Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Strength is easier to lose than gain

BY DR. PHIL WAGNER, M.D.

In an effort to improve training consistency, coaches and athletes alike seem to be constantly reminded of the old axiom, “Use it or lose it.” As the Holiday Season begins and we travel to see family/friends, commitments to physical training become harder and harder.

So how much are we really losing by this break from training? A collaborative study by the world’s foremost sports scientists out of the Research and Sport Medicine Center in Spain recently found that only 4 weeks off resulted in a 17% decline in power. For example, athletes could experience a 3.5 to 5 inch drop in vertical jump or up to a full second decrease in 40yd dash time.

This drastic change occurs only in power, the ability to produce force quickly, and the detriments are not as large in strength, which are movements that judge only force output with no regard to time (think a maximal effort squat that might take more time to complete than a jump or sprint where the goal is more speed oriented).

Most of the rationale behind the greater loss of power during inactivity can be attributed to the lack of stimulus to the nervous system. As explained previously (see Sparta Point 10/8/09), the nervous system is a network of nerves that transmits sensory impulses (signals) from the brain to the muscles by way of the spinal cord. The nervous system, aside from directing every function of the body, ranging from hormones to heart function, also governs all voluntary movement by alternating the action of muscular contraction and relaxation.

So while your holiday workouts may not require the same amount of exercises and total length of time, your nervous system needs that stimulus to prevent major losses. At Sparta, all of our athletes request programs while they’re away to allow them to enjoy their vacations, some even find that these quicker routines allow their body to recover and return at even higher levels. So make your workouts shorter or less frequent to enjoy time with family/friends, without sacrificing your performance.

4 comments:

  1. What exercises provide the most stimulus to the nervous system?

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  2. Read Sparta Point 10/8/09, as it talks about best movements to stimulate nervous system, which are big strength movements (i.e. squat) or very fast movements (all out sprints)

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  3. Dr.Wagner
    good to see that SPARTA Performance athletes still squat.
    There seems as of late a convergence toward single leg exercises by some performance coaches.
    In my opinion there should never be a full abandonment of the squat when working with athletes.
    Jorge Carvajal

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  4. Thanks Jorge for comment. We still do single leg exercises 1 day a week, but if we only had 1 day a week to train (i.e. in-season), we would use that day to squat instead of lunge, or other SL lift.

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