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The Magic Workout?

Since weight training was conceived, we have been searching for the ultimate workout. What is the best workout to produce bulging hard muscles? Is it high volume or high intensity training? Well, my friend, I have the answer to this ancient debate.

Since weight training was conceived, we have been searching for the ultimate workout. What is the best workout to produce bulging hard muscles? Is it high volume or high intensity training? Well, my friend, I have the answer to this ancient debate. Neither one.

The Truth

There is no single workout that can be labeled as the best workout. There are a couple of reasons for this, the first being the law of individuality which states each individual is different on a physical as well as mental level and the second being the law of adaptability which states once the body adapts to a specific stimulus it no longer derives the same benefits as it did before adaption occurred. These two factors make it impossible for there to be one magic workout.

Each individual will react to a workout in a different manner. Obviously a 6 foot 200 pound person has different physical attributes than a 5 foot 200 pound person. More than likely these two individuals have a different muscle fiber make up as well as a difference in limb and muscle length. Muscle fiber makeup is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding which workout will produce better results. Each muscle contains three different types of muscle fibers. These include slow, intermediate and fast twitch.

    Slow Twitch Fibers:
    They are known as red fibers due to their abundant supply of blood, are active during endurance activities such as running. They are highly oxidative and are not likely to hypertrophy very much.

    Fast Twitch Fibers:
    They have little blood supply causing them to be white in appearance. They are power oriented and fatigue easily. These fibers tend to hypertrophy more than the slow twitch.

    Intermediate Fibers:
    They have properties of both of the previously mentioned fibers.

About 60% of people have predominantly intermediate muscle fibers. The remaining 40% is equally divided among the people between slow and fast twitch. In order to ensure maximum growth, low, medium and high reps must be performed. Each muscle in the body has all three muscle properties, but the ratio of muscle fiber types can vary with each muscle. Fred Hatfield has devised a test to determine the fiber composition of each muscle group.

The first step is determining your 1RM on a particular exercise. Use 80% of the 1RM on each exercise to determine your fiber composition. Remember one muscle can be predominantly fast twitch while another is slow twitch. For this reason, a variety of exercises should be performed using this test.

Hatfield has found a wide variety of rep ranges with his 80% of 1RM test. While some athletes can perform 4 to 6 reps with 80%, others can perform 15 to 20 reps. The reason this occurs is because people performing the lower reps have mostly fast twitch muscle fibers which have weak endurance capabilities. The people performing 15 to 20 reps have more slow twitch fibers due to their greater endurance abilities. People performing 7 to 13 reps usually have mostly intermediate fibers.

By determining muscle fiber ratios, we are better able to personalize our own training style. A person with mostly fast twitch fibers should spend the majority of time training with lower reps while the person with mostly slow twitch fibers should spend the majority of time in the higher rep range. The athlete with mostly intermediate fibers should spend the majority of time training in the medium rep range.

To optimize the size of the muscle, the trainee must recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. Even if you have mostly fast twitch fibers you still must stress the intermediate and slow twitch fibers because no muscle has 100% fast or slow twitch. All muscles have a mixture of both, therefore all fibers must be stressed through a variety of rep ranges.

The Angle

The angle of exercise also plays an important role in recruiting specific muscle fibers. If you change the angle of an exercise, you create a different pattern of recruitment which stimulates different muscle fibers. If we perform a lat pulldown using a wide grip or a lat pulldown using a closer grip, we stimulate the same muscle but by changing the width of the grip we now have a different recruitment pattern of muscle fibers within the muscle. By altering the angle of exercise we can expect different muscle fibers to be activated.


Variations in the speed of exercise also result in different muscle fiber recruitment. Certain fibers are stimulated with high velocity training that are not used when moving heavier weights slowly. It is also a good idea to use super slow training which could involve a tempo of 5-0-5. No matter what type of program you use, after a while you will adapt to this specific stimulus and gains will come to a halt. By constantly varying your routines, your body does not have a chance to adapt. No routine is immune to the law of adaption.

In conclusion, have an open mind about your workouts. Vary your training protocols and find out what works best for you. Also do not forget the importance of nutrition, rest-recovery and a proper supplement program. No matter how hard you train, if the above mentioned factors are not optimized, you will never reach your full potential."