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Progressive Mechanical Loading for Injury Rehabilitation/Prevention
by Chris Mason
Progressive Mechanical Loading (PML) is a term I have coined to describe what I have found to be the most effective injury rehabilitation/prevention method in my nearly 30 years in the iron game. PML is deceptively simple, but as Occam’s razor suggests, the most effective solutions need not always be overly complicated or exotic in nature.
Aristotle writes in his Posterior Analytics, “We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [all things being equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses.”
PML involves the use of progressive resistance to condition tissue (skeletal muscular, connective, even osseous) to either prevent injury when the extreme forces of heavy loading or explosive training are employed, or when injury occurs, to facilitate a speedier and more complete recovery.
I first became aware of the the general concept from Louie Simmons (www.westside-barbell.com). I had torn my right pec major relatively significantly and had called Louie to receive counsel. In short, Louie told me to get back to benching almost immediately. Start extremely light (use 20+ rep sets), use high frequency, and very gradually increase the loading over time. I did exactly that, well almost exactly… I probably started heavier than I should have using 95 lbs. I think I did 9 reps the first time. All I did was the one set and stopped at 9 reps because it literally felt like the pec was going to completely tear from the bone with each rep (which Louie had warned me would happen). I moved the weight slowly with what can best be characterized as perfect form. I did this daily trying to get more reps each time. When I got to 20 reps I increased the load by 10 lbs and started over doing as many reps as possible. After about four weeks of daily benching (one set each day) I went to benching every other day continuously trying to progress in reps and resistance. When I got to the mid 200s for 20 reps I began to increase the loading and decrease the reps first doing sets of 12 and over the course of a few more weeks moving down to sets of 5-8 reps and so on.
The method worked, and worked very well. I believe it resulted both in faster and superior healing of the injury. I am now benching more than ever and have not experienced lingering problems from the injury. There is science to back the concept. My buddy Shaun did some post-graduate research at the University of Virginia (10 minutes from my home). The focus of his research was the regeneration of connective tissue. Convenient, eh? To make a long story short we were out having a drink one night at a local university haunt called Boylan Heights. Well, maybe more than one drink…. Anyway, while discussing the topic he told me about research which showed that when the skeletal muscle associated with damaged (in this case I believe it was a partially severed tendon) connective tissue is mechanically stressed it causes a chemical cavalcade which results in increased signaling for the repair of the damaged tissue. This information simply reinforced what I had discovered empirically. Rest for an injury is not ideal, rather mechanical loading of the tissue such that the injury is not exacerbated, but the tissue is still sufficiently stimulated to more aggressively repair itself, is what leads to optimized recovery.
I mentioned in the beginning of this article that PML can be used for both injury repair and prevention. For injury prevention a modified version of the technique is employed. In the spirit of full disclosure, what I am referring to here is just an extension of the concept of GPP (General Physical Preparedness) and the first couple of micro cycles in classic periodization. The difference is it is a highly specific adaptation of these concepts. Its primary use is for the seasoned lifter/athlete who has developed an excellent strength base and plans to try something new, or something they have not done in a long time. You see, the body’s adaptation to exercise is extremely specific. For example, take a lifter who back squats, but never performs front squats with regularity. The primary movers for both movements are the same, but the relative emphasis on them varies due to the changes in the location of the load and thus the movement of the body and joints. The variation in movement is also dramatically different for the nervous system.
The variation in the movement pattern and thus variation in stress on the musculature and connective tissue can lead to injury if the more advanced athlete too quickly attempts maximal loads. This is because the force production capacity of the involved musculature may exceed the mechanical stress absorbing capacity of the connective tissues for the specific movement pattern of the front squat, or any new, or not regularly used movement. PML can address this by building the connective tissue for the specific movement pattern prior to the use the of maximal loads.
The basic principle of progression for this use of PML is similar to that used for injury repair, but differs in initial loading. The initial loading will be significantly greater than that used for injury repair. It will still be relatively light, but in this case the selected resistance should be heavy enough that it is difficult to complete 20 repetitions. The frequency is also less, more akin to that of your normal training, and the progression of resistance can be faster, but should still cover four to five weeks prior to reaching loads of 90% or greater.
Savvy use of PML will lead to less injury, faster recovery if injury does occur, and the ability to more quickly progress in one’s strength or athletic training. Give it try, you will not regret the decision.
Rodney H. has been using AtLarge’s products for the past three years and his transformation has been amazing!
Rodney is a real AtLarge Nutrition customer who recently sent our owner, Chris Mason, these pictures as a way of saying thank you for both ALN supplements and for Chris’ nutrition advice (Rodney had used the contact us link on our site and had read Chris’ Fat Loss Made Simple – http://atlargenutrition.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/atlarge_nutrition_fat_loss_program.pdf).
Rodney did not make this transformation overnight, it took nearly three years. We know other companies sell you on overnight fixes, we don’t do business that way. We provide you the best products possible and the best training and nutrition information possible.
If you want to make meaningful and lasting progress in 2015 AtLarge Nutrition is where you want to do business. We can help you just like we helped Rodney (and make no mistake, Rodney was the driver of his change, we just provided some of the tools).
Rodney used ALN’s Nitrean+ and now Nitrean Natural, Pre-Workout, and RESULTS to achieve his goals.