For many folks, for many a year, ‘stretching’ has felt like such a chore – they don’t see benefits that stretching undoubtedly does carry. This is why the creation of ViPR and Loaded Movement Training (LMT) was a Godsend when it arrived because, while you can develop, maintain and enhance muscle-joint mobility, you can also ‘get the gainz’!

Giving a body both elasticity and fortification of muscle tissue creates a robust and resilient body that lends itself to this idea of ‘bend without breaking’ to navigate the many pleasures of both life and sport. It enables the user to perform optimally, with the added bonus of being able to limit the likelihood of injury because of the tissue’s capacity to absorb high levels of force along all its lines of design.

While we know about LMT’s huge benefits around systems intelligence, movement mastery and many inclusions of different components of strength training, this article will focus on its abilities to reap muscle-building properties and aid aesthetic benefit.

Loaded stretch training has been a component – albeit one that often flies way under the radar – of bodybuilding since the late 1980s, with some greats of that field like John Parillo (who used weights in 28 stretch positions to create ‘fascial stretch’ as he called it to add to his hypertrophy pursuit of greatness) and Dante Trudel, creator of the DC training hypertrophy method, who was a huge advocate of training the ‘long’ positions of muscles, as opposed to the mainstream ‘shortened’ positions.

Loaded Movement Training, which boomed in the 2010s and into the 20s, validates the above intuition, but with science and added application to the world of muscle development and hypertrophy.

The concept is pretty simple really: put muscles in a stretched position (lengthened + loaded) while under mechanical tension and create a contraction (shortening + unloading) in said muscles. This creates a whole host of gain in many cells, tissues and systems of the body – particularly the muscular system – and it does so in rapid time too (fast-yielding responses).

So, let’s see how it yields increases in protein synthesis (aka muscle building):

1. mTOR signalling

The mTOR pathway is an intra (inside of one) and inter (between many) cellular signalling pathway to generate the accretion (addition) of muscle proteins at the level of the cells – eccentric (long position) muscle actions and placing a tissue under load in a lengthened position are two of the biggest ‘types’ of mechanical tension that create this pathway.1

2. Blood lactate growth factors

As LMT is whole-body movement, many muscles going through maximal dynamic contractions (fully loaded to concentric shortening) induces the release of calcium, hydrogen ions and the well-known lactic acid. This ‘pump’ brings about two known anabolic hormones called IGF-1 (insulin-like-growth-factor-1) and MGF (mechano-growth-factor).

These hormones have a global (whole-body) effect and local (muscle-specific) effect on the increase of protein fibres that are accrued as a net result because of the secretion of these hormones.2

3. Fibre recruitment and fatigue

Via this whole-body training in all three planes of motion under the rigours of external load, the body must devote large amounts of motor units to the task, which brings about a devotion of many, many muscles and fibres being recruited as a result of the intention of the exercise. As both aerobic and glycolytic muscles are being taxed in high quantities at high intensities (when you of course challenge the weight and exercise intensity) the body’s hypertrophic responses will be targeted to both muscle fibre types, plus the high repetition stimuli will tap into ‘hard to recruit’, high-threshold motor units that are negated to recruit in typical low-rep, high-load linear hypertrophy (classic training), meaning more fibres are targeted for hypertrophy, as well as the obvious sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (fluid that surrounds muscle fibres swells, increasing size and volume in the muscle) that high-rep, whole-body training brings.3

4. IGF-1 sensitivity and responsiveness

Not only does LMT signal the release of this hypertrophic hormone, but it also helps receptors located in and on the muscle to increase their sensitivity (attraction) to this hormone. So, more hormones and a high uptake via the body due to this training type equate to a high-octane, chemical cascade of hypertrophy-building mechanisms inside of our bodies when we engage in this training.3

5. Hypertrophy differentiation (to classic training outcomes)

This type of ‘long under load’ training stimulates a very different hypertrophy design in the muscles. With classic linear training (loaded), you reap an ‘in parallel’ fibre orientation that gives both width and bulk to a muscle – which of course is great. LMT begins a different chain reaction event at the muscle where ‘in series’ hypertrophy is triggered. This gives the muscles increased sarcomeres in length to the muscle – vertically hypertrophied muscles being the outcome. Simple really: engage in classic and LMT training to give both volume and bulk longitudinally and latitudinally to muscles for a more aesthetic look.4

6. Hypothesised hyperplasia gain

In bird species (Japanese Quails), loading muscles in long positions for periods of time under tension, followed by rest phases given and repeated for a 30-day period, has yielded over 50% hypertrophic gain in their wings (lats) and 57% hyperplasia additions to the same lat-wings.

Fibres grew and multiplied numerically too, a huge double benefit that may – just may – yield the same outcome to we humans who engage in this awesome brand of training. I can’t wait to see more research in this field.4

Paul Edmondson is a dedicated leader within the fitness industry, having worked with, and for some of the leading pioneers and biggest brands in the world both nationally and globally, including Gray Institute, ViPR, Anatomy Trains, Institute of Motion and others. His thought-provoking sessions are designed to bridge the gap between the traditional and new sciences to better equip trainers to serve their unique and individual clients. Paul takes pride in delivering complex content in a simplified manner is determined to drive forward those he works with to help them become “better versions of themselves”

Sources and resources

1. Christian Thibaudeau, Thibarmy online course (Hypertrophy Cornerstone)

2. Brad Schoenfeld, Science and development of hypertrophy (metabolic stress section)

3. Christian Thibaudeau, Thibarmy online course (hypertrophy cornerstone)

4. Brad Schoenfeld, Science and development of hypertrophy (muscle hypertrophy defined, loaded stretch training sections).