strength

Baseball and Gaining The Off-Season Advantage

The off-season can pass by in the blink of an eye. Even though the cold and dark months between November and March remind you nothing of the game of baseball, they are the most crucial for ensuring you’ll be at your best come opening day. What you do with these months is what separates you from, and elevates you above, other players.  

How Bad Do You Want to Get Better?

I can vividly remember sitting in our small high school gym and being handed a blank piece of paper by my coach. We were instructed to fill the piece of paper with our goals:

Team

  • - Win Back-to-Back Conference Championships
  • - Win Sectional Title
  • - State Champs

Personal

  • - Gain 10 lbs.
  • - Lead by example (Everyday!)
  • - Make all routine plays in the field
  • .- 300 Batting Average

This list was from my junior year of high school. Each year I would strive for, and ultimately achieve, more. This was only possible because within each goal was an action plan.

Let’s take a deeper look at the first goal in my personal list:

Gain 10 lbs

You’re cheating yourself by just writing down your goal and leaving it as that. That’s too easy. You have to ask yourself: how will I gain 10 pounds this off-season? Answering these questions will help you expand your goal sheet and create a roadmap for how it’ll be accomplished.

Below is what a piece of my final goal sheet looked like.

Gain 10 lbs

  • -4x/week of strength training
  • -Eat a lot!
  • -Weekly weigh-ins

With an action plan your chances of reaching your goal increases exponentially.

As an athlete, many times a well-designed strength and conditioning program needs to be part of your action plan. When training properly you’ll be able to work towards accomplishing many things at once. Other than the obvious (getting jacked) a training program will also provide many other benefits as you head into your spring season.

  1. 1. Get Stronger

If you’re not using progressive overload, you’re missing out. If you’re somewhere between 14 and your mid-20s, your body is at its peak of hormone production. Testosterone and growth hormone are flooding your bloodstream. Taking advantage of an increase in production of these hormones is a wise decision. Progressively overloading your tissues and nervous system will allow your body to better deal with stress. You want to train to better be able to handle higher volumes and intensities. In short, gradually challenge your body more and more each week and you’ll become stronger and be able to handle increased demands of future training sessions and long seasons.

You also must appreciate that without a good base of strength it will be more difficult for you to improve other fitness qualities. If you were to fill up a bucket with various fitness qualities, you can only add so much until nothing else fits. You can either keep trying to force things into an already full bucket, or you can GET STRONGER. The stronger you are, the more force you can produce, and the bigger the bucket becomes. Now you have more opportunity to get explosive and increase your speed.

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  1. 2. Increase Bodyweight

Studies have shown that an increase in bodyweight can lead to an increase in throwing velocity. If you go back to physics class…

F=ma

Force= mass x acceleration. The more mass you have, the more force you’ll be able to produce, and in turn, the harder you’ll be able to throw. Obviously, there are other variables, mechanics being one of them. But, if you’re a high school or college player, it’s likely you’ll be able to pick up a few mph by increasing your weight. Couple your increase in weight with increased strength and power and you’ll be better at delivering and accepting force, and you’ll be able to mitigate injuries while continuing to throw harder.

  1. 3. Increase Range of Motion

Throwing a baseball is one of the most violent and high-velocity movements in sport. This is in no way a means to scare you. You just need to appreciate the importance of all of your joints working optimally so you’re not overstressing one area over another.

Maybe because of your lack of shoulder external rotation, your medial elbow is being stressed much more than it should. Or, if you lack internal rotation in your lead hip, it could lead to your throwing shoulder having to work way harder than it should during your delivery.

Making sure you have as much mobility as possible heading into a season is extremely valuable. A smart off-season training program will understand this and incorporate soft-tissue work, along with mobility training for your thorax, shoulder girdle, elbow, and wrist.

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  1. 4. Rotator Cuff Strength & Endurance

Along with putting on mass in your glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, and other prime movers, it’s also important to designate time in your training program for your rotator cuff.

Think of your shoulder joint as a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. It’s your cuff that will keep that ball centered on the tee. The better your rotator cuff is at centrating your humeral head in the glenoid fossa, the more durable your shoulder becomes. A strong rotator cuff will also help you have better control when decelerating your arm during the follow through of your throw.

  1. 5. Create Camaraderie and Develop Good Habits & Routines

The last major benefit of having an off-season strength and conditioning program has less to do with physical gains and more do to with gains in the mental and emotional realm. Training with teammates is a great way to create camaraderie and build team chemistry, as you’re all working hard towards the same goals.

Knowing you’re individually prepared is important, but having confidence that your entire team is prepared is powerful.

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Developing consistency with an off-season strength and conditioning program is also a sure-fire way to carry good work habits and routines into your spring and summer seasons.

In Summary

A quality off-season strength and conditioning program is one of the most valuable things an athlete can invest in. Take care of your body, put in smart work and you’ll be rewarded when the season rolls around. Even if you’re in high school and are playing a winter sport (which, if you’re an underclassman, I highly recommend) you should still make room for 1-2 strength training sessions each week in order to make sure you’re building your base of strength and have adequate amount of mobility.

Start today. Write down your goals, create action plans, and get to work!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Mike Sirani is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Licensed Massage Therapist.  He earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Applied Exercise Science, with a concentration in Sports Performance, from Springfield College, and a license in massage therapy from Cortiva Institute in Watertown, MA.  During his time at Springfield, Mike was a member of the baseball team, and completed a highly sought after six-month internship at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA.

Mike’s multi-disciplinary background and strong evidence-based decision-making form the basis of his training programs.  Through a laid-back, yet no-nonsense approach, his workouts are designed to improve individual’s fundamental movement patterns through a blend of soft-tissue modalities and concentrated strength training.

He has worked with a wide variety of performance clients ranging from middle school to professional athletes, as well as fitness clients, looking to get back into shape.  Mike specializes in helping clients and athletes learn to train around injury and transition from post-rehab to performance.  If you’re interested in training with Mike, he can be found at Pure Performance Training in Needham, Massachusetts.

Know-Think-Guess: The 70/20/10 Rule of Programming

Good programming is a balancing act worthy of a Game of Thrones episode: on one side sit the foundational movements–pushes, pulls, hinges, squats, and carries–while on the other sit the latest and greatest in cutting-edge research-velocity based training, blood flow restriction, PRI, post-activation potentiation and more. Stuck neatly in the middle is the modern-day coach, like Jon Snow caught between the white walkers and the mortal threats from the seven kingdoms. How much credence should be given to the up and coming methods? Is it really worth abandoning tried-and-true approaches? Today's article is an attempt to help answer that question, providing some guidance for just how to navigate the relatively narrow space between these two worlds. It's a strategy I've been able to use to help me be both innovative and effective, allowing me to use some of the more exciting things I've come across while not abandoning some of the staples of strength and conditioning. In fact, aside from the principles of specificity and periodization, this one idea has done more to inform my programming choices than anything else I've come across.

70/20/10

The idea at the heart of today's conversation is borrowed from Stuart McMillan, one of the industry's preeminent sprint and speed coaches. He mentioned something he called the 70/20/10 rule in passing, and while I can't remember anything else from that article, this one has stuck with me. Put as simply as possible, 70% of his programming is made of up things he knows, 20% is comprised of things he thinks, and the remaining 10% is left to things he guesses.

My first thought was to wonder where that particular breakdown had come from. I'm the first to acknowledge when someone's smarter than me, and I'll happily be deferring to Stu for years to come, but I wanted to understand the 70/20/10 on my own terms.

70%–The Minimum Adaptable Load

Minimum Adaptable Load (a concept previously covered on this site) is the point at which the applied stimulus or stress is sufficient to cause an adaptation or change in the athlete. The stimulus applied can vary, from the weight on the bar and how many times its lifted on one end of the spectrum to sprint distances, times, and rest intervals on the other. Adaptation is simply the goal of that particular training cycle; hypertrophy, maximum power output, body composition or the like. Minimum Adaptable Load is important for one very basic reason: change doesn’t happen during the session; change happens when we recover from the session.

The exact threshold for Minimum Adaptable Load changes from athlete to athlete, and even within athletes as their training age, their nutrition, or even their lifestyle changes and it can be tough to hit a moving target. While this presents a challenge, a good coach or trainer should be able to adjust training stressors appropriately for their athletes and clients. By devoting 70% of the session’s volume to the strategies we know to be effective, we are likely to meet the threshold needed for adaptation while not exceeding it by so much that we don’t have room for additional strategies.

Consider a strength athlete; with goals of improving their ability to squat, press, pull, lift, carry, and potentially throw the greatest amount of weight possible, what would constitute their 70%? Depending on the specifics of their sport and what season they were in, my programming would likely include big, heavy compound movements loaded from 85% up to 100% of 1RM. In short, they’d spend more time squatting, carrying, pressing, pulling and lifting than they would curling, sprinting, jumping, or walking. While those movements could very well have a place in their programming, they don’t offer the greatest ROI for the athlete, and I’m reserving this 70% for my heavy artillery.

Once I’ve chosen my movements and loading schemes, it’s time to consider overall volume in the context of the larger program. Again, I’m only allowing 70% of my session for these movements, so depending on total volume, I may pull a movement out, drop a set or two, or break the workload up differently to allow me to focus on what I think is most important without overtaxing the athlete.

20%–A Good Bet

With 70% of an athlete's time and energy accounted for, it makes sense to give the bulk of the remainder to something we're confident in, but hasn't stood the test of time. Too little investment here and we're unlikely to see enough influence (or lack thereof) to inform our future programming choices, too much and there's nothing left for the real cutting-edge work.

Continuing the example of our strength athlete, plyometric work (either on its own or for potential post-activation potentiation effects) are one possible choice. Since true explosive power and speed aren't are primary goals, we don't need to devote the same number of reps or contacts we might for a pure throwing or jumping athlete, but a few sets and reps or our most transferable movement patterns make sense. In this case a squat jump (loaded or unloaded, with or without counter movement), a broad jump, and maybe a hinge or rotationally-driven throw could be helpful.

10%–Room to Play

I look at this final piece of the puzzle as playtime... a crazy idea I had, something a single study hinted at, an intuition that an athlete might benefit from something. I'm not ready to devote much of an athlete's training or recovery to something that may be half-baked at best, but as long as I'm confident I'm not doing any harm, this gives me a chance to insert an extra little "kick". It may not work, but again, as long as it's safe, we can probably consider it GPP (General Physical Preparedness) at worst, right?

Maybe strength athlete benefits from working with unstable loads, using something akin to an earthquake or bamboo bar, or possibly moving a barbell with an uneven or hanging load. The instability certainly won't hurt him in his training (provided it doesn’t detract from his primary training modalities), and has some potential carryover to his specific sport and goals, from injury prevention to improved neuromuscular communication.

Putting it to Work

A few days after first running across this concept, I sat down to rework some of my own programming. Knowing I was hoping to put a little more muscle on, and feeling a little bored at the prospect of another body-part split filled with sets of 6-12, I decided to put this idea to the test.

I began with the basics, as I knew they'd work, and wrote a workout that followed some solid principles; progressive overload, moderate weights and rest periods etc. In anticipation of adding to this foundation, I left the volume a little lower than I knew I could handle, allowing for the think and the guess. From there I chose two methods, one I'd seen solid research on, and one I just wanted to play with, and filled in the rest of the volume.

Specifically, I chose to include some traditional explosive plyometric work (as both a Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP) element and to directly target fast-twitch fibers) as well as something called Velocity Based Training (VBT). I'd seen some interesting research on VBT using only 35% of 1RM for cluster sets of 5-6, and wanted to give it a go.

I thought the plyometric work would help, and so gave it a good focus, particularly on lower body days, emphasizing either vertical (quad-dominant) or horizontal (glute and hamstring focus) patterns depending on the days movement patterns. This made up the 20%.

I hoped the VBT protocols would work, but wasn't ready to let it overrun my program. I added a set or two at the beginning of days that didn't include plyometric training. If I was pressing, I'd follow VBT protocols with a machine-based press in the hope that I'd target fast-twitch fibers, spark some hypertrophy, and perhaps even see a carryover through the rest of the workout.

Determining Volume

At this point at least a few of you have your hands up, waiting impatiently for the teacher to call on you. Let's get to you guys now:

"How do you determine volume? Is it sets and reps, time, or what?”

"Yes."

In short, use your best judgement in choosing a method to measure volume and determine your 70/20/10 workload. For a Hypertrophy cycle (typically a volume-driven cycle) I might use sets and reps. For a power/speed athlete I might use time or RPE. Ultimately volume will likely play a role, but there's room to interpret "workload" here in a way that matches the stresses of the training cycle.

Evaluation

If we’re going to introduce new methods into our programming, then ultimately we’d like some sense of their effectiveness; at some point in the misty past most of what we take for granted as known was merely thought or guessed. It’s tricky to separate one aspect of a program from another, and if we were to follow stricter scientific methodology, we’d likely only introduce one variable at a time for testing. Still, there are a few benchmarks I’ve looked for in deciding whether an idea had merit or not.

  1. 1)    The athlete or client progressed within the specific mode being employed. If we add plyometric work to improve max strength, did the athlete jump higher or farther?
  2. 2)    Assuming you have some sort of expectation for the athlete’s progress (i.e. last off-season they gained 5 pounds of lean mass in 20 weeks), did this program exceed those expectations?
  3. 3)    Did the athlete and I look forward to this section of their programming? It’s a little subjective, but on some level I think we have a sense of what’s paying dividends, and in the absence of other evidence, it’s at least worth recognizing.
  4. 4)    Were there any other unexpected benefits observed during the training block? Case-in-point, while I was experimenting with VBT protocols for some of my upper body pushing movements, I found that my bench press felt a little more explosive through the sticking point. I hadn’t done anything else to directly target that adaptation, and so it’s conceivable that there was some impact from the explosive, lighter weight work I was doing at the time.

The Hidden Benefit

As clients and athletes finished their own cycles, I started applying the lens of 70/20/10 to the work they were being given. I love some of the work coming out of the PRI world, but I'm not ready to abandon the foundation of a program in favor of these drills. Adding one or two movements a week? That felt about right, and forced me to choose the best drill for the athlete. Similarly, PAP has some good research behind it, and I have some athletes with goals that I think can be helped by its inclusion, but I'm not ready to pull too much volume away from their main lifts. Could I give 20% of a session over to it? Absolutely, and again, I'm forced to prioritize the application of a technique.

Limiting yourself to the 70/20/10 framework offers a self-editing process of sorts, forcing the coach to whittle away at their programming until it's lean and mean. Instead of including five or six lower body patterns in a given workout, maybe I'm limited to four. Inherently I'll choose the four that are most effective. The basics will likely become even more basic as you search out the movements that give you and your athletes the biggest payout.

What Now?

For those of you who enjoy your highlighters, you'll love this part: grab a program you've written  (hard-copy) and mark that sucker up. Highlight your basics, the 70% built around things you know will drive the right adaptation. Find your next tier of movements, the ones you think help the athlete, and highlight those as well. Finally, highlight the movements you've included based on some good solid guesswork as to how they may help.

Step back and look at what you've got. How much time is being devoted to each avenue of attack? How many sets and reps, how much mental energy? If something seems out of line, tweak it a bit, and as you continue to move forward, take some notes and keep track of what you find. After all, there's no substitute for lessons learned through experience.

about the author

Jesse McMeekin has been toiling away in a weight room for more than 20 years. A former competitive lacrosse and football player, as well as drug-free bodybuilder, Jesse currently works with world-class athletes, paramilitary members, weekend warriors, desk-bound CEOs, and a variety of other clientele and athletes. Jesse holds multiple certifications including the CSCS, USAW L1 SPC, Pn1, and FMSC. Wearing a number of hats, Jesse runs his own website (www.revolutionstrengthcoach.com), trains clients privately and through Equinox, and is an Equinox EFTI Master Instructor. He currently lives in Westchester County with his beautiful wife and their dog.

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

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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

MASS: Are You Ready to Enter the Beast

In case you we're unaware, Dr. Pat Davidson just released his first Ebook this week MASS.  While I'd love to sit here and tell you about how it's THE PREMIERE muscle building program available right now, or how it's forged monsters out of mere men, I'd rather share with you the first several pages of the book for FREE. In those few pages I think you'll get a feel for just how special this program is.  Enjoy:

Just a heads up that MASS is only on sale through Sunday night.

Foreword by Jim Ferris

In the fitness industry, mentioning to colleagues the legendary name “Pat Davidson” gets you two responses. The first is a smile ear-to-ear. The second is usually a story not unlike one you may hear about Scotland’s infamous William Wallace. While Pat is not a 7-foot tall giant like the storied “Braveheart,” he does have a neck thicker than most peoples’ thighs (which is, I imagine, to hold that valuable cranium of his in place). Some who have attended his workouts or lectures will even argue that they have seen fireballs in his eyes. As for the “lightning bolts coming from his arse”—well I guess some things we can just leave to the imagination.

Over the many years that I have known Pat, I have come to respect him as one of the smartest, most creative, and most sought-out coaches around. There is a quote I often recite to my interns and and to coaches whom I mentor, “There is a difference between acting like a pro, and being a pro.” I assure you that when it comes to Pat Davidson there is no acting, nonsense, or BS. He is a true pro’s pro. He is a man with whom everyone in the industry should have a conversation if they are fortunate to have an opportunity to do so.

A few months back I was getting bored with my training routine and wanted to start something new. I needed something fresh. I needed something that would put the edge back into my weekly training sessions. I knew exactly who could conjure up the type of madness I required. I asked Pat for a program. He asked me “Why?” to which I responded that, “I want to know what goes on in that sick, twisted, BRILLIANT brain of yours.” Laughing, he told me that he had something brewing in the lab and would be happy to let me give it a go. All I can write here about Pat’s programs are that they will test you physically, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally each and every time you do them. You will win some days; you will lose some days. The program that follows here will give you the opportunity to push your limits and see what your body and mind can accomplish.

Each of us is a bit of a storyteller with our own tales and experiences that we love passing on to people. Please keep this in mind as you push through and eventually complete this program’s 64 sessions, because this program will certainly give you an epic story to tell. Finally, when you conquer this program and are standing at the top of the “training mountain,” remember that “the top” is small for a reason: not everyone can or will get there. Right now you are probably wondering, “Is this program really such a challenge?” and that I’m just psyching you out. Well, maybe I am—that is for you to find out.

[Click Here to Buy MASS Now]

Introduction 1 by Ethan Grossman

The year is 1985. You have just witnessed first-hand your best friend and training partner brutally beaten to death by a cold Soviet robot of a man. Your wife, the mother of your child, pleads with you to stay home, settle down and enjoy the life you’ve cultivated. Still, you know in your heart it wasn’t his fight and that you could’ve stopped his death. With thoughts racing through your mind, you get in your Lamborghini for a cool drive around the city. There’s no easy way out.

It’s time for you to make a decision. You realize that in order to defeat the beast you must become one. Are YOU ready to become the beast? If so, there’s no time to wait for conditions to be perfect. You don’t need a 10 out of 10. If you score in favor of Russia over LA, then it’s time to give up your soft, comfy existence, strap up your boots and grow out your beard. It’s going to be a cold, hard winter.

Cold, dark Russia:

  1. -You have worked out before but want to take your training to the next level
  2. -You want to push yourself to a higher plateau mentally
  3. -You tend to overcomplicate your own programs and end up getting nowhere
  4. -You want to strengthen your team’s bond
  5. -You consider yourself a beast inside
  6. -You sleep 7 or more hours a night
  7. -You eat for fuel
  8. -You are held back in your workouts by your conditioning
  9. -You are just returning to training
  10. -You have an acquired taste for pain

Score-

Warm, sunny LA:

  1. -You have never lifted a weight or performed a bench press, squat or deadlift
  2. -You refuse to get your heart rate up during training
  3. -You are recovering from an injury or very prone to one
  4. -You can’t commit 4 days a week
  5. -You might miss workouts when you’re too hung over
  6. -You are travelling multiple times over the next 16 weeks
  7. -You only have access to a crowded gym at peak hours or your apartment gym
  8. -You are planning to modify the routine or add additional workouts
  9. -You are an advanced lifter about to compete in a major competition
  10. -You have to switch up the workout often or you get bored

Score-

[Click Here to Buy MASS Now]

Introduction 2 by Dr. Pat Davidson

Thank you for deciding to enter the beast. If you go through with the entirety of this program you will be changed. Most of you who start will not finish. This program is not for the weak and timid. This program is for those who are tough, resilient, and committed to working hard and reaching for the stars. I did not design this program for the 99%. Only the 1% will be able to make it through this program. The 1% are the people who are willing to endure in the face of extreme difficulty. The 1% are the people who are willing to sacrifice many things to realize an eventual goal. I have no pity for you if you are not able to complete this program. If you give up, you are probably like the majority of people on this planet. If you make up the 99% of the population who will not go through this program, there is probably nothing wrong with you, but I’m probably not interested in being friends with you. I like those who are on the fringe. I like those who are different. I like those who live by their own set of values. I like those who don’t mind it when the lunatics run the asylum. If you enter the beast, you must become the beast to survive.

My name is Pat Davidson, and I have credentials that back up my ability to write a program. I have a PhD in Exercise Physiology. I have worked as a professor of Exercise Science at Brooklyn College and Springfield College. I have coached the athletes from Springfield College Team Ironsports. I have competed in Strongman and qualified and competed in two world championships at the Arnold Classic. I have competed in submission wrestling at the highest level in the North American Grappling Association. I have fought professionally in Mixed Martial Arts. I have trained for a long time. I have made weight in weight class sports for a long time. I have studied the workings of the body and lived the science to the best of my ability for a long time. I have been lurking in the shadows, learning and training, not putting my information out for public consumption for a long time. If you are an elite strength coach, you probably know who I am. If you are an elite strongman athlete, you probably know who I am. If you are a regular Joe who is a weekend warrior, or a gym bro, you probably do not know who I am. This is how I meant to keep things. Now I am changing and permitting the 99% to have a glimpse at what the 1% does. Perhaps I can unveil more members of the 1% by putting this information out there for the masses. I doubt there are many of you out there, but if you exist, I’ll know it because you’ll enter the beast, you will become the beast, and you will want to tell me and the world about it afterwards.

This program is not going to be like ones you have done before. You will do the same workout over and over again for four weeks in a row. There is no chest and bi’s day. There is no back and shoulders day. There is no leg day. Every day will be an everything day. After you complete four weeks of the same workout done four times per week, you will move on to the next phase. Each phase builds on the previous one. Do not skip phases. Do not alter the plan. Do not have your own, “good idea”. Fall in line, and accept what is given to you. This program is not built on the singular day. This program is built on the accumulation of all the days put together. You will have good days. Do not get too excited about those good days. You will have bad days. Do not let the bad days get you down. Punch your ticket on a daily basis and ride the wave. Do not think too much. Simply trust the process and do your work. Nobody cares about you except yourself, but you can be your own worst enemy by thinking too much about yourself as a special little entity. You likely suffer from terminal uniqueness. You believe that you are somehow very different than everybody else. You are more like everyone else than you are different. Others have gone through this before you. Others will go through this after you. Either you do this, or you do not do this. You make a decision, and then everything else falls in place. If you have made your decision, then I welcome you to the beast, and I am excited for your transformation into the beast. Do not be afraid of the animal that lurks in the deep recesses of your being. Let it out, and experience its primal forces. Let it breathe the fresh air, and growl at the timid who walk around you.

At this point, you may be asking, what is the outcome that I am trying to get out of this program? The outcome is a multi-faceted one. If you are a typical gym bro, and you’re only looking to put on muscle mass, this will be accomplished through this program if you eat a lot of food. If you are looking to get shredded, this will be accomplished if you eat a moderate amount of food. If you are looking to get injured, this will be accomplished if you have poor technique and do not eat enough food. If you are looking to get stronger, this will be accomplished because the training density will cause you to accumulate a tremendous amount of high quality work. If you are looking to improve your cardiorespiratory endurance, this will be accomplished because your heart rate will be elevated for significant amounts of time while you’re doing this program. This program is a shot gun blast. Whatever it hits, it destroys.

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The MASS program is a combination of periodization based program design schemes of the Soviet Union, and exercises that are extremely popular in the United States. The creation of the MASS program was greatly inspired by the movie, Rocky IV. At the moment where I sit here and write this book, May 24, 2015, I am a 35 year old, American man. I was born in 1980, and if you grew up during that time like I did, you understand that there was a lot of USA vs. USSR stuff going on in our television and movie spheres. Ivan Drago was the epitome of the Soviet villain. Drago was the unstoppable giant who appeared cold and unbeatable. He killed Rocky’s best friend, Apollo Creed in the beginning of the movie, and it appeared as though he may do the same thing to Rocky at the end of the movie. Rocky needed to avenge the death of his friend, so he had to take on the monster that was Drago. The fight took place in the Soviet Union, and Rocky traveled there to train for the epic showdown. The training scenes from this movie are some of the most memorable of any of the Rocky movies. Ivan Drago was the ultimate Soviet sports system laboratory experiment. In every training scene involving Drago he was hooked up to electrodes measuring his internal information. Drago punched devices that recorded his force production. Fancy machines were used in the training of Drago, and there were constantly multiple scientists in white lab coats with clip boards surrounding him, analyzing every aspect of his physiological development. In contrast, Rocky was running outside in the snow, climbing mountains, lifting wagons, and sweating it out inside a barn with a primitive looking fire burning in the background. This was the clash of cultures, philosophies, and approaches to training.

When I was a kid in the 80’s, I was completely fascinated by this movie and it remains one of my strongest childhood memories to date. Not only that, but I was incredibly interested in all the laboratory stuff Drago was using. Every bell had a whistle, numbers on dials were always going up, and the ability to demonstrate increased power and speed was something that grabbed my interest intensely. I thought the Soviet training was the coolest thing that I had ever seen. Conversely, I just knew that what Rocky was doing was even better. Allowing the forces of nature to permeate throughout all aspects of the training process made intuitive sense. Getting outside into big, wide open space and being very primitive in the approach to developing the body resonated as the more correct approach. Drago trained rotary force production on an isokinetic machine. Rocky put a yoke for animals on his shoulders and did the same thing. Drago performed triceps extensions on a device that could quantify force. Rocky was using a multiplanar approach that looked like a triceps extension by hoisting a huge bag of rocks attached to a pully system with a rope. Drago used the barbell clean and press while Rocky was pressing a cart with his training team seated in the back end. The two athletes juxtaposed one another in every possible way, their training included.

In putting this program together I was inspired to do some blending of approaches that reflect what I’ve learned of block training coming from the Soviet sports science approach to training, and some good old fashioned American ingenuity. If I had to define block training, I would say that it is the sequential organization of training phases where each training phase has a fairly specific, objective approach. Each phase prepares you for the following one optimally, and every subsequent phase builds on that which was developed in the previous phase. A training block should identify a fitness quality that it is trying to develop, and it should be very consistent in the way it attacks the development of that quality. While training in a block, you do not want to send mixed training messages at the body. This is why you do the same workouts over and over again during the blocks. Too much variation leads you in too many different directions. Too much variation gets you nowhere from a training perspective. I need to be very precise in picking the correct exercises that will allow me to properly develop the physiological quality I am interested in. The exercises are the tools for the job. I need to first understand what the job is that I am trying to perform, and then I select the appropriate tool. I do not want to use power snatches for time in the first two blocks of this program. The power snatch is a great tool for a phase that is looking to develop strength-speed within a triple extension oriented movement pattern focus. I’m looking to change body composition with this program, pack on muscle, increase strength in a non-specific directional way, and develop the physiology of your energy systems with this program. Giving you highly technical exercises that are easily compromised in their technical performance with fatigue is a very poor idea. In my organization of the blocks for this program, I have selected an approach that will look to recruit and fatigue as many muscle fibers in the body as I possibly can tap into. I have chosen exercises that I believe are the appropriate tools for that specific job. This is my laboratory, Soviet approach to program design.

I’ve also done this program before and had many others perform it as well. Every time I do it and see other people perform it, the program just looks right. I see people working hard, getting results, and enjoying it as much as anybody could with something that is tremendously grueling. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it’s probably a duck. This program just looks right to me. It’s got an All-American blue collar, red meat eating, punch your ticket at work kind of vibe to it for me. You get to bench press and squat and deadlift a whole lot. There’s not a lot of fancy, high tech looking exercises in this thing. I’m an American and I like to sweat and get a testosterone rush, grunt, and feel like I did something at the end of my training session. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I’m trying to organize a really hard, satisfying training experience in a way that will get you where you want to go.

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I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together and living the program and thoughts that are conveyed within these pages. If you’ve watched Rocky IV, I hope you enjoy the titles to the chapters, and the way a lot of the famous movie quotes keep coming back to you in the text. I hope you appreciate the fact that I’m mixing in humor and exaggeration in the writing that is in the spirit of the Rocky IV movie. If you haven’t seen Rocky IV, go watch it, because I think it will make your experience with this program better. Don’t be afraid to play the soundtrack from the movie every time you train. As you enter this book, I’d like to welcome you with one thought regarding the outcomes of your training journey into MASS…if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.

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 Twitterand Instagram for the latest happenings.

How to Use Low Intensity Plyometrics to Facilitate Maximal Strength Gains

Since the times of Ancient Greece, athletes have explored ways to get stronger, jump higher, and run faster. Each generation of new athletes have attempted to push the barrier and break previous records. It was with this quest in mind that Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky stumbled upon and created “shock” training. In the Western world, this is known as the plyometric method. So what exactly is a plyometric? A plyometric exercise is one that utilizes the stretch-shortening cycle or myostatic stretch reflex.

The myostatic stretch reflex occurs when elastic energy is stored within the tendons and muscles following a rapid stretch, such as during an eccentric contraction. If a concentric contraction directly follows, as happens during a plyometric exercise, then the stored energy is released and it contributes to total force production.

If you're having trouble visualizing this, think of it like stretching and launching a rubber band very quickly.  The lengthening/stretching of the rubber band represents the eccentric portion, while the shortening/launching of the rubber band represents the concentric contraction.

While the topic of plyometrics is broad to say the least, this article will specifically cover how late intermediate and advanced lifters can use low intensity plyometric exercises during their warm-up, or within their training, to elicit maximal strength gains utilizing post-activation potentiation (PAP).

Maximal Strength & Power: A Partnership?

Strength is defined as the ability to produce force. You are able to display strength both isometrically and dynamically. When it comes to maximal strength, or limit strength, it is usually quantified as the greatest amount of force that a muscle or muscle group can exert in one maximal effort.

Power, on the other hand, is a combination of force and velocity:

P= Force x Velocity

In particular, power represents the exertion of force on an object and the object’s velocity in the direction which the force is exerted. As a result, alterations in force theoretically should create changes in power production.

photo credit:  http://www.elitefts.com
photo credit: http://www.elitefts.com

Is that the case?

Yes! According to the literature, maximal strength is an important quality that affects power output and peak power production.

As noted by Schimidtbleicher, increased maximal strength allows for greater peak power production since it gives a person the ability to more easily accelerate submaximal loads. Moreover, people with higher levels of maximal strength tend to have a greater percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers or type IIa/IIb fibers. As we know, type IIa/IIb muscles fibers most contribute to high power outputs.[1] These assertions are also supported by the research provided by Moss et al and Stone et al, which looked at the relationship of maximal strength and power.[2]

Side note: Don't take this to mean that just boosting maximal strength will automatically increase power. That's a quality you have to train. However, boosting maximal strength gives you the chance to be more powerful because you're now working with a larger strength base.

Nevertheless, since the human body is complex it doesn’t end up being nearly that simple. Enter the central nervous system (CNS).

The Role of the Central Nervous System

Before moving on, lets have a quick recap.

1.  Strength is the ability to produce force. Force = mass x acceleration.

2.  Power is measured by taking the product of force and an object’s velocity in the direction that the force is exerted.  Power = force x velocity

3.  Higher levels of maximal strength tend to lead to higher levels of power according to the scientific literature.

Why isn’t it that simple?

When it comes to force generation one of the key component is the CNS. The CNS allows for coordinated muscular movements and force generation through innervation via motor units.

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Motor units consist of a motor neuron and the skeletal muscle fibers innervated by the motor neuron’s axonal terminals.

As opposed to getting into muscle physiology, however, you just need to know that all motor units aren't created equal, and that you have two main types:

  1. Low threshold motor units

These are smaller motor units that innervate type I muscle fibers, which generate low amounts of force, but are highly resistant to fatigue.   These are the muscle fibers and motor units that allow us to do low intensity activities like writing this article, taking a walk, or getting a glass of water.

  1. High threshold motor units

These are larger motor units that innervate type IIa/IIb muscle fibers, which generate large amounts of force, but fatigue more easily, especially the IIb muscle fibers. These muscle fibers and motor units allow us to engage in explosive and powerful activities like lifting a maximal squat or performing a heavy clean & jerk.

So, in order to produce force quickly, one must be able to effectively utilize their high-threshold motor units. This is where plyometric exercises are useful. As noted by Bompa, the CNS controls muscle force by changing the activity of the muscle’s motor units; if a greater force generation is required, a greater number of motors units are recruited. This is known as Henneman’s size principle. Motor units are recruited from smallest to largest based on the force requirement needed.

photo credit:  Science and Practice of Strength Training
photo credit: Science and Practice of Strength Training

One of the benefits of plyometric training is the increased activation of the fast-twitch motor units. [3] Plyometric drills allow for an individual to improve their efficiency of utilizing their high-threshold motor units.

This is important since both max force production needed to move maximal weight and peak power production needed to move a weight explosively both rely on the high threshold motor units to innervate fast twitch muscle fibers.

Since we know that both peak power and max force production are directly correlated to high threshold motor unit recruitment, we can then utilize plyometric drills directly before a heavy resistance set to take advantage of the phenomenon known as PAP.

Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP)

If you are unfamiliar with the term PAP, it refers to a phenomenon by which acute muscle force output is enhanced transiently (between 5 to 30 minutes) as a result of contractile history of the muscle fibers and nervous system stimulation.[4] This is typically accomplished by completing a set of a heavy resistance exercises prior to an explosive exercise that uses the same movement pattern.

Why does this phenomenon occur?

The truth is that the exact cause is unknown, but there are two proposed theories.

1.  The first theory involves the Hoffmann Reflex (H-Reflex). The H-Reflex is an excitation of a spinal reflex elicited by specialized nerves that conduct impulses to muscle. The theory is that PAP comes from an enhancement of the H-Reflex, which increases the efficiency and rate of nerve impulses to the muscle.[5]

2.  The second theory involves phosphorylation (addition of a phosphate for production of ATP). The idea is that a max contraction makes actin and myosin more responsive to the calcium ions released, thus triggering events that lead to enhanced force production.[6]

Traditionally, PAP has been used to promote increases in power production rather than maximal force production. In other words, heavy sets of squats have been used to produce more power during box jumps or sprinting.

Yet, we know that both peak power production and maximal strength are directly correlated to high threshold motor unit recruitment. So what prevents us from switching the order? Well, nothing at all.

In fact, I've seen athletes blow through plateaus time and time again by performing a low intensity plyometric exercise prior to a maximal strength exercise.

So now that you understand the science and rationale behind my methods, it is time to get to the programming.

Sample Programming

Prior to moving on, a word of caution:  these techniques are for individuals that have a substantial strength base and training age. If you have not been training for several years, then focus on getting stronger before using advanced techniques.

When it comes to integrating low intensity plyometric exercises to benefit from the PAP phenomenon, I like to do it in two ways:

The first includes the plyometrics during the warm-up phase, which works great for people that are quite powerful and explosive, but tend to fatigue quite easily. The second uses contrast training, which works well for people that have great work capacity, but are not as powerful and explosive.

Low Intensity Plyometric During Your Warm-Up

The general purpose of a warm-up is to increase core temperature, activate dormant muscles, prepare the body for movement, and stimulate the CNS. The latter can be done using low intensity plyometric exercises after you've finished your breathing drills, soft tissue work, and dynamic mobility drills.

The low intensity plyometric exercises should be the last drill that you perform during the warm-up phase prior to performing your first main compound movement of the day (i.e. a bench press, deadlift, or squat variation).  This is because PAP lasts anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes in length.[7]

Generally speaking, the plyometric exercises during the warm-up for lower body days are one-leg and two-leg bounding, power skips, lateral skips, and repeated jumps. During upper body days, I will use plyo push-ups and some medicine ball ballistic exercises since true plyometric exercises are limited when it comes to the upper body.

Sample Lower Body Warm-Up

Squat Variation Max Strength Day

A) Lateral High Knee Skips or High Knee Skips – 2 X 20 ground contacts (10 right and 10 left)

Rest 30 – 45 seconds, then perform B

B) Hurdle or Dumbbell Jumps – 2 X 6

Rest 2 minutes and go back to A. After last set completed, then start to pyramid up to your working set for your main squat variation for the day.

C) Squat Variation (Main Movement)

Deadlift Variation Max Strength Day

A) Lateral Bounding or Forward Bounding – 2 X 14 ground contacts (7 right and 7 left)

Rest 30 – 45 seconds, then perform B

B) Repeated Jumps (back and forth) – 2 X 6

Rest 2 minutes and go back to A. After last set completed, then start to pyramid up to your working set for your main squat variation for the day. 

C) Deadlift Variation (Main Movement)

Sample Upper Body Days

Bench Variation Max Strength Day

A) Medicine Ball Overhead Slam or Rotational Medicine Ball Slam – 2 X 8 (per side for rotational slam)

Rest 30 – 45 seconds, then perform B

B) Plyo Push-up – 2 X 6

Rest 2 minutes and go back to A. After last set completed, then start to pyramid up to your working set for your main bench variation for the day.

C) Bench Variation (Main Movement)

Contrast Training

The contrast sets should only be used for the main movement of the day and not during warm-up sets for the main movement. You only pair the plyometric movement with your working sets.

Bench Press Variation Day

1a. Choose 1: (3-5 sets X 4–6 reps)

Explosive Pushup

Medicine Ball Chest Pass to Floor

Supine Medicine Ball Chest Throw

Rest Period: 75 to 90 seconds before primary lift set

1b. Bench Press Variation for Max Strength

Squat Variation Day

1a. Choose 1: (3-5 sets X 16-20 ground contacts)

Lateral Bounding

Forward Bounding

High Knee Skips3-5 X 16-20 ground contacts

Rest Period: 75 to 90 seconds before primary lift set

1b. Squat Variation for Max Strength

Deadlift Variation Day

1a. Choose 1: (3-5 sets X 4-6 reps)

Repeated Jumps

Hurdle Jumps

1 Leg Lateral Hop (per side for reps)

Rest Period: 75 to 90 seconds before primary lift set

1b. Deadlift Variation

Closing Thoughts

By utilizing these methods, you will not only find yourself busting through your current plateau, but you may find that your bar speed increases during your submaximal effort days or dynamic days.

Just remember to properly use the rest periods between your plyometric exercise and heavy sets because if not fatigue will negate the effects of PAP.

Now go out there and time to hit some new PRs at the gym!

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IMG_6087_small

About the Author

James Darley is the founder of Historic Performance, and specializes in making busy office professionals strong, jacked, and athletic.   He has formerly interned at LIU-Brooklyn and Benfield Sports Performance, and has worked with a variety of individuals ranging from financial executives to Division I athletes. Outside of fitness, James enjoys reading history books, fishing, and hiking.  Check out his Twitter and Facebook to get daily goodies!

Resources

[1] SCHIMIDTBLEICHER, D (1992). Training for power events. In: Strength and Power in Sports. P.V. Komi, ed. London: Blackwell Scientific Publications, pp. 381–395.

[2] MOSS, B.M. P.E. REFNES, A. ABILGAARD, K. NICOLAYSEN, AND J. JENSEN (1997). Effects of maximal effort strength training with different loads on dynamic strength, cross-sectional area, loadpower and load-velocity relationships. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 75: 193–199.

STONE, M.H., H.S. O’BRYANT, L. MCCOY, R. COGLIANESE, M. LEHMKUHL, AND B. SCHILLING (2003). Power and maximum strength relationships during performance of dynamic and static weighted jumps. J. Strength Cond. Res. 17:140–147.

[3] BOMPA, TUDOR AND CARRERA, MICHAEL (2005). Periodization Training for Sports, 2nd edition, 199.

[4] ROBBINS, D.W (2005). Postactivation potentiation and its practical applicability: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res., 19(2): 453-458.

[5] HODGSON, M., DOCHERTY, D., & ROBBINS, D. (2005). Post-activation potentiation underlying physiology and implications for motor performance. Sports Medicine, 25 (7), 385-395.

[6] HAMADA, T., SALE, D.G., MACDOUGALL, J.D., & TARNOPOLSKY, M.A. (2000a). Postactivation potentiation, muscle fiber type, and twitch contraction time in human knee extensor muscles. Journal of Applied Physiology, 88, 2131-2137.

[7] CHIU, L.Z., FRY, A.C., WEISS, L.W., SCHILLING, B.K., BROWN, L.E., & SMITH, S.L. (2003). Postactivation potentiation response in athletic and recreationally trained individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17(4), 671-677.

Loaded Carries: The What, The When and The Why

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Do reps that should be fast feel slow, even when they're light? Does something just feel missing from your training? Do your movements feel stale and uncomfortable? Or do you just flat out feel un-athletic? If you answered yes to any of those questions then I can almost guarantee you don’t do any type of loaded carries, and if you do, you probably aren’t programming them properly. Loaded carries are the most underutilized movements in today’s strength and conditioning field. The amount of versatility loaded carries can provide to a program is parallel to the barbell, really. The biggest reasons you should be doing loaded carries are:

1.  Stability

2.  Energy system development

3.  Recovery.

Stability, and I don’t mean single leg bosu squats. I mean stabilizing the spine in a safe, fixed position, while fighting the inertia of a load and then creating movement. This is a two pronged approach to teaching true stability in an athlete. In human gait there is minimal inertia fought and a minimal amount of reflexive stabilization needed. Reflexive stabilization is the inert firing of muscles to stabilize a moving part on the opposite side. In loaded carries, the athletes are forced to stabilize and control the load imposed in order to move.

An athlete who can properly stabilize moving parts will have a greater ability to consciously create pressure. This happens through strengthening the reflexive muscles of the core that are difficult to properly utilize. This can lead to major increases in intra-abdominal pressure and thickness of the trunk, which can then help prevent certain injuries.

It is not uncommon for athletes to have acute and sometimes debilitating injuries due to lack of stability throughout ranges of motion. If one can safely translate (walk) through space with load and train the reflexive stabilizers then this risk of injury greatly decreases. You can’t consciously control every single muscle in your system, reflexive stabilization saves you more than you give it credit for.

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Energy system development is the big boy. You cannot reach your specific goals if you don’t first have a proper foundation. The versatility of loaded carries can give you an easy to implement portal to any energy system you wish to engage in. This opens the door to multiple skills as well as safely increasing training stress. Slow and de-conditioned athletes alike will benefit more than they can imagine from this.

Loaded carries can develop the alactic and aerobic capacity simultaneously. This is possible by having an athlete perform very alactic runs followed by light walking or another low intensity exercise that will facilitate aerobic recovery for the next set. I will go into how to properly program and progress carries later in the article.

However, something important to understand is the gift of GPP you can give to an athlete. Sure it’s great to spend their whole off-season doing sport specific movements, but that’s what their pre and in-season training should be geared toward. Developing a large generalized work capacity is an opportunity to further improve and refine sport specific skill and the greatest gift we can give to our athletes IS the opportunity to improve.

Types of Carries

Our first step into how to properly implement loaded carries is to define the different types. I break them down into two categories: direct and indirect.

Direct

Directly loaded carries can be further broken down into anterior, posterior and parallel loads. Anterior carries are any type of carrying movement where the participant stabilizes the load on the anterior portion of the spine and are in direct contact with it. This includes sandbag, keg, hussafelt, conan’s wheel, kettlebell front rack walks, etc.

Posterior loaded carries are any type of carrying movement where the participant is in direct contact with a load on the posterior portion of the spine, this is mainly characterized by the yoke walk.

Zach Yoke

Finally, direct parallel loads are where the participant is in direct contact with the object but the load is parallel to the spine. This includes any hand loaded carry like farmers and any overhead walks.

Indirect

Indirect carries do not necessarily involve the participant actually carrying the object, however, they are still overcoming the inertia of load. I often refer to these more generally as moving events. This includes, prowler pushes, sled drags, and truck pulls etc.

The key to keeping your adaptations coming is to expose yourself to different types of carries before changing the protocol. Incorporating multiple types of loads and carries will allow an athlete to further their work capacity without increasing difficulty. Outside of strongman carries, utilize kettlebells and buddy carries as well to add variety.

Programming

Now that you are aware of the different types of carries we can implement, the next step is to define how we can program them. When creating a program, every movement chosen should directly reflect the goal of that program or block. Hence, I have categorized the different ways to program loaded carries based on your and/or your athlete’s goals:

Increase speed/alactic capacity

Using loaded carries to increase speed or expand the ability to fight off metabolic waste (alactic capacity) can be extremely effective in a short period of time. Often times with deconditioned athletes I choose light loaded carries over sprints. This is because the load imposed that the athlete must overcome acts as a limiting factor for them to “over sprint.” I wont go into the proper mechanics of sprinting, but squeezing and trying your hardest to go fast certainly isn’t the correct way.

The nice thing about loaded carries for speed is that there really isn’t any running. Although you are going as fast as possible, the gait pattern is still walking. There is no flight phase (i.e. the major difference between running and walking) in loaded carries because it just wouldn’t work. Why? Your reflexive stabilizers are not prime movers, although they can be powerful enough to carry heavy loads, they will never be powerful enough to carry heavy loads without a point of contact on the ground.

This lack of flight phase simplifies the movement and makes it more accessible to more populations. Programming carrying events for speed is simple. Vertically increase volume over a given distance while keeping speed constant. This means pick a distance to train (40-60ft) and a speed (<10s) to maintain. These two variables should stay relatively the same throughout the block. What you can manipulate to create adaptation is volume and intensity (surprise, surprise).

For most athletes new to carrying events that fit this category, I would recommend accumulating 200-300ft at a given speed with a light load. The overall feel of the protocol should not be higher than a 7/10 RPE. The key to truly improving speed is frequency, being able to do the same session 2-3 times a week will be far more beneficial then just “killing it” one day.

If you're a more advanced athlete looking to focus on increasing work capacity as opposed to maximal speed, I would recommend not going past 400ft. To further progress someone who has mastered loaded carries it is best to manipulate rest time. The reason I limit most carrying sessions to 400ft is because no matter how efficient the pattern, the ground reaction forces associated with carrying events is significantly higher than walking and although this stress can lead to great adaptation, too much stress will soar over the line of diminishing return and potentially lead to pain.

Examples:

Novice: 5x50ft 60% of max in under 9s. Rest as needed.

Advanced: 8x40ft 70% of max under 8s with 90s rest.

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Facilitate recovery

Carrying events are wonderful to facilitate recovery because of the high levels of stress imposed and very small amount of total volume needed. This fits better into the active recovery needs of a healthy athlete that hasn’t already built up excessive amounts of stress (the peak of the season or in a high volume strength block wouldn’t be ideal times). The fact that the participant is fighting inertia to stay “neutral” systemically engages the entire body. This gives it a great bang for your buck. You are able to reap the rewards of loaded carries while facilitating recovery.

Examples:

Novice: 3x50ft 50% of max under 9s

Advanced: 4x40ft 50% of max under 8s with 60s rest.

Improve GPP

A incredibly effective, and fun, way to increase work capacity is though loaded carries. Since they are loaded versions of walking they can be taken for long distances. The training variables you need to worry about here are rest time and distance. Load will take a back seat here while volume will play a secondary role. Due to the nature of this training the total amount of distance covered will be more variable since the load will be so low, but I would not recommend exceeding 600ft.

Increasing work capacity with this protocol can be done in two energy systems: the glycolytic and aerobic. Both can do an incredibly effective job, but there are some notable differences in programming for either energy system. In this scenario, rest time and distance are directly correlated with total volume, while work is inversely correlated with total volume.

The more glycolytic you would like to make your training the more distance you should cover per set with more rest time and less total sets. The opposite would be true for a more aerobic training session

Examples:

Novice:

Glycolytic: 3x150ft with 30-40% of max, rest as needed

Aerobic: 6x50ft with 40% of max with 45s rest

Advanced:

Glycolytic: 3x200ft with 30-40% of max, rest as needed

Aerobic: 10x40ft with 50% of max with 45s rest

Closing Thoughts

When training moving events I typically program them at the begging of a training session. Next time you squat, try hitting some yoke with one of these protocols and watch how much more powerful your squats feel. Producing high amounts of force over a short period of time will excite the nervous system and prepare you for lifting weights. An added benefit to programming your carries at the beginning of the session is that although it isn’t fatiguing it is an opportunity for the athlete to efficiently increase work capacity.

Loaded carries will give you a whole new world of development to dive into which will ultimately lead to an increase in performance. Not everyone will take a 1000lb yoke for a 50ft ride but I promise everyone has something great to gain from exposure to loaded carries regardless of their goals. Stop being slow, start being explosive. Stop being bored on the treadmill, start running with kegs.

The Minimal Adaptable Load And What It Means For Your Training

As coaches and athletes we’re always in pursuit of the same thing:

PROGRESS

And that progress will come in many different shapes and sizes. For one person it may mean losing 15 lbs, for another it may mean deadlifting 500lbs, and for another it may mean winning a world championship.

At the end of the day, however, progress is always the uniting principle by which we can gauge the effectiveness of a training program:

Is it taking you/he/she closer towards their goal?

If yes, then you’re making progress.

If no, then you’re not.

BUT, here's the magical question:  how do I or my athletes make progress?

The answer...stress.

But not just any stress, it has to be the right type of stressor, at the right time, in the right amount.  If any of those factors are off, then you won't be incurring the type of positive adaptation you're looking for.

While there are many variables to consider when putting together a comprehensive training program, I'd like to focus today on one that I believe doesn't get enough attention, and the implications it has for training.  And that variable is called:  The Minimal Adaptable Load.

The Process of Adaptation

Before continuing, it's important that you know a thing or two about adaptation since that is, at the end of the day, how we make progress.

Thus, let's walk through the basic process.

In the graph below you'll notice fitness level is on the y-axis and time is on the x-axis.  The 0 point on the y-axis represents your current fitness level, while above it represents improvement and below represents decline.  It's important to note that any fitness quality can replace "fitness level" on the y-axis.  For example, you could easily get more specific and put something like speed strength, or starting strength, or absolute strength, but for today we'll just focus on the broader concept of fitness.

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As you can see in the above graph, the process of adaptation follows a pretty simple formula:

Step 1:  Provide a stressor/training stimulus

Step 2:  Fatigue

Step 3:  Recovery

Step 4:  Supercompensation

Step 5:  Involution

If you'd like to read more about adaptation, then checkout this post I wrote for Eric Cressey a little while back.

Let's take this a step further and consider three separate scenarios:

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Scenario 1:  Not Enough Stress (Purple Dashed Line)

In this scenario, the athlete has not been stressed nearly enough.  While they did accumulate low levels of fatigue, it wasn't enough to force a positive adaptation (notice how the purple dashed line doesn't cross back over the original fitness level).

Scenario 2:  Too Much Stress (Red Dashed Line)

This is the exact opposite of our first scenario:  the athlete has been stressed far too much (driven too low) and can't adequately recover.  In other words, they dug a hole too deep to climb out of (again...not surpassing the original fitness level and maybe even getting worse).

Scenario 3:  Just Right (Green Dashed Line)

Jackpot!  The athlete has been stressed enough to force adaptation to occur.  Fatigue accumulated, but it was the right amount of fatigue because the athlete could adequately recover from it.

The Minimal Adaptable Load

What you just experienced in Scenario 3 is the minimal adaptable load.  And seeing as this is a term you're probably not familiar with (I'm fairly certain I made it up this past weekend) let's go ahead and define it:

The minimal adaptable load represents the total amount of volume in tons/lbs/kgs that must be lifted over the course of a designated period of time in order to incur a positive adaptation in a fitness quality.

Hopefully I don't need to explain why this concept is important, but this value does change with time.  When you first start off training you can practically just look at weights and get stronger, but once you've been lifting for a while it takes a little more effort to keep putting weight on the bar.

Which brings us to our next big point:

The Beginner vs. The Advanced Athlete

I think the real beauty of the minimal adaptable load shows through when considering how you go about training a beginner vs. a more advanced athlete.

Since the beginner has a lower training age it won't take nearly as much stress/load to improve a given fitness quality.  The more advanced athlete with an older training age, on the other hand, will require significant stress/loading to improve a given fitness quality.

For example, take a freshman in high school who hasn't touched weights once his entire life and an all american going into his senior year of college.  Different scenarios?

You bet your ass they are.

And that has to show through in their programming.

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The beginner can afford to train several different fitness qualities at once because it doesn't take much loading to incur a positive adaptation.  For example, let's say it takes 300 lbs of volume (and this is a completely arbritrary number) for him to see improvement in maximal strength.  That's not much at all, so you can afford to go after multiple qualities at once.

The advanced athlete, on the other hand, might need 10,000 lbs of volume (again, made up number) to see progress.  Thus, he needs to periodize his programming to focus on one fitness quality at a time.  He cannot train max strength, strength speed, and speed strength simultaneously because it'll be impossible to make progress in any category.  If he actually did perform the necessary amount of loading in each category he'd be so overtrained that he'd get worse.

Keeping Track of Training

The other important thing to note is that you should be keeping track of your training (and your athletes training if you're a coach).

If you don't have these numbers, then how are you ever going to appropriately monitor training from month to month, and year to year.

For example, let's say you hit a 3 month block aimed at improving your deadlift.  At the end of those three months you retest and see very minimal gains.  What should you do next?

Well...you should consult you're training log.  Look at volume, look at intensity, look at how many different fitness qualities you're attempting to train at once etc.  In essence, bury yourself in the numbers and figure out where your program is coming up short.

Granted, there are other variables to consider as well:  nutrition, total allostatic load etc.  But having a training log is an invaluable tool when it comes time to making consistent progress over the long haul.

Key Takeaways

While we touched on some bigger concepts in today's article, here are the three major takeaways I hope you have:

1.  Identify your and/or your athletes training age because it will have a big impact on how you approach programming for them.

2.  Keep track of your and/or your athletes training with a detailed training log because it gives you invaluable data on training volume etc.

3.  Begin thinking in terms of the minimal adaptable load (i.e. how much volume needs to be lifted over x amount of time for me to see gains in y lift).

As always, feel free to post questions, comments, concerns and/or pictures of people curling in the squat rack below.

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.

The Top 5 Mistakes Semi-Experienced Lifters Make that Limit their Gains

You’ve been training for a while now. You’ve noticed gains in strength, size, and body composition. So have your sex partners. But progress has come to a screeching halt. Personal records (PRs) are few and far between. Training is fun and all, but it seems to be going nowhere.

I’ve been there. Years back, I remember having read a few training articles on T-Nation.com and thought I was the shit. Kept working out, pushing my limits, only to get hurt what seemed like every week.

Man, if I could have those days back…

Now that training other people is my career, it is my goal is to prevent you from making the same mistakes I made. Here are the five most common mistakes I see intermediate lifters make.

Mistake #1: They don’t have a structured plan

Everything you do in the gym should have a purpose. To find out what that purpose is, you first need to have an end goal in sight.

Set a goal

I used to bounce around from program to program, spinning my wheels and never making progress.

Find something you’re good at—powerlifting, strongman, intramural co-ed volleyball, whatever—and start heading down that path.

Focus on building strength instead of testing it

You’ve already realized your newbie gains. PRs will not come as easy anymore. They will be hard fought… and much more satisfying.

Your training needs to be planned over the long-term. The term we use in the fitness industry for this planning is “periodization”.

The idea is that you figure out when you’re going to compete, then you work backwards from there.

When your next competition is far away, your training should be focused on building up general qualities that transfer well to all sports, such as work capacity, aerobic power, and general strength. As you get closer to a competition, your training should become more and more specific and focused. Specificity is one of the guiding principles of smart, effective training, but spending all your time being specific with your training doesn’t give you a foundation upon which you can build. You have to do the things that you don’t like to do if you want to get better.

You have to go back to basics.

Track your progress

If you’re not making progress that you can track, then whatever you’re doing is not working.

Talk to a professional to figure out how to accomplish your goal

If you remember only one thing I say in this post, remember this: If you’re serious about your goal, you need a coach.

If you broke your leg, you would go to the doctor. Why would you not refer your training out to a professional who spends all of their time trying to get better at what they do?

Mistake #2: They never learn how to move well

Quality movement is absolutely essential for long-term gains.

Learn how to squat and bend

When squatting or bending under load (like when you’re deadlifting), keep your spine stable and load your legs by “pushing” through the floor instead of trying to pick the bar up. Avoid leading with your shoulders and arching your back.

If you need to relearn how to squat and bend, try a Kettlebell Deadlift.

Learn how to press

When pressing (like with a bench press), keep your shoulder blades stable and elbows tucked. If you don’t do this, it’s like you’re trying to shoot a cannon from a rowboat. A good exercise to try is the Dumbbell Floor Press.

Learn how to row

When rowing, always lead the movement with the shoulder blade. You should feel the muscles in your upper back working. A good exercise to try is the 3-point Dumbbell Row.

Learn how to be move on one leg

Single leg work isn’t fun, but it IS important. A good, albeit difficult exercise to try is the Single Leg Rufus Deadlift.

Do more reaching exercises

If you want to stay healthy, you’ve got to remember how to reach. This is especially important for those general phases of training we were discussing earlier.

When doing push ups, think about pushing your hands “through” the ground (all the way to China) before you finish your rep.

Mistake #3: They don’t get enough sleep

Training hard is only effective if you can recover from it. Restful sleep is essential to the recovery process.

Sleep quantity

Shoot for 7-9 hours each night.

Sleep quality

Avoid electronics before bed. Try to get on a schedule so that you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If you have sleep apnea, go see a doctor.

*Here's a good post by our buddies over at Precision Nutrition if you want to read more about sleep.

Mistake #4: They forget about their nutrition

In addition to sleep, nutrition is also essential to your recovery. Quicker Recovery → Harder Training → More Progress.

Become conscious of what you eat and why you eat it

I like prescribing a 3-day food log. Record everything you ingest, when you ingest it, and what you were doing at the time of ingestion. This is all the info you need to determine the number one change you can make to optimize your food intake.

Fill your gas tank with premium, not crap

If you’re trying to make your body a high performance machine, you should fill it with premium fuel, not sludge.

*Further Reading:  Nutrition:  How to Pick a Plan that Fits Your Goals

Mistake #5: They do the wrong type of conditioning work

Improper conditioning is a pet peeve of mine. Coaches everywhere run their athletes into the ground, making them worse instead of better.

What are you training for?

There are three basic systems in the body that produce energy. Determine the ones that your sport uses and then train those systems.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing conditioning simply because it “feels hard”. Any coach can make you puke, but can he or she make you better?

*Further Reading:  How Do You Train For the Long Haul?  Develop an Aerobic Base

Summary of the Top 5 Mistakes Semi-Experienced Lifters Make

Mistake #1: They don’t have a structured plan

Mistake #2: They never learn how to move well

Mistake #3: They don’t get enough sleep

Mistake #4: They forget about their diet

Mistake #5: They do the wrong type of conditioning work

Don’t fall into the same traps that I and so many others have fallen into. My goal is to teach, so if you know someone who you think would benefit from this, please forward it to them.

P.S. I made a whole 16-week program that is great for these intermediate lifters who need some guidance. You can even get the ebook, presentation, and first month of the program totally free of charge.

about the author

Lance Goyke, CSCS, is a Nerd Extraordinaire and secret admirer of lesbians everywhere whose expertise focuses on the human body. His clientele ranges from other trainers to kids to house moms to fighters to baseballers to anyone who needs to be taught how to exercise. Go invade his home base at www.LanceGoyke.com.

The Biggest Mistake I Made as an Athlete and How You Can Avoid It

To say I’ve made mistakes as both an athlete and a coach would be an understatement. Hell…I’d even feel comfortable handing someone my track record and telling them it’s a pretty good blue print on “how not to do things.”

While the list is long, and continues to growly weekly, today I’d like to just focus on the biggest mistake myself and my coaches made in my athletic development journey throughout middle school, high school and college.

Notice I say my coaches and myself because this is a two way street. Growing up you do as you’re told, but at the same time I was pretty stubborn and often did my own thing, so yeah, I’m also to blame.

Before we get to the number one biggest mistake being made in training facilities around the world, however, I’d like to give you a little backstory.

The Backstory

I first found the weight room when I was in 6th grade, and have been in love ever since.

In fact, I can still remember reading an SI for Kids magazine when I was like 9 that talked about The Rock and how us kids had to wait for this beautiful thing called testosterone to kick in before we could be as jacked as him.

Granted, they didn’t use that exact language, but it’s a good synopsis.

Anyways, I found the weight room in 6th grade and have been training ever since. My ultimate goal was to play baseball professionally, and I knew the weight room would play a large part in that journey.

As opposed to boring you with the details, let’s skip to the good stuff.

My time in the weight room “paid off.” I trained my as off and became a very good athlete because of it (well….that and genetics). For example, by my sophomore year in college I had a 33” vertical, ran a 6.6 sixty, deadlifted just shy of 500 lbs, squatted 405, cleaned 305, benched 335, could do a lot of pull ups and all that other jazz. Needless to say I was happy with these numbers. Especially since I had to balance them with a roughly 100 game competitive season.

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In essence, I was a very good athlete on paper and had numbers to back it up….that is until I realized I was a big Trojan Horse.

The Trojan Horse

*I really hope you know the legend of the Trojan Horse, or else my analogy is going to make no sense.

Myself, and athletes all over the world, made the mistake of building ourselves into real life Trojan Horses.

On the outside we looked beautiful, and people would be in awe of what we could do, but on the inside we held a dirty secret.

And that dirty secret is the Inverted Performance Pyramid.

In other words, we were ticking time bombs (just killing the analogies today). We had a lot of performance stacked on top of dysfunction, and it was only a matter of time until the whole thing came crumbling down…and did it.

I attained my first real, non-fluke injury my Sophomore year of college, and from there it didn’t get any better. I had stress fractures in my back, pulled quads, and all sorts of things that just kept popping up.

Granted, injury is a part of athletics. If you truly push the envelope you are at risk of getting injured. But there’s a difference between being chronically injured and coming down with the occasional fluke injury.

I fell in the chronically injured category, and thus spent the majority of my collegiate career injured (remember when I said I was good on paper?).

Want to know the best part? It followed me after college. I can honestly say that the past 3 months is the first time I’ve truly trained unhindered since my early days in college (all because I followed a program similar to what you’ll find at the end of this article).

The first time I’ve been able to really be aggressive, throw weight around, and not be in pain or dealing with a nagging back issue.

If you’ve never been injured, then hats off. I truly envy you. But there are many people out there, maybe even you, who fall in the same boat I did. You work your ass off, you do everything you’re told, and for some reason it just can’t all come together. For every step forward you end up taking at least one step back, and you fall into a viscous cycle of

Train-->Make Progress-->Hit Setback-->Train-->Make Progress-->Hit Setback

Almost like you’re trying to walk up a mountain and continuously slide back down.

Where I Had It Wrong

Where had I gone wrong? Where I had fallen off the tracks along the way?

Because in my mind, and my coaches, I had been doing everything right.

It’s not like I was spending time on machines. I was doing squats, deadlifts, cleans, lunges, dumbbell work, kettlebell work and all this other “functional” stuff that was supposed to make me a “bulletproof athlete.”

While the list of “things I did wrong” is rather long, I’d like to bring your focus back to the inverted pyramid because that’s where it all starts.

If you were to build a pyramid, how would you do it? You would of course start with the foundation and make it as big as possible because that gives you the most room for upward growth. Granted, I’m not an expert in pyramid building, but I’ve never seen one that has a smaller base than a peak.

Well when we’re developing athletes, or ourselves for that matter, you have to approach the matter in the same way. You have to lay yourself the most monster foundation possible to both prevent injury and allow for peak performance to occur.

This is what myself and my coaches failed to do. We chose to go after the top of the pyramid from the get go, which is where you’ll find all the sexier elements of performance: things like max strength, power, strength speed, speed strength and sport specific skill/fitness.

Where we should have started, and hopefully you agree, is with the base of the pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is where you’ll find the foundational elements of performance: movement quality, energy system capacity, autonomic balance, and strength, just to name a few.

Without these elements in place, you’re asking for trouble. It may not happen today, but at some point it will catch up to you.

What To Do?

While I’d love to sit here (in Starbucks I might add) and continue espousing on how to build a monster foundation for performance, I’d be wasting my time because Coach Lance Goyke just came out with such a product.

And it’s FANTASTIC.

I had the pleasure of giving it a read last weekend, and needless to say it’s spot on. In it he goes over the 6 pillars of performance and how you must adequately handle each of them to give yourself the opportunity to reach your full potential.

Oh, and it includes a full 16 week training program so you don’t even have to worry about the implementation side of things. You just show up to the gym, pull out your phone, see what day you’re on, and go to work.

But what if this isn’t for me?

I’ll go ahead and stop you right there. This program is for everyone. And that’s hard to say seeing as I’m obsessed with assessing people and writing individualized programs. But somehow Lance managed to craft this thing so that it can help anyone.

If you’re in pain, it can help with that. If you’re new to training, it’s the perfect program to start with. If you’re already a high level athlete, this is the perfect program to hit during a de-load. And obviously this is the perfect program for anyone looking to build themselves a foundation that allows them to train with no limits.

Anyways, be sure to go check that out (p.s. he’s been awesome enough to offer a large chunk of it to you for free):

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.

The Cloud Atlas of Program Design

You have to figure out what you want in life. Not what you say you want, but what you actually want. I don’t really know what I want at this point. I have ambiguous thoughts about things that would be nice. These are things I might say to myself inside my own head right now, like…I’d like to be really strong…I’d like to learn a lot of powerful information in regards to being an awesome strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and mentor…I’d like to be financially successful and well marketed within the fitness industry…I’d like a lot of people to know who I am and to think very highly of me. Are any of these things truly tangible goals? Not really. Do I have specific actionable steps to put in place to help me reach these vague things? When I’m honest with myself, the answer is no. I’m floating in some ways. What I need is a specific goal to reach. What I need is a plan to get there.

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Should I pick one thing and focus my energies on that objective if I want to ensure the greatest likelihood of reaching that goal? Most people would probably say yes, that is a wise course of action. Should I completely forget about every other element of life and blindly go down one track? Certainly not, only a fool would be that narrow minded. Is this starting to sound like the training process yet? I hope so, because life and training are very similar to one another.

When I was working as a professor in Exercise Science and I was teaching about program design, I always began the unit by saying that good program design and healthy relationships were very similar to one another.

Perhaps the worst thing that could be thrown into a burgeoning relationship is mixed messages. These are very confusing and they tend to lead to excessive stress and things going nowhere. Be clear to the other person what your intentions are if you’re actually interested in making things work long term.

Second, don’t go overboard with things. You’re going to get really excited at first. Everything is new and shiny and great. Relax a little bit. Force yourself to give a little space. Back off. Third, don’t back off so far that you’re not present at all. You’ve got to be somewhere in the middle in terms of presence. You need to find the sweet spot in the beginning between too much and nothing at all if you want things to actually go somewhere long term. Fourth, don’t switch things up just for the sake of doing something new. If something is working, stick with it. Don’t be in a rush to mess things up. Fifth, when that newness wears off, that’s when the real hard work begins.

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When you’ve fallen into a comfort zone, now you have to actually go out of your way and try, or maybe mix something new in every once in a while, otherwise things become stagnant. The parallels to training are pretty clear. Just understand that this applies to a new person just starting training, or even an experienced person who’s just starting a new training block.

The concept of being well rounded is an interesting one when it comes to athletics. Overall from a physical fitness construct perspective, good programming generally develops things in the following order: variability, capacity, and power. Children and young athletes should have lots of sports variability. Children need to develop a wide range of movement patterns and motor programs before specializing later on in their athletic career.

Beginners in a strength and conditioning training environment need to learn lots of different exercises. Beginners need to do plyo’s, change of direction, Olympic lifts, basic barbell exercises, unilateral work, and they need to do different conditioning drills to develop glycolytic and oxidative systems.

Intermediate people tend to do well when capacity becomes the focus. If you have the proper biomechanics for a sports move, do a lot of that sports move and do it well if you are an intermediate who wants to move to the level of advanced.

Once you’re advanced, the primary focus should be power. Power is confusing for a lot of people as a training concept. I prefer to think of it as, “game speed” more than anything.

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The order of developing variability, capacity, and power is incredibly important. You need to have enough movement variability in order to develop a specific capacity. If you don’t have enough movement variability, you likely don’t have the adequate range of motion and coordination to build specific sports movements up. Once you have sufficient work capacity within a given motor pattern family, now fine tune it and accentuate it to its highest form of expression with intensification work.

Intermediate level athletes need to maintain variability while they focus on capacity. Advanced level athletes need to maintain variability and capacity while they focus on power.

Classification is of paramount importance from an applications standpoint within the world of programmed exercise. In strength and conditioning, most coaches use the same taxonomy of loaded movement patterns, and they are familiar with the fact that a deadlift is a potential exercise within the hip dominant category, just as the bench press is an exercise within the horizontal push category. The more that we as a fitness community can develop a taxonomy for classification of exercise, the greater the likelihood that trainees will receive an appropriate dose of the appropriate training modality.

In biology, we have the following taxonomy to determine what living things are.

Life (the construct) broken down into:

Kingdom

Phylum

Class

Order

Family

Genus

Species

Life on Earth can be very diverse, and each creature is here because it came from ancestors who were successful at surviving on this planet. Some forms of life look very bizarre and different from what you might be accustomed to. Regardless of what you think about it, that life form is here because it makes sense on some level (even if you don’t understand why).

If we are better at breaking down the specific components of a life form, then we can study it more accurately and understand it much more clearly. I don’t think fitness development is all that different from the life taxonomy. There’s a million different ways to exercise, and everything probably has a little bit of validity to it, otherwise it probably wouldn’t be here at all. Here is a sample of something that I think could work as a model.

Fitness (as the construct)

Fitness Kingdoms

Variability

Capacity

Power

Training Means

General

General-Specific

Specific

Training Methods

Submaximal Effort Method

Repeated Effort Method

Maximal Effort Method

Dynamic Effort Method

Fitness Patterns

Locomotion

Hip dominant

Knee dominant

Horizontal push/pull

Vertical push/pull

Core control sagittal

Core control frontal/transverse

Explosive heavy

Explosive light

Loaded carry

Exercises within Patterns

Progressions

Regressions

Lateralizations

Work to Rest Ratios

Work output drop offs

Biomarkers values (HR)

Arbitrarily decided sets and reps

Restoration and Recovery

Nutrition

Therapeutics

Pharmacology

Sleep

Periodization

Once such a taxonomy is put into place, decision making capacities of coaches become easier when trying to figure out how to design training plans for specific athletes.

If I have a 15 year old female coming in who reports that she is a soccer player, she will be performing fitness development primarily within the scope of variability. Her training will be general in the weight room. She will utilize exercise within the frame works of the submaximal effort method. Every movement pattern will be addressed. She’ll start with a fairly low level exercise along the regression/progression continuum and we will make advances in her training by moving her up along this continuum rather than by increasing the intensity of exercise. Her work to rest ratios will be primarily based on her heart rate responses, and we will try to maximize cardiovascular and peripheral tissue oxidative adaptations during her initial training blocks. We will educate her on appropriate amounts of sleep, food, and ways which she can balance her life overall.

This would be a very different approach than that which I would take with a 25 year old male looking to win a world championship in power lifting.

I’ve never really wanted to tell people exactly what to do from a details perspective. I just like giving people big picture models to help guide them.

I recommend that you implement the exercises that you know how to coach the best and that you consistently see your clients performing well. The things that you are currently doing in your own training and with the training of your clients are probably the best case idea for you to implement at this point in time in each case, otherwise you’d probably be doing something different.

The world of exercise is very Darwinian. Diversity will always reign supreme, and that which gets results and which people like doing will stand the test of time. Coaches need to figure out what category best suits the individual that they are trying to help reach certain goals. The best coaches are the best at analyzing the athlete/client/individual and providing the right dose of the right exercise at the right time.

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