Friday, October 10, 2008

How many repetitions should i do of this mobility drill?

Since starting to do Z training with folks, i get asked "how many times should i do this drill?" or "how frequently do i need to do that drill."

The cool thing about these Z drills - dynamic joint mobility - is that they are not just moving a joint through its range of motion to keep it healthy, these drills are hitting the thousands and thousands of mechanoreceptors around the joints, and adapting to those messages, as in the all pervasive principle of specificity (SAID). That's one.

Another one is what Courtney Neupert has been telling me about the application of Wolff's Law, or that bone and tissue get reshaped based on the load/stresses placed upon them, all part of the "continuous cycle of osteoclastic/osteoblastic activity - old bone gets eaten up while new bone tissue is formed. " And how that new bone is formed responds to these new patterns. Likewise, Courtney reminds me, tissue. That adaptation can result in hypertrophy (a good thing) or tight shoulders (not so good), all adaptations to load.

So that's SAID and Wolff, but there's also another, which doesn't seem to have a punchy name or acronym. It's called "motor learning" and back in 67 Fitts and Posner proposed three stages for motor learning: cognitive, associative and autonomous. Within 1000 reps one is still learning a skill, having to bring conscious (cognitive) attention to it. Within 1000 - 10,000 and beyond, one is making fewer mistakes, is aware of them, knows how to correct them. By 100 thousand to 300 hundred thousand, one can perform a move without thinking about it - autonomously.

So let's go back to that question of how frequently one should be practicing a joint mobility move.

We know that with SAID, we adapt readily to imposed demand, and that with Wolff's Law, repeating those loading patterns re-builds us according to these new patterns. With these effects, we'll want to get into practicing these SAID/Wolff patterns perfectly. And we know with motor learning, it takes about 1000 reps just to learn that pattern, and tens of thousands to perform it well.

Therefore, repetitions to remodel (and counteact other imperfect repetitions going on in our long standing autonomous actions like walking) need to be high, and repetitions just to learn the move also need to be high.

If you're a westerner, for instance, who's learned to use chopsticks as an adult, think of how many openings and closings of the sticks it may have taken just to have gotten the hang of it, and ask yourself if you're at the associative stage yet or truly autonomous where using these is a comfy and thought-less as using a fork.

So, in answer to the question of how frequently one should perform a drill, an answer may be "as frequently as you want," with the understanding that given the numbers of repetitions necessary to learn, repattern and remodel, the more perfect reps, the more often, the faster the desired change will be effected.

The key marker here is perfect rep: do a set for as many reps as can be done perfectly (maybe 3-5) then pause, redo. Better to do many times a day than all at once and fall into poor form, since it's that form that is creating what is learned and the pattern of the adaptation. Getting to the perfect rep faster to optimize that learning is another reason to see a trainer to tune your approach. You can find an international list of Z trainers on the Z site.

1 comment:

Franklin said...

Great post, MC! For the last three months I think I've missed my Z daily sessions maybe twice. Although I only do at most 5 reps a day of any drill, I can already see improvement both ROM and smoothness.


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