Last week we talked about intensity in great detail.  This week will be no different! 

At different intensity levels we tend to get different training adaptations.  This is most often discussed in greatest detail with aerobic styles of training.  However, it is a very important concept for the barbell sports.  

These zones are not hard and fixed, but they can act as guides to different types of training. 

Researchers have found that intermuscular coordination is greatly improved with light weights.  Intermuscular coordination means you are firing the right muscle at the right time to correctly perform the movement.  Weights from 60% - 69% are usually the best, but coordination is actually improved, to some degree, with weights all the way up to about 80%. 

This can contribute to not only learning the movements that you will need to win in a competition, but also some strength gains.  As your body learns to coordinate the various muscle groups involved in a movement (like the Snatch or Back Squat), the nervous system will become more efficient. You will need to recruit fewer motor units to lift the same weight.  This leaves more motor units available for heavier weights! 

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that intermuscular coordination is movement specific.  Learning to ride a bike is great for learning how to ride a bike, but does not help you that much for bench pressing.  

Intramuscular coordination, on the other hand, is greatly improved with lifting heavier weights.  Intramuscular coordination means you learn to coordinate more muscle fibers at once, and you learn to increase the rate at which they fire (thereby increasing the strength of the muscle contraction).  Weights from 80% and above are best for intramuscualr coordination.  BUT we can get some of the benefits of intramuscular coordination as low as 70%.  Training at the higher intensity range will help you learn to use more of the muscle you have!  

 AND the coolest part about this is that training heavy leads to coordination that is NOT tied to a particular movement!  If you improve your intramuscular coordination via heavy squats, your ability to recruit muscles in your legs is improved for any movement pattern that you know how to do! 

Now notice that there is a partial overlap of intermuscular coordination and intramuscualr coordination at the 70% - 79% range.  This is the range we call the Power Training Zone.  Here is where we are able to gain the benefits of both types of muscle coordination, and is where we can perform the most explosively with partial gains in both.

This is one of the reasons for the greatest differences in intensity levels of powerlifting and weightlifting.  Since weightlifting requires a great deal of intermuscular coordination for our competition lifts, our average intensity for the snatch and clean and jerk is about 70% - 79%. For powerlifting the average intensity for their competition lifts are most often in the 80% - 89% range.  These average intensity will, however, change based on the schedule of competitions.

For weightlifting we do the competition lifts lighter, but we will do heavy clean grip deadlifts, pulls, preses, and heavy squats (80%+) to help with getting the benefit of intramuscular coordination that we can in turn use on our competitions lifts! 

Next week (Tuesday at 10am) we will begin our discussion on the relationship of volume and intensity and how that interplay helps us get the gainz we want! 

Kurt Roderick