Samuel Figueroa PT

SF Personal Trainer Blog - London

This is the blog for Samuel Figueroa, personal trainer and fitness coach.

Muscle growth revealed

In the gym too much emphasis is placed on the weights and too little on the muscles that lift them.

Every time I start training a client who want to tone and build muscle mass the first thing I try to teach him\her is to feel their muscles work, most of the time no weight is actually needed.

If you take a 5kg dumbbell and do a lateral raise to target the Shoulders (deltoids) for 10 reps, do you feel your shoulder start to burn as it contracts or not?

If you're very efficient at recruiting muscle fibres whilst training you will, irrespective of whether that weight is heavy or not to you. 

However if you're not efficient at recruiting muscle fibres then you will more than likely feel very little which is why I want to discuss this with you today. 

Building muscle tissue through swelling of the muscle cell is best achieved through maximum tension, rep after rep (with overload over a period of time). That tension increases the recruitment of higher threshold motor units as the load becomes more difficult to deal with, which in turn brings more muscle fibres into play via the Central Nervous System. 

This is why if you're efficient at bringing muscle fibres into play you feel that deep burn within the belly of the muscle. If you're not then you probably won't, but that muscle will probably also grow far slower until you learn to "feel" it more. 

Adding more weights to the bar or going for a bigger dumbbell might not be the answer to fix the problem as your less connected muscles will be overpower by the strong ones to move the load. 
(Your body has more than 600 skeletal muscles, it will find a way to move the weight in the same plane of movement)

It takes practise and the reality is you will have a better connection with some muscle groups over others, the key is to work on the ones which are weaker for you to develop that connection over time. 

To do this you should focus on doing plenty of activation work on the muscle groups you feel the least whilst training. For instance, if you find that your pectoral muscles don't "fire" when you train them,  do 10 sets of chest isolation before you train it, with very light weights (cable flys or pec deck). Do 12-15 reps with a 2 second isometric squeeze at the top of every rep to really force that connection. Imagine every rep is one step closer to making that muscle work properly! Doing this activation work before you train the muscle is a great way to maximise the overall feel and tension within that area. 

Another great way to improve the overall feel within the muscle is to do static isometric contractions with that muscle, as you would to activate your pecs or deltoids for instance. This improves the overall connection via the CNS which is key to maximising hypertrophy.