Waking Sleeping Giants (Nanosmall Ones Nonetheless)

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The Horror…

 

The Horror, the horror…

 

If you have ever had a period in your training where you unexpectedly had a lapse in your consistency, a few off days that turned into a week or two away from lifting/training, you have probably experienced the horror of the first time you lifted seriously again and could barely lift 80% of your max from 3 weeks earlier.

 

“Oh god I’m worse than dead….I’M WEAK!!!“.

 

MOTOR UNITS AND ME : A BRIEF HISTORY

While the lengthy time away from the gym and consistent fitness can drive us close to mad, it takes a lot more than time away from lifting/CrossFitting to lose all the hard earned strength you gained. It would be pretty harsh if something that took 6 months to build a 5-10% gain of was torn down in 2 weeks of relative inactivity. Literally laying dormant in bed for 2 straight weeks only strips us of 30% of our strength in extreme cases.

 

When you experience that power outage you are most likely experiencing the effects of how our muscles and motor units (nerves connected to muscle fibers) interact with stimuli, in this case lifting weight or performing a physical task under stress. Motor units can be thought of as little electrode stimulators attached to our muscle fibers. When commanded to fire, you bet your ass they fire. What is important to understand is our motor units work in a linear fashion, only being activated after the one before it is activated. They work in line by size, smallest to largest. So, while smaller motor units might help the legs walk or stand therefore staying in relative “shape”, the larger ones that are used to squat that 1 rep max lifetime PR might stay dormant for quite some time if not otherwise stimulated by squatting. It is why warming up goes small to large, light to heavy, because our body is ready for light since those motor units are for all intents and purposes active throughout most of our waking hours. Relating this all back to our  “scary” example tonight, it isn’t than your muscle fibers all shrank to a hobbit size during your brief hiatus, it is more so that the larger, powerful ones are still on vacation.

 

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

What does this tell us other than we should never stop training for longer than 1 off day every 4 days of training? Thinking about this linear model is useful when going about a day like today’s back squats. Since we are lifting for a 1 rep max and hopefully PR type weight we need those larger end motor units firing on all cylinders. Getting your motor units ready, willing, and able is what we know simply as “warming up”. Those first empty bar squats first feel like 1000# only to feel like the near weightless patty cake weight it is a few minutes later because you are waking up your nervous system and muscular system. You didn’t get infinitely stronger over the course of 3 warmup sets, you just woke up those sleeping giants that we need to lift the big weights.

 

I can hear the argument now! If the larger end motor units needed to lift those big weights only fire if we are lifting big weight,  how do we get those prepped to do so when we need it? The answer : Simulating lifting heavy by LIFTING FAST. Not just fast, BUT FAST AS HELL. Even a “light” weight lifted for higher reps (5-10) and done so like a bottle rocket was stuck up your ass will activate those big motor units connected to those big muscle fibers used to lift those big ass weights. This is why I always highlight your warmup sets and urge you to lift some high rep, super stupid fast sets. Then, when you call on the big guns 15 minutes later to set that Gong Ringing/PR Bell Smashing PR weight, they are ready to roll.

 

Every rep matters. Lift like it is so! You could drop dead at any moment!

 

 

WEDNESDAY  : Lifestyle Challenge Re-Test #1 and #2

 

BootCamp Sprint

 

WOD : “14.1”

 

10m AMRAP

15 Snatch 75/55
30 Double Unders

 

 

CrossFit

 

Strength : Back Squat

Find a 1 rep max PR back squat

 

WOD : “14.1”

15 Snatch 75/55
30 Double Unders

 

S/L1: 65/45, Scaled Double Unders

 

 

The Program

 

1. Strength and WOD Rx

 

2. Every 90s for 6 Sets
3 Hang Squat Clean, heaviest able

 

immediately into Max MU in 4 minutes
immediately into Max Wall Ball 20/14 in 3 minutes
immediately into Max Russian Swings 88/70 in 2 minutes