, 06:45 AM
Wow *loving* all that I'm learning in this thread!! For the first time in my life I've been lifting (for the past 6 weeks) and it was fascinating to learn how that actually works! :D I've been able to get heavier by almost half on most of my leg weights and a third with my upper body.

I actually just read a very interesting article on Pinterest concerning the slow twitch vs. the fast twitch - but won't share unless you all want me to, so not to hijack the thread. :)

Defining - Really appriciated your post!! Really helped clear up a lot of stuff I had been confused about! :)

Defining
01-25-2014, 11:45 AM
RideRunRepeat, glad it was useful - and congrats on your strength gains!

nelie pointed out an important aspect of strength training as well - motor unit recruitment - that also contributes quite a bit to the whole process. It`s a whole different subject, separate from hypertrophy though -and I had kinda seen the OP`s question more about muscle gain.

But, if alaskanlaughter feels ok about it, we might be able to use this thread for people to talk about muscle development (and theory/science) in a more general sense. I`m also happy to start a new thread. :)

ReillyJ and alaskanlaughter; I am so sorry to hear that some movements are a struggle. I wish I had something more constructive to offer than that, but I'd just be parroting whatever I could find on google, for exercise modifications. Um, I'm sure you've both already spoken to physios/fitness people, but it might be worth explaining to a 'professional' that you're interested in exploring more resistance training - they might have a few suggestions of movements you can try without pain. But both of you have clearly figured out what works for you, and I am so impressed at your persistence to still remain physically active, despite the challenges. Wow.

alaskanlaughter
01-25-2014, 08:35 PM
i'm fine with whatever you all want to add to the thread :) I've never found a place to talk about weight machines and the additional information about resistance training that doesn't involve free weights...so add anything you want on any pertinent topic :)

Chardonnay
01-25-2014, 09:14 PM
I tore my left rotator cuff in 2005, then in 2006 the surrounding muscles, my posterior deltoid, upper pec, tricep and traps...as those were healing, I was overusing my right side, and ended up pulling my right deltoid, pec and trap. I couldn't afford therapy, so it took nearly a year and a half to heal. Well, not fully heal because there probably is still scar tissue.

In reference to your back Alaskanlaughter, I know exactly that fear. I only started doing shoulder exercises THIS year. I was terrified. I started ultra slow, just shoulder flyes, 2 lbs in each hand, and 6 reps, 2 sets. I'm up to 5lbs after 8 months and I stretch like mad after.

If you're not comfy with free weights, the machines are fine. Free weights will isolate the muscles, and sometimes that's not a good thing depending on our body's injuries and weak points. I honestly doubt I'll ever have the courage to lift more than 5lbs.

Defining
01-27-2014, 06:30 PM
Chardonnay, it's interesting that you find free weights to isolate muscle groups more. I generally find that it's the opposite for me, but that's one of the fun things about all of us having slightly different bodies. :p And I'm sorry to hear about your injury; rotator cuff issues take AGES to heal. I'm impressed you're still lifting!

alaskanlaughter, have you ever tried playing around with bands? They're kind of a grey area between machines and free weights. Also, if you don't mind sharing, which machines do you enjoy using? I had a bad experience with machines when I was younger, and so have studiously avoided them since - but now you've piqued my curiosity again. Oooh, or have you tried bodyweight exercises?! Those can also be fun/awesomely difficult. :) If you're worried about your back, do you focus on developing the stabilizing muscle, or do you choose to avoid the entire muscle group? Sorry for all the questions, I just find it interesting!

ReillyJ - I was thinking about your issue with exercises involving knees, the other day. Have you tried using rhodiola for stress/fatigue or omega-3's for the underlying inflammation? I obviously can't specifically recommend anything, I've just read some really interesting literature on those two; they might be worth looking at. Also, potentially underwater workouts might help provide resistance without pain?

The actual reason I'm posting ;) is actually because I remembered another nifty tidbit about muscles and resistance training. Because women literally can't put on as much muscle as men (without steroids or hormone supplements), we also don't have the capacity to overwhelm our nervous system to the same degree. What this translates to is that women tend to be able to A) complete slightly higher rep sets B) maintain better form during higher rep sets than men and C) recover faster between sets and workouts. This is handy information because so many of the weight lifting routines out there are targeted at guys - for women, sometimes it's actually more effective to add 1-2 reps to equivalent routines targeted at male muscle development.

Kinda nifty, hey? :D

alaskanlaughter
01-29-2014, 12:47 AM
alaskanlaughter[/B], have you ever tried playing around with bands? They're kind of a grey area between machines and free weights. Also, if you don't mind sharing, which machines do you enjoy using? I had a bad experience with machines when I was younger, and so have studiously avoided them since - but now you've piqued my curiosity again. Oooh, or have you tried bodyweight exercises?! Those can also be fun/awesomely difficult. :) If you're worried about your back, do you focus on developing the stabilizing muscle, or do you choose to avoid the entire muscle group? Sorry for all the questions, I just find it interesting!


I haven't tried the bands although they look interesting and haven't really done bodyweight exercises either....These are the machines I'm using right now and the weights at them:

bicep curls 3 sets/10 reps at 37.5 pounds (using both arms at the same time)
seated cable row 3/10 at 60
inner thighs (adductor maybe?) 3/10 at 180
outer thighs (abductor??) 3/10 at 100
obliques (a seated pull where you twist your torso) 3/10 at 65
ab crunch (seated where you pull weights forward) 4/12 at 75
seated chest press 3/10 at 92.5 (pushing with both arms at the same time)
back extension (pushing backwards against weights) 4/12 at 190
seated leg press 1/12 at 310, 1/12 at 330, 1/12 at 350, 1/10 at 370 and 3 reps at 390

this plus stretching takes about 45 minutes

EDIT to add: i'm working on strengthening my abs, core and upper and lower back muscles in the hopes that it will prevent or minimize anything else from occurring

Defining
02-02-2014, 06:35 PM
Holy geez, now I feel lazy. :( I really enjoy band/bodyweight stuff because it's A) cheap and B) more or less impossible to drop heavy stuff on yourself ;). Personally, I have horrible posture, so I make it a priority in my workouts to target the upper back (pulling) and posterior chain (glute). I've never heard of the back extension machine before....hmmm...(off to research :))

Are you working obliques for stability, or just as an extra exercise? Have you experimented with any erector spinae specialized movements? (eg. seated good morning, single arm rows, etc.)

alaskanlaughter
02-02-2014, 09:55 PM
Holy geez, now I feel lazy. :( I really enjoy band/bodyweight stuff because it's A) cheap and B) more or less impossible to drop heavy stuff on yourself ;). Personally, I have horrible posture, so I make it a priority in my workouts to target the upper back (pulling) and posterior chain (glute). I've never heard of the back extension machine before....hmmm...(off to research :))

Are you working obliques for stability, or just as an extra exercise? Have you experimented with any erector spinae specialized movements? (eg. seated good morning, single arm rows, etc.)

I haven't experimented with any of those and not sure what they really are...I do obliques because it's a core muscle group and I feel like my back needs all the help it can get LOL

katerina11
02-03-2014, 11:09 AM
Also, muscles have the potential to grow much faster than ligaments and tendons. While muscles produce the force to move your body and limbs, tendons are what hold the entire structure together, and they take on a great deal of stress to do so! That means that it's actually healthier to put on muscle at a gradual rate, because it allows your body the time to also develop your connective tissues; this keeps you stable, and helps prevent you from pulling or tearing stuff. Tendons (as far as I know) tend to respond better to the endurance side of the equation; that is, higher reps. The takeaway? Vary your workout routine to include both strength and endurance work, and don't be stupid about adding too much weight to your lifts at once. Connective tissue heals much slower than muscle, can be more painful to injure or irritate, and those sorts of injuries take WAY longer to heal than just straining a muscle - try not to do it :p. Regular mobility work and foam rolling also help prevent strains and tears long-term.



first, nice write up on muscle growth, defining. :)

and to add to this... did you see what just happened to brandon lily? so depressing. he is not natty, so obviously that was a huge contributing factor to his accident. his quads completely separated from his knees. he is likely permanently out of the game. he has come back from injury before, but none so devastating...

http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/node/27108

http://youtu.be/2U2KPXrfai4

it made my stomach drop to watch it.