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Science & Tools For Muscle Growth, Increasing Strength & Muscular Recovery

Key Takeaways

  • The ability to isolate and contract muscle hard will tell you about the ability to grow that muscle

  • Weight training and resistance training is used for two distinct purposes: (1) systemic effects or (2) isolating muscle

  • To increase muscle growth something needs to happen to trigger muscle tissue to change: either stress, tension, or damage

  • One of the most predictive markers of aging is the ability to jump and the ability to stand up quickly

  • The better you are at contracting and isolating muscles, the faster you will get desired effects to those muscles

  • Resistance training 5x per week at 30-80% (depending on the goal) of 1 rep max is required to maintain muscle

  • To increase explosiveness and speed, work at a lower percentage of 1RM and move weights as fast as you can

  • To get stronger, slow down and increase time under tension to isolate the muscle and encourage hypertrophy

  • Change up regime: the nervous system adapts quickly at the beginning but slows with time

  • Ideal training protocol to stimulate testosterone release: 6 sets of 10 repetitions with 120-sec rest between reps

  • Three tests to assess systemic recovery: (1) heart rate variability; (2) test grip strength in the morning; (3) test carbon dioxide tolerance first thing in the morning

  • To improve strength training performance and muscle growth: (1) stay hydrated with adequate salt and electrolytes; (2) consume creatine daily; (3) consume beta-alanine; (4) ingest sufficient leucine from high-quality protein

Why Is Muscle Important?

  • Muscles are essential for maintaining how we breathe, how we move, metabolism, and posture

  • Posture is vital for alertness, how we breathe, how we move

  • Movement is directed by the relationship between neurons and connection to the muscle

  • The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism

  • Jumping ability and ability to stand up quickly is one of the most predictive markers of aging

How Brain & Nervous System Control Muscle

  • Much of the brain is devoted to vision and movement

  • The nervous system controls muscle through three areas of control: upper motor neurons, lower motor neurons, central pattern generators

  • Upper motor neurons: send signals to the spinal cord to direct activity to muscles

  • Lower motor neurons: send axons to muscles and cause contraction through acetylcholine

  • Central pattern generators: rhythmic, reflexive movements

  • You can use your nervous system to trigger hypertrophy (muscle growth)

Muscle, Exercise & Lactate

  • Muscles function on glycolysis, the breakdown of glycogen and glucose into energy

  • Glucose and glycogen breakdown into pyruvate – in the presence of oxygen (in the muscle), more energy will be generated

  • Muscle is metabolically demanding

  • Humans make lactate, not lactic acid

  • Lactate has three functions: (1) buffer against muscle acidity; (2) fuel to generate muscular contractions in the absence of oxygen; (3) acts as hormonal signal (can influence tissue outside the body)

  • 10% of the time you should exercise to lactic threshold (when you feel the burn) to enhance function of organs

  • Benefits of lactate are only in the presence of oxygen so breathing is critical when you reach the point of burn

  • Exercise is beneficial for your brain and nervous system through hormonal signals (not increasing neuron)

Muscle Hypertrophy (Growth)

  • Three ways muscles can be stimulated to change: (1) stress; (2) tension; (3) damage

  • Something needs to happen to force muscle tissue to change

  • Muscles get bigger as myosin (protein) gets thicker

  • Muscles can get stronger without getting bigger – however, increasing the size of the muscle almost inevitably increases strength

  • Muscles get weaker across the lifespan

  • Resistance exercise is important to offset the normal decline in strength and posture to generate a greater range of motion

  • Hanuman principle: recruit motor units from lowest to the highest threshold – in other words, use the minimum amount of energy required to move the object

  • The more efficient you are in recruiting motor units, the more you will stimulate muscle growth and strength

  • Everyone has imbalances in how muscles grow

  • The better you are at contracting and isolating muscles, the faster you will get desired effects

  • Try sending a signal to a muscle with your brain and contracting as hard as you can

  • You don’t necessarily need heavy-weights to grow muscles

  • For hypertrophy: move progressively greater loads, generate localized contraction of muscle, isolate muscle contractions

Tips To Maximize Benefits Of Resistance Training

  • Move weights or use bands in 30-80% of 1RM (1 rep max)

  • Lifting in 75-80% range: bias improvements toward strength gains

  • Lifting in 30% range: bias towards hypertrophy and muscle endurance

  • For untrained individuals/beginners: perform enough sets of a given exercise per muscle each week

  • Range of sets to do to improve strength ranges from 2-20 sets per week depending on experience

  • Approximately 5 sets per week (at 30-80% 1RM) is required to maintain muscle

  • The exact number of sets depends on the intensity

  • 10% of workouts should be reserved for working to muscle failure (or when form fails)

  • The majority of exercise should be dedicated to more volume without fatiguing the nervous system

  • Perform 5-15 sets per week, per muscle in 30-80% of 1RM

  • In general, keep resistance sessions to 45-60 min before cortisol and inflammatory pathways kick in

  • If you are a seasoned trainer: increase the number of sets per week so you hit closer to 25-30 sets per week

  • Always work within the full range of motion

  • To increase explosiveness and speed: move weights as fast as you can (safely) to increase neurons

  • Dedicate resistance training to jumping higher, running faster, throwing farther, etc – learn to generate force with increasing speed

  • Work within 60-70% and work as fast as you can with good form

  • To get stronger: slowing down weight and increasing time under tension (slow tempo) will isolate the muscle and encourage hypertrophy

  • For hypertrophy and strength gains, resting 2-5 minutes is the sweet spot

  • Change regimen over time: nervous system changes quickly at the beginning of training but slows over time

  • Pro tip to increase hypertrophy: flex muscles between sets about 30 seconds to improve stress, tension, and damage – this is good for hypertrophy not the performance and improving strength because you are fatiguing the muscle

Exercise To Increase Testosterone

  • An increase in testosterone is mediated by nerve the muscle connection

  • Fine line for increasing testosterone before cortisol kicks in takes over

  • Testosterone will increase with exercise lasting around 60 minutes; exercise past 75 minutes will drop testosterone and increase cortisol

  • Ideal training protocol to stimulate testosterone release: 6 sets of 10 repetitions with 120-sec rest between reps


  • Assess systemic recovery through three main tests: (1) heart rate variability; (2) test grip strength in the morning (before anything else); (3) test carbon dioxide tolerance in the morning (before anything else)

  • Heart rate variability: you don’t want a heart rate that is high or low – you want a mix

  • You can measure through a wearable device now – a watch, ring, bracelet

  • Grip strength: ability to generate force at the level of squeezing the fist

  • If you see a drop in grip strength ability, muscles are still rewiring to generate force and maybe fatigued

  • Carbon dioxide tolerance is an indicator of whether the system as a whole is working properly and measures your ability to mechanically control the diaphragm

  • Step 1: Inhale through the nose and exhale all the way – repeat 4x

  • Step 2: Take the 5th inhale as deep as you can, release as slowly as possible and time

  • Step 3: Stop the timer when you can no longer exhale anymore air

  • If carbon dioxide discard time is 20-25 seconds or less, you may need to rest

  • If discard times drop over time, you are veering in the direction of not recovering

  • Cold (cold plunge or ice bath) after resistance training seems to short circuit some of the benefits of training: reduces inflammation and muscle soreness – but does seem to interfere with mTor pathways

  • Anti-histamines appear to disrupt some of the beneficial inflammatory effects that occur during resistance training

  • Omega -3 and magnesium malate assist with delayed onset muscle soreness

Tips To Improve Performance

  • Tips to improve strength training performance: (1) salt & electrolytes; (2) creatine; (3) beta-alanine

  • Salt – nerve cells communicate via electricity

  • The amount of salt needed will depend on water intake, caffeine intake, training load

  • Creatine – fuel source for high-intensity activity and has cognitive-enhancing effects in the brain

  • Daily creatine dose: 5g/day for 180lbs; 1-3g/day under 180lbs

  • Beta-alanine: supports the exercise of longer duration and mixed aerobic/anaerobic exercise (e.g., intervals, sprints)

  • Tips to improve endurance training performance: (1) beet juice; (2) citrulline; (3) arginine

Using Nutrition To Support Muscle Growth

  • Ingest 700-3,000mg or amino acid leucine from high-quality proteins

  • Consider protein density: it’s easier to get higher doses of nutrition and amino acids through meat & animal protein consumption versus a plant-based diet

  • Eat 2-4 meals per day to support muscle growth and repair

Exercise & Brain Health

  • Hard bouts of exercise to near failure for 30-60 minutes reduces oxygenation in the brain temporarily

  • Control duration and intensity of exercise depending on the need to perform cognitive work

  • Body and nervous system predict bouts of intense exercise: stick to a training schedule and body clock will learn and adapt

  • Time of day for training doesn’t matter for hypertrophy but train for optimization with the sleep schedule


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