3 guys sign up for a research study on the muscle building effects of weight training.
None of them have ever lifted weights before, and all three are between the ages of 20 and 21.
At the start of the study they weighed between 130 and 143 pounds (light by North American Standards)
Guy A – 130 pounds
Guy B – 138 pounds
Guy C – 143 pounds
For their given age and weight, each guy has about normal to slightly below average levels of lean body mass (I’m assuming the guys were between 5’6″ and 5’8″).
Guy A – LBM = 121 pounds (about 10% BF)
Guy B – LBM = 118 pounds (about 10% BF)
Guy C – LBM = 132 pounds (about 7.5% BF)
These numbers also make each guy exceptionally lean.
For their given age and weight, each guy has lower than expected levels of skeletal muscle mass. (We would expect about 50% of LBM to be skeletal Muscle).
Guy A -45 pounds Skeletal Muscle (about 37% of LBM!!!) Expected would be about 60 pounds.
Guy B – 43 pounds Skeletal Muscle (about 36% of LBM!!!) Expected would be about 59 pounds.
Guy C – 55 pounds Skeletal Muscle (about 41% of LBM!!!) Expected would be about 66 pounds.
Each guys bench press max confirms that this is their first time weight training.
Guy A – 95 pounds
Guy B – 90 pounds
Guy C – 130 pounds
So, these three guys who are light by North American Standards, with incredibly low levels of Body Fat and incredibly low levels of Skeletal muscle mass start a weight training program consisting of 3 workouts a week for 4 months.
Their workout program looked like this:
Squats 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Leg Extensions 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Hamstring Curls 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Bench Press 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Lat Pull downs 3 sets of 8-12 reps
As they progressed through their workouts their weights were increased to make sure they failed on each set within the 8-12 rep range.
At the end of the four month period all three guys increased their body weight and Lean Body Mass by about 5.5 pounds…which is pretty close to the average found in most research trials studying weight training for this length of time.
Now, here is where things get a little quirky.
These numbers seemed plausible, given the fact that these 3 men were underweight, under-muscled and new to weigh training.
But what doesn’t make sense is the following…Two of these guys gained MORE muscle then they did Lean Body Mass!
Guy A gained 9 pounds of muscle while only gaining 4.5 pounds of LBM.
Guy B gained 11 pounds of muscle while only gaining 4.5 pounds of LBM.
Guy C gained 7.7 pounds of muscle while gaining 7.7 pounds of LBM.
So, even with their impressive gains in muscle, their muscle mass is still below where it should be (50% of lean body mass) and somewhere along the way two of them lost around 5 pounds of LBM…liver removed maybe?
Bottom line – you have to be skeptical of muscle building research. Obviously this group of 3 guys are not a good subset of the rest of the population. Specifically, they are probably not a good representation of you or I.
They are were their early twenties, were very light, were very lean, and had very little muscle mass at the start of this research study. Their workout was far form extraordinary but they did manage to gain almost exactly the amount of weight, LBM and strength that we would expect from a 4 month long supervised workout program.
Despite this their was obviously some discrepancy in the measures of skeletal muscle mass…this discrepancy either caused
A) Exceptionally low measurements of skeletal muscle at the beginning of the study.
B) Exceptionally high measurement of skeletal muscle at the end of the study.
The only other possible scenario is that two of the subjects somehow lost between 5-6 pounds of LBM somewhere during the weight training process.
Obviously…something is up.
But this is extremely important, and is a great example of why you need to ANALYZE every study that you read.
Otherwise, you could quickly go over the abstract of this study and say that “Research proves that full body weight training 3 times per week can cause you to gain up to 11 pounds of pure muscle in 4 months!”
PS – Interestingly, this study was performed by the same people who are finding amazing muscle gaining results from ‘blood flow occlusion training”…makes you wonder.
PPS – There is one last thing missing from this study..has to do with the small number of subjects…something that would be next to impossible to calculate with only three subjects….Can you guess?
Abe T. Br J Sports Med, 2003.