Log In

13 Things You Didn't Know About Muscle Growth

Knowing muscle will help you grow more of it. Here are a handful of hypertrophy truisms to take to the gym for maximal muscle building.

13 Things You Didn't Know About Muscle Growth

Despite what some "experts" try to tell you, we don't know a whole lot about how muscle grows. Here's what I mean by that...

We know certain biochemical pathways are involved – for example, it now appears that leucine is critical for turning on mTorr to stimulate muscle growth. And we know that muscle cells sometimes get damaged and gain new nuclei. However, that process only occurs at certain times and under certain conditions. And while muscle protein synthesis is involved, so are microRNAs that may undo all the work leucine initiated.

My point is, we’re only scratching the surface of how muscles truly grow. It will be many years before we truly have a clear handle on how lean tissue grows best, as well as what strategies work best to ensure growth.

But every year we gain more and more knowledge from both the lab and the gym, so there are certainly some things we do know about muscle growth. I'll cover 13 of those things here. Why 13? Because that's a lucky number for me. My birthday is January 13 (49 years old now!), and JYM Supplement Science launched in 2013.

For each of these muscle-related truisms, I break down what the science says, what it means to you and your goals, and how to apply this knowledge in the gym for optimal results. Let the muscle-building commence!

#1 Leaner Is Better

What that means: The more body fat you carry, the less muscle you're likely to gain.

What the research says: In a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, University of Illinois researchers fed healthy-weight, overweight and obese male subjects a high-protein meal and then measured their increases in muscle protein synthesis to determine “anabolic response.” The scientists found that the healthy-weight individuals experienced a considerably higher boost in muscle protein synthesis than did the overweight and obese guys.

Translation: The leaner guys were basically more anabolic, with more protein going to muscle growth after ingestion. Likewise, carrying more body fat appears to limit potential muscle growth, possibly due to a specific protein in the body called TNF-alpha that's known to be higher in people with higher amounts of body fat. Based on this research, it appears that the leaner you are, the more muscle you'll be able to build.

What to do about it: If you're already lean, feel free to jump right into a mass-building program (like Down and Up Mass or Six Weeks to Sick Arms) – your low body fat levels could very well be setting you up for maximal hypertrophy success. If you're not so lean at the moment and are looking to build muscle, consider taking this seemingly contradictory advice: Focus on fat loss first with a program like Super Shredded 8. And I'm not just talking about the SS8 training program – the SS8 diet is just as critical (if not moreso) for losing fat. After lowering your body fat levels, then jump into a more dedicated mass-building program.

This brings up another question I get often: Can I still take Shred JYM while trying to build muscle? Yes, absolutely! Based off the Illinois study, Shred JYM could indirectly be a great tool for building size by helping you lose fat. In fact, Shred JYM ingredients acetyl-L-carnitine and green tea extract will promote growth directly. Shred JYM won't hinder muscle growth; it will promote it.

#2 Full-Body Training May Be Superior

What that means: A training program that has you training the whole body each workout so that each muscle gets trained more frequently may be a better strategy for muscle growth than a bodypart split plan that trains each muscle group just once per week.

What the research says: Norwegian researchers did a study on training frequency with trained powerlifters who were originally training each muscle group (via bench press, squat,and deadlift) three times per week. The powerlifters were split up into two different groups – one group continued training each muscle group three times per week, while the other group performed the same number of total sets per week but with an increased frequency of training each muscle group six times per week. In other words, the group training each muscle group six times per week trained twice as often, but each workout consisted of half the volume as the group training each muscle group three times per week.

 The researchers reported that the group training six times per week increased muscle strength and muscle mass significantly more than the group training three times per week. Strength gains were about double in the six times per week group after 12 weeks and muscle growth was increased by 10%, while the three times per week group made no changes in muscle mass over the 12 weeks.

In another study, published in 2016 in the peer-reviewed journal Biology of Sport, New Zealand researchers had male rugby players perform either a full-body workout or a typical bodybuilding three-day split for four weeks. The main training variables were the same for each training group: same total volume per week, same number of days trained (three weekly workouts), same exercises performed (squats, leg curls, leg press, bench press, bent-over rows, lat pulldowns, shoulder press, biceps curls, calf raises).

Results from the study showed that the full-body workouts led to a more significant drop in body fat than did the split workouts – a 6% drop versus a 2% drop. Where muscle growth was concerned, the full-body training group showed a greater increase in testosterone levels and improved testosterone-to-cortisol ratios (an indicator of an athlete’s anabolic state) compared with the split training group. The more anabolic you are following a workout, the better chance you have for optimal recovery and growth.

Training every major muscle group more frequently may lead to greater activation of genes that stimulate muscle growth. In the New Zealand study, the group using the whole-body training split saw a slightly greater increase in lean muscle mass gain as compared to the split training group. Although, this wasn't statistically significant, it's worth noting. The short term of the study (4 weeks) may have limited the results here. Changing to a more frequent training regimen can be overreaching, which is the state before overtraining. So mass and strength gains may not be significant in the beginning. Once the body adapts, however, the more frequent training may lead to greater lean muscle mass gains.

What to do about it: This research further confirms what my full-body programs on JimStoppani.com have already shown by the thousands of subjects completing them – that a full-body workout may be more effective for lean muscle mass gains with simultaneous fat loss than the typical split-set programs most bodybuilders follow. This is likely due to the fact that with whole-body training you activate more muscle fibers throughout the body. This leads to greater activation of genes that create proteins, which will stimulate muscle growth and enable more fat to be burned away for fuel.

For a program that incorporates full-body training, look no further than my Train With Jim section here on JimStoppani.com. There are dozens of different programs here, ranging from 5 days in length to 4 weeks, and all but a few of them are true full-body programs. 

As for the research comparing full-body training to split routines, many Train With Jim programs incorporate my Stoppani Full-Split (SFS) Training System. What is this? It's a combination of both full-body and split workouts. Every workout involves at least one exercise per muscle group (making it full-body training), but then there are "focus" muscle groups in each workout that get added volume to mimic a split routine. SFS is the best of both worlds, allowing you to reap all the benefits of both styles of training in every workout. 

#3 The Muscle Recovery Window Is Shorter For Trained Lifters

What that means: Some "experts" claim that you don't need to bother with post-workout recovery soon after your training session is over. This is a flawed concept if you truly want to maximize recovery and results.

What the research says: The study that spawned this concept was from McMaster University, where researchers reported that muscle protein synthesis was still elevated 24 hours after a workout in fed subjects. This study caused many “experts” to erroneously eschew the post-workout anabolic window recommendations of eating right after workouts. Their reasoning was that if protein synthesis stays elevated for 24 hours, there’s no reason to worry about eating right away. What they failed to realize was that the subjects were fed right after the workout, as it is critical to jump start a boost in muscle protein synthesis right after the workout.

What the “experts” also failed to realize is that the subjects in the study were fed right after the workout. Also, the subjects were not trained lifters, which likely influenced how long their muscle protein synthesis was elevated for. In fact, earlier research from the same lab suggested that in untrained subjects, muscle protein synthesis may stay elevated for up to 72 hours after a workout. However, after 8 weeks of weight training, the elevation in post-workout muscle protein synthesis may only remain for about 16 hours. In other words, the more trained you are, the smaller the anabolic window appears to be. If only 8 weeks of training can significantly shorten that window, imagine what 8 months or 8 years can do.

What to do about it: If you truly want to maximize muscle mass gains, you're far better off getting ample quality protein and carbs as soon as possible after your workout. Numerous studies not only support this for muscle growth and even fat loss, but also for faster muscle glycogen recovery. That's what my Post JYM and Pro JYM formulas are designed for, and the results of millions following that very advice is hard to argue with. After all, "Results don't lie!"

#4 Periodization Works Best

What that means: Periodization is just a fancy word for changing up your training. While the 8-10-rep range is considered "best" for muscle growth, you never want to stick with it for too long. Same for rest periods between sets and even how frequently you train each muscle group. You must constantly change training variables for continued progress.

What the research says: Research confirms that periodized programs result in greater gains in muscle strength and muscle mass, as compared to programs where the variables remain the same. Scientists from Southern Utah University (Cedar City) wanted to determine whether periodized training was more effective than non-periodized programs. To do this, they analyzed all previous studies that compared periodized to non-periodized strength-training programs for changes in strength and power. Not suprisingly, they found that periodized programs are definitely more advantageous for building muscle strength and power. Although they didn’t investigate changes in muscle growth, it's easy to project that based on the superiority of periodized training for gaining muscle strength, it's also more effective for building muscle mass.

Periodization is a term that refers to the systematic manipulation of acute training variables over a period of time, ranging from days to years. The acute variables include: (1) exercises used, (2) exercise order, (3) weight used/intensity (reps completed), (4) sets performed, (5) rest periods between sets, and (6) rep speed/tempo used. The original concept of periodization was developed in the former Eastern Bloc countries in the late 1950s/early '60s to optimize athletes’ adaptations to resistance training. More importantly, periodization revolves around the athlete’s competitive calendar, such that they're at "peak" performance levels for competition.

What to do about it: You can either make sure you design your training program to include necessary changes in weight used, reps competed per set, rest periods between sets, exercises selection, total volume, training frequency and even rep speed. Or, follow any of my programs at JimStoppani.com, all of which are designed with periodized schemes to keep the variables changing and the gains continuing.

#5 Mental Focus In The Gym Can Translate To Major Muscle Gains

What that means: The mind-muscle connection is the ability to focus so deeply on a muscle that you can increase the amount of muscle fibers you're using and therefore get better results in muscle growth. Yet some skeptics feel this concept is not real science and is just "touchy-feely" nonsense invented by bodybuilders in the 1970s. But research proves its real.

What the research says: University of South Carolina (Upstate) researchers had weight-trained football players perform 3 sets of bench presses using their 50% rep max weight (a weight equal to 50 percent of their one-rep max weight, or a weight they could do for a little more than 20 reps) and 3 sets using their 80% RM (a weight that they could do for about 7-8 reps). During each bench press set, they measured the muscle activity of the athletes' pecs, triceps and front deltoids. In the first set, they were given no instructions. In the second set, they were told to use just their chest muscles.

When the athletes used the light weight (50% RM) and were instructed to use just their chest muscle, the muscle activity of their pecs increased by 22% compared to when they had no instructions. When they were told to use only their triceps while lifting the light weight, their triceps muscle activity increased by 26%. During the heavier lift (80% RM) the increase in muscle activity of the focused muscles was not as significant. The researchers concluded that focusing on a specific muscle during exercises (such as the bench press) can increase the amount of muscle fibers used in that muscle, but that this may be more effective with lighter weight.

What to do about it: To help utilize more muscle fibers when using weight that allows you to complete 8 reps or more, focus on the target muscle group being used. This can increase the amount of muscle fibers being used specifically by that muscle during the lift. The more muscle fibers you're using, the greater the muscle growth you can expect in the long run.This is one of the many reasons why I included ingredients in Pre JYM to help enhance focus, such as Huperzine, Alpha-GPC, tyrosine and caffeine.

#6 Training to Failure Is Non-Negotiable For Muscle Growth

What that means: If you want to build more muscle, you better be taking many of your sets to muscle failure, or just short of it.

What the research says: In one McMaster Univeristy study, researchers looked at three groups: one group training to failure at 4-5 reps per set, another training to failure at 25 reps, and the third group doing 25 reps but stop shorting of failure. What they found was, both the 4-5-rep and 25-rep sets taken to failure increased muscle protein synthesis far greater than the 25-rep sets not taken to muscle failure.

These results highlight the fact that training to failure is the only way to recruit all of the fast-twitch muscle fibers and instigate sufficient metabolic stress for maximizing muscle mass. Data like this should quiet all the strength-training “experts” who say you shouldn't train to muscle failure, at least not on most sets. They claim that it leads to overtraining and can actually interfere with strength and muscle growth. Not true. Training to failure produces strength and size. As for overtraining, a proper nutrition and supplement regimen, as well as listening to your body, should take care of that. 

What to do about it: Simple – take most, if not all, of your working sets to the point where you can't physically perform another rep with good form. That's the defintion of training to failure. Of course, I also believe in training past failure with techniques like drop sets, rest-pauses and extended sets. These intensity techniques should be used in moderation, but they're great for building muscle.

#7 Whey Protein Is Not Enough

What that means: Fast-absorbing whey protein is great, but it's even better for building muscle when combined with slow- and medium-digesting proteins.

What the research says: Countless scientific studies confirm that combining whey protein with at least slow-digesting casein is better for muscle growth than taking whey alone; this has been known for over a decade. More recently, strong evidence has shown that it's an even better idea to add a medium-digesting protein like egg or soy to the whey/casein combo. Am I just saying this because my Pro JYM protein powder is a combination of whey, casein and egg proteins? No, it happened the other way around. The science preceded the product. I designed Pro JYM with the specific whey/casein/egg protein blend because that's what the literature dictated. I just did what science told me to do.

But let's talk about a few of the studies. One of the first pro-protein blend studies came from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Researchers there found that a group of trained men following a 10-week program while supplementing with a whey/casein blend gained four pounds of lean muscle and dropped a small amount of body fat; meanwhile, another group of men in the study doing the same 10-week program but taking whey on its own (no casein added to it) gained no muscle and even added a bit of body fat.

Two later studies – both from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, one performed in 2013 and the other in 2014 – further supported protein blends for better muscles growth. However, in these two cases medium-digesting protein in the form of soy was added to the mix. The findings from the two studies showed that a blend of fast-, medium- and slow-digesting proteins, as compared to whey on its own, resulted in (1) more amino acids being taken up by the muscles for a longer period of time, (2) elevated muscle protein synthesis for a longer period and (3) more muscle protein being built, which can lead to greater gains in muscle size and strength.

And while the two Texas Medical used soy protein, every indication says that egg protein – also medium-digesting – would be just as effective for enhancing muscle growth, if not moreso because egg has been shown to be more anabolic than soy.

The list of studies pointing to the effectiveness of protein blends versus whey alone is extensive. I've just given you three specific examples here.

What to do about it: Simple – instead of buying a protein powder that's 100% whey, opt instead for a protein blend that at least adds casein to the formula. I can only speak for my own products, so I suggest Pro JYM. It has the optimal blend of whey, micellar casein and egg proteins – 50% whey, 40% casein, 10% egg. I highly recommend taking 1-2 scoops of Pro JYM within 30 minutes both before and after workouts. Pro JYM also makes a great high-quality protein snack at any time of day and is ideal both first thing in the morning and before bedtime.

#8 A Higher Cholesterol Diet May Be Better For Growth

What that means: While many nutrition experts warn against eating too much cholesterol to better maintain overall health, that line of thinking is quickly becoming outdated. It now appears that dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol levels. In fact, eating more cholesterol may be better for muscle growth and overall health.

What the research says: Rather than be harmful, the fat and cholesterol from egg yolks appears to provide benefits for those who strength train.

Scientists from Kent State University put 47 older adults (ages 60-69) on a 12-week weight lifting program and tested them before and after for changes in muscle mass and strength. They placed all subjects on a moderate protein diet and divided them into two groups. One group followed a lower cholesterol diet (1.6 mg per pound of bodyweight or approximately 150-250 mg per day), while the other group consumed a higher cholesterol diet (2.6 mg per pound of bodyweight or about 250-450 mg per day). After 12 weeks of weight training, the group that consumed the lower cholesterol diet did not increase muscle mass and only increased their strength by about 35%. The higher-cholesterol group, on the other hand, had an increase in muscle mass of about 5 pounds and increased their strength by about 90 percent.

One study from Texas A&M researchers found that subjects consuming 3 whole eggs per day while following a weight-lifting program for 12 weeks gained twice as much muscle mass and twice as much muscle strength as subjects eating either just one egg per day or no eggs.

As far as cholesterol is concerned, there's less worry about consuming eggs and rising blood cholesterol levels. The cholesterol from eggs does not appear to have much of a negative influence on blood cholesterol levels. In fact, one study from the University of Connecticut tested the cholesterol response of 25 males and 27 females to an egg diet (640 mg per day of additional cholesterol) or a non-egg diet (0 mg per day of additional cholesterol). They found that the cholesterol in egg yolks does not raise the LDL cholesterol particles that are associated with cardiovascular disease.  

What to do about it: These studies underscore the fact that bodybuilding nutrition often doesn't parallel nutrition advice that fits the general population. While the general population is warned against the perils of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet, young healthy lifters should actually strive to consume moderate amounts in their diet. Cholesterol is important for maintaining higher testosterone levels and maintaining the integrity of muscle cell membranes (this helps them function properly and to avoid breakdown). Although the Kent State study was done in older adults and further research in this area needs to be done, it appears that cholesterol is necessary for building muscle and strength. Even the Kent State scientists concluded that low-cholesterol diets may not be for everyone, particularly athletes and others who are interested in building and maintaining strength and muscle mass. So continue consuming red meat, as well as other healthy sources of fat and cholesterol such as egg yolks, liver and shell fish.

#9 Taking A Break Won’t Ruin Your Gains

What that means: Most serious lifters would rather lose a finger than skip a scheduled training day, let alone a break for a week or two. The fear is that ALL their gains in muscle mass will suddenly shrink away. Yet, muscle loss and strength losses don't occur that fast.

What the research says: One study found that weight-trained men who took 6 weeks off from the gym lost no strength or muscle mass, nor did they gain any extra body fat. In another study, Spanish researchers followed a group of breast cancer survivors who had previously trained before their treatment for 16 weeks — eight weeks of regular workouts and eight weeks of no workouts. What they found at the end of the detraining period was that the improvements in terms of strength endurance and muscle functional capacity the subjects experienced during the training period did not significantly change even though there were significant losses in muscle mass. 

What to do about it: Don’t fear a layoff. It takes the body approximately two weeks to make adaptations, such as getting stronger or growing more muscle. It takes approximately the same length of time to start losing those adaptations. So unless your layoff goes well over two weeks, enjoy the rest. It can do a body very good to take some time off here and there from training. Small muscle injuries can heal and you may find you come back to the gym with a renewed urgency. I don’t recommend taking a break after every one of my programs, but I do recommend you listen to your body and take a break, be it two days or a week, when your body needs it. And if it doesn’t seem to need a break, consider giving it one anyway at least once a year.

#10 Overtraining Can Help You Grow – When Used Properly

What that means: The word overtraining has become, well, overplayed. Almost every other “expert” out there is warning you to not go too intense for too long, otherwise you'll be overtrained. That’s nonsense! That hour and a half, or less, in the gym followed by a fairly sedentary day is NOT going to spur overtraining. Our bodies are designed to be work machines. A true overtraining situation is tough to reach for someone who isn’t a competitive athlete and training and practicing several times a day. Don’t fear overtraining; try to instigate it. This is known as overreaching, and it works well to spur muscle growth when done right.

What the research says: Research from the University of Connecticut shows that if you overreach for four weeks and then back off before becoming overtrained, muscle mass gains come readily after you back off the training following that fourth week – that is, if your nutrition is adequate and you're supplying the right amino acids at the right times. 

What to do about it: Do a full-body style training program 4-7 times per week for four consecutive weeks. Then switch to a split-set program at a much lower intensity. Or, simply head to my Daily Grind program

#11 Age Is No Excuse – Just Eat More Protein

What that means: Protein synthesis decreases in older age. But the good news is, with high protein consumption, this can be offset to at least help you maintain muscle mass not only for aesthetic purposes but for overall health and functionality.

What the research says: Researchers at the University of Central Florida (Orlando) investigated how age affected gains in muscle size and strength. They placed untrained men and women aged 18-40 years old on a 12-week periodized strength-training program for their non-dominant arms. Each subject worked out that one arm twice per week; the opposite arm (the dominant one) served as a control.

The UCF team found that when they compared the subjects by age group – teens, those in their 20s and those in their 30s – there was no difference in the amount of muscle mass gained for any group. All three groups gained about 20% more muscle on their non-dominant arms versus the control arm. The only benefit that being younger had was the ability to gain slightly more one-rep max strength on the preacher curl. However, the older the subjects were, the more strength and muscle size they had when they started the 12-week program. Typically, the more strength you have, the less strength you can gain, since you're closer to your so-called ceiling.

What to do about it: There's really no difference in the ability to gain muscle size as you age, at least up to 40 years old. And I’ll argue at least up to 49! While you may have some minor limits on your capacity to increase one-rep strength than your younger counterparts, you're likely stronger at this point than they are. If you're just getting started into lifting, it doesn't matter how old you are. You can train just as often and as intensely as younger lifters. In other words, it's never too late to start lifting weights or to continue making gains.

Do, however, consume at least 40 grams of protein per meal to optimize muscle protein synthesis with the goal of increasing muscle mass. Research has discovered that older men need higher amounts of protein than their younger counterparts to boost muscle protein synthesis. My range in protein intake is wide: 1-2 grams per pound of body weight. That’s due to the research showing that protein requirements are not one-size-fits all. The older you get, the closer you want to be to that 2-gram mark; just cut back on carbs to keep calories down. Eating that much protein often turns off your hunger for carbs, especially when you have delicious Pro JYM. Personally, I’d often rather have a Tahitian Vanilla Bean Pro JYM shake than ice cream – and I mean soley for flavor!

#12 Stress Limits Results (Including Muscle Gains)

What that means: Stress caused from work, family, relationships, etc., not only negatively effects your health over time, but it can also take away from muscle mass and strength gains.

What the research says: When you're under high levels of stress (emotional or physical), the body releases cortisol, a major "stress hormone" that's catabolic in nature. When cortisol is raised but then comes back down quickly (as it typically does after a workout, provided you take in the right nutritients), there's not a problem; in fact, this makes your body stronger, which is the whole point of working out. The problem arises when chronic stress causes cortisol levels to remain elevated over long periods of time. We often see this when people go through difficult times with a highly stressful job, an abusive relationship or a death to a close friend or relative.

As for how this effects muscle and strength gains, one study from the University of Texas (Austin) analyzed college students following a 12-week weight training program. The researchers found that the students with high stress levels experienced significantly less muscle mass and strength gains than those reporting low stress levels.

What to do about it: Relax. Seriously. I'm a huge promoter of staying active every day with workouts as well as following my 30/60 Rule, but you also need to find time on a daily basis to relax and unwind. Block off some time to turn off the TV, turn off your cell phone, shut down your computer and get away from stresses like work. Spend relaxing time with your family, meditate if you're into that, do some yoga, get a message, sit in a hot tub, read a book – whatever interests you and helps you relax. Yoga, in paticular, has been shown in studies to reduce cortisol levels. And every so often, take a vacation. Not everyone is able to escape to the beach or a far off destination, but even a trip some place more local can be a great release.

There are also some simple nutritional strategies you can utilize to reduce stress. For one, drink tea. Research has shown a 20% reduction in cortisol levels in people who frequently drink tea. I recommend black tea or green tea, and drinking at least four glasses per day to achieve the cortisol-lowering effects. Yogurt, likely due to its probiotics, has also been shown to reduce stress levels. If you don't want to eat yogurt, taking probiotics is an option.

Also, fish oil has been shown to decrease anxiety levels by up to 20%. For this, of course, I strongly suggest Omega JYM, my fish oil supplement that has the ideal ratio of EPA, DPA and DHA omega-3 fats.

#13 Heat Can Help You Grow

What that means: Heating up your body with a hot bath, a soak in a hot tub or other means may actually spur muscle growth due to heat shock proteins (HSPs).

What the research says: New research is starting to uncover some interesting things about HSPs and their newly discovered role in muscle growth. HSPs are proteins that are involved in numerous processes in the body; they got their name simply because they were discovered by researchers studying the effects of heat stress on the body. HSPs increase in your body when you're exposed to heat, and research now finds that both heat and HSPs can help boost muscle mass.

Japanese researchers placed rats in a heat chamber set to 105º F for one hour per day for a two-week period. They hypothesized that the heat exposure would increase various HSPs, which would increase the rats' muscle mass. To measure changes in muscle mass, they weighed the rats' soleus (deep calf) muscles and body weight after 7 days and14 days of heat exposure and compared them to a control group of rats that did not undergo heat exposure. The scientists reported in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications that after 7 days of heat exposure, the rats' soleus muscle increased in weight by 13% on average as compared to the controls. After 14 days, the rats' body weight increased by 5% compared to the control group. When the scientists analyzed the muscles to determine what may be responsible for the heat-induced growth, they discovered that HSPs were significantly increased in the muscles. The HSPs enhance muscle growth by altering calcium levels in muscles fibers. This in turn signals the protein calcineurin to activate muscle protein synthesis.

Another study from West Virginia University School of Medicine (Morgantown) found that rats that performed heavy resistance training for about 5 weeks without heat exposure also significantly increased levels of certain HSPs in their calf muscles, as well as the weight of the calf muscle by about 16%. They further discovered that the older rats in the group were unable to defend against the oxidative stress caused by the heavy exercise. In these rats, even though they had higher levels of HSP, they failed to increase muscle mass.

What to do in the gym: You can increase levels of HSP in muscles, and therefore muscle growth, by lifting weights or heat exposure. Using both weight lifting and heat exposure should lead to greater muscle gains than lifting alone. For heat exposure, try a sauna or a hot tub. Health professionals warn that you should limit your time in either of these to 20 minutes. If you don't have access to a sauna or hot tub, try a hot bath. I recommend that you only use heat exposure AFTER you workout, never before. Reason being, oxidative stress, such as that caused by free radicals produced during weight lifting, can limit the muscle growth that HSPs normally incite.



Bartholomew, J.B., et al. Strength gains after resistance training: the effect of stressful, negative life events. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22(4):1215-21, 2008.

Bui, S., et al. High Egg Cholesterol Consumption May Not Affect Blood Serum Cholesterol Levels in Elite Athletes in Training

Burd, N. A., et al. Enhanced amino acid sensitivity of myofibrillar protein synthesis persists for up to 24 h after resistance exercise in young men. J Nutr. 2011 Apr 1;141(4):568-73.

Cribb, P. J. and Hayes, A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25.

Hakkinen, K. and Kallinen, M. Distribution of strength training volume into one or two daily sessions and neuromuscular adaptations in female athletes. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 34(2), 117-24, 1994.

Herron, K. L.  High intake of cholesterol results in less atherogenic low-density lipoprotein particles in men and women independent of response classification Metabolism. 53(6): 823-830, 2004.

Ivy, J. L. Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: effect of carbohydrate intake. Int J Sports Med. 19(Suppl 2):S142-5, 1998.

Kerksick, C., et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 5:17, 2008.

Kraemer WJ, The effects of amino acid supplementation on hormonal responses to resistance training overreaching.Metabolism. 2006 Mar;55(3):282-91

Kraemer, et al. Physiological changes with periodized resistance training in women tennis players. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 35(1):157-68, 2003.

Kraemer, W. J., et al. Detraining produces minimal changes in physical performance and hormonal variables in recreationally strength-trained men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 16(3):373–382, 2002.

Kobayashi, T.,  et al. Possible role of calcineurin in heating-related increase of rat muscle mass. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 331: 1301-1309, 2005.

Layman, D.K., et al. Egg Protein as a Source of Power, Strength, and Energy. Nutrition Today 44(1) 2009, 43-48.

Lowndes, J., et al. Association of age with muscle size and strength before and after short-term resistance training in young adults. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(7): 1915-1920, 2009.

Murlasits, Z., et al. Resistance training increases heat shock protein levels in skeletal muscle of young and old rats. Experimental Gerontology. 41(4):398-406, 2006.

Raastad, T., et al. Powerlifters improved strength and muscular adaptations to a greater extent when equal total training volume was divided into 6 compared to 3 training sessions per week. Book of abstracts, 17th annual conference of the ECSS, 2012.

Rhea, M. R. and Alderman, B. L. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 75(4): 413-422, 2004.

Riechman1, S. E., et al. Dietary and Blood Cholesterol and Statins Increase Hypertrophy with Resistance Training. Experimental Biology, San Diego, 2005.

Smith, R. A., et al. The effects of resistance training prioritization in NCAA Division I Football summer training. J Strength Cond Res. 28(1):14-22, 2014.

Snyder, B. J. and Fry, W. R. Effect of verbal instruction on muscle activity during the bench press exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Sep;26(9):2394-400.


Related Articles