What is Reciprocal Inhibition

What is Reciprocal Inhibition?

In today’s blog, you’ll learn what is Reciprocal Inhibition and why you need to know this for your L2 and L3 Anatomy and Physiology Exam

You’ll discover:

  • Why FITPROs find reciprocal inhibition hard to revise
  • 6-minute video tutorial explaining all about Reciprocal Inhibition
  • What is Reciprocal Inhibition?
  • Mock questions to test your knowledge
  • How to learn and remember complex anatomy

Why FITPROs find Reciprocal Inhibition hard to revise

The Nervous System is notoriously claimed to be one of the hardest modules within the Level 2 and 3 Anatomy and Physiology syllabus, so you are not alone if you find this area difficult to understand.

It is easy to take movement for granted, as we unconsciously create movement all day every day. It can be difficult to wrap your head around the mechanisms of unconscious control

Although you might not be quoting the mechanism of Reciprocal Inhibition with your clients, the knowledge of this, allows you to understand movement mechanics and programme for all muscles in the body.

This will improve your ability to plan sessions for your client and encourage your client to move efficiently

6-minute video tutorial explaining all about Reciprocal Inhibition

What is Reciprocal Inhibition?

When the Central Nervous System (CNS) sends a signal for the Agonist to contract, a signal is also sent to the Antagonist muscle to inhibit tension.

In other words when muscle works the other relaxes.

Key facts about Reciprocal Inhibition

To fully understand how Reciprocal Inhibition works, you need to understand a few key facts first:

Muscles Work In Pairs

Each muscle in our body has an opposing pair. We call these Agonist- Antagonist pairs.

The Agonist is the one contracting and the Antagonist is the one relaxing in every movement

All types of contractions

Reciprocal Inhibition occurs whenever the agonist contracts. This could be any of the three types of muscles contractions:

Concentric Contraction: The Agonist is contracted and getting shorter

Eccentric Contraction: The Agonist is contracted and getting longer

Isometric Contraction: The Agonist is contracted and not changing in length

The Bicep-Tricep example

When performing a biceps curl, you start with an extended elbow

Then the Agonist (The Biceps Brachii) Contracts Concentrically, and the muscle gets shorter as you lift the dumbbells up

At the top of the movement the Biceps Brachii is as short as it can be, and then Eccentrically contracts, lengthening under tension as the dumbbells lower down

All the time the Triceps Brachii (the antagonist) is relaxed, which allows the Biceps Brachii to move maximally and avoid injury.

In summary:

  • All muscles work in pairs and use reciprocal inhibition to ensure one muscle is relaxed (inhibited) while the other is contracted.  
  • Reciprocal inhibition is unconscious
  • Knowing about Reciprocal inhibition will be key as you can expect 3 to 6 exam questions around this module.

Test your knowledge with today’s Reciprocal Inhibition mock questions:

[NOTE: The answers are below the 3rd questions]

Q1: During the Lowering phase of a Biceps Curl, what happens to the Triceps Brachii?

A. Isometrically Contracted
B. Relaxed
C. Eccentrically contracted
D. Concentrically Contracted

Q2: What is Reciprocal Inhibition?

A. When the Central Nervous System (CNS) sends a signal for the Antagonist to contract concentrically, a signal is also sent to the Agonist muscle to contract eccentrically.
B. When the Central Nervous System (CNS) sends a signal for the Agonist to contract, a signal is also sent to the Antagonist muscle to also contract.
C. When the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) sends a signal for the Agonist to contract, a signal is also sent to the Antagonist muscle to inhibit tension.
D. When the Central Nervous System (CNS) sends a signal for the Agonist to contract, a signal is also sent to the Antagonist muscle to inhibit tension.

Q3: When the Quadriceps are Contracting concentrically, which muscle will be relaxing?

A. Pectoralis Major
B. Hamstrings
C. Anterior Tibialis
D. Soleus

Answers to the mock questions are :

Question 1= B, Question 2 = D, Question 3 = B

If you want more mock questions like this, then you can download more Free Mock Questions: DOWNLOAD NOW

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Anatomy and Physiology Level 3 - vary the mode

Dedicated to More

Hayley “Reciprocal Inhibition.” Bergman

Parallel Coaching

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