The muscle building process can be confused with building strength and endurance without necessarily building size. There are three types of muscle fibers. Each have different characteristics for exercise.
The red slow twitch fibers are the endurance muscle fibers and utilized for low impact aerobics and resistance training. Long walks, bike rides, and even marathons utilize these muscle fibers. They can develop stamina and strength for low impact tasks. They do not grow in size.
The red fast twitch fibers are also for building endurance and strength for the moderate exerciser. More intense aerobics with intervals will utilize the red fast twitch fibers and they have less endurance than slow red twitch fibers. Moderate resistance training will stimulate these fibers by using weight loads in the 60% to 80% of one lift capacity and 12 to 16 reps.
The white fast twitch fibers are for building maximum strength and size. They will increase in size by utilizing maximum loads for short bursts. In aerobics, plyometrics and sprints utilize maximum exertion and tear down muscle for rebuilding. In resistance training, lifting near maximum capacity loads in short sets of 4 to 6 reps utilizes fast white twitch fibers.
Progressing to Adaptation
A beginner in aerobics and resistance training should not engage in maximizing capacity without building up progressively and allowing the body to adapt to increased loads. Aerobics begins with low impact and adds intervals or longer sessions for intensity. Low impact aerobics utilize fat for fuel and begin to use glucose with increased speed.
In moderate aerobics, adding intervals increasing the VO2 oxygen uptake stress starts utilizing red fast twitch fibers and training the body for greater endurance and speed. Greater intensity in speed and duration will begin utilizing glucose with fat as fuel. Moderate exercise is not increasing muscle size nor reaching maximum strength, but it is progress.
In resistance training, high rep sets of 20 to 25 with 60% of capacity loads utilize slow red twitch fibers and accelerate fat burning. Increasing loads to 60% to 80% of capacity with reps in the 12 to 16 range utilize fast red twitch fibers. This moderate training begins creating adaptation to greater loads.
Building Muscle and Maximum Strength
For building muscle size and maximum strength, exercise must be at near capacity. This needs to progress with consideration of loading and resting to prevent injury and facilitate adapting. Aerobic training would include training at the highest level most likely for competition or extreme events.
In resistance training, loads would be at 90% + of one lift capacity in sets of 4 to 6 reps. High intensity training only occurs once or twice a week with the balance at low and moderate training capacities. Muscle building occurs during rest, so adequate nutrition to feed muscle building and adequate rest support the process.
Progress is also measured with frequency. Low impact aerobics and resistance training can be engaged 5 days a week. Moderate training might be 3 to 5 days a week, and high intensity training maybe limited to one to two days a week with moderate training or different muscle groups in between.
It is difficult to build optimum performance with limited frequency of one or two days a week of training. Minimum training might maintain fitness and is certainly better than none.
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