Many of the people who perform strength training, mostly with the aim of gaining muscle mass, consider that having laces is one of the best indicators of the effectiveness of their training, and some rely on this source as a primary indicator.
Is this true? Are stiffeners a good indicator of training effectively?
A review study has reported the reality regarding this issue.
What are stiffness? (or what is believed)
Laces appear to be a product of inflammation caused by tears or microscopic ruptures in connective tissue elements
Current theory suggests that late-onset muscle pain , commonly referred to as shoe lag (in the scientific literature known as DOMS = delayed onset muscle soreness ), is related to muscle damage from strength exercise.
Although the exact mechanisms are not well understood, soreness appears to be a product of inflammation caused by tears or microscopic ruptures (micro-tears) in connective tissue elements that sensitize nociceptors and therefore increase the sensation of pain.
As information for those who do not know them, nociceptors are sensory receptors that respond to stimuli that injure the tissues or that could do so, and are located at the end of the axon of a sensory neuron.
This response, known as nociception, consists of the emission of pain signals to the central nervous system, that is, to the brain and spinal cord.
New stimulus, more stiffness
The shoelaces are more pronounced when the physical training provides a new stimulus to the musculoskeletal system .
As a general rule, pain is evident about six to eight hours after intense exercise and peaks in approximately 48 hours after exercise
While concentric (acceleration) and eccentric(braking) strength training can induce stiffness, studies show that elongation actions (eccentric training) have the most profound effect on their manifestation.
As a general rule, pain is evident about six to eight hours after intense exercise and peaks in approximately 48 hours after exercise.
That is, in general, two days is usually when the laces are stronger (more pain).
However, the exact course and extension of the time of the laces is highly variable and can last many days depending on factors such as exercise intensity, training status and genetics.
In turn, the body of the predominant scientific literature does not admit differences related to sex in the expression of the laces, that is to say, it is not that because they are male or female they have more or less stiffness.
Stiffness as indicator of muscular adaptations?
It has been shown that muscle damage is not mandatory for hypertrophic adaptations (increase in muscle mass). Therefore, any anabolic effect resulting from exercise that causes such muscle damage would be additive rather than constitutive.
In addition, it is important to keep in mind that excessive damage has a decidedly negative effect on the performance and recovery of the exercise.
By definition, severe muscle damage induced by exercise decreases the capacity for strength production by 50% or more. Such functional decreases will necessarily impair the ability of an individual to train at a high level , which in turn would be detrimental to muscle growth.
Therefore, although the muscle damage induced by exercise may be a mediator of hypertrophy , an optimal degree of damage to maximize muscle growth remains to be determined , assuming that one actually exists.
The link between shoe lag and muscle hypertrophy is very much in doubt
Endurance exercise can also cause extensive muscle pain (big stiffness). Studies show the presence of shoelaces after marathon races and long-term cycling.
These types of exercise are not generally associated with significant hypertrophic adaptations (such athletes do not have a large muscle mass), which indicates that pain alone is not necessarily indicative of growth.
In addition, laces show a large amount of interindividual variability . This variability persists even in experienced lifters , with some reports of experiencing stiffness constantly after a workout, while others experience little or no after exercise.
Anecdotally, in turn, many bodybuilders claim that certain muscles are more prone to pain than others. They report that some muscles almost never experience soreness , while other muscles almost always experience stiffness after training. Recent research supports these claims.
Since bodybuilders have marked hypertrophy of muscles that are and are not prone to soreness, the assumption that pain is required for muscle development is questioned.
In addition, genetic differences have been proposed in central and peripheral settings , as well as variations in the types of receptors and in the ability to modulate pain at multiple levels in the nervous system to explain these discrepant responses.
Therefore, there is no evidence that muscle development is attenuated (lower) in those people who do not cause pain (stiffness) after exercise.
Training muscle groups frequently can be a good option
The training state also has an effect on the extension of the laces.
Training a muscle group on a frequent basis can reduce the pain of soreness and offer impressive hypertrophic results
The pain tends to dissipate when a muscle group is subjected to later episodes of the same exercise stimulus. This is consistent with the “repeated episode effect,” where regulated training attenuates the extent of muscle damage. Even lighter loads protect the muscles from experiencing stiffness during the following episodes of exercise.
Therefore, training a muscle group on a frequent basis would reduce the pain and, however, could offer impressive hypertrophic results.
Several explanations have been provided to explain the effect of the “repeated episode” , which include a strengthening of the connective tissue, a greater efficiency in the recruitment of motor units, a greater synchronization of the motor unit, a more uniform distribution of the workload between fibers and / or a greater contribution of the synergistic muscles.
Practical applications for the strength trainer or personal trainer
There are several important points that the strength coach or personal trainershould consider regarding the validity of using the shoelaces as a measure of the quality of the training.
The problem comes when whenever I train I get stiff and above I think these are good and if they do not come out I have not trained well, and this is a complete mistake
In the first place, it has to be clear to us that having a bit of stiffness is normal when physical training provides a novel stimulus to our musculoskeletal system.
That is, when you start training or when you do new exercises , it is normal to have some soreness in the following days (at 24 and especially at 48 hours) until your body adapts to the new stimulus.
The problem comes when whenever I train I get stiff and above I think these are good and if they do not come out I have not trained well, and this is a complete mistake.
There is no evidence that muscle development is attenuated (be less, decrease) in those subjects who do not have streching after exercise.
The high levels of pain should be considered harmful , because it is a sign that the subject has exceeded the muscle’s ability to repair itself efficiently.
Stiffness can negatively affect subsequent training, decreasing our ability to train optimally and, therefore, could prevent the gains in strength and hypertrophy
In addition to reducing joint effort and muscle strength, soreness can adversely affect subsequent training in other ways (decreases our ability to train optimally) and therefore prevent gains in strength and hypertrophy.
It has been shown that the pain associated with soreness can affect movement patterns . The kinematics of the altered exercise that arises from discomfort related to the laces can reduce the activation of the target musculature and potentially lead to injury.
In turn, keep in mind that some muscles seem to be more prone to soreness than others , and there seems to be a genetic component that causes certain individuals to experience persistent pain while others rarely feel pain.
In short, excessive laces should not be actively pursued , as they ultimately interfere with our progress.
The applicability of the laces in the evaluation of the quality of the training is intrinsically limited and should not be used as a definitive indicator of the results , that is for sure.