T Nation

Strength Retention


A lot of people in the middle or just coming out of an LP program often complain about the quick loss of strength following a break. This got me thinking as far as how to avoid this, and I figure several factors affect this:

1) CNS "forgetting." If a lot of initial strength is the CNS adapting and recruiting other muscles, it can "forget" about them as well.

2) Weak joints. Joints take a few more weeks longer to get strong compared to the muscles

3) Lack of muscles. Few novice LP programs focus on hypertrophy, so novices don't have the muscles to retain strength.

This got me thinking as far as ways to retain strength, and I figure:

1) Get stronger. If you're stronger you may still lose strength, but you'll still be stronger. granted, a 10% loss off of 300 lbs may hurt more than 200 lbs.

2) Slower progression. This is more relevant to people done w/ LP and move to a slower program that will give the joints time to catch up w/ the muscles.

3) Consistency and Intensity. Duh

4) More hypertrophy. I'm not too sure about this one, but would it make sense to focus on some hypertrophy coming off an LP program to gain some mass in addition to giving the joints some time to strengthen up compared to continued focus on strength?


What's an LP program?


I think he means linear periodisation.


sorry.. in this context... linear progression.. ie any novice program such as SS or stronglifts where you PR every workout.


I didn't really notice a loss of strength after coming off of Stronglifts. I took a deload week and started 5/3/1 and continued making progress. I would say that if your strength suffers then you didn't transition off the program correctly. If you think that you can just finish the program and then that strength will remain forever you'll be disappointed, sort of like yoyo dieting.


I think you hit the nail on the head with your first point. Until the last couple of years, I never realised what a massive contribution the CNS made to strength. As with all athletic endeavours, the more you repeat a particular movement, the stronger the neural pathway gets that produces the movement and, subsequently, the more efficient the motor units involved are in producing that movement.

Thus, if you've only been squatting for 6 months on an LP, the motor pathways are not as stong as if you'd been doing it for 6 years (squatting that is). However, it's been my experience that you can maintain (not increase, but maintain) current levels of strength on only 1-2 fullbody type workouts per week. Just my 2 cents...


I don't want to say "hypertrophy", but volume based programs have a much less volatile strength contribution. In other words, the higher the accumulated volume, the more "hardwired" it is that you can do that weight after a lay-off. Same thing for higher frequency, which is essentially more practice and more hardwired technique. The two factors cross over as well.

I am not talking about "high rep sets" here, but accumulated reps at a weight: think russian squat cycle, or even just doing 6x5 rather than 3x5. You still have to respect the loading parameters and rep guidelines for strength training vs hypertrophy oriented training.