From Charles Poliquin
Want to lose fat for summer? Or pack on some muscle so you look like a lean beast? Add a few extra inches to your vertical jump for that summer basketball league?
To get results fast, you’ve got to understand how each goal requires different training protocols. If you want to lose fat, you need to generate as much physiological stress as possible so that your body uses a significant amount of energy and produces a dramatic buildup of lactic acid in the shortest period of time. The effect will be a lot of calorie burning, the use of fat for fuel, and a thriving metabolism.
If you want to build muscle, it’s still all about applying “stress” to the muscle, but in this case the stress must be tension, or weight. The continual loading will cause the muscle to adapt and grow bigger over time. This can also have the effect of enhancing your power output by preferentially building strength in the powerful Type II muscles—think more air on your vertical.
Endurance exercise, such as distance running, is all about efficiency. It trains the body to use the least amount of energy to produce the greatest amount of work. It is not very effective for fat loss and muscle building. It can help you gain a base level of conditioning, but your speed and jumping ability won’t improve and you may get slower from a lot of distance running.
A recent study takes a closer look at how different training modes will shape the body. Researchers recorded free testosterone, cortisol, and muscle fiber type in three groups of men: elite sprinters, elite endurance athletes, and an untrained but active group. Results showed that the sprinters had a much greater percentage (70 percent) of powerful type II fibers than the endurance athletes (37 percent). The untrained men scored closer to the power athletes with 61 percent fast-twitch fibers.
The sprinters’ free testosterone levels were slightly higher (10 percent) than both other groups, though this was not a statistically significant difference. The sprinters had a better testosterone to cortisol ratio, and the T:C ratio correlated with the higher proportion of type II fibers. A more favorable testosterone to cortisol ratio indicates a better environment for muscle growth and tissue repair.
Of interest, it’s possible that the better T:C ratio produces a fiber type shift from type I to type II fiber, as is seen in both the sprinters and the untrained group. We know that muscle fibers can shift within the fast- or slow-twitch subtypes (from IIX to IIA, for example), but the research group thinks hormone response to training may actually cause transitions between the fiber types.
They think that testosterone exerts the most significant effect on tissue when there is a marked increase, as in during maturation or when starting a strength training program. For example, if an endurance athlete were to strength train, they might experience an increase in testosterone and a small fiber type shift to more type II fibers.
Take away the following points to get ready for summer:
• To get lean fast, focus on metabolically stressful training. Sprints, sled training, and weight lifting with short rest periods should be the focus. Include some heavy load training to maintain strength as well.
• If you favor putting on muscle and want to lose a little fat, focus on moderate load training for a high volume. Use short to medium rest periods and a longer time under tension.
• If you’re over 40 and your goal is mobility and longevity, opt for weight training with an explosive component to build muscle and power. Improve cardiovascular capacity with moderate to strenuous intervals.
Grandys, M., Majerczak, J., et al. Skeletal Muscle Myosin Heavy Chain Isoform Content in Relation to Gonadal Hormones and Anabolic-Catabolic Balance in Trained and Untrained Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.