The Permanent Benefits of Training – And Overcoming the Interference Principle

By on September 16, 2019

One of the potential drawbacks of any kind of training, is that it is temporary. You can get into the best shape possible, but if you take a few months out of your training, you’ll slowly return to your original shape. This can be disheartening if you have put a lot of time and effort in.

If only there was a way to retain that strength!

DNA permanent changes training

Well, the good news is that there sort-of-is. While you might return to your original shape after a period of inactivity, you will also find that you are never quite the same as you were before. You always hold onto some semblance of that strength. Apart from the fact that connective tissue like tendon stays stronger for much longer, or that the neural pathways and muscle recruitment will likewise linger for a long time… you also have your satellite cells.

With enough stimulation, satellite cells (a type of glial cell located between the outer and basement membranes of the cell) will be “donated” to the muscle cell. This allows the muscle cell to upregulate protein synthesis.

Super Functional Training

The reason for this is that muscle nuclei (myonuclei) are responsible for that protein synthesis, with the DNA acting as a blueprint for where the raw building blocks (amino acids) need to go in order to restore and strengthen the damaged muscle fibre after training.

But myonuclei only have a specific “area of effect” also known as the “myonuclei domain.” That is to say that as the muscle gets bigger, it also needs more nuclei in order to look after more area and continue to rebuild it.

Strength athlete gene expression myonuclei

What’s really fascinating about all this, is that when we stop training, our myonuclei remain. This increased myonuclei count seems to last indefinitely in fact! (At least researchers have yet to find the point at which they disappear again.)

That explains why people who have previously been very large, will find it easier to regain that muscle (versus gaining it the first time).

When we stop training, our myonuclei remain.

This is great news for anyone who is recovering from a setback due to injury. And it’s also great to know that all the benefit of our training isn’t immediately lost when we stop working out – some of it hangs around and ensures we can grow much more easily in future.

This has led to one somewhat controversial (yet inevitable) conclusion: that a single steroid cycle could be a useful tool for an athlete. The idea is that they would do a single steroid cycle, get as big and strong as possible in order to create all of those satellite cells, and then follow up with PCT (post cycle therapy) to avoid long-term hormonal damage.

Athlete lasting performance myonuclei

The athlete could then reap the benefits of the increased satellite cells indefinitely, reaching greater levels of mass more quickly.

This site does not recommend the use of steroids due to the potential risks that would render you very much not superfunctional. But what we can take from this is that there may be benefit to chasing after one type of training and then following up with another.

What do I mean by this?

Well consider for a moment that you are interested in training calisthenics and bodyweight moves. These are fantastic for building strength in terms of muscle fibre recruitment, intermuscular coordination, core stability, and more. For various reasons though, it is not as effective when it comes to hypertrophy.

The athlete could then reap the benefits of the increased satellite cells indefinitely

So what you might choose to do instead, is to spend a few months using bodybuilding-style “pump training” to facilitate hypertrophy, and then switch to calisthenics. You may find that your body responds differently to the stimulus, and that you build more muscular strength and endurance as a result.

Epigenetics and Gene Transcription

There’s another way in which the results of resistance training hang around though. This is through epigenetics, also referred to as gene transcription.

When you train your muscles and subject them to stress, you increase the thickness of your muscle fibres, so that more protein is used to make them tougher and stronger. But the question this should prompt is how? What mechanism underlies this change? How does the body “know” to create thicker muscle fibre?

Gene transcription RNA myonuclei

The answer has to do with gene transcription and epigenetics. While every cell contains your full DNA code, only certain elements of that code are “active” at any given time. Thus the DNA is “expressed” differently throughout the body.

One method of epigenetic regulation is methylation. Here, chemicals called methyl groups attach themselves to DNA strands and thereby prevent certain genes from functioning. It’s like having a full alphabet but scribbling out the letters you don’t need to spell a word.

If you’re struggling to build muscle, then it could be because some of your muscle building genes have been switched off.

The genes that are active get transcribed when the code is copied into the RNA by an enzyme known as RNA polymerase. RNA is ribonucleic acid and is also found in all cells. It’s job is to control protein synthesis using the instructions from DNA. RNA looks like DNA but has one strand rather than two.

So if you’re struggling to build muscle, then it could be because some of your muscle building genes have been switched off.

What’s really interesting, is that even after you finish training, your muscles “remember” being larger. Even when the muscle loses size, many of the genes remain expressed or untagged by methyl groups, making it easier to return to that larger size in future (study).

Nearly everything you do affects your genes in this way.

This is yet another example of how we can potentially get around the limitations imposed by the interference principle.

The good news is that nearly everything you do affects your genes in this way. Your exercise, your diet, and even the things you think all physically alter your DNA. These changes also directly correlate with the amount of activity you engage in. If you train harder and longer, then you will see more alterations in gene expression.

This means that the “lasting benefits” of a short training program don’t only apply to muscle, but also to things like dieting, and cardiovascular training. Gene expression is also what enables neuroplasticity and the formation of new neural pathways.

Again, this means we could train with multiple different modalities and keep some of the benefits from each – becoming better all-rounders as a result. This might be one way to overcome the “interference principle” and to excell without specifying.

Training long-term benefits

What’s also fascinating, is that these epigenetic changes can also hang around after you’re gone. That is to say, the changes get passed to your children, meaning that your efforts to be fitter and healthier might actually benefit your offspring, and maybe their offspring too!

In conclusion then, the benefits of training are not short lived but will echo through eternity – even long after you’re gone. What that means for us, is that we can design training programs to take advantage of this fact and thereby “collect” new skills as we go!

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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