Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasm

Alright. I’m going to show you a couple of images from a very diverting paper in The Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. I’m going to go way out on a limb and say that it is the most diverting paper ever published in The Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. The title is “Observations of In-Utero Masturbation.” Okay. Now on the left you can see the hand — that’s the big arrow — and the penis on the right. The hand hovering. And over here we have, in the words of radiologist Israel Meisner, “The hand grasping the penis in a fashion resembling masturbation movements.” Bear in mind this was an ultrasound, so it would have been moving images.

 

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Orgasm is a reflex of the autonomic nervous system. Now, this is the part of the nervous system that deals with the things that we don’t consciously control, like digestion, heart rate and sexual arousal. And the orgasm reflex can be triggered by a surprisingly broad range of input. Genital stimulation. Duh. But also, Kinsey interviewed a woman who could be brought to orgasm by having someone stroke her eyebrow. People with spinal cord injuries, like paraplegias, quadriplegias, will often develop a very, very sensitive area right above the level of their injury, wherever that is.

 

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There is such a thing as a knee orgasm in the literature. I think the most curious one that I came across was a case report of a woman who had an orgasm every time she brushed her teeth. Something in the complex sensory-motor action of brushing her teeth was triggering orgasm. And she went to a neurologist, who was fascinated. He checked to see if it was something in the toothpaste, but no — it happened with any brand. They stimulated her gums with a toothpick, to see if that was doing it. No. It was the whole, you know, motion.

And the amazing thing to me is that you would think this woman would have excellent oral hygiene. Sadly — this is what it said in the journal paper — “She believed that she was possessed by demons and switched to mouthwash for her oral care.” It’s so sad. When I was working on the book, I interviewed a woman who can think herself to orgasm. She was part of a study at Rutgers University.

You’ve got to love that. Rutgers. So I interviewed her in Oakland, in a sushi restaurant. And I said, “So, could you do it right here?” And she said, “Yeah, but you know I’d rather finish my meal if you don’t mind.” But afterwards, she was kind enough to demonstrate on a bench outside. It was remarkable. It took about one minute. And I said to her, “Are you just doing this all the time?” She said, “No. Honestly, when I get home, I’m usually too tired.” She said that the last time she had done it was on the Disneyland tram.

The headquarters for orgasm, along the spinal nerve, is something called the sacral nerve root, which is back here. And if you trigger, if you stimulate with an electrode, the precise spot, you will trigger an orgasm. And it is a fact that you can trigger spinal reflexes in dead people — a certain kind of dead person, a beating-heart cadaver. Now this is somebody who is brain-dead, legally dead, definitely checked out, but is being kept alive on a respirator, so that their organs will be oxygenated for transplantation.

Now in one of these brain-dead people, if you trigger the right spot, you will see something every now and then. There is a reflex called the Lazarus reflex. And this is — I’ll demonstrate as best I can, not being dead. It’s like this. You trigger the spot. The dead guy, or gal, goes… like that. Very unsettling for people working in pathology labs. Now, if you can trigger the Lazarus reflex in a dead person, why not the orgasm reflex? I asked this question to a brain death expert, Stephanie Mann, who was foolish enough to return my emails.

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I said, “So, could you conceivably trigger an orgasm in a dead person?” She said, “Yes, if the sacral nerve is being oxygenated, you conceivably could.” Obviously it wouldn’t be as much fun for the person. But it would be an orgasm — nonetheless. There is a researcher at the University of Alabama who does orgasm research.

I said to her, “You should do an experiment. You know? You can get cadavers if you work at a university.” I said, “You should actually do this.” She said, “You get the human subjects review board approval for this one.” According to 1930s marriage manual author, Theodoor van De Velde, a slight seminal odor can be detected on the breath of a woman within about an hour after sexual intercourse. Theodoor van De Velde was something of a semen connoisseur.

This is a guy writing a book, “Ideal Marriage,” you know. Very heavy hetero guy. But he wrote in this book, “Ideal Marriage” — he said that he could differentiate between the semen of a young man, which he said had a fresh, exhilarating smell, and the semen of mature men, whose semen smelled, quote, “Remarkably like that of the flowers of the Spanish chestnut. Sometimes quite freshly floral, and then again sometimes extremely pungent.” Okay. In 1999, in the state of Israel, a man began hiccupping. And this was one of those cases that went on and on.

He tried everything his friends suggested. Nothing seemed to help. Days went by. At a certain point, the man, still hiccupping, had sex with his wife. And lo and behold, the hiccups went away. He told his doctor, who published a case report in a Canadian medical journal under the title, “Sexual Intercourse as a Potential Treatment for Intractable Hiccups.” I love this article because at a certain point they suggested that unattached hiccuppers could try masturbation.

I love that because there is like a whole demographic: unattached hiccuppers. Married, single, unattached hiccupper. In the 1900s, early 1900s, a lot of gynecologists believed that when a woman has an orgasm, the contractions serve to suck the semen up through the cervix and sort of deliver it really quickly to the egg, thereby upping the odds of conception. It was called the “upsuck” theory.

If you go all the way back to Hippocrates, physicians believed that orgasm in women was not just helpful for conception, but necessary. Doctors back then were routinely telling men the importance of pleasuring their wives. Marriage-manual author and semen-sniffer Theodoor van De Velde — has a line in his book. I loved this guy.

I got a lot of mileage out of Theodoor van De Velde. He had this line in his book that supposedly comes from the Habsburg Monarchy, where there was an empress Maria Theresa, who was having trouble conceiving. And apparently the royal court physician said to her, “I am of the opinion that the vulva of your most sacred majesty be titillated for some time prior to intercourse.” It’s apparently, I don’t know, on the record somewhere. Masters and Johnson: now we’re moving forward to the 1950s.

 

 

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Masters and Johnson were upsuck skeptics, which is also really fun to say. They didn’t buy it. And they decided, being Masters and Johnson, that they would get to the bottom of it. They brought women into the lab — I think it was five women — and outfitted them with cervical caps containing artificial semen. And in the artificial semen was a radio-opaque substance, such that it would show up on an X-ray.

This is the 1950s. Anyway, these women sat in front of an X-ray device. And they masturbated. And Masters and Johnson looked to see if the semen was being sucked up. Did not find any evidence of upsuck. You may be wondering, “How do you make artificial semen?” I have an answer for you. I have two answers. You can use flour and water, or cornstarch and water. I actually found three separate recipes in the literature.

My favorite being the one that says — you know, they have the ingredients listed, and then in a recipe it will say, for example, “Yield: two dozen cupcakes.” This one said, “Yield: one ejaculate.” There’s another way that orgasm might boost fertility. This one involves men. Sperm that sit around in the body for a week or more start to develop abnormalities that make them less effective at head-banging their way into the egg.

British sexologist Roy Levin has speculated that this is perhaps why men evolved to be such enthusiastic and frequent masturbators. He said, “If I keep tossing myself off I get fresh sperm being made.” Which I thought was an interesting idea, theory. So now you have an evolutionary excuse. Okay. All righty. There is considerable evidence for upsuck in the animal kingdom — pigs, for instance.

 

 

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In Denmark, the Danish National Committee for Pig Production found out that if you sexually stimulate a sow while you artificially inseminate her, you will see a six-percent increase in the farrowing rate, which is the number of piglets produced. So they came up with this five-point stimulation plan for the sows. There is posters they put in the barn, and they have a DVD. And I got a copy of this DVD.

This is my unveiling, because I am going to show you a clip. So, okay. Now, here we go, la la la, off to work. It all looks very innocent. He’s going to be doing things with his hands that the boar would use his snout, lacking hands. Okay. This is it. The boar has a very odd courtship repertoire. This is to mimic the weight of the boar. You should know, the clitoris of the pig is inside the vagina.

So this may be sort of titillating for her. Here we go. And the happy result. I love this video. There is a point in this video, towards the beginning, where they zoom in for a close up of his hand with his wedding ring, as if to say, “It’s okay, it’s just his job. He really does like women.” Okay. When I was in Denmark, my host was named Anne Marie. And I said, “So why don’t you just stimulate the clitoris of the pig? Why don’t you have the farmers do that? That’s not one of your five steps.” I have to read you what she said, because I love it.

She said, “It was a big hurdle just to get farmers to touch underneath the vulva. So we thought, let’s not mention the clitoris right now.” Shy but ambitious pig farmers, however, can purchase a — this is true — a sow vibrator, that hangs on the sperm feeder tube to vibrate. Because, as I mentioned, the clitoris is inside the vagina.

So possibly, you know, a little more arousing than it looks. And I also said to her, “Now, these sows. I mean, you may have noticed there. The sow doesn’t look to be in the throes of ecstasy.” And she said, you can’t make that conclusion, because animals don’t register pain or pleasure on their faces in the same way that we do. Pigs, for example, are more like dogs. They use the upper half of the face; the ears are very expressive.

So you’re not really sure what’s going on with the pig. Primates, on the other hand, we use our mouths more. This is the ejaculation face of the stump-tailed macaque. And, interestingly, this has been observed in female macaques, but only when mounting another female. Masters and Johnson. In the 1950s, they decided, okay, we’re going to figure out the entire human sexual response cycle, from arousal, all the way through orgasm, in men and women — everything that happens in the human body.

Okay, with women, a lot of this is happening inside. This did not stop Masters and Johnson. They developed an artificial coition machine. This is basically a penis camera on a motor. There is a phallus, clear acrylic phallus, with a camera and a light source, attached to a motor that is kind of going like this. And the woman would have sex with it. That is what they would do. Pretty amazing. Sadly, this device has been dismantled. This just kills me, not because I wanted to use it — I wanted to see it.

One fine day, Alfred Kinsey decided to calculate the average distance traveled by ejaculated semen. This was not idle curiosity. Doctor Kinsey had heard — and there was a theory going around at the time, this being the 1940s — that the force with which semen is thrown against the cervix was a factor in fertility. Kinsey thought it was bunk, so he got to work. He got together in his lab 300 men, a measuring tape, and a movie camera.

And in fact, he found that in three quarters of the men the stuff just kind of slopped out. It wasn’t spurted or thrown or ejected under great force. However, the record holder landed just shy of the eight-foot mark, which is impressive. Yes. Exactly. Sadly, he’s anonymous. His name is not mentioned. In his write-up of this experiment in his book, Kinsey wrote, “Two sheets were laid down to protect the oriental carpets.” Which is my second favorite line in the entire oeuvre of Alfred Kinsey. My favorite being, “Cheese crumbs spread before a pair of copulating rats will distract the female, but not the male.”

Long-term Relationship How to Achieve This ?

Morton Bast So, why does good sex so often fade, even for couples who continue to love each other as much as ever? And why does good intimacy not guarantee good sex, contrary to popular belief? Or, the next question would be, can we want what we already have? That’s the million-dollar question, right? And why is the forbidden so erotic? What is it about transgression that makes desire so potent? And why does sex make babies, and babies spell erotic disaster in couples? It’s kind of the fatal erotic blow, isn’t it? And when you love, how does it feel? And when you desire, how is it different?

These are some of the questions that are at the center of my exploration on the nature of erotic desire and its concomitant dilemmas in modern love. So I travel the globe, and what I’m noticing is that everywhere where romanticism has entered, there seems to be a crisis of desire. A crisis of desire, as in owning the wanting — desire as an expression of our individuality, of our free choice, of our preferences, of our identity — desire that has become a central concept as part of modern love and individualistic societies.

 

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You know, this is the first time in the history of humankind where we are trying to experience sexuality in the long term not because we want 14 children, for which we need to have even more because many of them won’t make it, and not because it is exclusively a woman’s marital duty. This is the first time that we want sex over time about pleasure and connection that is rooted in desire. So what sustains desire, and why is it so difficult? And at the heart of sustaining desire in a committed relationship, I think, is the reconciliation of two fundamental human needs. On the one hand, our need for security, for predictability, for safety, for dependability, for reliability, for permanence.

All these anchoring, grounding experiences of our lives that we call home. But we also have an equally strong need — men and women — for adventure, for novelty, for mystery, for risk, for danger, for the unknown, for the unexpected, surprise — you get the gist. For journey, for travel. So reconciling our need for security and our need for adventure into one relationship, or what we today like to call a passionate marriage, used to be a contradiction in terms. Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship.

 

 

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But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one.

Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that. (Applause) So now we get to the existential reality of the story, right? Because I think, in some way — and I’ll come back to that — but the crisis of desire is often a crisis of the imagination. So why does good sex so often fade? What is the relationship between love and desire? How do they relate, and how do they conflict? Because therein lies the mystery of eroticism.

So if there is a verb, for me, that comes with love, it’s “to have.” And if there is a verb that comes with desire, it is “to want.” In love, we want to have, we want to know the beloved. We want to minimize the distance. We want to contract that gap. We want to neutralize the tensions. We want closeness. But in desire, we tend to not really want to go back to the places we’ve already gone. Forgone conclusion does not keep our interest. In desire, we want an Other, somebody on the other side that we can go visit, that we can go spend some time with, that we can go see what goes on in their red-light district.

You know? In desire, we want a bridge to cross. Or in other words, I sometimes say, fire needs air. Desire needs space. And when it’s said like that, it’s often quite abstract. But then I took a question with me. And I’ve gone to more than 20 countries in the last few years with “Mating in Captivity,” and I asked people, when do you find yourself most drawn to your partner? Not attracted sexually, per Se, but most drawn. And across culture, across religion, and across gender — except for one — there are a few answers that just keep coming back.

 

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So the first group is: I am most drawn to my partner when she is away, when we are apart, when we reunite. Basically, when I get back in touch with my ability to imagine myself with my partner, when my imagination comes back in the picture, and when I can root it in absence and in longing, which is a major component of desire. But then the second group is even more interesting. I am most drawn to my partner when I see him in the studio, when she is onstage, when he is in his element, when she’s doing something she’s passionate about, when I see him at a party and other people are really drawn to him, when I see her hold court.

Basically, when I look at my partner radiant and confident. Probably the biggest turn-on across the board. Radiant, as in self-sustaining. I look at this person — by the way, in desire people rarely talk about it, when we are blended into one, five centimeters from each other. I don’t know in inches how much that is. But it’s also not when the other person is that far apart that you no longer see them. It’s when I’m looking at my partner from a comfortable distance, where this person that is already so familiar, so known, is momentarily once again somewhat mysterious, somewhat elusive. And in this space between me and the other lies the erotic’s, lies that movement toward the other. Because sometimes, as Proust says, mystery is not about traveling to new places, but it’s about looking with new eyes.

 

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And so, when I see my partner on his own or her own, doing something in which they are enveloped, I look at this person and I momentarily get a shift in perception, and I stay open to the mysteries that are living right next to me. And then, more importantly, in this description about the other or myself — it’s the same — what is most interesting is that there is no neediness in desire. Nobody needs anybody. There is no caretaking in desire. Caretaking is mightily loving. It’s a powerful anti-aphrodisiac.

I have yet to see somebody who is so turned on by somebody who needs them. Wanting them is one thing. Needing them is a shot down and women have known that forever, because anything that will bring up parenthood will usually decrease the erotic charge. For good reasons, right? And then the third group of answers usually would be: when I’m surprised, when we laugh together, as somebody said to me in the office today, when he’s in his tux, so I said, you know, it’s either the tux or the cowboy boots.

But basically it’s when there is novelty. But novelty isn’t about new positions. It isn’t a repertoire of techniques. Novelty is, what parts of you do you bring out? What parts of you are just being seen? Because in some way one could say sex isn’t something you do, eh? Sex is a place you go. It’s a space you enter inside yourself and with another, or others. So where do you go in sex? What parts of you do you connect to? What do you seek to express there? Is it a place for transcendence and spiritual union? Is it a place for naughtiness and is it a place to be safely aggressive? Is it a place where you can finally surrender and not have to take responsibility for everything? Is it a place where you can express your infantile wishes? What comes out there? It’s a language. It isn’t just a behavior.

 

 

 

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And it’s the poetic of that language that I’m interested in, which is why I began to explore this concept of erotic intelligence. You know, animals have sex. It’s the pivot, it’s biology, it’s the natural instinct. We are the only ones who have an erotic life, which means that it’s sexuality transformed by the human imagination. We are the only ones who can make love for hours, have a blissful time, multiple orgasms, and touch nobody, just because we can imagine it. We can hint at it. We don’t even have to do it.

We can experience that powerful thing called anticipation, which is a mortar to desire. The ability to imagine it, as if it’s happening, to experience it as if it’s happening, while nothing is happening and everything is happening, at the same time. So when I began to think about eroticism, I began to think about the poetics of sex. And if I look at it as an intelligence, then it’s something that you cultivate.

What are the ingredients? Imagination, playfulness, novelty, curiosity, mystery. But the central agent is really that piece called the imagination. But more importantly, for me to begin to understand who are the couples who have an erotic spark, what sustains desire, I had to go back to the original definition of eroticism, the mystical definition, and I went through it through a bifurcation by looking, actually, at trauma, which is the other side. And I looked at it, looking at the community that I had grown up in, which was a community in Belgium, all Holocaust survivors, and in my community, there were two groups: those who didn’t die, and those who came back to life.

And those who didn’t die lived often very tethered to the ground, could not experience pleasure, could not trust, because when you’re vigilant, worried, anxious, and insecure, you can’t lift your head to go and take off in space and be playful and safe and imaginative. Those who came back to life were those who understood the erotic as an antidote to death. They knew how to keep themselves alive.

And when I began to listen to the sexlessness of the couples that I work with, I sometimes would hear people say, “I want more sex,” but generally, people want better sex, and better is to reconnect with that quality of aliveness, of vibrancy, of renewal, of vitality, of Eros, of energy that sex used to afford them, or that they’ve hoped it would afford them.

And so I began to ask a different question. “I shut myself off when …” began to be the question. “I turn off my desires when …” Which is not the same question as, “What turns me off is …” and “You turn me off when …” And people began to say, “I turn myself off when I feel dead inside, when I don’t like my body, when I feel old, when I haven’t had time for myself, when I haven’t had a chance to even check in with you, when I don’t perform well at work, when I feel low self esteem, when I don’t have a sense of self-worth, when I don’t feel like I have a right to want, to take, to receive pleasure.” And then I began to ask the reverse question. “I turn myself on when …” Because most of the time, people like to ask the question, “You turn me on, what turns me on,” and I’m out of the question, you know? Now, if you are dead inside, the other person can do a lot of things for Valentine’s. It won’t make a dent.

There is nobody at the reception desk. So I turn myself on when, I turn on my desires, I wake up when … Now, in this paradox between love and desire, what seems to be so puzzling is that the very ingredients that nurture love — mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other — are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire. Because desire comes with a host of feelings that are not always such favorites of love: jealousy, possessiveness, aggression, power, dominance, naughtiness, mischief.

 

 

Basically most of us will get turned on at night by the very same things that we will demonstrate against during the day. You know, the erotic mind is not very politically correct. If everybody was fantasizing on a bed of roses, we wouldn’t be having such interesting talks about this. But no, in our mind up there are a host of things going on that we don’t always know how to bring to the person that we love, because we think love comes with selflessness and in fact desire comes with a certain amount of selfishness in the best sense of the word: the ability to stay connected to one’s self in the presence of another.

So I want to draw that little image for you, because this need to reconcile these two sets of needs, we are born with that. Our need for connection, our need for separateness, or our need for security and adventure, or our need for togetherness and for autonomy, and if you think about the little kid who sits on your lap and who is cozily nested here and very secure and comfortable, and at some point all of us need to go out into the world to discover and to explore. That’s the beginning of desire, that exploratory need, curiosity, discovery. And then at some point they turn around and they look at you.

And if you tell them, “Hey kiddo, the world’s a great place. Go for it. There’s so much fun out there,” then they can turn away and they can experience connection and separateness at the same time. They can go off in their imagination, off in their body, off in their playfulness, all the while knowing that there’s somebody when they come back. But if on this side there is somebody who says, “I’m worried. I’m anxious. I’m depressed.

My partner hasn’t taken care of me in so long. What’s so good out there? Don’t we have everything you need together, you and I?” then there are a few little reactions that all of us can pretty much recognize. Some of us will come back, came back a long time ago, and that little child who comes back is the child who will forgo a part of himself in order not to lose the other. I will lose my freedom in order not to lose connection.

And I will learn to love in a certain way that will become burdened with extra worry and extra responsibility and extra protection, and I won’t know how to leave you in order to go play, in order to go experience pleasure, in order to discover, to enter inside myself. Translate this into adult language.

It starts very young. It continues into our sex lives up to the end. Child number two comes back but looks like that over their shoulder all the time. “Are you going to be there? Are you going to curse me, scold me? Are you going to be angry with me?” And they may be gone, but they’re never really away. And those are often the people that will tell you, “In the beginning, it was super hot.” Because in the beginning, the growing intimacy wasn’t yet so strong that it actually led to the decrease of desire.

The more connected I became, the more responsible I felt, the less I was able to let go in your presence. The third child doesn’t really come back. So what happens, if you want to sustain desire, it’s that real dialectic piece. On the one hand you want the security in order to be able to go. On the other hand if you can’t go, you can’t have pleasure, you can’t culminate, you don’t have an orgasm, you don’t get excited because you spend your time in the body and the head of the other and not in your own.

So in this dilemma about reconciling these two sets of fundamental needs, there are a few things that I’ve come to understand erotic couples do. One, they have a lot of sexual privacy. They understand that there is an erotic space that belongs to each of them. They also understand that foreplay is not something you do five minutes before the real thing. Foreplay pretty much starts at the end of the previous orgasm.

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They also understand that an erotic space isn’t about, you begin to stroke the other. It’s about you create a space where you leave Management Inc., maybe where you leave the Agile program — And you actually just enter that place where you stop being the good citizen who is taking care of things and being responsible. Responsibility and desire just butt heads. They don’t really do well together. Erotic couples also understand that passion waxes and wanes. It’s pretty much like the moon.

It has intermittent eclipses. But what they know is they know how to resurrect it. They know how to bring it back. And they know how to bring it back because they have demystified one big myth, which is the myth of spontaneity, which is that it’s just going to fall from heaven while you’re folding the laundry like a deus ex machina, and in fact they understood that whatever is going to just happen in a long-term relationship, already has. Committed sex is premeditated sex. It’s willful. It’s intentional. It’s focus and presence.

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There are 600 muscles in our bodies – What makes muscles grow?

Muscles. We have over 600 of them. They make up between 1/3 and 1/2 of our body weight, and along with connective tissue, they bind us together, hold us up, and help us move. And whether or not body building is your hobby, muscles need your constant attention because the way you treat them on a daily basis determines whether they will wither or grow. Say you’re standing in front of a door, ready to pull it open.

 

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Your brain and muscles are perfectly poised to help you achieve this goal. First, your brain sends a signal to motor neurons inside your arm. When they receive this message, they fire, causing muscles to contract and relax, which pull on the bones in your arm and generate the needed movement. The bigger the challenge becomes, the bigger the brain’s signal grows, and the more motor units it rallies to help you achieve your task. But what if the door is made of solid iron? At this point, your arm muscles alone won’t be able to generate enough tension to pull it open, so your brain appeals to other muscles for help.

You plant your feet, tighten your belly, and tense your back, generating enough force to yank it open. Your nervous system has just leveraged the resources you already have, other muscles, to meet the demand. While all this is happening, your muscle fibers undergo another kind of cellular change. As you expose them to stress, they experience microscopic damage, which, in this context, is a good thing. In response, the injured cells release inflammatory molecules called cytokines that activate the immune system to repair the injury.

This is when the muscle-building magic happens. The greater the damage to the muscle tissue, the more your body will need to repair itself. The resulting cycle of damage and repair eventually makes muscles bigger and stronger as they adapt to progressively greater demands. Since our bodies have already adapted to most everyday activities, those generally don’t produce enough stress to stimulate new muscle growth.

 

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So, to build new muscle, a process called hypertrophy, our cells need to be exposed to higher workloads than they are used to. In fact, if you don’t continuously expose your muscles to some resistance, they will shrink, a process known as muscular atrophy. In contrast, exposing the muscle to a high-degree of tension, especially while the muscle is lengthening, also called an eccentric contraction, generates effective conditions for new growth. However, muscles rely on more than just activity to grow.

Without proper nutrition, hormones, and rest, your body would never be able to repair damaged muscle fibers. Protein in our diet preserves muscle mass by providing the building blocks for new tissue in the form of amino acids. Adequate protein intake, along with naturally occurring hormones, like insulin-like growth factor and testosterone, help shift the body into a state where tissue is repaired and grown. This vital repair process mainly occurs when we’re resting, especially at night while sleeping.

Gender and age affect this repair mechanism, which is why young men with more testosterone have a leg up in the muscle building game. Genetic factors also play a role in one’s ability to grow muscle. Some people have more robust immune reactions to muscle damage, and are better able to repair and replace damaged muscle fibers, increasing their muscle-building potential. The body responds to the demands you place on it.

If you tear your muscles up, eat right, rest and repeat, you’ll create the conditions to make your muscles as big and strong as possible. It is with muscles as it is with life: Meaningful growth requires challenge and stress.