Training to Increase the Number of Nuclei in Muscle Cells

From the BluePrint Power Hour

Question:

I know it has been discussed on a few episodes, but could you breeze over training to increase the number of nuclei in muscle cells again? Thanks

Michael D.

Answer:

The increase in muscle size is due to an increase in the size (not length) of individual muscle fibers. Skeletal muscle adapts to regular, increasing work loads that exceed the preexisting capacity of the muscle. In English and as I’ve hammered this point home before – OVERLOAD is pre-requisite #1. Without it, no muscle growth will occur.

With respect to your question, activating what are known as “satellite” cells is the key. Usually these cells lie dormant, but they become activated when when overload of the muscle is applied. These satellite cells then proliferate or multiply, and the so called daughter cells are drawn to the damaged muscle site. They then fuse to the existing muscle fiber, donating their nuclei to the fiber, which helps to regenerate the muscle. This satellite cell activation and proliferation lasts for up to 48 hours, post workout.

So how do you best go about it?

First, I favor Charles Staley Escalating Density Training or EDT for this purpose. In a nutshell, set a timer for 20 minutes and perform 2 movements for an agonist and antagonist muscle group. For example, decline barbell bench press super-setted with seated cable rows. Rest 90 seconds between sets and rinse, wash and repeat until those 20 minutes are up, getting as many reps as you can within the alloted time period. IMPORTANT: Write this number down, as memory is a fickle thing. Your sole objective the next time you perform this workout is to perform more reps in those 20 minutes, keeping the weight the same. Brilliant in its simplicity, you can’t run away from it – EDT requires HARD WORK, to exceed your previous best. Once satisfied though, you’ll KNOW you stimulated growth.

Interestingly enough, the amount of satellite cells present within in a muscle depends on fiber type. Type I or slow-twitch oxidative fibers have up to five to six times greater satellite cells than Type II (fast-twitch fibers), due to an increased blood and capillary supply. Thus, my recommendation for incomplete recovery between sets (just 90 seconds). You’ll wind up engaging more of these Type 1 fibers in addition to a healthy # the Type II, fast twitch variety.

SUPPLEMENTS

Plain old creatine has been shown to augment both the number of satellite cell and myo nuclei of human skeletal muscle induced by strength training. This was first demonstrated in 2006 (1), published in the Journal of Physiology by researchers at the Institute of Sports Medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was a 16 week, double-blinded study involving 32 healthy male subjects (19-26 years old). Supplementation was given daily, in the form of 6 – 24g of creatine. I’d suggest 5 grams of creatine mono spread out 4x’s daily as the sweet spot, with at least one of those coming about an hour pre-workout and another immediately post on training days.

FINAL WORD

There’s solid evidence you CAN increase the number of both muscle satellite and myo-nuclei cells IF (and it’s a BIG if), you adhere to the principles of progressive overload and proper timing of creatine. Give that a shot Michael, I think you’ll find it an efficient, economical and effective strategy for accomplishing your objective!

From the Blueprint Power Hour, April 13, 2013

(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16581862

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