Monday, July 23, 2007

Great Question From Guarden:

Why only increase work capacity in your assistance exercises?

This is a great question.

Actually, I am trying to increase my work capacity through, not necessarily in, my assistance exercises.

In all sports, technique is skill. The same is true in weightlifting--the snatch and the clean and jerk; and powerlifting with the squat, bench, and deadlift. These want to be practiced while you're as fresh as possible creating as little fatigue as possible. Why? The secret to great strength according to Zatsiorsky is to train as often as possible, as fresh as possible, creating as little fatigue as possible.

How do you do that if you're not Bulgarian and training five times per day with a nap between each session?

Since your strength is a skill, if you practice your events under fatigue, you will destroy the motor pattern due to systemic fatigue, local muscular fatigue, and stabilizer fatigue. This is why bodybuilders, generally speaking, have large legs, but cannot squat the nearly the same amount as their powerlifter cousins. Since your strength levels are limited by accumulated systemic (read: neural) fatigue, the only way to build strength reserves is through non-CNS intensive exercises and training protocols. This is where assistance work comes in. (This, by the way, as the name suggests, is why it is called "assistance work." It "assists" in the development of the main sporting skill. Not trying to be sarcastic here, just stating a fact.) So, for weightlifters, exercises that are similar to, but not identical to the classic lifts are used: pulls, jumps, back extension exercises, etc. Powerlifters, especially those who subscribe to the "Westside Philosophy" of conjugate loading, use variations of the powerlifts. Some IPF lifters from Russia do increase the total volume of the classical lifts. I don't know enough about the older/experienced lifters training protocols to speak on there training. Weightlifters use the squat as a general strengthening exercise for the snatch and the clean and jerk. And not only that, earlier in a weightlifter's career, both the volume and intensity are increased, according to Medvedyev. As he ages and attains sport mastery, the volume remains relatively constant and the loading is intensified. (I think I'm digressing--it's late...)

So again, the point of building work capacity through assistance work is to spare the CNS from too much fatigue and to preserve the sporting skill, in this case, the lifting of a barbell.

It is also interesting to note that what may be a sporting skill for one sport may be used as an assistance exercise for another sport. For example, powerlifters compete in the squat, but the squat is traditionally used in the US strength and conditioning profession to develop overall strength, but not necessarily limit strength.

So for me personally, because I have so many years under the iron, my body is very efficient at the pulling and squatting motor patterns. They don't need a volume based approach. In fact, from my experience, I can't recover from a volume-based approach. But in order to keep my "wind" or ability to do the work I need to do to progress by using an intensity-based approach, I need to find similar exercises that strengthen the muscles I am using for my sporting events without trashing my CNS and destroying my lifting "groove." That's where kettlebells come in.

Hopefully, that makes sense.


Blogger Royce said...

It actually makes a lot of sense. I learned a lot from that post. Thanks.

4:40 AM  
Blogger Tim Anderson said...

Great information. Thanks.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Guarden said...

Thanks a lot for your thorough answer Geoff, I appreciate that!

How do you differ this from the SAID principle? I mean you have to bench a lot to groove those patterns. Am I totally of the road if I spend a lot of time when learning a new exercise for instance the deadlift, by doing a lot of deadlifts to groove the motorpatern and increase workkapacity, and then when the right pattern is there I rely more focus in assistance exercises to keep the overall workkapacity up, and only train the main exercises when all set?

Thanks for your time :-D


6:12 AM  
Blogger kevin said...

is it the overall tonus of the body's muscles that contributes to the CNS burnout, i.e. you focus so much on tension during the lift(s) that the body maintains that tension when unloaded? or is it the CNS burnout from maintaining focus for the 'short' period of time while lifting. If its the former I'd think position specific rphase would decrease this the most but if its the latter then the use of active recovery using djm would help more. Or could it be another factor, at the RKC2 Kenneth Jay made a point of saying it's your aerobic ability that determines your recover during rest periods (IIRC). I know mobility or relaxation drills between exercise sets or even reps is nothing new but does do you think it affects one path more than another or is an individual more affected by one or the other. It would seem that relaxation drills are more muscle and position specific would be joint, or Kenneth's point of it being metabolic. The nervous system may rule but nothing in the body works totally as a one way street. Hopefully that's not too much rambling. oh and my blog is

6:16 AM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

No problem, Royce and Tim. Glad it helped.

Guarden, another great question, and yes, you answered it yourself, IMO. Yes, when you've got the groove down, focus on brining up WC with assistance. SAID is really interpreted as you always get exactly what you train for. But, is for motor patterns only? No, the same holds true for motor qualities (speed, speed-strength, etc) and joint angles. That's why the type of assistance work can either help you or hinder you. Make sense?

And, Kevin, where do I start? Just think of it as "loading"--a nebulous term, whatever that my be, that contributes to CNS burnout. Really, loading is just a form of stress. So when the body can no longer handle the negative stressors of life, including training, that's when the burnout occurs. That's why recovery is so important. What's a good stress and what's a bad stress? Well that's dependent upon the individual and the place in life in which they find themselves. For example, when we first started with Z, it was a negative stressor to a degree. We both felt exhausted and didn't/couldn't perform regular training. Now, at least for me most of the time, Z is a recovery tool. It is a positive stressor. The same is true for ALL training: what was once enough load to promote adaptation (short term negative stressor) is eventually used for a warm-up and/or a recovery tool (short term positive stressor). That I think encapsulates Seyle's GAS theory...I think...

3:50 PM  
Blogger Guarden said...

Yes, makes perfect sence.
Thank you, and have a nice vacation :-D

4:44 PM  

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