Our friend and advisor Dr. Andy Galpin is a Professor at the Center for Sport Performance at California State University, Fullerton and the Director of the Biochemistry and Molecular Exercise Physiology Laboratory. He took time out of his busy teaching and research schedule to talk muscles, the collision of science and exercise, and why some fitness programs just work better than others.
XPT: You bring the science into fitness. How are things changing there and how do you communicate that to the mainstream when so many people are accustomed to doing things the way they are doing them?
AG: The biggest difficulty in the intersection between science and fitness is a mismatch of knowledge creation to knowledge dissemination. That’s a fancy way of saying because science creates knowledge so fast right now, and that rate is increasing exponentially, there is no good way to relay that info to the people that matches the rate of knowledge creation. So that’s a real challenge and it leaves people, unfortunately, in this position of going , “Okay, well, there’s no way I can keep on track or up to date with what is happening.”. And more importantly, it dilutes the quality of every individual study, because us scientists are trying to get information out as fast as possible. We’ve hit terminal velocity in the field itself. So, the technology gets faster and the software we have to just keep track of our own references can save me dozens if not hundreds of hours in writing of a single paper. So we can get these studies done so much faster than before, and so now our jobs are determined by how many papers we publish, and not always the quality of them. That’s not what most scientists will tell you, but that’s the reality. If I publish 50 papers and you publish 12, then I’m getting promoted and you’re probably not. So if you are a normal person you’re trying to do the diligent thing, the responsible thing and pay attention to science it’s impossible, it’s completely impossible. I can’t even keep up with it. So I think the solution there is that we need scientists to take the time to say “ok for every scientific paper I publish, I’m going to take equal time disseminating that to the people in a platform THEY actually understand and can interpret.”
This is why I want to be involved with XPT, because it provides me with a platform for people starving for quality scientific information. There’s a bunch of ways one can do this, such as social media. I’m one of the few scientists that share all my findings on my social media, most don’t, not because they are trying to hide it but because it takes a lot of time to do that and to interact. I try to do these interviews and podcasts to get my research out there but it’s interesting because most of my scientific cohorts look down upon me for doing that. They’re like “oh, you’re just trying to be famous and tooting your own horn.” My point of view is the shocking reality that on average, only ~7 people actually read any given published scientific paper. So I say to them, “what are you doing, if you’re not sharing it, then what differences are you really making in people’s lives?” So I go directly to the people and share.
XPT: So is that what drives you to do what you do?
XPT: How did you first discover XPT?
AG: Brian brought me on board about as soon as they started coming up with the idea. I first met Brian through his supplement company 3FU3L. I came across the product and I was like, this is fantastic, this is great! I found out who was making it and around the same time he had just gone on my friend’s podcast–Barbell Shrugged. I listened to it and thought, wow this guy is really sharp and is really understanding things at a different level than most people…and then somehow we connected through mutual friends.
XPT: Talk to us about your own personal fitness regimen and what do you do on a regular basis to stay fit and healthy and how does your research drive that?
AG: One of the mistakes that I made earlier in my life with my fitness was not being well-rounded enough. I think if you could put one individual stamp on what my research has shown it’s that the human body is not evolved or designed, however you want to look at it, to do anything but adapt. That is the optimal nature – is constant adaptation. There is no optimal diet, there is no one way to live, to train, to sleep, to eat. The optimal is constant change. For a long time I was far too structured and linear with my training approach, so I would do one type of training and that alone for years at a time.
XPT: Are you talking about when you were a college football player?
AG: Well, then it was a little bit different because I had a very specific thing I was competing for so for that one I needed to be very specific in my training. But I’m talking post-college. I was competing in multiple different sports at a time but I was still training in a very unilateral fashion.
Now I try to break up the weeks and the individual days so that I have as much exposure to as many of the different tasks that I believe a human should be able to do physically. This has expanded what I do for training far beyond just strength training and cardio and intervals, which is just a small subset of what your body is capable of doing.
XPT: Why are some fitness programs more effective than others?
AG: I would say that it comes down to the appropriate application of that important balance between intensity or stress or probably the most appropriate term is overload, and recovery. So, the more overload you get the more adaptation occurs. But that also puts you at a higher risk of injury, so you constantly to have to balance maximizing overload with maximizing recovery so that you get adaptation without injury. And the technique and form and position and movement is all the underlying foundation to all of that. If you don’t have optimal movement, you won’t actually be able to optimally overload yourself because you’ll be limited by your movement deficiency. On the other hand, if you have poor movement patterns it’s going to put you closer to that injury thing. The overarching thing of all of that is one thing that has become extremely clear with my own personal training, my working with all the athletes I’ve trained as well as my research is that the more variety you introduce into your training, the more overload you can do and with less injury. It’s not a number or a repetition or a mileage that “hey this is a safe number don’t cross it”, because that number changes when you add variety. That’s what I love about XPT. It’s just so different and so varied and they’re trying to get you thinking beyond just the weight room and the pavement. Our Unique XPT Daily Trainings can be found here.
XPT: What’s the current focus of your study?
AG: Well, I’ve actually got about 15 or more going right now! But one of the things that we’re looking at right now is called Epigenetics. There’s no getting around the genes or the DNA you inherited from your parents. But, what we now know is the way those genes are expressed is a direct result of your lifestyle. And that can actually influence the DNA that is inherited by your offspring. So your decision to smoke cigarettes, your decision to be obese, your decision to be sedentary not only screws with your physiology because it changes how your DNA is prepped but it also changes what’s expressed in the DNA in your sperm or egg that you pass on to your children. So one of the studies we’re doing right now is looking at how your genes change in response to a single bout of exercise and how that is different in people that are sedentary vs. people who are regularly exercising.
Another thing we are particularly interested in studying is examining the muscle quality and molecular characteristics of female muscles. We know a decent amount about male muscles but we just know almost nothing about the female and so I have a post-op researcher, Irene Tobias, in my lab right now and we’re going hard into this question. We want to answer some of the questions about exercise and intervals and strength training and what happens at the molecular and cellular level in the females. We just don’t know anything about it and females are the ones that are particularly influenced by drugs. Even something like birth control could have a real effect on performance and muscle health. So, we’re trying to answer questions like that – do they need a different style of training? Do women need more volume? Do they need less volume? Do they need more strength? What other stuff do they need? Or is it not true? Should they just be programmed into the exact same type of workout as men do or should it be a little bit different? We just don’t know because we haven’t taken the time to really ask really good quality in-depth questions about the female muscle because it’s hard and it’s expensive.
XPT: Who do you think would most benefit from attending an XPT Experience?
AG: I’ve seen a lot of people at these XPT’s from different walks of life. I’ve seen very high level athletes learn a lot and I’ve seen people who maybe had a good fitness background decades ago but they really haven’t made it a priority lately. And I even see people who are kind of in the middle, they work out, but they don’t really know what they are doing and they’re maybe bored with it and they’re looking for variation. I’ve seen people from all walks of life have real success and learn a lot and enjoy an XPT Experience so it’s a difficult question because I’ve seen so many different people enjoy it. Brian and Laird and Gabby have done a very nice job of designing a program that challenges everyone exactly how much they need to be challenged but not more. So, you’re going to be challenged there but people don’t need to be intimidated and be like “oh my gosh I can’t do this, I’m so unfit” because it’s very clever the way they’ve designed it so that everyone is able to do it. You should be a little bit intimidated going but only that perfect amount of intimidated not that like “oh my gosh I don’t want to go there, I’m going to be embarrassed, I’ll be way out of my league, I’m can’t hold my breath, they’re all going to laugh at me…” It’s actually very well designed so that it won’t do that and, in addition, if you think you’re bullet proof and you’ve got it all figured out, I’ve seen professional athletes there and they can quickly find a hole in their physiology and be like, “Wow, I didn’t realize I sucked at that, I’ve really got to shine that up”. I think it’s beautiful that way.
And the ice isn’t that bad. So don’t let that stop you from doing it. In fact, if you’re thinking you don’t want to do XPT because of the ice that’s exactly why you need to go.
I have also noticed that universally from all the different participants, that everyone – from the lowest fitness person to the highest – everyone is surprised about how much more they can do than what they thought coming in. People really underestimate their physiology and I’ve seen every single person there find something that they’re like “wow I thought I was going to fail or this was going to be horrible but I had a lot more ability than I had anticipated.”
You can join Dr. Andy at the next XPT Experience in Sayulita, Mexico in April as he will be guest advising with Laird, Brian, and Gabby…(insert link with more info)