I believe the genesis of that article was inspired by the Upside-Down bodybuilding publication. I think it came out in the 90s
I am not sure that training can produce shifts in fiber type. Methods of the studies should be very carefully considered to determine if we indeed have a case of “plasticity” or whatever you call it. I agree on that subject with Arthur Jones who stated that “such differences in fiber type are a result of genetic factors and are not subject to change; although fiber type will sometimes appear to change, because atrophy (both disuse atrophy and overuse atrophy) is selective in regard to fiber type, fast twitch fibers atrophy faster and to a greater extent than slow twitch fibers. Thus an atrophied fast twitch subject may appear to be a slow twitch subject when first tested; then, as strength is increased in response to exercise, his fiber type will appear to change. But this is a misleading impression; no actual change in fiber type has occurred; instead, you have reactivated previously atrophied fast twitch fibers”.
How long ago did Arthur Jones state those opinions? More is known today. Perhaps he would hold a different opinion today if he were still alive and had access to more recent studies?
I suggest you read the second article I mentioned. It discusses some problems that exist with older methods of classifying slow and fast twitch fibers, and how that may have lead to erroneous conclusions regard the ability of fibers to change types.
I don’t have the right kind of expertise to judge what is or is not most likely to be true in this area. But I do understand that older theories can take root and linger on long after newer data makes the older ideas obsolete. Perhaps this is one of those situations. Perhaps not.
Arthur Jones wrote that in 1993 in his book “My first half-century in the iron game”. The article which you referred to is very unclear (to say the least) in terms of conclusions and recommendations. A large portion of documents referred in the reference section were issued before 1993. A link to the article at the last paragraph before the section entitled “Why the confusion?” is not working. The study which the author praises most ("An epic study the very next year saw the ST fibers convert to FT following 6 weeks of “anaerobic training”, and revert right back to ST after the training then changed to “aerobic” (19)) was the one published in 1978, involving four (4) long-distance runners who trained “aerobically” and “anaerobically” (meaning interval training 2-3 times a week on a track at 90-100% of their VO2 max). Very well designed and controlled study The whole idea that the fibers at the opposite end of the spectrum (fast- and slow-twitch) can transform into each other negates the logic (they would not be called fast- and slow-twitch respectively, they will be called "hybrid’ from the very beginning, if they have both characteristics and can be transformed) and the nature of existence where A remains A (and can’t be B, C and D depending on a wish of an expert). However, for modern scientists brought up on post-modernist philosophy the reality doesn’t exist, it is flexible and plastic according to their wishes (and grants involved) and can be anything, if needed. The conclusion of the article is worth quoting verbatim, is the epitome of the modern “scientific approach”: “What should you do to ensure your training optimizes your FT%? We don’t really know. Any other answer is a straight lie. Our best guess: if you want to make more FT fibers, train fast and heavy. Better endurance? Practice getting tired. Maximize growth? Do a combination of high volume/low intensity with low volume/high intensity lifting. At least, this is the best we know as of now. So while we’ve got countless more questions than answers at this point, we can comfortably say that not only do human skeletal muscle fiber types change, but it happens often, quickly, and in response to just about everything you do”.
Sometimes the best answer is to say you don’t know, because the evidence isn’t very good or very complete.
I think he made a pretty good case that early methods of assigning fiber type had a high degree of ambiguity. Later methods are better and more rigorous, but are expensive and hence have not been applied very much.
So, in the view of a professional scientist who studies this for a living, good data is not available in sufficient amounts to guide one’s training. That is a conclusion I’m happy to live with. That just means I have to adjust training variables based on the outcomes I can see in myself. In the end, I think that is what most of us are going to do anyway.
Pre-dating the referenced workout, Dr. Darden had released the Advanced Nautilus Bodybuilding book in 1984 which included things like 30 second negative chins (can’t recall if it eventually worked up to a minute – I don’t have my copy any longer). The book featured Ray Mentzer and focused on his arm development as well as Boyer Coe.
In one routine in “The New HIT” He features a one minute positive, one minute negative on chins and dips in his upper arm specialization routine.
That was a real challenge for me at the time, but it would probably be easier now. I’ll give that a go at the gym tonight after deads and Overhead Press.
On the fiber debate? If any of the theories or research on FT, ST or fibers converting to from ST to FT were even 50 - 75% true, one would think we’d see many, many more natural, jacked individuals coming out of gyms around the US, etc. But, I’ve yet to see any objective validation backing the theories.
At the end of the day, it is the genetics mom and dad gave us and we can try every trick in the book to overcome them, but at the end of the day 99% of weight trainers/bodybuilders will have seen the majority of their gains in the first 4 - 5 years of training. Beyond that, there will be minimal gains and then starting around 40 or so, sarcopenia sets in and fighting that process begins.
Yes, strength trainers may learn better technique (skills) and their lifts progress accordingly. Strength is skill and we get better as we learn to lift (run, swim, etc.) more efficient. My best numbers were in my late 30s, early 40s. But I wasn’t any “bigger”.
People fool themselves by thinking ‘big arms’ shows they’re not losing muscle or even getting “big”. Unless on PEDs, in most cases it is intramuscular fat – Art Devany was the first to point this out years ago…all the protein drinks and ‘eating on muscle’ was simply adding bodyfat. Have we ever seen a ‘natural’ with truly big, vascular arms and an eight pack?
This is a black pulled mindset. You can grow and make progress for much longer than just your first 4-5 years. How many people really put everything into lifting for 10 years? I made the best progress perhaps of my life in year 13 of lifting in 2021 to now, and that’s even with me wasting my time cutting until April.
Most people in the US aren’t jacked because of their fiber type, it’s a lack of effort in the gym and at the table.
Politely disagree. There’ve been plenty of studies done to back this, which is where I’m getting my numbers.
How many people really put everything into lifting for 10 years? I’m going to suggest anyone that saw their first bb’ing rag, saw someone in a school gym with jacked arms, etc., that got inspired was going into the gym planning to emulate the person that got them headed that direction. I certainly did. My friends did.
The “table” – sorry – is irrelevant. There were guys that ate garbage – pizza, fast food – and they grew. Youthful metabolism kept them from putting of fat (same with me) – can’t speak for the arterial damage – but their bench press went up, their warm size crept up. Muscles grow when stimulated and in proportion to the amount of stimulation. Insulin and IGF-1 from food are a factor, but junk food can do that.
Racking my brain for the guy’s name, but he leaned out/added a small amount of muscle (pound or two) eating nothing but McDonald’s and posted three videos on YouTube tracking his results.
People either are or aren’t jacked because of fiber type…sorry. Just like an ecotomorph would never, ever look like Robby Robinson or Dorian Yates, neither of those guys would run a sub 2:10 marathon. And, a sub 2:10 marathoner simply doesn’t have the muscle fiber to get jacked or lift big numbers. Sure, stopping their chronic cardio or never having done marathon training would allow them to put on LBM (and probably look a considerably better), but jacked? Can’t happen. Plenty of examples.
Also, Arthur Jones pretty much put this argument to bed in 1973 when he did a side by side with Richard Baldwin and the late Mike Mentzer – both around the same height, age and on steroids. Jones pointed out Mentzer’s long muscle belly in his triceps, biceps would always ensure he’d have bigger muscles than Baldwin, no matter what.
More recently, Dr. Ralph Carpinelli also discussed genetics in his papers. Kudos to him.
I think you are inferring too much from his theory.
My take on his story is that you have a genetically predetermined mix of 5 types of fiber: traditional slow twitch, traditional fast twitch, and several kinds of hybrids. It is the hybrids (mostly) that have the ability to morph. And most people have 40-50% hybrids. So instead of the FT:ST ratio being 100% genetic, maybe it is only 60% genetics and the rest influenced by training.
Beyond that, your potential for muscle size and strength isn’t only influenced by the ratio. You could, in theory, have high relative levels of FT, but maybe for reasons of genetics you were born a smaller than average number of total muscle fibers. Presuming that hyperplasia is rare, that would still leave you with weaker potential for getting jacked. You might also have shorter than average length muscle bellies, unfavorable tendon attachments, lower than average numbers of muscle cell nuclei, less efficient nervous system for accessing FT fibers, fewer androgen receptors, less sensitive androgen receptors, etc. Those are all genetically mediate things that might mess up your bodybuilding or power lifting aspirations.
I generally hate using one off anecdotes to make arguments about this kind of stuff. But I find the transformation that Ryan Hall underwent to be remarkable, and perhaps an illustration of the adaptability of muscle. He went from an underweight frail looking world class marathoner to a very well built guy who would be right at home on T-Nation.
Yes, Ryan Hall is exactly who I had in mind.
However, you’re probably aware Hall also admitted to having some significant issues following his marathoning days and stated his body’s production of testosterone and other hormones were bottomed out. He’s seen a doctor to correct this, so we don’t know what he has been prescribed to get things back to a healthy level. Hall had a biopic on Amazon (not very good) but towards the end of it when he was having injury and health problems, he clearly looked very sickly. Don’t know if he was doping like his competition when he ran his outstanding US record – based on Hall’s Christian faith, etc., I don’t imagine he was. Which may also be the reason he couldn’t sustain his performances and level of work.
No different than a bodybuilder who, after years of juicing, can’t naturally produce testosterone and has to stay on a prescribed dose to keep their hormones at normal levels.
I’m aware that he had issues with very low T, and pretty much wrecked his health with high mileage running.
My point would be that prior to his transformation, many would have guessed he was ST dominant, and endurance sports were his genetic destiny, especially considering he reached world class levels of performance in the longer racing events. I suspect that many of those same people would have said it wasn’t in his genes to build a lot of muscle… but then he did. Maybe that is the result of shifting his hybrids from a ST configuration to a FT configuration? Too bad nobody did muscle biopsies on him.
Hall looks great in those pics…muscles flexed, standing at the right angles, etc. That aside, we don’t know how much of the ‘size’ is the result of hormonal assistance.
Mark Sisson is another example: world class triathlete, national level marathoner. He’s told his story of chronic cardio, muscle wasting, etc. Yet, in his 60s he’s carrying quite a bit of LBM for an ectomorph…in fact, he continues to add muscle and his critics note Sisson’s fairly ripped and jacked for someone that does nothing but push ups in his late 60s, suspecting he’s using some type of hormone replacement therapy after all of the mileage on the bike, on the road and in the water. There were pictures of Lance Armstrong after he retired, shirtless, in his weight room using a KB. Like Sisson and Hall, he’d clearly added some LBM. I saw Armstrong as a teen and like Hall and Sisson, you’d never guess Armstrong would look like a Men’s Health cover candidate.
It’s funny to me that you reference so many scientific studies yet still reference a pseudoscience like somatotypes. I’ve been an ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph all within my lifetime. No one that’s drug free will ever look like Dorian Yates or Robbie Robinson.
When I say table, I don’t necessarily mean all health food. It can be junk food. I eat a fair amount of McDonald’s, pizza, and ice cream during the week. The important thing is that you maintain a modest calorie surplus of 200-300. Which usually has me at 2,800 on non training days to 3,000-3,100 on training days. A calorie counting app like Cronometer paired with an Apple Watch can be useful for tracking if you want try to be precise or just have an idea.
Everyone is capable of putting on muscle, improving from where they’re at. “Jacked” is a relative term, but I believe everyone can build a strong, muscular physique they can be proud of naturally. If you would’ve shown chubby 12 year old me who had just started lifting a picture of what I look like now, I would’ve shat myself and started dancing out of sheer delight and excitement. In 14 more years, I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing with the me of now.
Somatotype provides a reference point and if I recall, I don’t think Sheldon quantified it as a hard and fast rule. It has since evolved into variables such as ecto-meso, for example.
The biggest pseudoscience was associating personality and somatotype – we know there’s no way one can say all ectomorphs behave one way, endo another. eg How many violent, abbrasive ecto-types do we se amongst the Antifa types. Goes against Sheldon’s claims.
And you’re not going to look like Yates or Robinson without the base genetics to start with. Try as I might with this routine or that, I never saw the results and Jones, Darden and more recently Carpinelli all pretty much put the stamp of reality on things. Genetics are the bottom line. Not sucking down more protein powders or supplements (think we agree on this) nor the workout of the week.
I am not saying an individual, in good health, can’t put on muscle if that is their goal at the end of the day. What I am saying is there are genetic limitations for each of us, even with the theoretical fiber types/conversions, etc., and then sarcopenia kicks in and the decline begins.
And here’s another case in point: there’s an individual who kept telling me he was bigger than he’d ever been. He tried this routine, that routine. Drank the latest snake oil. He was so strong, so big he couldn’t believe it. Asked for pictures…if there was a difference, I sure couldn’t see it but he’d convinced himself that 1/16" on his upper arms was an earth shattering event at age 48. (May still be on another lifting board?)
I don’t really disagree with anything you’re saying here. However, I think genetics should not be something on the brain for most lifters, I think that might hold them back. I think a positive and excited mindset is really important. Like Mike Mentzer said, “Potential is something that can only be evaluated in retrospect. You never know how good you could’ve been, unless you try.” When I started lifting, Lou Ferrigno was my biggest idol. I later learned he was using steroids and I would probably never look like him, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try. Any improvement I’ve made over time has kept me motivated and excited to keep that train rolling. I don’t know where my genetic potential lay, but I’ll continue to work and grow stronger to get there. Will I get to be as big and Jacked as 275 pound Eric Bugenhagen? I don’t know, but I’m going to keep working to get there eventually.
To me, mindset is such an important factor for lifters, and if you get down on yourself and think that your genetics stink, you might be standing in your own way.
I agree on this. Genetics only matter if you are an extreme outlier - or even care about this. Most anyone can get big/bigger in their own terms - when only competing with yourself/themselves. No-one should be advised a professional career in bodybuilding, as it is severely unhealthy and takes too much focus from other factors in life. In my belief the two most important success factors in building natural muscle is:
- To know what works for you in terms of training regimen (stimulus) and how to do it with respect to personal limitations (injuries etc) as well as restrictions in life. Knowledge, experience and implementation.
- To know how to be consistent with consistency. Drive and motivation.
So, are you saying that the guy on the right picture is not using PEDs? I laughed my socks off. Reminds me of a soccer player named Adama Traore who went through a body transformation of sorts claiming that he has never trained in a gym. Yes, sure.
Neither guy looks out of this world insane. I’m willing to believe they’re natural, there’s actually video of the soccer guy training so he’s not entirely honest about that. I’m not saying they are natural, but what they’ve achieved is certainly attainable. I’ll bet that pretty much everyone on this site that has built an appreciable amount of muscle, have a before and after like those.