Opening Times:

6.00 AM - 21.00 PM

Call Us:

077699 02529

Energy Systems: Lactic Acid System

This article will go more in-depth about the Lactic Acid Energy System and also how you can focus you’re training to improve its efficiency to further benefit your performance in the gym.

 

The name Lactic Acid Energy System derives its name from the fact that the by-product lactate is produced when this energy system is predominant. This system uses only carbohydrates as its fuel source to, like every energy system, produce energy in the form of ATP for muscular contraction. It does this by a process called anaerobic glycolysis. Anaerobic means without the use of oxygen and glycolysis is a series of reactions that extract energy (ATP) from glucose (a carbohydrate).

 

The lactic energy system produces ATP quickly, which is why it is the predominant energy system for exercise between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, depending on intensity and the person’s fitness level who is exercising. It yields 2 molecules of ATP for every molecule of glucose broken down.

 

However, the build-up of the by-products of this energy system causes fatigue. This cause of fatigue is due to the build-up of pyruvic acid in the muscle. Pyruvic acid is made up of two molecules; pyruvate and a hydrogen ion (H+). Without oxygen, the body converts the pyruvate and two H+ to lactate. This helps to reduce the acidity of the muscle and allows anaerobic glycolysis to last longer, as the lactate is removed from the muscle and taken to the liver where it is converted to a useful fuel source such as glucose. However, in continued high intensity activity the lactate cannot be removed fast enough, which results in a buildup of pyruvic acid. It is specifically the buildup of the H+ within the muscle that causes fatigue. It does this by increasing the acidity of the muscle and causing the enzymes needed for anaerobic glycolysis to slow down.

 

To apply this to athletic performance and the gym, we have to acknowledge that any working set or event lasting between 30 seconds to 3 minutes will primarily be using the lactic acid energy system. In sport, this would include events such as the 400m and 800m. In the gym, any sets 12 or more reps or circuit training for working sets within the duration mentioned. Therefore, to become better at these events, we must know how to train this system effectively.

 

We have established that our working sets need to be between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, but ideally less than 3 minutes when training though as 3 minutes using the lactic acid energy system would be an all-out effort, taking a lot of time to recover from. However, how long should our recovery intervals be? The process of recovery once fatigue has occurred requires oxygen. Pyruvic acid in the presence of oxygen will be converted to acetyl coenzyme A, which is then broken down through the Krebs cycle to produce more ATP. Without oxygen, it is converted to lactate and removed from the muscle and taken to the liver to be converted into glucose. Full recovery can take anywhere between 30min and 60 min. Although, to train this energy system we do not want to fully recover, we want to recover just enough so that we can do another rep whereby this energy system is predominant. For this, a work to rest ratio of 1:1 is recommended. To give an example, if you are training this system to improve 800m performance, then a session consisting of 3-10 45-second-high intensity running intervals with 45 seconds rest in between would be enough to stimulate improvement of this energy system.

 

Adaptations to this type of training include an improved tolerance to lactic acid, as well as the ability to buffer the amount of lactic acid produced. Thereby, allowing you to perform at a high intensity for a longer period of time before the event becomes too painful to continue at that sustained intensity. One way to improve lactic acid buffering besides from training alone is the supplementation of beta alanine. Beta-alanine supplementation increases carnosine levels which, simply put, helps your muscles reduce their acidity levels during exercise, thereby reducing pain. It is recommended that to see these benefits to performance, 2-5 grams is taken daily. 500g of Beta Alanine can typically be bought for 40 pounds. Therefore, at 40p per serving it is a relatively cheap supplement. Caffeine has also been shown to reduce perceived exertion during endurance performance. For these effects, 3-9mg per kg of bodyweight is recommended 1 hour prior to performance. For a 70kg person, a dose between 210mg and 630mg is recommended. However, tolerance can build quickly and if taken less than 6 hours before sleeping, can be detrimental to sleep quality, so it is worth being selective on when using it.

 

Overall, I hope this article has been insightful as to how you can improve the efficiency of your lactic acid energy system and how you can apply this knowledge to your own training to benefit your performance.

Are Eccentrics more important for Hypertrophy?

Reference to Study: Sato et. al. (2022). Comparison between concentric-only, eccentric-only and concentric-eccentric resistance training of the elbow flexors for their effects on muscle strength and hypertrophy. EUR J APPL PHYSIOL

 

Details of the Study:

 

  • Trainees performed 3×10 bicep curls 2x per week for 5 weeks

 

  • 1 group only performed the concentric portion, another group only performed the eccentric portion and the last group performed both concentric and eccentric portions of the bicep curl.

 

  • Note: The total volume load (weight x number of contractions) was double for the concentric+eccentric group.

 

  • Despite this difference in load, it was found that biceps growth was similar between the concentric+eccentric group & the eccentric only group, whilst the concentric only group saw significantly less group.

 

  • Therefore, the study supports the idea that the eccentric portion of the contraction is more important for growth

 

 

Real world application:

  • Many people chasing muscle growth often rush the eccentric portion of lifts, allowing gravity to take the weight down instead of keeping the muscle under as much tension as they could to control the weight. Therefore, this study is part of the growing evidence why this is highly suboptimal for their training goal.

Is scale weight an accurate way to track progress?

When people embark on a fitness journey, whether that be to lose body fat or gain muscle mass, the common tool to track their progress people use is how much the number on the scales changes over time. However, is this the most accurate way to track progress towards body composition goals? Just like most questions relating to health and fitness, the answer is- it depends.

 

The first thing to remember is that scale weight is the total weight of all the tissues in your body and not just muscle and fat. Therefore, it is not the most accurate measurement when it comes to measuring body composition. Other methods include skin fold callipers, a cheap tool which measures body fat percentage. However, despite its low cost, the skill needed to take an accurate measurement makes this a fairly inaccessible method of measuring body composition. The gold standard of body composition measurement in a DEXA Scanner. Although, this is a very expensive piece of equipment, only really seen in medical facilities due to its use in also identifying bone density and helping diagnose patients with osteoporosis. Due to other methods being inaccessible, scales are by far the most common tool used by the general population to assess progress in their body composition goals, so what can be done to ensure you are getting the most reliable and accurate changes to body fat and muscle as you can with scales?

 

Any tool is only effective when you know how to use it and scales are no different. Weighing yourself on Monday at 7am and then again on Sunday at 8pm will not give an accurate measurement for how your weight has changed over the course of the week, due to factors that will be discussed in this article. Therefore, if you are to use scales accurately, I would recommend taking daily measurements, first thing in the morning each day and then calculating the mean average each week and compare each week’s average from the last, to get a more accurate measurement of how much your weight is changing due to changes to fat or muscle tissue.

 

So, what factors can influence the weight on the scales besides from muscle and fat tissue? Firstly, there’s water retention. The amount of water our bodies hold will hold will change throughout the day, as well as day by day. Reasons for this include carbohydrate and sodium intake, which cause our bodies to hold more water- not add on fat tissue (a common misconception in, the case of carbohydrates, spread by the misinformed and keto zealots). Therefore, if your diet is more heavily carbohydrate based for a few days, then you may add some weight. However, this will be due to the added water retention from an increased intake of carbohydrates, not an added amount of fat tissue.

 

Next, there’s the amount of food you are currently digesting. First thing in the morning, is when you have the least food in your digestive system as it will have been 9-10 hours since your last meal. Therefore, food being digested cannot influence your scale weight, unlike if you weighed yourself shortly after a meal.

 

Besides from keeping these variables at bay, what else can be done to improve the reliability and accuracy of scales measuring body composition? Firstly, you could also use a measuring tape and measure your Hip to Waist Ratio. This is productive because most people hold the majority of fat around their Waist area. Therefore, if you are trying to gain muscle mass and you put yourself in a calorie surplus and put on weight, you may believe you are getting closer to your goal. However, if you take measurements are realise your Waist measurement is increasing at a faster rate than your Hips, then this indicates you are putting on fat faster than muscle mass. This information can then lead to you making productive changes to your training and/or nutrition.

 

Next, it’s important to ensure you are setting yourself up for success. One way to do this is to ensure you are consuming enough protein and tracking it. Ensuring adequate protein intake with a suitable resistance training programme and sleep will ensure that any weight loss will not be due to loss of muscle mass. Alternatively, when gaining muscle, will ensure you are adding as much muscle mass as you can in the calorie surplus you are in.

 

In conclusion, scales are far from perfect when it comes to measuring body composition goals. However, with the correct information, it can be a very useful tool to help you stay on track when pursuing your goals.

 

How often should you change exercises?

The Study:

‘Kassiano et. al. (2022) Does Varying Resistance Exercises Promote Superior Muscle Hypertrophy And Strength Gains? A systemic review J Strength Cond Res.

 

What is the study is about?

 

It’s a review that tries to find evidence for how often exercises should change in an exercise programme in order to maximise results.

 

Results of the study:

 

  • Changing exercises too frequently seems to be less effective for muscle growth compared to sticking with the same exercises for an extended period of time.

 

  • Furthermore, there’s evidence supporting that less frequent exercise variation may promote greater long term muscle growth as a result of differences in regional hypertrophy

 

  • However, each exercise stresses specific ranges of a muscle. Therefore it might be beneficial to switch exercises every so often.

 

  • The general recommendation for how often you should change exercises looks to be in the region of every 4-6 weeks. Certain factors may change this though, such as enjoyment of a programme, linked to adherence.

 

Application to clients:

 

  • My recommendation would be to generally follow these guidelines with the exception of a couple of reasons: Firstly, if the client gets bored of certain exercises. Secondly, if the clients goals change. But if your goal is to become better at certain lifts then its likely that you will require those lifts throughout your macrocycle.

 

Principles of Training- Periodisation

Throughout the year, someone may have one, or two main, goals. This can apply to athletes and the general population. For example, an elite athlete may target peak performance for the Olympics in the summer, whereas someone in the general population may want to achieve their most aesthetic look for a specific holiday that summer.

 

Periodisation can be defined as the planned manipulation of training variables in order to maximise training adaptations and to prevent the onset of overtraining syndrome. This is important as, for many athletes, several different adaptations need to be improved upon throughout the year, in order to achieve peak performance. Also, they cannot work on all aspects of performance simultaneously, as they can only train for a finite number of hours per week and focussing on too many things in this time will not provide the adequate stimulus for improvement. Therefore, athletes and their coaches will prioritise different adaptations, in a set order, in order to achieve the best condition possible.

 

To give an example of this, let’s look at an endurance runner who is targeting a 5km race in summer. This structure can be applied to both recreational runners and elite runners, the difference between elite and recreational will come in training volume, as oppose to how they periodise their training.

 

If the race is in July, the runner will want to build their aerobic base between September and December. The aerobic base is built first for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is comprised of low intensity running only, with some strength and conditioning work. This low intensity running is much easier to build up after the off-season, as hard running would result in overtraining and potentially injuries. Also, the aerobic base will help recovery time during and between hard running sessions in later phases, helping keep those sessions of a higher quality throughout each session and throughout the season.

 

Between January and June, they will slowly introduce harder running intervals, gradually getting more difficult as time goes on. Every coach has a different philosophy but typically, 2 hard workouts will be introduced each week. These will initially be at around lactate threshold speed. This helps the body increase the speed it can run at before lactate starts to accumulate and cause pain and fatigue. Then, even later on, towards May and June, hard interval workouts above race pace and above the lactic threshold will be introduced. These will help the athlete mentally and physically tolerate the feeling of lactic acid better. Ultimately helping them in the closing stages of the 5km race.

 

A couple weeks prior to the race the athlete will taper. This is where training volume is halved in order to reduce fatigue so the athlete is fresh for the race. Training isn’t ceased all together, as aerobic training adaptations can reverse in as little as two weeks. It would also be quite a shock to the system mentally to not run for two weeks and then try and run your fastest ever race. Nutrition will also be manipulated accordingly due to the lower calorie expenditure during the taper.

 

For a more general population client who only wants to look aesthetic, periodisation of training is less important. This is because training for muscle gain (hypertrophy) and muscle retention looks exactly the same. However, what we can periodise is the nutrition.

 

For example, if the holiday is one year away and the client is already in okay shape (up to 17% body fat approximately). Then we can bulk for the first 8 months whereby they are in a moderate calorie surplus (Maintenance calories+ up to 500kcal per day) with adequate protein (2.2g per kg of bodyweight). Along with their training and sleep, this is an optimal environment for muscle growth. However not all of this added weight will be muscle tissue, some fat tissue will be added.

 

Therefore, for the final 3 months, they can adopt a moderate calorie deficit (Maintenance calories – up to 500kcal), still with the same protein intake and adequate sleep. Training may need to be adjusted. This is because the calorie deficit may leave the person with slightly less energy compared to when they were in a calorie surplus. Therefore, other principles of training such as progressive overload, may not continue to progress at the same rate. However, this is okay when someone has aesthetic goals as this is an optimal environment for fat loss.

 

Overall, it’s important to identify exactly what adaptations need to occur for you to achieve your training goals and then to be able to focus on them in the right order, to attain the results you want, at the time you want as well.

 

Principles of Training – Individualisation

Each and every one of us is physically and mentally different. This is why, when it comes to training, everyone’s approach needs to be bespoke to them, if it’s going to be optimal.

 

One of these factors will be their starting point, in terms of ability, in their fitness journey. For example, if two people come to a personal trainer saying they wish to build better whole-body strength, then both will be assessed to see where their starting point is at. If it becomes clear one athlete has a proportionately stronger upper body than their lower body, and the other person vice versa then despite the same goal, their programmes will look different. The first person will need a more lower body focussed approach whereas the other person would need the opposite, this is an example of applying the principle of individualisation.

 

Another key factor to consider is lifestyle variations. Everyone has a life outside of the gym, all of which will include factors which influence their performance inside the gym. Therefore, this needs to be considered when programming. To give another example, imagine someone wants to become generally fitter all round. If they’re a labourer then you need to consider that their job is very taxing, therefore workload needs to be managed more carefully as to avoid overtraining and injury.

 

 

Next, there’s anatomical variants between each individual which can affect performance in the gym. For example, someone with a larger rib cage convexity, steeper sternum angle and short limbs is going to have a better chance at being better at the Bench Press compared to someone with a smaller ribcage, flatter sternum angle and long limbs, due to the first person having a shorter range of motion to achieve a full repetition and the line of pull on the pecs from insertion to origin. Another way in which anatomical differences influence training, can be down to active range. Everyone’s active range for a given movement is different. A common example would be overhead mobility. If someone cannot lift their hands directly above their heads (180 degrees of shoulder flexion) then trying to perform an overhead press is going to take them out of their active range and they will lean back to achieve the overhead position. This person will be putting a lot of stress on joint structures outside of this range and also increase the risk of injury when lifting outside of it. Therefore, consider this individual difference and give them an exercise that challenges them in their active range, for instance an incline press, set to a height whereby they are working in the active range that they can achieve.

 

Next, there’s two factors that link together. These are tolerance to training loads and responsiveness to training load. One’s tolerance to training load is going to help you in the initial phase of deciding things like how frequently they should train and how demanding each session should be. Their responsiveness to training will link closely with progressive overload. So, someone who responds very quickly to training will need to increase their training load more frequently than a slow responder. It’s important however that progressive overload is applied correctly to both people to prevent any from overtraining or undertraining.

 

Finally, the psychology behind training must also be taken into consideration. As with most things, intrinsic motivation is the key to long term adherence and this is achieved when someone feels competent, so the training programme must not feel too difficult for the participant. They also need relatedness, this comes from good relationships attached with the activity. Therefore, having great rapport with your PT, or attending the gym with a friend is a great idea. It’s also a reason why exercise groups with a more ‘community feel’ are more popular, the biggest example of this being the rapid growth of CrossFit over the past 10-15 years. Also, the participant must feel like they have autonomy, this can come via a number of ways such as having the freedom to train when they want, as well as being able to have a say in what they do during sessions (if they want that).

 

Overall, there’s many factors here to consider, it’s important to manage them all carefully, in order to ensure you are getting the most out of your training.

Principles of Training – Specificity

Different methods of training provide our bodies with a diverse range of stimuli, which in turn cause a wide variety of adaptations. This is why we need to apply the principle of specificity, which ensures that the training we are doing will provide our bodies with the correct stimuli to cause the desired adaptation and bring about the desired change to our performance or aesthetic measures of our physique.

 

In order to apply specificity, we need to work backwards. By this, I mean we first establish what element of our performance or aesthetic we want to change. In other words, this is your goal, such as lose body fat, increase muscle mass, run a faster 5k or increase your deadlift 1RM. Next, we take this change to performance or aesthetic and identify what adaptation will cause this.

 

To give some practical examples, let’s take some common goals and walk through the process of devising a training programme to optimise results. Firstly, it’s important to note that nutrition is paramount in any training goal you may have. However, as this article is only about applying specificity to our training programmes, we won’t touch upon that in this article.

 

If we look at programmes to increase muscle mass (hypertrophy) or optimise fat loss they are actually identical, it’s the nutrition which will differ. This is because in both of these programmes we want to provide as much stimulus to the muscle so that they have the best environment for growth when in a calorie surplus and the best environment to be retained in a deficit, thereby optimising fat loss.

 

When making a training programme ideal for optimising hypertrophy we need to look at which aspects of training that cause hypertrophy. These include: training close to/muscular failure on a regular basis, ensuring enough volume is completed on each muscle group throughout the week and ideally training each muscle group on 2 separate days per week. When it comes to training close to/at failure, it’s worth noting that this must be achieved by not only training hard but also selecting exercises with a high external stability so that it’s fatigue on the target muscle that is the limiting factor and not something else such as a loss of balance. Without this, we will have to cease the set prior to the muscle being close to failure and thereby not achieving our goal of that set.

 

Volume has been shown to have a linear relationship with hypertrophy i.e. when looking at it purely through the lens of specificity, the more volume, the better results. However, we need to apply the other principles of training in order to identify the optimal volume for each individual at a given time in their training cycle.

 

Next, let’s take a look at applying specificity to a popular performance based goal such as running a faster 5k. Now this is very context specific as there’s so many factors that go into improving 5km performance. Therefore, which element of training someone focuses on will differ between individuals, this will be talked about in much greater detail during the next blog on individualisation.

 

From a general perspective though, we need to identify that about 88-90% aerobic. Therefore, countless HIT sessions are not going to be very beneficial for 5km performance. Instead, we need to train aerobically for the vast majority of sessions. These are going to be made up of long easy runs, typically at an intensity around 60-65% of maximum heart rate. At this intensity, you should be able to hold a conversation quite easily, if you need to walk to achieve this then that is fine. Other types of training will be tempo runs and intervals where you are at the threshold between aerobic and anaerobic performance. This will help your body adapt to getting rid of lactic acid and be able to stay in aerobic respiration at faster paces. Lastly, a small proportion of the sessions will be anaerobic, working on speed endurance, as this accounts for a small part of 5km performance.

 

Overall, specificity is arguably the most important principle of training because if you get it wrong, your training can be extremely unproductive. The last thing you want to do is put 100% effort into a training programme only to fall massively short of your goals all because your sessions were bringing about ineffective adaptations in relation to your goals. Therefore, it is essential you learn how to apply the principle of specificity prior to writing any training programme.

Principles of Training – Progressive Overload

The principles of training are factors that should be applied to any training programme to ensure optimal adaptations. These principles include: Progressive Overload, Reversibility, Specificity, Individualisation and Periodization. To delve deeper into each of these, I will be writing an in-depth article on each, with this one discussing Progressive Overload.

 

When people start going to the gym, many start by feeling lost. Some will then look for guidance on what exercises to do, perhaps by going online, or to a friend to write them a few sessions to complete. For a number of weeks this plan may produce very good results with the trainee becoming stronger and possibly adding more muscle and/or reducing fat if following the correct nutritional protocol. However, if the programme doesn’t change over time then the progress it provides the trainee with will plateau.

 

This is where progressive overload needs to be applied. Progressive overload can be defined as the gradual increase in stress placed on the musculoskeletal system and nervous system over a period of time.

 

So how can a programme be appropriately changed in order to continue to bring about desired adaptations? There’s 4 variables we want to look at changing in order to continue progressing. These are: Volume, Intensity, Frequency and Interval Duration. Which variable you look to increase will differ depending on someone’s goals, which will be discussed below.

 

Firstly, volume= (sets x reps). Therefore, to increase volume, the sets or reps you perform for a given exercise will need to increase. Increases in volume have been shown to be a significant factor for increased hypertrophy. Therefore, anyone who has hypertrophy as their goal may find their time is most productively spent when choosing volume as the variable to progress in their plan. The amount of volume to increase will differ between individuals but as a rule of them, small increases such as 1 set per exercise every 2-4 weeks will provide an adequate increase in stimulus. However, everyone’s time is limited and even if you do have all day free, no one wants to be in the gym for hours. Therefore, that is when it is time to look at other variables such as intensity.

 

Intensity can be defined as the percentage value of maximal functional capacity. In the terms of weight training, this would be how close to your 1 rep max you are. With cardiovascular training, this would be how close you are to maximal exertion over a given distance, e.g. 30 seconds per km slower than 5k race pace. Increasing intensity is a great way to progress your training without adding any time to the sessions, which will be productive for anyone stuck for time in their day. However, as with every principle, people’s goals matter. For instance, if someone’s goal is to run a faster marathon, then increasing intensity of most of their runs will not provide beneficial adaptations.

 

Thirdly, you can increase the frequency of how often you train. This is as simple as training from 3 times per week to 4 times per week. By doing this, you are also increasing volume. It is worth considering though, that by increasing number of sessions, it may be productive to change your training split. For example, if your 3 sessions originally consisted of 3 whole body sessions, if you increase to 4 sessions it may be better for you to have two lower body days and two upper body days, in order to give certain muscle groups adequate time to recover before being trained again.

 

Next, we can change interval/ rest duration. The easiest way to make a session more difficult whether it’s resistance training or cardiovascular training, is to reduce the duration of rest periods between sets of lifting. However, once again, this is context dependant. For instance, to progress a training programme where increasing maximal strength is the goal, reducing rest will not be beneficial. This is because in order to increase max. strength, lifting weights close to 1RM makes up a lot of the session. This is not achievable if rest periods are short, therefore it would be more productive to keep interval duration the same and increase intensity.

 

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that only changing one variable at a time is probably wise, as increasing multiple variables at once increases the risk of overtraining. Furthermore, keeping the exercises the same can be useful as they act as the control variable. If they change to often then how can you be sure you are actually progressing certain variables when different exercises provide different stressors to our bodies.

Rep Ranges and Goals

Rep Ranges and Goals

1-5 reps for strength

6-7 Strength/Hypertrophy

8-12 for hypertrophy

13-15 Hypertrophy/Endurance

15+ Endurance

 

Research has actually shown that hypertrophy has been shown to be the same at any rep range as long as the muscle is taken close to failure and the load is anything above 30% 1RM

 

This study supports that claim: Fink, J., Kikuchi, N., Yoshida, S., Terada, K., & Nakazato, K. (2016). Impact of high versus low fixed loads and non-linear training loads on muscle hypertrophy, strength and force development. Springerplus5(1), 1-8.

 

Experienced endurance runners have actually been shown to increase performance more when spending their S+C sessions completing high load, low rep work compared to low load high reps as the increase in strength helps increase running economy in the latter stages of races

 

Study to support this claim: Ebben, W. P., Kindler, A. G., Chirdon, K. A., Jenkins, N. C., Polichnowski, A. J., & Ng, A. V. (2004). The effect of high-load vs. high-repetition training on endurance performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research18(3), 513-517.

 

Principles of Training: Reversibility

The principles of training are factors that should be applied to any training programme to ensure optimal adaptations. These principles include: Progressive Overload, Reversibility, Specificity, Individualisation and Periodization. To delve deeper into each of these, I will be writing an in-depth article on each, with this one discussing Reversibility.

 

It’s at this time of year where the majority of people go on their holiday and take a break from everything in life, including training. Alternatively, many people may have to cease training due to other reasons such as work and family commitments or injury. Depending on the amount of time taken off, one can experience reversibility.

 

Reversibility can be defined as the loss of fitness and/or performance adaptations via the withdrawal of tissue loading (which we get from training). Each adaptation takes a different amount of time to fade. For example, aerobic capacity and muscle elasticity have been shown to decrease after just 5 days of inactivity. However, strength has been shown to only decrease by 10% after 8 weeks without training. It’s important to note that other factors will also play a significant role in how quickly an adaptation is lost when training is stopped. These include the individual’s genetics, as well as nutrition. For example, if two bodybuilders were to stop training and one continued to consume a high protein diet and maintenance calories and the other who consumed inadequate amount of protein and ate below their maintenance calories, the latter is expected to experience a greater degree of reversibility.

 

Once someone experiences this, upon their return to training they are expected to experience a reduction in performance levels across the board. Also, lower recovery levels between sessions, susceptibility to DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and increased risk of injury are expected- especially if the reason for cessation of training is due to an injury.

What can someone do to try and minimise the effects of the issues mentioned above? Upon returning to training after a break, what many people try and do is go and train extra hard, and twice as much in an attempt to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, our bodies do not work like that and this approach will only result in overtraining. This is because our bodies can only adapt to a given amount of a stimulus at one time and after a period of detraining, this size of the stimulus needed for maximal adaption actually decreases. Therefore, the best approach when returning to training is to decrease the FIT principles from FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Time) in order to moderate size of the stimulus on the body.

 

Frequency refers to the number of sessions per week that is being carried out, if you were training over 3 times per week prior to taking time off, it may be wise to decrease frequency by up to 50% and then gradually build back up. For example, if you originally trained 4 times per week and then took an 8-12 week break, you may train twice on your first week back, 3 times on your second and be back up to 4 sessions per week by your third week back into full training.

 

Intensity refers to how vigorous a session is. Therefore, if you went through a block of training whereby a number of your lifts were at 80% of your 1 rep max, then it may be sensible to decrease this load to 60% of your 1 rep max and increase it by 5% each week until you are back at 80%.

 

Time refers to the duration of each training session. This concept is best applied to cardiovascular exercise. Simply put, if you were running for 45 minutes each session prior to taking time away from training. You would look at decreasing this amount, depending on how much time you had away from exercise. Typically, you may decrease to 25 minutes if you took a month off, and then increase the duration by 5 minutes each week until you were back at 45 minutes.

 

All these precautions are necessary to try and reduce the risk of injury and to make sure the body can adequately recover between sessions instead of experiencing burnout and having to take more time away from training. It’s also worth noting that the stimulus needed to maintain performance is significantly less than what is needed to improve. Therefore, performance will not continue decrease, even on much smaller training loads whilst building back up.