When it comes to stimulating new muscle growth, high intensity training is vital. If you continue lifting the same amount of weight for the same number of reps, or approach your weight training program half-heartedly, you will not see much in muscle gains.
Muscle is stimulated to increase in size when it is stressed beyond its current level of endurance. When muscle fibers grow to a point then it will plateau if that is all it is hit with during further workouts. However, hit those same muscles intensely with an extra 5 pounds at your next training session and it will break them down and stimulate them to increase in size so they’re prepared to handle that extra weight again the next time.
Even when bodybuilders get a pump during a workout, it doesn’t mean that they have created new muscle growth. This is especially true for those who have been working out regularly for some time. Pumps can be “felt” when your muscles have expanded to their previous growth level to meet the demand of the previous stress. However, that pump doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve pushed your muscles to failure and breakdown so they increase in size. Bottom line, the more muscle growth you achieve, the more intense the workouts need to be to push the limits and stimulate new muscle growth.
Workout intensity can be achieved in more than one way. Here are some high intensity training techniques which you can incorporate into your workout routine to stimulate new muscle growth.
Volume training has been used successfully by a host of well known bodybuilders, although there has always been a bit of tit-for-tat argument over how much volume gets the best results. For example, bodybuilder Mike Mentzer relied on 1-4 sets which he would perform to muscle failure while “big guns” Arnold Schwarzenegger swore by hitting each body part with 20-25 sets. Of course, both achieved award-winning results.
However, when you look at the science of hypertrophy, evidence suggests the best growth occurs when high intensity training is coupled with high volume training. This is particularly true in the stimulation of greater muscle gains through hyperplasia, or the increase in muscle cell numbers. Low volume training may stimulate greater muscle inflation, but high volume training will also add more muscle cells, which increases overall muscle volume.
Hormonal release can also be manipulated through volume training. The endocrine system is responsible for releasing growth hormones and is stimulated through such training. Therefore, volume training can be used to create an optimal environment for both adrenal and testosterone hormone stimulation.
The problem with high volume training is that it is far easier to experience overtraining. It’s true that extra volume increases anabolic hormone production. However, performing too many sets can backfire, decreasing both free testosterone and luteinizing hormones.
Overtraining with volume exercises can also engage a cortisol problem. Small amounts of cortisol trigger the release of growth hormones, which are dispatched to repair damaged muscle tissue. However, if you continue high volume training over a prolonged amount of time, too much cortisol can be released that can trigger a catabolic response that deteriorates muscle tissue instead of building it.
Although high volume workouts are necessary to stimulate increased muscle gains, they can also lead to overtraining if prolonged. Low volume exercises are also useful in that they give your muscles a break while still training them, helping to avoid overtraining problems. Therefore, the best rule of thumb is to mix both high and low volume training exercises for maximum overall results in muscle mass gains.
Volume training focuses on how many sets you expose each body part to during exercise. Load training focuses on the amount of weight used for each repetition and is another important element for inducing hypertrophy. By using both heavy and light loads, you can maximize muscle size as well as increase bone density through load bearing exercises.
Studies have revealed that lifting around 85% of your 1 rep maximum (1RM) results in the most hypertrophy stimulation. This is due to the muscles being brought to near failure or complete failure, which stimulates greater muscle growth. However, muscle failure can be achieved through lifting both light and heavy loads and, actually, each has its place in stimulating hypertrophy because there are actually two types of hypertrophy.
Myofibril hypertrophy is the increase in size and number of the inner myosin filaments that make up muscle tissue. This type of hypertrophy is best induced through the use of heavy weight. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in the amount of fluids surrounding the myosin filaments, which feed them protein, energy, electrolytes, etc. This type of hypertrophy is best induced through the use of lighter weights lifted for more repetitions.
Bottom line is that if you want to continue making muscle gains, you have to progressively overload your muscles in order to stimulate them to new muscle growth. Whether you use low reps of heavy weight or high reps of medium to light weight, hitting your maximum rep weight is essential and, actually, both should be included in a successful weight training program.
When it comes to stimulating new muscle growth, you should incorporate both volume and load into a high intensity workout program in order to meet all your muscle mass requirements. It may take some time to experiment and to effectively apply the right balance of weight and sets into your fitness program, but the effort will be worth it since it will maximize your workout potential and help prevent overtraining.