Hello again my fit friends! Today I want to share with you how your muscles grow, and I think some of you might be surprised. In case you missed it, my last article on “How Muscles Work” covered how the muscles contract. You can read it here or review the basic recap below: Your nervous system communicates with your muscular system, which is in charge of moving and supporting your skeletal system. All three of these systems of yours must work hand in hand and are collectively known as THE HUMAN MOVEMENT SYSTEM.
Great, now how exactly do these muscles work to grow?
One great thing about our muscle cells is they can be manipulated to change in size and develop. This happens when you participate in resistance training (aka lifting those weights). During resistance training, you are causing micro-tears to pop up in your muscles, which then need to be repaired. Yes, you are tearing your muscles! Pain & Gain! Your rest days and time spent away from the gym is when the real magic and GAINZ happen.
Muscle growth occurs in the repair of the muscle, not in the flexion. After you finish your workout, your muscles are inflamed and your body signals the release of white blood cells, much like what would occur when you are sick or incur an injury. Your body is literally signaling that you’ve hurt yourself! These white blood cells swarm to the micro-tears you’ve created in your muscle and signal the release of specific proteins called cytokins. Next, these cytokins signal the satellite cells, which are your best friends. The satellite cells are always on-call, located outside the muscle fibers, and just waiting to repair your muscles after you damage them.
If you look at the diagram below, you can see the satellite cells lying outside the muscle fiber. When signaled, the satellite cells fuse together to either patch the tear on the original muscle fiber or form a new muscle fiber altogether. This fusion creates more cross-sectional area, or simply stated, increases muscle size.
This process is why it is so important to REST and TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY. You can go to the gym and crush your workouts, but if you are not staying hydrated, eating whole nutritious food, and taking care of your body with activities such as stretching and self-myofascial release, your body will not be able to recover and reap the benefits of this muscle-building repair process.
You cannot continually tear your body down, day after day, and expect your body to keep up the repair process at the same rate as you are causing damage.
Now that you know how your muscles contract and how they are damaged/rebuilt, I will go on next week to discuss different types of workouts you can use to tap into hypertrophy (muscle building) and also how to properly rest and recover to take full advantage of those little satellite cells and their “can-do” attitude to continually build your awesome body.