The Muscle Adaptation

Load adaptation is the key to muscle growth

So, we already know basics of muscle activity and purposes of a wokout logs. Now it’s time to reward you for your patience and tell what makes our muscles increase their size and strength, after all.


Our organism is a self-regulating system tending to constant equilibrium (homeostasis). Muscle training loads influence our muscles shifting lot of organism characteristics from their ‘ordinary’ level. The degree of these changes depends on the character and intensity of physical loads and individual features of your organism. Right after influence of any load different processes start taking place in our organism to restore its initial equilibrium (quiescent homeostasis). During these restoring processes certain changes occur that later on allow decreasing of oscillations of the organism internal environment when new similar loads take place. Our organism is lazy; it is always tending to constancy.


Any muscle growth is a process of purposeful adjustment (adaptation) of our organism to the influence of training loads.

Adaptation types: rapid and long-tem

Rapid adaptation appears to be the response of our organism to single training load influence. Mostly, we refer to this adaptation type in the sense of recovery of nervous and energy resources just after a training session.

Long-term adaptation develops progressively on the basis of continuously repeated trainings.


Any muscle activity, depending on its intensity and duration, leads to certain oscillations of internal environment, to reduction of phosphocreatine level in muscles, depletion of intramuscular glycogen, liver glycogen and fat reserves. Intensive recovery processes taking place after any significant load influence lead to the situation when the level of energy substances of our organism at a particular moment of after-training rest exceeds the initial before-training level. This phenomenon is known as supercompensation or, in other words, growth or load adaptation.

Peculiarity 1

The supercompensation phase lasts not long; gradually the level of energy substances returns to its normal state. To put it in other words, if you rest too much between your muscle trainings you lose the whole positive training effect you managed to achieve.

Peculiarity 2

The more energy you waste when workout the more intensively recovery processes take place and the higher the initial level exceeding of the supercompensation phase is. In other words, the more intensively you workout the more significant increase of your power and muscle growth you get.

Still, this rule works only within certain limits: in case of too heavy loads the speed of recovery processes is getting slower and the supercompensation phase is delayed; due to this it appears to be less expressed and effective. First of all, it regards over-training when we set such heavy load for our organism, which it’s not able to overcome in an ordinary way.

This appears to be the exact way of recovery of not only muscle functions but almost all other functions. Engaging of any of them leads to decrease of functional abilities of our organism; then during rest period the phase of supercompensation is achieved; it lasts only for a limited period of time and then (in case of absence of new loads) the level of trained function decreases again – the phase of lost surepcompensation takes place.

Muscle Growth – exercise physiology rules.

Muscle growth is possible only in case the process of adaptation of muscles to loads will be based on constant increase of these loads conducted in accordance with certain rules:

Rule 1

Conduction of repeated muscle workouts in the phase of supercompensation leads to positive interaction of workout effects and to long-term adaptation (growth). Each step forward (even if it’s only a couple of centimetres) is better than standing still because in our case standing still means regress. That’s why we are to move forward (slowly but inexorably).

Rule 2

Repeated workouts of a muscle group after too long rest period (in the phase of lost adaptation) will not lead to growth because each of such training sessions will start at the same initial adaptation level (one step forward and the same step back).

Rule 3

Too frequent workouts will not lead to growth due to interruption of the recovery stage (we just make one and the same incomplete step forward). In order to make a better progress, a muscle needs not only to recover its previous level but even to exceed it a bit. Only in this case we’ll be able to make one more step forward that can move us closer to our goal.

These exercise physiology rules matter only for a long-term training process. Following them we’ll witness our actual progress. But when it comes to several trainings (micro cycles), we can train even if our muscles didn’t recover completely to achieve stronger muscle exhaustion in order to guarantee significant muscle growth in future.

Now, when you know what influences our muscle growth and how it takes place, you probably think that elaboration of an adequate training program is a piece of cake.

It’s necessary only to define the load level required for maximum muscle growth and rest intervals to achieve the phase of supercompensation; and then one needs only to repeat trainings constantly increasing their loads. Is it that simple? – Don’t be in a hurry. Here a serious problem arises.

Muscle growth is a complex process that includes lots of other parameters apart from muscular cells. For example, phosphocreatine supercompensation occurs just two minutes after we start muscle training; it takes several days to restore glycogen reserves; and, what comes to muscular cell recovery, this process can take a whole week. And through all this time other parameters will be in the phase of training effect loss. So, one more growth rule results from all pieces of information presented above.

Rule 4

It is NOT POSSIBLE to workout all parameters responsible for muscle growth at the same time.

We are going to discuss this 4th rule in details in the section devoted to pereodization part. Read it carefully and you’ll be able to use it for your own good.

Moving forward! For muscle growth!

Remember the first rule: conduction of repeated workouts in the phase of supercompensation leads to growth. This is the essence of bodybuilding. The key to success is constant load increase due to which the process of constant shifting of the upper limit of your achievements (supercompensation upper limit) takes place.

There are a lot of ways to increase both loads and their types: in order to increase intensiveness of a muscle training session it’s enough just to reduce its duration when keeping its volume; or it’s possible to increase the load by means of slowdown of performance of exercises. Lots of variants… Right now we are going to discuss only one of them but it appears to be the one that has a very long history and had been proven by hundreds of athlete generations. I am talking about constant increase of training weights. This way of load progression is one hundred percent reliable. Believe me, if you reach the weight of 350 lbs for Bench Press you’ll simply not be able to avoid a massive chest and a strong shoulder girdle. At the same time, this way being the easiest one is the best from the point of progress watching. You just need to add weight to your barbell and record results regularly.

But how is all this done in practice? – It’s rather simple. For example, imagine that you managed to define your ‘rep corridor’ and know that you need to do 5-8 reps. Then, you need to choose the barbell weight with which you are able to complete 5 ‘clean’ (without any help) repetitions. During each next muscle training (clenching you teeth if you need) try to do one more repetition till you reach 8. As soon as you managed 8 reps increase the barbell weight in order to be able to perform 5 reps again. By following this procedure, you’ll be increasing your training weights and, consequently, you will be growing. Usually additional weights amount 2-10 lbs. I advise you to add 2 lbs. The main criterion of progress is muscle growth; but it’s just a tip of the iceberg: the most important thing is that your muscle mass grow continually. That’s why taking into consideration long-term prospects, the best approach is not to try ‘pulling’ huge weights at once but to increase training load in small quantities.

It’s better to have small weight increase but to have it continually. Remember, while you are adding weight you go on growing. Your best assistants in this process are small plates (of 0.5kg and less) and your training diary.

Example of a weight progression

Training 1: 100 lbs X 5 reps

Training 2: 100 lbs X 6 reps

Training 3: 100 lbs X 8 reps (for example, here we managed to do 2 additional reps)

Training 4: 110 lbs X 5 reps (we could ad here 2kg instead of 5, but then we would be able to do 6-7 reps at once)

Training 5: 110 lbs X 6 reps

You need to increase weights of each apparatus little by little; otherwise you’ll spoil progression constancy. Remember: a slow but sure person wins the race. Don’t strive to work with heavy weights in the very beginning and don’t forget about correct exercise performance. When reducing an exercise amplitude and helping yourself with your whole body (cheating) you deceive yourself because by doing this you make the exercise performance easier. Apart from the fact that ‘wrong’ performance can be dangerous to your health, it leads to growth of shapeless musculature (possibly, you saw such orangutan-like guys yourself).

How do proteins appear?

A protein molecule appears to be a chain of amino acids. All proteins of a human body are produced in our cells of 20 amino acids coming to our organism with albuminous food or synthesized by our organism itself. Amino acids are peculiar constructive bricks of alive universe; our body (including our muscles) consists of them.

Protein synthesis takes place in cells and it is a very complicated process. Its intensiveness depends on a huge amount of different factors. The most important of them are hormone molecules, which when penetrating cells start synthesis processes recorded in our DNA. The other important factor is presence of enough amino acids and energy supply in cells because without amino acids there will be nothing to make proteins of; and energy is required for the process of molecule construction.

Here come basic conditions for a new protein molecule synthesis:

  • – high level of anabolic hormones (testosterone and somatotropin) in blood
  • – presence of testosterone receptors in the cell
  • – enough amount of amino acids in the cell
  • – enough of energy in the cell

Most probably, you ask yourself, ‘How exactly our muscle trainings influence the process of protein synthesis?’ Alas, science cannot give us a clear answer. There are only several hypotheses; the most widespread one among them is the destruction hypothesis. It assumes that protein synthesis processes possess a certain kind of inertia; that’s why, when restoring the proteins (muscles) destroyed by a training, a certain epactal anabolism takes place, which leads to increase of cell protein level in comparison with the initial one. In other words, the process of supercompensation occurs; in connection with energy supply recovery. This is very important for muscle growth.

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