By Hammer Nutrition
My mother would greet me with this phrase in the dark of an early morning, when it was time to get up and go to a swim practice. I was reluctant more often than not, but if I had just lain there, I wouldn't have gained anything but a little more sleep. In this regard muscles aren't any different. If they aren't awakened, all that potential is never tapped.
The University of Wisconsin- Madison's Kinesiology Department has offered a weight training course for the past three plus decades. I was involved with the course for 15 of those years. We had thousands of subjects' weight training gains recorded. Significant increases in strength, up to 50% increases in one-repetition maximums, occurred in a four-week period! I'm still amazed at these numbers. How could this be?
There are three things that keep a muscle from getting stronger. They are inhibition, inhibition and, you guessed it, inhibition. What is this inhibition and how does it affect strength? Consider what makes a muscle contract. The signal to contract starts most commonly in the brain. This signal, a nervous impulse, follows a chain of nerve cells that end at a group of muscle fibers. Chemicals moving all along this chain eventually results in the propagation of a muscular contraction. Muscle fibers are inhibited from contracting when there are interruptions to the chemical movement along the chain of nerve cells. Remove these inhibitions and more muscle can contract. Given the results from the weight training classes, the inhibition can be quickly diminished. All that is required is a forceful muscular contraction repeated over and over again.
Getting stronger and weaker can occur quickly. Injury can increase muscle inhibition, and the amount of time for these changes to come about is surprisingly short. Four weeks ago I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee to repair a torn meniscus. My training had been going very well. My strength was great going into the surgery because I long had been E-stim strength training. I was bummed to think that I'd lose while recovering what I had gained. My plan was to build strength with my Compex while rehabilitating. Even though I couldn't do the customary running and biking I was used to, I could build muscle while not moving or loading my knee joint. I got started on my plan four days out from the procedure. What surprised me though was the amount of inhibition that had crept into my injured leg's muscle in this short four-day period. Normally my strength is pretty balanced from side to side. I can tell with the Compex because I'll get the same amount of contraction in both legs at a given energy level setting. Both legs had been inactive over the four-day period. Neither leg had been used more than the other for the four days. During my first Compex session, I noticed that the injured leg required half again as much stimulation to contract the muscle to the same degree as the uninjured leg. That is a lot! Beyond surprised I was disturbed that I had to use E-stim to regain the strength balance from leg to leg. The good news is that as fast as the inhibition increased in the injured leg's muscle it returned to a balanced state with E-stim.
When I'm looking for strength, I factor in the time required to gain it. I know that I can wake up the amount of muscle recruited to do more work in a matter of weeks. When is a good time to inject strength training into your plan? Anytime. Once more muscle is recruited, this newly recruited muscle is available to be trained in the specific way you want. Your newly recruited muscle can be incorporated into the specific firing pattern for your sport. You can generate more force while doing the sport you love. When you place the pads and fire up the Compex, you're telling your muscles, "Wake up! It's time." HN