The Human body
The human body is a system which is constantly pursuing homeostasis to ensure that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant.
Throughout evolution, the human race has always had one main goal; survival. All of the biochemical reactions in the human body work to support this goal by operating in a self-controlled way to achieve equilibrium. In other words, the human race has developed in such a way that has allowed us to react to our environment – whether that be a lion or the changing of the seasons. When a lion would chase our ancestors, their bodies automatically increased their level of adrenalin so that they could multiply their efforts and climb up a tree or run away. Evolution has created a system which can quickly activate our reserves (e.g. running away from the lion) but then automatically and involuntarily restore the body back to a level of basic maintenance, which requires minimal energy, thereafter. Over time our reactions get better and better. This is how we learn, we become better runners, and this is how we can gain extra muscle mass.
Our genes define the size of our muscles. Muscle is an organ which is victim to the endeavours of homeostasis. Larger muscles would enable us to react more quickly to the danger, but the maintenance of the increased muscle mass would not necesarily be economical. This is why our bodies regulate the size of our muscles so that they will never be bigger than the optimal size suited to our environment, not even marginally. Even when at rest, our muscles require energy, fresh blood, oxygen, nutrients and tone maintenance. If we had bigger muscles we would need to eat all day just to be able to maintain that mass. A few meals a day, intermittent fasting (seasons, migration, hunter-gatherer lifestyle) determined the size of our muscles.
Although the basic genetic heritage of all humans is identical, everyone is different. Just like variations in height, hair colour, or the length of our fingers; the natural size of our muscles is also individual. Some of us inherited genes which allow us to gain more muscle mass and, unfortunately, there are people whose heritage is not so lucky. We cannot change that. Those with the ’not so lucky genes’ will always have a disadvantage as compared with the lucky ones. It’s the same with every other skill (reading, writing, singing or languages skills) we have; if someone has a talent for learning languages then it will be much easier for them to learn a dozen of languages than for those without that skill. Of course, it doesn’t mean that ’the unlucky ones’ are not capable of learning a dozen languages, but they have to work much harder and spend more time and energy to achieve the same result.
The purpose of muscle: exertion of force and, with the help of the force exertion, movement. Our system, restricted by genetic limits, creates and maintains a muscle mass which is necessary for survival. If we constantly load up our body then our system will be forced to react to that and will make our muscles bigger. The bigger and more regular the load, the greater the muscular response. Therefore, without a training stimulus there will be no muscle gain because our automatic self-regulatory mechanism will only maintain the amount of muscle we really need. Without training there is no need for bigger muscles. At the moment our system reaches homeostasis, in this case when we have big enough muscles for our regular training regime, it will stop gaining further muscle mass. What does this mean? It means, that our body is adapting to the training load and is relatively quickly reaching a state where further muscle gain is unnecessary. We have no other option but to increase the load. Unfortunately, there are limits to this as well. Our system defends itself by automatic self-regulation. If the training load is constantly too high without adequate rest periods then over-training syndrome can occur; which involves a collection of emotional, behavioural, and physical symptoms including persistent fatigue, depression, immune supression, insomnia, etc. There is no way to avoid it; we must accept that our system will always persue homeostasis. If we strain a function, it will react by weakening another function.
What is the solution?
- Cycles of progressive overload – in other words, we need to deceive our self-regulatory mechanisms
The only method of muscle development that is scientificaly proven and accepted is the cyclisation of progressive overload. In practice: we gradually increase the load for 4-8 weeks and, after reaching a plateau where we simply cannot increase it any further, we decrease it for 2-5 weeks by 15-25%, and start all over again. Every cycle can be started from a slightly higher level than the previous one and, in an ideal scenario, we can push a bit further as well. Furthermore, by applying a different type of load in each cycle we make it more difficult for our muscles to adapt to the load; thereby effectively tricking them into stretching the period before they return our system to homeostasis.
For this, we need endless patience. Sports, and especially body building, need a ton of perseverance and patience.
Why doesn’t everybody have huge muscles? On the one hand, because everyone has a different genetic heritage, and on the other hand, because not everyone has the perseverance.