Six Pack Anyone?

Posted by on Dec 28, 2011 in Pilates, Sports Physiotherapy | No Comments

Have you joined the gym hoping for spectacular changes in your appearance in no time at all, only to be left wondering where your bulging biceps and terrifically toned abs have gotten to?

If this sounds familiar, read on!

With movie stars out and about flaunting their rippling chests and sculpted arms, it seems like it must be easy to get these sorts of results ourselves.  Actors such as Tom Hardy in Warrior and Hugh Jackman in X-Men impressively bulking up very quickly for these roles can create very high hopes and expectations of our ability to sculpt our bodies quickly.

Most of us wouldn’t deny the desire for quick results when starting a new exercise program or hitting the gym.  We start to feel physically fitter and stronger pretty quickly.  So why don’t you have a six pack yet?

It is important to have realistic expectations when it comes to visible changes in muscle size and bulk.  To start with, everyone has different factors affecting their ability to build muscle mass, including age, gender, genetics, and diet.  For these reasons goals and expectations must be specific to the individual.

Unfortunately, transformation of muscle size and our body’s external appearance are relatively slow.  There are many things happening in our bodies to stimulate this growth and although your ability to lift heavier loads can increase quite quickly, the actual size of the muscle will come later.

Within just a couple of days of starting weight training, you can often see improvements in your strength.  This initial strength gain is due to neural adaptations, which in simple terms is similar to your nerves learning new skills and waking up your muscles.  These changes occur for anything up to 6 weeks of training.

 

The actual growth in muscle size is called ‘Hypertrophy’.  It is not the muscle length that increases but the width, or cross-sectional area of the muscle fibres.  Our muscles undergo a very complex process to increase their size and number of contractile fibres.  After many years of research these changes are not yet fully understood by scientists, however, the one thing that we do know is that it takes time for them to happen!  It can be up to 2-3 months before this hypertrophy process is evident.

So with this new understanding that a super-human bod is difficult to achieve and a long term commitment, don’t be disheartened, just be realistic!  And next time you are watching an action movie just remember, the stars have the benefits of lots of time, money and CGI on their side!

Now back to the gym…

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