It’s as simple as ‘irradiation’

Irradiation sounds like a word found on the SATs. However, it is a term from Pavel Tsatsouline. It refers to the positive effect of one tensed muscle on another for absolute force production. Simply stated, the more tense one muscle or a group of muscles become the more force an person can produce.

Sounds great, right? For lifting and participating in a set motion or where there’s little need to react to any changes I would agree. For athletes who need to cut, react to their opponents or be more fluid I say it’s not.

One summer, I did nothing but lift heavy weights in an attempt to bulk up. My weights that I was able to  lift why not. However, when I try to run or play a sport, I felt really slow.  This was an example of your irradiation for me. My legs were so used to lifting and squatting heavy weights that they cannot quickly adapt and allow me to cut or move.  While it was easier to move out of my apartment, I was discouraged with how much agility I lose.

Take a look at this picture.

squatting with knees in valgus position

The athlete is working hard to successfully complete the lift, but unfortunately, using bad form. While poor mechanics are not  an example of irradiation. Tensing up as many muscles as possible to complete the heavy lift is an example of irradiation. Often athletes become so competitive that they will do anything to complete a lift, including altering technique or form. As the weight gets heavier and approaches an athlete’s 1 RM (rep max), the chance for poor form increases. This is why novice weight lifters and young athletes need to be careful with heavy training/ lifting. If athletes continue to use bad form, poor movement patterns may reinforced.


In my opinion, this is a pitfall too many injuries. Athletes who are not fluid and cannot perform multi directional movements are susceptible to injuries.  Research is showing the importance of multi directional squats and training and how there’s a direct correlation to less ACL tears  with athletes who work multi directional squats.

I challenge the novice and weightlifters and young athletes to not be as concerned with how much weight he or she is lifting. Instead proper mechanics and fluid motions are more important.