Athletes and Recovery

Athletes and Recovery

Advanced Lifestyle & Exercise Research

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As we become increasingly experienced in training and as we inevitably age, the only way we can continue to progress in our chosen sports is to pay much closer attention to the major training variables. Why is this the case, and what exactly does it mean for your training? The following points pertain to all types of sports training, not just weight training and bodybuilding. As you continue to work out over many years, if you train reasonably intelligently, you become an expert at applying a training stimulus. You learn to do all movements correctly, you learn exactly how to warm up for a maximum effort, and within your own genetic potential you become very strong on many movements.

Thus, in many ways you start to approach the outer limits of your genetic potential for intensity or weight per movement, but within the context of a particular training approach. If, however, you're training at the edge of intensity, you're almost certainly at the edge of your recovery abilities. While you may understand that for any increase in training intensity there must be some compensating change to enhance recovery things become even more complicated if over time your ability to recover decreases slightly. This gives you two factors affecting recovery to consider your expertise in applying intense training stimuli and the natural processes of aging.

Keep in mind that excessive soreness and keep in mind that excessive soreness and lack of muscular responsiveness signify that you haven't repaired the damage to fibers and connective tissue that was caused by training. The complex inflammatory and hormonal processes have not yet run their course. In a word, you're still injured. Any failure to recover from training in the short or long term is a correctable problem if you can make a rational change in one or more of the training variables. In other words, if you're not recovering enough to train maximally, something is wrong with either the intensity; the frequency or the duration of your workouts-or in some cases all of these factors.

You can plan and modulate your training intensity by following a periodization model. In terms of training intelligently, you know that you must generally keep your intensity high but not so high that it becomes exceedingly difficult to recover or you begin to dread your workouts. In practice this means that you don't train to failure at every session and you rarely, if ever, use techniques like negative and forced reps. So at this point you pretty much know what to do with intensity. What about the duration and frequency of your training, however? In progressive-resistance training, duration typically refers to the volume of work that you do, which, in turn, typically refers to how long you train. For this discussion we'll consider duration in terms of sets per bodypart.

Over your years of training many of you have already reduced your volume. For example, realistically, you've learned that most bodyparts can only be worked through a few different angles and types of movements, and in practice you may only use a few movements per bodypart in a session. Even so, if recovery is a problem for you, a first and quick fix is to decrease your volume. Try something radical; for example, reduce your hard work sets by 50 percent. This approach has done wonders for some people who thought that they were at the end of their gaining days. If you've already reduced your volume to several hard sets per bodypart, however, you probably don't have much room to maneuver in terms of this variable. It's worth a try to go from several sets to two or three sets per bodypart, but don't expect the jolt that a more radical change can bring.

The next step is to examine your frequency of training. In fact, frequency is the one training variable about which conventional wisdom has changed the most in recent years. ft wasn't too long ago that everyone agreed that you should train a bodypart three times a week. Then two times a week became the rule After that it was train a body- part once hard and once easy per week, and now some programs feature once-a-week bodypart training.

If you've made all the possible intensity and duration adjustments you can, you have only one place to go, frequency. As you age-or, to speak positively, as you become more expert at applying a training stimulus-you probably have to train less to gain more. This may seem odd at first. After all, if you tell most people-even some athletes- that you're going to rearrange your training to make more gains, almost everyone will conclude, 'So you're going to increase your workouts and spend more time training."

From everything we know about effective training and recovery, however, it appears that if you're serious about continuing to improve as you get older, you'll be wise to do the opposite of conventional wisdom. You'll train much less in terms of both duration and frequency to gain much more.

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