The Laws of Muscle Building

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The Laws of Muscle Building

By: Robbie Durand

The other day, I was watching a documentary about the world class runner, Roger Bannister.  Bannister was the first person to run a mile under 4 minutes; he set a world record time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. It’s a record that many people thought would kill him or anyone else who tried to attempt it.  That’s right, scientists were telling him it was impossible and that the lungs and heart would not be able to handle the stress.  It’s was interesting how Bannister trained to break the world 1-mile record, he trained for half an hour a day, doing intense speed workouts. He used a pacer and his time went down. This revolutionary type of training was much different than the protocols that other athletes looking to break the mile were using, which was jogging for distance.  Bannister took five days’ rest – with no running – before the race itself and was schoolboy-fresh for his barrier-breaking effort.  His training seemed unorthodox at the time, but it revolutionized the science of running.

Periodization

In the early 60,’s by Soviet scientists were using training periodization for high-performance athletes in the former USSR.  The training periods are the key functions in the traditional periodization training because they split the macrocycles into different parts:

  • Preparation period (“base training”)
  • Competition period (event specific training and the competition season)
  • Recovery period (for recovery)

There are now several ways to perform periodization, in the beginning, it was strictly linear periodization, in which you would start relatively lite training and work your way to heavier weights.  Image squatting and every week you add a 2 and a half pound weight to your lift.  In the newest edition of Sports Medicine, researchers put a compelling article tilted, “Benefits and Limitations of Block Periodized Training Approaches to Athletes’ Preparation: A Review.”  The review paper states that non-linear periodization, which involves altering training variables from day-to-day or from week-to- week such that all training variables are used similarly within short periods of time is superior for increasing muscle mass and strength compared to linear periodization. The reviewer concluded that the linear periodization approach to block periodization is only well-suited to those athletic sports that require only one superior quality, such as the jumping events in track and field. In contrast, the non-linear approach to block periodization is better suited to other sports that require multiple different qualities, including aerobic endurance, strength, size, power, and agility.

Linear Periodization

Non-Linear Periodization

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Based on a previous study, undulating or non-linear periodization is superior for increasing strength compared to the classic periodization model.  Researchers examined the effect of non-linear or undulating periodization to the traditional periodization model.  The two groups workouts were essentially the same; the only difference was the order and structure were just different. At the end of the study, the non-linear or undulating periodization group experienced almost exactly double the results.  When comparing the non-linear or undulating periodization group to the classic periodization group, here were the results: 28.8% vs. 14.4% improvement on the bench press, and 55.8% vs. 25.7% improvement on the leg press.

 

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Young adult man doing cable fly in gym.

A new study in the published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reports that undulating periodization works best for increasing strength. The researchers concluded that a non-linear, weekly undulating periodization model may be superior to a block or linear periodization model in a 10-week resistance training program for increasing maximum lower body strength, size and jumping performance in resistance trained athletes. Researchers compared the effects of resistance training utilizing block periodization (BP) and weekly undulating model (WUD) on maximal strength and hypertrophy in recreational strength trained athletes. Seventeen recreationally trained athletes were randomly assigned to either a block periodization group or a weekly undulating model group.

 

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At the end of the study, the results revealed that both block periodization and weekly undulating model groups made significant increases in strength and power, but improvements in lower body strength were significantly greater in the weekly undulating model group (+ 27.7 %) compared to block periodization group (+ 15.2 %).

 

Participants of both groups trained three days a week for ten weeks. Block periodization and weekly undulating model programs used the same exercises and the difference between the two programs were in the distribution of the training volume within each training phase. The block periodization group was subdivided into two 5-week sections, comprising a hypertrophy section (high volume, low relative load) and a strength section (low volume, high relative load). The non-linear program varied these parameters from one week to the next, training using a different scheme each week, in two similar 5-week sections.  Anthropometric measures and strength testing were performed before (PRE) and after ten weeks (POST) of training. At the end of the study, the results revealed that both block periodization and weekly undulating model groups made significant increases in strength and power, but improvements in lower body strength were significantly greater in the weekly undulating model group (+ 27.7 %) compared to block periodization group (+ 15.2 %). Both groups significantly increased arm muscle hypertrophy, whereas improvements in thigh muscle size were significant in the weekly undulating model group only (+ 5.8 %). Results of this study indicate that the weekly undulating model is more effective than the block periodization model for increasing maximal strength and muscle size in the lower body in women. The researchers concluded that a non-linear, weekly undulating periodization model may be superior to a block periodization model in a 10-week resistance training program for increasing maximum lower body strength, size and jumping performance in resistance trained females.

Bartolomei S, Stout JR, Fukuda DH, Hoffman JR, Merni F. BLOCK VERSUS WEEKLY UNDULATING PERIODIZED RESISTANCE TRAINING PROGRAMS IN WOMEN. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Mar 23. [Epub ahead of print]

Rhea MR, Ball SD, Phillips WT, Burkett LN. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 May;16(2):250-5.

Issurin V. (2008) Block periodization versus traditional training theory: a review. J Sports  Med Phys Fitness 48(1):65-75.

Issurin V. (2010). New horizons for the methodology and physiology of training periodization.  Sports Med. 40(3): 189-206.

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