Hypertrophy to Minimize Atrophy During Injury

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Hypertrophy to Minimize Atrophy During Injury

Some of you know that I am rehabbing from my second triceps tear this year. These injuries have been a massive test both physically and mentally. Luckily some pretty smart people hang out with me. We were podcasting with Zach Long, DPT, or you guys might know him as The Barbell Physio. During that podcast a lot of light bulbs went off.

We were talking about Blood Flow Restriction Training. BFR is a new method for minimizing muscle atrophy during injury. Basically by using a tourniquet while lifting lightweights, blood is trapped in the muscles during the exercise. This causes a lack of Oxygen to the muscles. Type I fibers need this Oxygen to fire, so they aren’t able to fire during BFR Training. That causes Type II fibers to kick in at lighter loads than during traditional training. This also causes a build up of metabolic byproducts such as lactate causing a hormonal surge. I am going to say this in a very basic way. Lactate triggers the release of growth hormone. Growth hormone serves a protective role for tendons and muscle collagen structures as it increases collagen synthesis. Growth hormone also triggers the release of IGF-1, which has a direct impact of muscle hypertrophy.

You can create a similar response with traditional hypertrophy training in the gym. The pump that bodybuilders talk about is a similar reaction. Constant lengthening and contracting of the muscles will pump blood to the working areas at a higher rate. This will also cause vein occlusion where the veins swell causing the blood to get trapped in the muscles. This is artificially created with the tourniquet.

There was one big point that Zach made peaking my interest. The hypertrophy effects were made noticed both proximally and distally from the muscles being worked. There were also gains noticed in the antagonist muscle, or the muscle that relaxes when another contracts (ex. Biceps and Triceps). At that point I set out to strengthen my triceps as fast as possible.

I used BFR solely at first using just bodyweight movement only. As soon as I could I started working all the muscles around the triceps injury. 2-3 times per week, I train the following splits:

1. Chest and Back-

• DB Flies 5×10 focusing on a slow tempo
• Peck Deck 3×10
• Cable Flies 3×10
• Machine Rows 5×10
• Peck Deck Rear Flies 3×10
• Kettlebell Batwing Rows 3×10

2. Delts and Biceps-

• DB Lateral Raises 5×10
• Plate Front Raises 3×10
• Cable Lateral Raises 3×10
• Standing Axle Bar Curls 3×10
• Incline DB Curls 3×10

I can’t believe that I used the word “splits”, but bodybuilding has made my recovery much faster. Even my triceps has retained a majority of its size. The range of motion and strength is light years ahead of my doctor’s expectations. All that I can say is hypertrophy training has my hopes higher than ever for a full recovery and return to the platform.

Blood Flow Restriction is still a great way to train along with my normal hypertrophy work. Even before I was cleared to perform direct triceps work, I could use BFR and bodyweight only to induce some hypertrophy. Now that I have been cleared to train with lightweights, I will use BFR to expedite the process. I can use the 2-5lb weights with BFR and cause some major hypertrophy of the muscles. This will also help the tendons strengthen and heal at a faster rate. Here is some more information on BFR straight from Zach Long:

“Blood Flow Restriction” by Zach Long

Injury can really test the mental toughness of an athlete. I can honestly say that back-to-back injuries really made it tempting to just throw in the towel. I thought God was telling me to quit, but the more that I thought about, I realized that God was saying to learn patience and perseverance. The hypertrophy work has given me something to focus on. It’s progress that I can see and document. There are quantifiable improvements that let me know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The biggest difference is the range of motion improvements from performing direct biceps work. The flexion and extension of my elbow improved almost instantly. As long as I can see improvements, I can press on to the end goal of getting back on the platform.

If you get an injury, I recommend the following:

• Find the best soft-tissue specialist in the area by asking the best athletes. In my area, Dr. Gray of Gray Sports Associates and John Davidson, DPT are the best.
• Find someone that can administer Blood Flow Restriction properly.
• Perform hypertrophy work with all unaffected muscles close to the injured area especially the antagonist if possible.
• Nutrition, sleep, and recovery work are more important than ever.
• Focus on the things that you can affect, and leave the rest to God.
• Dry Needling, K-Laser, A.R.T., and Graston are some other soft tissue techniques to seek out.

I have also focused on squatting and deadlifting while I have been injured. I have also focused on mobility more than ever. I am squatting and deadlifting three times each per week, and performing mobility every day. I focus on active recovery and mobility on the off-days.

Most of you know that hip mobility is something that I have struggled with for a long-time. This new focus has really helped my hip, and it has kept me from getting more cortisone shots. I was getting one about every four months for a while. It has now been about a year, since my last one. That’s a win in my books especially if you know the side effects of cortisone.

I am grateful for these tests in my life. I now have my love of training back at an all-new level. I have learned to persevere with patience. This whole process has taught me that training is a luxury. There are other parts of my life that are more important like my family, friends, team and God. Training is something that I do because I enjoy watching the human body perform. Training is something that I do to stay strong and healthy for my family. Training is something that I do to inspire others. Evidently once in a while, God needs to remind me. I am obviously very hard headed.

“MashJacked: Hypertrophy for Strength, Performance, and Aesthetics” and “Train Stupid: the Training and Philosophy of Nathan Damron” are live! Only a few more days to get them at their low introductory prices now:

==> “MashJacked”

==> “Train Stupid”

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