Does Muscle Damage Cause Muscle Growth?
We all know that feeling of soreness that you get after a workout. It’s the soreness you get the next day after completing a workout, letting you know that you had a great workout the day prior. This feeling of soreness can also tell you quite a bit of information on how effective your workouts are. You know that you’ve torn and stretched your muscles during your workout. Now it’s time to repair them.
So, is it necessary to damage your muscles to make them grow bigger and stronger? In short, yes. But there’s many different factors that go into getting the most optimal results, which we’ll cover in this article.
How Do Muscles Grow?
There are two primary ways that muscle growth can occur:
- Satellite cells start to operate a lot like a stem cell would after a tough workout and begin to repair the damaged muscle structure. When you put stress on the muscle, beyond what its usual load is, the muscle begins to form microtears and become inflamed. With proper rest and sustained muscle damage, you’re setting your muscles up to continuously grow and strengthen. This process is also described as muscle tension, or progressive overload of the muscle. The simplest way to describe muscle tension and progressive overload, is to consistently lift more weight with each workout. Adding weight to your lifts over time, will progressively overload your muscles, therefore allowing them to grow bigger and stronger. (source 1)
- Metabolic stress (also known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) is a disparity in the body. A body that is under any type of metabolic stress, will try to correct itself naturally. This is part of the reason that cutting sugars out of your diet for extended periods of time doesn’t mean that you’ll lose weight, as the body will slow down your metabolism to adjust to the drop-in calories. Considering this same principle in regard to muscle growth, putting your muscles under the right amount of stress and then giving them a rest period after your set is much better than simply pushing through and not taking any breaks. (source 2)
During the Workout
Hyperemia that is induced by exercise (also referred to as the “pump”), is one of the biggest reason that lifters and bodybuilders like to go to the gym. Once you start your workout and begin to feel the blood rush to your muscles and feel your skin tightening, you’ve started to feel the best part of muscle growth. What starts to happen during this process, is that the lumen, or the hole, in the body’s veins and blood vessels start to dilate. This means that more hormones, oxygen, and removal of toxins, and just about anything that needs to be transported throughout your body can be transported in greater volume than if you were in a relaxed state. It’s your body’s response to stimulus, and allows the body to react and prepare with the stimulus quickly. (source 3)
Strands of muscle that need to repair themselves are called myofibrils. During periods of rest, your body takes stock of all the damage you’ve caused to it and begins the process of repairing it in a way that makes it stronger for the future. If you don’t get enough rest, or don’t rest at all, it’s possible for the body to enter a catabolic state. You’d be doing more harm than your body than good at this point.
Your body will start to flush out lactic acid within the first hour of exercise. Lactic acid hasn’t been proven to show any relationship to muscle growth. Instead it’s used to create energy when your muscles suddenly need oxygen in strenuous situations. (source 4)
After completing a workout, you have approximately 24-48 hours where your body’s protein metabolism will change. Anything eating during this time will affect what is referred to as muscle hypertrophy. If you’re trying to create muscle growth, then you’re going to want to eat plenty of protein during this 24-48-hour time frame to enable your muscles to repair themselves in the most optimal way. (source 5)
Why Hormones are Important for Muscle Growth
There are three primary reasons why hormones are important regarding muscle growth:
- Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 is the hormone that helps the salivate cells begin to grow the muscles. It improves protein synthesis to increase the process of the satellite cells. (source 6)
- Testosterone, another hormone that aids in protein synthesis, and signal for satellite cells, helps prevent muscle breakdown. This creates a “net profit” in short term muscle mass gained. Testosterone can also stimulate some other anabolic hormones. The thing about testosterone is, that a great deal of it is bound within your body. Weight training helps create more unbound testosterone that will allow your body to increase muscle growth. (source 7)
- Mechano-Growth Factor (MGF) is created during weight training. MGF adds nuclei to the muscle cells, which can then begin localized growth through swelling. (source 8)
Know Your Limits
Let it be known, that even if you do everything right, there is a limit to how much muscle your body can gain.
- Gender plays the biggest role in how much muscle you can gain. Testosterone levels are much higher in men, which allows men to grow bigger and stronger than women. This is known by the vast majority.
- Age is another key factor, as younger adults who are in their prime have overall higher levels of the necessary hormones than a person who is older.
- Genetics are the third big factor, and are often underestimated. Muscle hypertrophy takes time, and genetics often dictate how our body is effected by hypertrophy and how we recover from it. Some people may not be able to get the ripped body they dream of because of their genetics, while others might be asthmatically gifted.
The short answer is that yes, muscle damage does indeed result in muscle growth. That being said, it can be a very slow process depending on your genetic ability, but there are plenty of other benefits to weight training. Such as overall better health, improves your mood, and much more.
Ethan is a 24-year-old fitness enthusiast and college student who studies marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing. I’ve always had an interest in health and fitness, ever since middle school. I do what I love, and I love what I do. If you want to learn more about me, you can visit my website.