Why building muscle is like filling a spaghetti packet

In terms of making gains (progress), the body works like this:

  1. Applied stress; and
  2. Adaption occurs to the stress applied.

The types of adaption are dependent on the stress applied. If you do 3 hours of cardio a day then you will get better at performing 3 hours of cardio.

In the higher to moderate rep ranges (around 12-8), we see an increase in contractile elements within our muscle fibre. These are the parts of the muscle that contract which enable us to lift heavier weight. You end up getting more of these.

These contractile elements are found within muscle fibre. As you gain more contractile elements, the size of your muscle increases. Which, over time, changes your body-shape.

Why building muscle is like filling a spaghetti packet: 

Think of a packet of spaghetti as the contractile elements. The packet is the muscle fibre. If you add more spaghetti sticks into the packet, it becomes full, which means you need a bigger bag to hold the additional spaghetti. This is how you get bigger muscles.

Now group the fibres together to make an actual muscle e.g. bicep. Two things happen during strength training (lower reps):

  1. The message from the brain to the muscle telling them to contract starts to happen faster; and
  2. An increase of contractile elements are recruited for each bicep curl. 

Imagine you doing a bicep curl but only recruiting 75% of the available contractile elements. That’s 25% of the muscle you are not using= less weight lifted.

To summarise…

Hypertrophy or body-building adaption (12-8 reps):  Increases the number of contractile elements (Bigger muscle available to work with). 

Strength adaption (4-6 reps): The rate/speed + the amount of contractile elements can be recruited is improved. Which results in faster muscle activation + plus more muscle activated during training. We are training to use more of the muscle available. 

Resistance training teaches the body to build bigger muscles and to use more of the muscle available. The more weight training you do consistently over months and years, the more muscle you will build and use.  More muscle = More calories burnt at resting state.

Remember, fat is metabolised in the muscle. Bigger muscles= better/increased fat burning ability. So it is important that you base your exercise around weight training and adhere to a strength training program (2-3 times a week) that is based around progressive overload.

Trish’s body composition changed dramatically when she switched the majority of her training from circuits and group classes to structured weight training, aiming to lifting heavier in every program cycle. 💪👍

Success leaves clues...

Dave :)

PS: Check out my trainer profile here

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