I first wrote REPERFUSION EXECU-SHUN AND HYPER-TROPHY back in 2006. It is a short article that goes into a bit of my training from the past and the importance of understanding the role of recovery.
Let me just preface here and say that this article might be somewhat controversial. However, that being said, not only does reperfusion sound cool, it is an interesting topic that does not seem to get too much attention. You have to go back to your college physiology course texts here, and I personally have all my textbooks from college which still provide me great references.
Reperfusion, simply stated, is damage to tissue due to a resurgence of blood and oxygen supply after that tissue has been deprived of blood and oxygen for a given amount of time. With this dramatic reestablishing of blood supply, free radical activity is in hyper-mode and molecular damage is imminent. Now, let’s link this phenomenon to high intensity resistance training ala Mike Mentzer style.
Mike Mentzer was a professional bodybuilder in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He took training concepts established and implemented by Arthur Jones and his Nautilus training to failure for hypertrophy campaign and made the principle more efficient. Mike was a low volume, high intensity,8-10 rep max. working set, recover and adapt disciplinarian. His idea was to do what is simply required and nothing more. A controversial stand when most every single bodybuilding aficionado would curse any program without at least 12-15 sets minimum -and that’s just for biceps.
But, not so controversial if you look at science and requirements for GETTING HUGE. Casey Viator did. Dorian Yates did. Nimrod King did. You don’t know the names, you say? Do a little research and tell me these guys didn’t know a thing or two about MASS and smart training. Yates was a disciple of low volume high intensity training back in the 90’s and brought the standard of mass to a whole new level. SINGLE SET TO FAILURE! SMART! EFFICIENT! PROGRESSIVE! EFFECTIVE!
Disruption to tissue? Absolutely, and a necessary evil for hypertrophy. MRI’s have shown damage at the sarcomere level with single set theories that look like a bomb had been detonated and any sign of life at the cellular level seemingly obliterated. (Satellite cells and an intact neuron would be nice right about now). Causes: loading deformation- characteristic during eccentric loading and mechanical breaking of contractile bonds is one. Another is the anaerobic nature of H.I.T. and the exponential shut down of blood/oxygen supply to contracting tissue at loads above 65% of 1 rep max. These are both mechanical implications causing adaptive stressors to muscle and connective tissue. But, the latter is one that causes an immediate response as soon as a very intense set is completed and that response sets off the process of reperfusion.
Since it is a response that can be mitigated by enzyme pools of super oxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, it would stand to reason that a supplemental increase in antioxidant levels might influence an even greater response in shutting down free radical damage to muscle tissue. Supplemental E and C come to mind but, would you want to mess around with this response?
This is where the controversy comes in. If damage to tissue is a common response to high intensity training and a necessary signal for remodeling and potentially increased actin levels, then why not let free radical damage do its obligatory nasty deed and see if hypertrophy is accelerated or inhibited? Well, about 12 years ago, my training partner and I put that idea to the test, and although anecdotal, this is what we came up with.
Our training consisted of typical body part sessions with low volume, low frequency, B-R-U-T-A-L intensity –short and sweet.
Chest- Incline DB Press 140’s x 16 reps to momentary muscular fatigue (mmf) for me (DB’s only went up to 140) immediately to flat fly 1 set 65-70 lbs. to mmf. Rest. Triceps- close grip on smith-285 fail all the way up the safety till top 1/3 of movement was shot-immediately to cable pushdowns for one gnarly set. Rest. One set of Nautilus crunches, heavy and with manual resistance at end. Day1 @ 22 minutes from time we walked in the gym to time session was over.
(3-4 days later). Legs. Free or smith squat. If we smith squatted we used range limiter so we could go to complete eccentric fatigue throughout the whole and partial ranges. Squat 455×10-shorten range for 4 more to shortened range for 4 more (you get the idea) then right to leg ext. stack for one all out set. Rest. Hams- seated leg curls stack –mmf- followed by Nordic leg curls 1 set –mmf. Rest. Calves-Standing calf stack to mmf- right to seated calf 180 lbs. with assistance at end. Done. Total time in gym for leg workout-@ 35 minutes. The squatting was nasty. Needed a little recovery before hams. Next workout was 4 days later.
Back- Deadlift upto 495 for 11-12 reps right to Hammer Strength Rows 4plates each side (with straps) 7 plus assisted 1 rep with superslow negative at end of set. Rest. Shoulders- Hammer Strength press 365 8-10 reps right to slow DB side laterals 45’s (doing them with 0 swing and hold at top-even did partials at end of set. No biceps- in my experience a big waste of time. (But, have at it if you feel the need). 35 minutes in and out. (Had to recover a little between back work and shoulder work).
9 days to complete the whole body. Effective? Beyond belief! I went from 182lbs. to 217 lbs. in 10 weeks. 35 lbs. in 10 weeks. Only @ 1% increase on body fat. Strength? Through the roof! All in about 18 total workouts. TONS of consistent and predictable response from this mode of training….if you can BRING IT!
The one thing we experienced was D.O.M.S. that was not of this world. After one of our earlier in the experiment leg workouts, I experienced a 7 day soreness that was insane. My training partner who I found out was loading up daily on E and C was experiencing the normal D.O.M.S. I made note of this and researched a little on free radicals and their effect on plasma membranes. The long and short of it is that E and C supplementing the anti oxidant pool is a common and useful practice in arresting free radical damage to the plasma membrane. I was not sure I wanted to do this though.
I theorized that if I could manipulate timing of free radical damage to supplementing just on my training days, (preferably post-exercise), I would still receive reperfusion/free radical tissue damage and feed the post exercise antioxidant pool just enough to lessen the soreness. I did a few trials where I would introduce this method on some training days and then sometimes refrain from any antioxidant use. Every time I eliminated the E and C supplementation my D.O.M.S. persisted on average an extra 2 days. When I reintroduced the E and C, D.O.M.S. was relieved a day or 2 sooner than average.
The question here is that would practicing this idea in creating a hyper-active environment to potentiate tissue remodeling be realistic giving the parameters of antioxidant influence in post exercise reperfusion and manipulating these parameters for tissue hypertrophy only. My experience was that I adapted during the normal 10-12 week training period, seemed to peak at week 10 with load, rep or both progressing with absolute consistency through weeks one to week ten. I think this would be an interesting research project for exercise-sci grad work.
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