Muscle News Daily May 22 2014, 0 Comments

What produces the most muscle mass increase? Varying exercise intensity or varying the exercises?

To get bigger or get more strength, we're always told to change up the exercise intensity, or change up the exercises that we perform. A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research decided to put that to the test. They looked at 4 different types of strength training for the thigh muscles. 

One group varied the intensity and varied the exercise. Another varied the intensity only but kept the exercises the same. The third group varied the exercises but kept the intensity the same, while the fourth group went with a constant intensity and constant exercises. The results?

The groups that produced muscle hypertrophy were the variable intensity / variable exercise and the constant intensity / variable exercise. However the constant intensity / variable exercise group also had the highest strength increases out of all the groups. 

In addition, the authors also concluded that if the training intensity reached an alleged threshold, muscle hypertrophy is similar regardless of the variations in intensity and exercises. This brings up a great point about exercise intensity. As long as the intensity is at that threshold, you'll see changes. That tip should come in handy to the ones at the gym that spend more time talking about their weekend than on actually putting in an effort on the one set that they need to do!

Is there any advantage of adding elastic bands to your squat?

Adding elastic bands to current strength training programs seems to be a strategy used by some. However, does this add any extra benefit on muscle activation? The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Journal looked at a group of seasoned trained females. They  performed a squat without elastic bands. They also performed the squats with some of the weight being replaced by an elastic band (matched relative intensity between the exercises). They measured the EMG readings for the erector spinae, rectus abdominus, and external oblique. 

The found no difference in muscle activation between the 2 groups. Moral of the story? Keep your exercises basic and simple. Adding the latest new alternative may not always be the best option. 

Does taking X - rays really change the outcome in the management of someone with knee pain?

Here's a cool study that validates the abundance of waste in our health care system. Most of the patients i see in practice come in with their x rays or MRI results in hand, sweating profusely. Its like the piece of paper has already passed judgement on their current health situation. As we know, most screening tools don't really reflect the diagnosis or the treatment strategy. 

Thats why this new study looked at whether x ray screening changed the clinical decision making in a sports medicine clinic. The study consisted of a questionnaire completed by an orthopedic surgeon for 499 consecutive cases of knee pain. Overall, the initial screening x rays did not change the management of 72% of the people in the office. If you just looked at patients under the age of 40, the numbers jumped to 97.3 %! 

However, the study also confirmed the criteria that may show some benefit to initial x-ray screening. These were 1. Age greater than 40, 2. Knee pain for longer than 6 months, 3. presence of medial or diffuse knee pain, or 4. presence of mechanical symptoms. 

For someone with low back and leg pain, are there factors that can predict treatment failure?

We all wish we had the crystal ball, whether it comes to getting results from training or setting up a rehabilitation program. That brings up the question regarding low back and leg pain from radiculopathy. Some previous studies have pointed to the higher baseline leg pain intensity as a predictor of conservative treatment failure and subsequent surgery. A new study in the journal Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research looked at whether there were any other factors that could predict someone will eventually go for surgery. 

The results are interesting. These should be used with caution but gives a good idea of the conversation you can have with your patient if they are looking at the long term odds of recovery. The factors the study identified were a prior history of low back pain or positive straight leg raise test as predictors of subsequent low back surgery, workers compensation claims as predictors of persistent leg pain and disability, and female sex as a predictor of persistent disability and lack of recovery.