performance

Training the Core in the Sagittal Plane Part II: Performance

Welcome back for Part II of our Training the Core in the Sagittal Plane series. If you missed Part I, be sure to go give it a quick read. The info in that will really help you better understand the material we’re going over today, and improve your ability to think critically about training the “core.”

The Training Process

While being able to riddle off some anatomy is great, it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t relate it back to training and get people a training effect.

Like all things, the training process can be broken down into three major steps:

  • Learn/Teach
  • Train
  • Integrate

This process is something everyone has experienced before, and learning to ride a bike provides a great visual for understanding the separate steps. You start off (at least most people do) with training wheels because you need to give your brain an opportunity to learn (an extra bonus provided by training wheels is that they decrease threat, but that’s a topic for another time). Eventually, as you log more and more hours, the training wheels come off and you get to start experiencing the real thing.

But you still aren’t crushing it yet. It’s not like the training wheels come off and you immediately hop into full fledged down hill racing, or start launching yourself off ramps in the backyard. You still have to practice and train.

After playing around with the real thing for a while, and again acquiring very important hours of exposure for the brain to learn, you start stepping it up and doing some of the sexier things you see on TV.

This is all part of the process, and whenever you’re attempting to learn a new physical skill you and/or your athletes will have to go through it as well.

Now…let’s relate this all back to the core.

Step 1: Learn

Before you can get to what most people would consider the sexy part of training (deadlifting, jumping and doing other such things), you must first give yourself and/or your athletes the chance to learn. In other words, you need to give the brain access to experiences and outcomes so it can begin adapting.

For example, in Part I I briefly touched on what we’re looking for when it comes to core control and strength: the ability to keep your ribs down and pelvis underneath you.

So, go ahead and do that….

Chances are you can’t (unless you’ve been coached through it before) because you don’t know what it feels like. The position is very foreign, and you’re attempting to find it without a map.

Thus, we need to give you a map. We need to figure out where you are so we can properly teach you how to get there, and one of the best places to start is with breathing.

Yes…breathing, and in particular learning to exhale because if you can truly exhale then you’re very close to regaining control over the sagittal plane. In other words, exhaling gives you abs. I’m going to repeat that one more time just so we both know how important it is: exhaling gives you abs.

And it gives you abs because while your internal obliques, external obliques, and transverse abdominis are pushing air out (aka they’re exhalers), they are also bringing your ribs down and pelvis underneath you (sound familiar?). If that doesn’t make sense, look back at the pictures in Part I and envision what happens as those muscles shorten.

Here’s the issue though: most people are terrible exhalers and need some help learning how to exhale again.

Enter our friend the balloon.

*I’d like to pause here for a second to briefly touch on

PRI

(The Postural Restoration Institute) because the balloon and everything else we’re talking about today draws heavily on their principles. If you aren’t familiar with PRI, then please go take a course. I can’t recommend it enough, and I’m not going to be going down that rabbit hole today for a handful reasons. The most important of which being that I’m not qualified to do so. It’s a monster of a rabbit hole and I’m going to let smarter people than me teach about it.

The balloon is a wonderful teaching tool because it provides resistance as you exhale, in turn forcing you to actually use your abs to get air out. You may laugh, but I’ve seen plenty of people (athletes I may add) who honestly can’t blow up a balloon.

So…here’s a quick tutorial on how to blow up a balloon:

And here are a few great exercise options to get you started (you can realistically implement the balloon into any exercise we’re going over today to help make sure you are appropriately exhaling):

  1. All Four Belly Lift and progressions

While the all four belly lift may seem like its over shooting a little on the flexion piece of the equation, you have to remember that I’m assuming we’re dealing with someone who has lost the sagittal plane. In other words, I’m assuming we have a bilaterally extended individual who has no idea how to flex and breath, so I need to re-establish that first before addressing other needs.

Also, let’s think through what’s happening from an anatomy standpoint. In particular, let’s revisit our good friend the serratus and appreciate how the reach in this exercise is helping to draw your rib backs, thus allowing you to better use your abs.

In review: serratus + obliques + transverse abdomins = winning.

  1. 3 Month Breathing with Band Pulldown

Remember how we’re attempting to give people a map? Well think of the All Four Belly lift as a system reset (in other words teaching them how to flex and breath), which then gives you the opportunity to create a new map with an exercise like 3 Month Breathing with Band Pulldown.

For starters, it gives the person a reference center: the ground. Which in all honesty is one of your best friends as a coach. It makes your life way easier when you can get someone on his or her back (with gravity on their side I might add) and cue him or her to “crush a bug” or “velcro their low back to floor” because they’ll be able to feel that. In addition, it gives you a target for your ribs: “as you exhale here I want you to think about drawing your ribs down to the floor.” In essence, whenever you can make things simple…do it.

Now, a key feature of this exercise, like all other exercises, is how it’s performed. The low back needs to be pinned to the floor, and the ribs need to come down and stay down (to a degree) on the inhale. In other words, your low back shouldn’t pop off the floor when you go to take a breath in because that defeats the purpose of doing the exercise. I want to see if you can get in a good position with some added tension from the band and breath without breaking down.

It’s absolutely essential that the athlete learns what this feels like, and is able to find it on his or her own, because this is the foundation for everything else you’ll be doing.

Step 2: Train

Once the new map has started to take hold, it’s time to up the ante a little and add some more definition to the map. If you ever played Age of Empires, think of it like at the beginning of the game when the whole map is black except for where your few little settlers are.

As you played the game and explored you uncovered more and more of the map, and the black area slowly gave way. The same thing is happening here: you’ve done some of the early exploration work, and now it’s time to set off and uncover more of the map.

Thus, let’s stress the system a little more. Let’s put you and/or your athletes in positions that’ll challenge their ability to hold the rock solid position you taught them earlier.

  1. Leg Lowering with Band Pulldown

Yeah, this should look really familiar. All we’ve basically done is take the 3 month breathing with band pulldown exercise from above, and make it more dynamic by seeing if you can move your leg without falling apart.

Let’s think on a deeper level though and focus on a big muscle we talked about last time: the rectus femoris. What’s happening to that muscle as you’re going from hip flexion to hip extension? It’s lengthening right. And as that muscle is lengthening what is it doing? It’s attempting to yank your pelvis forward, and make your low back come off the ground. In order to prevent that from happening what better be working? Your abs! Those sexy obliques and transverse abdominis better be opposing that quad, or else you’re going to lose the tug of war.

This, in essence, is exactly what you’re looking to do when training the “core”: how many different ways can you pit someone’s “abs” against muscles like a quad or a lat.

3 Month KB Pullover

I explained pretty much everything in the video, so yeah…not gonna waste your time and repeat myself.

While there are probably 50-100 exercises that could fit into this section, hopefully these two exercises give you a good idea for how to start thinking about “core” training: opposition. It doesn’t matter that you can do crunches. What matters is that you have abs capable of opposing big muscles like your lats and quads. Ultimately, if you understand anatomy then you should have a field day coming up with ways to challenge this.

*challenge homework assignment: think your way through a split squat.

Step 3: Integrate

At the end of the day, the goal is to be bigger, faster, stronger and better conditioned than everyone else. Period. Unfortunately, however, people often mistake what I’ve gone over thus far as being “too low level” or “not intense enough” to reach that end goal. But I couldn’t disagree more. If you aren’t adequately addressing Step 1 and 2 in this process, then you one, aren’t doing your job, and two, are merely setting up your athletes for failure down the road. You’ve gotta build the pyramid from the bottom up.

Now that that short rant is out of the way, let’s talk about integrating because this is what we live for right? I mean who gets excited about lying on the floor and breathing? I know I don’t (I actually hate it). I’d much rather turn on some loud music, hangout with my bros, and throw weight around for an hour.

And assuming you’ve done your homework in Step 1 and Step 2, it gives you the ability to do so because now we can start talking about deadlifting. In other words, movements like the deadlift represent your highest level of “core” performance. It’s where are the boring, shitty work you do on the side gets to shine. Just think through any major, compound, complex movement and you’ll see a beautiful sequence of events that all stems from your basic ability to control the sagittal plane.

And let me make something perfectly clear: this is the goal. The goal isn’t to lay on the ground and breathe. That is merely a tool so that we can get you on your feet, integrate, and turn you into a monster. So PLEASE, do not forget this step. Performing a high quality deadlift is core training. Performing a high quality squat is core training. And so on and so forth.

Closing Thoughts

While there are many exercises that we could have gone over today, I chose to focus just on a few them because I care more about you understanding the principles behind why we do them as opposed to just listing off exercises. Thus, if you feel lost or don’t understand anything we’ve gone over today, please post your questions in the comments below.

Also, I’d like to go over one last tidbit of info before I sign off for the day, and that’s failure. Generally speaking, when someone is performing these exercises I look for them to fail 2 out of every 10 reps because this tells me that I have found something that’s adequately challenging. In other words, if someone can crush something for 10 reps and every rep is literally perfect, then you should probably find a way to progress the exercise or else they won’t get better. Small amounts of failure tell me that I’m imposing enough stress to get an adaptation.

That's about it for today though.  Hope you enjoyed the article and post any questions/thoughts you have below.

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitterand Instagram for the latest happenings.

Training the Core in the Sagittal Plane Part I: Anatomy and Function

The core…

What a popular buzzword.

If you’ve read any fitness related article on the Internet over the past 2-3 years you’ve probably heard it.

But what is the core?

What is it supposed to do?

How do you train it?

Where should you start?

Where should you go?

What exercises actually work and what exercises are just fluff (I’m talking to you six pack shortcut peeps)?

In this two part series we’re going to be talking about all the above and a little more with respect to the core and the sagittal plane. In particular, I’d like to outline and give you a game plan for how to appropriately tackle stage 1 of either your own or your athletes program.

And to be perfectly clear, when I say stage 1 I’m referring to the sagittal plane and being able to control flexion and extension. This is absolutely essential because if you can’t control the sagittal plane, then you will never be able to control the frontal and transverse planes as well.

Thus, this two part series you are embarking on is going to focus solely on the core and how it relates to controlling the sagittal plane (when you hear sagittal plane just think flexion and extension).

Unfortunately, we can’t have this conversation if we aren’t on the same page when it comes to anatomy, so Part I of this series (aka what you’re reading right now) will be devoted to talking about anatomy and the basic “job” of the core, while Part II will focus on the training and application side of things.

I know…anatomy isn’t sexy, can be a little wordy, and is often downright boring, but knowing it will make you a better athlete and coach. To help make this a little more interesting, and in hopes that you’ll actually read this, we’re going to be relating it all back to Batman because who doesn’t love Batman.

*side note: the Batman v. Superman move is coming out March 25th and should probably be on your calendar if it isn’t already.

Thus, let’s get started with what in the world the “core” is actually supposed to do.

What’s the Job of the Core

Understanding this concept is essential to tying together the rest of the 2 part series.

To quote Shirley Sahrmann:

“The most important aspect of abdominal muscle performance is obtaining the control that is necessary to (1) appropriately stabilize the spine, (2) maintain optimal alignment and movement relationships between the pelvis and the spine, and (3) prevent excessive stress and compensatory motions of the pelvis during movements of the extremities.”[i]

To summarize that and put it in plain English (and add a little flavor): the job of your core is to stabilize/maintain optimal position of your pelvis and ribs so that your arms and legs can function the way we want them to. And it does this by getting your ribs “down” (rib internal rotation) and your pelvis “underneath” you (posterior tilt is a popular word for this but there are things happening in all three planes of motion).

Let me clarify really quickly that you don’t want to take the “rib down” and “pelvis underneath you” cues too far. That can be just as bad. I’m merely making the assumption that you’re going to be patterned, that you’re going to have a rib flare, and that you’re going to have a pelvis that has a tendency to roll forward into anterior tilt because I haven’t seen a single person in over 2 years who doesn’t present this way. Thus, bringing your ribs back down and pelvis back underneath you is merely getting them where we want them to be. Then you have to learn to maintain it, but that’s more the focus of Part II.

Here’s a quick video to help put this into perspective for you (and it will also serve as a great lead in to Part II of this series where we focus on performance):

To review: the job of your core is to stabilize and maintain pelvic and thoracic position to allow your arms and legs to do what we want.

Some Anatomy

In order to adequately understand what we are trying to accomplish when we train “the core,” you’ve gotta know a little anatomy.

Of primary concern, for this article at least, are the following muscles:

  • -Rectus abdominis
  • -Internal obliques
  • -External obliques
  • -Transverse abdominis
  • -Lats
  • -Rectus femoris and TFL
  • -Serratus anterior

Let’s go ahead and address each of those accordingly

Rectus Abdominis (aka the six pack muscle)

*Couldn’t think of a good Batman reference for this. If you can, let me know.

rectus-abdominus.jpg

Who doesn’t love a good six-pack? As far as aesthetics go, it’s probably one of the most sought after traits and that’s totally fine. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look like you just stepped out of a superhero movie.

When we’re talking about functionality and overall performance, however, the rectus abdominis equates to little more than a show muscle. And here’s why: it’s attachment sites suck when it comes to creating leverage.

As you can see in the above image, there’s a very tiny attachment site down on the pubic crest coupled with another small (and by small I’m talking surface area) attachment on both the xiphoid process and some costal cartilage.

In essence, this means the rectus abdominis has minimal capacity to truly impact the position of your pelvis and your ribs, which is of vital importance when you think back to what we need the core to do.

Internal Oblique, External Oblique, and Transverse Abdominis (aka Batman)

External-Oblique.jpg
Internal-Oblique.jpg
Transverse-Abdominus.jpg

Take a second and compare the images above to the image of the rectus abdominis. Notice any differences?

I sure hope you do. The internal oblique, external oblique and transverse abdominis are HUGE. Just look at the difference in attachment sites, and try and get an appreciation for how effective these three muscles are at controlling/impacting the position of your pelvis and your ribs (in turn giving your arms and legs a chance to work).

In other words, these three muscles are your Batman: here to fight evil and bring justice to your anatomical system.

Lats (aka Bane)

latissimus_dorsi1310235778914.jpg

Oh the lats. A much loved and sought after muscle by many, but like Bane they are very large and wield an incredible power (a power that was actually great enough to successfully break Batman’s back if you’re up on your Batman knowledge)

Let’s start with the pure size and magnitude of a single lat by looking at its attachment sites:

  • -Spinous processes of the lower six thoracic and all five lumbar vertebrae
  • -Posterior aspect of the ilium
  • -The lower three ribs
  • -Inferior angle of the scapula in some people
  • -Intertubercular groove on the anterior aspect of the humerus.

So yeah…this thing is big.

Now to the function as described by any anatomy textbook ever:

  • -Internally rotate the humerus
  • -Shoulder extension
  • -Shoulder adduction

That’s a nice list but it’s missing a MAJOR piece of the puzzle that I think you’re smart enough to figure out.

So, take a look at the picture below, and imagine what’ll happen if you take both lats and shorten them at the same time.

1-lat-anatomy.jpg

It’ll produce something like this:

IMG_0249.jpg

Notice how the back of the body is being closed off and the front of the body appears to be opening…this is called bilateral extension. It creates a position where your ribs pop up and out in the front, and your pelvis rolls forward into anterior tilt (a good visual for a pelvis rolling forward is to think of dumping water out of the front of a bucket).

This, my friend, is why the lats are like Bane: when unopposed they have the ability to completely dominate and wreak havoc upon your system.

*Remember, your goal is ribs down and hips underneath…this is doing the opposite

Rectus Femoris and TFL (aka The Joker)

Rectus-femoris
Rectus-femoris
tfl.jpg

The Joker represents another arch nemesis that Batman must face routinely to bring balance and peace to Gotham. The Joker, however, is not easily defeated. He is cunning, creative, and always finds ways to disturb the peace…much like your rectus femoris and TFL.

Of particular interest is their ability to pull either innominate into anterior tilt. You can visualize this by thinking of either muscle like a string that’s attached to the front of the pelvis that you’re pulling down on.

Similar to the lats, this is pulling the pelvis into a position we don’t want.

Serratus Anterior (aka Robin)

serratant.jpg

When Batman is in trouble he can often rely on Robin to provide some much needed help and assistance.  Luckily for you, you have a serratus anterior to help your big guns above (obliques and transverse abdominis) get your ribs into a better position by pulling the ribs "back and down."

To help visualize this take a look at the picture above, and imagine what happens if you shorten that muscle in both directions.  The scapula is being pulled towards the ribs, but the ribs are also being pulled back towards the scapula.  Thus, if you see someone with a prominent rib flare, you should probably start thinking about how you can put Robin in a position to help Batman, but that's what we'll be talking about in Part II so let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Closing Thoughts

While your head may be spinning from the anatomy, I'd like to ask you to sit on it for a few days and think about the relationship between all of those muscles.

Go back through the pictures and try to visualize what happens when a particular muscle shortens/contracts.  What's happening to the pelvis?  What's happening to the ribs?

As soon as your comfortable doing that, try taking it a step further by thinking your way through how they impact each other (the video at the beginning of the post can help with this as well).

Understanding these relationships will go a long way in helping you transition nicely to Part II of our discussion next week.

I also think it's important to go ahead and address the fact that in this series we're going to be looking at one small piece of a very large puzzle.  And in order to do that I'm going to have to make some generalizations, and I'm going to have to talk about things in isolation that are truly meant to be looked at as a whole.  For example, nowhere in this two part series am I going to be talking about hamstrings, but when you look at the big picture hamstrings are really, really important.  And the same thing can be said for just about any muscle because the human body is such a beautiful, connected and complex system.

Now, I'm not saying that the information being presented to you is worthless because it isn't.  I wouldn't have taken the time to write it if I thought it was.  I'm merely telling you this so that you don't lose site of the forest while we take some time to focus on a few individual trees.

Always think big picture, and always think about how everything connects.

The core is important, but like I said:  it's only one small piece of a very big puzzle.

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitterand Instagram for the latest happenings.

[i] Sahrmann, Shirley. “Abdominal Muscles.” Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. St. Louis: Mosby, 2002. 69.

Shifting In and Out of Patterns: A Discussion on Extension, Neutrality and Performance

I’m a conventional deadlifter, but I’m a short guy. I’d probably be better off pulling with a sumo style. I’ve tried sumo a couple of times, but they were pretty frustrating experiences. I definitely couldn’t pull as much sumo as I could from a conventional approach the first time. I guess I probably just need to work on it. I certainly wouldn’t enter a meet and try to use sumo for the first time ever under those conditions. Something bad might happen. Every year during spring training you hear about pitchers trying out new pitches to add to their repertoire. These pitchers don’t just decide to add a new pitch in the middle of the season, because they know they have to practice it and work out the bugs before trying to mix it in during games that count. In the world of Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) practitioners there is often times discussion regarding whether it is a good idea to pull athlete’s out of their pattern because this might make them run slower, throw with less velocity, or not be able to jump as high. My personal thought on this matter is that perhaps these quantifiable drop offs are the result of the athlete not having practice performing this skill from the new position that they are performing them from. Perhaps with more practice and the acquisition of training volume in this new position, the athlete would be able to reach the same quantifiable expressions of the sport movement, but do so with a biomechanical approach that would be better for longevity related matters.

Extension Patterns

Stress, behaviors, exercise, and specific sports movements are associated with driving people into extension/inhalation oriented positions. Extension strategies are used to power up for strength and power movements in competition and training. If movements are practiced in an extension oriented position, then that position becomes the dominant response strategy that you go with when you need to perform that exercise under competitive or high stakes conditions. Extension strategies, which are associated with anterior pelvic tilt, lordosis, and elevation and external rotation of ribs may limit a number of joint movement capabilities, such as humeral and femoral rotation because of bony positions, or result in compensatory strategies to achieve required necessary motion for sports movements.

While there is nothing necessarily wrong with extension positions, problems may begin to occur when people exist in extension during times of rest, and when they are unable to get out of an extension oriented position in general. Excessive extension seems to be related to unnecessary levels of muscle tone, which may increase internal resistance to joint movements. Discussing all of the pitfalls of excessive extension and resting extension positions is beyond the scope of this document. The overall concept that this document is aimed at addressing is the idea that extension is a part of sports, and a strategy that many athletes may over utilize. Chronic pain syndromes may become a part of an athlete’s life if they are unable to prevent excessive extension during the performance of their sports movements, and if they exist in that position during rest/utilize this strategy during activities of daily living.

Extension and Performance

Regardless of the downside of utilization and reliance on excessive extension, tremendous displays of strength, power, and athleticism through extension is a common occurrence in sports. Exercise adaptations that take place with repeated sports movement performance in extension will result in hypertrophy and force production of the tissues used to power those movements. These adaptations will make these extension driven sports movements even more powerful. These adaptations are very specific to the tissues used in an extension position, and adaptations will not present themselves to the muscles that would be utilized in a more flexed position. Therefore, the musculature that would be recruited and utilized in a more flexed position would essentially be untrained.

Perhaps the reason why sprinters run slightly slower following an intervention that makes them neutral is because they haven’t trained the tissues that they’re recruiting to power that movement under those circumstances. Claiming that making sprinters neutral is a bad idea for their sport may be a short sighted statement. Perhaps an individual with impressive quantifiable expressions of force production who witnesses acute reductions in those expressions after achieving neutrality simply needs to train that movement under the conditions of neutrality. New muscles will have an opportunity to power joint actions if someone achieves neutrality after not being able to reach that position previously. These muscles need to be strengthened and then integrated into more complex athletic movements. If proper joint actions can be utilized for sporting movements with the appropriate prime mover and stabilization strategies of muscles and then optimal quantifiable expressions can be reached, this would appear to be the best practice approach to training and competition. Coaches simply should not expect equal quantifiable expression of new positional and muscular strategies to that of older strategies to be instantaneous.

The quantifiable comparison of an extension strategy to a neutral strategy is not necessarily a fair one if neutrality has been recently achieved. If we as a community want to evaluate whether neutrality is a detriment to the quantifiable expression of an athletic movement, we need to properly train the musculature that would be recruited under neutral conditions in the performance of a sport movement for an appropriate amount of time to allow it to experience the positive effects of training adaptations. Appreciating the differences between acute and chronic physiological expressions is an important consideration on this topic, and one that needs further evaluation before any definitive statement can be made.

Fitting the Mold

In the world of sports performance, it seems that there are criteria levels of fitness that must be met as a requisite to be successful at high level sports. Football receivers will be unable to play in the NFL if they run a 4.9 in their 40 regardless of their sport specific skill. In regards to movement capabilities, there is also likely a similar phenomenon. It is highly likely that each sport, and each position inside each sport possesses a specific range of motion profile that would be a requisite for the ability to execute sport specific biomechanics associated with optimal performance of sporting actions. Once the athlete possesses the appropriate levels of joint movement variability, there is probably little additional benefit from going greatly above and beyond that level.

If the athlete is capable of quantifiably reaching a movement range of motion standard and is able to recruit the appropriate muscles in the right sequence, the athlete will likely be able to realize best case mechanics and will be doing everything in their power from a biomechanics standpoint to prolong their playing career. All this being said, the stress of training and competing, as well as the aging process will likely alter the gross range of motion capabilities or alter the sequencing and/or synchrony of muscular action utilized in the active performance of dynamic tasks over the course of the athlete’s playing career.

If the athlete has been trained with an understanding of proximal neutrality, and what sorts of positions and muscular strategies are associated with being able to stay within a criteria motion standard and synchronization pattern that allows for the expression of proper biomechanics, the athlete will potentially extend their playing career and be able to realize more great performances per playing season.

about the author

d9ca6c07fc91bb289822a676849ad941.jpeg

pat davidson

-Director of Training Methodology and Continuing Education at Peak Performance, NYC.

-Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, 2009-2011

-Assistant Professor, Springfield College 2011-2014

-Head Coach Springfield College Team Ironsports 2011-2013

-175 pound Strongman competitor. Two time qualifier for world championships at Arnold Classic

-Renaissance Meat Head

What Causes Muscles to Grow

There are a million articles and programs offering up the next secret (aka, gimmick/fad/farce) method for packing on tons of muscle. Rather than give you some, “top secret” approach or quick tip that will have you spinning your wheels in the gym, I’d rather explain to you the overall concept of what has to happen for you to add muscle mass to your frame. As an overall concept, what I would like to get across to you in this article is that the human body doesn’t want to put on muscle mass.You have to make a conscious decision to do something that is incredibly uncomfortable and jarring to your organism so that you give your body no other choice but to pack on more muscle so that it can defend itself from the same stressor if it is encountered again. Gaining muscle mass is hard work that never ends. Following the application of significant stress to your body, you need to recover. The recovery period is where you add new proteins to your muscles so that they become bigger and stronger. As un-sexy and not new as it sounds, if you want to gain muscle mass, you’re going to have to work very hard in the gym and live a healthy lifestyle outside of it featuring appropriate sleep, nutrition, and hydration. If you understand the big picture and why things have to be done a certain way, perhaps you will be more willing to actually do it.

The Captain and The Ship

Think of a ship out on the open ocean. The ship encounters a storm. Driving winds and rain wreak havoc on the deck while the hull is getting pounded by enormous waves. The ship survives this storm, but it took on significant damage. The captain of the ship looks around in the aftermath and sees a broken mast, holes in the sidewall, and a few steady leaks. If he wants to keep sailing in these waters he’s clearly going to have to make some repairs and perhaps revamp this boat.

He analyzes the damage of the ship and sees which areas were most impacted by the storm. He reinforces those areas. He puts up a thicker, sturdier mast, makes the sidewalls denser, and shores up the leaks with a stronger adhesive material. The ship goes back out on the ocean, and another storm comes along almost exactly like the first one. The ship survives this storm with only minimal damage. All the areas that the captain focused on for repairs held up pretty well.

Photo Credit:  Todd Kumpf
Photo Credit: Todd Kumpf

The next day he and his crew patch the ship up a little bit and it’s ready for the open ocean again. This time a completely different storm is encountered. Freak snow comes out of nowhere, icy seawater sloshes over the sides of the boat, and chunks of debris come flying through the air, shredding the ship. The crew and the vessel make it, but this time the damage is completely different compared to the first storm. It was as if nothing the crew had done in their repairs following the first storm had prepared them for this last squall. The captain orders the crew to go back to work the next day. They focus on the areas that were most heavily damaged in this last disaster and rebuild those sections with more robust material.

Do you think the captain and crew of our imaginary ship want to spend their days laboring to rebuild their ship? Of course not. All they want to do is to continue to sail so that they can do their jobs so they can put food on the table. They would never put in the effort to work on the ship unless it was very clear that the ship was unfit for use and that it needed to be strengthened to handle similar difficult demands again in the future.

Do you think they’re going to fix and rebuild parts of the ship that were unharmed from the storm? Of course not. You focus your attention on the areas that need help. Can you fix every part of the ship all at once? Probably not, you have a limitation to the size of your crew, and they can only work so hard for so long. You also do not have unlimited amounts of wood, tools, and other assorted pieces to be able to repair everything all at once. Ultimately, you have to decide what kind of storm you want your boat to be ready to handle. You simply can’t have it all. You also can’t permanently live in the storm. If you’re going to be fixing your boat, you should probably do it when it’s sunny and you’re safely docked.

Your body is the boat. The captain is your brain. The crew is your immune and endocrine systems working to trigger the appropriate cellular repair steps. The wood and the tools that you use for repairs is the food you eat, the water you drink, and the sleep that you acquire. You have to figure out what kind of storm is the appropriate kind in order to trigger the appropriate repair process that will build you a new body that is more muscular than it was before. Obviously running a marathon is an absolutely ungodly storm that you could encounter, but the repair mechanisms that would take place after wouldn’t be geared towards adding muscle to your frame. The storm has to be highly specific. The raw material also has to be of very high quality that you use to repair yourself after the fact. Do you want to be going into your next storm on a boat made of rotting wood, or do you want only the finest, most outstanding construction material possible for your vessel?

The Perfect Storm

What is the perfect storm for creating the optimal stimulus for growing muscle? It primarily comes down to three variables. It seems as though the combination of mechanical load, heat, and acidity is the right environment for optimizing muscle growth.

The research in this area seems to indicate that multiple sets (3-5) of approximately 10 repetition maximum (RM) load using multi-joint compound exercises (squatting, bench pressing, deadlifting, pull-ups) with short rest (approximately 60 seconds) is optimal for increasing muscle mass. Go ahead and try doing 5 sets of 10 (with a weight where you couldn’t get 11) in the squat with 60 seconds rest in between. You’re going to be hot, acidic, and your muscles will be dead. You just hit the perfect storm.

Your brain will register this event and trigger all of the cascade responses driven through the hormonal and immune systems associated with repair and growth of skeletal muscle that you can muster up as an organism. You could do this kind of workout over and over again for a pretty substantial period of time and continue to get great gains for a while. The problem with that exact workout is that it’s pretty boring at a certain point, and even if you were the most diligent person, who cares nothing about routine and boredom, at a certain point, your body would adapt to this, and you’d stop making any headway. You need to vary things up a little bit to keep yourself engaged, and to force the organism to have to adapt to a salient threat. The thing is, you don’t want to vary things up so much that it’s a completely different kind of storm. If the storm is wrong, then the repairs will be to create a different kind of ship. If the challenge to the body isn’t appropriate, it might strip material away rather than add on.

Closing Thoughts

To finish off this article, you need to understand the following things about the storm and the repair process. Feeling a fairly heavy weight, feeling hot, and feeling an acidic burn are the three threats that drive the muscle building train.

When it comes to driving adaptation, you need to scare your body…so threaten it the best you possibly can. Sets between 6 and 15 reps are probably the most appropriate for hypertrophy, with sets of 10 being most optimal. Rest periods need to be kept short to create the truly significant heat and acid load response. If you’re using the same exercise over and over, look to stay within 60 to 90 seconds of rest. If you’re setting up a circuit, you’ve got a little more leeway, and you can make the rest periods shorter.

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Work really hard, but when you’re done, make sure you recover appropriately. Earlier I talked about fixing the boat in sunny skies and calm seas. Here’s my recommendation for sunny skies and calm seas in life. Most importantly, have a good relationship with family and friends. Spend time with other people. Social engagement will trigger the parts of your brain associated with relaxation, regeneration, and recovery (specifically the nucleus ambiguous component of the parasympathetic nervous system located in the medulla). Second, if you’re going to do recovery exercise, do easy cardio. Try to get outdoors to soak up some vitamin D. You don’t want to try to create a whole new storm environment to fix your ship in. Light cardiovascular exercise increases circulation (gets the repair pieces to the tissues), and increases the amount of mitochondria in your body. Mitochondria are the location where you utilize oxidative rephosphorylation of ATP. If you’re using your oxidative energy system, it allows the muscle tissue to relax in that location. Being able to relax and hit the off switch is critical when it comes to repair and growth.

When it’s time to be in the storm, make it the perfect storm. The storm should be hell. See what you’re capable of surviving. Load the bar up pretty heavy. See what you’ve got. Push through those last couple of reps. Keep your rest short…feel like you’re going to die. When the storm is over, shut it down. Relax. Enjoy other people that you really like. Eat, drink, and be merry. Do a little recovery work between storms. Make sure you don’t have to recover from your recovery work. I wish you well young sailor. Hopefully your vessel is sound and your captain is wise. Keep sailing, I’ll see you in Gainsville if you stay the course.

If you're into this whole muscle thing, then be sure to checkout Pat's new e-book MASS.  It gives you 66 pages of awesome info coupled with a 16 week training program designed to build muscle.

about the author

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pat davidson

-Director of Training Methodology and Continuing Education at Peak Performance, NYC.

-Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, 2009-2011

-Assistant Professor, Springfield College 2011-2014

-Head Coach Springfield College Team Ironsports 2011-2013

-175 pound Strongman competitor. Two time qualifier for world championships at Arnold Classic

-Renaissance Meat Head

6 Lessons Learned in My Journey to Become a Professional

There I was, the final event of the World Championships:  power stairs. I knew all I had to do was beat the Polish competitor to the top of the stairs and I would be crowned the World Champion and Lightweight Pro Strongman. All of my training came down to this event. Everything I had put into it was on the line, and if I made one mistake it would have slipped away from me like that.

I had never done this event in my entire life, but I have never been so comfortable and confident going into an event. If you watch Marius Pudzianowski compete on the powerstairs, it is the definition of determination. “YOU think you can beat ME to the top of those stairs?!? Hahaha yeah right (I have the utmost respect for all of the competitors and they deserve it just as bad as I did, but it was my turn.)

Zach Champ
Zach Champ

Positivity

I said it before going “pro” and I will stand by my statement, POSITIVITY is the number one key to success. I put “pro” in quotations because if I had taken one wrong step on the power stairs, there's a chance I wouldn’t have the title of “pro.”

The thing is though...I was professional long before this competition. You don’t just become a pro all of a sudden. Everyone starts as an amateur, and that same amateur makes positive decisions which lead to professional status.

Having the title professional means nothing to me because I already hold myself to those expectations with or without the title. For example, my girlfriend, Alisha Ciolek, also became a World Champion that day, but girls cant go “pro.” Does that mean she isn't "professional" at what she does?  Absolutely not!  You'd be out of your mind to not consider that girl a professional at what she does.

When it comes to our success, being and staying positive is the key. Without positivity there is no way this would have been possible. In order to save money so we could compete in the competition, we went the winter without heat. That was one of many sacrifices that we made. Before day two of the competition, Alisha and I agreed that whatever happens,happens. We gave it our all and if we come up short there is zero shame.

As soon as a negative thought creeps into your head, and you start asking what if? Or maybe I should have done this... your mind will create negative illusions.

A confident mind is a clear mind, and a clear mind is a strong mind.

We knew what we had to do that day:  just play like we practice. And our positive subconscious took care of the rest.

Prioritize

Don’t let your hobby consume you, but don’t give up on your passion.

There is no money in strongman, and that’s why it's a hobby. If you are getting paid millions to play a sport, that’s a different story. Finding a balance is crucial. Use your hobby as an escape from school/work.

When you can do that, your hobby will become that much more enjoyable, it becomes a privilege. You will appreciate it more, and get more out of it.

Don’t ever let your hobby become a chore. As soon as it's not fun anymore, and you aren’t getting paid, something has to change. Whether its your program, your diet, your training environment, or training partners, switch something up!

Last summer I trained way too often, and way too hard. I did not dose my training efficiently with my work hours. Four to five times a week I woke up at 4:00 am to work out for 3 hours and then work a 12 hour day.

Im not complaining, these were all my choices. I could have backed down and said:  "No, that’s too much work.  Maybe I shouldn’t lift as much."

But the National Champion in me said no way, keep going. I burned the candle at both ends and it caught up to me. My training sessions became a force and I even went into some training session angry and pissed off. Lifting angry is the WORST idea because the weights will always win. Positive energy!!!

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Patience

Less is more.

Im not saying don’t work your ass off, but don’t over do it. Know your limits and don’t push through pain (hopefully you know the difference between suck and pain).

I trained my favorite event, deadlift, very often that summer. I could do it pain free and lift tons of weight. Although that was really fun, it wasn’t exactly optimal. I still trained all the other events, but being spent from the deadlifts limited my efforts.

Leading up to the World Championship I deadlifted maybe once a week. I strayed away from other lifts because I could not train them often without pain. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough work so I filled that with more deadlifts. I was impatient to get better. I wanted to be the strongest every single day, when in reality I only had to be the strongest for two days.

For Worlds, I stayed healthy and put more effort into all the other events. I knew I had to get better at the events that weren’t my favorite/best, with yoke being the main culprit. I knew that if I could do just pretty well on the yoke, I would win the show.

I was very confident on the other events, but yoke was sketchy for me.

Shin splits were a common outcome of yoke, but I always trained through the pain. The pain was tolerable, but it wasn’t going away or getting better. I gave myself a break and trained the yoke very light and not very often. Staying pain free was my biggest concern during preparation for World’s.

This doesn’t mean I wasn’t dead ass tired and didn’t want to lift sometimes. Alisha and I pushed through some grueling workouts, and she was cutting weight on top of it all! (cutting weight is not in my agenda any time soon).

So don’t think you always have to be dying! If you aren’t trying to peak for a competition or a game, train for longevity and consistency. Set a goal, make a plan, and make it happen. Trust the process and be patient.

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Parasympathetic

Know how to relax!

Being able to truly relax and have down time is just as important as being able to turn it on.

Leading up to the Strongman World Championships in 2014, when I competed in the 185 lb. and under weight class, I was not capable of relaxation. I was stuck in sympathetic overdrive, and constantly in “flight or fight” mode.

I was starving myself to make weight and I was trying to get stronger on top of it. As lean and as strong as I was, it didn’t matter. My mind was not right. I was getting into fights with family and friends, and my quality of life suffered because of it. I was always anxious and on edge. Even when I tried to relax and chill out for a little I was always thinking about the competition, or thinking when I could eat next.

I even had to take a couple weeks off of work because I was too tired to stand through the day.

I was constantly uncomfortable. I knew it was because I was starving, but I couldn’t turn back. I was on the verge of being the strongest man in the world at 185lbs, how could I stop now. I made weight at 183 lbs. and everything was looking good.

I ate tons of food hoping to bounce back in time for the show in 24 hours, but it back fired. I ate too much and didn’t hydrate enough, so when it came time to compete I felt like absolute dog shit. All that hard work, wasted.. or was it?

Persistency

The trickiest, but one of the most important:  staying consistent.

That day I should have been the World Champion. I knew there was no one in this world that could be stronger than me at 185 lb. But I fell on my ass and fought through the competition in extreme discomfort and disbelief and ended up placing in the middle of the pack.

I could have easily, and almost did, call it quits there. Everyone around me told me to give up strongman, and to focus on work since college was over. But Strongman gives me a feeling that nothing can replace.

It’s the ultimate feeling when you know you have a chance at being the best at something. The possibility alone is an adrenaline rush and a reason to work hard every single day. It was easy for me to stay consistent, I was having a blast! Its all a mindset. Start every journey with a positive and open mind. You are blessed enough to even be able to play a sport, so take full advantage of it and appreciate it.

Always be ready for failure, but pray and plan for success. If you really want it, consistency shouldn’t be a problem. Otherwise you don’t really want it.

Zach and Alisha
Zach and Alisha

Performance

I have never been able to balance all of these qualities so efficiently in my entire life. By staying positive, knowing my priorities, knowing my limits/ having patience, having fun, and staying consistent, my performance was at an all time high.

Every brick I laid was perfect. I had a brilliant coach, Andrew Triana, and I trusted the process 100%. Alisha Ciolek, my girlfriend, was a major factor to my success as well. We trained together, ate together, and lived together. She was there to push me when I was tired, and take care of me when I was down.

It was all just a big dream, and now we are both World Champions.

Surround yourself with great people, and great things will happen.

Do you want to be the best at a few things, or kind of good at everything? Find your balance.

The End

Once you have reached your final destination, whether it’s competing in lifting, a season of football, graduating college, or whatever it may be, just remember that the whole process starts back over. You will become a beginner again. The small fish in a bigger lake. But you aren't completely a beginner, take from the ups and downs of your previous journey. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but don't make the same mistake twice. Good luck and be great.

about the author

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Zach Hadge is a World Champion strongman, Super Mario Bro extraordinaire, and overall monster in both training and life. He’s here to show you the doors, to tell you when its time to grease the hinges, pick the lock, find a new door, or just bust the door down completely. The only other thing he asks for in return is effort.  Follow Zach on Instagram (@hadge_brothers) for all the latest happenings.

Performance Based Nutrition: How to Forge Your Own Plan

“I’m absolutely stuffed; I feel like I’m going to explode. I’m so dead from eating all of this food but I can only eat so much (incredible laughter ensues)...On the way home, can we stop at a gas station to grab a few muscle milks?” While sitting in a Chipotle in Columbus, Ohio, Zach Hadge sat complaining about his “sour belly” from the bolus of food he just had. Except, bolus is an exaggeration and it was maybe more like a forkful

Immediately after hearing this I started laughing because I knew once I looked at his plate it was going to be full. Sure enough, it was, it literally could have been returned for full price. It looked like he did nothing more than twirl around some sour cream. He should have been starving, on account of the fact that he missed breakfast, and trying to gain weight for the Arnold.  Instead, he ate minimal food, and drank maybe two of the four muscle milks we got on the way home.

Now I am not sharing this with you to show that Zach is an elite level food waster, it is to show how incredibly intelligent and resilient the human body is. I also programmed for Zach leading up to this Arnold and I saw the stress from training Zach put on his body. How can sub optimal nutrition somehow fuel a world champ? Really...think about how big of a deal it is to be a world champion in something, even for a short period of time. Knowing how big of a role nutrition plays in performance, how is it possible that anyone can get to that level without perfect macros?

This is because everything works in nutrition. It has to...because if it doesn’t, you die.

It really is that simple: the human body is incredibly adaptive.

If your body couldn’t adapt to the non paleo, gluten filled, GMO stuffed food like substances we consume, you would slowly deplete to death. This adaptive process, however, is what makes nutrition so difficult to manage. You can count every macro and eat for absolute optimal health and still end up with a heart attack, and you can eat candy and be a world champ.

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At a lean 230 I can almost guarantee Zach was not taking in much more than 3000kcal leading up to the Arnold World Championships due to an inconsistent appetite. It's typical for Zach to eat sour patch kids and/or snickers intra workout. Some people just have the predisposition to put on lean mass very easily, while keeping body fat very low. Of course, I am picking out the worst nutritional habits Zach had, but his daily approach was far from what many would consider an optimal performance based weight gain diet.

With that in mind, anyone who is looking to take their performance or health to the next level should put some effort into their nutrition. With nutrition being the broad topic it is, most people are left with a few options:

  1. 1.  Hire a coach
  2. 2.  Forge your own plan
  3. 3.  Steal one from a teen girl magazine
  4. 4.  Go on without self improvement.

Well not everyone has the means or the desire to work with a coach, teen girl magazines haven't gotten anyone to an above average level in ever, and if you have any level of motivation, not making a change isn’t an option.

This leaves you with forging your own plan. Scary, huh?

With all of these different methods, it can be difficult deciphering exactly how to go about drawing up a nutrition plan. Thus, I have outlined the most important steps you must take into consideration to have an effective meal plan.

  1. Intake

There is a hierarchy of importance in nutrition. Many people will argue the amount of energy (calories) taken in each day will play the largest role in what direction a meal plan will take. The biggest misconception about this is the “clean eating” fad where people eat as much as they want as long as the food carries the healthy connotation. Yes, it is a step in the right direction for many people and it does drive results to some degree, however, it is far from the most important step.

To put this in better perspective we will use the example of John. John is a 190lb male that has been resistance training with intent for a few years and has developed some respectable strength. He is already relatively lean and follows the clean eating approach. Most lean individuals who train regularly do not necessarily have a haphazard enough habitual meal plan to see negative effects, like decreased body composition, getting weaker, tired all day etc. However, he is certainly not getting the most out of his meal plan.

The next step is to attack intake directly, or the amount of calories a person should be taking in. Caloric intake is completely dependent on the individual. Factors like lifestyle, genetics, body comp, training frequency, past nutritional habits, allergies, diseases...and the list goes on and on. In simplest terms, if you’re a shredded 250 you can handle significantly more calories than a sloppy 175.

Sounds simple, but that means there is a little bit of math involved using information you must obtain from yourself or your client. This means there should be an extensive and confidential exchange of information regarding current and past health, goals, current eating habits, activity level etc.

Here are two examples on how I came to find the appropriate caloric intake for two different athletes:

BW*1.5 easy estimation of maintenance kcal for a trained population

Female, 26, novice strength athlete, 130lbs:

Training Day: 2100kcal

Non Training Day: 1800kcal

Baseline: Approx 1900-2000

This is a simple meal plan:  she trains at the same times 4 times a week with her only goals being improved body composition and strength. I had previously worked with this client for some time trying to increase her intake, and based on how her bodyweight responded to the changes we made over several weeks I estimated she was between 1900 and 2000kcal to maintain her bodyweight. I simply did slightly under that for her non-training day to allow her to consume more on her training days. This should tip the scale slightly close to or over 2000kcal.

Male, 21, 166 NCAA Wrestler, 8-10 weeks out of a large tournament where he will cut to 157:

High Intensity Training Day: 2800kcal 3x a week

Moderate Intensity Training Day: 2500kcal 3x a week

Non Training Day: 2000kcal 1x a week

Weekly Intake: 2555kcal

This is a more complex situation to determine intake because of his goals and, more specifically, his lifestyle. Being a student athlete is difficult, being a student and a wrestler is very difficult, being a student and a competitive wrestler attempting to compete unaffiliated with the school while in school is insane. Adding a weight cut to that lifestyle demands special attention and a close relationship with the athlete to ensure success of the program. Especially when handling weight cuts it is important to have open and frequent communication with the athlete.

At this point, we are in a transitory period, switching goals from more off-season based to a specific tournament. Thus, I am putting minimal emphasis on weight loss, and focusing on maintaining weight while we transition in training.

As your training week changes and you intake different amounts every day it is simple to average your intake for the week. Just add up the kcal for each day of the week and divide by 7. This is a good indication of where weekly kcal is, and allows me keep a closer eye on his intake as his schedule changes.

As he transitions through a pre/off-season training block, where strength and general work capacity are high, keeping his intake high is essential to not only allow the adaptations to be more permanent but to ensure he can continue to adapt at a high rate.

The way you distribute their food is the next important concept. If you have someone eating 80% of their daily intake simply because it is easier to starve all day and binge eat at night, there is a 100% chance they will not comply long term to the plan. Creating an effective meal plan is about compliance.

  1. Macro Nutrient Breakdown and Distribution

The next step is the breakdown of your calories and how you distribute them throughout the day. Total calories is broken down into three macro nutrients: fat, carbs, and protein. At this point you must choose the type of meal plan you would like to use: high carb, carb cycling, high fat, intermittent fasting, and the list goes on.

Using your calories as 100%, convert each of the three macro nutrients into percentages that add up to 100.

Here are some general guidelines for a few common protocols:

Balanced:

Fat: 28%

Carb: 36%

Prot: 36%

High Carb:

Fat: 22%

Carb: 43%

Prot: 35%

High Fat

Fat: 50%

Carb: 10%

Prot: 40%

Once you’ve individualized your macro nutrient distribution and have your percentages, the next step is to convert them into grams. Take your total caloric intake and multiply it by the decimal form of the chosen percentage. This will give you the amount of calories of the chosen macro nutrient. Finally, divide that number by the amount of calories per gram:  4 for carbohydrates and protein, and 9 for fat.

For the sake of examples, we will use 2500kcal as the daily intake for the three examples I outlined above.

Balanced:

Fat: 77g

Carb: 225g

Prot: 225g

High Carb:

Fat: 61g

Carb: 268g

Prot: 218g

High Fat:

Fat: 138g

Carb: 63g

Prot: 250g

Now that you have daily totals you can begin tracking your intake. While there are many ways to go about doing this, I’m going to share with you what has worked best for my athletes and myself.

Create a meal database. This will give you the opportunity to do less and less thinking in making and managing your own meals the longer you are compliant with your meal plan.

*Side note: Grams is an effective way to measure your ingredients because every food substance will have an unchanging mass for the most part. If you are using cups or spoons to measure, you are in fact measuring volume, which can change under certain conditions.

As you begin creating meals that both fit your macros and you enjoy, keep track of them on your phone, laptop, and/or notebook in a database. You can use google sheets, microsoft excel…really whatever goes. The goal is just to make an easy reference book of meals that you can turn to.

Distribution can be as simple as dividing your daily totals by four to have four evenly based meals throughout the day. You may also track what you eat in accordance to your natural appetite using modern day apps. This is an okay method although it has some inaccuracies and mathematical issues, but it is a reliable measure of intake if you are consistent.

The important concept to understand here is eating for compliance. You will not adhere to a meal plan if you're eating 80% of your calories at night so you can binge eat cake and pizza. This will not only ruin your energy levels and appetite/satiety axis, but it can have lasting effects on your metabolism as well.

  • Peri Workout Nutrition

Outside of extreme cases, the goals of most meal plans involve some sort of physiological change related to exercise adaptation. Any sort of moderate to high intensity exercise, especially resistance training, gives major opportunity for a proper nutrition plan to synergistically work together and give you even better results.

There is an incredible amount of research to prove this, especially in diseased populations. That being understood, there is a lot to be said regarding nutrient timing in relation to exercise, this is coined peri-workout nutrition.

We can split peri workout nutrition into pre-intra-post in relation to exercise. The main variable in this equation is carbs. I will take you through my peri-workout training shake protocol, and give you some insight on the programming aspect of it.

If you are interested in learning more about the protocol itself, click here.

Pre Training:

This should be a bolus of fast digesting carbs with a small amount of protein and minimal fat. The goal is to raise insulin levels to facilitate glucose into the muscle cell. This should be anywhere from 20-30% of your daily carbohydrate intake and 10-15% of your protein. The distinguishing factor with the pre training approach is that food or liquid are an option, whereas for the other two, liquid is strongly recommended.

I often utilize a liquid pre workout option that has an even split of dextrose and highly branched cyclic dextrin combined with whey isolate. The 50/50 split provides more optimal glucose uptake into the cell without bogging down sympathetic drive.

I time this about 30-45 minutes pre workout with any stimulants I use coming 10-15 minutes later. I utilize isolate to save a bit of money primarily, but this is facilitated by the gap in time after drinking and before training (30-45 minutes) which allows for longer digestion of the only slightly more intact isolate chains.

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Intra Training:

Intra training nutrition is one of the most highly experimented with modalities. Plenty of research has shown efficacy to intra training nutrition in improving recovery, and decreasing the dip in peak performance during a training session.

Intra training nutrition, however, has a very unique twist to it: you don’t want to spike insulin often or too high.

This is related to the autonomics of training and how they are almost inverse to the autonomics of nutrition. Simply put, insulin is a chief anabolic hormone, however, it is also a driver of the parasympathetic nervous system. All carbohydrates elicit some sort of insulin spike, the trick is picking the right balance.

Training must be a catabolic process facilitated by the sympathetic nervous system in order to illicit adaptation. The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system work inversely, but one is always present. Ideally in training we want to minimize the parasympathetic system so we can further stress our bodies into adaptation.

Highly branched cyclic dextrin and hydrolyzed whey are my picks. While people have experimented with upwards of 70% of their daily intake for greater hypertrophy based adaptation, I tend to stick to 10-35% daily intake of carbs. As far as protein goes, keep the protein consumption low at roughly 5-10% of daily intake. Although it is not uncommon to see only BCAA’s used.

Post Training:

This is typically the best tasting shake, and should include a fast digesting carb that elicits a large insulin response. The parasympathetic system is what drives us to recover and adapt. After resistance training, muscle cells have a markable increase in insulin sensitivity, and this has even been been shown in diabetics. For that reason, I utilize a more balanced protein to carb ratio because utilizing them together can lead to greater glucose uptake (thanks to leucine and his friends), which drives recovery and makes you stronger for your next training session. 25-30% carbohydrates and 20-25% protein should suffice and refresh you after a tough session. I use dextrose and hydroylzed whey.

If we continued using the 2500kcal as our example my peri training shake combo would look like this

Pre:

28g of dextrose, 30g of HBCD, 35g whey isolate

Fat: <2g (Incidentals due to protein)

Carbs: 56g (21%)

Prot: 28g (14%)

Intra:

50g HBCD and 17g hydrolyzed whey

Fat: 0g

Carbs: 48g (18%)

Prot: 15g (7%)

Post:

67g dextrose powder and 48 hydrolyzed whey

Fat: 0g

Carbs: 67g (25%)

Prot: 41g (19%)

Something to Keep In Mind: Gut Health

Anatomy is typically what most people have memory lapses on, so here's a list of the organs of the gut: the gall bladder, large intestine, liver, oesophagus, pancreas, small intestine and stomach.

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This is the system associated with digestion, nutrient absorption and expelling waste.  Basically all of the organs in which food related substances travel through (they're kind of a big deal)

The most important tie in for gut health in nutrition is that it's a direct window into the immune system. This is incredibly important because it can really help or hurt you. If you're sick, putting the proper food into your system can help mitigate symptoms and improve recovery time.

We see this profoundly in our recovery to training. In fact, you can test this yourself:

Scenario 1:

Next time you have big training session make sure to start your recovery with no liquids and nothing but taco bell.

Scenario 2:

After your next big session have a shake of hydrolyzed whey, dextrose, and some salt.  Follow that up with a large chicken breast cooked generously in coconut oil with some white rice 30-60 minutes later.

It's important to note that the immune system can also be nasty to bite back. Any food coming into the system that's not recognized properly will elicit an immune response causing inflammation. Over time this chronic, low level immune system activation can severely impair recovery and training readiness, as well as lead to a slew of cardiac and health based issues.

Luckily, it’s very simple to avoid. You just need to make sure you’re adequately, not under or overly, hydrated and eat foods that you can easily define.

If you have no idea how the food you're eating was made, its safe to say you should limit it. A very easy way to manage this is just prep a good majority of your own meals.

Also, you should not have excessive bloating or gastric distress from the foods you eat. Great foods to help this process are leafy green vegetables and fermented vegetables (saurkraut, kimchi, pickles).

For those who really want to optimize gut health, try not drinking water 10 minutes before or after a meal and limit it during. Water can dilute the enzymes in the stomach and change the PH to less than optimal for nutrient absorption.

The End

There is nothing that pains me more than seeing people work their ass off just to have a lack of knowledge limit their success. While nutrition can be scary, there is a beautifully creative side to it as well.

And if you make sure you're properly managing the above criteria, then you're well on your way to creating an effective nutrition plan.

Don’t ever let knowledge be your limiting factor.

For more information on how to pick the right meal plan for you, see another of my articles:

http://rebel-performance.com/nutrition-pick-plan-works/

about the author

Andrew Triana “The Leucine Frog” is a promising young coach who has an intense passion for his clients success and writing. It is evident in his work that he is relentless in his pursuit of excellence. At 20 years old Andrew has produced National champions, World champions, Pro strongmen, and has helped many others reach their goals.  Follow him on Twitter (@AndrewTriana) and Instagram (@andtriana).

The Athletic Mindset: Comparison In Relation To Self-improvement and The Real Reason As To Why You're Not Reaching Your True Potential

Comparison can be a tragic thought process. We currently live in a world of social media where images and videos are pouring out of every crevice at a rapid pace. When we start to get into the habit of comparing ourselves to someone else, the result can be a false evaluation of our success. Many people have an idol of some sort growing up; perhaps this idol is the reason you participate in your sport today. A common mistake we make as beginners is relating our success in sport to what an elite athlete can do. We soon realize this is an inappropriate evaluation process.

It is not always apparent that we cannot start as a novice and expect to be a professional. Instead we decide to pick on somebody our own size and choose a more “suitable” option; perhaps a teammate or opponent whose been training for about the same amount of time and has similar numbers in terms of strength.

Perfect right? No, wrong again! 
This is also inaccurate! It's actually worse than comparing ourselves to someone we clearly know is on a different level all together. Here is why...
We fail to realize using such a tactic as means of motivation is the worst way to achieve a goal.

Instead you wind up stripping yourself of the opportunity to feel good about yourself. It is not because an extrinsic means of motivation is ‘bad’ [Although, research has identified athletes who exemplify intrinsic motivation may be the greater determinant of achieving success in sports when compared to those who are extrinsically motivated, statistically speaking, especially at the elite level (Hardy, Jones & Gould 1996 & 2003; Mahoney et al., 1987) We will dive more into that topic at another time] rather, it is due to the fact that we create a ceiling for our potential.
 Let me explain...

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By stating phrases such as "I can't imagine being like that” when comparing ones self to another, you might as well just take a seat and save yourself the time and heartache of what is to come.

We all have self-limiting feelings, which determine how far we will go. It is basically our self-image driven thoughts, in which we limit our expectations. Nothing more and nothing less. No one can truly steer your thought pattern when saying, “that’s impossible." It is you who allows him or her to do so.

You have the power to determine how far you will go, and I get it... that is an incredibly scary concept! No one wants that kind of commitment; everyone wants to point a finger or two or blame the situation on genetics or some other excuse. Take pride in all my actions? Admit I am responsible for my own actions? No thanks, I’ll pass.

This becomes a vicious circle of incomplete development as a human and puts a false sense of pride in satisfaction of mediocre achievement. Most of us do not achieve a fraction of our potential.

Few athletes view themselves without reference to the value attributed to them by society. Feldenkrais (1972) proposed societies recognition and approval gives a sense of organic contentment. He states our individual aspirations and desires will arouse anxiety and remorse, in turn the individual seeks to suppress the urge to realize them. This is due to the internal criticism he or she will have placed on them by the doubters and idealists. Because let’s face it, the road to success is far from ideal.

Photo Credit:  Nike
Photo Credit: Nike

When we compare, we fail to reach our inconceivable notions of greatness. We limit ourselves based on another person’s ability to do so.

Reaching is not enough. Those who exceed their potential must reach further. Stopping after greatness is perceived can be just as limiting as never getting there at all. We are not pre-destined for this greatness. Everyone should strive for higher standards. The difference is they create the concept in their mind, a simple commitment to a decision, and as time goes on habits are built, goals are set, and setbacks are inevitable.

This concept cannot be created unless it is first a repeated mental imagery of our own capability and none other than our own. This is the difference between doing the effecting outcome and being mediocre at best. It is a simple decision, a simple misconception, and we are all making it so complicated.

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Comparison can be a tricky thing to beat because beautiful ideas have stemmed from another mind other than our own. This is one perspective on how society has formed - a cultivation of ideas, which built on top of one another. However, being able to differentiate comparison and inspiration are vital for success in our performance.

Coaching

Let us switch gears and focus on a coach’s role. Achieving your potential as a coach is just as important, if not more so than as an athlete. Once you decide to be a coach you decide to use your acquired knowledge to influence another being, which you would like to see be successful.

Coaches must assess the abilities of their athletes and then decide to push further. This is not done by magic periodization schemes and squat cycles. Having good knowledge of technique and programming is just the start of coaching. Understanding how to speak to athletes and know what motivates them is the hard part. An athlete who does not respond to a coach will never achieve their full potential.

A coach sets the pace and creates the right environment for an athlete to excel. A coach who instills a base of confidence in the athlete will then see a spiral of positive effects to come, including higher lifts in both training and competition. If the athlete being coached is having a problem with constant comparison or negative self talk, consider using some mental skills training techniques to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. By creating an atmosphere, in which the athlete is eager to perform daily mundane habits, a recipe for success is then made.

Competition

Weightlifting competitions are learning experiences, at which you can reflect on your training and assess whether you trained correctly to peak or not. They are not to be used as a comparison tool. The beauty of our sport, as can be applied to any, is the process and not the destination. Olympic weightlifting is about self -improvement. The basic misconception is that it is about competing against other lifters, when really it is about challenging yourself.

Your opponent is nothing more than a stationary barbell. The lifter who succeeds is the one who can stretch his or her imagination and believes in achieving what is pictured in their mind as possible. This may not be enough to win the class, but perhaps new personal records or overall performance, and that is the goal.

After reading this you may be confused on how to begin to incorporate this mindset into your training. Not many of us welcome change with open arms, because we are creatures of habit. Being creatures of habit can be beneficial once we learn to train our brains accordingly.  A crucial role for the basal ganglia is in habit learning as well as a host of other related functions such as motor control and emotional functions (Seger & Spiering, 2011).

What many of us don’t realize is our brain does not distinguish good and bad habits, but we can take control of them. During “habit mode,” our brain activity shifts from the higher-thinking cerebral cortex to our more primitive-thinking basal ganglia. Neuroscientists have discovered our habits never really disappear after being encoded. When too many choices suddenly proliferate in our mind, we go with our habitual tendencies to solving a problem.

The learning process consists of a progression of simple steps leading to more complicated ones, just as if a beginner were to learn a snatch. Mental skills are qualities, which develop over time, just as our muscles do. We need to make simple changes, which become fixed habits, which then become encoded in our brain as a natural routine. We must transform our thought process on assessing our value as an athlete. This is the first of many steps and will spiral into the beginning of a successful athletic mind-set.

about the author

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Dani Tocci is an eccentric individual whose primary goal is to cultivate a positive growth mindset with everyone she works with on both a sport consulting level and with training. Having a not so typical background with degrees in art and philosophy gives her an edge on her thought process. Dani is a competitive olympic weightlifter and has had the pleasure of working with national level athletes.  Follow her on Instagram (@d_tocc) for all the happenings.

REFERENCES

Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, NY: Random House Publishing.

Feldenkrias, M. (1972). Awareness Through Movement: Easy  -to-Do Health Exercises to Improve Your Posture,     Vision, Imagination, and Personal Awareness. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Hardy, L., Jones, G., & Gould, D. (1996). Understanding    Psychological Preparation for Sport: Theory and Practice of Elite Performers. Wiley, Chichester.

Mahoney, M.; Gabriel, T.; Perkins, S. (1987) Psychological     skills and exceptional athletic performance. The Sport Psychologist. 1:181-199.

Seger, C. A., & Spiering, B. J. (2011). A Critical Review of Habit Learning and the Basal Ganglia.

Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience

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5

, 66.

Training the Rotator Cuff: Assessing and Programming for Optimal Shoulder Performance

Whether you’re an aspiring collegiate baseball player trying to improve throwing velocity, or a weekend warrior trying move serious weights, it’s important to understand how to keep your shoulders healthy to truly maximize the benefits of an aggressive strength training program. As a coach thats worked with hundreds of baseball athletes, I'm often asked how to incorporate certain exercises to have strong and healthy shoulders. Given the unique velocity and range of motion demands of the baseball players that I work with, I've learned some important lessons on how to keep shoulders both moving and functioning properly.

So...here we go.

The Cuff

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The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis), and its main role is to keep the humeral head centered in the glenoid.

While that may sound simple in theory, it's really a complicated process because it's analogous to keeping a golf ball centered on a golf tee. To make things even more difficult, let’s imagine that golf tee is moving:  as you raise your arm overhead to throw a ball or to press a dumbbell or barbell, the position of the scapula will change, so we hope the rotator cuff is able to provide enough dynamic control to prevent contact with the acromion, thus avoiding impingement.

When I first assess clients as they come in, I usually see three main limitations at the shoulder:

1.  Faulty position of the scapula relative to the ribcage

2.  Poor rotator cuff strength

3.  Poor motor control of the shoulder

It’s important to understand the cycle of injury, and how each of these limitations impacts that cycle.  Here's a great graphic illustrating just that.  In particular, this graphic does an outstanding job depicting how a lack of strength (functional instability) can lead to earlier onset of fatigue, poor motor control, and mechanical instability (laxity/pathology).  Aka things we don't want.

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Here's another fun fact to consider before we move on:  cumulative fatigue increases sympathetic tone as a stress response, thus creating sub optimal joint positioning (cue mind blowing).

All in all, what we're talking about is balancing position, strength, fatigue and motor control.

It's All About Position

When looking to enhance shoulder health, it all starts with making sure you have ideal joint positioning. If the muscles can’t generate good leverage and moving segments don’t articulate well with stationary segments, a joint isn’t going be able to move freely or produce/withstand maximal forces.

A very basic example of that can be seen via a length-tension and force-length relationship.  While these graphs are getting after the same thing, I've given you both to help you better understand what's happening:

As the above graphs illustrate, there's an optimal resting muscle length that allows for just the right amount of overlap between myofibrils for force production.  Once you get outside that range, the muscle will not function as optimally (this is what happens when position is out of whack).

Most ardent clients will come in looking something like this:

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They are very Lat dominant, bilaterally extended through their rib cage, with anteriorly tipped scapulae. On the table, they will likely present with bilaterally limited shoulder IR and bilaterally limited shoulder flexion.

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Before we try and do any sort of mobility work, or address rotator cuff strengthening, we need to re-establish a more neutral resting position for the shoulder and optimal starting position for the muscles to do their jobs! I like to start with an All Fours Belly Lift Drill.

All we are looking for here is a good bilateral reach through the floor, creating an activation of both Serratus Anterior (protraction), and creating some desperately needed thoracic flexion. The key once in this positon, is to deeply inhale, getting air into your upper back, then forcefully exhaling and drawing your ribs down. This is repeated for 5 breaths.

Creating Strength

When it comes to strengthening the rotator cuff I usually implement drills focusing on shoulder abduction, or external rotation. These are two motions that will typically fail upon muscle testing. Since the posterior cuff is heavily relied upon to decelerate the arm at the tail end of the throwing motion, I focus specifically on developing the strength of these muscles with our baseball players.

External rotation drills at 90 degrees are usually best, and I will use a variety of dumbbells, manual resistance, or cable resistance.

I look for good ball in socket rotation, and for the client to feel activation in the posterior shoulder, not in the front.

Another drill I started to implement a lot within the last year or so is the Chain Full Can.

I like that this drill utilizes variable resistance from the chains, creating a gradual increase in resistance as the athlete flexes their shoulder in the scapular plane. Also, to be honest, it makes a fairly boring drill typically used with small pink or purple dumbbells into something a little bit more legit.  This matters when you're working with a bunch of baseball players who are secretly enormous meatheads on the inside.

At the initial portion of this movement, if someone has weakness in their rotator cuff they may either crank back into lumbar extension or shrug to compensate their way to the top portion of the lift.  Since most of the links are resting on the floor at the beginning of this movement, the load is less, so the athlete is less apt to compensate to flex their shoulder.   At the top portion of the lift, all of the links are off of the ground and the load is highest where the rotator cuff needs to be strengthened most.

Using chains for this drill also increases grip demands, which causes reflexive rotator cuff activation. And finally, chains are unstable, since they’re suspended in the air, creating the need for added contribution from the rotator cuff to stabilize the shoulder in the glenoid as it goes through a full range of motion.

Control and Timing

The next step is to integrate motor control and rotator cuff timing to ensure proper dynamic stability of the shoulder. Rhythmic Stabilizations are my go to drills to these qualities in varying positions of instability. These drills force you to react to external resistance to stabilize whatever joint is being acted upon, enhancing proprioceptive control and timing of the rotator cuff and the muscles that act upon the scapulae.

These are great drills to train rotator cuff control/timing in various positions without excessively loading up the shoulder. I actually conducted my Master’s Thesis on the implementation of Rhythmic Stabilization drills and their effect on throwing performance. I found that players who presented with a greater degree of laxity benefitted more in terms of throwing performance—measured in velocity. Clients that may present with higher degrees of laxity lack the ability to stabilize their joints through muscle stiffness. Therefore, these drills can be really beneficial in addressing this deficit in motor control.

Where to Go

The big question now is where does all of this fit together into a program? I find that you can split up your rotator cuff strength and motor control work into separate days. For instance, any rhythmic stabilization drills would pair nicely with a primary lower body lift since it's low load and can be done as active rest. I usually program for 3-4 sets of 5-10 seconds depending on number of positions and overall difficulty.

When incorporating direct rotator cuff work, I will put these exercises at the end of an upper body training session to mitigate overall effects of fatigue. I will usually program 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps on a given training day. Try adding these in to your overall training routine and let me know what you think.

Closing Thoughts

It’s important to understand that building rotator cuff strength and control is a sequential process. At each phase of a training program, the exercises must coordinate with training goals. All in all, the key is finding out what you need as an individual and then attacking the weakest link. If you are generally lax, stretching may be the worst thing you can do! However, if you're toned up and positioned horribly, training for stability might come secondary to repositioning and improving range of motion.

I know that was a lot of technical information, so if you feel like you're head is spinning in three different directions don't hesitate to drop me a line below in the comment section.

about the author

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Sam Sturgis

Sam holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Athletic Training from Quinnipiac University (2010) and Master’s Degree in Strength and Conditioning from Springfield College (2012).  A skilled Strength Coach and Athletic Trainer at Pure Performance Training in Needham, MA, Sam works primarily with baseball athletes and clients rehabilitating from injury.  Sam has developed a successful off-season baseball Strength & Conditioning program for youth athletes in the greater Boston area. Sam also serves as the Athletic Trainer for the New England Ruffnecks baseball program.

To contact Sam, he can be reached at ssturgisppt@gmail.com

What's the Big Deal with Fitness and Why You Should Want More

The growth of Crossfit, Bootcamps and other GPP (general physical preparedness) programs have truly erupted onto the scene over the past 5 years.  Crossfit, or the sport of fitness, serves as a great example.  It started as a simple website back in 2001 with no affiliates, and now can be seen on ESPN and has thousands upon thousands of affiliates scattered across the world.  This fast paced growth merits a deeper look at what fitness truly is, whether or not you need it, and if you should want more.

What Makes Up Fitness

For starters, let's take a look at several of my favorite attempts to define fitness (these are the first definitions listed by the way):

www.dictionary.reference.com:  "health"

oxforddictionaries.com:  "the condition of being physically fit and healthy"

www.merriam-webster.com:  "the quality or state of being fit"

Hopefully you find those as comedic as I do, and want a better answer.

When attempting to define fitness, you must first determine the separate pieces that form the whole.  An easy way to think of this is to consider what grouping of general physical skills added together most adequately forms fitness.  Mel Siff goes into great depth on this subject in Supertraining, but to keep things simple we'll turn to the Crossfit Training Guide because it's user friendly and provides a well rounded list.  There are more technical lists out there, but this will get the job done.

Before I go any further, I need to clarify that I'm neither endorsing nor telling you to do Crossfit.  That's a topic for another day.

But on page 19 of their training guide they list the following as the 10 general physical skills that make up fitness:

  1. 1. Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance
  2. 2. Stamina
  3. 3. Strength
  4. 4. Flexibility
  5. 5. Power
  6. 6. Speed
  7. 7. Coordination
  8. 8. Agility
  9. 9. Balance
  10. 10. Accuracy

If we think long and hard we may be able to come up with one or two items to add to the list, but top to bottom it's pretty solid.  We can say with a fair amount of confidence that an individual displaying adequate ability in each of these categories is physically fit.

A Definition And Why It's Important

Knowing the components, let's consider an adequate definition.  I'm personally a huge fan of Tadeusz Starzynski's and Henryk Sozanski's definition of physical fitness in Explosive Power and Jumping Ability For All Sports:  "Physical fitness is movement potential that determines an athlete's readiness for solving tasks (1)."  This makes perfect sense and immediately answers the question of whether or not you should care about fitness or GPP.

If we slightly re-word the definition it may become clearer:  your overall fitness level determines how suited you are at solving different athletic tasks.

Think of fitness as a toolbox.  The greater your fitness level, or the better you are at the 10 general physical skills from above, the more tools you have in your toolbox.  The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more prepared you are to solve various tasks.

Likewise, if you focus on only one of the above general physical skills, say cardiovascular endurance, then you turn into a one trick pony with limited ability to perform any other task.  BUT...that's not necessarily bad depending on your goals.  If you want to be an elite distance runner, you HAVE TO SPECIALIZE, or else you'll never be able to compete at the highest level.

And the same goes for powerlifters, olympic lifters, and every other sport on the face of the earth--in order to be truly great at something, some form of specialization must occur.

We're going to talk more about that in a minute though, so let's come back to why fitness (what I prefer to call GPP) is important in the first place:  it builds a foundation for continued success.

The Pyramid Approach

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Think of your training life as the above pyramid.  Fitness or GPP goes on the bottom and must be broad, or else the pyramid will be built upon a faulty structure.

It's your chance to build a movement foundation by playing and performing a large variety of tasks, so that you're brain has a chance to learn.

This is opening up an entirely different can of worms, but it's a travesty the number of kids now who start playing one sport and one sport only from the time their 8 years old.

Where's the variability?  Where's there chance for them to learn how to move?  It's no wonder injury rates are through the rough in youth sports these days because kids are skipping the foundational stage and going straight for high level performance.

Sorry, but you're 8 year old kid will get way more out of participating in multiple sports, and engaging in unstructured play.

The base of the pyramid is also where you build up work capacity.  Think of it this way:  you want to have a large gas tank that can refill itself rapidly so you can train hard, recover, and push the envelope more often.

To review:  your overall fitness level dictates your propensity for long term success and performance.  The people who skip this step entirely usually see some moderate gains in performance on the front end, but typically get injured or fail to see continued progress because they have a faulty pyramid.

You Want More

Over time, however, it's natural to specialize in certain tasks over others.  People will naturally gravitate towards tasks they perform well or enjoy doing.  It's at this point in time people begin to move up the pyramid.  They take whatever the end goal is and put it at the top.

The rest of the pyramid will be filled with whatever specialized tasks are important and necessary to move up the levels of the pyramid.

For example, say somebody wants to be a competitive olympic weightlifter.  The clean and jerk, and snatch will fill the top spot because that's the final goal, and the other levels of the pyramid will be filled with more specialized traits like absolute strength and strength speed.

Although specialization is necessary to truly become exceptional at something, you must first build a base that gives you an adequate chance to succeed.  You can't skip over levels when building the pyramid.  You have to be methodical and fitness/GPP is the first step.

But herein lies the problem:  fitness may make you good at a lot of things, but in order to be truly exceptional you have to specialize.  Tradeoffs have to be made between certain fitness qualities because physiologic adaptations are incredibly specific.

This is why you train a football player different than a soccer player, and a baseball player different than a basketball player.  There's just no such thing as an "athlete" program that will prepare you for any and everything.

Now you may be reading this and saying:  "James, that's all fine and dandy, but I'm very happy with just training for overall health and fitness"... And to you I say awesome.  Whatever your goals are I encourage you to pursue them.

But I know there are many people out there, and maybe even you, who are tired of the general fitness trend.  You have specific high performance goals that you just can't seem to reach, even though you bust your ass in the gym x times a week.  And for this I blame the fitness trend.

99% of the time these people come to us with questions about why they haven't been able to reach a certain goal it's because they're trying to be "everything" all the time.  I can respect your desire to be well rounded, but you have to remember there will always be tradeoffs in training.

Are there genetic freaks out there who tend to be pretty damn good at a lot of things?  Absolutely, but I'm not throwing my programming methodology behind the top 1% of the human population.

So...what's the point of today's post?  Be specific with your goal setting, and then draw out a pyramid that'll get you there.  Start at the bottom, and then get more specific over time until you have acquired/built up the necessary skills and fitness qualities to allow you to succeed at your desired skill.

Oh, and be willing to call B.S. on the fact that everyone and their mom trains "fitness" since it's technically everything.  Ask more questions, and demand specific answers as to why you're doing what you're doing, and why you're working on what you're working on.

Now that my mini rant is complete, go have an awesome weekend.

about the author

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James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.

 

 

 

References

1. Starzynski, Tadeusz, and Henryk Sozanski, Ph.D. "What Is Fitness Preparation."

Explosive Power and Jumping Ability For All Sports

. Island Pond, VT: Stadion, 1999. 3.

Aggressive Throwing Programs: Are You Asking the Right Questions

Everyone wants to throw gas. If you throw 80mph, you want to throw 85mph. If you throw 85,mph you want to throw 90mph. If you throw 90, you want to throw 95mph…and so on and so forth.

For a pitcher, it’s the ultimate attention grabber. The radar gun doesn’t lie, and lighting one up is the quickest way to turn heads.

Assuming you have any semblance of control, throwing hard helps you get a college scholarship, helps you get drafted, and helps you toward the big leagues.

Sorry, but they aren’t handing out many signing bonuses for an 85mph fastball.

Think of it like the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine—everyone is looking for that 4.3 speed because it’s a game changer.

Due to the high premium baseball places on velocity, and the paychecks that can come along with it, weighted ball programs have gained a tremendous amount of popularity over the past several years. Not only that, they can deliver great results. By playing with the force velocity curve, you can see some pretty impressive jumps in velocity over a relatively short period of time.

Unfortunately, a lot of high school and college athletes are jumping into aggressive weighted ball programs without asking the right questions—they end up chasing short-term gains as opposed to setting themselves up for long-term success.”

If you’d like to read more about what questions you need to be asking, the difference between general and specific training, and how to build a pyramid, then head over and checkout the rest of the article here:

Aggressive Throwing Programs:  Are You Asking the Right Question

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.

 

 

 

Header Photo Credit