Q: This is kind of an odd question, but does hot weather help make muscles grow? I’ve noticed this summer, when it’s been blazing hot outside, I make my best gains. In the winter, my gains are much slower, sometimes nonexistent. Could it be the heat?
A: It could simply be more summer-time motivation—you train harder because you want to look good at the pool, lake, or beach. It could also be leanness and darkness—being more ripped and tan makes you look bigger and better. There’s a good chance that heat and/or sunshine may have something to do with it, along with sweating. Perspiring more sheds water from under the skin, and that means more vascularity more often, which adds to your bigger, more-shredded look. But heat may be the key…
An animal study immobilized the subjects to force muscle shrinkage, then they divided them into groups and reloaded the leg muscles with weight plus heat or with weight alone. The animals that got heat showed approximately 30 percent greater soleus muscle regrowth, while oxidant damage was also lower. The researchers believe that heat, “improves the rate of skeletal muscle regrowth” and that heat-shock protein overexpression may increase muscle mass through a decrease in local oxidative stress and damage. Very interesting.
That’s a somewhat recent study, but back in the days of Vince’s Gym in Hollywood, owner/trainer Vince Gironda refused to have an air conditioner—and it wasn’t because he was cheap. He swore that a hot gym created better, faster results. Apparently, he was onto something, considering the above study. It may be one reason he had some of the best bodybuilders in the world training there, and he had a ripped physique that was ahead of its time…
And while heat appears to be a muscle maker, sunshine may also be an anabolic catalyst, aside from the fact that it raises body temperature.
There’s evidence that getting more sun exposure—at least 15 minutes every few days without sunblock—helps boost testosterone, which may have something to do with triggering the body’s production of vitamin D. That vitamin is very important for immune function and optimal hormone levels.
According to the data, one in three Americans is vitamin-D deficient, and those low levels are being linked to everything from cancer to heart disease (you need to be as healthy as possible to build muscle quickly).
So what can you do to grow more during the winter when it’s cold outside? Here are a few tips:
1) Take a vitamin D supplement; data suggests about 1,000 milligrams a day is adequate.
2) Train in sweats when it’s cool out—it’s like working out in a hot gym (like Vince’s) in the summer.
3) Do cardio, and be sure you perspire; that means you raised your body temp. Note: For fat-burning and body-heating cardio/training tips, check out the Fat-to-Muscle Workout.
4) Crank up the hot tub or sauna often. Heat boosts muscle-building factors, as the study above indicates.
5) If the sun is out, sit in it for 30 to 45 minutes (rays are low intensity during the winter, so a longer exposure is necessary during the colder months); if it’s cold, bundle up, but expose your head and neck.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
Mass-Building Lessons From the Master Trainer
Vince Gironda was the Iron Guru, a bodybuilding legend ahead of his time. His most famous pupil in the bodybuilding world was the very first Mr. Olympia Larry Scott, and he also trained many Hollywood stars back in the day, like Clint Eastwood, and even Arnold consulted with him and was a fan (even though Vince told Arnold that he was a “fat f**k” when he first arrived in the U.S.).
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Vince Gironda: Legend & Myth (300-page anthology + many bonus gifts and programs) HERE