Creatine Super Feature - Part 3: Creatine And The Muscle Fiber Connection.

In this part I will take you through a short course in the science of weight training (resistance training) as it relates to muscle fiber development and bio-energetics. What type do you want/have? All of this and more right here.

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Part 3:
Creatine and the Muscle Fiber Connection

In this part I will take you through a short course in the science of weight training (resistance training) as it relates to muscle fiber development and bio-energetics. Familiarizing yourself with some of these terms and concepts will help provide an understanding of the link between resistance training, nutrition, muscle fiber development and how creatine supplementation fits in.

I also want you to know some of the basic muscle physiology and biomechanics concepts, and the underlying reasons of how and why certain types of exercise will condition your body (muscles) in different ways. I will also explain to you how creatine fits in to the muscle fiber picture, and how it works at the biochemical level of muscle function.

Confusion Abounds About Resistance Training (Exercise)

Puzzlement about resistance training is still too common despite the advancements in resistance training science. It is more common to see people who are training ineffectively with weight lifting equipment, than to see people who are training correctly for specific strength and muscle building goals; seems unbelievable but true.

What Is The Point Of Resistance Training?
What is the point of resistance training and do you need it to build muscle? Find out here...
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There are a few reasons for this. First, it's human nature to want to do it yourself. So, armed with a little bit of knowledge, most people try to copy what the so-called experts are doing and make-up their own weight training program. In most cases these programs are not based on science or proven principles, or might not even be suitable for your specific goal.

I am not suggesting that you should not or could not customize your own weight training routine. By all means do so, but do your homework to make sure that you are following a program that is scientifically based, and both safe and effective to get the best results for your exercise effort and level of fitness. For example, following a resistance training program that bodybuilders follow may get you bigger muscles, but might not get you the specific type of strength development you need to be better at your sport.

Another common mistake is that people try all sorts of crazy exercise variations, which in most cases puts them at risk and leads to more exercise related injuries. They put themselves in extreme positions, attempting to shock or "isolate" the muscles in contorted ways. Don't do this.

In the end, a contorted weight training program is counterproductive and will lead to injury, and yield inefficient results. Stick to the basic resistance training exercises that are proven to work the muscle groups most effectively.

So Many Exercises

    You may have asked yourself, why are there so many different weight training programs published in books and magazines? Perhaps it is because there are so many different types of machines, free weights and exercise program possibilities. Some programs are better than others.

    Which Exercises Are The Best For Fast Results?
    In weight training, there is a variety of exercises that one can choose from to sculpt the body of your dreams. Find out which exercises work best for fast results!

    The good ones are based on solid exercise science. They offer clarity for the reader to help them achieve their personal goals.

    As you get more advanced in your training, you will be ready to add some new exercises so reading how others have achieved their performance-fitness goals in your sport may help you to stay on target, or enable you to discover something new to try. In addition, learning about the scientific insights from research studies is also very important.

    When you take a close look at the exercises, the repetitions and sets, there is an underlying similarity among effective weight training methods.

    In other words, most of the best athletes are training in a similar way, the scientific way. The key to effective resistance training is to follow the best routines that will help you achieve your specific goals, within the least amount of time.

    Keep mind that professional strength athletes use the same resistance training equipment as everyone else. Everybody follows the same principles of exercising different muscle groups using repetitions and sets.

    Different body parts may be trained the same days or on different days. Resistance training sessions are followed by periods of rest for those muscles exercised, which is needed to give the muscles you exercised time to recover, and grow. You may be wondering if resistance training is so standardized, then why do people get such varying results.

Past Vs. Present

    When you compare the bodybuilders of past and present, or any group of strength athletes, it is interesting to note that these champions followed scientific resistance training programs "of the day" to build their massive physiques and super-human strength. Modern day resistance trainers on average are much bigger and stronger than their predecessors. Why are there such differences in the size of their physiques and strength?

    Some of the extra gains you see in today's strength athletes stem from a new understanding of muscle anatomy and physiology, plus better nutrition science and sports nutrition products. We have made huge advancements in sports supplement technology, and have refined the strength and bodybuilding diet composition.

    What you may find surprising is that there have been only a few advancements concerning the weight training equipment used by professional strength athletes. Free weights are still the primary instrument of choice for most of their exercises. They offer the best stimulus for muscle growth, providing a full range of motion, and usually, other muscles in the body are recruited for stability.

    However, research also indicates that combining free weight exercises, with exercises performed on machines is also beneficial. Machines offer convenience, especially when having to select a workload to exercise with, and provide a means to accomplish some exercises not otherwise possible with free weights. Resistance training machines also provide additional safety for some exercises. Ultimately, the resistance training exercises you use will reflect a balance of what best suits your goals, and what is available to you.

Specific Training Yields Specific Results
Keep Your Goals In Mind

Today championship bodybuilders and strength athletes can develop massive muscles using a more diversified scientific weight training program - one that's not necessarily longer, or harder, but smarter. This is due in part to a new understanding of anatomy and physiology and how growth occurs at the microscopic and biochemical level.

With this new knowledge, resistance training programs for other athletes can be designed for stimulating the different types of muscle cells, called muscle fibers, that make up your muscles. If you want a strong, lean, slim muscular body, or a massive, lean muscular body, the secret is in how you train your muscle fibers.

Muscle Fiber Anatomy & Physiology Is The Key To Success

    You may find it interesting to know that your muscles are composed of different muscle fiber types, which in turn are programmed to respond differently depending on the type of exercise, frequency of exercise, workload/intensity, and duration of sets and exercise sessions.

    One type of muscle fiber is called fast-twitch, and it has the potential to significantly increase in size and strength. Fast-twitch muscle fibers can generate explosive power, so whether it's lifting a heavy load, leaping out of the way to avoid getting hit by a car, doing heavy physical work, or being your best in strength sports, your body will do it better, if you develop more fast-twitch muscle fibers.

    Another type of muscle fiber is called slow-twitch muscle fiber. Slow-twitch muscle fibers contract more slowly than fast-twitch muscle fibers do. Genetically, some people have more slow-twitch muscle fibers, while others have more fast-twitch muscle fibers. In the trained individual slow-twitch muscle fibers have the capacity to perform work for a long period of time, with light workloads.

    Muscle Fiber Types Summary
    Type I Muscle Fibers
    Also called Slow-Twitch or Slow Oxidative (SO)

      Type I muscle fibers have a high oxidative metabolism capacity. They are highly fatigue resistant, with little capacity for exercise induced hypertrophy, and highly resistance to exercise induced structural damage.

      They are best conditioned using high repetition training with lighter weights (low intensity workloads) and slow continuous tension movements.

      They will increase in size with weight training, but not as much as fast twitch muscle fibers will. With progressive long duration training, slow twitch muscle fibers develop higher density of mitochondria, which increases their ability to produce energy from fatty acids and also glucose.

      They have a small diameter, with high capillary density and low glycogen content, when compared to fast-twitch muscle fibers.

      Another major difference between type I and type II muscle fibers is that type I muscle fibers have larger myoglobin content. Myoglobin stores ready to use oxygen in the muscle fibers.

      Type I muscle fibers are the muscle fibers that get fully developed by long distance athletes. In general glucose and free fatty acids are the major fuel sources during long distance type activities that use predominantly type I muscle fibers.

    Type IIa Muscle Fibers
    Also called Fast-Twitch Oxidative-Glycolytic or Fast Oxidative Glycolytic (FOG)

      Type IIa muscle fibers have a balance of oxidative-glycolytic metabolism capacity.

      They are moderately fatigue resistant, the have a good capacity for exercise induced hypertrophy (increase in the size of the muscle fiber), and moderate resistance to exercise induced structural damage.

      Development of Type IIa muscle fibers is important for sustained, strength stamina.

      They respond best to medium repetition training using moderate weight (medium intensity workloads) and fast concentric movements, but slower eccentric movements.

      They are medium diameter, with intermediate capillary density, and intermediate glycogen content.

      Type IIa muscle fibers generate most of their muscle contraction energy from glucose.

    Type II b Muscle Fibers
    Also called Fast-Twitch Glycolytic or Fast Glycolytic (FG)

      Type IIb muscle fibers have high capacity for glycolytic metabolism, low oxidative capacity, and are highly susceptible to fatigue.

      They can be trained to store a ready to use supply of immediate energy in the form of ATP and CP.

      They have great capacity for exercise induced hypertrophy and susceptibility to exercise induced damage.

      Well developed type IIb muscle fibers have the capacity to generate explosive strength and power.

      They respond best to high intensity, explosive concentric movements using heavier weights (high intensity workloads), and a slow eccentric movement. When fully developed they have the largest diameter, high glycogen content, and low capillary density.

      In general, creatine phosphate is the major source of energy for the first several seconds of high intensity activities, and also glucose metabolized via anaerobic glycolysis.

      Medium intensity and medium duration physical activity starts to depend more on aerobic energy producing pathways. Muscle glycogen is also depleted at a faster rate during high intensity training and athletics.

      Note: the high energy storage / producing molecules ATP and CP are collectively referred to as phosphagens.

    One way long distance exercises develop your slow-twitch muscle fibers by increasing the number of fat burning machinery in the cell, called mitochondria. Distance exercise also stimulates your body to make more blood vessels in your muscles to deliver oxygen and nutrients, and remove waste products at a higher rate.

    The spherical or elongated organelles in the cytoplasm of nearly all eukaryotic cells, containing genetic material and many enzymes important for cell metabolism, including those responsible for the conversion of food to usable energy. Also called chondriosome.

    Sports such as long distance running, swimming, cycling, and walking condition slow-twitch muscle fibers, and so they are called aerobic exercises, or oxidative. The reason for this is that plenty of oxygen is needed for the slow-twitch muscle fiber cells to make energy from fats and carbohydrates, to fuel the steady pace muscle contractions, performed over time.

    In fact, the longer you exercise, and the better conditioned your slow-twitch muscle fibers will be, and the more fat your body will use for energy both during exercise and during rest.

    From a strength and bodybuilding development standpoint, this low intensity, long duration exercise, provides certain fitness benefits, but does not build-up much muscle mass, or maximum strength potential. In fact, it can have the opposite effects. To illustrate this, think of how a marathon runner is built when compared to a sprinter. They both run fast, but the marathon runner is conditioned to run as fast as possible for a long period of time - usually about a maximum of 12.5 miles per hour. The marathon runner has well developed slow-twitch muscle fibers, but underdeveloped fast-twitch muscle fibers. Some long distance runners actually develop bodies that make them look undernourished.

    Sprinters on the other hand have trained their bodies to move as fast as possible over a very short distance--100 meters under ten seconds, for a maximum speed of about 22.5 miles per hour.

    This takes explosive muscle power, and a higher output of energy per second. To develop the capacity to do this, the sprinter needs to build up fast-twitch muscle fibers, which have the capacity to get really big, and generate explosive muscle contractions, for a short period of time before fatigue sets in.

    Visually sprinters are more muscular and shapely when compared to long distance athletes. And while athletes with highly developed fast-twitch muscle fibers mostly draw upon carbohydrates for energy, they are still able to maintain a low percentage of body fat because these larger muscles need more total calories per day for energy. Sprinters and other strength athletes have the timeless classic body of champions depicted in early Greek and Roman art--the body type that comes from high intensity resistance training.

    The point of this excursion into muscle anatomy and physiology is to show you that your body has the ability to respond and develop differently depending on the type of exercise, frequency of exercise, intensity of exercise and duration of exercise.

    For the sake of this overview, heavy intensity resistance or weight training means using heavy workloads (weights, resistance), and expending a lot of energy in a short period of time. When you exercise at heavy intensity, your duration will be limited because muscle fatigue occurs quickly from this type of physical exertion.

    Weight Training Involves
    Expending A Lot Of Energy In A Short Period Of Time

    Light intensity weight or resistance training means using light workloads that can be performed for more repetitions, and longer periods of time. Medium intensity weight or resistance training means using weights somewhere in between heavy and light, with the number of repetitions per set also in the middle range.

    When following a weight training program using a variety of heavy intensity, medium intensity, and light intensity work loads, you will actually be stimulating increases in strength and muscle growth in all of your muscle fibers; typically what bodybuilders do.

Where Creatine Fits In

Due to the fact that your muscles are composed of both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, this leads to some dynamic muscle building possibilities. But the story gets even more interesting, because there are two primary types of fast-twitch fibers in your muscles. One type, called type IIb (or fast-twitch glycolytic), can be trained to grow to massive proportions and has the ability to store more immediate energy in its cellular liquid; can then be used to fuel extremely powerful muscle contractions.

Micronized Creatine
Simply put, creatine monohydrate is the most popular and effective bodybuilding supplement on the market. At only $19.99 for 1000 grams, it is a steal.
This immediate energy is used up quickly under extremely heavy workloads, and fatigue sets in within a few seconds when exerting maximum effort. The other type of fast-twitch muscle fiber is called type IIa (or fast-twitch oxidative glycolytic), and is conditioned from weight training with middle intensity workloads, and for a wide range of reps, longer duration.

Preferential development of type IIb muscle fibers is important to people who are involved in sports that require extreme bursts of muscle contractions, such as competitive weightlifting, powerlifting, sprinting, football, baseball, shot put, goal keepers, and the like. Your fast-twitch muscle fibers can be developed to perform over a range of heavy to middle to light intensity workloads. The extent to which you need to develop the type IIb muscle fiber energy systems depends on your performance goals, and what energy systems are needed to be best at your activities.

When type IIb muscle fibers are exercised correctly they get quite large, and store a resting level of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and creatine phosphate (CP) (also called phosphocreatine (PCr). So, when a powerlifter attempts to squat 1000 pounds for one repetition, as ATP gets depleted, the CP is used quickly as an immediate source of biochemical energy to replenish and make more ATP very, very quickly.

This is one reason why loading up with creatine monohydrate supplements results in increased strength and longer workouts. When you load up your body with higher amounts of creatine, your muscles eventually are able to increase the amount of creatine phosphate stored in them. In the process, muscle fibers also grow larger.

Research has revealed that it is also important to keep on taking creatine supplements to maintain this higher than normal amount to keep total body creatine and creatine phosphate in your muscles. So from taking creatine supplements, during high intensity exercise and sports performance, there is more creatine phosphate to replenish ATP. Now keep in mind that these ATP - CP bioenergetics occur in a short timeframe, measured in seconds. This is why much of the research has proven that taking creatine is more beneficial to strength athletes (Type II muscle fiber athletes) than endurance athletes.

From knowing about these muscle fiber bio-energetics, it is easy to understand why sports scientists thought it would be beneficial to increase creatine level in an athlete's body. During the course of over a decade of research, additional benefits of ingesting creatine monohydrate supplements were also revealed, in addition to creatine being a strength athlete performance enhancer as originally thought.

Bioenergetics And Energy Release!
In order to perform work, we need energy. The energy we use to perform actions, such as a sprint, etc. is acquired from the transfer of chemical energy. Learn more below about how energy in the body is processed and created.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Benefits, such as increased muscle size and lean body are what have made creatine supplements one of the most popular and useful strength and bodybuilding supplements in the world.

This ready-to-go supply of ATP and CP in your muscle fibers, much of it is in the large Type II fibers, is referred to as the immediate energy source. While it lasts only a few seconds, it is important to explode in to action, and generate tremendous force for short periods of time. Also occurring during these seconds of all out effort is the splitting of glucose in the muscle fiber's cellular fluid, to assist in the replenishment of ATP and CP.

This is the biochemical step that forms pyruvate, or lactic acid as a byproduct (as further explained below). Once this immediate energy supply of ATP and CP is depleted, the ability to generate high intensity force is reduced, and some time is required for the muscles to rest, clear out waste products, rebuild the ATP - CP, and engage in another high intensity bout of exercise or work.

As strength athletes develop their muscles, i.e., more and more type II muscle fibers, the need for creatine supplementation becomes even more important. These bigger muscle fibers require more creatine to help maintain high levels of total creatine and creatine phosphate. So, with progressive strength and muscle size development, keep taking creatine to support your progress and peak athletic performance.

Some Additional Muscle Bio-energetics Information

As the immediate energy system is getting depleted of its capacity to produce ATP, glucose molecules (glycolytic energy production - producing energy from glucose) the muscle fibers is quickly split in half, which produces more ATP for muscle contractions to continue. If all out effort is maintained, lactic acid eventually builds at a rate faster than it can be cleared away, and muscle fatigue occurs. In the process of this type of exercise, these workloads actually stimulate development of type IIb and type IIa muscle fibers. Keeping in mind that type IIa muscle fibers have the capacity to develop and perform over a range of intensities and duration due to their glycolytic and oxidative abilities. As the workloads are reduced, a moderate intensity weight training set can be performed for a longer duration of time.

All of this bioenergetics knowledge is important, because it is your underlying energy system that you are actually training to build up a capacity of your muscles to develop and to store and use energy, to accommodate different types of workloads, and eventually turn chemical energy in to mechanical energy to best suit your athletic needs. Additionally, the rapid production of energy from CP and or glucose in the type II muscle fibers occurs mostly without oxygen, which is why this type of muscular exertion is referred to anaerobic.

Slow-twitch muscle fibers metabolize glucose more slowly and completely than fast-twitch muscle fibers, and also use more fatty acids for the production of energy, in addition to glucose. This means that training and developing the slow-twitch muscle fibers will burn fat more readily. As described above, high intensity exercise uses primarily immediately available ATP, CP and glucose from muscle tissue (from glycogen stores) and glucose circulating in the blood stream as supplied from the liver.

Therefore, anaerobic exercise is not very effective in burning body fat. Studies show that by varying the amounts of anaerobic and aerobic exercise you can achieve a diversity of body composition and performance results, which is ideal for general fitness. However, competitive athletes and bodybuilders have to be more selective, and train to develop their muscles to an extreme point to achieve athletic excellence.

Aerobic and anaerobic metabolic pathways are occurring all of the time, but different energy systems will employ one system more than the other. Depending on how your body is trained to best use the different energy systems is what makes the difference. Let's look at an example.

If you were to lift a one pound weight for several minutes, the slow-twitch muscle fibers in your arm muscle would be supplying most of the energy to do this type of low intensity, long duration work.

If you chose to lift up a thirty pound dumbbell, and began to do reps, your type IIb fast-twitch muscle fibers are activated and anaerobic energy systems are called upon to generate the energy need to produce this short duration, high intensity work. Keep in mind however, that the muscle fiber activation boundaries are not perfectly segregated and that at this level of all-out muscular effort, all of your muscle fibers are at work.

The Intensity-Duration Muscle Fiber Connection

So, what does all this talk about fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers have to do with you?

It opens up new possibilities to how you can use weight training to develop your body best for your sport or personal fitness goals. Let's face, it's hard pumping heavy loads of iron. But, maybe you do not need to. Very few athletes need to lift very heavy weights for a few repetitions like powerlifters and Olympic weight-lifters do. When you think about using weight training to improve your sports performance, ask your self if being able to squat 1000 pounds once would help, or being able to run a marathon will make you better at your sport? Even in power sports like football there is a balance to developing muscles that can produce powerful muscle contractions, over and over again for peak athletic performance throughout the entire game.

The Bodybuilder

    When you take a look at a professional competitive bodybuilder you see several types of athletes in one. Most bodybuilders have developed all of their muscle fibers to the maximum possible size, in particular both types of fast-twitch muscle fibers. As they get stronger, they get bigger. Even their warm-up sets contribute to building strength and muscle, in particular type IIa and type I muscle fibers.

    To illustrate the magnitude of type IIb and type IIa muscle fiber development, let us take a look at some impressive statistics from the bodybuilding legends.

    Strength-Stamina Potential

      In an article from Muscle & Fitness magazine, Arnold Schwarzenegger was reported to be able to lift the following weights and repetitions in the bench press: 500 pounds for one rep, 405 pounds for eight reps, 315 pounds for 25 reps, and 225 pounds for 60 reps.

      From a muscle fiber development standpoint Arnold's ability to lift such an impressive amount of weights for a variety of repetitions is a direct reflection of his diversified muscle fiber development. I think most people would be satisfied with being able to bench press 225 pounds for one repetition. But being able to bench press 225 pounds for 60 repetitions demonstrates the strength-stamina potential that well developed fast-twitch muscle fibers have to offer, especially type IIa muscle fibers.

    Total Muscle Fiber Development

      2. Bodybuilding legend, Ronnie Coleman, is reported to display similar diversified muscle fiber development and wide ranging weight lifting abilities. In fact, in one of his favorite exercises, the dumbbell lateral raise giant set, he is reported to lift (without stopping) 30 pound dumbbells for 25 reps, then 40 pounds for 15 reps, then 50 pounds for 10 reps, and 60 pounds for 8 reps.

      He performs two of these giant sets, about twice a month, and produced drastic gains in shoulder muscle development. This again demonstrates how variable weight training can be used to stimulate total muscle fiber development.

Muscle Fiber Recovery and Growth

There is another side to the muscle fiber story that concerns time for recovery; muscle fiber growth and repair. When training with heavy workloads for a few repetitions to develop type IIb muscle fibers, the muscle fibers breakdown and need several days to fully recover.

When, resistance training with medium workloads, targeted at developing type IIa muscle fibers, these muscle fibers are more resistant to exercise induced damage, but still need a few days to recover. When using light workloads, for higher repetitions, less muscle damage occurs, and less rest is needed for muscle fiber recovery and repair.

In practice, when the purpose of your resistance training is for maximum muscle building, this means that it is best to alternate the intensity of your weight training sessions from workout to workout for maximum muscle building results. After a high intensity weight training day, you need to wait several days for your type IIb muscle fibers to fully recovery.

In the meantime, your muscles can endure medium and light intensity weight lifting sessions. Ideally, each training day should consist of a combination of high, medium and light resistance training intensities for different muscles.

All About Recovery!
Below I will discuss some secrets that I use with my athletes. When talking about recovery from training and competition, there are basically 5 areas to focus on.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Note however that these training-recover principles vary when applied to training for maximum sports performance, as the primary goal is not training for maximum muscle growth, but maximum sports-specific muscle performance. Even in the context of sports performance training, the application of varying high intensity training sessions with medium and low intensity training sessions is viable, as your body cannot withstand the stress of high intensity training, day after day.

In fact, Russian scientists developed a technique to determine if their athletes, especially strength athletes, were over-training and if they needed to take a medium to low intensity training day versus a high intensity training day. To do this, the scientists developed a quick test that measured the amounts of testosterone and cortisol in the saliva of the athletes. The athletes would get their saliva tested first thing in the morning. Depending on the relative levels of testosterone and cortisol, the scientists would determine what intensity level of training an athlete can handle that particular day. Generally speaking, when cortisol levels are high, this is an indication of over-training, and a medium to low intensity training day is best.

The moral to this story is that training smarter and not necessarily harder is what works best. Too often when the gains slow down, individuals start training harder, and harder, when in fact they might need to be staggering high-medium-low intensity workouts smarter, and make sure that their nutrition and sports supplement programs are adequate. Keep in mind that this approach is being applied at the level of the elite athlete, who trains sometimes several hours a day. So, medium and low intensity training days, does not mean you are not breaking a sweat, you are just not pushing yourself to the maximum limit of your performance, like you would on a high intensity training day / workout.

There are some individual dynamics concerning recovery from weight training sessions to also consider. Some people may recover quicker than others. In general, young people recovery quicker than older people, and men recovery quicker than women. So while you can follow general resistance training example programs, ultimately, as you become more advanced, you will need to fine-tune your weight training to best suit your individuality. This is why you need to keep a good training and nutrition log book; the evidence based, scientific approach.

These are just some general rules to keep in mind for muscle building and strength training. Resistance training for sports performance is a bit more complicated. Keep in mind that while advanced bodybuilders have huge muscles, this is just what they are training for. They are not training to improve their performance on the playing field to win powerlifting contests.

The research is clear about one thing, that creatine monohydrate will help benefit muscle building, strength building, and strength sports performance efforts. So, if the gains in muscle mass increase have slowed down, working out harder and longer may not be the answer. Resistance training smarter may get you out of the rut that every athlete eventually falls in to.

Strength-To-Bodyweight Ratio

Most people don't need to over develop their type IIb muscle fibers for a few reasons. First, it takes a tremendous amount of high intensity training (lifting extremely heavy weights for only a few to several repetitions at a time) to develop them. Second, most people don't need to exert this huge amount of force in their daily life or recreational activity. And finally, there comes a point where an increase in maximum strength will result in an increase of body weight that is not practical.

This is where the concept of strength to body weight is important. Massive type IIb muscle fibers are generally too big and fatigue too quickly, making them impractical for competing in some sports and even performing daily chores. Most people want more strength and a modest amount of muscle size to improve their body build and functional strength, but they don't need to build the massive physique of a powerlifter, bodybuilder, or football lineman.

Most People Don't Need This
Massive Of A Physique

Even sports that require strength and power don't really require muscle development to the point of maximum power potential. For example, a football lineman needs a strong massive body to generate explosive muscle contractions and over-power their opponent. But if they were to spend the time in the gym lifting just like a powerlifter, and were able to generate enough force to squat 1000 pounds for one repetition, on the playing field they may only do extremely well for the first few plays. But eventually, would not be able to sustain this maximum burst of power over and over again.

After a few more plays, fatigue would set in quicker, because adequate training time was not spent on developing the other fast twitch muscle fibers, type IIa, which give us the ability to produce powerful muscle contractions over and over again, and also to train the type IIb muscle fibers to recover more quickly, and replenish resting ATP and CP (PCr) levels faster. A lineman needs to maintain the same level of explosive strength off the line, perhaps more than 60 times during a game. Looking at this example of the football player, it is easy to understand how creatine is an essential supplement to maximize explosive strength performance, and help promote strength stamina, throughout the game, in addition to a sport specific resistance training program.

Even in a strength sport like boxing, where explosive power for the knock-out punch is needed, muscle stamina and endurance is also important.

Boxers are in the ring slugging it out for 3 minutes at a time, contracting their muscles over and over again as if they are performing a combination weightlifting giant set and short run around the track.

Then they only get a minute of rest, and have to perform again for 3 minutes of all out, sustained effort. While powerlifters and bodybuilders are extremely strong athletes, I think you will agree that unless they knocked a well trained boxer out early in the first round, their ability to generate explosive muscle contractions in the second round would be greatly reduced, and continue to be reduced each round thereafter.

In fact, true "cross training" employs different types of exercise or sport activities to train your body's different energy systems, and muscle fibers. Under these terms, the triathlon is not really cross training, because all of the sport activities are aerobic, long distance. None of them require maximum development of the fast-twitch muscle fibers and anaerobic energy systems.

How To Ride Your First Triathlon.
Knowing your body and accepting its limitations are the key to a solid, consistent bike leg of a triathlon.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

A good example of a cross trained athlete is a decathlete. In the decathlon all of the energy systems need to be developed to excel at the different events. For example the shot put requires very short lived, extremely explosive strength. Other anaerobic strength events in the decathlon include the 100 meter sprint, long jump, high jump, 110 meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, and javelin, all of which need well developed fast twitch muscle fibers (both types).

The 400 meter run tests the athlete's type IIa muscle fiber development. This grueling sport event then ends with a grueling 1,500 meters aerobic run, which also relies on the anaerobic energy systems early in the race, and at the end of the race to sprint to the finish line, but also well developed level of high intensity aerobic performance-fitness; good type I muscle-fiber development. It is interesting to note however, while the decathlete is a tremendous athlete, this all around bio-energetic training does not result in these athletes breaking any specific event world records. This is another example of the delicate balance and precision that is required for sports specific training and muscle development (bio-energetic development).

So while you need strength, power, and stamina to repeat the muscle contractions over and over again, to what extent will be determined by your personal-fitness goals. Additionally, research studies have discovered that creatine supplementation can help improve your strength to weight ratio.

Use It Or You'll Lose It

It is a well know medical fact that disuse of your body will lead to premature aging and premature death. Resistance training your entire body on a regular basis will keep your muscles in good working order. It will stimulate growth and development and keep you looking younger longer.

One of the most frequent big-mistakes competitive bodybuilders make is letting up on the intensity of their resistance training the months preceding a contest, and doing too much "aerobic" training. Yes, this helps them to trim the body fat and improve definition. But, in the process they are actually de-training their massive size Type IIb muscle fibers, and can loose valuable muscle mass.

The trick is to find that magic balance. High intensity training of a muscle at least once a week is required to build it up and or maintain the muscle fiber development.

HIT Vs. Periodization!
Ask 10 people what they believe to be the optimal training regimen and you'll likely get 10 answers (maybe 11, if one person is indecisive). The true question: is there an optimal training regimen?
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Regarding aerobic exercise, while the 45 to 60 minutes is ideal to get in the fat burning mode, this aerobic exercise metabolic stimulus will set off signals in your body that favor Type I muscle fiber development, and may counter act Type II muscle fiber growth and maintenance.

Ideally, you should try to maintain body fat levels under 10%, in order to make your contest cutting-up phase easier to accomplish. Make your nutrition and supplement program work to help trim the fat, versus having to do too much aerobic exercise.

Another important point to remember about the "use or lose it" principle is that this is a lifelong commitment. There are no quick fixes to muscle building or weight loss. Once you achieve your strength and bodybuilding goals, this does not mean you stop training. You need to stick with it to experience lifelong benefits.

When you reach your particular goals, continue training for maintenance. This may mean cutting back on the days and sets of weight training exercises you perform. But try to exercise each muscle group at least once or twice a week for maintenance of strength, muscle size, and the other health benefits of weight training.

This goes double for your nutrition and nutrition supplement programs. Following your performance nutrition plan all year round is best. Don't sell yourself in to the idea that it is okay to let yourself go, and eat all the junk you want on the off-season. Winners of sports and life are consistent year round, and always do things that are best for them to accomplish their goals. Be a winner, and stick to a healthy eating performance nutrition program all the time.

Some of the research studies presented in the following chapters also reveal that creatine supplements can help maintain the gains, as well as help promote getting faster and better gains in muscle mass, strength, and athletic performance.

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