Why do Leg Extensions Hurt So Much?

Ok, this is going to be one of my stupid, pointless, non-applied articles that I just need to write to get something out of my head (so unless you’re really interested in minutial trivia go read something else).  It’s also a way to actually update the site as I finish up getting ready to launch the Women’s book (no foolin’ this time, the book is done and it’s just some busywork to launch in the third week of January).

Question 1: Why do leg extensions hurt so much for high reps?  I mean locally hurt, the quads are screaming and hurt more than other similar movements done for similar reps.

Question 2: What do blood flow restriction (KAAATSUUUUUU!!!), speed skating and leg extensions have in common?

Read more to find out.

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR)

Ok, for the 3 people who don’t know what BFR is, it’s a relatively new method of training where you basically use pressure to reduce blood flow to the muscle and then use relatively light loads for training.  And research has generally found that it provides similar hypertrophy gains to muscle as heavier training and does so with lighter loads with various mechanisms being involved.  Please note that the size gains are, at best, identical but not greater.  And you don’t get the strength gains you’d get from lifting real weights since you aren’t training the neural components.

Now, BFR is nice in that it does reduce joint strain which can be fantastic if you have a joint injury or deliberately need to do such.

But it has drawbacks.  One is set up since you’re having to go to the trouble to get everything tied off.  I’m not sure the average trainee can get the pressure right since it tends to be pretty specific.  Cutting off blood flow to muscles is not a good thing.  Necrosis anybody?  And while excruciatingly minor in the big scheme, there are two case studies of rhabdomyolysis occurring with BFR.  Mind you, that’s a weekly occurrence for Crossfit.


Dieting Osteogenesis Imperfecta and Keto Muscle Building

So once again I’m taking the lazy way out and going to the mailbag for a quick and dirty article.

Question: Hi Lyle, I am a big fan of your work and I have an important question. So I have ulnar nerve subluxation in my left arm and I am restricted in my training. I choose to avoid any pressing movements such as any bench press, any tricep movement, and any shoulder press. Every other lift I can do, I am cutting now and I am wondering what is the best way to go about preserving my muscle mass without bench press/shoulder press/tricep movements? Should I stick to heavy chest flies and Heavy shoulder raises? What about triceps? Thanks so much Lyle.

Answer: I wouldn’t diet while injured would be my suggestion unless you can find something workable for those muscles group.  You will lose muscle in them without some type of training stimulus.  If you’re determined to diet either accept the muscle loss or, I dunno, maybe isometrics of some sort.  It’s better than nothing.  Or see if what I’m going to talk about in the next question is workable.

Question: Dear Mr. McDonald, I´m writing this e-mail to you because I don´t know what to do anymore and neither do the “specialists” that I´ve already consulted. I was born with a gene deficiency called “Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type 1” or brittle bone disease. Luckily, it´s only Type 1, the mildest of all types (if I had any of the other types training in general would probably be off the table…). In short this means that my body has a malfunction regarding the production of collagen tissues (type 1) which pretty much can be found in almost all types of structures the human body consists of, but most of it can be found in the bones – that´s why they break easier and also why it´s called brittle bone disease.

Answer: The above question was much longer but mostly a reiteration of the above so I cut it for length.  First and foremost, I’m not a doctor and I don’t even play one on television so take my comments under that clarification.  However, I do think I can offer a bit of input on this.

In recent years, there has been a progressive amount of research showing that lighter load, higher repetition work can be as effective (but not better) than heavy training for growth and this is true in both untrained and trained individuals.


Hyperplasia vs. Hypertrophy in Skeletal Muscle

I received the following question in the mailbag and, for a fairly short question I’m going to give a fairly long answer since it gives me something to write about today.

Question: Does the number of fast/slow twitch muscle fiber types in your body actually change in response to strength or endurance stimulus? Or just the volume, and you’re stuck with what your genetics dictate?

The short answer is yes-ish.  Here’s the long answer.

Let me make one clarification here.  Well, two.  The first is that I am talking about skeletal muscle.  Cardiac muscle acts a little bit differently in how it grows with stress and we don’t lift weights for a bigger heart (perhaps if we did there would be more love in the world).

Also, I’m talking about training induced growth.  You can cause some goofy stuff to occur when you ablate a muscle (i.e. cut a muscle in a larger group and you see the other muscles grow like crazy) or with other distinctly non-physiological types of research methods.  Here we’re talking about moving iron (the original question asked about endurance training but there’s no reason to begin to suspect that hyperplasia occurs from that type of training in my mind).

Hyperplasia vs. Hypertrophy: Definitions

First, let’s define the terms hypertrophy and hyperplasia.  Hypertrophy means an increase in cell size.  Fat cell hypertrophy occurs when the fat cell increases in volume (by storing fatty acids as triglyeceride) and skeletal muscle hypertrophy occurs when skeletal muscle increases in volume.

Hyperplasia means an increase in cell number.  Fat cell hyperplasia (which does occur in adults, contrary to old belief) is an increase in fat cell number.  Skeletal muscle hyperplasia would be an increase in muscle cell, or in this case, fiber number.


Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy-Brad Schoenfeld

Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy Book Cover A question I get fairly frequently is to recommend books on developing muscle mass.  And unfortunately, there tend to be few on the list.  In my experience over the years, books tend to come in one of two categories.

The first is a book on training written by whatever professional bodybuilder is popular at the time. Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding is probably one of the best known (and just carrying the damn thing is a training effect in its own right) but Dorian, Tom Platz and many others have written books as well.  Occasionally coaches such as John Parillo, who’s book is actually quite excellent, or Vince Gironda, who’s book is, well, interesting have been written.

And while there is certainly information to be gleaned from these, they are always colored by the issue of steroid use.  Steroids often make the training being done far less relevant.  Again, I’m not saying that the advice should be ignored, it just has to be considered within the realities of the sport.

At the other end of the spectrum tend to be scientifically (or to use the current term “evidence based”) tomes on the topic.  Most of these have actually dealt more with strength training than bodybuilding per se and a lot of them leave a lot to be desired in my opinion.  A lot of this, honestly is that, for most of the years of exercise science research, there just wasn’t a lot of good stuff on muscle growth being done.  That’s changed in recent years.  Which brings me to today’s product review which is Brad Schoenfeld’s new textbook on the topic.


All You Need to Know About Training Part 2

So last week, I looked at some general concepts that were applied by the Australian Institute of Sport strength coach in training their track cyclists.  To finish up today, I want to look at some of the specific details that he provided regarding their training.  Remember that this was a small country with few resources that just kicked ass internationally for many years until the UK took over the sport.  They knew what they were doing and this gives some real insight into how training works.  Again, I’ll intersperse his information with my comments.

Oh yeah, if you look at the original post, you’ll see that my numbers don’t match his since I divided up some of the sections to make my comments more detailed.

10. Gym is generally 3-4 sets of 3 max lower body strength or power lifts – early in the phase, two strength and one power, later, two power and one strength. I don’t use cleans, jerks or snatches with our current riders – they are too technical for maximal efforts unless you have years of experience.

A few things here.  Recall from last week that, in terms of the requirements for track cycling, strength, power and speed are required but only the first two can be dealt with in the weight room.  People often forget that the fastest movements (perhaps outside of the Olympic lifts) are about an order of magnitude slower than anything that occurs in high level sport which is why the idea of training speed in the weight room is nonsensical for the most part.

As I also mentioned last week, this coach uses a scheme were basically everything is trained to one degree or another throughout the year, just in varying proportions and the first sentence goes to that.  Earlier in the year, the focus is strength but power is kept in the training.  Later on it reverses to focus on power while maintaining strength.