Lower Body Strength Maintained Longer Than Upper Body Strength

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Have you ever gone back to a sport after an absence? Depending on your age, the highest level you've achieved in the sport and the amount of time away, would determine the extent to which the skill comes back to you.

For example, a retired NHL hockey player would probably always be able to lace up the skates and feel comfortable heading out on the ice. Somebody else that didn't play to the same level might feel a little rustier getting back into it.

This could be true of a lot of sports. I know with swimming I would struggle if I jumped back in the pool after almost 30 years.

But what about strength training?

We know we don't keep all of the gains achieved from our training. But how quickly is strength lost? And is it lost at equal pace depending on whether it's upper body or lower body strength? 

A recent (2022) study set out to answer these questions.

The study involved 19 strength trained athletes that averaged 24 years. The participants performed 3 workouts per week of 3-4 exercises of 4-5 sets for for 3-5 reps, using loads of 75-100% of 1 rep maximum. At least two to three of the movements where competition lifts i.e. squat, bench and deadlift. This program lasted for 4 weeks after which there was a 3 or 5 day break before the athletes were assessed and tested.

Assessments included body composition, psychometric measures, upper body and lower body strength. 

What they found is that upper body strength was preserved for 3 but not 5 days after the completion of the 4 week program. Lower body strength was preserved for both 3 and 5 days after training.

A few questions that come to mind with this study:

* The average of 24 years may differ for many, and so therefore may the results.

* Would a similar result be expected if the training protocol was different than 5 reps with 75-100% ?

* The participants in the study average 90 kg, or close to 200 lbs. Would similar results be expected for a 150 lbs or 175 lbs individual?

* Lower body strength was maintained for 5 days. How long would it take to see a loss in lower body strength?

* Upper body strength was down at 3 days. Was it also down at 2 days post-experiment? One day?

If you are an athlete, this could be helpful in terms of planning a taper for competition or how to unload from one phase of training to the next.

Travis, S. K., Mujika, I., Zwetsloot, K. A., Gentles, J. A., Stone, M. H., & Bazyler, C. D. (2021). The Effects of 3 vs. 5 Days of Training Cessation on Maximal Strength. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.

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Wednesday, 05 October 2022

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