For those of us training at home with very limited equipment, loss of strength is a very real concern. And the reality is, without the ability to lift at least 80% of our 1RM, we will lose strength. However, there are things we can do to minimize loss.
MOTOR UNIT RECRUITMENT
But before we talk about what to do, let’s talk about Motor Unit Recruitment. Motor unit recruitment is a measure of how many motor neurons are activated in a particular muscle. In other words, it’s a measure of how many muscle fibers are being activated. The higher the recruitment (the number of muscle fibers being recruited), the stronger the muscle contraction.
Here’s a great example that most of us can relate to: a heavy deadlift (let’s say, 90% of your 1RM). Your nervous system will recruit all available motor units because it’s the only way to move the weight!
But you’re at home, and you don’t have a barbell a bumper set. So what now?
LIFTING TO FAILURE
When you’re lifting light weights, your body recruits the low-threshold motor units FIRST. If you limit the number of reps that you do, then the low-threshold motor units are the only ones you need.
BUT if you keep going and get into that really uncomfortable, lifting-to-failure zone, that changes. The final few reps will recruit all of the high-threshold motor units, because, like a really heavy deadlift, that’s the only way those last few reps are going to happen!
Lifting to failure doesn’t mean you stop when it gets really hard or when it slows down. Lifting to failure means you literally fail mid-rep.
Another great option is trying to generate as much speed/power as possible with light weights/bodyweight. Things like:
- Jump Squats
- Jumping Lunges
- Broad Jump
- Clapping Pushups
- KB swings
are extremely demanding and require a very high level of motor recruitment. Not the same as a heavy deadlift, but still very effective.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I TRY?
If you have been training consistently over the past couple of months, then you’re a great candidate for one or both of these types of training. If you’ve been inconsistent for the past couple of months, maybe hold off for a bit. Be kind to yourself and ease back into training.