The concepts of gene expression and muscle composition are central to Power Law training and to the whole idea of primal fitness. Let’s take a look at them individually.
Gene expression is simply the idea that, while we are born with a specific and unique genetic code, this “blueprint” is not necessarily static. In fact, our genes are modulated (i.e. “switched on” or “switched off”) by specific stimuli or stressors. For example, certain environmental factors such as insults to the skin can lead to the modulation of genes that regulate specific biological pathways. This in turn can lead to physiological responses like inflammation, cell proliferation, and cell differentiation.
There are a number of questions with regards to gene expression that scientists are still trying to definitively answer. Essentially, we know that genes are continually being “switched on” or “switched off” by a multitude of environmental factors. However, the key question for our purposes seems to be this:
Are there any environmental factors that optimize gene expression?
I think there is strong evidence that certain environmental factors do indeed optimize gene expression. And I also believe that this optimal gene expression is hardwired into our DNA and is simply a factor of millions of years of human interaction with and adaptation to our environment (i.e. evolution). Which leads to my next point:
Muscle composition is simply the result of gene expression. And activities that trigger optimal gene expression will yield optimal muscle composition.
2009 ushered in the typical “resolution crowd” at my gym, and I couldn’t help noticing the throngs of people waiting in line to use the treadmills and StairMasters. I also couldn’t help noticing the inordinate amount of “down time” that transpired during many of the gym goers’ weight training activities.
The bottom line is that these activities do not trigger optimal gene expression because they do not mimic the paleolithic activity patterns that are hardwired into our genetic structures.
So instead of developing the optimal balance of slow twitch (ST), fast twitch A (FT-A), and fast twitch B (FT-B) muscle tissue, most gym goers trigger gene expressions that are ineffective at best or deleterious at worst.
Remember, your DNA is the product of millions of years of evolution, and it is designed to respond positively to environmental factors that are very different from the “conventional wisdom” of the fitness industrial complex.
And waiting in line to run for 60 minutes on a treadmill certainly doesn’t cut it with Mother Nature…