Fitflex Fitness 101: Training Intensity & Muscle Recovery Study..

Intensity and Muscle Recovery

Discovering Weight Training from a Scientific Perspective

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Virtually everyone agrees that gradually increasing training intensity and managing the attendant stress are the keys to making progress. Moreover, everyone will say, "If I'm training harder, know! need to pay more attention to reducing stress and enhancing recovery."

Periodization, hard/easy training and recovery techniques are all methods that acknowledge the special relationship between stress and recovery. With a few exceptions, however, most training plans or models don't adequately express the true relationship between training intensity or stress, and recovery. Yes, we know that stress involves an alarm (adaptation exhaustion cycle, and, as stated above, higher levels of intensity require more recovery. But most training models assume that this relationship is a step-wise linear one.

In a step-wise linear relationship a change in one variable, in this case intensity, leads to similar changes in another variable, recovery in the following examples I'll use a "percent intensity," which generally means a percentage of the top weight you're using, to represent the training stress and the hypothetical term "percent inroads into recovery" to represent how much recovery resources have been expended.


The concept of inroads into recovery has been used before by Arthur Jones and Ellington Darden to mean the systemic costs of a training session. Concept 1 is a step-wise linear relationship. Lower levels of intensity are associated with more minimal inroads into recovery ability. The relationship between the variables is orderly until increases of intensity of 85 to 100 percent lead to somewhat sharper increases in inroads into recovery.

If this is the correct relationship between the two variables-as most programs assume it is-then you don't need to change as much in your life and other activities while you increase training intensity as you generally would at the end of a training cycle. Experience suggests, however, that the relationship between intensity and inroads into recovery is snore similar to a "piece-wise continuous function," as suggested by such people as Jones, Darden, Mike Mentzer, Clarence Bass and Stuart McRobert, In this scenario lower training intensities actually have minimal impacts on inroads into recovery.

In fact there's no relationship between the two variables until the intensity hits 75 percent, but look what happens after that point. There's an increase in inroads into recovery as intensity increases to 80 percent, a sharp inroads increase as intensity goes up to 85 percent and 90 percent and a great spiking effect from 90 to 95 percent and from 95 to 100 percent.

This is an estimate and doesn't suggest the exact relationship between intensity and inroads, Furthermore, there's a threshold of intensity past which the spiking occurs. The threshold probably has some range based on health, fitness, training experience and outside stressors; but clearly the threshold exists. What's more, this type of relationship may exist in all systems. For exam- pie, corn- pare-at your own risk-how your car handles and performs at 80mph and then at 85 to 90 mph.

This relationship between intensity and inroads into recovery may explain why some of us break down toward the end of a hard cycle and can't complete it or just feel exhausted. We simply haven't considered that we must make dramatic changes on the recovery side to accommodate what appears to be a slight increase in intensity; for example, going from 90 to 95 percent. Moreover, if you reach the above- mentioned threshold but are already fatigued or slightly over-trained, then you're clearly inviting disaster-like a physical breakdown.

Such breakdowns require weeks of very modest training before recovery resources are built up again. Thus, you must take the usual advice about training intensity even more seriously than most people do. The following are some definite don'ts to consider:

1. Don't train very intensely when there are other major stressors in your life or you feel tired or slightly over trained.

2. Don't attempt to escalate the intensity of your aerobic workouts whenyou increase the intensity of your weight training or vice versa.

3. Don't restrict calories when you're training at higher intensities.

4. Don't always train at higher intensities-use a sensible balance of hard and easy training sessions.

5. Don't shortchange yourself on sleep and rest during high-intensity training periods.

6. Don't start training intensely again right after you hit a peak.

Putting these ideas into practice - managing stress; focusing on one activity at a time; providing adequate nutrition, sleep and rest; and using hard/easy training sessions, cycles and backoffs-should become the central focus of your training program. These tactics are seemingly more significant than the usual focus on which bodyparts you train together and exactly how many reps you do for what specific movements.

Those more frequently discussed points aren't trivial but they're only the individual trees, while the relationship between stress and recovery is indeed the all-embracing forest.





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