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  • why does a plateau occur ?

    What is the reason for hitting a wall in an exercise. Is it CNS saturation, as Louie Simmons used to say and had plenty of exercises to switch around? A similar method is also aplied in DC training upon reaching a plateau.

    (What about other methods that don't switch (basic) exercises at all, like Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 ? Yes, it uses a different rep range from week to week, and has a short deload, but how does that solve the problem of "CNS saturation" or whatever the problem is ?)

  • #2
    There are two basic principles at play here, overtraining and overreaching. Overtraining is excessive frequency, volume, or intensity of training that results in extreme fatigue, illness, or injury that is often due to lack of sufficient rest, recovery, and/or nutrient intake. Overreaching is excessive training on a short-term basis. The later is often fixed with rest and is often planned for as short term overreaching can have benefits to strength and power output. But, if everreaching continues it becomes overtraining and generally follows the cycle of overload stimulus---->acute fatigue----->overreaching----->overtraining.

    Certainly both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems can be involved and a reduction in strength and power output can occur. But, it gets deeper than that and has muscular, metabolic, cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, and psychological implications as well. As far as why it occurs, really making mistakes in any program variable can really lead to this over time if it is repeated.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Knickerbocker24 View Post
      There are two basic principles at play here, overtraining and overreaching. Overtraining is excessive frequency, volume, or intensity of training that results in extreme fatigue, illness, or injury that is often due to lack of sufficient rest, recovery, and/or nutrient intake. Overreaching is excessive training on a short-term basis. The later is often fixed with rest and is often planned for as short term overreaching can have benefits to strength and power output. But, if everreaching continues it becomes overtraining and generally follows the cycle of overload stimulus---->acute fatigue----->overreaching----->overtraining.

      Certainly both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems can be involved and a reduction in strength and power output can occur. But, it gets deeper than that and has muscular, metabolic, cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, and psychological implications as well. As far as why it occurs, really making mistakes in any program variable can really lead to this over time if it is repeated.
      KB,

      You've introduced some important concepts in the above.

      I think that TS's questions was more so oriented around the scenario where an individual is carrying out a program properly, is not overtraining or intentionally overreaching, but still plateaus on an exercise.

      Since TS mentions it, as an example, it's an accepted and normal component of DC training that one would plateau on an exercise, at which point you'd switch it out for another similar one. You can certainly screw up and try to progress too quickly, i.e., not manage the loading parameters properly, and thus plateau, but a plateau can and does occur on a training background of gaining strength on nearly all other exercises, gaining weight and muscle, mass and an absence of signs and symptoms of overtraining...

      Titantium Spine, is the above more of what you're getting at?...

      -Scott
      The Book Has Arrived!
      The Book Has Arrived!

      Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a pristine, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, used up, worn out, and shouting, "Holy #$&^%$^... What a ride!!!"


      www.TrueNutrition.com

      2012 NPC Master's Nationals HW 5th. Mid-USA HW & Overall
      2010 NPC Jr. USA HW 4th, Pacific USA Heavy 2nd
      2009 NPC Mr. Arizona HW & Overall, Jr. Nationals HW 16th, Smoked at USA's

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      • #4
        Originally posted by homonunculus View Post
        KB,



        I think that TS's questions was more so oriented around the scenario where an individual is carrying out a program properly, is not overtraining or intentionally overreaching, but still plateaus on an exercise.

        Since TS mentions it, as an example, it's an accepted and normal component of DC training that one would plateau on an exercise, at which point you'd switch it out for another similar one. You can certainly screw up and try to progress too quickly, i.e., not manage the loading parameters properly, and thus plateau, but a plateau can and does occur on a training background of gaining strength on nearly all other exercises, gaining weight and muscle, mass and an absence of signs and symptoms of overtraining...

        Titantium Spine, is the above more of what you're getting at?...

        -Scott
        Yes, exactly. I don't use DC training, but I do have Dante's sentence printed in my logbook: "The answer is doing the least amount of heavy intense training that makes you dramaticall stonger (bigger), so you can recover and train that bodypart the most times in a year (frequency)".

        With that in mind, I only do one straight set of exercise till failure, and I can recover from that very quickly (in about 72 hours... not including DL's, SQ's or shrugs).

        So, I progress on an exercise real nicely, and then sooner or later reach a plateau. Then I drop the exercise, switch it with another one, and repeat the process...

        When I return to the first exercise, I manage to break the plateau despite using the same frequency. So that means that the frequency was not the crux of the problem, but something else. What would that be ?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by homonunculus View Post
          I think that TS's questions was more so oriented around the scenario where an individual is carrying out a program properly, is not overtraining or intentionally overreaching, but still plateaus on an exercise.
          Despite it not being intentional, I would still think a pleateau on a single exercise would be based on the same program variables not being accounted for correctly, just as it would be in the global workout. A plateau on a single exercise I'm sure wouldn't carry the same sort of ramifications on immune, endocrine, metabolic, etc. systems, but I would think the same sort of mechanisms are occuring, no? And...I also don't think that you would want to assume that other exercises in the program don't have contributing factors to decreased performance in that exercise, despite still seeing increases in the other exercises. So, I wouldn't want to dismiss the influence of the entire program.
          Last edited by Knickerbocker24; 07-26-2011, 03:00 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Knickerbocker24 View Post
            Despite it not being intentional, I would still think a pleateau on a single exercise would be based on the same program variables not being accounted for correctly, just as it would be in the global workout. A plateau on a single exercise I'm sure wouldn't carry the same sort of ramifications on immune, endocrine, metabolic, etc. systems, but I would think the same sort of mechanisms are occuring, no? And...I also don't think that you would want to assume that other exercises in the program don't have contributing factors to decreased performance in that exercise, despite still seeing increases in the other exercises. So, I wouldn't want to dismiss the influence of the entire program.
            KB,

            Of course the rest of the program, other exercises, program variable like frequency, volume, etc. would impact hitting a wall on a given exercise. There's no doubt there as progress on any movement does not occur in a vacuum. I'm just trying to clarify that I believe TS' question is basically, "What's the main reason why one plateau's, given not being in an overtrained state or programming the loading properly."

            Sure, this is a very complex scenario and physiologic and metabolic mechanisms are at work here. The reason we can train in the first place is b/c of the mechanisms of our metabolism and physiology.

            [What I'm really doing here is trying to clarify and simplify the question, TBH. <SNIP>)

            -S
            Last edited by homonunculus; 07-27-2011, 12:09 PM.
            The Book Has Arrived!
            The Book Has Arrived!

            Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a pristine, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, used up, worn out, and shouting, "Holy #$&^%$^... What a ride!!!"


            www.TrueNutrition.com

            2012 NPC Master's Nationals HW 5th. Mid-USA HW & Overall
            2010 NPC Jr. USA HW 4th, Pacific USA Heavy 2nd
            2009 NPC Mr. Arizona HW & Overall, Jr. Nationals HW 16th, Smoked at USA's

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by homonunculus View Post
              <SNIP>)

              -S
              Homon, you've just ruined my thread. Now nobody dares to say anything... :washing:
              Last edited by homonunculus; 07-27-2011, 12:10 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by titanium_spine View Post
                Homon, you've just ruined my thread. Now nobody dares to say anything... :washing:
                You're right, man. (Just trying to help here, so I removed that comment...)



                -S
                The Book Has Arrived!
                The Book Has Arrived!

                Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a pristine, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, used up, worn out, and shouting, "Holy #$&^%$^... What a ride!!!"


                www.TrueNutrition.com

                2012 NPC Master's Nationals HW 5th. Mid-USA HW & Overall
                2010 NPC Jr. USA HW 4th, Pacific USA Heavy 2nd
                2009 NPC Mr. Arizona HW & Overall, Jr. Nationals HW 16th, Smoked at USA's

                Comment


                • #9
                  curious what you have to say on it

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by homonunculus View Post
                    You're right, man. (Just trying to help here, so I removed that comment...)



                    -S
                    No worries on any of the comments...I'm not that sensitive We're all in this together. My contention is that I don't see a huge difference between the two scenarios and if you're planning properly for the former, that latter will take care of itself.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Knickerbocker24 View Post
                      No worries on any of the comments...I'm not that sensitive We're all in this together. My contention is that I don't see a huge difference between the two scenarios and if you're planning properly for the former, that latter will take care of itself.
                      KB,

                      Very good to know you're not sensitive, but the comment I removed wasn't directly aimed at you and certainly wasn't intended to be derogatory in any way. TS just noted that it might slow down discussion and I can see why he's say that.

                      Actually, your comments have done a nice job of opening up the topic for more discussion.

                      I think we've delineated two general perspectives (yours and sort of the opposing view)

                      ---The plateauing of a performance / strength on an exercise can be traced back to the more general and overall parameters that limit performance progress during a training cycle. Fix those and the particular exercise plateau will be fixed.

                      ---(Opposing view) The plateauing of a performance / strength on an exercise on a background of overall training progress is more likely caused by something more specific to the programming and performance of said exercise.

                      -------

                      -Scott
                      The Book Has Arrived!
                      The Book Has Arrived!

                      Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a pristine, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, used up, worn out, and shouting, "Holy #$&^%$^... What a ride!!!"


                      www.TrueNutrition.com

                      2012 NPC Master's Nationals HW 5th. Mid-USA HW & Overall
                      2010 NPC Jr. USA HW 4th, Pacific USA Heavy 2nd
                      2009 NPC Mr. Arizona HW & Overall, Jr. Nationals HW 16th, Smoked at USA's

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks to both of you for trying to expain to me something that I have had trouble theoretically explaining to myself...

                        I'm an older guy, with an ever declining pool of testosterone levels, so I try to be as caucious with training volume as posible, using the lowest amount that helps me to progress in strength. So, the only thing I've left to manipulate is frequency (as I always use high intensity), and switching around exercises when I reach a dead-end, at that moment...

                        I feel kinda embarrassed by prolonging the initial question, but I'll do it anyway:

                        If in a program like DC you have a fixed frequency, and fixed training volume, then the biggest change in the program is when you switch an exercise (when you reach a plateau). So, the exercise that you have plateaued on is left there somewhere in the basement, and then after a few months you use it again, and break that plateau.

                        Why is it possible after that "layoff" ? What has happened in the meanwhile? You have still used very similar variations of the same exercises, again with the same volume / frequency. Is it possible that the nervous system can't withstand anymore of the same abuse, so you need a slight change?

                        I know that Louie Simmons used to say that at 90 % of the maximum weight your CNS gets fried very fast, but in bodybuilding we use a bit lower % of maximum lifts. Still I see some room to suspect CNS burnout on a single exercise. Is there such a thing ?

                        Thank you, once again!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Well, I don't want to oversimplify this but, in a fixed program such as DC where volume, intensity, rest intervals, etc remain unchanged you can simply reach a point where the nervous system is no longer challenged to respond. Monotonous training variables can predispose an athlete to accommodation and stagnation...diminishing returns. Here basically the nervous system is no longer challenged to adapt. But, as to why it would occur with one exercise, but not others in a given workout is tough to say. Are we talking about a hypothetical system, or specifically "for the last two weeks on chest day exercise #1 went down/stayed the same, whereas exercises #2 & #3 both went up." If there's a specific case I'd be interested to know those specifics. I'm sure your training history with that exercise will impact how long it remains novel, also the intensity of the exercise (% of 1RM), your general training experience and conditioning level, etc. But, in general certainly the exercise can become no longer novel, remove for another and you have a novel stimulus, bring it back later and it's once again novel.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by titanium_spine View Post
                            I'm an older guy, with an ever declining pool of testosterone levels, so I try to be as caucious with training volume as posible, using the lowest amount that helps me to progress in strength.
                            Kinda curious here, is this something you've tested or an assumption based on age? What's the logic behind choosing the lowest amount of volume possible to progress in strength? And, finally (sorry for so many questions) is strength a more important adaptation or is hypertrophy, work capacity, %bf, etc. also important, ie aesthetics, or are you just concerned in strength numbers?

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                            • #15
                              This should answer your questions:

                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plateau

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