Rest and Relax for Those High Threshold Motor Units! – Garage Strength

Rest and Relax for Those High Threshold Motor Units!

Garage Strength
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What's up everybody. Welcome to Dane Miller's Strength Secrets where you've got tons of questions about strength training and I try to answer everything and share as much valuable information behind the secrets and experiments and training and methodology and theory that we use at Garage Strength. One of the things that I wanted to share with you guys today was that we just had that podcast with Dr. John Garhammer where he came in and we did a whole bunch of discussion around Olympic weight lifting, training that's not based around Olympic weight lifting, low bar back squat, powerlifting studies. He has done Olympic weight lifting studies, he's done force application and where that force is coming from physiologically in the body, meaning it's more biomechanically where it's coming from versus where it might be, you know, where we might be losing it as an organism.

So we had a whole bunch of different discussions and one of those discussions was based around using the high hang snatch versus using something like a two-block snatch for different athletes, and the coolest things that I learned was that these lifts obviously are different lifts, but they're going to accomplish pretty much the same thing. It's a principle known as the discharge rate of motor units. So if you can think about your body signaling to you through your nervous system to your muscles to fire high threshold motor units essentially as fast as possible. What ends up happening is something like a two-block snatch might include a pretension in the bar. So an isometric pull before the bars actually lifted off of the blocks versus an eccentric movement where the bars lowered from the hip down, up to above the knee and then the snatch commences.

What we can learn from this and what we can study is that each of those movements is going to possess a different rate of discharge. The motor units will be recruited slightly differently because of the pretension from the isometric or the pretension from the eccentric. As strength coaches, it's up to us to determine what is the best way to train this discharge rate. And on top of that, what is best utilized for the specific sport that we're training. On top of that, recognize that both of these lifts are going to be excellent movements to train, but we have to understand the qualities and characteristics behind the range of motion, the position, the stress on the posterior chain that might be happening outside of the weight room, the stress on the posterior chain that might be happening inside of the weight room, and then monitor all these qualities and strength development as we try and develop freak athletes to accomplish their physical, mental, social goals, whatever it is that they're working towards. What I learned from this maximal rate of discharge for motor units is that this is where rest and focus during rest come into play. It's extremely important to recognize that we know from science that slower application of tension and movement can create high discharge rates over time, but it might take a little bit more time. So for instance, if we're doing a back squat and we do our first rep and then we do our second rep and then we do our third rep, our third rep or a fourth rep at 85 to 90% is going to have a higher rate of discharge then our first rep did because we're gradually creating more awareness from the nervous system to recruit more high threshold motor units and thus mechanically move the load that is on our back and if we can compare that to a very, very ballistic movement cause we know from science that ballistic movements that are extremely fast and extremely explosive are going to have significantly higher rates of discharge for our motor units.

What ends up happening when you read this research and science is that you're going to understand that when an individual is more relaxed and then they initiate a very very ballistic movement, they can recruit more high threshold motor units and discharge those motor units in a faster manner than if they weren't entirely relaxed. That's where I believe comprehending muscles, Slack and lack of tension before something where you're entirely relaxed and then it's a boom, you get really tight and light up something. This could be similar to what we're doing off of the blocks where we might be a little bit more relaxed and it creates tension and go rapidly and that will lead to more discharge of those high threshold motor units. One of the thought processes that I brought up to Dr. Garhammer was entirely based around analyzing a sport like wrestling where you have somebody like Jordan Burroughs and you can just see him prowling on the mat, slowly, slowly, slowly.

Then all of a sudden he ignites and takes this really, really fast shot double leg and you take somebody down to win the world title or something like that. It's similar to the sport of track and field where you get into the blocks and you want to be as relaxed as possible, super, super relaxed. Then as you get set, you create that dynamic isometric movement, you start to discharge and then the gun goes off and your out and your body is prepared to discharge as many motor units as possible to get you in to win that world title. I think that that's something that we've got to think about in the sport of Olympic weight lifting and the sport of throwing is that in the sport of wrestling and every single sport, even football, when you get to the line is that it's extremely important to master the principle behind rest and to master the focus behind rest.

I think it's the most under-trained portion of strength and conditioning is that no one is resting properly. They're talking, they're distracted, they're not thinking about the next set. They're looking at their cell phone. If our goal is to recruit as many high threshold motor units and to discharge them as quickly as possible and then a very, very rapid ballistic movement, then we must master our rest. We must think of somebody like Jordan Burroughs who might be gassed on the mat, but he understands muscle slack. He understands how to be very, very relaxed while in the moment. Then because he has that relaxation, he's able to recruit and discharge those motor units as rapidly as he possibly can. Again, going back to the sport of Olympic weight lifting, throwing, and gymnastics, it's important to value the time of rest because you're going to be recovering better and you're going to be more focused on the technical aspect behind your training.

Also, it's going to help you discharge motor units faster. So what I want to recommend to everybody is that while you're resting, you need to comprehend and understand this principle or at least recognize that this principle exists because it's extremely important to focus on how to discharge motor units as fast as you possibly can. When you're doing these technical movements and you've got to have full relaxation and you've got to have a full recovery and maybe you meditate between sets. Maybe you're focused on the technical goal, the next step, but you let your body relax before you go to create tension and step on the platform or step in the circle or step on the mat or whatever it is that you might be doing. I understand the principles behind the maximal discharge rate behind the recruitment of high threshold motor units. Understand the effectiveness that it has in your specific sport.

Recognize that a sport like throwing might differ a little bit from a sport like Olympic weightlifting and vice versa. So as you go through your training session, embrace your rest period, recover as well as you possibly can. Recognize that relaxation and rest is part of becoming a world-class athlete.

Stay tuned to us releasing the secret strength experiments where we include principles and methods behind all things of this nature that we constantly are looking to improve in our own training system as we develop our athlete tech rod strength on the world-class Olympic level. Head over to to check out more information on our blog and subscribe to our email newsletter so you get tons of fun little tidbits that are going to help you conquer all of your dreams and goals.

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