Curing Your Nervous System Hangover
Carl Johnson sat down on the bench next to him with a huff of annoyance. This was the fourth time this week that he’d been out of gas after a workout. After not even starting a workout really. He had managed to get through his warm-up fine, dynamic stretching went well, but the first main exercise felt like a million pounds. Even the warm-up weights were slightly harder than they should have been but no big issue, he thought to himself. He managed to train about thirty minutes and his body simply quit. He was breathing hard and was struggling even to lift up light poundages on simple exercises.
The powerlifting program he was following currently, had him lifting heavier weights than he ever had lifted before, but now he was hitting a wall and he wasn’t sure why. Just last week he had hit a great PR on his squat of ten pounds and over the last month his bench had increased over thirty pounds, but now everything felt super heavy and uncomfortable (or as comfortable as weight lifting always feels).
“Hey Carl, everything alright man,” Big Hos said from the other side of the gym. Hos had just finished a set of bench press with something over 500lbs and was huffing with the last little bit of exertion as his breathe slowly returned.
“Yeah, just a bit disgusted right now,” Carl said. “These weights today feel super fricking heavy!” “I’m not sure what’s going wrong. Up to this point on that program that you gave me I’ve felt awesome. Weights were cruising on up every week. Now they’re just stuck!”
“Hmm, how long have you been going at the program I gave you?” Big Hos replied.
“Oh about seven weeks now, approaching the last little bit,” Carl said. “It’s been working like a charm though, I’ve managed several personal records in the last few weeks.” “This week though everything feels heavy! I can barely manage to get through my opening lifts.”
“Oh yeah,” Big Hos replied. “And you said it’s felt like this all this week?”
“Yeah, just like a drop in the bucket.” “I’m weak as a kitten right now,” Carl said.
“How have you been sleeping? Good nutrition, plenty of protein, healthy carbs and fats?” Carl said.
“Nah, I’ve been pretty good, about seven or eight hours, with all this snow and misery how can one not want to sleep through that,” Carl remarked.
Big Hos, chuckled slightly. “Yes, it has been a long winter, that’s for sure!”
“Nutrition wise, I think I’m okay,” Carl said. “Plenty of good quality meat proteins, some whey after I train with some carbs to help with recovery and then fish oils and whatever I get in eggs and all my fatty meats for fats.”
“Hmmm, sounds like you could be overreaching a bit,” Hos said. “It’s a bit different for everyone, but sometimes you’re body just says enough is enough and starts shutting down on you.”
“Well, I feel like I overtrained all the time when I was bodybuilding, but this feels different somehow,” Carl said. “I don’t feel overly run down, just a bit tired and weak when I’m lifting. It’s like I just don’t have any gas in the tank when I’m trying to lift those heavier weights.” “The lighter assistance exercise feels fine.”
“Ah, I know what you’re problem is then,” Big Hos said with a clap, “your nervous system is fried!”
“Fried!” Carl said. “How does the nervous system get fried?”
“Well, when you’re always pounding out the heavier weights,” Hos started, “your nervous system takes a heavy beating.” “Look at it like this, you know that huge amp you have on your stereo system in your car right?”
“Yeah, what about it?” Carl asked.
“Well it’s kinda like your nervous system and that loud obnoxious heavy metal music you’re always blasting at 100 decibels,” Big Hos replied. “The more you crank up the amp, the higher the decibels you’re playing your music at, which is also a higher frequency.” Heavier weights are the same to the body. The heavier they are, the higher the frequency your nervous system has to fire to produce a stronger contraction to move those weights.”
“Oh okay, so why wouldn’t the lighter weights have that same effect,” Carl said.
“Well, the lighter weights doesn’t mean your nervous system isn’t working, it’s just working at a lower frequency, like turning down the amp on the stereo,” Big Hos, “the music is still playing it’s just not sucking up as much juice and putting out so much ear crushing tones.” “It’s taxing the nervous system at a lower level, and as far as I can tell you only have one nervous system.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Carl said. “So what can I do?”
“Well, take a deload week,” Big Hos replied. “Take either a week off or a week of lighter training loads, that generally does the trick.” “Basically, you just need a week off of heavy loads to let the nervous system recooperate.”
“And that’ll take a week,” Carl asked.
“Yeah, about a week,” Big Hos said. “If you’re really severely depleted it can take up to a month like after a competition or something big like that, but for most people a week is about right.” “As long as you’re not taxing yourself too much with the high amperage lifts.” “I would just come in, do some dynamic stretching and loosen up, do some bodybuilding type lifts, you know higher reps about three to four sets, and give your body a break.”
“Alright,” Carl said.
“Then come in ready to pound out the heavy sets next week, starting at about ten percent lighter than before,” Big Hos said. “That should be enough to bring you back into the mix.”
“Hmmm, okay, we’ll give it a go,” Carl said. “It’s going to be tough to take a—deload week, you call it?”
“Yeah, it’s necessary from time to time,” Big Hos said. “Trust me, you’ll be back in gear in no time.”
“You can count on that Hos, I’ve got some new PRs to hit this year!” Carl said.
CPT SMASH –Regardless of how much sleep, supplements and nutritional aids you’re taking to enhance your recovery from serious poundages (5RM and below) eventually you will need to de-load the body in order to allow it to recuperate. You only have one nervous system, unfortunately. But I hear they’re doing great things in China these days!
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