A lot of muscle pain comes at the expense of muscle growth
muscle strain

A lot of muscle pain comes at the expense of muscle growth

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Muscle pain is a goal in itself for some. No muscle pain would mean a bad workout and a lot of muscle pain a good one. It is sometimes even said: "I have not been able to walk for 3 days because of the muscle pain". Let's start with the conclusion: (a lot of) muscle pain is most likely at the expense of muscle growth. In this article you will read exactly how it is with this ancient muscle growth mechanism, and why you should not have this as a goal. By the way, do you want to know everything about muscle growth and how to apply this? Then read the book No Strong Story About Muscle Growth.

What is muscle pain or rather muscle damage

To keep it easy, I mean in this article with muscle pain the same as muscle damage. If you have a bit of muscle damage, you will experience this as a little muscle pain and if you have a lot of muscle damage, you will experience this in the form of a lot of muscle pain.

Muscle damage, or rather muscle damage caused by training (exercise-induced muscle damage)is perhaps the most mentioned mechanism in gyms when it comes to muscle growth. Honestly say if you are the only one in the world who has never heard the following comment: “Strength training causes damage to your muscles, you can feel the amount of muscle pain. Your body instructs the muscle cells to repair this damage and reinforces the structure even more to arm the body against the next workout. That's why you have to train a little harder to keep challenging the body. So when you no longer feel muscle pain, you must either train more heavily or start a new schedule ... ”Now to say honestly whether you have never heard anything similar?

The heavier training is still effective, but this does not have to be accompanied by a lot of muscle pain. In fact, some scientists think that the muscle damage mechanism is not even necessary for muscle growth. What used to be the leading mechanism for explaining muscle growth may not even apply now. I myself think that we cannot yet take a final decision without sufficient evidence. Science is advancing rapidly and we may therefore be able to say in a few years' time that muscle damage does not contribute to muscle growth. Indeed, there are more and more studies that show that (a lot of) muscle damage is probably counterproductive.

muscle strain

Amount of muscle damage and difference between eccentric and concentric training

It used to be thought that muscle damage was necessary for muscle growth. This is partly due to the fact that after the first training sessions, where muscle damage is highest, the amount of protein production is higher than the following training sessions. Protein production was also significantly higher with eccentric training (eg lowering the bar during bench press) than with concentric training (pushing bar up during bench press) and it was thought that more muscle growth was possible through eccentric training. This turned out not to be the case. What is clear is that due to eccentric training the muscle grows a little more in 'length' and by concentric training a little more in diameter ('thickness'). The use of both forms during training is therefore strongly recommended. In practice, this is the case in 99,99% of training sessions, so nothing to worry about. Returning to muscle damage. More damage does not result in more muscle growth, in fact, it results in less muscle growth.

Why more muscle damage does not cause more muscle growth

The reason that more muscle damage does not cause more muscle growth is actually simple. In the first place, the body doesn't care about extra muscles. Staying the same (homeostasis) is much more interesting for the body, because extra muscles only require energy. If there is damage to a muscle, the body only wants to do one thing: repair that damage. What does a muscle cell need for recovery? Indeed, proteins. Only after the damage has been repaired, the remaining proteins are used to build up extra contractile units (muscle growth). In other words, the more often you do the same training and ensure sufficient mechanical tension, the muscle damage decreases per training. You notice this yourself as a result of a decrease in the amount of muscle pain, depending on whether you do a workout more often. The number of proteins needed to repair the decreasing damage is decreasing and more proteins are left to build up extra muscle mass, despite the fact that perhaps fewer proteins are produced in total. The most important condition for growth is that a muscle receives sufficient growth signals (mechanical stress) to produce extra proteins. Without proteins there are no building blocks for your muscles. In short, the more often you do a workout (up to a certain height), the more your muscles will grow.

muscle strain

Do 'overload management'

No muscle pain should not be the training goal, I think, because if you never train, you will never have muscle pain. Do you know people who have become more muscular about it? I think it is best to use muscle pain as an evaluation tool and you should aim for a little muscle pain after every workout. Preferably an uncomfortable feeling in the muscles that you have trained if you tighten them the next day. Then you know that you have trained them well and they have probably had enough incentives to produce extra proteins. A tiny bit of protein to restore your minimal muscle damage and the rest to actually grow your muscles.

If you always train with the same training intensity, the training effectiveness decreases, you notice this in practice by not having muscle pain. If your training schedule grows with you, and you always have a little bit of muscle pain, you know for sure that you are heading in the right direction. In short, muscle pain can thus be the most important variable of a workout. This is the only variable that you can feel directly. On my website www.geensterkehistories.nl you will find hundreds of examples of schemes with applied 'overload management'.

Train effectively and efficiently and get the most out of yourself!


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  2. Nosaka, K., Lavender, A., Newton, M., & Sacco, P. (2003). Muscle damage in resistance training - is muscle damage necessary for strength gain and muscle hypertrophy? International Journal of Sport and Health Science, 1 (1), 1-8.
  3. Damas. F., Libardi, CA, & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2018). The development of skeletal muscle hypertrophy through resistance training: the role of muscle damage and muscle protein synthesis. Eur J Appl Physiol, 118
  4. Damas, F., Phillips, SM, Lixamdrão, ME, Vechin, FC, Libarde, CA, Roschel, H., ..., Urgrinowitsch, C. (2016B). Early resistance training-induced increases in muscle cross-sectional area are concomitant with edema-induced muscle swelling. Eur J Appl Physiol, 116
  5. Brooks, MS, Wilkinson, DJ, Mitchell, World Cup, Lund, JN, Szewczyk, NJ, Greenhaff, PL, ..., Atherton, PJ (2015). Skeletal muscle hypertrophy adaptations predominate in the early stages of resistance exercise training, matching deuterium oxide-derived measures or muscle protein synthesis and mechanistic target or rapamycin complex 1 signaling. PHASEB J, 29
  6. Moore, DR, Phillips, SM, Babraj, JA, Smith, K., & Rennie, MJ (2005). Myofibrillar and collagen protein synthesis in human skeletal muscle in young men after maximal shortening and lengthening contractions. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 288(6), e1153-e1159.
  7. Schoenfeld, BJ, Ogborn, DI, Vigotsky, AD, Franchi, MV, & Krieger, JW (2017). Hypertrophic effects of concentric vs. eccentric muscle actions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res, 31

This blog is written by

Sander Cherry

"Get the most out of yourself by sleeping with more knowledge every day than you got up with."

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