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I see training broken up as neural adaptation and hypertrophy. One type of training allows your nervous system to fire at a maximum level while the latter allows you to build size and muscle.

The question is does hypertrophy training assist for a greater eventual neural output? Meaning if one gains muscle and gets bigger, do you believe there is a greater potential for that muscle to fire or is your neural ability entirely dependant by your genetics? I mean you can't have a donkey win a Kentucky Derby...but could a low level genetic human being be trained correctly through hypertrophy and neural training to become a professional athlete?

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I think this is a very interesting question, but it might need editing. As it stands, I think it's a VERY broad question that is going to produce extended debate. –  JohnP Jul 11 '12 at 21:36
@JohnP please let me know what you believe I should edit or single out which would interest you more. This question can get very broad...I agree. –  Andreas Jul 11 '12 at 21:40
I think you have two different thrusts of your question when you add the proviso about the professional athlete. There are tons of examples of athletes on both sides, the gifted and the not so gifted. –  JohnP Jul 11 '12 at 22:43
The answer to the last part would likely depend on the sport. Almost anyone could become a professional MMA fighter, as the barrier to entry is mainly a matter of guts (and inherrent stupidity? - I'm only half kidding there), but a professional football player, unless you've got the genetic advantages you wouldn't even get scouted. –  Robin Ashe Jul 11 '12 at 23:50
@Andreas I agree with JohnP that the last question you pose diverges radically from the rest of the question. That said, the central part of your question seems to be answered in some others: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/5704/… fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/4666/… fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/2017/… –  Dave Liepmann Jul 12 '12 at 0:26
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Interesting question. Personally, I don't think that neural training would specifically help with hypertrophy training, except in a general sense, which I'll explain.

You can train neural pathways to the point where they approach the speed of a reflex. I'd have to dig up the studies, but they tested reflex transmission time against transmission times for martial artists doing various activities. You can get very close with highly trained individuals doing repetitive tasks. But, a faster transmission speed won't really facilitate hypertrophy, as it isn't causing a higher amount of stress to the muscle tissues, they are just a nanosecond or two quicker in responding.

Muscle memory {hereafter MM} (which is a bit of a misnomer, since it's not stored in the muscle) is probably a better fit, but is somewhat independent of neural transmission as far as speed is concerned. Muscle memory is attained through many many repetitions of a task (Such as reaching for a doorknob. You can find a doorknob in the dark because almost all US doorknobs are a standard height.)

Where MM would facilitate hypertrophy in my opinion is in better execution of a task. A neophyte in the gym is going to wobble around, their bench press won't groove in the same "track" so to speak for each rep, things like that. That takes away from the quality of the work being done, and you get less out of the workout. As your muscle memory grows, you get more out of the work being done.

What I completely don't know is if neural improvement would lead to better recruitment in the fibers, my blind guess would be probably not, as IIRC recruitment is a function of the type of exercise, but it would be an interesting avenue to explore.

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first off thank you for your response. this is an excellent analysis where you couple neural training to become basically a reflex. Yes after doing the exercise over and over again the body becomes accustomed to the levels of stress and that's when big breakthrough and personal records can occur in events such as track and field. Your last paragraph is exactly what I am looking for but didn't have the words like you did to explain. Basically if you gain more muscle through hypertrophy training, can that result in a higher magnitude of fast twitch muscle fibers? –  Andreas Jul 11 '12 at 23:37
No. Your fast twitch and slow twitch are pretty much set at birth. They have shown that of the IIa and IIx fast twitch fibers, you can convert one to the other, but studies and attempts of converting slow twitch fibers to fast or vice versa have been murky and ambiguous at best. –  JohnP Jul 11 '12 at 23:50
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