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Top 3 Tips to Increase Muscle Strength

Posted Nov 10 2012 3:57pm

Tips to Improve Muscle Strength

3 Critical Factors

There are three additional important factors in determining muscle mechanics and work efficiency, which all translate into Improved Muscle Strength.

These are 1) the muscle length characteristics of skeletal muscle, 2) the percentage of Maximal Voluntary Contraction (MVC), and 3) the work-recovery relationships of skeletal muscle.

(1) Muscle Length & Force Relationship

The contractile elements of the skeletal muscle have a distinct length-tension relationship. There is less potential or available tension at non-optimal lengths of the sarcomeres. To review, the resting length of the sarcomeres is when the actin and myosin filaments are overlapping at optimal length. As the muscle length changes, as with muscle lengthening or shortening, this optimal length changes, as well. This change in length of the functional contractile unit or sarcomere, will affect the capacity to generate force within the muscle. This length-tension characteristic of skeletal muscle is also influenced by connective tissue within the muscle. As the muscle is lengthened, tension increases in the connective tissue in a nonlinear fashion (Inman, 1954), as a result of a higher passive tension. In addition, muscles in a shortened length will have less potential force generating capacity due to an overlap of sarcomeres and less available passive tension from the connective tissues. The skeletal muscle force generated is directly proportional to the cross sectional area of the muscle.
2) Maximum Voluntary Contraction

The second factor in the mechanics of skeletal muscle and work physiology is the Maximal Voluntary Contraction (MVC). The Maximal Voluntary Contraction is a term used to describe the maximal force output by a muscle or group of muscles. The maximal force generated by a muscle or muscle group will depend upon the joint angle and thus the length-tension relationship of the muscles. The MVC will also vary from individual to individual depending on such factors as age, sex and health status. In general, with optimal joint positions, muscle lengths and cross sectional areas of the muscle fibers, the force generation of the muscle groups will be the largest or optimal, this is the Maximal Voluntary Contraction (MVC). In less than optimal conditions, the muscle forces generated will be a percentage of optimal or (%MVC). Maximal Voluntary Contractions are typically measured and tested as isometric contractions.

What is important to understand when you are focused on improving muscle strength is the longer a maximal contraction is held, or the closer a contraction is to a maximal contraction (higher % MVC) the faster the muscles fatigue and the longer the time required for complete recovery from the contraction or activity.

2) Maximum Voluntary Contraction

The second factor in the mechanics of skeletal muscle and work physiology is the Maximal Voluntary Contraction (MVC). The Maximal Voluntary Contraction is a term used to describe the maximal force output by a muscle or group of muscles. The maximal force generated by a muscle or muscle group will depend upon the joint angle and thus the length-tension relationship of the muscles. The MVC will also vary from individual to individual depending on such factors as age, sex and health status. In general, with optimal joint positions, muscle lengths and cross sectional areas of the muscle fibers, the force generation of the muscle groups will be the largest or optimal, this is the Maximal Voluntary Contraction (MVC). In less than optimal conditions, the muscle forces generated will be a percentage of optimal or (%MVC). Maximal Voluntary Contractions are typically measured and tested as isometric contractions.

What is important to understand when you are focused on improving muscle strength is the longer a maximal contraction is held, or the closer a contraction is to a maximal contraction (higher % MVC) the faster the muscles fatigue and the longer the time required for complete recovery from the contraction or activity.

(3) Enhance the Work-Recovery Cycles of Skeletal Muscle
In addition to the static force-time relationship of a MVC, there is an inverse relationship between the endurance time and percentage of MVC. The relationship is illustrated on the graph below, and demonstrates the concept that a higher percentage of a maximal voluntary contraction can only be held for short duration of time, called endurance time. As stated previously, a maximum contraction, or 100 % MVC can be held for a maximum of 6 seconds. In contrast, at lower percentages of MVC, longer endurance times can be sustained. For example, a contraction that is only 20 % MVC can be sustained for 240 seconds.

Now where this is important in sports, weight training and on improving muscle strength, if you are using intense weight lifting or circuits and are working close to your Maximal Voluntary Contraction, you will gain muscle strength much faster than at sub max levels. How you know you are working close to your MVC, is how long you can actually hold the contraction. So if you want to improve your muscle strength you should be working towards maximal contractions (cannot hold more than a few seconds).
Advanced sports nutrition and supplementation is highly recommended for both anaerobic and aerobic forms of training and exercise regimes. The supplements enhance blood flow distribution to working muscles, hence diminishing the build up of lactic acid and other harmful waste products, while at the same time optimizing proper nutrition. Both factors are critical to optimal exercise performance.

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