A Lesson On Atrophy With Phil Learney!

Muscular Atrophy is the wasting of a muscle typically due to underuse (Those of you that have had a limb in a cast will know this one), nutritional deficiencies or several common diseases.

All of you should be aware of the fact I use the term ‘Controlled Catabolism’ when discussing weight training. Without this breakdown phenomenon we couldn’t break down tissue in order for it to adapt to its conditions.

There comes a time, very occasionally that i will come across a client that actually carries an excess of muscle tissue in their limbs for a certain reason, be it hormonal, a genetic pre-disposition or simply their muscle fibres adapting to a certain type of stimuli.

The first case of this I encountered was some years ago when I had a 5ft 5″ lady come to me at 25st (350lbs). She had gone into a meeting one day and was very embarrassed when attempting to cross her legs she couldn’t. She decided there and then enough was enough. Over the course of a year I got her down to 196lbs and was looking and feeling much better. The issue we had was she had enormous and well developed Calves from carrying this load about her entire life. Now, how do I stop someone using their calves to illicit the ‘Underuse’ principle? or how do I create a nutritional deficit without sacrificing other valuable tissue?

Heres what I did. For what I think was 30+ days straight I trained her calves everyday. She did all of her regular stuff and for about 30 days struggled to wear heels and somedays even walk comfortably. But guess what, her calves got smaller.

This brings me onto a couple of key points.

A) If you overtrain a particular muscle it will respond by either remaining in its current state and/or get smaller or weaker. MORE is for the most part not always better!

B) Insufficient recovery and inadequate nutrition can cost you muscle tissue over time. Muscle tissue is much harder to develop than fat to lose.

A couple of weeks ago one of my current clients who has lost a load of weight said if he could change one thing it would be the size of his quads. I cringe in envy at the natural development this guy has in his quads. He works in an office and wears very….and I mean VERY nice suits. His issue is that his trouser legs float off his quads. I told him once we’d got back into a suitable level of intensity after his xmas break we where going to do something about them.

This is what we did.

I measured his left non-dominant quad on Monday prior to his session. This came up at 27.1 inches in circumference. This was marked by a pair of shorts he has to keep consistency and measured from his hip to his knee.

He trains at 6am with me so I told him prior that this week he was to drop his breakfast and drop his Post Workout Drink and just have breakfast after our session. The rest of his diet and fluid intake controlled as per usual.

Without much structure (Didn’t need it) this is a rough guide to what he did.

Monday – Legs (ALL 0-30secs rest maximum)

Full Mobility Sequence

Pendulum Squats – 96 reps with varying load and reps. 0-30 seconds only rest.

Walking Lunges (Bodyweight) 60 reps

Sissy Squats (Bodyweight) 60 reps

Glute/Ham Raises (Bodyweight) 60 Reps

Bodyweight Full Depth Squats 120 Reps

Walking Lunges 40 Reps.

Tuesday -Legs (0-30secs rest)

Full Mobility Sequence

Sled Pull and Drags 4 lengths

Pendulum Squats 200 Reps

Walking Lunges (Bodyweight) 160 Reps

Static Full/Half rep lunges 100 Reps

Leg Extensions 100 Reps

Wednesday – Legs (0-30secs rest)

Full Mobility Sequence

Pendulum Squats – 96 reps with varying load and reps. 0-30 seconds only rest.

Walking Lunges (Bodyweight) 60 reps

Sissy Squats (Bodyweight) 60 reps

Glute/Ham Raises (Bodyweight) 60 Reps

Bodyweight Full Depth Squats 120 Reps

Walking Lunges 40 Reps.

Thursday – Legs (0-30 Secs Rest)

Full Mobility

Walking Lunges 80 Reps

Leg Press (70kg) 60 Reps

Hack Squat (90kg) 60 Reps

Sled Pulls 8 Lengths

Sled Drags 8 Lengths.

What happened?

The final measurement of his legs we would have done Saturday am to give scar tissue and inflammation time to die down as this would negatively impact what we where looking at.

Using the same measuring method as previous I measured his legs post session. His Left non dominant leg measured in at 26.4 Inches today. Thats POST workout too so full of blood. In four days of overtraining a muscle group he has reduced its circumference by 0.7 inches. As a note I locked the measure and it ran up and down his leg without fail so no mis-measurement.

I am in no means stating that this is a perfectly controlled environment but what I am saying is if you overtrain a muscle it will stall or GET smaller. If you fail to feed a muscle around its critical breakdown window, pre, during and post workout you will also suffer.

For more of Phil's great content checkout www.phillearney.com !

Muscle tissue is VERY hard to develop but VERY easy to lose! Get the small things right, train hard but rest and recover!

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