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How important is muscle damage?


Steroid Freak
When it comes to bodybuilding, the subject of training volume is far less contentious than the subject of training frequency.

Most experts agree with the conclusions reported in the research literature, which report a dose-response of training volume on hypertrophy from <5 sets to 5–9 sets to >10 sets per week, in both trained and untrained individuals.

Interestingly, although these studies compare training volumes by altering the number of sets performed in each workout (and keep the number of workouts the same), the dose-response effects are reported for weekly training volume. Indeed, many experts refer solely to measures of weekly training volume, rather than workout volume.

Even so, increasing weekly training volume by increasing the number of workouts that are performed does not seem to have the same dose-response effects as increasing weekly training volume by increasing the number of sets performed in each workout, at least in untrained individuals. In one study, the researchers found that doing the same workout 2, 3, or 5 times a week caused similar muscle growth. Each workout involved 3 sets of knee extensions to failure, and therefore the 3 groups did either 6, 9, or 15 sets per week. This difference in weekly training volume was expected to cause a dose-response effect on hypertrophy, but it did not. The lack of difference between the groups suggests that muscle damage produced in some of the workouts may have impaired the hypertrophic stimulus of subsequent workouts each week, either by causing reduced voluntary activation, or by elevating oxidative stress.

Clearly, this effect would be smaller in trained individuals, compared to in untrained individuals, but despite the presence of the repeated bout effect, muscle damage does still occur in trained lifters, especially in the upper body musculature.

Overall, this reveals that (once again) training volume only counts when it is stimulating. When training too often, volume can fail to be stimulating if motor unit recruitment is impaired by central nervous system fatigue secondary to muscle damage, or if muscle protein synthesis is prevented from increasing despite elevated anabolic signaling, by oxidative stress secondary to muscle damage.
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