The only serious weightlifting injury I’ve ever had happened back in 1996. I had been experimenting with heavy weighted dips (doing this exercise with over 100 lb. attached to a belt). It was great for my ego, but I think it is largely to blame for wearing out all the cartilage in my AC joint (where your clavicle meets the shoulder). My doctors told me it was a pretty common injury among those who lift weights. My only option (other than live in pain) was to surgically remove the bone spur that had developed.
This meant I’d have to lay off the weight training for six weeks or so. I still remember returning to the gym for the first time after the layoff. I was wearing one of my favorite sleeveless workout shirts. Looking in the mirror was depressing–my arms looked like pipe cleaners to me. Needless to say, I probably didn’t look nearly as bad as I thought. Regardless, my arms had clearly lost some of their size.
Fortunately my size and strength returned very quickly. I actually broke some personal strength records within the next year or two.
I’m using this little story to illustrate a concept that is a bodybuilder or strength athlete’s best friend: muscle memory.
Technically this term (as most commonly used) has little to do with strength and size. Muscle memory refers to things your body “remembers” to do after multiple repetitions. My fingers, for example, are effortlessly typing this article without my brain thinking about each individual keystroke.
But many in the iron game have used this term to refer to what I experienced after my injury: gains in strength and size usually come back much more quickly than it originally took to earn them. We’ve kind of adopted “muscle memory” as a term to explain this phenomenon.
I have since learned how this works. It has to do with satellite cells and their role in hypertrophy (muscle growth). Satellite cells are located on the outside of muscle fibers and normally lay dormant. But when a muscle is stressed/damaged through resistance training, they go to work. These cells multiply and go to the site of the damage (keep in mind we are talking about damage at the microscopic level).
Here’s where it gets really interesting: satellite cells “donate” their nuclei to the muscle cells, which its one of the factors that cause it to increase in size (this is one of the main concepts in the MI40X program). Trained muscle cells have more nuclei than untrained muscles, and this change remains even after one stops training. The change, in fact, may be permanent.1
Formerly trained muscles, therefore, are already primed to grow back to their previous levels of size and strength–the additional nuclei are already there in the muscle cells, “waiting” to do their thing.
Muscle memory is real. This is good to know if you need to take some time of due to injury, illness, or any other reason.
1. J Exp Biol. 2016 Jan;219(Pt 2):235-42. doi: 10.1242/jeb.124495. Muscle memory and a new cellular model for muscle atrophy and hypertrophy.
I’ve had a chance to look over Renegade Strong, the latest program from Jason Ferruggia. This six-week program is designed to help you get “big, strong, and jacked.” I’ll tell you a little more about the program design.
Renegade Strength Program Setup
This book begins with Ferruggia explaining the overall training philosophy. He proceeds to a warm-up program you can use to get loosened up before each workout.
The main program is a four-day split, meaning it is designed for those who want to train 4 days a week. You alternate between upper body and lower body days, but variation has been built into the weekly routine. Some workouts emphasize heavier weights and lower reps, while others are designed to do use less weight and go with more volume/repetition.
As mentioned, this is a six-week program. The exercises don’t require any special equipment and I think you could do Renegade Strong at just about any commercial gym. Another nice feature is a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section where he answers common questions a trainee may have about the program (alternate exercises, etc.).
Jason Ferruggia has developed a well-deserved reputation for putting together great workout programs. Renegade Strong is no exception. Let me share a few ideas on who I think this program would be well suited for:
*Intermediate or advanced trainees who want to ad some variety to their workouts.
*Guys who want to ad some conditioning elements to their routines (this program features some strongman type training that would suit this purpose).
*Older trainees (over 35) or who want physically demanding workout that are designed with long-term joint health in mind.
*Guys who are a little beat up and want to train around mild injuries (in other words, guys that are healthy enough to train but maybe have some achy joints, etc).
*Guys who are bored with training only the “big 3” (squat, deadlift, and bench press) and want to mix things up a bit.
I’ve had a chance to look over the Muscle Matrix Solution by Ryan Hughes. I’ll start of this review with a little information about the author.
Hughes first started training when he was a teenager. He was 6’1″ tall and weighed only 135 lb. But he had a passion for training and was able to compete in his first bodybuilding competition at age 19. He would eventually become one of the first IFBB Men’s Physique Pros, an International Fitness Cover Model, and a well-known trainer and fitness professional. He is considered one of America’s top personal trainers and has appeared on nationally syndicated television shows.
Muscle Matrix Solution Program Components (Summary)
Once you make your purchase you will get an email with login information. As you can see (by looking at the screenshot) you begin with a welcome page. The navigation tabs on the top of the page will take you through the rest of the program:
This section includes an overview of the program in video form. Hughes walks you through what the program includes and how to set it up specifically for your needs. Some of the topics he discusses are optimizing hormones (like testosterone), training, diet, and supplementation. He also gets into some motivational issues that will hopefully help inspire you to get started and stick with it.
There are also two downloadable pdf files in this section: 1. Welcome file/e-book, and 2. Cover Model Secrets, which explains some of the final steps bodybuilders/models take to get ready for a photo shoot or contest.
Ryan Hughes explains the workouts in this section (which he calls Matrix Training). His program combines three different styles of training, all of which are proven to be effective individually. The idea is that these training techniques will work together synergistically when combined. The workouts are set up in three different tracks: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Progression is built into the workouts so will improve in the amount of weight you use, the amount of reps you can do, and the amount of time you rest in between sets (you will be able to get by with less rest time as you progress through the program). He goes on to explain the specific set and rep range you’ll be doing.
There’s a downloadable file where you can see the actual workout plan (the specific exercises, set/reps, etc.).
Keep this in mind: the program is set up for you to do brief, intense workouts (about 45 minutes). You won’t be spending all day in the gym, but you will have to train hard–these workouts will not be easy.
Hughes’ nutrition plan is based on three key principles:
1. Flexibility: This doesn’t mean you can eat pizza and ice cream every day. It does mean that you can eat foods like this every once in a while in moderation. In other words, you can follow this lifestyle without having to plan your entire life around a 24/7 strict diet.
2. Meal Timing and Nutrient Combination: You will be guided in eating certain types of foods according to the time of day and/or your training. You will try to eat most of your carbohydrates, for example, in the evening after you train. This advise may sound different that what you’ve heard before, but it does work (based on my personal experience–I eat most of my carbs either after I train or at dinner).
3. Macronutrients: Ryan explains the role of protein, carbohydrates and fats and how you can manipulate your intake of these to build muscle and burn fat.
There is downloadable file you can use to read about these principles.
This section also includes a nutrition calculator. You can use this to customize your eating plan for your specific needs.
The video and the pdf file breaks down Hughes’ recommended supplement protocol. This is one area where I have some disagreements with the author. I personally do not believe any supplement can significantly increase testosterone and nothing he wrote has changed my mind. Instead of getting into details I’d rather just give my standard advice: stick with basic supplements like whey protein powder, (micronized) creatine monohydrate, a multivitamin, and fish oil. Use these basic supplements with reputable brands and you’ll do fine (and you’ll keep more of your hard-earned money).
The Exercise Library:
This is another nice feature of the Muscle Matrix Solution. I always appreciate video demonstrations of exercises and these are well done.
This final video/pdf wraps up the program. Hughes talks about defining your goal(s) that were on your mind when you ordered and implemented this program. He recaps all the program components (training, nutrition, etc.) and encourages you to embrace what you have learned as a lifestyle. He also mentions an insider’s coaching club you can join if you choose to.
This section has the Abdominal Accelerator program available for download. This is a plan for those who want to spend 30 days focusing on maximizing their fat loss. I think this would work really well with or without the supplements mentioned.
I think the Muscle Matrix Solution program is put together very well and will get results if you follow both the training and the nutrition plans. The set and reps Hughes recommends makes sense to me because it is a good mix of strength and hypertrophy (growth) rep ranges. I found the material to be well organized and easy to navigate.
Who would this program benefit? A few types of people come to mind:
*New trainees who want a step-by-step system to guide them on their journey of building muscle and/or losing fat.
*Intermediate or advanced trainees who have reached plateaus in their training and are ready to try some new workout techniques.
*Guys who want to look better–those who want to build a lean, muscular physique and be more self-confident.