Sport | Columnists
Sean Van Staden
There is not a person on this planet that can’t do with a little more strength in the right areas, but the most important to remember is that you need balanced muscles.
Most young males have this notion of wanting to get bigger.
Bigger biceps and triceps, bigger chest and bigger legs.
Bigger muscles cause imbalance because muscles work in isolation.
The easiest way to explain this concept is to view your body as a car.
You are constantly modifying it for more performance.
Say you decide to upgrade your tyres but they fit bigger rubber to one of your wheels.
What do you think is going to happen to your driving experience?
You might think this concept is silly because why in the world would you make one tyre bigger and not all of them?
That is exactly what happens when you decide to grow one part of your body and not them all.
All four tyres are needed to drive your car.
If you decide to use your muscles like carrying a box, your arms might be taking some of the load, but your core, lower back and buttocks is countering the weight in front of your body.
If your lower back and bum is weaker and the weight in front is heavy, you will strain your body.
Your biceps and forearms might be super big and strong but from a practical and functional point of view, it has no benefit to your body since you are driving with one part of your body having a bigger tyre.
Balance and functional strength make more sense.
If you are going to make any modification to your body, make sure you increase to the “practical size” your body needs to be explosive and efficient.
Depending on the type of performance car you have, if you tell any tyre expert that you want to fit 17-inch rims to your Ford Fiesta, they’ll advise you to consider upgrading your 14-inch steel rims to 15-inch alloys fitted with balanced tyres from a fuel and tyre tread efficiency point of view.
Sure, 17 inches will look stunning, but adds no added performance value and has a negative efficiency.
In having said that, what are most aspiring athletes doing in gyms?
You guessed it; they are trying to fit 17-inch tyres on their Ford Fiesta bodies.
They are building for looks and not for sports performance functionality. Therefore, hiring a sports scientist to help you get the muscle strength and balance you need for your sport, marathon or multi-sport is a good idea.
What is research saying about how you develop strength in relation to volume?
In a recent research article, they took 40 young adults and placed them on a three times a week strength program for 24 weeks.
They broke the group up into four smaller groups and gave them five, 10, 15 and 20 sets per muscles group.
All athletes trained a push, a pull and a split squat until momentary failure.
Testing protocols included a 10 reps max bench press, lat pull down and a 45-degree angle leg squat which was administered before the program started, on 12 weeks and then on 24 weeks.
They standardised the athletes’ training program by giving them the same repetitions.
Week 1: 12-15 reps
Week 2: 4-6 reps
Week 3: 10-12 reps
Week 4: 6- 8 reps
The conclusion reached was that athletes that perform 10 repetitions had the most significant improvement in strength over the 24-week period.
The research also tested muscle thickness using ultrasound and found that all groups had an increase in muscle thickness, but not all groups had the same muscle strength output.
One of the biggest questions facing 99% of people in the weight section is, how many reps and sets must one do?
Generally, the so called “credible advice” comes from the steroid induced personal trainer or the gym bunny that looks like a lorry truck.
The assumption made is that because they are so big, that must be the way you must train.
Bringing science to the party without illegal performance enhancing drugs allows you to develop the right way for your sporting demands while being balanced.
Sean van Staden is a sport scientist. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanVStaden or visit advancedsp.co.za.
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