Episode 65: Dr. Andy Galpin: How to Build Strength, Muscle Size & Endurance| Huberman Lab

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Key Takeaways

  • Training frequency is important for every adaptation you are seeking
  • In general: strive to work all joints through all ranges of motions throughout the week
  • The different methods of exercise aren’t about what’s good or bad or right or wrong, but what adaptation do you want?
  • Hypertrophy training & anaerobic training give you the most physiological adaptations across the most categories
  • The driver of strength is intensity but the driver of hypertrophy is volume
  • Soreness is not a barometer of an effective or good workout! You want to feel the muscle group worked but should hover around a soreness of 3 out of 10
  • Intentionality in exercise matters: are you doing enough to check the box or are you focusing on contracting your muscle groups?
  • You’re better off cutting your workout short and hitting a focused 30 minutes than going through the motions for 60 minutes
  • Breathing properly during & after exercise is critical for telling your body you’re safe: (1) maintain a breath-hold during the lowering/eccentric most dangerous part of the movement & exhale on the concentric portion; (2) try physiologic sigh for 2-5 minutes post-workout and/or between strenuous bouts (double inhale through the nose followed by long exhale through mouth)
  • The interference effect has recently been debated but overblown – zone 2 cardio in and of itself will not blunt strength or hypertrophy – what matters more is your calorie supply and the type of cardio you’re doing; running (constant eccentric pounding) will have a greater consequence than bike riding  
  • The interference effect is not something most of us need to worry about when comparing the benefit of well-roundedness for overall physiologic health
  • Sample weekly schedule for endurance: do something once a week that gets you to max heart rate (roughly 220-age) x 4-8 bouts; 150-180 minutes zone 2 training; strength & hypertrophy training supplement
  • Training protocols should be based on your points of failure – where are you weak and need work?
  • Speed, power, strength training tips: pick 3-5 exercises, 3-5 reps, 3-5 sets, take 3-5 minutes rest between, train 3-5 days per week – (85% 1RM for strength; 40-70% 1RM for power)
  • Hypertrophy target: a minimum of 10 working sets, per muscle group, per week, 5-30 reps per set
  • Endurance training isn’t just about how long you can work, it’s about maintaining joint integrity and allowing muscles to not fatigue when you need them to engage heavy or fast (even standing up)
  • “You did not get hurt deadlifting because deadlifts are dangerous. You only get hurt deadlifting because you either got in a bad position – you got in a bad position because you either started in a bad position or you ended up in a bad position. You did too much volume, too much intensity, or too much complexity.” – Dr. Andy Galpin
  • Foundation for proper fluid intake per day = bodyweight/2 (in ounces)
  • Galpin equation for fluid replenishment during exercise or demanding activity: start exercise hydrated with electrolytes (not just water) then every 15 minutes consume (in ounces) your body weight (in pounds) / 30
  • Be judicious in determining whether you’re pushing yourself for adaptation (i.e., pushing stress and not worried about recovery) – or optimization which is the opposite and requires balance

Introduction

Dr. Andy Galpin (@DrAndyGalpin), Professor of Kinesiology at California State University, Fullerton, and one of the foremost experts in the world on the science and application of methods to increase strength, hypertrophy, and endurance performance.

Andrew Huberman and Any Galpin take a deep dive into the fundamental principles of strength and hypertrophy training and building endurance. They review the science and provide practical tips to optimize training and recovery, hydration, supplements, sleep, nutrition – and everything between.  

Host: Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab)

Principles Of Exercise & Fitness

  • The basic concepts of fitness are few, but the methods are vast
  • The 9 main concepts of training: skill, speed, power (function of speed and strength), strength, hypertrophy (growing muscle mass), muscular endurance, anaerobic power (ability to produce and sustain work in short bursts), VO2 max (max heart rate), long-endurance (30+ minutes with no break)
  • There are a handful of things you have to do in order to make all of the main concepts work, but you will not see changes in any domain without progressive overload
  • Progressive overload: adaptation happens as a byproduct of stress – you have to push the system
  • If you do the same exercises over time, you will plateau – progressive overload could be in the form of adding weights, adding repetitions, increasing frequency, varying complexity of movement

Principles Of Strength & Hypertrophy

  • Modifiable variables: the things that will change the outcome of movements or exercises, namely choice, intensity, volume, rest intervals, progression, frequency
  • The exercise itself does not determine the adaptation – for example, if you do the wrong rep or set range in a bench press you might get muscular endurance but won’t actually get strength adaptation
  • In theory, any exercise can produce any adaptation given the execution is performed properly
  • “The first thing you should think about if you want to get stronger or add muscle is not the exercise choice, it is the application of the exercise – what are the sets, rest, rep range you’re using.” – Dr. Any Galpin
  • Exercise choice is an important variable: if you want to get stronger, think about what muscle groups you want to use more and that will lead you to the exercise you should do
  • If you are a novice or don’t have a coach, select exercises that are technically easier to handle – goblet squat, split squat, machine exercises – where risk is low and benefit is high
  • Intensity: not just perceived effort but the actual percentage of 1 rep max (1RM) or percentage of heart rate or VO2 max
  • If you don’t know your 1RM or workout solo with no coach, use an online conversion chart to estimate your 1RM
  • When you start, the most important thing is to learn to move correctly and give your body time to develop tissue tolerance
  • “In general, soreness is a terrible proxy for exercise quality. It’s a really bad way to estimate whether it was a good or bad workout.” – Dr. Andy Galpin
  • Stress is required for adaptation: you want to feel like you worked but on a scale of 1-10 soreness you want to spend most of your time around a 3 post-exercise between workouts
  • You can train a sore muscle but if you’ve gone too hard where you’re sore just sitting stationary, you’re actually going to set yourself back

Diving Deeper Into Modifiable Variables For Strength Training

  • It is possible to increase strength without dramatically increasing muscle size
  • For starters: (1)choose exercises that will take you through the full range of motion; (2) choose exercises you feel stable and comfortable with; (3) priority is to maintain good form; (4) balance between movement areas
  • Upper body: incorporate both press/push and pull in vertical and horizontal planes
  • Lower body: press/push (e.g., squat – pushing away the ground), hinge/pull (i.e., deadlift – pulling something up)
  • In reality, every exercise is a pull because muscles can only contract and pull on itself
  • If you were choosing exercises for a single workout: pick one from each category – upper body press, upper body pull, lower body hinge, lower body press
  • An untrained person will preferentially get better at everything – cardio, strength, anaerobic, etc.
  • If you want to get better at the strength you need to generate more force – you have to impose strength (not repetitions) working close to 85%
  • By definition, true strength training is going to be 5 reps or less per set
  • A classic recipe for strength training: warm-up set of 10 at 50%, set of 8 at 60%, set of 8 at 70%, set of 5 at 75% – then go into 2-3 working sets at 85%; typical rest should be 2-4 minutes unless doing supersets
  • The primary driver of strength is intensity, not volume – we need high rest to offset the intensity demands
  • Supersets will slightly reduce strength gains but work well for the average person who isn’t trying to set records and wants to finish their workouts a bit faster

Ins And Outs Of Frequency And Recovery: Strength Training & Hypertrophy

  • Soreness is not a good barometer of a workouts
  • If training for hypertrophy: err on the side of greater recovery – towards 3 days for the same muscle group – because you want to allow protein synthesis to occur (takes 48-72 hrs)
  • Hypertrophy target: a minimum of 10 working sets, per muscle group, per week, 5-30 reps per set
  • Getting in enough volume is the main challenge with splitting workouts but shooting for hypertrophy
  • If your goal is hypertrophy and you train the same muscle group too soon, you’ll actually blunt the growth response
  • The primary driver of hypertrophy is not the same as the primary driver of strength (intensity)
  • Hypertrophy training is more straightforward than strength training – the main considerations are working to a muscular failure somewhere between 5-30 reps and resting 48-72 hours
  • Intentionally change the rep schemes for variability
  • If training for strength, speed, or power: you need greater stimulus and shouldn’t really be sore – frequency can be as high as you want, you could even train the same muscle groups daily
  • Strength training target: twicer per week, per muscle
  • Early adaptations of strength training are hedged toward the nervous system before it changes to the muscle side of the equation
  • All muscle contraction is a combination of three areas: (1) starts with a nervous system signal; (2) muscular contraction; (3)connective tissue signals
  • Speed, power, strength training tips: pick 3-5 exercises, 3-5 reps, 3-5 sets, take 3-5 minutes rest between, train 3-5 days per week
  • The only distinction between power and strength is intensity – if you want strength shoot for 85% of 1RM; if you want power, move lighter and hover around 40-70% 1RM
    • Power = strength x speed

Activating Muscles

  • You will get greater benefits if you can contract the muscle group you’re working
  • Bent row example: you might think you’re doing a great row because you’re bending your elbows and pulling the bar up – but unless you are activating your lats, you’re not getting back development
  • Execution determines adaptation, not exercise choice
  • Coaching contraction: you have to build awareness of the muscle group you are working – it can be helpful to have someone actually touch the muscle and you practice contracting that muscle
  • A lifting belt can help enhance sensory feedback and support greater core activation than otherwise because it’s giving you proprioceptive feedback
  • Core activation is actually a cylinder around your midsection (not just “six-pack muscles”) – it’s the front, side, and back
  • Tip: workout with a partner and touch the muscle group you’re targeting, then have them try to squeeze that muscle
  • Eccentric movements (descending part of movement) are a great way to enhance muscle awareness and learn how to activate muscle group
  • Eccentric movements are greater forced output and great for strength development & hypertrophy

Breathing In Weight Training

  • We want to separate breath from brace when engaging core in exercise
  • If you can maintain intramuscular abdominal pressure while breathing, it doesn’t really matter when you breathe – but really a small percentage of people can do this
  • General exercise breathing protocol: maintain a breath-hold during the lowering/eccentric most dangerous part of the movement & exhale on the concentric portion
  • Breathing example: breathe in a hold during lowering, exhale, and push away
  • If you’re doing one rep, you can hold your breath the whole way through
  • Breathing strategy for reps: you don’t have to reset breathing and focus on it every rep as that can be energy consuming – if hitting 3-8 reps, every third breathe reset and go
  • Breathing and an effective breathing strategy for recovery and a huge opportunity for improvement – try the physiologic sigh after exercise, double inhale through the nose followed by long exhale through the mouth for 3-5 minutes

Endurance

  • Eccentric absorption is high in endurance workouts – you never have two feet on the ground when running
  • When you’re just getting started, start with activities that are concentric based: biking, rowing, sledding
  • Do not: jump into an activity with a lot of eccentric landing right off the bat (e.g., running 30+ minutes, box jumps) – this is a recipe for soreness and injury
  • Tip: keep it simple – start with 10 minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the bike, 10 minutes on the rower
  • Target: 150-180 minutes of zone 2 cardio
  • You can train zone 2 cardio daily even when the goal is strength or hypertrophy
  • “Zone 2 you have almost no ability to block your hypertrophy when you’re working at a conversational pace.” – Dr. Andy Galpin
  • Zone 2 training can actually improve strength or hypertrophy because you will increase blood flow to the area
  • Interference effect: it doesn’t matter whether you lift or do cardio first if you really stay in zone 2
  • “If you’re an endurance athlete, adding strength training is almost always going to be beneficial.” – Dr. Andy Galpin
  • The interference effect is not something most of us need to worry about when comparing the benefit of well-roundedness for overall physiologic health
  • Tip: take your phone calls on the move and pace around or walk
  • You want to get to max heart rate once per week: all systems benefit by being challenged to the max because stress increases adaptation – these exercises can be daunting, even once every other week is ok (don’t forget to warm up well!)
  • Zone 2 tips: focus on nasal breathing – if you have to mouth breathe, reduce the intensity
  • Sustain hard work for 4-12 minutes: work your way up to sustaining 80% heart rate max for 2 minutes + 2 minutes rest
  • Try repeats: lower intensity than max work, work hard 2-6 minutes then take equal rest between efforts  

Brief Note About Muscle Physiology

  • Muscular endurance is important for the general maintenance of joint health
  • Types of muscle fibers: (1) fast-twitch; (2) slow-twitch
  • Fast-twitch fibers tend to be bigger, more glycolytic, contract at a higher velocity, and are less fatigable
  • Slow-twitch fibers tend to be smaller, more packed with mitochondria, generally better at burning fat as fuel, contract at lower velocity
  • Each muscle has a combination of fast and slow-twitch fibers with different combinations depending on the muscle
  • Muscular endurance helps slow-twitch muscle fibers and slow-twitch dominant muscles
  • If you are getting tweaks or injuries, it’s not the exercise itself you need to adjust the levers of intensity, complexity, and volume
  • Exercising for pain: with things like low back pain, there’s not usually damage, it’s hypersensitization of pain signals – train right below the signal and desensitize it
  • Injuries happen because stress gets put on a part of the system that should not absorb that much stress

Nutrition & Hydration

  • Workouts can be done fasted or fed – personal preference
  • Underhydration – you will die
  • Dehydration and hypernatremia are both bad
  • If you start your exercise with poor hydration, it’s really difficult (almost impossible) to catch up
  • You need to set yourself up for proper hydration every day so exercise doesn’t totally drain you when you lose fluid
  • Foundation of daily fluid intake: half your body weight in ounces is a loose guideline for fluid consumption
  • Galpin equation for fluid replenishment during exercise or demanding activity: start exercise hydrated with electrolytes (not just water) then every 15 minutes consume (in ounces) your body weight (in pounds) / 30
  • Fluid content in food is actually very high if you are eating a non-processed, high-quality diet
  • High sodium and low sodium both have their consequences
  • Identify whether you’re high sodium or low sodium sweater to determine sodium needs: check out Levelen, Gatorade Gx sweat patch, wear a hat or headband – is the sweat a white band or clear?
  • General hydration rule: 500mg sodium intake pre- and post-exercise
  • If you’re a high sodium sweater you might want to increase

Cold & Heat

  • The paradigm matters tremendously: are you pushing for recovery or gains? Are you pushing for adaptation or optimization?
  • When pushing for adaptation you aren’t as worried about recovery and are pushing for stress – when you’re pushing for optimization it’s the opposite
  • Getting into an ice bath immediately after a hypertrophy session negates the benefits so much, you might as well not do the session – it’s about 10% attenuation
  • Ideally, wait 48 hours before ice bath if your goal is hypertrophy
  • For strength, it’s not as big of a concern but ideally, wait a few hours or hit the ice bath on rest days
  • It seems ice bath seems to be less of a concern for endurance
  • Sauna (or hot bath) increases blood flow and augments strength & hypertrophy – but now you need to seriously consider proper hydration
  • Idea recipe: train then sauna or hot bath, ice bath on rest days

Overtraining & Gauging Recovery

  • Two tests: grip strength upon waking & carbon dioxide test (ability to do long, controlled exhale)
  • Anytime total stress load outpaces recovery capacity, you’re either going backward in physical ability or reducing adaptability – options: reduce stress intake or increase recovery capacity
  • Our goal is to introduce the most stress possible and recover
  • Track subjective and objective measures to figure out which levers to pull
  • Whichever recovery metrics you use, be consistent and take those measurements at the same time every day
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) has been shown to help recovery but can cause gastric distress – start with a pinch in the water!
  • Deeper dive coming later but consider supplementing with beta-alanine (delays buildup of acid), creatine monohydrate
  • Incredible sleep optimization tool coming soon (Absolute Rest) that doesn’t just dive into what your numbers are, but why they are like that – and can actually come to your home and build out the ideal environment for you
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