What is muscle maturity?
There is an interesting phenomenon that has been developing for over a decade. It is not something that would be noticeable to the average population nor have I come across many fitness professionals who have observed it either.
I remember starting my bodybuilding career as a young twenty-two year old and taking note of how most of the competitors who were placing ahead of me, but comparatively speaking were no more muscular or leaner, were almost always older.
My observation was often confirmed when I would talk with the judges afterwards and was told that although I had a good frame, symmetry and an overall appealing physique I just need more time for my body to mature and achieve the harder, grainy look of my elder counterparts. With each passing year I noticed my muscles taking on a different look. They were harder, fuller, and seemingly denser despite my competition weight and body-fat percentage being relatively unchanged.
While some of these changes can be attributed to the addition of new muscle tissue and smarter dieting practices I can say with complete conviction that over certain periods the only gains I made were in age. The studies, which examined the characteristics of beef carcass slaughtered at different ages, revealed the most youthful carcasses were more tender than those from the most mature carcasses1, 2.
How muscle maturity can make you look better with age
In humans however intramuscular fat does not naturally decrease with age, but it can be lowered or kept at bay through exercise since it like glycogen is a primary source of energy for working muscles. Another study showed that the rate of increase in the toughness of individual muscles with animal age was related to their connective tissue strength and that muscles which did not possess high connective tissue strength were unaffected by age, whereas high connective tissue strength muscles, trebled in toughness 4.
If we took a cross-section sample of muscle from two men of the same age, one being untrained and the other with eight years of weight training experience, we would see—as expected—a marked difference in the quality, thickness, intramuscular fat and degree of muscle firmness.
There are two factors that determine epidermal thickness: subcutaneous fat and collagen.
The role of muscle maturity on physical appearance
Reduction of subcutaneous fat is controllable through diet. Conversely, collagen, a protein that gives our skin its smooth appearance, does not appear to be affected by diet or exercise but exhibits a linear reduction with age in both men and women. Though patience is required younger bodybuilders can rest assured that their continued commitment to resistance training will eventually result in a harder appearance. One of the most substantial is muscle fiber type. As we know Fast Twitch FT muscle fibers contribute most to muscle hypertrophy.
Those able to develop their muscles to near maximum proportions early on or at a fast rate due to high proportions of FT fibers in effect stretch their skin to an extent that is not typical with slower or more modest muscle growth.
Other genetic factors such as muscle belly length or high testosterone or growth hormone levels can also contribute to fast or above average muscle growth resulting in this stretching of the skin.
And of course some individuals inherently have thinner or thicker skin as can be observed amongst various ethnic groups, a trait inherited from their ancestors whose bodies had adapted to the climate they lived in. Clearly resistance training has a direct effect on muscles firmness but whether or not certain training methods can influence the expediency with which collagen cross-links are formed and solubility decreased, requires further examination.
At present there are no studies to support claims that particular training methods can accelerate the hardening of muscle fibers and connective tissue and any such claims are pure conjecture. Even if it were determined that increases or decreases in certain training variables i. At the moment our only course of action in achieving a more dense appearance is to implement training and dietary methods that maximize muscle development and fat-loss, and let time and nature determine the rest. Berry, G. Smith and Z. Journal of Food Science, 1—8.
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The relationship of physiological maturity and marbling judged according to Korean grading system to meat quality traits of Hanwoo beef females. Meat Sci. Epub May Sunday, September 28th, Thanks for reading this far.
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