I was training today and it happened– adaptation. I have been training for thirty years and no matter how many years I have been training I have to constantly come up with new ways to stimulate the muscles. I find that the more advanced I become in bodybuilding the harder it is to stimulate the muscles to respond and grow. I know my physiology well enough to know when my body has adapted to the program. For the first couple of weeks on a program I will notice a new feeling in the muscles and will get a good burn and pump in the muscle. I can almost feel the blood flooding into the myofibrals bringing in new nutrients during this time. But after a few workouts following the same program I will notice that the muscles become harder to pump up. They remain somewhat flaccid and cold. There is a disconnect from the mind and muscle. It is as if I cannot feel the muscle working, I am just going through the motion. This feeling occurs when you hit a threshold plateau. Each muscle has a particular threshold of intensity that it can sustain. When you incorporate a new exercise to the muscle the threshold is usually low, meaning that it doesn’t take much for the blood to infiltrate into the muscle giving rise to the pump. Blood floods into the muscle because the threshold is low forcing the nervous system to recruit more motor units activating more muscle fibers to help with the load force. As the workouts progress the nervous system learns the load force sequence and will reduce the electrical input to the muscle. This will increase the stimulation threshold of the muscle. What this means is the nervous system has adapted to the stress (load force) being presented on the muscle. There are only two ways in which the muscle can be re-stimulated to boost the neuromuscular system again, 1. lift heavier weights, 2. Change the exercise. Lifting heavier weight will produce a new neuromuscular stimulation, however, the muscle is only able to lift so much weight. It isn’t realistic to think that you can keep adding more weight to the bar every time you workout. If you are already working out at 90% max on the first week of the program then there is no way you will be able to add more weight to the bar in the up coming weeks. You will most likely hit the threshold point early and will adapt quickly. If you were to start the program at 50% max and then add 5% to the bar each week then it would take awhile for the muscle to adapt. But eventually you will catch up to the threshold barrier.
The next way is to simply change the exercise. Changing the exercise will produce a whole new neuromuscular stimulation and you will get that wonderful pump in the muscle. But then again after a couple of weeks your muscles will adapt.
The more fit and experienced the muscle is the quicker it will adapt to stress. This means that you have to always change things up to make gains. The secret is knowing how and when to change up the program, and knowing which exercises are the best to do to make the quickest gains.
Remember, if your muscles don’t feel pumped and you feel like you are just going through the motions then it is time to change things up.
tags: adaptation, Vince Gironda, Daryl Conant, Ron Kosloff, Diet Earth, patriots, jets, packers, ravens, bears, seahawks.