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nervous system and muscle groups

This question may sound confusing I’ll try my best to ask it. When you train with low reps and heavy weight for a particular muscle group like the chest and you fatigued the nervous system and you need to rest somewhere between 5 to 7 days to allow the nervous system to recover. Is it just the nerves in that particular muscle group that are fatigued, or is it the whole nervous system that is fatigued? The reason I ask is I don’t see how you can train legs two days later with low reps and heavy weight if your whole nervous system is still fatigued from a couple days before. any thoughts about this?

Very very good question, never really thought about it, but now that you have brought it up you have me curious id like to know this also…


If the latter were true then low rep lifters wouldn’t be in the gym very often.

Honestly, if your diet and supplementation is good then you can recover quite fast in regard to your CNS. However, the specific movement should still be rested for at least 3 days. You can only make progress for so long on a movement before you regress. For example, you might benefit from doing squats Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but after a few weeks you’ll regress most likely.

They both kind’ve affect each other. The reason you might need to wait 5-7 days to repeat your performance on a bench press for example is because you’re also fatiguing your general nervous system throughout the week doing other bodyparts and exercises which takes away from the speed in which total neural recovery of your bench press muscles occurs. If you were only to perform one movement or one type of movement during the week recovery would be much faster, more like 48 hours.

This is a subject that track sprinters have to deal with on a constant basis, due to our high intensity runs and weights. I remember that Charlie Francis mentionned in “Speed Trap” about CNS management being critical for sprinters.

I may not be exactly 100% on this, but i think that full CNS recovery takes ~48 hours and can be sped up by massage etc. CNS recovery i am pretty sure is global, i.e. the whole body. As far as how much CNS fatigue is gained due to certain types of work, i do not know. Hope this helps somewhat.

I think that another factor to consider is relative intensity.

Pavel talks a lot about the fact that the nervous system gets ‘frayed’ when it is overstressed. So it is also a big question of finding optimum intensities for lifts.

I’m experimenting with a twice a week split right now that is exclusively in the 1-5 rep range with a lot of demanding compound efforts. I’m piss-poor right now so surge/powerdrive/grow are all out of the question for about a month or two. Near as I can tell progress is not regressing and I seem to be improving in all lifts.

This leads me to another question or two. For those that champion the cause of long breaks between repeated efforts, how did you ultimately come up with the training cycle? once every 5, 7, Mentzers sometimes 10…For those that use a specific volume of work, how did you come up with the volume? The reason I ask is I see more credibility devoted to cycling and volume with little written about a persons self experimentation. Most times it is cycled around three’s, or a calendar. Without independant wealth and a life without committments, it is unfortunately dictated to us rather than from us. I think it’s foolish to jump on any plan because X said so. The most recent training style that I have seen devoted to the trainee’s response dictating the progression is Staley’s EDT. Perhaps I need to ask this in another thread…

This is an area where many bodybuilders mess up. Low rep/high intensity training has always been the domain of powerlifters and olympic weightlifters. Bodybuilders usually train with higher reps and usually to failure(even if they know it’s not always the best thing to do, they still do it because they love the pump). Anyways, when a lower intensity weight is used, the effects on the CNS aren’t as detrimental when training to failure as it is when high intensity weights are used. The reason olympic lifters and the like are able to train the same muscle groups up to 10-20 times per week(multiple daily workouts) is because though they are training heavy, they are going NOWHERE near failure, therefore putting very little strain on their CNS.

djm- Where did you get the 5-7 days figure from? There are a host of factors that can affect nervous fatigue, several of which have already been mentioned- type of lifting, exercises used, training to failure or not, individual recovery abilities, amount of rest obtaiened between sessions, extraneous activities (associated sport training?).

I think you should realise that, unfortunately, things just can’t be divided up so neatly as you are suggesting into “local” and CNS fatigue. We need to take a “holistic” approach-

Remember that relative strength in any particular lift is a combination of:

MUSCLE factors -efficiency of contraction (itself involving efficiency of nerve end-plate firing), muscle size, (no. and type of fibres)

NERVOUS factors -I’m not a Neurologist, but…We need to be concerning ourselves with MOTOR PATHWAYS here. These are:

1)The pathways from the brain through the spinal cord to the local nerves within the muscles themselves.

2)The RETURN pathways back to the brain, which are equally important in terms of sensory feedback, and the body’s nervous system ADAPTING to the exercise plane of movement and training stress.

3)We could also probably include MENTAL adaptation (i.e. psyche) in this equation.

Ideally, when training the nervous system, we want to stimulate the nerves enough to show improvements in the skill part of the exercise (how the muscles are co-ordinated to final performance of the lifts), and to adapt to an increased training load. However, we DON’T want to fatigue these pathways to the extent that no adaptation occurs in either of these respects.

This is where, when using heavy weights, and using compound lifts(e.g. OL’s/PL’s) the NON training to failure theory shows it’s benefits. -You can train more often, as you DON’T WANT to break the nervous system down to build, you want to make it LEARN. This is in contrast to the BB theory of training muscle fibres to failure to stimulate hypertrophy. This type of training can RETARD the nervous learning process and adaptation in the long run.

Loopfit brings up a couple of good points-

He is sort-of correct when he says we don’t want to STRAIN the CNS. However it DOES need to be STRESSED to show adaptation. There is a subtle difference.

He is right that I think the mistake a lot of BB’ers make is that they try to switch to the low rep/high training % methods whilst STILL training to failure. THIS is when we will see most damage done as far as capacity for nervous system recovery is concerned.

Hope this gives some help/stimulus for more discussion. SRS

im sorry for saying 5 to 7 days, i was just giving an example if it did take that long, is your nervous system ready for more heavy training in just a couple days with a different muscle group, but thanks for your reply and everyone else’s and if anyone has more don’t stop typing, thanks again