Build muscle fast by activating your high-threshold motor units
Okay, you’re probably muttering to yourself right now… “What the heck are high-threshold motor units?” Well, they are your best friends if you are looking to build muscle, strength, and power quickly. Your muscle fibers work together in groups or units to perform movements. Like an army platoon, these groups of muscle fibers are packed into tight formations to perform their functions. High-threshold motor units (HTMUs) are the strongest muscle fiber groups in your body. They lie waiting to be used for only the most difficult muscular tasks.
But here’s the rub… Many weightlifters and muscle-building enthusiasts don’t engage these motor units correctly, if at all. They go to the gym or work out at home, rarely pushing themselves at the level of intensity necessary to recruit these high-threshold muscle fibers. Or, if they do engage them, they do so randomly without the consistency or planning necessary to build real strength and size.
Remember that… coherence and planning. For muscles to grow, they must be repeatedly challenged by the same training stimulus over a specified period of time until adaptation is achieved. Consistency and following a long-term plan for your training is key… Not jumping from one workout routine to another like most people do. So make the training regimen I describe below a part of your yearly plan.
How to exploit your HTMUs to increase your strength and size in the shortest amount of time… Lift for several weeks with max weights for all your multi-joint exercises like barbell squats, deadlifts, barbell bench press, shoulder press with barbell, lat pulldown, incline barbell row, etc. The best time for this training is to work Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Make sure you don’t train more than two days in a row. For this type of training, it’s best to do a split between your upper and lower body.
If you split upper and lower body, try to split AM/PM on the SAME DAY. For example, on Monday morning you could do a 30-minute upper body workout. Then in the late afternoon or early evening, do the lower body exercises. If you can’t fit that split into your schedule, just do 3 intense sessions a week, alternating upper and lower body sessions. Be sure to alternate between doing two upper body sessions (and 1 lower body) one week, and the following week doing two lower body sessions and one upper body session. This will ensure that you are exercising your upper and lower body equally during each two-week period. You can also do the upper body and lower body split workouts above on Monday (upper body), Tuesday (lower body), Wednesday (rest), Thursday (upper body), and Friday (lower body).
Loads, sets, reps and rest periods… Start with 80% of your 1-rep max in week 1, then use 85% of your 1-rep max in week 2 and finally in week 3, use 90% (or more). ) of your one-rep max. Do 4-5 sets of each lift, resting 3 minutes between sets. For this type of training you need a complete rest between sets. Regarding reps, you should do about 8-10 reps for 80% of your 1 Rep Max; 5-7 reps for 85% of your 1 Rep Max; and 3-5 reps with 90%+ of your 1 Rep Max.
Each week, you’ll be engaging more of your high-threshold motor units as the weight increases, and your body responds by recruiting more fibers and thickening existing ones to handle the loads. In less than a week, you will notice a definite increase in strength. For example, for her third workout (Friday), the weight used on Monday should “feel” lighter than when she lifted it on Monday.
This is your body’s adaptive response that becomes more efficient by lifting a specific weight for a specific exercise. Over the next few weeks you will see your strength increase again and your muscle mass will also increase due to your increases in strength. Keep in mind that gains in muscle mass lag behind gains in strength. So once you have increased strength, it will take a while for muscle mass to develop.
After this 3-week cycle, do everything again, except this time, use dumbbells for all of your lifts except the squat. This will really test your high threshold fibers because they will be forced to stabilize heavy weights more than you do when using a barbell. Don’t be surprised if you make some personal bests on your big lifts like the squat and bench press. Of course, this strategy assumes that you are eating well and getting enough rest and sleep. If not, your hard work will be in vain and you will gain nothing except muscle pain and a lot of disappointment.
The benefits of activating your high-threshold motor units… Scientific research and lifters doing this type of training have shown that you can increase your strength in a matter of days and your mass in weeks…not months! And with increases in strength come increases in muscle fiber thickness and muscle fiber number, both of which make you bigger and stronger.
Strength and size are closely related to each other, although the relationship is not 1 to 1 (meaning that for some strength increases, you won’t have a corresponding size increase). These gains can only occur if you engage your HTMUs in a methodical and consistent manner. Don’t do this type of training without a good plan or you could end up doing more harm than good. After 6 weeks of this type of training, you can take a break, 5-7 days, to let your body fully recover and grow, grow, grow!