“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me. It is an uncomfortable doctrine which the true ethics whisper into my ear. You are happy, they say; therefore you are called upon to give much.”
Maximal effort is the key to muscle growth, irregardless of repetition configuration, or protocol structure – these are the findings of Sandee Jungblut of Adelphi University’s (Garden City, NY) Human Performance Laboratory (full article, here). Or, as the study’s abstract states:
Many resistance training experts claim that a very heavy resistance is required to produce optimal strength gains. However, the size principle, motor unit activation studies, and the overwhelming majority of resistance training studies refute that claim. In fact, these studies support the premise that a moderate amount of resistance will produce similar strength gains.
Nothing to refute here; Clarence Bass and Matt Metzgar have both done a fine job in follow-up commentary, and in breaking the study down to the usable take-away messages, the most important of which being the notion of maximal effort. Bodybuilers have understood the underlying principals of this study intuitively – in fact, you could say it comes part and parcel in the bodybuilding genome – maybe in some inverse relationship with the myostatin gene? 😉 Who knows. What we do know is, that the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda, may not have articulated it as such, but his training methods are a real-world manifestation of this study’s findings. Did we need science to prove that Vince was right? Did Vince need science to prove he was right? I wish the old man was still around to offer his biting commentary, as I always envisioned him as a Jack Kerouac with muscle.
The thing is, though – and for those more concerned with athletic performance as opposed to merely lookin’ good nekkid – there’s much more to the story; the collective chapters of which would fall under the heading of Central Nervous System Optimization. This is the aim of all power-oriented work, in fact. Hang around a gym long enough and you’re sure to run across the prototypical 170-pound string bean who can out-max anyone in the place. How is that? CNS optimization, my friend – either trained, or genetic.
These two “camps”, though, need not be at odds with one another. In fact, what ought to be attempted by each trainee is to consistently fine-tune the “yin-yang-edness” of muscle mass together with cns optimization. This, in my mind, is the missing link that is so often overlooked in the training communities. You’re either a bodybuilder or a performance athlete. Bullshit to that, I say – unless you’re looking to unnecessarily limit yourself – or looking to create added revenue via manufactured conflict.