For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Twitter and Facebook Page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen. This week, Dan Trink, C.S.C.S, Director of Personal Training Operations at Peak Performance NYC and founder of TrinkFitness, answers your questions about basic, fundamental muscle-building.
1) High Reps vs. Low Reps— asked by Roger Walgrin: I find that certain muscle groups grow when I train them with high reps while others with low reps. Why is that?
“It has to do with the muscle fiber type of each muscle group. There are two main muscle fiber types, conveniently named Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 muscle fibers are more closely associated with endurance work and respond best to higher rep sets in the gym. Type 2 muscle fibers are responsible for producing the force needed for strength and power. Certain muscle groups tend to be dominated by one or the other muscle fiber type. So your quadriceps, for instance, are usually Type 1 dominant and are respond well to strength-endurance protocols while your hamstrings are usually more Type 2 dominant and do well with more explosive movements or low rep sets. But just because a muscle group may have a higher ratio of a certain muscle fiber does not mean that it exclusively has this muscle fiber type. The deltoids, for example, are traditionally a mixed muscle fiber type group and respond well to a combination of higher and lower rep sets.”
2) Male Muscle Building vs. Female Muscle Building— asked by Evan Fa: My girlfriend and I like to train together but she wants to develop longer, leaner muscles and I want to get big. Is there a training program out there that we can do together?
“If you and your girl are looking to develop muscle, you both can do the exact same program. Physiologically, there is no such thing as long, lean muscle tissue or big, bulky muscle tissue. A muscle either grows or does not. How “long and lean” your muscles are depends on limb length, joint size and the origin and insertion points of the muscles. Now, your girl can gain the appearance of long, lean muscles by reducing her body fat as added definition tends to be interpreted as the longer and leaner look. It goes without saying, however, that your training program needs to be smart and progressive in order for it to build anything.”
3) Routines for Everyone— asked by Bill Britton: My buddy and I have been training together for a while doing the same workouts. And while my chest and back seem to be getting bigger, his arms are getting huge. How can this be if we’re both doing the same thing?
“The answer is, most likely, genetics and technique. Like it or not, your genetics play a huge role in where muscle tissue gets preferentially laid down. Subtle differences in technique, such as pulling with your back as opposed to pulling with your arms on chin-ups, will also make a difference. Interestingly, one usually feeds into the other. So if you’re more genetically disposed to having more muscular limbs you are more likely to use an arm-pulling technique as it is your most efficient way of completing the task and you have probably ingrained this motor pattern over and over again. The solution? Alter your technique to focus on the lagging body parts. And get different parents.”
4) Lifting Days vs. Rest Days— asked by Ryan Dailey: How many times per week should I train each muscle group?
“There is no ideal number of days per week you should be blasting, say, your legs. It really all depends on your goals, program design, recovery capabilities and training experience. With that being said, if you are doing a classic body part split in an effort to gain mass, you should probably hit one to two body parts per workout with quite a high amount of volume (total work) and then back off those body parts for 5 to 7 days. If you are following an upper body/lower body split, you’d be well served to hit each twice per week. And if you are a beginner focusing on total body routines (a smart idea, particularly when you are just starting out) try to get after it 3 times per week, utilizing different exercises for each of the days.”
5) Beating Genetics— asked by Rob Herchkowitz: Which muscle groups are most likely to respond to training and which are genetically set in stone?
“Genetic factors such as limb length, number of satellite cells, joint size, neural innervation and a host of other factors play a role in the ability to build any and every muscle group. With that being said, I have yet to see someone reach their genetic limit in developing muscle so it would serve you well to consistently train even the most lagging of muscle groups. Calves tend to get a bad rap for being genetically predetermined but I have never seen any science or research that proves that. In any case, you’d be better served worrying about the things you can control in the gym and not the genetic cards you’ve been dealt.”