Last week I mentioned that the Deadlift “shocks” our central nervous system. To understand what this means, it would be important to understand what the Central Nervous System is, and what it does.
The Central Nervous System (CNS), includes our brain and spinal cord. The brain receives signals from neurotransmitters, via the spinal cord. These neurons receive their signals from other structures, such as our skin, joints and muscles. When we use our muscles, these neurotransmitters are constantly sending signals through the CNS. When we are lifting a load in the deadlift, we are recruiting our larger muscles: hamstrings, glutes and our lower back.
I am a visual learner, so I am going to try to paint a picture for you:
You approach the bar after a few minutes of going through the points of performance and envisioning yourself hitting a new PR with perfect form. Your hamstrings are loaded, you grab the barbell, using an alternate grip, and you go to lift that load off the floor. At this moment, all the tiny muscle fibers in your body are working hard to lift this bar, but its not enough. So they recruit more force, causing the neurotransmitters (which are specifically called motor units when referring to those found in muscle fibers) to scream “We need more man (or woman) power”. This awakens more muscle fibers, the ones that you don’t use everyday. Lets pause for a moment. Why do our muscle fibers need to recruit more man power? Here is the thing, your body only uses the amount of energy it needs in order to survive.
If we were using ALL our energy ALL the time, we wouldn’t make it. When we lift heavy loads we are demanding more muscle fibers, the ones that might not need to be ON during a lighter lift. Generally speaking, this relationship is how we build strength. As our bodies recruit more muscle fibers, these muscles get bigger, and the muscle fibers being used can handle more stress because they are being turned on more frequently. Eventually that PR will be old news and we will have our eyes set on a new number. I will be referring back to this next week.
With this in mind, why aren’t we lifting heavy all the time?
Our bodies can only handle so much before they become fatigued. We see this in our everyday lives: we wake-up and after a 16 hour day, we are ready for bed. Our larger muscles, like our hamstrings, have more muscle fibers, which means, when they are being used, they require more energy. It is obvious as to why this lift is so taxing on our CNS.
If you “Google” CNS and deadlifting, you will find many articles on CNS fatigue. In short, CNS fatigue is when your muscles have exerted a lot of energy, and your body has not had time to properly recover, resulting in exhaustion, muscle soreness, and drops in athletic performance. When we add a stress to the body we can expect to hit a wall at some point. Stress can come in multiple forms, in this case the stressor is the barbell; we are demanding our body to exert force on an object. If we do not allow ourselves to properly recover, our muscles and bodies will eventually burnout. This is why it is SO important to rest and recover well.
Although it is taxing on our CNS, when we use these large muscles that demand so much energy, our strength and fitness increases. This is why the deadlift is such a great lift!
With 5 weeks left in our deadlift cycle, you should start feeling stronger. The lifts done at 90% of your 1RM should start feeling more like your 85%. The goal is that everyones PR’s will increase, while maintaining proper form. We want you to be tracking your progress! Make sure you are logging your lifts and PR’s. Next week we will have an overview of the progress individuals have made throughout this cycle thus far. So if you haven’t already, post your lifts!
Remember, rest and recovery needs to be a part of your programming. Don’t burnout, we are going for longevity.