We all know that there are NO shortcuts in bodybuilding beyond super nutrition, super training (and of course, super steroids). But, in recent years, a few studies have suggested a quicker road to muscle size and strength. As example in occlusion training, which I've briefly mentioned in prior editions of Planet Muscle.
Occlusion training involves a minor disruption of blood flow to a working muscle through use of a special cuff device. This blunting of blood flow may subsequently increase intramuscular metabolism and local anabolic hormone release. One study revealed a 290% increase of GH over baseline. Occlusion training was initially developed (and/or expanded) by a Japanese bodybuilder. He discovered it by chance, while recuperating from an injury. He called the system Kaatsu.
A few studies on this type of training even with only as 15-20% of one's maximum one rep load may work because training with partially-restricted blood flow for whatever reason, activates more type-2 fibers and these are amenable to growth.
Training raises core body temperature where more energy is released by ATP, adenosine triphosphate in muscle. ATP is the base energy for muscular contraction. Food calories are converted into ATP in the cells.
When you raise body temperature during exercise, you also release more specific stress-modulating proteins aptly named 'Heat shock protein-HSP'. These help protect cellular integrity from the effects of stress inducing intense exercise. From and exercise standpoint, they also are involved in maintaining androgen cell receptors for muscle hypertrophy.
In initial studies, Japanese researchers found that subjects who engage in light intensity exercise, accompanied by external heat, get increased size and strength (in this case, arm muscles). The researchers argue for an anabolic effect from applied heat directly to muscle, due to activating an insulin-related anabolic signaling pathway which augments muscle size and strength. Their most recent study on the subject utilized only 8 males. They did no training.
Special heat sheets were developed and placed over their thighs. This raised the intramuscular temperature of their quadriceps way up. After 28 days, their average quad strength was up 5.8% and muscle size increased by about 6%. The researchers suggest the applied heat may have increased the myo-nuclear number, thereby increasing muscle protein synthesis for more size and strength. This is exactly what happens with normal training and training plus steroids.
I think the point is to keep your muscles warm before and during training. You may consider taking a hot shower or bath before training.
Many champs go cool. Reg Park, Arnold's inspiration, while training in England and who was thrice Mr.Universe (51, 58, and 65) and a big-screen Hercules did so in an unheated garage while he wore 3 pairs of sweats. (Reg passed a few years ago at 79 from melanoma skin cancer). One recent study required that 15 men and 15 women stand in a cool chamber for ten sessions 3 minutes in length. The chamber was very cold. With post-tests, the study suggested that while exposure to cold did nothing for aerobic oxygen uptake, anaerobic capacity increased (only in male subjects). This may have been due to an increase in the activity of energy-producing pathways, as well as increased norepinephrine, release (both tapping into stored body fat for energy). No suggestion was given for the women not responding.
Other studies in colder temperatures suggests that growth hormone release, (which may be increased during exercise) is blunted. Whether GH, (post-maturity), actually works in building more size and strength has never been firmly proven with adequate independent, replicated studies. But, most scientists do agree that increased GH increases fat burning g for energy, as compared to carbohydrate during exercise.
Training in very cold conditions is problematic for those with exercise-induced asthma (the lungs become constricted from exposure to cold air, impeding breathing), those with a history of vascular problems, or those with osteoarthritis.
Some recent studies show that men exposed to very cold temperatures boost production of something called adiponectin - (by 23 to 70%) . This is a special protein secreted by fat cells. Fat cells are not just dormant blobs of storage goo, but are active and fat cells can be inflammatory. Adiponectin is a 'white-hat' fat. It in anti-inflammatory and boosts insulin sensitivity and fat oxidation. Exercise normally has little or no effect on adiponectin release, but cold does. In fact, in his book, 'The Four Hour Body,' Timothy Ferris claims that he lost a significant amount of fat by adding three 10-minute cold showers a day, to his existing training and diet. If so, this may have something to do with a substance known as BAT or brown adipose tissue. BAT, unlike the usual white adipose tissue found all over the body, is highly thermionic due to the presence of increased mitochondria and the chemical 'uncoupling' of certain proteins there. This results in increased fat oxidation of fat to heat. Until recently, scientists believed that BAT disappeared after infancy, after keeping newborns at the right temperature. Recent research shows that BAT is more prevalent than believed and that adults can increase BAT through cold exposure, Ferris might have increased fat-burning with cold showers via increased BAT!
Both heat and cold can enhance training and both, greatly influence injuries. Post injury, ice/cold is usually applied to decrease bleeding and inflammatory swelling and pain. In most cases, heat should not be applied for about 48-72 hours after and initial injury. But now look at it all this way -- both cold and heat help you grow bigger muscle faster!
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