Cell Swell: A New Mechanism for Muscle Growth
In the past few years, the science of muscle growth has changed the way people train in the gym. Initially, research suggested that the primary mechanism for muscle hypertrophy was the release of anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone. Traditionally, it was thought that 10-12 repetitions, short rest periods (i.e., 30-60 seconds), and 3-4 sets were the backbone for muscle growth for increased anabolic hormones. Today, we know that muscle growth is related to a combination of factors in addition to anabolic hormones such as:
– Muscle inflammation
– Muscle growth factors such as myostatin and IGF-1
– Metabolic stress
– Cellular swelling
That great pump you get in the gym may be a contributing factor to increases in muscle growth. High-intensity resistance training can induce muscle soreness and delayed muscle soreness (also contributing to the swelling process) which can last for up to 96 hours. The introduction of blood flow restriction training has caused many new theories on what causes muscle growth. Blood flow restriction (BFR) training incorporates very lightweight, but it generates substantial increases in metabolic stress. Previous studies have documented massive increases in lactic acid and hydrogen ions from the increases in hypoxia or low oxygen levels. In the case of lactate, it is believed that the buildup of hydrogen ions initiates a cascade of events that ultimately upregulates anabolic hormone secretion, such as testosterone, GH, and IGF-1.
The accumulation of metabolites inside the muscle caused by BFR may also have induced a fluid shift from the extracellular to the intracellular space, which could also have contributed to some extent, the observed increased muscle swelling response. Cellular swelling is a relatively new concept that relates to muscle growth. Creatine monohydrate is one supplement that has been found to increase muscle growth thru increases in cellular swelling. The large increases in creatine monohydrate into muscles cells causes a disruption in the osmotic gradient in the cell and causes large fluxes of water to increase inside the cell. The increases in cellular water that caused increased intracellular fluid has been associated with stimulating protein synthesis and initiating muscle hypertrophy. Low-intensity resistance exercise with blood flow restriction has also been used to induce significant muscle swelling following acute exercise in an attempt to stimulate muscle hypertrophy.
Researchers wanted to examine the effects of cellular swelling following an acute bout of low intensity (20 percent 1RM) resistance exercise with BFR in comparison to a traditional high-intensity (80 percent 1RM) resistance exercise with no blood flow restriction for 96 hours after exercise. The researchers hypothesized that the blood BFR regimen would cause greater cell swelling than with high-intensity resistance exercise. The shocking finding of the study was that BFR exercise would induce a significant increase in muscle swelling and a significant decrease in plasma value. However, these responses were similar to both high intensity (80 percent of 1RM) and low-intensity resistance exercise (20 percent of 1RM) with BFR.
This study emphasizes that high-intensity exercise stimulates cellular swelling to the same extent as blood flow restriction training. It seems that based on the literature, high-intensity resistance training leads to similar gains in lean muscle mass as BFR training. If you think that BFR training is going to result in superior gains in lean muscle mass than high-intensity training, than you may be disappointed. It seems that both training modalities are equal, but if you’re injured or want to take a break from heavy training, than BFR may be a welcome change in your training. You can use very light-weight with BFR training, but the pumps can be quite intense.
If you are going to be training with either BFR training or high-intensity training, be sure to use either Bang Master Blaster or Redline Black Diamond with Cell Swell Technology for enhanced vasodilation.
Freitas EDS, Poole C, Miller RM, Heishman AD, Kaur J, Bemben DA, Bemben M. Time Course Change in Muscle Swelling: High-Intensity vs. Blood Flow Restriction Exercise. Int J Sports Med. 2017 Oct 1. doi: 10.1055/s-0043-118342.
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