In a riveting discussion between Dr. Andrew Huberman and Dr. Andy Galpin, two renowned experts in the field of fitness and physiology, they delve into the intricacies of muscle growth, muscle activation, and overcoming weight training plateaus. Their insights shed light on why some individuals struggle to activate certain muscle groups and how to break through the stagnant phases of muscle development often referred to as "plateaus".
"ANDY GALPIN: Bingo. That's actually really insightful. So you can use this heuristic of like, if you can contract your lats just standing here, you're probably going to contract them very well when you lift."
Dr. Galpin emphasizes that the ability to contract certain muscles without a load is a good predictor of one's capacity to contract them under load, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of weight training. This is especially true for muscle groups like the latissimus dorsi (lats) which are notoriously difficult to activate.
"ANDREW HUBERMAN: Yeah, I've noticed that many of the muscle groups that were responsible for a large fraction of the work in the various sports that I played as a young child are muscles that are very easy for me to selectively isolate and induce hypertrophy."
Dr. Huberman builds on this idea, noting that the muscle groups he frequently used during his childhood sports activities are now easier for him to isolate and train. This highlights the critical role of early movement and exercise experiences in shaping our muscular development and functionality in later life.
"ANDREW HUBERMAN: So yeah, kids-- parents, get your kids doing a bunch of different things. I suppose gymnastics would probably be the best sport all around, in terms of movement in multiple planes and activating all the different muscle groups."
As the conversation progresses, the doctors advocate for diversified athletic activities during childhood. They suggest that engaging in a variety of sports can provide a more comprehensive muscular workout, potentially avoiding the development of one-sided muscular strength and promoting overall muscular balance.
"ANDREW HUBERMAN: You've established that 10-- really, to 20 sets per week is the kind of bounds for maintaining and initiating hypertrophy."
When the discussion turns to the specifics of weight training, Dr. Huberman references Dr. Galpin's suggestion that between 10 to 20 sets per week is an effective range for initiating and maintaining muscle hypertrophy. This, however, is a guideline rather than a hard-and-fast rule, and individual variations should be taken into consideration.
"ANDY GALPIN: So we get this one a ton. So why is it some people, my gym buddy, my roommate, we go to sleep at the same time, we're on the same nutrition plan, we work out together. She triples in muscle size and I don't have no gain whatsoever."
The topic of individual differences in response to weight training is another area of interest. Dr. Galpin acknowledges the existence of "responders" and "non-responders" in weight training - people who see significant results from a specific training regime and others who see little to no progress despite following the same routine.
"ANDY GALPIN: If you can tease out what you can't, but let's say in science you could tease out all the extra factors, total stress, load hydration, sleep, etc.. what you often see is non responders, a lot of the time, it's not that they have a physiological inability, it's just that they need a different protocol. And a lot of times it's they just need more volume."
Dr. Galpin posits that many non-responders may actually just need a different training protocol. For example, they may benefit from increased volume in their training regimen. This underscores the importance of personalizing training programs based on individual needs, responses, and progress.
"ANDY GALPIN: You see the same thing with plateaus. So typically, it's sort of just like, the routine you're on, you've been on it for too long. We need to either go to the other end of the hypertrophy spectrum for intensity, which means like, if you've been in the 60% to 70% your one repetition max range, maybe we actually need to go heavier."
Another key takeaway is Dr. Galpin's advice on dealing with plateaus. When progress seems to stall, it might be time to shake things up. For instance, if you've been training in the 60-70% of your one repetition max range, you might need to increase the intensity by lifting heavier weights. This kind of strategic adjustment can help stimulate further muscle growth and prevent stagnation.
The insights shared by Dr. Galpin and Dr. Huberman are invaluable for anyone interested in weight training, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro. Understanding the nuances of muscle activation, the influence of early athletic activities, the importance of diversified workouts, and strategies for overcoming plateaus can significantly enhance your weight training journey. With their expert advice, you can navigate the challenges of weight training and consistently progress towards your fitness goals.
Their conversation is a reminder that our bodies are unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Therefore, it's crucial to listen to your body, observe its response to different training regimes, and adjust accordingly. In the realm of fitness and weight training, a personalized approach is truly the key to success.
Remember, as Dr. Galpin and Dr. Huberman emphasize, persistence and mindful adjustment are the way forward. Keep pushing, keep adjusting, and keep growing. After all, the journey to fitness is a marathon, not a sprint.