Training your weak spot
As we covered in our last blog post (Here) you are only as strong as your weakest link. This is true when it comes to the one rep max as well. Your true one rep max is reflective of your strength at your weakest point.
You know the feeling, when you almost hit that personal best on a lift but come up a little short. The most common phrase that comes to mind is “Sticking point” or your “weak point”.
Most common training methods for the sticking point in strength training include the use of accommodating resistance with bands or chains and board/pin presses.
To better understand one of the reasons for hitting this sticking point and failing, let’s dive into one of the body’s protective mechanisms.
You know the case, “the lift felt good the whole up until that one moment and then things kind of just shut down.”
You can thank your Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOS) for that. GTOs send messages to your central nervous system (CNS) about muscular changes (known as proprioceptors). They are located within tendons where the muscle and tendon combine. Here they run in series with the muscle fiber. Their job is to sense how much muscle tension is being applied. It's a protective mechanism to keep you from applying to much load or tension. It stops you from applying too much tension by inhibiting tension development in the stretched muscle and creating tension development in the antagonist muscle group that opposes the motion.
“If there is a hardware [motor learning] or software [physical dysfunction] flaw at a certain point the potential to exert maximum force is severely limited - the brakes come on quickly!
Key is identifying the limiting factor and either working on muscular weaknesses or technical flaws at key parts of the action.” - Steffan Jones
Luckily, you can desensitize the GTOs through high CNS loading and moment specificity.
Oscillatory training is a method that can be used to achieve this.
Oscillatory training can be thought of a rapid push & pull movement within a short range of motion. These are most effectively done at an athlete's weak point.
As Steffan Jones quote mentioned about motor learning and physical dysfunction being a rate limiter in force production, oscillatory training works on both of these principles.
By doing a movement in an oscillatory fashion you enhance motor learning of the skill through increasing tissue tolerance. The more the movement is done, the better the pattern is learned. Oscillatory training maximizes the signals being sent in this specific range of motion, leading to more motor units being recruited.
“OC methods can be completed in training to create high forces, intensities, and volume in the weaker positions of every exercise to improve strength. By placing athletes around their sticking point of any exercise and then forcing the creation of movement against high loads of force requires strength in these specific “weak” points, while also reducing the energy expended in the already strong points. For example, if the bench press is trained at 80% of correct one rep max an athlete will be able to complete, on average, 3 sets of 4-5 reps. However, when training with the OC method, an athlete is able to complete 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions in the weaker position. This allows less energy to be wasted in the upper ranges of movement, where the athlete is already strong and only experiences the load as only 60% of a one rep max and then forces emphasis upon the weaker position, where they must endure the true 80% strength improving load.” - Matt Van Dyke
By strengthening your weak points your body adapts to handle higher loads. This in turn allows you to elevate the GTOs threshold. By having your GTOs activation levels increased, you'll be able to exert more force.
Benefits of doing oscillatory training:
- Desensitize GTOs
- Do more repetitions in your weak point
- Enhance motor learning
- Increase tissue tolerance
- Recruit more motor units
- Generate high forces
- For tissue tolerance do 30 seconds of oscillatory training at a moderate load.
- For strength do oscillatory training at loads above 80% a few times per week.
- 3-4 sets of about 5 seconds of oscillatory action for strength.
- 3-4 sets of 30 seconds of oscillatory action for tissue tolerance.
How to perform:
- Work in your weak spot range of motion.
- Follow a push/pull motion forcefully creating tension and then releasing tension in a repeated motion.
- “In general, the majority of GTO’s are pre-set to inhibit a muscle up to 40% below what that structure can actually handle.” - Matt Van Dyke
- Oscillatory exercise may help with strength expression overtime as it increases neuromuscular efficiency through motor recruitment and firing rate.
- For strength expression overtime - “neuromuscular efficiency is one important factor through increased motor unit recruitment & increased rate coding (i.e., firing rate)” - Joseph Warpeha
Tyler Hakamaki, BS Exercise Physiology, Reflexive Performance Reset level 2, USAPL-CC
Further reference material:
Feher, J. (2012). Golgi Tendon Organ. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/golgi-tendon-organ
Jones, S. (2018, July 31). Oscillatory Training. Retrieved from https://thibarmy.com/oscillatory-training/
Smith, J. (2016, March 03). Perform the Oscillating Split Squat to Sprint Faster. Retrieved from https://www.stack.com/a/perform-the-oscillating-split-squat-to-sprint-faster
Van Dyke, M. (n.d.). The Reasoning and Implementation of Oscillatory and Partial Training. Retrieved from http://vandykestrength.com/pages/oc_training_methods
Warpeha, J. (2018). Resistance Training Adaptations. Lecture presented at Strength and conditioning in Mn, Duluth.