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Scott Taylor

Do you ever lose connective tissue conditioning?

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Scott Taylor

So I am coming off a really long term injury, and my question is this.  Do you ever lose the strength in the connective tissue that you've built up?

 

I was very careful when I was training to try and go slow (although clearly not slow enough!!!) and focus on building up the connective tissue as opposed to the muscles as a goal.  For me this meant (not sure if it's right or wrong) very heavy loads, very controlled, and very slow.  Only a few reps of each exercise.  

 

So I'm slowly coming off my injury and starting to sheepishly do some very light work; I'm wondering once I get back, how much I will have really lost for the time off?  If the primary goal of the work is connective tissue (tendons, etc. that are strengthened by long term loading), I would assume that the lack of blood flow would also render these adaptations almost immune to 'atrophy' or any form of reversion.  This is in stark contrast to the neurological adaptions which fade very quickly, and then muscular adaptations which fade over a longer period.  My feeling is that the connective tissue adaptations take so long to gain, and would take so long to lose that they're basically there for life once you've made them.  

 

My thoughts on this are informed by the few periods that I've tried to get back on again, and usually within a few workouts I was about 70% or more of what I used to be able to do.  I was definitely back from the edge of what I could do and it wasn't polished or easy anymore, but there was still a lot there and I was really surprised.  Just wanted to get the thoughts of others on this.

 

I'm really looking for light at the end of the tunnel, and some silver lining!

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Douglas Wadle

Absolutely. all tissue is dynamic, some at slower speeds than others. so basically you can lose anything you can gain.  Generally the low rep high weight routine you're talking about is more for max strength, i.e. increasing the efficiency of your motor units.  For connective tissue integrity and strength, you want to do high rep stuff; we're talking generally 30-60 range, though connective tissues in different parts of the body respond differently.  so keep the weight light as you come back. if you jump into max strength stuff you'll be right back where you started.  this is posted out of the foundations forum, so i'm assuming you don't have it.  If you did, you would recognize why coach has ordered the exercises and the rep scheme how he did.  good luck to you in your ongoing training.  cheers!

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Scott Taylor

Definitely, I'm probably going to go all the way back and restart with the foundation courses.  In retrospect, I really didn't have a firm enough foundation for what I was trying to do.  I was never a gymnast and so I started out very, very weak.  I got very strong, but again, I think it took much longer than it needed to because some of the foundational strength that a gymnast at a year or two in would have developed simply wasn't there. 

 

Now for me this wasn't the cause of my particular injury, that was more of a 'misdiagnosis mixed with too much tenacity' problem where I didn't put the cause and effect together until I had really, really aggravated it.  

 

But I do wholeheartedly believe, looking back, that there were pieces of foundational strength that were missing and would have been better built on their own as opposed to working with straight body weight which was simply too intense a load for where I was.  I think that things which took me years to achieve could probably have been accomplished much more quickly had this pre-work been done.

 

It's a sad state of affairs, the complete lack of interest most gyms that offer men's apparatus have toward offering any help to an adult male that wants to learn.  It seems like if you're over 18 and not already doing it at a high level you're basically blacklisted from the sport for any coaching, which you desperately need at the beginning level.  

 

It's really unfortunate because it's a great sport that encourages/requires low body fat (a major health risk factor for people) and for me at least made me feel decades younger (yes, I'm old enough to count things like this in decades!).  So I'm very happy for the courses offered here, I wish I would have knwon about them a few years back.  The cost may look daunting at first, but compare it to any kind of personal training (this is what I was trying to arrange here with anyone at the gym that was willing to claim they even knew what chalk was) and it's a solid value.

 

Yeah, when I reach the point that I can do pushups and bar hangs with no pain, I'm following the program for fundamentals offered here to the 'T' and see where that gets me.  Lack of coaching really hurt before, so I'm going to try and listen to what someone who has helped others achieve these things says to do.

 

By the way, I have pretty lofty goals, I want to be able to do the three crosses (iron, inverted, and maltese) on the rings, and a solid one-arm handstand.  I feel anyone can achieve these with enough time.  They're also static holds, so to my mind they are vastly less risky and less injury prone than the more dynamic movements (like giants, a lot of the tumbling, etc. that expose the body to massive loads).  My timeline is at least 5 years from when I get back into it.  This estimate is far, far longer than what I thought I would need when I started!  This stuff is so much harder and more challenging than I ever imagined!

 

When I stopped I was about two years in (maybe a little more), and I could hold a pretty solid back lever, could pull from a german hang straight body through to an inverted hang, could do a straight arm pull to an inverted hang in a tuck (this took forever and I was very proud of this one) from a dead hang, but still didn't have a front lever, and my muscle up was stuck at the transition (my false grip was just starting to make gains in my last 4 months or so and I didn't have a lot of time working on the muscle up transition).  I had just started working on false grip hangs heavily (I needed chalk as funny and basic as that is, my rings are composite and very slippery without it) and had started working on improving my front support and getting the rings turned out.  That's what really caused the problem to bubble up, the rings turned out support work (which I did a lot of, I wanted to keep the fundamentals buttoned up and tight), and I ended up with costochondritis that was really, really aggravated.  

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Jon Douglas

Coach has posted on his experience re this as a competitive gymnast, especially making reference to a (gently encouraged) focus on ring handstands.

IIRC he stated the adaptations diminished over the course of about ten years. I doubt they could be lost entirely, especially if conditioned to the point of real structural change, but if it has to be trained to be gained, I inagine its metabolic cost to the body to maintain that unless stimulated will gradually dissipate, like anything else not required for survival.

You'll really need to pick the brains of ex competitors for this :)

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Scott Taylor

Yeah that's along the lines of what I was thinking, that it could revert over time, but even with a long term injury (6 months off or longer) you would retain more than you expect because the reversion is really, really slow for that type of gain.

 

To me this is a huge silver lining, meaning that given enough time to heal what you have really lost is the neurological training (which is quickly regained), and a little muscle, but the long term gains in the soft tissue should remain just because they would take so long to revert that they are effectively permanent.  

 

I would also point out that for me muscle loss happens really, really slowly as well, tone dissipates quickly and you look like garbage in the mirror, but the muscle is still there for the most part unless you're doing a really severe diet (which I've done a few rounds of);I've never lost muscle mass as quickly as I would have expected from non-use.  May be my body type only, others may not see the same thing, but this one was a real shocker for me.  

 

I guess all in all I'd say don't fear periods of total rest and recovery if you're hurt, just stopping and resting will get you back quicker than you think and you'll lose far less ground than you think while you're out.  Most of us aren't competitive and never will be, so there's no timeline.  Even if you are competitive, there may be a timeline, but you can't force it; so there's effectively no timeline. 

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Douglas Wadle

Also, a lot of strength is the neurologic aspect, and that will be maintained much longer (just like riding a bike  :P ).  That part has nothing to do with strength or connective tissue, but allows the muscle units to be recruited in an efficient way.  This can increase risk of injury when you try to go back to doing things you could do before, but are picking up from a much higher function than you should be.  always good to start back slowly for this reason.  you're body is able, but not ready.

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