Scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a mathematical model that predicts the optimal exercise regimen for building muscle. The results of the study are published by the Biophysical Journal.

The researchers used the methods of theoretical biophysics to build a unique model. It calculates how a particular exercise will affect muscle growth and how long it will take. The model is based on earlier work by the same scientists who previously discovered that the muscle component titin is responsible for generating chemical signals that influence muscle growth.

Titin is a giant protein, most of which expands when the muscle is stretched. But a small part of the molecule is also energized during contraction. This part of titin contains the titin kinase domain, which generates a chemical signal that affects muscle growth.

Initially, the model tracked how titin molecules were opened by force and how long it would take to create a chemical signaling chain that triggers muscle growth at the molecular level. Then they made it more difficult by including additional information – metabolic energy exchange, as well as the duration of the application of force, the repetition of this process, and recovery from. The model was tested and confirmed to work.

It solves the problem of muscle atrophy that occurs during prolonged bed rest or in astronauts in microgravity. The model shows how long a muscle can spend in an inactive state before destruction begins and what recovery mode will be optimal.

Ultimately, the scientists hope to create a user-friendly software application that will provide customized exercise modes for specific purposes. The researchers also hope to improve their model by expanding the analysis with detailed data for both men and women, as much of the study on exercise is heavily biased towards male athletes.