Kolumne 54 | Zwischen reiz und Schmerz - Demo-Frey-Nutrition

Column 54 | Between stimulus and pain



Column 54 - Between stimulus and pain


Column 54 - Between stimulus and pain
Only once in my life did I have the most amazing muscle soreness in my chest. It felt huge and the pump lasted for at least two weeks. Then I knew: This is what the excitement of growth feels like! Every week I search for that feeling by trying almost everything: bench presses, dips, incline bench presses, flyes with a partner; heavy, light, lots of reps and so on.

But it just doesn't work anymore. I think five sets of an exercise with eight to twelve repetitions each should be enough to cause serious muscle soreness the next day. And if not, then the exercise is probably not suitable - so no muscle growth. When I do one-arm rowing - with 40 kilos at 20 repetitions - my chest grows better than when I do bench presses (triggered by the arm that supports me on the bench). A disaster! What should I do?


Andreas Frey answers
Muscle soreness is usually caused when the muscles are not used to the new stimulus (for example, in beginners who have just started training) or after a long break from training. In the past, it was wrongly assumed that muscle soreness was caused by the accumulation of lactic acid (lactate).

Muscle soreness is caused by tiny muscle tears
Muscle soreness should therefore occur primarily when high lactate levels are measured, for example during anaerobic performance. However, it occurs particularly during short, intensive, i.e. anaerobic activities. Another fact is that lactate has a half-life of around 20 to 25 minutes. Muscle soreness, on the other hand, only begins hours after a training session and sometimes lasts for days.

Today we know that muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers. This causes inflammation, which leads to water retention, which is perceived as a "pump." It would be wrong to assume that only a certain exercise or a certain number of sets will lead to the desired muscle soreness. The important thing is to find an exercise that allows maximum intensity. This way you can basically force muscle soreness.

Exercising despite severe muscle soreness carries an increased risk of injury because the muscles are not sufficiently recovered.
If you don't get any muscle soreness from an exercise, that doesn't mean that the exercise isn't suitable for building muscle. Unfortunately, it's not that simple! Many exercises are very good for building muscle, even though they're unlikely to cause any muscle soreness. On the other hand, there are many bodybuilders who never get any muscle soreness and yet still have an impressive body. Your theory that muscle soreness = muscle building is simply not correct.

Excessive muscle soreness should be avoided
On the contrary: Too frequent muscle soreness can even lead to overtraining and increase injuries. That's why you should never train with existing muscle soreness, as the muscles do not recover sufficiently and are more susceptible to injury due to the existing tears. Muscle soreness is completely fine, but it should be kept within certain limits. Extreme muscle soreness with pain that lasts for days is neither necessary for building muscle nor does it offer any other benefits.

As for your experience of achieving more chest growth by bracing during one-arm rowing than by bench pressing, I seriously doubt that this is really possible. Anatomically speaking, it is very questionable. To achieve maximum progress, you should follow these rules:

  • high intensity
  • every work set until muscle failure
  • Training duration maximum 60 minutes
  • explosive repetitions with emphasis on negative movement
  • maximum ten sets for large and six sets for small muscle groups
  • clean and controlled training
If you take all of this into account and train regularly, progress in the form of increased strength and muscle mass is the logical consequence and is also possible without muscle soreness. In addition to training, you should also pay attention to your diet. Many of my previous columns deal with this important topic.
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