Thursday, November 11, 2010


The more scientists study human muscles, the more amazed they are- at what muscles can do, and how new exercise techniques are helping to develop them faster than ever before. The results of this research have changed training methods, and have established that focused Strength Training Exercises are the best preventive medicine.

Muscles are truly marvellous. In the human body these powerhouses weigh as much as one's Blood, Bones, Brain & Liver put together. 2000 genes contribute to their development and functioning, and they produce 2,900 different proteins. In fact, some scientists have lately begun to regard muscles as the most complex organ of the body after the brain. Many researchers now studying the muscles often based on mice, ironincally given that it was mice who gave muscles their names. In the mind of ancient man, the movement of the arm's biceps resembled the scurrying of a little mouse, so the Romans called it “musculus” and muscles continued to referred to as “little mice” until well into the 18th century.

And it was through mice that Se-Jin Lee, a microbiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, discovered that the growth of muscles is dependent on the concentration of a protein called myostatin: the less there is of this protein, the more muscles there are. By removing the myostatin gene in some mice, he succeeded in producing animals that looked like miniature body builders. Lee's research has changed the science of muscles; it has transformed them from uninteresting organs into mysterious biological systems.

How can one increase muscle mass in an efficient and healthy way? This is a question that has long vexed doctors as as sports scientists. The classic doctrine preaches that regular and controlled training leads to success; patience and endurance- as many training sessions as possible- are considered to be the critical factors.

There are two types of skeletal muscles (1. Red muscles which contracts slowly and are good for endurance or stamina type of exercises; 2. White muscles  which contracts rapidly and are good for sprinters/ weight lifters for short burst activities)

All of us have a mix of these 2 types and 80 % of this mixture ins genetically determined. But recent studies prove that a certain portion of our muscles can be converted to “mixed” fibres. So anyone, even an average athlete who does short and crisp training can increase not only strength but, simultaneously, endurance as well.

The opinion that Strength Training and Endurance are mutually conflicting is based on misconceptions. However, one cannot be randomly substituted by the other- especially not from the point of view of health, which believes in a systematic build- up muscles. That's why it is not enough to focus only on endurance by jogging, for example.

Strength training protects the body. Accumulating muscle mass also increases the “Messengers” circulating in your blood stream- the hormones. They pulsate through the body 24 hrs a day regulating one's metabolism. A powerful musculature therefore also ensures, for instance,  that sugar and fat are broken down efficiently even when you are doing nothing more than lounging about on a sofa.

Besides our muscles shrink as we grow older- especially if we do nothing with them. The rule of thumb is that muscle strength reduces by 10 % with every decade. A terrifying phenomenon associated with this development is called SARCOPENIA., which literally means “Poverty of Flesh”. Those who suffer from this condition frequent falls and injuries associated with them. More than Alzheimer's or Cardio- vascular problems. Muscle loss is the creeping horror of old age, and makes invalids out of those whose don't exercise. Just 3 weeks of bed-rest can weaken a body more than 2 decades of aging.

Muscles are the efficient “Economic Stimulus Package” of our body against diabetes, obesity, and many other problems. And it does not take as much time to increase muscle mass as was once believed. High- intensity training (HIT) is the systematic and focused implementation of this knowledge. The priniciple: flat-out effort, as far as possible, a few times in succession. This gets the muscles of the entire system going. The heart pumps what it can. The legs build up fibres that are good for both strength and endurance. And for the professional, it is wonderful to get both the “huffing and puffing”, as well as the strength training for the back and upper body, over and done with one quick go.

Sports scientists say HIT is ideal for running, sports cycling, swimming, or playing football- in all of which endurance and the dynamic development of strength play a major role.

The foundations of high-intensity training were laid in the 1970s and 80s by 2 American: Arthur Jones, the sports- goods manufacturer, and Mike Mentzer, the body-builder. Their ideas spread throughout the body-building world, and found receptive ears in other fields as well: internationally, throughout the arena of professional sports, HIT is now regarded as the most effective training. Doctors too are now recomending the programme: for heart patients, for those suffering from lung diseases and for elderly people in general.

Norwegian Researchers have discovered that patients with coronary heart problems who do a HIT running work-out three times a week, for a period of 10 weeks, increase their Oxygen intake for more than those following only a moderate intensity exercise routine. The lesson learned from the research has always been the same: Use them or lose them.

By exerting your muscles to the maximum, you are doing your health the greatest good.

According to Billy Sperlich of the German Sports University, Koln, “HIT is the best thing for recreational sportsmen and women”. But not everyone can stretch themselves to this extent. “A stress test under medical supervision must be done first to check the heart”, says Sperlich.

Ten minutes should be spend each time to get the heart and circulation on track, both before and after the exercises. Prior to pumping iron, one must 1st go through all exercises with half- weights, to warm up the muscles. And because HIT strains the body to a greater extent than the classic volume training routine, intervals between sessions have to be longer. “It is important to have a break of 2-3 days after each training session”, says Sperlich.

“It is difficult to beat this method,” says Jurgen Giessing of the University of Koblenz- Landau in Germany. “Good results are achieved with moderate effort”. And it is not just sports scientists who have realised this – salmon breeders have, too.

Fish farms in Norway are now using HIT to keep young salmon in shape. The fish are made to swim vigorously upstream and their heart- rate and oxygen consumption are measured, after which they are released into their breeding cages in salt water. Initial results indicated that the mortality rate among juvenile fish dropped by more than 10 % within a period of 6 weeks.

Athletes, Heart patient, And now Salmon ! All living beings can exercise according to the same flatout, full stretch principle. Our muscular system is indeed a gift of Evoultion.

Courtesy : GEO Magazine Feb 2010

1 comment:

Dr.N.Rajan. said...

Well written and researched. The blog appears to be too long and technical for lay people. It is extremley good for doctors and phsiotherapists.