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What actually happens when we work out?

In general we all know that working out makes us faster, stronger, and helps us have better endurance. But why does this happen, and how can we manipulate our workouts to achieve the benefits we desire?


Many of these benefits can be understood through 2 simple processes; angiogenesis, which is the process by which the body creates new blood vessels and muscular hypertrophy, which is the increase in size of muscle cells themselves.

As you might expect, angiogenesis is largely the result of aerobic or endurance exercise. These forms of exercise tax the body’s ability to deliver sufficient oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and heart. This results in the body requesting improved efficiency from the blood vessels delivering those nutrients to better be able to deal with that exercise stressor in the future. This process centers on the creation of additional capillaries, which are the smallest outgoing blood vessels. This efficiency is one of the main contributors to the increased energy that results from a balanced exercise routine. In addition, the endorphins released during aerobic exercise are a powerful mood elevator.

To maximize the requirement for efficiency, a prolonged endurance workout that does not fatigue the muscle through strength demand is best. While the benefits of training in this fashion are less readily apparent than with strength or speed work, it is an important factor in overall cardiovascular health.


Muscular hypertrophy occurs after a stressor demands sufficient strength from a muscle that microtearing and consequent remodelling occurs. That is to say, after a workout where soreness occurs afterwards. This is the body’s response to something that was hard for it. It signals to the muscle to increase its size by laying down additional fibers that will, in the future, add additional pull to the muscle. In addition, skeletal muscle has more than one nucleus, and under stress can add even more nuclei. These cells act as control units for the muscle, similar to how a dimmer switch can control the brightness of a light even though the voltage remains the same. With that in mind an important factor in strength is the signal the muscle receives from the brain. That means that in a very real way you can achieve greater feats of strength simply by thinking stronger thoughts!


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After any workout where more tissue is added it is important to help the body lay down that tissue in the correct fashion. In the rush to heal, tissue is not always laid down in the most ideal fashion. Over time, this can lead to adhesion or scar tissue; which can limit flexibility and muscular performance, cause pain and affect circulation. This is not to be alarmist, the very act of working out will correct most of the adhesion, but if you’re doing the work anyway why not get the most out of it?

The solution is very simple. Drink lots of water, eat your greens, get enough sleep, STRETCH and go for a massage. By doing this your body will be able to grow in ability without the limitations it sometimes places on itself. By Ryan Plumpton RMT

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