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Muscle soreness and the importance or lack of it is one of the most contested aspects of working out. Some will argue that muscle soreness plays no role in muscle growth and is not a requirement for building muscle. While it might be easy to see why that conclusion was drawn, it fails to consider the fact that the other two mechanisms for growth are likely not going to provide an unending stimulus for new size. Ultimately, you are going to have to resort to other methods of training.
In this video, I discuss the three major stimuli for creating muscle growth and for building new muscle. One of these is the use of eccentric loading in order to create mechanical damage to either the muscle fibers themselves or the connective tissue around the muscles (depending on which research you read). Either way, it is the mechanical disruption that takes place during the high tension lengthening of a muscle as in eccentric contraction that sparks the need for repair, resynthesis and regrowth.
The downside to this mechanism of growth however is that the soreness that is created can ultimately impede your ability to perform your next workout or train with a high enough intensity to see much progress from your next workout. Which is why the argument is often made in error that you do not need to use this pathway. Instead, you can simply train with sub maximal loads and create a metabolic overload or you can pursue overload via getting stronger or by increasing your volume.
It isn’t that easy however. You see, if you pursue the method of progressive overload you run into a wall within a rather short period of time. If the gains you are seeing for example are coming from neurological adaptations that are improving your ability to lift heavier weights, those will begin to slow down as soon as you become adequately efficient at performing the lift. From there, you will need to rely on the act of adding more weight to the bar to produce your strength gains and ultimately size gains.
The problem with this assumption is that you will never be able to keep doing this on end. At some point your progress will slow dramatically and you will not be able to rely on new strength at every workout.
This may lead you to turn to lighter loads and the metabolic overload that comes from training deep into the burn of a muscle while taking your sets to failure. Occlusion training is one of the more popular mechanisms of sparking growth along this metabolic pathway. The advantage of lighter loads is that you can take it easy on your joints while still seeing the benefits of new muscle gains. The downside? This type of training is brutal and downright uncomfortable. In order to do this right you have to embrace the pain that you feel during these sets and resist the urge to give in. Just at the moment when you want to stop your set is the time when the real benefits begin here.
If moderate loads with higher volume becomes your tactic for gaining new muscle you need to be cautioned about that as well. As a physical therapist, I can tell you that the largest amount of gym training injuries and issues that keep people from training are due to overuse. High volume puts you on the fast track to experiencing that first hand. In fact, when you combine the fact that sub optimal form is used on many exercises that are being used for higher volume, it quickly becomes apparent why this can become a problem.
The bottom line is, your training plan needs to incorporate all of these methods of growth. Saying that you will not need to create soreness to gain muscle is overlooking the fact that ultimately, you cannot continue to make gains without accessing all three pathways. This includes the eccentric overload and soreness inducing path of mechanical damage. If you are looking for a program that puts all of these techniques to use at the right times with the right loads, head to //athleanx.com and use our program selector to find the program best suited to your physique goals.
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