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Principle of Training Reversibility, Effects of inactivity and detraining

Updated: Jan 6

5 days of inactivity causes muscles to lose elasticity and aerobic capacity will decay by 5%. If you haven't been working out for 2 weeks, you will experience loss of muscle mass and strength.

The Reversibility Principle Does Not Apply to Skill Retention

Coordination is required for continuous motor skills (walking, biking, etc.). These skills appear to be stored in long-term memory with very little degradation. See Memory Techniques. Over an extended period of inactivity physical strength, endurance, and flexibility decline and eventually are lost; however, the knowledge an athlete acquired to execute motor skills and strategies is retained long after they are unable to execute the physical skills.

The challenge often concerns regaining precise timing after detraining. In other words, the motor skill programs remain intact but the body's physical tools for executing the programs become rusty and must be regained.


Applying the Reversibility Principle:

Conditioning: After taking a long break from training, begin a conditioning program to rebuild sport fitness. After several weeks of not raining, athletes should gradually increase their general conditioning/fitness before resuming the training volume and intensity previously attained.

Resting Active: During the off season, active participation in other sports or activities minimizes detraining effects and may even have some transfer or facilitation of skill acquisition. Avoid long rest periods with complete inactivity.

Returning to training: Increase exercise gradually and progressively after long periods of inactivity. Athletes should avoid performing intense workouts without first participating in a conditioning program.



Resumption of training: Athletes who are restarting their weight training will remember how to properly execute the lifts, but can sustain an injury if they overestimate the maximum weight they can lift compared to their previous best lifting performance.

Flexibility: Emphasize stretching exercises to regain previous levels of joint flexibility. This is particularly important for older adults who participate in senior sports.


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Daphne Ng, Sports Consultant, Malaysia states "5 days of inactivity causes muscles to lose elasticity and aerobic capacity will decay by 5%. If you haven't been working out for 2 weeks, you will experience loss of muscle mass and strength.".”

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