I’ve mentioned Protein Synthesis a couple of times recently, therefore I feel today is as good a day as any to explain a little bit more about what it is and how to increase it’s potency.
Muscles grow through protein synthesis, that’s the short answer. Despite what supplement companies, internet gurus and people who are trying to sell you something will tell you, there is no magic formula that will supersede the basic science of protein synthesis, it takes time, effort and understanding, just as with everything in fitness. Once you understand how protein synthesis creates muscle growth, you can achieve your goals, whether they are bodybuilding, strength, performance or just general fitness based.
As many of you are aware, muscles grow by repairing small micro-tears that occur on a cellular level during exercise as a result of the stimulus (overload) you give them, thus exercise a key component of muscle growth and without it your body wouldn’t have any cause for adaptation. Weight training is generally considered the best type of exercise to promote muscle growth, however high power anaerobic CV work can also have some muscle building affects as well. When the muscle experiences adequate stimulus/overload, blood flow to the area increases which allows for more nutrients to be delivered to the working areas, among the nutrients the necessary components for repair/growth/adaptation through the process known as protein synthesis.
For protein synthesis and muscle growth to occur, a number of components must be present. First, the muscle must have exercise-induced micro-injury. Second, naturally occurring hormones, including testosterone and growth hormones produced by the pituitary, must be present. Finally, you must have a diet containing sufficient protein. Protein is the basic building block of all of the body’s tissues, especially muscle. Proteins are made from amino acids, some of which the body can synthesise and some of which must be consumed in the diet.
You can increase your bodies ability/potency for protein synthesis by hitting as many Motor Units/Deep Muscle Fibres as possible. This is because you will for the body in to places it hasn’t been before, meaning that when it starts the adaptive process it will super compensate so that it can handle that amount of load the next time it comes around.
Protein synthesis is higher after you have exposed said muscles to the necessary overload and lasts anywhere from 24-48 hours after the workout, however there are various high level coaches and athletes that will recommend a higher frequency of training (daily or twice daily for example) to help keep the body in a more anabolic state. This is why you will find top level lifters train more than once per day, but you must also remember that they have the most optimal nutrition for them, not to mention their training is tailored perfectly to them as well.
When you take this concept int o account you will realise it’s not about smashing out 40sets in one workout for legs and waiting a week before training them again, it’s far more beneficial to train legs 4 times per week and do 10 sets per workout to increase the rate of protein synthesis and potential muscle growth.
If you can train a muscle every 2-3days you will find the optimal place for achieving your goal. Below is an example of how to get more frequency on your lifts using an upper/lower split based on those lucky enough to train twice per day (if you can train twice per day you can combine the workouts, you’ll just need to regulate the volume accordingly).
Day 1 – Lower AM – Quads, PM – Hamstring
Day 2 – Upper AM – Shoulders/Back, PM – Chest/Back
Day 4 – Lower AM – Quads, PM – Hamstring
Day 5 – Upper AM – Shoulders/Back, PM – Chest/Back
Day 7 – Repeat 2 on 1 off (Y).
Need a set and rep range?
7×5 on Compound Lifts – 1 lift per workout
4×12 on Accessory Lifts – 2 lifts per workout
What exercises could you use?
Quads – Squat, Lunge, Leg Extension.
Hamstring – Deadlift, Good Morning, Hamstring Curl.
Shoulders/Back – Press BB, Press DB, Lateral Raise – Super Set pressing with Pull Ups and Lateral Raise with Reverse Fly.
Chest/Back – Bench BB, Incline Flies or Press DB, Dips – Super Set bench/incline work with a rowing movement and dips with chins.
Frequency of training is key to increased protein synthesis however you must ensure you don’t do too much and exceed your ability to recover. You an achieve this by tracking all of your volume.