How Bodybuilding Training Works

How Bodybuilding Training Works

Imagine you have a barbell in your hands and you press it up over your head. Several things happen at once: First, the muscles of the shoulder (the deltoids) lift your arms upward; then the muscles at the back of the upper arm (the triceps) contract and cause the arms to straighten. Any workout you make, whether pressing a weight overhead, walking, or simply talking, is the result of any number of complex combinations of muscle contractions.

The action of individual muscle fibers, on the other hand, is quite simple - a fiber contracts when stimulated and relaxes when the stimulation ceases. Contraction of an entire muscle is the result of the contraction of many tiny, individual muscle fibers. Fibers contact on an all-or-nothing basis. That is, they always contract as hard as they can, or they don't contract at all. However, after a series of contractions a fiber begins to get tired and the amount of effort it can generate diminishes. When you lift a maximum amount of weight one time, you use only a fraction of the total amount of fiber in the muscle. The amount of weight you can lift is determined by three things: 1) how much fiber you are able to recruit; 2) how strong the individual fibers are; 3) your lifting technique.

When you do only one or two repetitions of a lift, your body never gets a chance to recruit fresh fiber to replace what is getting weak and tired. Weightlifters learn to recruit an unusually large number of fibers in one maximal lift. But they put such an immense strain on those fibers that the body adapts and protects itself by making those fibers bigger and thicker. This is called fiber hypertrophy.

No matter how many fibers the weightlifter involves in one maximal lift, he still uses fewer than he would if he used less weight and did more repetitions. Therefore, he trains and strengthens only part of the muscle structure. Also, the weightlifter does a limited number of different kinds of lifts, so there are many angles at which the muscle is never trained at all.

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