A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about my legs being too skinny, and that I want them to be bigger. I was also thinking about that in contrast to doing the stairs so I can handle our backpacking hikes better. A couple of thoughts occurred to me: First, more muscle on my legs gives me more to work with. Cyclists and runners now incorporate strength training to improve their performance. Second, I’ve never been an endurance guy, I think genetically I just have more fast twitch than slow twitch fibers, so I may never be able to match the endurance of the other guys. But if I am stronger my pack weight will be less of an issue, and I may be able to use that to keep pace. After all, we aren’t doing purely endurance, we are doing it under loads.
So I have this dilemma, I feel like I may want to do the stairs today but I don’t want to interfere with my muscle and strength gains. But then again, I’m not lifting heavy, nor have I achieved muscular failure yet. Most of my leg workouts are high rep, so how is doing 60 squats any different from doing the stairs? Muscles definitely adapt differently. Look at Dwayne Johnson, the Cowboys’ Zack Martin, and Michael Phelps. Each trains with different objectives and each looks markedly different. So I’m pretty sure you aren’t going to be able to achieve the same level in both simultaneously.
I’ve always heard that cardio kills muscle gains, but it turns out that may not be the case at all. After some research and analysis, here is what I have discovered and what I think I will do.
Recent research would indicate that the right amount of cardio not only doesn’t hold you back from strength and muscle gains, but 2-3 days of cardio each week can enhance the effects of strength training. [1, 2] They can compete with each other however, so you should definitely spread them apart. Interestingly, studies have shown strength training plus cycling improved muscle size more than strength training plus treadmill walking, or strength training alone.[4,5]
Train the same muscle group two days in a row. Hit a muscle hard and heavy one day, then again the next day but hit them with lighter pump work. Isolation exercises done in circuit fashion work best. Think constant tension for 8-12 reps. Each set should last at least 30 seconds and up to 50 seconds. That’s what is going to work best for optimal gains. The second session is there to enhance the anabolic response from the first session. It does this by prolonging the period of increased protein synthesis and also increasing nutrient transport to the muscles. Isolation exercises done in circuit fashion work best.
This will actually facilitate recovery and lengthen the duration of the anabolic phase.
The first four hours after a training session, protein breakdown can be elevated more than synthesis (although this can be mitigated by the presence of insulin) (6), but from hours 6-24 after, synthesis can become higher if amino acid availability is increased.(6) It then returns to normal within 24-36 hours of the first stimulation. This also means you need to do it within 24 hours after the last session to get this result. It doesn’t apply if you have a day off in between session.
Protein synthesis stays elevated for 24 hours post-training, but by having a second session the next day that’s less traumatic, you extend protein synthesis significantly, thus building more muscle. It’s important that the second session is pump work and not heavy lifting. We don’t want to cause any muscle damage on that second day. We only want to activate the cell signaling responsible for stimulating hypertrophy and pumping nutrients into the muscles. (3)
Also, these need to be constant tension type movements, even just flexing would be good. Remember the BCAAs and protein prior to the session! Since part of the reason it works is because nutrients are being pumped into the muscle, there need to be nutrients available.
Have a Great Day!