Wits & Weights | Nutrition, Lifting, Muscle, Metabolism, & Fat Loss

Ep 139: Female Strength, Resistance Training, Hormones, & Muscle Growth with Lauren Colenso-Semple

January 19, 2024 Lauren Colenso-Semple Episode 139
Wits & Weights | Nutrition, Lifting, Muscle, Metabolism, & Fat Loss
Ep 139: Female Strength, Resistance Training, Hormones, & Muscle Growth with Lauren Colenso-Semple
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Do female athletes require an entirely different training approach? What hidden factors influence strength and muscle growth in women? Does your menstrual cycle impact your training approach?

Find out the surprising truth in today's episode!

Join our free insiders list to receive an EXCLUSIVE 10-minute bonus interview with Lauren on how to start training with machine weights, cables, and eventually free weights if you are new to lifting or intimidated by the gym!

Today, Philip  (@witsandweights) interviews Lauren Colenso-Semple, a researcher in exercise physiology and endocrinology who focuses on female sex hormones, resistance exercise training, and mechanisms of muscle growth. Lauren is also an expert fitness professional with years of practical experience and certifications in strength & conditioning, sports nutrition, and personal training. Lauren has published many articles and writes for the MASS research review, and in this conversation, they discuss some of the topics relevant to female athletes, such as the menstrual cycle and strength training, satellite cells and muscle growth, low energy availability, machines vs. free weights, and functional training.

Today, you’ll learn all about:

0:00 Intro
1:59 Purpose of the questions Lauren is asking
3:26 The future of understanding female physiology and training
5:29 Female-specific performance and training assumptions
9:27 Menstrual cycle influence on training or the lack thereof
14:35 The role of satellite cells in muscle adaptation in training
21:32 MPS reduction during low energy phases in trained women
30:35 Comparing the effectiveness of machine-based training with free weights
39:45 The usefulness and definition of functional training in fitness
44:46 One question Lauren wished Philip had asked
47:09 Where to learn more about Lauren and her work
47:30 Outro

Episode Resources:


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Lauren Colenso-Semple:

Having muscle and being strong is functional. So whatever you can do to promote hypertrophy and strength gain makes you a more functional human being. You don't need to be doing anything fancy.

Philip Pape:

Welcome to the Wits& Weights podcast. I'm your host Philip pape, and this twice a week podcast is dedicated to helping you achieve physical self mastery by getting stronger. Optimizing your nutrition and upgrading your body composition will uncover science backed strategies for movement, metabolism, muscle and mindset with a skeptical eye on the fitness industry so you can look and feel your absolute best. Let's dive right in Wits & Weights community Welcome to another episode of the Wits & Weights Podcast. Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Lauren Colenso-Semple, an exercise physiology and endocrinology researcher who specializes in female sex hormones resistance exercise, training and mechanisms of muscle growth. Lauren is an expert fitness professional with years of practical experience and certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition and personal training. Lauren has also published many articles and writes for the mass Research Review. That's how I found her and connected with her. And today we are going to get into some of those topics relevant to female athletes, including the menstrual cycle and strength training, satellite cells and muscle growth, low energy availability machines versus free weights, and functional training. And we'll see if we actually get to all of those learn those on the Wits & Weights email list will also get access to a bonus episode with Lauren on one of these topics later on. Lauren, I'm really excited that you came on the show. Thank you.

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

Thank you so much for having me.

Philip Pape:

So I've heard you talk about how far behind the research is into female specific factors related to training and performance, you know, other episodes, even women's health in general. And I think you're one of the pioneers, the you know, the modern pioneers in this field. Whether you see yourself as that or not, but you're kind of pushing that boundary forward? What is your driving passion behind this? What's your what's your big purpose for asking the research questions that you're asking?

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I think it started from a sort of selfish interest in wanting to know what was the best thing to do for my training. And when I was working full time in fitness than it was what's the best way to approach programming for my own clients. And as I became more and more involved in the science, then it kind of evolved into the passion of really trying to understand the deeper molecular mechanisms of what and why. So some of which are not actually practical or actionable, at least, you know, as of now, but I'm really driven by both pursuits, one, meaning how should we train? And how should we train our clients? How do we be evidence based coaches? And you know, what's really going on here from a scientific mechanistic perspective, I

Philip Pape:

could definitely relate to that. I love that it's it started with a passion of your own personal development and growth, and then helping people and then hey, how does soul work? And like you pointed out, there are some things where maybe we've gone down the rabbit hole of study, and maybe there's not a practical application yet, or like we're gonna find out today, associations we thought might exist, that maybe they're not as strong as we thought or don't exist at all, for most people. Where do you think the field stands today compared to like, 10 years ago? And then, you know, is there something we need to catch up on when it comes to understanding of a female physiology and training as we move forward? Yeah,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I think I'm also really driven by just the ongoing pursuit of just the intellectual curiosity that's associated with being a scientist. And that's something that I think is really important to highlight, because what we might think we know today will continue to evolve based on additional data, or as we figure out better ways of measuring certain things, or we get access to larger samples or populations that are, you know, less trained, or more trained or younger or older. So I think we've come a long way, in even since I first became aware of the exercise science literature, in the sense that people are focusing more on the fact that we do need to study women, we can't just assume that all the studies that are done in young healthy men are going to apply to young healthy women, and certainly older women as well. So I think we're on the right track, but there's still a lot more work to be done. And I hope to make a contribution to that progression.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, I think I think you are honestly by just the way you communicate and how often you communicate and be willing to come on shows like this. I think you even wrote a paper in one of the Earlier mass issues about, I think it was about male coaches not understanding female physiology or something and, and I take that to heart being a male and wanting to help my clients too. So we're all in this together wanting to like know as much as we can to help. I thought it'd be fun today we talked about before we recorded to go over some of your articles, and maybe some other topics you're interested in. And then I'll give you my best shot at summarizing my interpretation of what you wrote. But then I want to pick your brain on some of the deeper questions. So the first one was your systematic review in frontiers in sports and active living, called current evidence shows no influence of women's menstrual cycle phase on acute strength performance, or adaptations to resistance exercise training. So I think we just gave away the answer in the title. But there is a common assumption that women's fluctuating reproductive hormone levels across the cycle can influence training in some way. I think your review found limited, maybe inconsistent evidence to support that. And what I understand from your conclusions is that some studies have poor methodology. For example, not every woman has a 28 day cycle with ovulation on day 14, right. There's a lot of variability. And then some some may, but the ones that do don't seem to justify any recommendations to adjust training. So what do you think? First of all, what do you think the assumption that this is the case? Why has it persisted? Despite the evidence?

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I think we have really minimal evidence, it's at this point. And one of the reasons for that is this is really difficult to study, just from a logistical perspective. And I've I've learned that in the trenches trying to actually do this work. And whenever you're trying to, to time any kind of performance testing or exercise training with somebody's menstrual cycle, there's only so much you can plan for even if somebody does have a fairly regular cycle. If it's really important that you're testing in a particular window or on a particular day, then maybe you don't know until the day before, maybe it's a Saturday. So there's a lot of reasons why people either don't account for this or don't want to dive into this particular research question. That said, the the idea that sex hormones would influence adaptations to training, I think, probably comes from the idea that male sex hormones potentially influence adaptations to training. And for a very long time, there was the thought that your testosterone levels or the kind of post exercise bump in testosterone would influence you, and it was a driver of hypertrophy. And now over a long period of time and a lot of studies, we know that it's probably not the case. And as long as you're within a good normal physiological range, that your your propensity for strength adaptations, or muscle growth is fairly similar, or at least it's not tied to your testosterone levels. Or another way to say that is your testosterone levels are not predictive of your response, unless you are in a position of super physiological levels, meaning you're taking exogenous hormones. So we do have a fair amount of literature on the role of testosterone and you know, quote, unquote, anabolic hormones. But we don't have as much information on the female sex hormones. So I think it's a, it's a logical next step, if we're going to try to study more women. Well, hey, what are one of the major biological differences here? With between the sexes? Ovarian hormones are one of them. Right?

Philip Pape:

Yeah. So a couple of things I got from what you said, first of all, it's just really hard, if not impossible to kind of track this stuff. And even if you're going to apply it into at an individual basis, you know, you may not catch it in time, right? It's what you said, or you'd have to have some more precise measure. I think you mentioned on another show how like, you know, men can't tell that their testosterone is high or low. So women can either with their hormones in general, other than certain symptoms that certain women have. And so speaking of the practical considerations, then, for women who do experience changes in their energy or motivation, or some other symptom, is there a practical advice that would help them or should they just not try to do that?

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

Yeah, so I like to make a really clear distinction between adjusting training around menstrual symptoms which tend to occur either right before you start your cycle or during the first couple of days of your cycle, and typically lasts 24 to 48 hours. That, to me is one question versus cycle based training or cycle synched training or whatever the word that you'd like to use, that implies making pretty substantial changes to your program in the phase before ovulation and in the phase after ovulation. And as you mentioned, in the your kind of intro to this topic, the textbook cycle is 28 days, and ovulation happens sort of smack in the middle. So in that context, we'd be saying for these two weeks, you should do this. And for the next two weeks, you should do that. As you mentioned, that's really not the case for everybody. In fact, it's probably only the case for a small percentage of naturally cycling women. So but to bring it back to the menstrual symptoms, those are things like fatigue, or menstrual cramps, or bloating or changes in your motivation. And to the extent that those are affecting your training, I think it's perfectly reasonable to have a plan to adjust accordingly, whether that's skipping a workout completely, or adjusting the intensity, or maybe switching to a different exercise. I think having any sort of auto regulatory component is helpful. And I would say the same if you were up all night with your baby the night before, or, you know, if you were jet lagged, or you weren't feeling well. So I would approach that the same way that I would a lot of other real life scenarios because it's only one or two workouts. Yeah, that

Philip Pape:

seems like the logical conclusion is it's like any biofeedback right? No matter what it is, it's a principle that you're talking about, of just being smart about going with your body and doing what works for you and not being fixed on on on some prescription. I mean, I think that honestly, we could I could ask you 10 More questions. But I think that covers the gist of that topic. To be honest. Is there anything else that comes up often related to this that the women are asking about that you wanted to address? Yeah,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I'd say that the sort of ethos from this comes from the fact that you have one hormonal profile in one phase, and then another hormonal profile in another phase. And the assumption is that there would be an influence on either performance or adaptations exercise that are influenced by these unique hormonal profiles. But not only is the timing different between individuals, the hormone levels are dramatically different when you actually measure hormones, which in real life, we tend not to do, but in the lab, we do all the time. And so I've measured hormones in women throughout the cycle, surrounding ovulation, or both. And the the extent to which they fluctuate is highly, highly variable. So you might say, well, we might see online, because estrogen is high, or because progesterone is high, then, you know, insert whatever exercise recommendation or nutritional recommendation. But in reality, you see this huge variability in levels, whereas you might have a small spike in estrogen, but you don't have the huge spike that you would see in the diagram, if you kind of Google hormonal fluctuations across the cycle. So I think it's really important to, to understand that not only does cycle length and ovulation timing vary between individuals, the actual magnitude of the hormone fluctuations is highly variable as well.

Philip Pape:

That's important. Yeah, it kind of reminds me of a lot of things where we tried to biohack our way to these precise it like with the glucose monitoring, or even even honestly, carb and calorie cycling where people do, they're trying to do more than they necessarily need, versus just being consistent kind of doing the average American system will work for you. So thank you for explaining to

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

them. What works for somebody else is going to work for you. And in terms of your your macronutrient ratio, or your calorie intake, our you know, how did that person lose weight at that rate? And oh, can I do that too? Of course not. Because your maintenance calories are not the same as that person's maintenance calories.

Philip Pape:

Exactly. Yeah, that's a key message. Yeah, we talked about that all the time is individualization personalization. It's a big thing. The next thing I wanted to talk about was satellite cells, the role of satellite cells, and I just don't know much about this topic, and I know, the conversation, maybe it's gonna surround the what's interesting about it, and what's practical about knowing that information. So I'm just gonna let you explain the role of satellite cells in adaptations and resistance training and where we go from there.

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

Yeah, so when we think about how muscle hypertrophy occurs, they think about protein synthesis or the accretion of new Do proteins into the muscle that allows the muscle to expand or to grow. And as you first start training, that growth will happen fairly easily. But over time, you need more and more of the sort of machinery, if you will, in order to allow for that protein synthesis to occur. So satellite cells live kind of on the outside of the fiber, and they're not integral to growth, but they can donate their nuclei to assist in expanding the muscle fiber. So there's a little bit of a debate in whether they're necessary for hypertrophy, or they're only necessary for hypertrophy when you're in a developmental stage. So a lot of this work has been done in animal models. And when you study a younger rat, or mice or mouse versus an adult, rat or mouse, you see a little bit of a different response. So it does seem like the role of satellite cells in growth are important in an adolescent, but perhaps not so much in an adult, at least in the rodent models. But the other really important role of satellite cells is the response to muscle damage, which will occur, you know, to varying extents in response to exercise. But if you do a particularly damaging bout, like really high eccentric load exercise, where you do a really, really high volume workout, those are things that for you kind of do too much too quickly. If you're first starting out, and you're getting really, really sore, that is when we might be experiencing kind of high muscle damage post exercise. And that sense, the satellite cells will release other growth factors it to essentially assist with the remodeling and the repair. So perhaps they're not as essential for growth in adults, as they might be in a in a youth population. But they are very critical for remodeling and repair in response and muscle damage. And that can also be in the context of injury in a in a really extreme form, not just exercise. But one of the more interesting questions that is sort of yet to be fully elucidated in regards to satellite cells is it appears that we start to lose them when we age. And so one of the potential mechanisms for that, then is that, you know, they actually serve to maintain your muscle mass. And so as they decline with aging, then we see muscle mass decline as well. Okay,

Philip Pape:

so is that why we I think we've seen a correlation between the increase in satellite cells per fiber and muscle fiber growth? Is that tied into what you're saying that? Is there a cause and effect, like the actual development and training of muscle mass contributes to more satellite cells? Or it's the opposite? That have, yeah, yeah,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

yeah. So with growth, for sure. And then you you actually, when you look at a really interesting study, people who are taking exogenous testosterone, even after they stopped taking it, they still have more satellite cells. So their potential rule and growth is, is the fact that they can donate their nuclei and then contribute to growth above and beyond what might be possible without them. So if you have more satellite cells, then you have the potential to expand that fiber above and beyond what might be the case. But as you lose them, then not only are you you don't have that potential backup for the high hypertrophic process. You also don't have that machinery available to deal with the repair on the regeneration that you need it from muscle damage.

Philip Pape:

Okay, the transcriptional machinery, are you I'm looking at my notes, probably related to ribosomes and everything else I don't want to get into that. Does. So what's the practical takeaway, then, like, just train and you know, keep yourself strong and healthy? Or is there another takeaway of how to increase satellite cells? Yeah, there,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

there isn't much of a practical takeaway on this one. This is more of a kind of mechanistic question. But if I if I had to say something, it's really important to train, if you can, when you're younger, and you're in middle age, because when you start training, when you're much older, you still do experience muscle growth, but you're not set up from a hormonal perspective or from a satellite cell perspective to really accrue as much muscle growth as you might have when you were a bit younger. So if you can sort of put the money in the bank now if you will, by starting to training In your younger or middle age, then you will be in a better functional position later in life.

Philip Pape:

Got it? So either get a time machine, right and go back if you if it's too late, or get started now and honestly, that's a great message for anyone, even if you are 65 Get started with strength training if you're not there yet, but it is.

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

It's never too late to start and it's always beneficial. Yeah,

Philip Pape:

no good stuff. Okay, cool. So that's, that's interesting. I always find these these fascinating because you wonder, okay, why why are we researching this, but then at some point, you get this link, that gives you an aha moment, right of maybe practically what to do. The next article I wanted to talk about was the high cost of low energy availability. This is a very, this is also a pretty hot topic, at least in the circle. I'm in here, we talk about it all the time, especially for female clients with the rampant you know, calorie restriction dieting overstress environment we have today. And the article you wrote reviews, a study that showed decrease in muscle protein synthesis and loss of fat free mass, after just 10 days of being in that state of and when we say low energy availability, we just mean decent calorie deficit. In this case, I think it was, I don't, I'm not gonna go through all the numbers, you can do that if you want. But you had them training, they were training and doing some cardio, and despite enough protein and training, because we always say like, you have to have that training stimulus have to have sufficient protein, the low energy availability state reduced both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis rates and resulted in loss of fat free mass. So that tell us about that, why this is important for us to understand, and then how athletes can minimize, I don't want to say minimize those effects, because effects exist, but maybe minimize being in low energy availability state is probably the end goal here.

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

Yeah. So really, they the effects that they observed in this paper, I think the major takeaway was that the effects are detrimental even in those really short term. And I would say that this is mostly an issue for competitive athletes because they have to be in a in a situation where their energy expenditure is incredibly high, because of all the physical activity they're doing. And they're also trying to be at a certain low weight, either for performance benefits, or for aesthetic physique benefits. And so that's the, if you think about a bikini competitor going on stage and competing, like multiple times per year, for example, or a really high level in endurance athlete, you know, long distance runner or cyclist, where being at a lower weight is advantageous for from a performance benefit. But also, the energy expenditure is just so high from from all the physical activity that you're doing.

Philip Pape:

Hey, this is Philip. And I hope you're enjoying this guest interview on Wits & Weights. If you're finding it valuable, you can get a bonus conversation we recorded. If you're on our email list, just go to wits & weights.com/bonus, or click the link in the show notes. Insiders on our email list will get a link to the bonus conversation where my guests will give you the exact steps to take related to one of the topics in today's episode. Again, these conversations are only available, if you're on our free email list. To get the bonus exclusive content with today's guests, just go to wits & weights.com/bonus, or click the link in the show notes. Now back to the show.

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I think that what we see with when terms of the physiological disturbances really run the gamut from reproductive function, metabolic disturbance, increased risk of injury. So all signs point to this is not a great idea to be in this state for too long. So if you're somebody who has to be there for a competitive purpose, and there's no way around it, then we get it. But we want to recover from that as soon as possible. And what we don't know entirely is the best way to restore that or the from from a practical perspective. But the sooner that you can return to a state of homeostasis, then the better off you'll be because the detriment of being there for too long is pretty substantial. Okay,

Philip Pape:

and just just so you know, I talked about macro factor all the time on this show, and reverse dieting versus recovery diet and the idea of if you know your expenditure, at the end of that dieting phase, you can at least come back to it pretty rapidly. Would you say that that is a reasonable approach, you know, if you know your dynamic maintenance, just restore to that or is it more complicated than that for some people,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I think and this is another thing we don't know is the effects of being there chronically some, you know, in a simple example of you diet down really hard for a physique competition, or, and you're in that state for a couple of weeks, then yeah, if you can restore your, you know, to your chair maintenance or your new maintenance, quickly, then all of the physiological benefits will come. And there really isn't much of an advantage of staying too lean too long, unless you have a subsequent competition. But if you're somebody who is going there, and then trying to restore, but you don't really get there, and then you go back down, and you do that continuously over a year, for example, then what we don't know the kind of chronic effects of doing that over and over again. And so and I think, I would speculate that, it's actually going to take you a really long time to fully restore. Because what we will see with the kind of recovery diet literature in general, although that's pretty limited, that even if you return to your, you know, pre diet weight, sometimes some of the other parameters, like hormone levels, or menstrual cycle function don't return as quickly. And it can, in some cases take months and months for those to actually come back. So I would advise against spending too much time in a state where you're going to be disrupting your hormonal function, your reproductive function, and probably losing muscle mass as well.

Philip Pape:

That makes sense. So in that case, is there is there a strategy of overshooting and just going into a lean gain as soon as you can to speed hasten the recovery? Do we see that happen at the risk of a little bit of fat gain? Of course.

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

Yeah, I feel like the term Lean gain can often be interpreted as I'm going to stay lean,

Philip Pape:

conservative calorie surplus? Okay. Yeah,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I would, I would say that, because the and I think that's one of the biggest mistakes that female physique competitors often make is that they're, they get really tied to looking a certain way and a level of, of leanness that just isn't really sustainable. And you pay the price for that. And eventually, you will have to face the either health consequences, metabolic consequences, whatever, you know, what have you with in that situation. So you will have to accept assuming you are very, very lean, you will have to accept a certain level of fat gain, some of us just can't maintain in perpetuity, a super super shredded physique.

Philip Pape:

It's funny because this is anecdotal. But I've gotten to the point with clients now where I have this phrase I use called the top side of maintenance where I've seen it time and time again, you recover and you're not quite recovered, and you just kind of stay there meta, like your rate, metabolic rate just doesn't come up. And he's bumped it up a little bit. And even without gaining much weight at all, or at all, because it's just so negligible, all of a sudden, the metabolism starts to climb. And that's that's people who aren't even as extreme as you're talking about. So just for people listening, it's, you know, like, don't be afraid of these things, know that if your body's not responding, there could be a solution for you. And yeah, is there? Is there anything else about low energy we should cover really just I don't know, the loss of muscle mass, or you mentioned injury risk as well. I think that's an interesting one. Yeah,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

when you're getting into these really low states of, of energy availability, then pretty much everything is tanking. And so you're, you're just surviving at that point, you're certainly not going to be able to improve your performance. You're not getting strength, you're not gaining muscle, you're potentially slowly losing muscle. And so the app it's not good for your athletic pursuits, it's not good for your health. And I'd say for your example, where people are not necessarily in a, you know, severe state of leanness, but they are kind of hesitating to eat more, or they're hyper focused on sort of even staying like photo shoot lean, if you will. What, what I push my clients to do is allow yourself the time to eat more, yes, gain a little bit of body fat, but really crush it in the gym, get stronger gain muscle and then the next time you diet down, you're going to see those physique enhancements that you're really going for, you know, whether it's a loop development or shorter development, you're not getting there, especially as an intermediate trainee, you're not getting there without being in a in a state of reasonable caloric intake. Yeah.

Philip Pape:

Listen to Lauren, she is full of wisdom. This is great. It really is great advice that just take that time to build the muscle, and it's gonna pay off. And you're gonna enjoy that. I think I mean, in my opinion, just being in a surplus in training and senior lifts golf all the time, it's kind of a fun place to be for a lot of folks with the knowledge that you might get that little power belly and some of us like to call it. Okay, cool. So the next big hot topic that you've written about is machine versus free weights. And the article in mass was does machine based training, improve free weight, strength, performance. And I know this is huge controversy when you watch YouTube or whatever, you'll see all these debates about this. But there's always nuance. And your article discussed discussed a study comparing the two. And the exercises included barbell or machine, squat row, overhead press and bench press, they found a similar muscle growth in the quads, pecs, and abs, and then strength increase similarly on both trained and non trained exercise. And there's more findings, I don't want to just take away from you here, give us the big picture. Starting with novice lifters, we've got definitely beginners who listen and maybe intermediate and some advanced, but on the spectrum, what are the main factors that should I guess, drive someone to someone's decision? Assuming they have access to a full gym and whatever equipment they want? That's the assumption first, what drives them to include free weights and machines in their program? Yeah,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

so what this study showed that was interesting is they tested everybody at the beginning on all of the machine based exercises and all of the free weight exercises. And then they divided them into two groups. And they had them either train just machine or just free weight. And then they tested everybody again. So when you when you say that the trained or the non trained exercise, just just to clarify, that meant the regardless of whether you were doing machine based training, you had pre and post tests in previous training, as well, and vice versa. So what they found, and I would say is fairly consistent in the literature is that there is some crossover. So if you're doing barbell squats, then you're probably going to improve your strength performance on the hack squat and vice versa. With muscle growth, it's very consistent that you can get equal muscle growth, whether you're doing machine based or free weight exercise training. That said, Of course, if you are competing in powerlifting, or Olympic lifting, or CrossFit or something where you need to focus on the performance of a particular lift, then the principle of specificity is going to be important. You're you have to barbell squat in order to perfect your technique and get super super strong in a barbell squat. But I think for the majority of people who are either focusing on general health or hypertrophy or overall strength, you can feel comfortable including both free weight, or machine based training or kind of mixing it up as you change your program throughout a given year. And feel that you're getting benefits either way, and that those will well transfer to a pretty large degree. The other thing I would say is if you're somebody who is focused on optimizing your hypertrophy, there are some exercises that machines can target much better than free weights. So think about a leg extension machine trying to do that with a free weight really difficult. So if you if you are somebody who is really looking to optimize your physique on all fronts, then I think there's an argument for including some machine based training that perhaps free weight exercises are not optimized for.

Philip Pape:

Okay, yeah, that was a good summary. So for strength, there's some crossover for muscle growth. It's almost anything, can crossover not anything, but I mean, the equivalent type of exercise for that muscle group. Specificity is still important for skill for, you know, performance based events. And it's good to include both I like your last comment about you know, sometimes machines are superior, depending on what your goal is. Is there a case where, what was the question I was gonna ask, essentially, is there a is there a detriment to being exclusive for a while? Or can that also be beneficial? Meaning if you're not a power lifter, you're just focused on general health, general strength of physique of just doing say barbells and free weights for a while just doing machines or some combination, like, you know, doesn't matter? Is it more of a matter of like, do it's kind of enjoyable and get to result Along the way, what's your message there?

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

Yeah, I think there. If you're new, there are some exercises that are really technically challenging. And so you, like a barbell squat is a technically challenging lift, a leg press, not so much. And so if you're somebody who really wants to learn how to do a barbell squat, then great, I probably wouldn't start there, I'd probably start with a goblet squat, and maybe progressed to a box squat and then develop the the skill and the sort of kinesthetic awareness required to do a barbell squat. The same thing goes for a deadlift. It's not an intuitive exercise. And if you're someone who's a bit more intimidated about learning to lift or, or going to the gym, and kind of figuring things out, I think machines are a really great place to start. There's also safety consideration, if you're, you're more likely to have to have a potential accident in a barbell lift. If you don't have a spotter, and you don't know how to bail out than you would be on a machine, there's more just sort of safety things that are in place there. However, not all machines are great for everybody. And you might find that for your limb length, for example, like that leg extension or leg curl machine just doesn't feel good for you. And you just can't kind of get into a position that works. And in that case, I'd say don't use that machine. And there, that's true kind of across the board, people who are shorter can have issues with certain machines. Or if there's a machine locks you into a particular angle of with your shoulder, like you might find that overhead press machine just doesn't feel good to me. Whereas if you're using dumbbells, you have total control over how you adjust that angle. And so I think that's a that's really important and something else to consider. But oh, and the last thing I would say is, if you're tracking your weights over time, then the weights on one machine aren't necessarily going to translate to that, that of another machine. So if you're going to a different gym, or you're using a different machine of the same exercise, then you just need to be aware that you that it's not kind of one size fits all. But with those. That being said, I think machines are great. And free weight exercises are great. And you should really feel free to kind of incorporate whatever you feel comfortable with whatever you prefer, and switch it up over time. And machines do give you that flexibility to like there's a million different ways that you can do a chest fly like you can do with a dumbbell, you can do a cable crossover, you can use a pec deck machine like then that can be kind of fun if you feel like your training is getting stale.

Philip Pape:

Yeah, no, I agree I'm fully on board with that I'm actually doing a bodybuilding program now been doing for four weeks, and it's great to have a little both in there, you know, it's just mentally, psychologically can be helpful, too, when you're trying to put in all that work. One of the one of the interesting tip that Andy Baker gave on our show was, you know, if you use a machine that locks into a certain plane of motion, it might help you with the mind muscle connection for that target muscle that can then transfer to a freeway, just just sharing, you know, because I thought that was there's a lot of benefits to everything. You also meant to mention cable machines, which for the listener, those are more like free weights, even though they're technically called a machine, would you agree or not,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I would still call it a machine. Okay. But the the advantage of the cable is that you can adjust your kind of anchor point and so you you aren't locked in. And so you like you can put the cable sack low or, or high or mid range and everything in between. So I love the cable machine. I think they're amazing. And you're also like, the reason I call him machine is because you're getting resistance through the full range of the exercise. And there's really no free way to exercise where that's the case. So yeah, but it's by far the most flexible machine and that's why I love it. Because there's just so many you can make any exercise work for you with with all that flexibility on that.

Philip Pape:

Awesome. So maybe what we'll do is for our little bonus talk after this for the email subscribers, we'll talk about some of your favorite exercises for maybe different body parts, something like that. Sure, yeah. Alright, so the last one is unfunctional training quotes in quotes, functional training. And I have to tell you, I did CrossFit for eight years. So I know the lingo. I came through the ethos like you would use the word of, you know functional training for, you know, natural movement, whatever it's called. And you wrote an article called functional exercise training useful framework, or frivolous fad, examining the term and how it's used in fitness, that there's not really an agreed upon definition of what it is. And that there's maybe a whole bunch of claims that, you know, being be more effective or not, can't be supported because of the terminology. I don't want to get too much into it, I'll let you explain. The term functional training isn't helpful. It's not helpful. What are your what's your thoughts on that?

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

Yeah, this is a term that I've heard since I got my first group fitness or personal trainer certification. And I sort of found the concept a bit confusing at the time. But there were personal trainers in the gym, always doing everything on one leg or on a BOSU and, and then somehow that made it more quote, unquote, functional. So I was really interested to dive into the literature on this, because it turns out, there's really no basis for using this buzzword. And but it's been used for 20 years, and is still really, really popular group fitness classes, definitely emphasize it, private training gems, use that. And often the definition is, or the perceived definition is that doing these types of exercises will translate to your daily physical function. So your ability to walk up the stairs, or carry groceries or do things that are, that are part of your daily life in movement. But it can also be used to describe athletics specific training, like sports specific training. So if we do this, then it will translate to that task in sports. So there's really a kind of nebulous definition. And the words that are used to describe it include so many from from all sorts of exercise, so you see things like strength and muscle growth, balance, endurance, speed, core stability. So there's they're taking all of these components of other really well established types of exercise training, and trying to kind of combine them to develop something that's new, that isn't really new. So the two major components of this that I discussed in the article were core stabilization, and unstable surface training, because those seem like really synonymous with functional training. And the consensus really was, there's not a lot of evidence to suggest that core stabilization training is really that effective, because most core exercises, when you think about exercises that promote, quote, unquote, core stability, we're talking about variations of planks, or unilateral exercises, most of which you're either using no load, or you have to lighten the load in order to adequately perform the exercise, when in reality, what promotes core function or the transfer of force production in the core musculature is going to be load. So you accomplish that by just doing traditional resistance training.

Philip Pape:

I love that that's a great message. I mean, it's got to be loaded. Yeah, you're right, these things are much lighter. And I've also Yeah, the use of functional training to apply to everything from, like you said, movement patterns to sport specific things. And you mentioned specificity in there. It sounds like all the fitness attributes, you combine them into this amazing new program. And for $497. Today, only, you can get your functional training, you know, game on. So anyway, we can be a little tongue in cheek with it. But I just wanted to put that out for folks, because I have heard people say, Well, what do you recommend for functional training? And I think it's good to be very clear with our language. So thank you. Yeah,

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

the most important takeaway is having muscle and being strong, is functional. So whatever you can do to promote hypertrophy and strength gain makes you a more functional human being there, you don't need to be doing anything fancy.

Philip Pape:

Be strong build muscle lift weights, everything we talked about today, and you'll get, you'll get swole and you'll get functional all the same time. So alright, so I like to ask this question of all guests, Lauren, and that is what question Did you wish I had asked and what is your answer?

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

I would say, we didn't talk about sex based differences in response to training and so often there's an assumption that males are primed for strength and hypertrophy in a way that that females are not. And that that is due to their anabolic response, again, going back to the hormones that we discussed earlier, but what we see is that in the pre training, so kind of post puberty, men have more muscle mass than women. And that is because of a post puberty increase in testosterone. So it that's important in development. But when you actually start lifting weights, the rate of increase in muscle mass and strength is actually similar between men and women. And that's something that people really push back on and have a hard time hearing. But that's what the evidence suggests. So again, on an absolute level, women, men who who left are going to be bigger than women who left, because the starting point was different. But from a relative perspective, the gains are similar.

Philip Pape:

That's awesome. Yeah. So you're saying that the, for the same? I guess, relative stimulus in calorie surplus during muscle building, you can gain the same amount per month? Regardless, or something?

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

The same percentage? I mean, so let's say we had two people, but one of each sex with the same amount of muscle mass at baseline, if they train consistently, they will the rate of gain will be similar, regardless,

Philip Pape:

in relative terms to their starting muscle mass. Correct. Okay, cool. No, that's good to know. Actually, I had not, I've always expressed it in absolute terms. And like you said, there is going to be a difference there, as we see and isn't even huge, really, I mean, if you're working at it, you'll get great results. It just may take a tiny bit longer in absolute terms, but women are smaller and have less muscle mass and higher body fat to begin with. So relative terms, it's still the same. Okay, very cool. All right. Where can listeners learn more about you, Lauren, and your work? The

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

massive news research review, please check that out. Mass research review.com. We also do YouTube Live, which is available for anyone, whether you're a subscriber or not every Wednesday night at 7pm. And you can find me on Instagram at@laurencs1.

Philip Pape:

All right, so the mass Research Review, which I'm a subscriber of as well, so definitely big fan of that YouTube Live and iG. I'll put all that in your show notes. Lauren, this was awesome. We covered a lot, but I think it was like super concise and right to the point where people can take it away and run with it. So thank you so much. Thanks

Lauren Colenso-Semple:

so much for having me.

Philip Pape:

Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Wits & Weights. If you found value in today's episode, and know someone else who's looking to level up their Wits & Weights, please take a moment to share this episode with them. And make sure to hit the Follow button in your podcast platform right now to catch the next episode. Until then, stay strong.

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