The Residual Training Effect

Residual training effects are a big topic currently in the age of the COVID-19.  Coaches and athletes alike are talking about how long we can retain the gains that we’re made previous to the shutdown.  The residual training effect is just that…how long athletes keep traces of previous training.  It was heavily documented by Vladamir Issurin in his form of programming called Block Periodization.  Block Periodization uses the residual training effect to cut volume through the overall length of the program.  The concept is to train a motor quality heavily in one block, then rely on the residual training effect or leftover traces to maintain that motor quality for an amount of time before it begins to deteriorate and disappear.

For example, through Issurin’s studies maximal strength is a quality that lasts for about 30 days after it has been trained with a significant cumulative load.  Knowing this we can program a subsequent block of training without the use of a large volume of strength work, if any at all.  This allows for more specific means to be applied.  Consequently we now have more adaptation energy to apply to the very specific means of training which means greater increases.  Instead of having to devote time and energy to general strength development to maintain that quality, we can now leave it aside and be very specific to what we need.  But, we have to know the residual time that strength resides in the body and be aware that if we go longer than 30 days we will begin to lose it at a fast rate.

The point of the post is that these effects are really built around high level elite athletes with years of training age.  The residual training effect is very low in novice athletes with less than 1-2 years of training.  Novice athletes can lose gains in strength in as little as 7-10 days.  They have not built the nervous system to the degree of an advanced athlete to be able to maintain those training effects.  Advanced athletes can often maintain large portions of previous gains for months before large deterioration begins to occur.