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Thibarmy Questions and Answers No.6

Articles / 10 March, 2017 / back, mind-muscle connection, muscle, rear deltoids, rhomboids

By Christian Thibaudeau

Here’s our Questions and Answers No.6!

QUESTION

Why do my larger muscles (chest back quads) respond better to higher reps methods like the Squat 30,20,15,15,15,30 method for compound movements than the Heavy Duty Method?

Eddie Suazo

 

ANSWER

First, I must commend you for your courage. Doing sets of 20-30 reps on squats is no joke!  As for your question, I personally have not seen great gains from such high reps for the chest or back, although supersets have always worked well for me for these two muscle groups. One could argue that a superset of two exercises will often give you 15-20 reps for one muscle group (8-10 per exercise), sometimes more, so the volume is fairly similar to straight sets of high reps.

Professor Zatsiorsky wrote that “a muscle fiber that is recruited but not fatigued is not being trained”. So muscle fiber fatigue is important, to some extent, in stimulating growth.

Of course, doing higher reps can lead to more fatigue, as does doing more sets. Regardless of how hard you train on a set (going to failure or beyond), you can’t create as much fiber fatigue from one set of medium (or low) reps as you do with several sets of higher reps.

A recent study has shown that if you go to failure using 30% of your max (so likely 30+ reps) or 80% of your max (6-8 reps), you will stimulate the same muscle growth. So, there is no question that longer sets work to build muscle. However, the same study also found that strength gains were much lower using 30%, even if the amount of muscle gained was the same.

Now, if you respond better to higher reps and more sets it is likely because you have less fast twitch fibers and more slow twitch ones. Slow twitch fibers are “fatigue-resistant” and you need a lot more work (per set and per workout) to fully fatigue them. Fast twitch fibers are stronger but fatigue faster and thus do not need a lot of volume to be stimulated. For example, one of the best athletes I’ve trained (bench pressed 425lbs and squatted 550lbs at a bodyweight of 173lbs, had a 40” vertical, a sub 4.30 40 yards dash, participated in the Olympics twice) was super fast twitch dominant and because of that he could only do a TOTAL of 6-9 work sets in a workout. Not for a muscle; for the whole workout! And never went above 5 reps per set. If he exceeded these numbers he would not recover and progress.

If you are slow twitch dominant, it is normal that you can’t grow from low volume; because you can’t fatigue the muscle fibers enough for them to be “trained”.

Now, why specifically the bigger muscles? Likely because the smaller ones are also trained when training the bigger ones. For example, if you are training “chest” with a high volume of bench pressing you are also training the triceps and deltoids because they play an important part in the bench press. When training back, the biceps and forearms are also getting trained.

As I mentioned, you must fatigue the muscle fibers to make them grow optimally, but you do not have to fatigue them using an exercise specific to that muscle. For example, if I am fatiguing the triceps by doing bench press I will not need to do a lot of isolation work for the triceps because the fibers in the triceps already have accumulated a lot of fatigue from training the chest. In fact, if you do a high volume of pressing you might not even need to directly train the triceps for them to grow.

So, it’s not that your smaller muscles are different from your bigger ones, it’s more that you are training the smaller ones with volume too when you have doing the big basic lifts.

— CT


QUESTION

First Thanks again for all this wonderful knowledge you share with us for free .

Now I have a question , do you have written articles or have any good information to share about shin splints? I used to lift , jump and run like crazy but now I can hardly even do anything.

Thanks for reading

Have a great day !

Adrien

 

ANSWER

I don’t really have an answer for you because I do not write about injuries or give injury advice online. I feel that it is irresponsible to do so without knowing and seeing the person, and also because I’m a coach/trainer, not a clinician.

I believe that a lot of coaches want to look like they know everything about the human body and they offer injury advice or worse, do manual therapy on their clients. Doing manual therapy when you are not accredited to do so (you must be a physical therapist, massage therapist, doctor or chiropractor… read up on “scope of practice”) is illegal. I know that a lot of coaches do it, they probably don’t know that it is illegal and clients don’t know either, but it is. And if ever something were to happen to the client, you would indeed be at fault.

Anyway, I digress.

As I mentioned I’m not specialized on injuries so my advice would not be any better that what you can read on the internet. So, I would suggest you consult a real specialist.

However, I can still give you a little something. You might be more prone to shin splints if…

1) You have recently gained weight (fat or muscle it doesn’t matter)

2) You have bad running mechanics (you might got away with it when you were younger but not anymore) or started up running recently and/or at long distance or high frequency

3) You have weak tibialis anterior or weak plantar muscles of the feet. You could train ankle flexion with resistance bands or strengthen your feet by doing “sand grabbing” (it’s exactly what it sounds like: put sand in a bucket and do set of 1 minute digging into and grabbing the sand with your toes).

4) Have unstable ankles. Dr. Joel Seedman has a lot of good exercises to improve ankle stability, I suggest that you look up his website.

5) Have a pro-inflammatory diet. Gluten, lots of omega-6 fatty acids (meat) without balancing it with omega-3s for example can created systemic inflammation which could increase the inflammatory response of the body, including shin splint.

RECOMMENDATIONS BY MAI-LINH DOVAN, THIBARMY FUNCTIONAL REHAB/PREHAB EXPERT

Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) are caused by repeated trauma to the connective tissue (periosteum) surrounding the tibia.  While the exact cause is sometimes difficult to pinpoint from your question, more often than not, they are the result of a sudden increase in intensity or frequency of activity, or biomechanical irregularities (or a combination of both, of course), both of which lead to increased stress on the periosteum.  Essentially, any component that fatigues the muscles of the lower leg too quickly to allow them to absorb forces increases the stress on the connective tissue surrounding the tibia, and this repetitive stress leads to the onset of shin splints.  This is why even a sudden and rapid weight gain, regardless of whether is it fat or muscle, can cause shin splints, as indicated by Coach Thibaudeau.

Repeated trauma to the periosteum can be caused by any of the following:

  • Biomechanical irregularities
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle imbalance (tightness/weakness of lower leg muscles/muscles of the feet)
  • Running uphill/downhill/on uneven terrain/on hard surfaces
  • Improper footwear
  • Repetitive jumping

As Coach Thibaudeau points out, and indeed of utmost importance, is that you need to consult the appropriate clinician who will take a thorough history and perform a complete examination.  For one, if you’ve already got full on MTSS, you will need treatment.  If not treated properly, MTSS can indeed become permanent.  Furthermore, if you hope to use a rehab strategy in the gym complementary to your treatment and to avoid reoccurrence, you need to have properly identified the cause of your MTSS.

Hope this helps!

— CT

Christian Thibaudeau

Written by Christian Thibaudeau

Christian Thibaudeau has been involved in the business of training for over the last 15 years. During this period, he worked with athletes from 28 different sports. He has been “Head Strength Coach” for the Central Institute for Human Per…