Since golden age of bodybuilding it was discovered by experienced way that different muscle groups need different quantity of reps.
Thus, Austrien Oak in his book "The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding", described such numbers: 8-12 reps for upper body muscles, 12-15 reps for lower body muscles. Furthermore, these exersices should be done to failure.
As well known, if there is a rule, there is an exception from it. For the average gym's visitors these numbers are quite correct. Moreover, they have proven by modern science.
Why the upper body needs less reps than legs? It's easy: all his life man use two lower limbs to move himself unlike primates. Additionally, shin muscles and quads are used for a walk too. Walking is a low intensity load itself. It needn't much force. So it is implemented by slow twitch muscle fibres.
Not only walking, but running with average speed is implemented by these fibres almost completely.
During evolution our muscles formed in such a way that lower body muscles consist of slow fibres on a half, but upper body muscles (arm, for example) only on one-third. That's why walking and slow running do not lead to creation of lactic acid in muscles and do not cause hypertrophy.
Slow twitch muscles fibres fill in fully with mitochondria. Than more mytochondria are in muscle fibre that more difficult to acidify that fibre: mitochondria produce carbon dioxide and water from lactic acid with energy needed to continue moving.
Moreover, part of legs' fast twitch muscle fibre have some quantity of mitochondria too. Although there are not so big numbers as in slow fibres, they take part in decomposing lactic acid too.
It explains endurance of our legs, how they can easily walk a couple of kilometers before fatigue. If you try to make such an experience with arms, go for a walk by arms, they become exhausted after several meters.
There is an interesting fact: different hip muscles have differet endurance. Thus, posterior hips mucles are more endurance than anterior hips muscles: during walking exactly posterior muscles are working. Arterior muscles begin to work only when we go upstairs. Considering escalators are everywhere now, anterior muscles haven't the load in fact.
Man who has no large training experience, will achieve acidification of muscles more quickly going upstairs than practicing running with average speed, despite load intensity is equal.
For the acidification of muscle fibres with mitochondria during strength training (this is obligatory condition of muscle hypertrophy) you need to achieve the state when speed of lactic acid creation is higher than speed of its using. It can be done when set time is maximized.
Low reps training with big weights is not effective for the lower body hypertrophy. For example, let's see calves routine.
Imagine the sportsman doing standing calf raises. He trains this exercise one set of 15 reps, holding the contracted position by a couple of seconds.
In this case range of motion is very short like in any other calf exercise about 15-20 centimeters. Every rep lasts one or one and a half second. The muscle is on the load from 15 to 23 seconds in average. It's little time to stimulate muscle fibres with mitohondria. Don't forget calves are full of them.
Calf set should last not less than thirty seconds. There are two ways:
increase quantity of reps to 20-30;
increase time of set (for example, stay in maximum contraction point on 1-2 seconds.)
In both cases weights should be about 60-70% of 1 RM, there are about five working sets and time for rest between sets not less than five minutes. During this time you can do exercise for other muscle groups according to your training plan.
Using these principles you can give your calves maximum load. As we have mentioned above, half of fibres in calves, as in all muscles of lower body, are slow twitch muscle fibres. But the matter is half of fibres as we concider as fast, are intermediate. Additionally, all the slow fibres are oxidative.
If train intermediate muscle fibres, hypertrophy will be achieved faster and it will be visible. Nevetheless, due to big share of slow oxidative fibres in calf muscles they should be paid enough attention too.
For the best stimulation of slow fibres hypertrophy you should use another load program. The main condition is doing exercises without relax of target muscle (i.e. there should be no stops and pauses at the beginning and at the end of motion). Following this rule leads to muscle fibres under the tense to press capillaries that causes the stop of blood flow. This leads to muscles fibres hypoxia. Due to this anaerobic glycolysis of slow fibres is increasing and lactic acid is accumulating in them. So we achieve our goals.
Any pause or just muscles relax during exercise neutralizes the efficiency of it. Weight of tool 30-70% of 1RM and quantity of reps per set doesn't matter. The only thing which important is failure in 30-60 seconds interval of constant work. .
As we have written above, time for rest shouldn't be less than five minutes. Due to this we recommend include calf sets in periods of rest between exercises on other muscle groups which should be loaded in this training day.
We don't recommend you to cut the time between sets because this can enforce catabolism cased by hydrogen ions concentration.
For more effective building of calves they should be trained twise a week. The first one should load intermediate fibres, the second one should load slow fibres. The period for rest between them should be about three-four days. Along with it you can use one exercise every training if you feel its impact on muscles. In other case you can alternate two exercises.
As concerns soleus muscle under the calf, its load doesn't matter for the increase volume of calves. So it has no sense for beginners to work hard on it.
Split scheme example
Below we give you an example of week training plan that include calf exercises twice a week:
- Monday: legs day;
- Tuesday: chest day with calves (intermediate fibres);
- Wednesday: rest;
- Thursday: shoulders day;
- Friday: shoulders day;
- Saturday: arms day with calves (slow fibres);
- Sunday: rest.
Interesting to know
One of the best example of different muscle tissue in lower and upper limbs is a chicken meat. Everybody knows that chicken legs is a red meat and back and breast is a white meat.
Chicken is a bird but practucally all its life walk on a ground by foot. it can fly but in exceptional cases and just for few seconds. Long walking possible due to slow twitch muscle fibres, which contain big quantity of mitochondria.
For those who don't remember school course of biology well: mitohondria are such energy stations of cells in our body. These stations oxidize fatty acids and glucose to get the energy if there are no physical loads.
There is myoglobin to transport the oxygen from the surface of mitochondrion cell. It is an analog of well-known gemoglobin that plays the same transport role.
As gemoglobin, myoglobin has red colour too. Muscle fibres which contain many mitochondria have much myoglobin to serve them. It explains the red colour of muscle fibres.
That's why chicken legs are red. They have many slow twitch muscle fibres which play the key role in chicken lifestyle. Breast has white colour, it consist of fast fibres. This is the reason why the chicken cannot fly. Muscles which responsible for wings are very powerful: they need to lift unproportial big body from the ground. But due to they haven't slow fibres and so mitohondria, this muscle is acidified very fast that leads to failure.
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