OverviewThere are three mechanisms that play a role in building more muscle, namely:
- Muscle tension
- Metabolic stress
- Muscle damage
Now a common misconception is that these factors correlate with the amount of weight you lift, however this is not the case. A good example would be a powerlifter who can lift heavier weights compared to a bodybuilder which is weaker, but has a more muscular physique. This example is a very important reason as to why you may want to shift your focus to how you’re lifting weights.
1. Muscle TensionThis is the most important area of concern as it plays a role in both the amount of metabolic stress and muscle damage that will occur. The key here is to generate muscle tension by contracting the muscle through a full range of motion, ensuring that constant tension is being placed on the muscle. In order to generate as much tension as possible one must not rest between reps as it is a constant process of stretching the muscle (eccentric) and contracting the muscle (concentric).
2. Metabolic StressWhen you understand tension, it makes it easier to apply the other mechanisms of muscle growth. Metabolic stress tends to be that “feeling” you get when your muscles become exhausted. Call it the pump or a burn, this process which includes a lack of oxygen going to your muscles and metabolic by-products like lactate building up along with blood, doesn’t just remind you that you’re training hard it also plays a role in hypertrophy. This is where the importance of the pump occurs. Metabolic stress triggers a process that ultimately results in your muscle cells being “turned on” for growth, potentially increases in cellular swelling and more water being pulled into the muscle cell.
3. Muscle DamageAs for muscular damage, this happens in many ways. In the simplest sense just lifting weights will cause damage (the good kind) that forces muscle to repair itself and grow back bigger and denser. But after you’ve been weightlifting for a while you’ll need to repeatedly find ways to challenge your muscles if you want them to keep growing as to continually ensure that muscle damage is occurring one will need to apply a variety of techniques such as changing the tempo and exercises.
ConclusionIt is important to note that all three aspects of muscle growth are interrelated. As muscle tension whilst using heavier weights can cause muscle fiber damage that allows for swelling and metabolic stress to occur. Muscle tension using lighter weights and more time under tension triggers metabolic stress, during which blood can’t escape your muscles quick enough which helps promote growth. Tension using moderate weight for more reps or different exercises ignites both metabolic reactions and damage. In other words, if you want to grow you need to look at the bigger picture and use several tactics and not just hope that showing up in the gym will translate to bigger biceps.
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