The Muscle System – the new focus uncovering missing links for growth

This series of articles (March – April 2015) covers the science of muscle development for physique transformation, and the coupling of technology with new training techniques for faster gains. Each article slowly builds upon the information from the previous)

Technology can be used to train according to your genetics.

The “usual” factors discussed when it comes to lifting weights are the somatotypes (ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph) and the muscle fibre types (fast-twitch and slow twitch)

Let’s look at myths, pull them apart and refine the solutions using technology.

The generalisations for body types (which we will question) typically are:

  • Ectomorphs are rather skinny, with small frames, small joints, and generally have trouble in putting on weight and in particular, gaining muscle.
  • Endomorphs have large frames, thick bones and joints, and gain weight easily
  • Mesomorphs have the “perfect” physique with broad shoulders, narrow waist, small joints, and a propensity to put on muscle by simply looking at a weight

And people believe that (read the following and then wipe them from your mind):

  • Ectomorphs should train heavy and get plenty of rest
  • Endomorphs should train light with higher reps
  • Mesomorphs are generally strong, with many fast-twitch fibers and should train moderate to heavy, but respond to anything – they put on weight easily so need to watch their diet, but not to the extreme of endomorphs

It’s easy to see how these myths can emerge – but it’s also just as easy to see how they can be wrong once we analyse the facts.

Debunking Muscle Fiber Myths

As we will see, knowing the ratios of fibre types will not help you to any degree.

The physical data regarding themuscle fibres themselves is correct and more easily substantiated with scientific evidence – the errors that arise in training guides are with the assumptions in associating them with the body types above – and the training assumptions that occur as a result. For example, muscle fiber “types” and their characteristics are facts – training guides are assumptions and paradigms.

Let’s instead forget about the muscle fiber types for now. We can’t since easily determine these anyway (in a living person who does not like the idea of having a steel object inserted and part of their muscle ripped away). A biopsy would reveal the ratios of FT and ST fibers, but would need to be done for every muscle in your body, and is not a pleasant experience.

As we will see, knowing the ratios of fiber types will not help you to any great degree anyway. You need to know how they perform and this is dependent on many other factors that we cannot easily measure individually. Technology can uncover these answers.  The best way to predict how a system will perform and to get the best output is not to predict based simply on a study of what is inside.

This works out great for you since you probably so not want someone trying to see what is inside each of your muscles.

The method is beautifully simple, and accurate.

Testing the system should be done under different conditions, or inputs – and checking the output for each “input”. This will give you the exact answer on the true performance of the entire system. The focus is taken off the individual components of the system and onto maximising the performance of the system as a whole.

For your muscle systems, the input and outputs are not simply weights and reps, as we will soon see.

Let’s use the car dyno tune example again.

When tuning a car, the mechanic doesn’t have to sit down beforehand and do reams of calculations based on measurements. Besides the rudimentary checks (spark plug gap is about right, ignition gap and timing is about right) they simply run the car on the dyno-tune and observe the readout on the computer. Then, by adjusting the various factors that control performance, they can “tune” the car to a desired output.

In effect, they’ll check the performance in multiples of configurations as they adjust the various controls – i.e. gap = 0.02, timing = 15 degrees, fuel = 92RON

It’s not just about the components; it’s how they interact with each other

The beauty of this type of approach is that it’s not just about the components, but also how they interact with each other. Keeping with the car dyno tune example, the fuel used also has an effect on motor performance – and will affect the settings required to get peak output. Using the method above, the mechanic does not even need to know what type of fuel is being used – the process takes that into account and “finds” the right combination with that particular fuel.

Technology can utilise this same holistic approach in gym training.

“Tune” your training with smart technology

Let’s take a systems approach to your muscle performance and see how the latest technology can help you “tune” your training to create the greatest response from your muscle system.

It’s not simply fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers as stated. Just as the car’s fuel can affect the performance and tuning of the engine, your muscle system components (cytoplasm, ATP, creatine, glycogen, oxygen capacity and efficiency, ATP-PC cycle, neurological control) affect how your entire muscle system performs. These elements affect the performance variables.

The performance of a car is generally measured as the output horsepower – and the torque. What is “good” performance for a vehicle will depend on the vehicle – for a tractor or diesel 4WD, it may be torque (the ability to pull heavy loads at low revs) – for a race-car, it may be high power at high revs.

For Muscle Conditioning, Horsepower = Work Capacity

Work Capacity is the ability of the muscle system to undergo a certain amount of work in a certain amount of time – but we also need to specify another criteria: How you lift the weight or perform the work.

This depends on your genetic make-up.

Unlike the car example above, you do not get the opportunity to choose whether you get a 4WD or a racecar. You can’t even tell what type of “car” you have, unlike the car example where it is obvious whether it’s a truck or a racecar.

This brings us back to the beginning – how we can train according to our genetics. Next time we’ll be looking at exactly how you can do this. But for now, we’ll leave you with our takeaway tips.

AMP Your Workout Smart Tips

  1. Lifting weights as a means of transforming a physique have not changed much in over 100 years. There are many myths and paradigms on what “works” – but the complete picture has been missing.
  2. Muscles should not be considered simply in terms of “muscles”, but as “muscle systems” – a complex array of components that make up the physical bulk as well as the performance.maximising the performance of the system as a whole.
  3. The key to muscle conditioning and physique transformation is to overload the muscle system to invoke a repair and compensation response – BUT – to date, the view and ideas of “overload” has been very limited.
  4. To properly assess and “tune” your training for maximum results, we need to track and optimize the proper factors – and they are not simply weights and reps.
  5. Technology can now provide a means of tracking ALL the variables that contribute to the stress or load on a muscle. How you lift the weights is critical (i.e. the actual loads placed on the muscle system) as well as the Work Rate

For more information, visit AMP Your AMP Your Workout provides the latest technology to optimise training and match it to our genetic strengths – for faster results.