With so many different routines, methods, workouts and techniques in fitness, wouldn’t it be nice if there were one sure fire equation for building muscle?
Well, a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge may have found just that.
Researchers used theoretical biophysics to create a mathematical model that can predict the best exercise regimen for a person to build muscle — basically, a formula for making gains. This equation predicts a specific weight percentage at which someone should perform resistance training exercises based on their muscle growth target.
Eugene Terentjev, a professor from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, says that this study is a breakthrough because of how little concrete evidence there is about the specific effects of muscle-building exercises.
“Surprisingly, not very much is known about why or how exercise builds muscles,” Terentjev says. “There’s a lot of anecdotal knowledge and acquired wisdom, but very little in the way of hard or proven data.”
The equation suggests that muscle growth occurs mostly at a 70 percent maximum load, which is why resistance training is a tried-and-true method for muscle building. Terentjev says anywhere below is too little effort and anywhere above can result in rapid exhaustion and prevent a good outcome.
“One of the challenges in preparing elite athletes is the common requirement for maximizing adaptations while balancing associated trade-offs like energy costs,” says Fionn MacPartlin, senior strength and conditioning coach at the English Institute of Sport. “This work gives us more insight into the potential mechanisms of how muscles sense and respond to load, which can help us more specifically design interventions to meet these goals.”
On the flip side, this equation can also predict how long a muscle can afford to be inactive before it begins to deteriorate and what the best recovery time and regimen would be. Not only is this useful for athletes, who need to determine the right amount of rest and recovery work, but the method would impact other careers, such as astronauts, who struggle with muscle atrophy in microgravity.
Eventually, the team of Cambridge researchers hope to create a user-friendly adaption of the equation that could be used for typical exercise.