Feeder workouts are a style of training that involves doing high amounts of repetitions with light weights every day to speed up the growth of a muscle. This method can supposedly increase the size of a lagging muscle by forcing blood into it on a consistent basis so it is supplied with higher amounts of nutrients.
The logic behind feeder workouts is that by doing high rep low weight quick training sessions for a specific muscle group every day, you can force that muscle to grow quicker by stretching the fascia tissue and increasing blood flow. More blood flow to a muscle results in more oxygen and amino acids that can be used by that muscle for recovery and growth.
This style of training was made famous by Rich Piana. Rich Piana did feeder workouts for his arms every night for 2 years and claimed that they were the most effective technique he did for muscle growth.
Feeder workouts can be effective but need to be done correctly for any positive effects without avoid negatively affecting other muscles and training. The reasons that feeder workouts are effective are that they prolong protein synthesis, help form a mind-muscle connection, take advantage of the responsiveness of a muscle, and help send nutrients and oxygens to muscles for repair.
These benefits to doing feeder workouts are all backed by logic but since there is a lack of research on this training method, many of these effects are supported by deductions based on other studied mechanisms related to muscle growth rather than studies done specifically on this topic.
Feeder Workouts Prolong Protein Synthesis
One of the main reasons that is credited for how feeder workouts yield results is their capability of prolonging the duration of protein synthesis.
Protein synthesis is the period after training a muscle where the body sends elevated amounts of protein to that muscle for recovery. Protein synthesis usually lasts 24-48 hours after a resistance training session.
Feeder workouts can prolong protein synthesis by “double stimulating” the muscle. This second stimulation of the muscle is registered as a second signal to the body and essentially restarts the period of time in which more protein is sent for repair.
Since feeder workouts are not done with heavy weights and should not be used to actually break down the muscle, there is no further repair of the muscle needed but still an elevated period of protein synthesis that can be used for better recovery and growth.
Feeder Workouts Help Form a Mind to Muscle Connection
Another reason in support of feeder workouts is that they can help form a mind-muscle connection. The reason behind this is that when a muscle is sore, it is easier to feel it contracting and isolate it during an exercise.
Because the muscle being worked during feeder workouts will have just been trained, it will be sore and highly responsive which allows for a better connection between the mind and that muscle.
This mind to muscle connection can be trained and feeder workouts are one way to achieve this. The connection between mind and muscle also helps to pump the muscle up during feeder workouts which will help isolate that muscle and delivery nutrients to the right place.
Feeder Workouts Train a Muscle When It Is Most Responsive
In addition to helping form a mind to muscle connection, doing feeder workout training also helps take advantage of a muscle when it is most responsive.
After training, the muscle which was recently worked is highly sensitive and easily isolated. Since protein synthesis and repair of the muscle has already begun, that muscle is in a highly responsive state which means the muscle fibers in that muscle will be recruited easier and any training done to that muscle will register to a higher degree.
The reasoning behind this is that since the mind-muscle connection is better when training a muscle that is sore and the body has already recognized that the muscle is in need of nutrients, any activation of that muscle will be easier to achieve. Activation of that muscle will also be responded to quicker with increased nutrient-rich blood since nutrients were already being sent to that muscle before the feeder workout.
Feeder Workouts Increase Blood Flow To the Muscle
Finally, feeder workouts can increase blood flow to the muscle since doing high reps with light weight will result in a large pump that drives blood, oxygen, and nutrients to that muscle for repair.
The main reason that feeder workouts are so popular is that they were initially done to boost the amount of blood going to the muscle which was just trained. This boost is able to stretch the fascia tissue and signal to the muscle to grow. The increased volume of nutrients then allows growth to happen since all that is needed for repair is already available.
For feeder workout training to work it is important that you get a good pump in the muscle. The muscle should feel tight and swelled with blood. This excess blood is full of protein, amino, acids, nutrients, and oxygen, helping the muscle grow and recover from the primary heavy weight training session done earlier.
When Should You Do Feeder Workouts?
The day right after a training session is the best day for feeder workouts. They are recommended to be done mostly 1-2 days after a workout when a muscle is sore and the recovery process has already begun. This is because that is when the muscle is most in need of nutrients and blood flow for recovery and will also be most responsive.
According to Rich Piana, at night before bed is one of the best times to do feeder workout training because that is after all the food of the day has been consumed and is also right before sleep which is when the majority of recovery takes place.
For most people, feeder workouts 4-5 days a week on the days following a heavy weight lifting session for lagging muscles can be very beneficial.
The benefits of feeder workout training for growth are prolonged protein synthesis, better mind to muscle connection, more responsive training, and increased blood flow to muscles for recovery.
For inexperienced lifters, feeder workouts are not necessary and are more likely to harm recovery than assist it. Once you have 1-2 years of lifting experience however and are beginning to experience a slower rate of progress, feeder workouts can help pick the results back up and fix any inproportions you may have.
The best time to do feeder workouts is at night. The focus should be on high reps and the weight should be light enough that at least 50 reps can be consecutively done. The breaks in between sets need to be short and the workout should have enough volume for the muscle to be pumped up. A good number of reps to do is 200-300 divided into 3-4 sets.
For more on training, such as the best way to quickly progress in pull-ups and how to keep gains while traveling, click here.