Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Capacity For Strength

Super slow training is excellent for gaining mass. I gained four pounds in the last three weeks. But big muscle is not necessarily strong muscle. To get a positive net effect from these gains I’m going to need to teach these bigger muscles how to perform.

Society has a misconception about mass, thinking it automatically means athletic. But many big guys aren’t strong, at least in an efficient way. Hypertrophy training makes muscles grow but it doesn’t force recruitment of high threshold muscle cell motor units. So while a larger muscle has more capacity for strength, it needs to be trained differently in order to become strong.

All athletes need to do some sort of power training in order to maximize their physiology for sport. Even endurance athletes and those who don’t need to perform, like bodybuilders. These latter groups won’t target power because their goals lie in other realms but it needs to be a component in their training because muscular efficiency (power) increases its ability to be trained toward other goals. For example, distance runners who take a cycle to train power always see more improvement than those who train the same way all of the time. Ditto for bodybuilders who only care about size and not muscular performance. They will still benefit from some power training because it increases the capacity for more hypertrophy.

Power athletes are the easiest example to use to explain this because their sports are all about getting as close to 100% muscular efficiency as possible. What sets two powerlifters with the same size muscles apart? Technique and mindset, sure, but what about when these are equal? It comes down to muscular efficiency; the ability to fire every cell of every muscle. And the only way to train for this is to use explosive movements. At P3 last week Marcus said, “We don’t do any slow training whatsoever.” This is because it has no application for power sports, which is what they work with.

Here is a very simple example to understand. A friend of mine was an All American football player as a junior in high school. In order to “get better” he went on the juice and gained a lot of mass over the summer. He was huge and looked like a monster. But because he did not understand the importance of power training, and just assumed his large muscles would be stronger, he ended up getting slower. He lost a step in the 40 and went from All American to 2nd team All League and, hence, from a D1 scholarship to a D2 walk-on player. He did, however, look more impressive on the beach.

So now that I’ve spent a few months getting larger muscles, all I’ve effectively done is increased my capacity for strength. If I can effectively train these larger muscles to be as efficient as my smaller muscles were I’ll see performance improvement. Otherwise I’m just, to borrow Jack LaLanne’s term, a muscle bound charlatan.

pic: sometimes big is enough. wfh author largo puts his size to the test, hoping it's enough to intimidate a tribe of headhunters.

No comments: