mass

MASS: Are You Ready to Enter the Beast

In case you we're unaware, Dr. Pat Davidson just released his first Ebook this week MASS.  While I'd love to sit here and tell you about how it's THE PREMIERE muscle building program available right now, or how it's forged monsters out of mere men, I'd rather share with you the first several pages of the book for FREE. In those few pages I think you'll get a feel for just how special this program is.  Enjoy:

Just a heads up that MASS is only on sale through Sunday night.

Foreword by Jim Ferris

In the fitness industry, mentioning to colleagues the legendary name “Pat Davidson” gets you two responses. The first is a smile ear-to-ear. The second is usually a story not unlike one you may hear about Scotland’s infamous William Wallace. While Pat is not a 7-foot tall giant like the storied “Braveheart,” he does have a neck thicker than most peoples’ thighs (which is, I imagine, to hold that valuable cranium of his in place). Some who have attended his workouts or lectures will even argue that they have seen fireballs in his eyes. As for the “lightning bolts coming from his arse”—well I guess some things we can just leave to the imagination.

Over the many years that I have known Pat, I have come to respect him as one of the smartest, most creative, and most sought-out coaches around. There is a quote I often recite to my interns and and to coaches whom I mentor, “There is a difference between acting like a pro, and being a pro.” I assure you that when it comes to Pat Davidson there is no acting, nonsense, or BS. He is a true pro’s pro. He is a man with whom everyone in the industry should have a conversation if they are fortunate to have an opportunity to do so.

A few months back I was getting bored with my training routine and wanted to start something new. I needed something fresh. I needed something that would put the edge back into my weekly training sessions. I knew exactly who could conjure up the type of madness I required. I asked Pat for a program. He asked me “Why?” to which I responded that, “I want to know what goes on in that sick, twisted, BRILLIANT brain of yours.” Laughing, he told me that he had something brewing in the lab and would be happy to let me give it a go. All I can write here about Pat’s programs are that they will test you physically, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally each and every time you do them. You will win some days; you will lose some days. The program that follows here will give you the opportunity to push your limits and see what your body and mind can accomplish.

Each of us is a bit of a storyteller with our own tales and experiences that we love passing on to people. Please keep this in mind as you push through and eventually complete this program’s 64 sessions, because this program will certainly give you an epic story to tell. Finally, when you conquer this program and are standing at the top of the “training mountain,” remember that “the top” is small for a reason: not everyone can or will get there. Right now you are probably wondering, “Is this program really such a challenge?” and that I’m just psyching you out. Well, maybe I am—that is for you to find out.

[Click Here to Buy MASS Now]

Introduction 1 by Ethan Grossman

The year is 1985. You have just witnessed first-hand your best friend and training partner brutally beaten to death by a cold Soviet robot of a man. Your wife, the mother of your child, pleads with you to stay home, settle down and enjoy the life you’ve cultivated. Still, you know in your heart it wasn’t his fight and that you could’ve stopped his death. With thoughts racing through your mind, you get in your Lamborghini for a cool drive around the city. There’s no easy way out.

It’s time for you to make a decision. You realize that in order to defeat the beast you must become one. Are YOU ready to become the beast? If so, there’s no time to wait for conditions to be perfect. You don’t need a 10 out of 10. If you score in favor of Russia over LA, then it’s time to give up your soft, comfy existence, strap up your boots and grow out your beard. It’s going to be a cold, hard winter.

Cold, dark Russia:

  1. -You have worked out before but want to take your training to the next level
  2. -You want to push yourself to a higher plateau mentally
  3. -You tend to overcomplicate your own programs and end up getting nowhere
  4. -You want to strengthen your team’s bond
  5. -You consider yourself a beast inside
  6. -You sleep 7 or more hours a night
  7. -You eat for fuel
  8. -You are held back in your workouts by your conditioning
  9. -You are just returning to training
  10. -You have an acquired taste for pain

Score-

Warm, sunny LA:

  1. -You have never lifted a weight or performed a bench press, squat or deadlift
  2. -You refuse to get your heart rate up during training
  3. -You are recovering from an injury or very prone to one
  4. -You can’t commit 4 days a week
  5. -You might miss workouts when you’re too hung over
  6. -You are travelling multiple times over the next 16 weeks
  7. -You only have access to a crowded gym at peak hours or your apartment gym
  8. -You are planning to modify the routine or add additional workouts
  9. -You are an advanced lifter about to compete in a major competition
  10. -You have to switch up the workout often or you get bored

Score-

[Click Here to Buy MASS Now]

Introduction 2 by Dr. Pat Davidson

Thank you for deciding to enter the beast. If you go through with the entirety of this program you will be changed. Most of you who start will not finish. This program is not for the weak and timid. This program is for those who are tough, resilient, and committed to working hard and reaching for the stars. I did not design this program for the 99%. Only the 1% will be able to make it through this program. The 1% are the people who are willing to endure in the face of extreme difficulty. The 1% are the people who are willing to sacrifice many things to realize an eventual goal. I have no pity for you if you are not able to complete this program. If you give up, you are probably like the majority of people on this planet. If you make up the 99% of the population who will not go through this program, there is probably nothing wrong with you, but I’m probably not interested in being friends with you. I like those who are on the fringe. I like those who are different. I like those who live by their own set of values. I like those who don’t mind it when the lunatics run the asylum. If you enter the beast, you must become the beast to survive.

My name is Pat Davidson, and I have credentials that back up my ability to write a program. I have a PhD in Exercise Physiology. I have worked as a professor of Exercise Science at Brooklyn College and Springfield College. I have coached the athletes from Springfield College Team Ironsports. I have competed in Strongman and qualified and competed in two world championships at the Arnold Classic. I have competed in submission wrestling at the highest level in the North American Grappling Association. I have fought professionally in Mixed Martial Arts. I have trained for a long time. I have made weight in weight class sports for a long time. I have studied the workings of the body and lived the science to the best of my ability for a long time. I have been lurking in the shadows, learning and training, not putting my information out for public consumption for a long time. If you are an elite strength coach, you probably know who I am. If you are an elite strongman athlete, you probably know who I am. If you are a regular Joe who is a weekend warrior, or a gym bro, you probably do not know who I am. This is how I meant to keep things. Now I am changing and permitting the 99% to have a glimpse at what the 1% does. Perhaps I can unveil more members of the 1% by putting this information out there for the masses. I doubt there are many of you out there, but if you exist, I’ll know it because you’ll enter the beast, you will become the beast, and you will want to tell me and the world about it afterwards.

This program is not going to be like ones you have done before. You will do the same workout over and over again for four weeks in a row. There is no chest and bi’s day. There is no back and shoulders day. There is no leg day. Every day will be an everything day. After you complete four weeks of the same workout done four times per week, you will move on to the next phase. Each phase builds on the previous one. Do not skip phases. Do not alter the plan. Do not have your own, “good idea”. Fall in line, and accept what is given to you. This program is not built on the singular day. This program is built on the accumulation of all the days put together. You will have good days. Do not get too excited about those good days. You will have bad days. Do not let the bad days get you down. Punch your ticket on a daily basis and ride the wave. Do not think too much. Simply trust the process and do your work. Nobody cares about you except yourself, but you can be your own worst enemy by thinking too much about yourself as a special little entity. You likely suffer from terminal uniqueness. You believe that you are somehow very different than everybody else. You are more like everyone else than you are different. Others have gone through this before you. Others will go through this after you. Either you do this, or you do not do this. You make a decision, and then everything else falls in place. If you have made your decision, then I welcome you to the beast, and I am excited for your transformation into the beast. Do not be afraid of the animal that lurks in the deep recesses of your being. Let it out, and experience its primal forces. Let it breathe the fresh air, and growl at the timid who walk around you.

At this point, you may be asking, what is the outcome that I am trying to get out of this program? The outcome is a multi-faceted one. If you are a typical gym bro, and you’re only looking to put on muscle mass, this will be accomplished through this program if you eat a lot of food. If you are looking to get shredded, this will be accomplished if you eat a moderate amount of food. If you are looking to get injured, this will be accomplished if you have poor technique and do not eat enough food. If you are looking to get stronger, this will be accomplished because the training density will cause you to accumulate a tremendous amount of high quality work. If you are looking to improve your cardiorespiratory endurance, this will be accomplished because your heart rate will be elevated for significant amounts of time while you’re doing this program. This program is a shot gun blast. Whatever it hits, it destroys.

[Click Here to Buy MASS Now]

The MASS program is a combination of periodization based program design schemes of the Soviet Union, and exercises that are extremely popular in the United States. The creation of the MASS program was greatly inspired by the movie, Rocky IV. At the moment where I sit here and write this book, May 24, 2015, I am a 35 year old, American man. I was born in 1980, and if you grew up during that time like I did, you understand that there was a lot of USA vs. USSR stuff going on in our television and movie spheres. Ivan Drago was the epitome of the Soviet villain. Drago was the unstoppable giant who appeared cold and unbeatable. He killed Rocky’s best friend, Apollo Creed in the beginning of the movie, and it appeared as though he may do the same thing to Rocky at the end of the movie. Rocky needed to avenge the death of his friend, so he had to take on the monster that was Drago. The fight took place in the Soviet Union, and Rocky traveled there to train for the epic showdown. The training scenes from this movie are some of the most memorable of any of the Rocky movies. Ivan Drago was the ultimate Soviet sports system laboratory experiment. In every training scene involving Drago he was hooked up to electrodes measuring his internal information. Drago punched devices that recorded his force production. Fancy machines were used in the training of Drago, and there were constantly multiple scientists in white lab coats with clip boards surrounding him, analyzing every aspect of his physiological development. In contrast, Rocky was running outside in the snow, climbing mountains, lifting wagons, and sweating it out inside a barn with a primitive looking fire burning in the background. This was the clash of cultures, philosophies, and approaches to training.

When I was a kid in the 80’s, I was completely fascinated by this movie and it remains one of my strongest childhood memories to date. Not only that, but I was incredibly interested in all the laboratory stuff Drago was using. Every bell had a whistle, numbers on dials were always going up, and the ability to demonstrate increased power and speed was something that grabbed my interest intensely. I thought the Soviet training was the coolest thing that I had ever seen. Conversely, I just knew that what Rocky was doing was even better. Allowing the forces of nature to permeate throughout all aspects of the training process made intuitive sense. Getting outside into big, wide open space and being very primitive in the approach to developing the body resonated as the more correct approach. Drago trained rotary force production on an isokinetic machine. Rocky put a yoke for animals on his shoulders and did the same thing. Drago performed triceps extensions on a device that could quantify force. Rocky was using a multiplanar approach that looked like a triceps extension by hoisting a huge bag of rocks attached to a pully system with a rope. Drago used the barbell clean and press while Rocky was pressing a cart with his training team seated in the back end. The two athletes juxtaposed one another in every possible way, their training included.

In putting this program together I was inspired to do some blending of approaches that reflect what I’ve learned of block training coming from the Soviet sports science approach to training, and some good old fashioned American ingenuity. If I had to define block training, I would say that it is the sequential organization of training phases where each training phase has a fairly specific, objective approach. Each phase prepares you for the following one optimally, and every subsequent phase builds on that which was developed in the previous phase. A training block should identify a fitness quality that it is trying to develop, and it should be very consistent in the way it attacks the development of that quality. While training in a block, you do not want to send mixed training messages at the body. This is why you do the same workouts over and over again during the blocks. Too much variation leads you in too many different directions. Too much variation gets you nowhere from a training perspective. I need to be very precise in picking the correct exercises that will allow me to properly develop the physiological quality I am interested in. The exercises are the tools for the job. I need to first understand what the job is that I am trying to perform, and then I select the appropriate tool. I do not want to use power snatches for time in the first two blocks of this program. The power snatch is a great tool for a phase that is looking to develop strength-speed within a triple extension oriented movement pattern focus. I’m looking to change body composition with this program, pack on muscle, increase strength in a non-specific directional way, and develop the physiology of your energy systems with this program. Giving you highly technical exercises that are easily compromised in their technical performance with fatigue is a very poor idea. In my organization of the blocks for this program, I have selected an approach that will look to recruit and fatigue as many muscle fibers in the body as I possibly can tap into. I have chosen exercises that I believe are the appropriate tools for that specific job. This is my laboratory, Soviet approach to program design.

I’ve also done this program before and had many others perform it as well. Every time I do it and see other people perform it, the program just looks right. I see people working hard, getting results, and enjoying it as much as anybody could with something that is tremendously grueling. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it’s probably a duck. This program just looks right to me. It’s got an All-American blue collar, red meat eating, punch your ticket at work kind of vibe to it for me. You get to bench press and squat and deadlift a whole lot. There’s not a lot of fancy, high tech looking exercises in this thing. I’m an American and I like to sweat and get a testosterone rush, grunt, and feel like I did something at the end of my training session. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I’m trying to organize a really hard, satisfying training experience in a way that will get you where you want to go.

[Click Here to Buy MASS Now]

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together and living the program and thoughts that are conveyed within these pages. If you’ve watched Rocky IV, I hope you enjoy the titles to the chapters, and the way a lot of the famous movie quotes keep coming back to you in the text. I hope you appreciate the fact that I’m mixing in humor and exaggeration in the writing that is in the spirit of the Rocky IV movie. If you haven’t seen Rocky IV, go watch it, because I think it will make your experience with this program better. Don’t be afraid to play the soundtrack from the movie every time you train. As you enter this book, I’d like to welcome you with one thought regarding the outcomes of your training journey into MASS…if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.

about the author

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James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitterand Instagram for the latest happenings.

What Causes Muscles to Grow Part II: The Science Edition

To truly be able to understand topics, we need to be able to see the forest through the trees, but we also have to stare at some bark. The big picture in regards to muscle growth says that we have to stress the body with mechanical loading, create some heat, and feel an acid load during training, and then we have to recover effectively in the aftermath. The small details of muscle hypertrophy can be quite confusing, and modern researchers are far from understanding all of the intricacies of the pathways associated with growth and breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue. Despite the long road ahead for anabolism based researchers in elucidating all of the pathways associated with what it takes to pack on muscle tissue, there are some things that we can point to with some certainty as being extremely important factors involved with the cellular and molecular regulation of muscle mass.

The Rate Limiting Factor

Discovering the rate limiting factor of complex inter and intracellular physiological pathways is a critical component that researchers are always interested in discovering. The rate limiting factor is the thing that typically determines whether progress continues or halts in any endeavor. Suppose I own a shoe factory, and I have a few employees who have assigned roles. Tom puts the lace holes into the leather of the shoes, Mary puts the laces in the shoes, and Jimmy puts the rubber soles on the bottom. My team simply is not making as many shoes per hour as I would like. Is it the team, or is there a rate limiting factor. I put up cameras in the factory to see what’s going on. When I analyze the film from the assembly line, I see that Mary is not cutting it. Tom is pumping out shoes with lace holes, but Mary seems more interested in checking her cell phone than diligently lacing up the shoes. The shoes are piling up into Tom’s work station. Tom simply stops doing his thing, because the log jam is happening one step ahead of him. There’s no need for Tom to keep doing his job. I have a talk with Mary, and she agrees to not use her phone at work. Suddenly the production of shoes leaving the factory increases markedly. I figured out what the rate limiting factor was and I used an intervention strategy that mitigated that component from decreasing productivity.

When discussing muscle growth, we see that it is governed by the interaction between protein synthesis and protein degradation. If synthesis exceeds the rate of degradation, then we have a net increase in protein fibers that accumulate in muscle tissue, aka, we gain muscle mass. When discussing responses to resistance training, we see that it’s a process based more on increasing protein synthesis rather than greatly diminishing degradation; whereas, responses to endurance training are more based on limiting degradation. Therefore, when examining what people who lift weights are interested in, we have to discuss the factors associated with protein synthesis.

Photo Credit:  Pearson Education
Photo Credit: Pearson Education

Protein synthesis is the manufacturing of new proteins inside of a muscle cell. The two phases of protein synthesis are transcription and translation. Transcription is the act of copying the instructions from the DNA on how to build a new protein in the form of messenger RNA (mRNA). Translation is the process by which the ribosome assembles a protein based on the instructions coming from the mRNA that travels from the nucleus to the cytosolic region where the ribosome resides. The question of greatest import is, which of the two components of protein synthesis is the rate limiting factor? The answer is that translation seems to be the lynch pin in the operation.

Diving deeper into the translational process, can we identify what is the rate limiting factor within this puzzle? The answer is that the scientific community is not there yet, and it seems as though there are many possible pathways that can be utilized in this process, but one that seems to be of critical interest is that which is called, the mTOR dependent pathway. The other critical factor is how much ribosomal biogenesis is taking place. Essentially protein synthesis is dependent upon ribosomal efficiency, which is driven to a large part by the ability to activate mTOR, and ribosomal capacity, which is related to the overall content of the number of ribosome complexes present inside a muscle cell. If we can maximize ribosomal efficiency and content, we should have the best case scenario for building muscle mass.

Readers of this article are encouraged to explore this topic within the peer reviewed articles associated with this topic. This article certainly will not present to you the full scope of what is happening in this convoluted and extremely involved logistical beehive of translational steps. Instead, the author would like to present to you key concepts that are associated with the major theoretical phenomenon involved in what governs the translational machinery’s activities.

Transcription is a nuclear based phenomenon. The instructions for assembling all of the proteins that the body is made of are coded for in the DNA. We need to copy the code before we can begin the building process. The copy of the code is mRNA, and the process of transcription is the act of creating the mRNA strand. The first thing that we need to do is to unwind the DNA double helix to get the necessary structures into the proper place to copy the appropriate code. A signal to activate transcription (STAT) is sent to the nucleus to begin the process. Transcription can be increased by influences from steroid hormones or peptide hormones. Steroid hormones such as, testosterone move directly through the sarcolemma and bind to the androgen receptor which is located on or near the nuclear envelope. Once the steroid hormone binds to the androgen receptor, the hormone/receptor complex then migrates into the DNA and starts the transcription process.

Peptide hormones bind to the sarcolemma and activate a secondary messenger cascade driven by janus kinase (JAK) enzymes. JAK phosphorylation activity causes the release of STAT, which migrates to the DNA. STAT signals for DNA helicase to begin unwinding the double helix. DNA helicase travels along the length of the helix, unwinding it as it goes. Riding on the tail of DNA helicase is RNA polymerase, which is copying the code from the DNA inscribed instructional palate. mRNA begins forming from the back end of RNA polymerase. Once RNA polymerase has copied all of the necessary components of the DNA to construct the appropriate mRNA segment, mRNA breaks away from RNA polymerase and migrates through the nuclear pores into the cytosol. mRNA then travels to a ribosome where it is situated between the two segments of a ribosome (almost like mRNA is the meat that goes in between the two buns of a burger).

Now that mRNA has reached the ribosome, we can see the translational process in action. Translation is based on the ribosome instructing transfer RNA (tRNA) to collect appropriate amino acids from the cytosol to bring back to the ribosome for construction of the appropriate protein. tRNA brings amino acids back to the ribosome, which are assembled in the proper triplicate orders to create the desired protein product. The act of getting translation to start seems to be the critical matter in this entire process, and there are multiple options that the body can utilize to try to pull off this building procedure. The most discussed method of initiating translation is the mTOR dependent pathway. There are two separate mTOR complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2. mTORC1 is regarded as the critical component, and seems to be a potentially powerful rate limiting factor in protein synthesis. When mTORC1 is activated, it seems as though translation takes place and muscles continue to grow, so being familiar with factors which can activate mTORC1 is of critical importance.

There are many steps that take place at the ribosome involving various proteins and enzymes that must be initiated to begin the actual process of translation. The enzymes involved in this process are kinase enzymes. Kinase enzymes participate in phosphorylation based actions. Phosphorylation essentially refers to any time that a phosphate is passed from one enzyme to another…much the same way that a bucket brigade works to put out a fire. If a phosphate continues to be passed in an appropriate manner from one enzymatic reaction to another, the resulting reaction will take place. mTORC1 seems to be a big player in whether the phosphorylation cascade will continue on the route towards achieving the translation phenomenon at the ribosome. The kinase enzyme, p70s6k must be activated to begin translation. If we can get p70s6k to go through a phosphorylation reaction, then translation will take place. p70s6k is an mTOR dependent step though. So what we see is that mTOR is the show. How then do we ensure that mTOR participates in this process?

Photo Credit:  Nature
Photo Credit: Nature

mTor activation appears to be dependent on a few cellular mechanisms. Leucine availability in the ribosomal region of the cytosol appears to be a powerful player, as does the state of protein kinase B (Akt). Akt is an enzymatic step that takes place prior to reaching mTOR in the pre-translational cascade system. Excessive oxidative stress appears to be a factor that will inhibit Akt and prevent mTOR from being activated, thus shutting the process down. The actions of anabolic peptide hormones, such as IGF and GH appear to be players in opening intercellular portals that admit leucine into the ribosomal region of the cytosol. Therefore, it seems that if we can create an internal environment where we have chronic states of low oxidative stress and high levels of circulating anabolic peptide hormones, we provide the appropriate setting for mTOR to be activated and muscle growth from a ribosomal efficiency standpoint to be maximized.

Achieving optimal states of circulating anabolic hormones is associated with good, hard training sessions that are not excessive in duration (not much longer than 1 hour maximally). Having low oxidative stress seems to be associated with not having prolonged glucocorticoid responses during resting states of the body. The presence of appropriate content of circulating amino acids, namely leucine is also of critical importance. This is where the merger of proper training and sound nutrition coalesces.

When discussing ribosomal content, it seems as though beta-catenin levels are critically important for driving an increase in ribosomal biogenesis. Beta-catenin/c-Myc signaling is independent of the mTOR pathway. This is still as yet an area in the literature that is not strongly understood, but identifying factors associated with this type of activity seems to be crucial.

The empirical process is reductionist in nature. We continue to break things down into smaller and smaller constituent parts as we attempt to deduce what the rate limiting factor of an operational procedure is. When it comes to hypertrophy, it seems as though there are multiple options. When faced with consistently applied mechanical stress, the body will find a way to make a compensatory change. The compensation is hypertrophy. The robustness of an organism on this planet is driven by the plasticity of that lifeform. Lifeforms need options and contingency plans to be able to survive in face of threatening situations. Hypertrophy is the response to mechanical threat. While variability is a critical component, it does seem that the mTOR dependent pathway towards ribosomal efficiency and the beta-catenin pathway for ribosomal biogenesis are the primary drivers of the two ways in which we maximize translational activity, which is the rate limiting factor of protein synthesis.

If I am thinking in a personal and reflective manner on the ways in which I would attempt to maximize the mTOR dependent pathway of translation, I would go with the following approaches based on my understanding of the science and my, “in the trenches” experience as a strength athlete.

  1. 1.  I need to have a decent amount of oxidative fitness. If I’m going to maintain chronically low oxidative stress, it really helps if I have a fairly high number of mitochondria. Oxidative stress in local muscle tissue is often times the product of being unable to inhibit tissue neurologically, and having that tissue exist in non-oxidative conditions for excessive periods of time. Increasing the mitochondrial content of a muscle improves the ability of that muscle to go into an inhibitory state. Also, having a better aerobic system will allow me to exist under more of a parasympathetic condition as my resting heart rate will be lower.
  2. 2.  I would not perform excessive amounts of high intensity cardiorespiratory exercise that is of long duration. Plasma leucine levels seem to be highly linked to whether or not sufficient leucine can be transmitted into the ribosomal region of the cytosol. Aerobic exercise that is of high intensity and long duration is associated with decreasing plasma leucine levels to the point where it is below a threshold point that allows mTOR to be inhibited by an insufficient intr-ribosomal leucine content. I would perform aerobic exercise that is of moderate intensity for moderate amounts of time. 140-160 HR for 30 minutes to an hour maximally 2 to 3 times per week maximally.
  3. 3.  I would manage my insulin levels well. Chronically high insulin levels are associated with existing in an inflamed state. This inflammatory state, which comes from downstream effects of insulin (such as increased interleukin-6 and reactive protein C) cause oxidative stress, which would reduce the activity of protein kinase B. This reduction in the activity of protein kinase B would be problematic for the m-TORC1 pathway.
  4. 4.  I would try to get plenty of sleep. Growth hormone is critically important for the translational machinery. The actions of GH at the plasma membrane when it binds to its receptor involve a secondary messenger cascade that ultimately activates the JAK/STAT pathway for transcription related matters, but also opens a portal that admits leucine into the ribosomal region of the cytosol (facilitating the activity of mTOR)
  5. 5.  I would train hard. Most importantly, I need to have significant amounts of mechanical loading, which seem to be the primary signaling method for activating the transcription and translational machinery through what appears to be some kind of structural protein, piezoelectric flow communication phenomenon that transmits messages from extra-cellular, sarcolemmal, and intercellular strain related forces to the nucleus and the ribosomal regions.
  6. 6.  I would try to eat quality carbohydrates and proteins and perhaps supplement with amino acids in the peri-workout time period. IGF-1 is a potent driver of facilitating the mTOR dependent pathway. IGF-1 also creates myogenic activity in the basement membrane of muscle cells, which causes proliferation and differentiation of satellite cells. These satellite cells will ultimately turn into new nuclei inside that cell, which will become new sites for transcription. IGF-1 levels in the circulation are intimately connected with the state of the amino-acid pool. Low levels of amino-acids in the circulation and within cells will reduce the IGF-1 responses that an individual can have.
  7. 7.  I would find relaxation methods that work for me so that I can calm down and recuperate between training sessions. The energetics of protein synthesis and the recovery process in general is an autonomics driven phenomenon. If I can’t relax and have fun, then I can’t enter quality parasympathetic states. Parasympathetic activity is associated with anabolism. Staying sympathetic, constantly on, and being under stress too often will kill gains. Relax with friends and have fun.

Good training combined with appropriate nutrition and allowing for recovery are the hallmarks of successful mass building programs over the years. The science is beginning to explain why these approaches worked. Maybe by understanding what’s going on a little bit more clearly you will be more highly motivated to hit all the details in the mass building process required to maximize gains. If you are interested in following a good program to maximize muscle growth, I recommend picking up a copy of the e-book, MASS. That book is my best attempt to organize a plan that jives with my understanding of the science that I laid out for you in this article. Good luck to you in your pursuit of gains, my friend. As you were.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Pat's newly released ebook MASS today.  It's only available for one week, and who knows when it'll be available again.

about the author

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pat davidson

-Director of Training Methodology and Continuing Education at Peak Performance, NYC.

-Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, 2009-2011

-Assistant Professor, Springfield College 2011-2014

-Head Coach Springfield College Team Ironsports 2011-2013

-175 pound Strongman competitor. Two time qualifier for world championships at Arnold Classic

-Renaissance Meat Head

What Causes Muscles to Grow

There are a million articles and programs offering up the next secret (aka, gimmick/fad/farce) method for packing on tons of muscle. Rather than give you some, “top secret” approach or quick tip that will have you spinning your wheels in the gym, I’d rather explain to you the overall concept of what has to happen for you to add muscle mass to your frame. As an overall concept, what I would like to get across to you in this article is that the human body doesn’t want to put on muscle mass.You have to make a conscious decision to do something that is incredibly uncomfortable and jarring to your organism so that you give your body no other choice but to pack on more muscle so that it can defend itself from the same stressor if it is encountered again. Gaining muscle mass is hard work that never ends. Following the application of significant stress to your body, you need to recover. The recovery period is where you add new proteins to your muscles so that they become bigger and stronger. As un-sexy and not new as it sounds, if you want to gain muscle mass, you’re going to have to work very hard in the gym and live a healthy lifestyle outside of it featuring appropriate sleep, nutrition, and hydration. If you understand the big picture and why things have to be done a certain way, perhaps you will be more willing to actually do it.

The Captain and The Ship

Think of a ship out on the open ocean. The ship encounters a storm. Driving winds and rain wreak havoc on the deck while the hull is getting pounded by enormous waves. The ship survives this storm, but it took on significant damage. The captain of the ship looks around in the aftermath and sees a broken mast, holes in the sidewall, and a few steady leaks. If he wants to keep sailing in these waters he’s clearly going to have to make some repairs and perhaps revamp this boat.

He analyzes the damage of the ship and sees which areas were most impacted by the storm. He reinforces those areas. He puts up a thicker, sturdier mast, makes the sidewalls denser, and shores up the leaks with a stronger adhesive material. The ship goes back out on the ocean, and another storm comes along almost exactly like the first one. The ship survives this storm with only minimal damage. All the areas that the captain focused on for repairs held up pretty well.

Photo Credit:  Todd Kumpf
Photo Credit: Todd Kumpf

The next day he and his crew patch the ship up a little bit and it’s ready for the open ocean again. This time a completely different storm is encountered. Freak snow comes out of nowhere, icy seawater sloshes over the sides of the boat, and chunks of debris come flying through the air, shredding the ship. The crew and the vessel make it, but this time the damage is completely different compared to the first storm. It was as if nothing the crew had done in their repairs following the first storm had prepared them for this last squall. The captain orders the crew to go back to work the next day. They focus on the areas that were most heavily damaged in this last disaster and rebuild those sections with more robust material.

Do you think the captain and crew of our imaginary ship want to spend their days laboring to rebuild their ship? Of course not. All they want to do is to continue to sail so that they can do their jobs so they can put food on the table. They would never put in the effort to work on the ship unless it was very clear that the ship was unfit for use and that it needed to be strengthened to handle similar difficult demands again in the future.

Do you think they’re going to fix and rebuild parts of the ship that were unharmed from the storm? Of course not. You focus your attention on the areas that need help. Can you fix every part of the ship all at once? Probably not, you have a limitation to the size of your crew, and they can only work so hard for so long. You also do not have unlimited amounts of wood, tools, and other assorted pieces to be able to repair everything all at once. Ultimately, you have to decide what kind of storm you want your boat to be ready to handle. You simply can’t have it all. You also can’t permanently live in the storm. If you’re going to be fixing your boat, you should probably do it when it’s sunny and you’re safely docked.

Your body is the boat. The captain is your brain. The crew is your immune and endocrine systems working to trigger the appropriate cellular repair steps. The wood and the tools that you use for repairs is the food you eat, the water you drink, and the sleep that you acquire. You have to figure out what kind of storm is the appropriate kind in order to trigger the appropriate repair process that will build you a new body that is more muscular than it was before. Obviously running a marathon is an absolutely ungodly storm that you could encounter, but the repair mechanisms that would take place after wouldn’t be geared towards adding muscle to your frame. The storm has to be highly specific. The raw material also has to be of very high quality that you use to repair yourself after the fact. Do you want to be going into your next storm on a boat made of rotting wood, or do you want only the finest, most outstanding construction material possible for your vessel?

The Perfect Storm

What is the perfect storm for creating the optimal stimulus for growing muscle? It primarily comes down to three variables. It seems as though the combination of mechanical load, heat, and acidity is the right environment for optimizing muscle growth.

The research in this area seems to indicate that multiple sets (3-5) of approximately 10 repetition maximum (RM) load using multi-joint compound exercises (squatting, bench pressing, deadlifting, pull-ups) with short rest (approximately 60 seconds) is optimal for increasing muscle mass. Go ahead and try doing 5 sets of 10 (with a weight where you couldn’t get 11) in the squat with 60 seconds rest in between. You’re going to be hot, acidic, and your muscles will be dead. You just hit the perfect storm.

Your brain will register this event and trigger all of the cascade responses driven through the hormonal and immune systems associated with repair and growth of skeletal muscle that you can muster up as an organism. You could do this kind of workout over and over again for a pretty substantial period of time and continue to get great gains for a while. The problem with that exact workout is that it’s pretty boring at a certain point, and even if you were the most diligent person, who cares nothing about routine and boredom, at a certain point, your body would adapt to this, and you’d stop making any headway. You need to vary things up a little bit to keep yourself engaged, and to force the organism to have to adapt to a salient threat. The thing is, you don’t want to vary things up so much that it’s a completely different kind of storm. If the storm is wrong, then the repairs will be to create a different kind of ship. If the challenge to the body isn’t appropriate, it might strip material away rather than add on.

Closing Thoughts

To finish off this article, you need to understand the following things about the storm and the repair process. Feeling a fairly heavy weight, feeling hot, and feeling an acidic burn are the three threats that drive the muscle building train.

When it comes to driving adaptation, you need to scare your body…so threaten it the best you possibly can. Sets between 6 and 15 reps are probably the most appropriate for hypertrophy, with sets of 10 being most optimal. Rest periods need to be kept short to create the truly significant heat and acid load response. If you’re using the same exercise over and over, look to stay within 60 to 90 seconds of rest. If you’re setting up a circuit, you’ve got a little more leeway, and you can make the rest periods shorter.

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Work really hard, but when you’re done, make sure you recover appropriately. Earlier I talked about fixing the boat in sunny skies and calm seas. Here’s my recommendation for sunny skies and calm seas in life. Most importantly, have a good relationship with family and friends. Spend time with other people. Social engagement will trigger the parts of your brain associated with relaxation, regeneration, and recovery (specifically the nucleus ambiguous component of the parasympathetic nervous system located in the medulla). Second, if you’re going to do recovery exercise, do easy cardio. Try to get outdoors to soak up some vitamin D. You don’t want to try to create a whole new storm environment to fix your ship in. Light cardiovascular exercise increases circulation (gets the repair pieces to the tissues), and increases the amount of mitochondria in your body. Mitochondria are the location where you utilize oxidative rephosphorylation of ATP. If you’re using your oxidative energy system, it allows the muscle tissue to relax in that location. Being able to relax and hit the off switch is critical when it comes to repair and growth.

When it’s time to be in the storm, make it the perfect storm. The storm should be hell. See what you’re capable of surviving. Load the bar up pretty heavy. See what you’ve got. Push through those last couple of reps. Keep your rest short…feel like you’re going to die. When the storm is over, shut it down. Relax. Enjoy other people that you really like. Eat, drink, and be merry. Do a little recovery work between storms. Make sure you don’t have to recover from your recovery work. I wish you well young sailor. Hopefully your vessel is sound and your captain is wise. Keep sailing, I’ll see you in Gainsville if you stay the course.

If you're into this whole muscle thing, then be sure to checkout Pat's new e-book MASS.  It gives you 66 pages of awesome info coupled with a 16 week training program designed to build muscle.

about the author

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pat davidson

-Director of Training Methodology and Continuing Education at Peak Performance, NYC.

-Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, 2009-2011

-Assistant Professor, Springfield College 2011-2014

-Head Coach Springfield College Team Ironsports 2011-2013

-175 pound Strongman competitor. Two time qualifier for world championships at Arnold Classic

-Renaissance Meat Head

The Science of Building Muscle: What You Need to Know to Get Jacked

I remember it like it was yesterday.

For 13 years I’d been inundated by images of big, strong, athletic-looking people bulging with muscles. No matter where I looked, I saw them. As a typical teenage male on the verge of puberty, I wanted to look just like them.

My first time in the high school weight room, I headed straight for the dumbbell rack — who needs warm-ups? — grabbed some 25-pound dumbbells and started busting out curls. Needless to say, this approach didn’t get me far. I burned out in about five minutes and just stood there, awkwardly, without any idea what to do next.

I know I’m not the only person who’s had this experience. In fact, I’m willing to bet that many of you could share a similar story.

Athletes want muscle. Bodybuilders want muscle. Powerlifters want muscle. Recreational lifters want muscle.

Muscle is in high demand, and I’m here to help you get it — the right way.

That’s a quick blurb from a recent post I put together for Livestrong.com on, as the title eludes to, the science behind building muscle.

If you’re interested in muscle, which I hope you are, then definitely go check it out.  I think you’ll learn a thing or two.

The Science of Building Muscle