Many soccer players these days spend hours in the gym. Are they trying to build muscles like a body builder or are they trying to condition and strengthen their muscles?
The reason your muscles get bigger and stronger is because the human body adapts to its environment and the stresses placed on it. Scientists have labeled this process GAS.
Do you know what GAS stands for?
Gas is a scientific abbreviation, which stands for General Adaptive Syndrome.
Without going into too much scientific jargon, the theory of GAS assumes your body works in cycles. A cycle begins when you’re body is placed under stress or introduced to a new stimulus such as weight training or a solid sprint session.
Lets illustrate with an example.
You’re at the gym ready to train your legs. You sit on the leg press and complete 3 sets of 80kg. What would happen if you tried to press 120 kg or a significant heavier weight? You might pump out 2 reps at best and quite possibly end up with no repetitions.
The increase in weight reduces your overall performance doesn’t it? The leg press motion of 30 repetitions (3*10@80Kg) has now been reduced to 0-2 repetitions (120kg).
Is this a good thing? Decreased performance can’t be good or can it?
When you tackle the heavier weight, your body and brain will make the required adjustments. What part of your body sends signals to the muscles to contract?
It’s called the nervous system. With the heavier load your nervous system becomes more efficient and can send a stronger signal to the required muscles. The increased load then causes micro tears in your muscles that eventually heal themselves and grow back stronger, thicker and bigger.
The secondary benefit of lifting weights is that your bones thicken and your joints become more stable as the supporting muscles and tendons become stronger. Anyone that’s had a knee or ankle operation knows how important this benefit is.
I know what you’re thinking. If I keep lifting heavier weights I will become the strongest soccer player in the world. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
The body seems to plateau and the adaptation rate slows down and it seems no further benefits can be gained. Has anyone experience this?
You could spend 6 solid months in the gym and continue to see improvements. Then on the 7th month it seems that what ever you do has no overall effect. This is called the plateau phase.
The plateau phase can also exist in your training sessions when you’re out on the pasture kicking the round ball.
So how do we avoid this? Chances are you’re already in this phase. Don’t stress, you can also overcome it.
The key to getting stronger and fitter is to stay in the adaption phase for as long as you can while avoiding exhaustion.
Stop scratching your head; it’s easier than it sounds.
When you feel like you’re in the plateau phase take a week’s rest from the gym. Give your muscles a rest or reduce the weight load significantly. This rest will allow your muscles to freshen up in preparation for the start of the cycle again.(Blue line in the graph)
Most literature papers recommend a time frame of 4-6 weeks of heavy lifting followed by a week of lighter or no lifting.
To most of you this isn’t anything new.
The secret to manipulating this plateau phase depends on the routine you choose on returning to the gym from your spell. Start a new routine that’s similar to the initial routine prior to the spell.
You don’t want to over train.
Keep the movements the same but add little variations and get stuck into the heavier loads again.
Remember this, if you’re workout does not challenge you this could easily lead to overtraining where the muscles are starved of any new stimulus.
This will inevitable lead to burn out.
To dodge this, the two most important things for you to add to your routine are variety and rest.
“May the winds of destiny blow you to the stars.”
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