the cells of the muscles. As it is broken down energy is released, but only to a certain extent. This is because there is only so much ATP to be broken down. The only way the muscles can continue to perform their work is through resynthesis of ATP and the restoration of it to the depleted areas. This also requires energy. Our bodies have three ways of resynthesizing ATP and making it available to the muscles. In weightlifting and other short term, high-intensity bouts of exercise, the body utilizes the phosphagen (ATP-PC) system. In this system, the energy needed comes from the breakdown of phosphocreatine (PC), hence, the name ATP-PC system. Studies have shown that most of the ATP and PC stores depleted in the muscles during exercise are restored in what we could consider to be a relatively short period of time. For example, many studies show that after two minutes, 70% to 80% of the ATP has been resynthesized and that figure rises to 90% to 95% after four minutes. This would indicate that the rest taken prior to a top set, or a very important set, should be approximately four to five minutes in duration. Interestingly, rest periods longer than 5 minutes do not significantly enhance strength scores and in fact rest periods of 8 to 10 minutes may even bring about decrements in skill. Now, was that so bad? Don’t answer that.
Absolute and Relative Strength Here is something that might interest you. A couple of months ago Richard Simmons and Oprah stopped by my office. They were having this big argument. You know how celebrities are…just like the rest of us, only more so. Anyway, Richard said that his chest was stronger than Oprah’s. Of course, Oprah didn’t agree. She was positive her chest was stronger (remember though, big is not always better). As you have probably guessed they wanted me to determine who was right. Actually, that was no problem. I knew that the muscles primarily used to perform a bench press are the pectoralis major and minor…the chest. So I simply determined Richard’s and Oprah’s 1-RM in that exercise. Richard did a solid 1-RM with 100 pounds. Very impressive! Oprah though, surprised everyone by pumping out 120 pounds for her 1-RM. When Oprah made that lift she let out a scream…the kind that would scare Stephen King. She was so excited! But did this mean that Oprah’s chest was stronger than Richard’s chest? Watch out here this is a trick question. The answer is yes and no. You see there are two types of strength, absolute and relative. Absolute strength can be defined as the most weight you can lift (1-RM) regardless of your body weight. Relative strength can be defined as the most weight you can lift relative to your body weight. For example, let’s say we have two lifters; one weighs 150 lbs and the other weighs 200 lbs. Suppose the 150 lb. lifter’s 1-RM in the bench press is 300 lbs while the 200 lb. lifter’s 1-RM in the bench press is 310 lbs. In this instance, the lifter who weighs 200 lbs. is said to have greater absolute strength (in this exercise) because he lifted more weight, but the 150 lb. lifter is said to have greater relative strength because he lifted more weight per body pound. The 150 lb. lifter lifted twice his body weight, while the 200 lb. lifter lifted approximately 1 1/2 times his body weight. The question is, which is more important…relative or absolute strength? Watch out this is another trick question! Actually, it depends on the activity you are engaging in. If you were being tested for physical fitness, relative strength would obviously be preferred. However, if you were participating in a competitive sport where there are no weight classifications (such as football, track and field, or sumo wrestling) then absolute strength would be more important.