Monday, January 19, 2009

CNS, Benching and Isometrics - How I improved my pecs

I have always had good triceps genetically. This I say because without doing countless pushdowns, skull-crushers or kickbacks, I have decent horse-shoes mounted on my guns.

Now I realized about a year back that despite my regular bench press around 225 lbs, I have a decent lower pectoral and a stable mid pec (Don't flame me citing pectoralis major and minor and all that crap about a 2 factor hypertropy), I somehow lacked overall growth in upper and inner pec region. Now there were possible 2 reasons:

(1) I was not doing enough inclines presses, inclined dumbells (flys, presses)

(2) My strong triceps were doing most of the work during my pushing movement because my CNS was making my arms not recruit the weaker pectorals.

After I took care of point (1) with average gains, I strongly started researching point (2) and ways I could trick my CNS into recruiting my pecs.

Here are some of the results, that I think many of you might benefit from:

(1) In his book Primal Movement Patterns, Paul Chek states, “To create a new motor (movement) engram it takes 350-500 repetitions. But, to break a faulty movement pattern and then create a new motor program it takes 3500-5000 repetitions.”

(2) For instance if an athlete cannot hold the bottom (parallel) of a squat for an extended period of time with proper mechanics and muscle activation, how is this same athlete expected to add a heavy load and movement to this exercise without risking injury. If you cannot hold a parallel squat with correct mechanics and proper muscle activation you are probably not ready to squat dynamically.

(3) Isometric training seemes to be a good way to teach the body to unlearn bad habits (e.g. recruiting weaker muscles in my case triceps instead of pectorals). Iso=same, Metric=distance and hence this refers to method of training in which there is no change in the joint angle.

(4) In order to perform a movement properly, the CNS (central nervous system) must be prepared to recruit the correct muscle fibers in the proper sequence in order to efficiently initiate movement, stabilize the kinetic chain, and avoid injury.

(5) In benching a crude way to determine your "Sticking Point" or point of failure and corresponding muscles which fail are as follows:

Sticking Points result from weakness in secondary muscle groups. Where the bar stalls will pinpoint the weak muscle.

  • Mid point = weak pecs and/or triceps
  • Bottom = weak front deltoids
  • Lock out = triceps.
(6) Choose the grip width and elbow placement based on your body
  • Long arms use a wide grip to shorten the path of the bar (elbows out)
  • Short arms use a closer grip (elbows in more)

(7) Employ your strengths

  • Strong triceps? use a closer grip and elbows close to your body
  • Weak in the Delts? use a close grip keeping elbows wide

(8) Initially strength is determined by your nervous system and connective tissue integrity

  • 80% of initial strength increase is determined by nervous system motor unit recruitment. A motor unit is a nerve and all the muscle fibers innervated. Heavy tension is required for the recruitment of high threshold motor units- these are fast twitch which tend to grow, (increase in mitochondria and supporting cytoplasm). Slow twitch become more metabolically efficient. If the impulse from the nerve is too weak you're muscles are weak the more motor units recruited have more muscle innervations and strength increases. Once that nerve fires once in the movement it will fire every time; this is called the all or none principle.

(9) When a motor unit is sufficiently activated once the entire pool of fibers contract. The central nervous system can increase the strength of muscle contraction by:

  • Increasing the number of active motor units (i.e., spatial recruitment)
  • Increasing the firing rate at which individual motor units fire to optimize the summated tension generated (i.e., temporal recruitment)
  • Both occur concurrently
(10) Read this great article here.

In general you will have to put enough thought to your workouts in order to get the maximum out of them. One size does not fit all.

Oh and BTW, did u start your food log yet?

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