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

The core…

What a popular buzzword.

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

But what is the core?

What is it supposed to do?

How do you train it?

Where should you start?

Where should you go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the Job of the Core

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

To quote Shirley Sahrmann:

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

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

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

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

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

Some Anatomy

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

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

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

Let’s go ahead and address each of those accordingly

Rectus Abdominis (aka the six pack muscle)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lats (aka Bane)

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

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

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

So yeah…this thing is big.

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

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

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

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

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It’ll produce something like this:

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

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

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

Rectus Femoris and TFL (aka The Joker)

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Rectus-femoris
tfl.jpg

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

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

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

Serratus Anterior (aka Robin)

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

about the author

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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.

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

Rethinking Agility Ladders: How to Actually Make Athletes More Agile

Since the dawn of the new era of sports performance and strength and conditioning, there is one tool that just about every athlete has used. Go into any sporting good store, go to any team’s offseason workout, even watch any show about NFL offseason training and you will see this tool being used. This tool is the speed ladder, and to be honest, it’s not actually doing what you think it is for your athletes. Most coaches use it for agility purposes claiming the speed ladder is going to get their athletes more agile, in turn allowing them to speed around their opponents. The one problem is this is not true at all. Now don’t get me wrong…the speed ladder is a great tool for athletes, but just not to improve their agility.

As an athlete, the speed ladder is a great tool to use as a warm-up or as a conditioning tool. For starters, it forces you to work at a maximal effort in a cardiovascular sense. While you’re using it, you will feel your heart rate start to elevate faster than you can recover and you will start sweating up a storm. Your legs will begin to grow tired, and it is an amazing tool for increasing your alactic capacity (your ability to continuously perform maximal contractions). Depending on how much rest you take in between each set, it can also improve your lactic capacity. As a warm-up tool it helps to get some blood flowing into your legs and to get your anaerobic and aerobic capacity going. There are, however, much better tools to use when working on agility.

What Is Agility

So what is agility anyway? Agility is the ability to start, decelerate, stop and explosively change direction while playing a sport. In other words, how fast can you stop and change direction during a game? It is easily one of the most important aspects in all sports, and it can mean the difference between winning and losing a contest.

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The key to agility is the rate of force development. In order to be agile, your body needs to be able to decelerate at a very quick pace, come to a complete stop and then reaccelerate in a different direction. When looking at an elite athlete, such as a running back in the NFL or a point guard in the NBA, they both having incredible rate of force development. They are able to be sprinting full force, come to a complete stop and then accelerate again to fake out a defender and either change direction or keep sprinting.

The best way to see an increase in this performance is through improving strength in each of the three phases. These three phases are the eccentric phase (deceleration), coming to a complete stop (isometric) and the acceleration phase (concentric). Now does the speed ladder truly improve the strength in these three phases? The answer is no it does not.

The eccentric phase is the lengthening of the muscle, and it is the phase that shows how much force your body can absorb while decelerating. The Isometric phase is that one point in agility when your body comes to a complete stop, even for as little as a tenth of a second. And the concentric phase is when you must forcefully explode out and change direction. This is all defined as rate of force development.

Rate of force development is the speed at which your body can produce force as fast and as explosively as possible. Developing the three phases of muscle contraction is the key to increasing rate of force development. The more you develop these three muscle contractions, the faster and more agile you will become.

Now in my experience, the best way that I’ve seen to do this is through the use of bulgarian split squats. Here's a short list why:

  • 1.  Bulgarian split squats put a premium on core "stability" as your abs are having to oppose a lengthening quad on the back leg.
  • 2.  More shoulder friendly than back loaded positions with a barbell
  • 3.  They are loaded from the bottom so put less compressive forces on the spine.
  • 4. It's a single leg activity, and once you have the necessary strength base in a bilateral movement, it becomes very important to be able to transition that into a single leg world.  Because last time I checked....all sports that involve running and cutting are realistically played on one leg.

Programming

Now that we’ve gone over all the technical stuff, let's talk programming. As with everything else in strength and conditioning you need a base to build off of. The first step is to do a 5 rep max squat. We do 5 rep max because it is enough weight to be able to figure out a legitimate 1 rep max, without stressing the central nervous system too much. We want to save the central nervous system for actual competition itself.

Once you get your 5 rep max go here and plug in the weight you used and type “5” in the reps category then hit enter! This is the weight that we’re going to base all your lower body strength work off of. It is important to get exact numbers, because every athlete is different and we need to be constantly stressing the body through increased loading. By getting an exact max, this allows you to stress yourself through exact percentages and progress much faster.

With this program you will be doing legs 3 times a week. Yes, that’s right, 3 times. Before you start complaining saying “that’s too much”, hear me out. You’ll be using non-linear periodization so each day will be using different volumes and different intensities. We will be using the Cal Dietz “Triphasic Training” model (If you haven’t read the book, I highly suggest doing so it has a ton of awesome stuff!).

Accumulation

The first 3 weeks of training will be the accumulation phase, to get the body ready for higher forces later on. It will look like this:

Day 1 (Monday): Bulgarians 4x8

Day 2 (Wednesday): Bulgarians 3x6

Day 3 (Friday): Bulgarians 4x12

Day 1 is medium intensity with medium volume, day 2 is high intensity with low volume and day 3 is low intensity with high volume. As coach Dietz explains in his book, this is done so that your body can recover better from the volume. When doing high volume on a Friday, the body has 2 days off (the weekend) to recover from the training, so it will get back in working order. If you do the high volume day on another day during the week, your body won’t have enough time to recover from the session, which will affect your performance in other training sessions.

Eccentric

Once you’re done with the accumulation phase, the fun part begins. You get to do two weeks of eccentric loading, two weeks of isometric loading and end off with two weeks of dynamic effort. The periodization for both eccentric and isometric loading will be the same, because we’re training two different contractions for 2 weeks at a time. It will look a little something like this:

Day 1 (Monday) Eccentric Bulgarians 4x4 with 30% of your 1 rep max

Day 2 (Wednesday) Eccentric Bulgarians 4x3 with 35% of your 1 rep max

Day 3 (Friday) Eccentric Bulgarians 4x5 with 25% of your 1 rep max

**** to do bulgarian split squats you will use the percentages given above, and take the weight you find and split it between 2 dumbbells. For Example, if you get 90 pounds, you use a 45 pound dumbbell in each hand.

So as you can see, we’re doing the same amount of sets each day, but the rep count is different. Not only is the rep count different, but the intensities are different. Like I stated before, this is so your body doesn’t become overtrained.

When doing eccentrics, you’re going to count six seconds on the way down, and explode back up. It’s very important that you get the full six seconds, so that you are truly taxing the eccentric contraction to the best of your ability. Exploding back up is also very important, because this is what is going to get you faster and more explosive.

*this video only shows a 3 second eccentric, but you get the idea

Isometric

Now for the isometric cycle, it’s going to be the exact same set up as the eccentric cycle. For those of you who don’t like to re-read directions (even though it’s literally only 2 paragraphs above this) it’s as follows:

Day 1 (Monday) Isometric Bulgarians 4x4 with 30% of your 1 rep max (3 second hold at bottom)

Day 2 (Wednesday) Isometric Bulgarians 4x3 with 35% of your 1 rep max (3 second hold at bottom)

Day 3 (Friday) Isometric Bulgarians 4x5 with 25% of your 1 rep max (3 second hold at bottom)

Dynamic

Last but certainly not least comes the dynamic effort portion of the cycle. I’m sure most of our readers know what this means, but for those just started out in this industry dynamic effort means you’re moving the weight as fast as you can. This means you need to be as fast as possible. This cycle is where you’re going to see your speed truly coming together and the light bulb will turn on in your head.

The numbers for the dynamic effort cycle are going to be a little different from the other two cycles. This is because you’re trying to work through the entire range of motion as fast as possible. You will not be slowing down at all during these lifts, so therefore you need to use a little lighter weight. The concept is still the same though for the periodization. The numbers are as follows:

Day 1 (Monday) Dynamic Effort Bulgarians 4x4 with 22.5% of your 1 rep max

Day 2 (Wednesday) Dynamic Effort Bulgarians 4x3 with 25% of your 1 rep max

Day 3 (Friday) Dynamic Effort Bulgarians 4x5 with 20% of your 1 rep max

Closing Thoughts

While I've gone out of my to simplify the concept of agility today, I hope this article gives you a better understanding of what your athletes actually need to be more agile.  Also, please understand that's there more than way to skin a cat.  Just because I focused on bulgarian split squats today using a triphasic approach doesn't mean that's the only way to get things done.  If you have any questions post them below, and feel free to chime in with what you've been getting results with.

about the author

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Ed Miller is a former intern at Defrancos Training Systems in New Jersey and Syracuse University. At Defrancos he had the pleasure of working under Mike Guadango and Joe Defranco where he trained with some of the best athletes in the world from the NFL, MLB, NHL and various other sports. At Syracuse University he worked under Coach Corey Parker and Coach Veronica Tearney. He has a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from SUNY Brockport and is also the founder of “The Zone: Strength and Fitness” in White Plains, New York where he works under Anthony Renna owner of Five Iron Fitness. He is also the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Rye Neck High School in Mamaroneck, New York. Ed has prided himself on getting his athletes bigger, stronger and faster using the “less is more” mentality.

Understanding the Underlying Purpose of the Energy Systems

The most important thing for detectives trying to solve a case is to understand the motive of potential suspects. Training the energy systems of an athlete is one of the most important jobs of the strength and conditioning professional. To solve this case, you must understand the motive force behind why the energy systems are present in the body. I’m going to say the same thing a bunch of times in a row in the following sentences because I need to kick the absolute hell out of this dead horse to reinforce the point I’m going to try to make with the gravity it deserves. The purpose of the energy systems is to deal with the outcome of the hydrolysis reaction of ATP. Stated in another way, the purpose of the energy systems is to rephosphorylate ATP and to deal with the threat of hydrogen and heat that cellular and mechanical work imposes upon the organism. Stated in another way, the purpose of the energy systems is to allow you to perform sufficient levels of ATP hydrolysis to power your organism’s need to engage in behaviors in specific environmental circumstances. If you do not understand this underlying purpose and the ways in which this plays out in the body, then you do not truly understand energy system training. We all have our pet peeves. One of mine is that I can’t stand it when people say that energy systems create energy. Another one is any time I hear anyone say anything about lactic acid. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Energy is transferred from one state to another inside the body. Lactic acid does not exist inside the human body. Lactic acid never has existed inside the human body. Lactic acid never will exist inside the human body. These statements may sound like condescending, semantical remarks made by an exercise science nerd; however, I do not think they are, and I think that failing to address these concerns will continue to lead to erroneous thought processes in trying to develop energy system training. I think these pet peeve concepts of mine are related to the two biggest missing links in our field’s current view of developing the energy systems, which are both fundamentally tied with failure to appreciate the two-tiered purpose of the energy systems.

Threat Deterrence

We probably all know about the concept of ATP being the energy currency of the body. The ability to restock your supply of ATP is one of the two purposes of the energy systems. This is the most commonly discussed factor in regards to the science of energy systems, and I will surely address this here, but first I would like to discuss the second energy system purpose, which is threat deterrence.

Hydrogen is the most abundant material in the universe, with approximately 80% of the known universe being made up by hydrogen. Movement of hydrogen is what drives the universe. When viewing the internal universe of the human, hydrogen is both the driver of life and something that can kill you quickly if left unchecked. Entropy is the direction of the universe. The universe is expanding and the energy found within the universe is headed more and more towards a chaotic state. Heat is the expression of entropy most prominently displayed by life forms. Try living as a mammal without heating yourself. Hydrogen load and heat load are perhaps the two most fundamental things that the human body has to manage. If not kept within a careful window of appropriate levels, you will surely die. We have a variety of measures and systems that we use to regulate hydrogen and heat, and the energy systems are a powerful one when it comes to the hydrogen threat.

There is no lactic acid inside your body, therefore it is not a threat. Lactate production is an outlet for dealing with an acid threat, and is therefore not a threat (it’s a strategy). Hydrogen is real, and very present inside your body. Hydrogen is a threat, and hydrogen must be accounted for. Where does this hydrogen come from though? Hydrogen is a bi-product of the hydrolysis of ATP. Every time I do anything inside my body, I need to power that action via the hydrolysis of ATP. The potential energy that will power my bodily actions is found in the bonds between the phosphates making up the ATP molecule. I must break these bonds to release energy from a bound/potential state to make it available as free energy to perform work. The body uses a hydrolysis reaction to break these bonds. Hydrolysis reactions are those that require water to be present. When ATP combines with water in the presence of the enzyme ATPase, the bond between the second and third phosphate is broken, and stored energy is released. The reaction looks like this:

ATP + H2O (in the presence of ATPase) → ADP + P + Free energy + Hydrogen + Heat

We did this to gain the release of free energy. Free energy release is the purpose of the hydrolysis of ATP. The energy systems are in the body to deal with the outcomes of the hydrolysis of ATP.

Three Strategies

Phosphagenic

The energy systems put ATP back together again after it is broken down. We have three strategies of putting ATP back together again, a phosphagenic one, a glycolytic one, and an oxidative one. The phosphagenic and glycolytic strategies are the most primitive, and took place in cellular life forms prior to the evolutionary step of mitochondria creating a mutually symbiotic relationship with cellular organisms by moving into the cells of other creatures. The phosphagenic energy system can rephosphorylate a singular ATP through its one enzymatic step, but it cannot do anything to reduce hydrogen or heat levels inside the body. Here is the primary reaction used by the phosphagen system:

ADP + CP (in the presence of Creatine Phosphate) à ATP + Creatine

The phosphagenic energy system has low cost associated with it, since it does not cost any ATP to run the system. This lack of cost cannot be said about the glycolytic system.

Glycolytic

The glycolytic energy system has the ability to rephosphorylate 4 ATP (you receive a net of 2 ATP, because you have to spend 2 ATP to power the glycolytic machinery) through 10 enzymatic steps. Glycolysis can also directly take two hydrogen ions out of circulation. To view the ATP rephosphorylation and hydrogen reduction capacity of glycolysis, the following image is helpful (note that the hydrogen is reduced at step 6, where NAD combines with a hydrogen).

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The non-oxidative energy systems pale in comparison to the ability of the oxidative energy system to rephosphorylate ATP and reduce the hydrogen threat inside the body. One of the interesting things about the oxidative system is that it actually powers itself through the motion of hydrogen.

Oxidative

The oxidative energy system utilizes the Krebs Cycle and the Electron Transport Chain (ETC) to rephosphorylate ATP and to reduce the hydrogen threat inside the body. Very little ATP rephosphorylation takes place within the Krebs Cycle; however, the products of the Krebs cycle power the ATP rephosphorylation machinery of the ETC. The primary product of the Krebs Cycle that powers the ETC to rephosphorylate ATP is NADH and FADH2. Every NADH that enters the ETC allows the ETC to rephosphorylate 3 ATP, and every FADH2 allows the ETC to rephosphorylate 2 ATP. The Krebs Cycle churns out 8 NADH and 2 FADH2 molecules every time carbohydrates are the substrate being utilized to power the energy systems (note fats have the potential for many more NADH and FADH2 molecules). The following diagram depicts the NADH and FADH2 synthesizing steps of the Krebs Cycle (note that the Krebs Cycle spins twice when carbohydrate is the substrate):

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It is fair to say that when it comes to the power of the oxidative energy system, the ability to shuttle NAD/NADH back and forth between the Krebs Cycle and the ETC is the show. If you have a super powered ability to load hydrogen onto NAD (which converts it into NADH), move NADH to the ETC, unload the hydrogen from NADH at the ETC (which converts it into NAD), and then return that NAD to Krebs to repeat the procedure, you will have a monster aerobic system. It is probably also fair to say that NADH is the show inside the show, and the thing that nobody is talking about. Finally, it is tremendously fair to say that the purpose of the Krebs Cycle is not to rephosphorylate ATP directly, but to power the reduction reaction that results in NADH, which powers the ETC.

Electron Transport Chain

The ETC is the engine that is the big bang in the rephosphorylation of ATP. The ETC is also the best strategy for reducing (both literally and figuratively if you appreciate redox humor) the hydrogen threat. The ETC is a multi-enzymatic intra-mitochondrial machine that has the potential to rephosphorylate 28 ATP from the products of the Krebs Cycle when carbohydrate is used as the substrate (8 NADH at 3 ATP per molecule, and 2 FADH2 at 2 ATP per molecule). One of the first enzymes present in the ETC is one called NADH dehydrogenase. The purpose of a dehydrogenase enzyme is to remove a hydrogen ion from a molecule. NADH dehydrogenase cleaves the hydrogen away from NADH, which oxidizes the molecule and returns it to its state as NAD. When NADH is oxidized, the hydrogen ion is then shuttled outward from the inner mitochondrial membrane. To help understand this process, see the following picture:

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In examining this picture, let’s start at the left. You see NADH being converted to NAD. This is taking place due to the activity of NADH dehydrogenase. You see the hydrogen ion being sent upwards into the space between the inner and outer mitochondrial membranes. Let’s skip over the activity in the middle of the graph to simplify this process. The hydrogen ion that was removed from NADH moves from the left to the right of the picture until it reaches the final enzyme on the right hand side. The most rightward enzyme is ATP synthase. As you can see in the picture, hydrogen moves downward through ATP synthase. The kinetic energy of hydrogen moving through the ATP synthase enzyme is what powers the enzyme to rephosphorylate ATP. ATP synthase is the location where all of the ATP rephosphorylation takes place inside the ETC. From an ATP rephosphorylation standpoint, let’s say that ATP synthase is the show. While giving the credit to ATP synthase for the product that we’re looking for, let’s not forget that it is hydrogen that powers this enzyme’s activity. As I said before, in the internal universe of the human, it is hydrogen that drives life.

While hydrogen drives life inside the human, unchecked, overabundant hydrogen will also kill you very quickly. The hydrogen that powered ATP synthase must be accounted for once it has given this enzyme its motive force for ATP rephosphorylation purposes. Have you ever wondered why the oxidative energy system is named as such? The answer is simple. Oxygen must be present for the system to run. The location of oxygen in this process is inside the inner mitochondrial matrix, specifically right below ATP synthase. When the hydrogen passes through the ATP synthase enzyme, oxygen is sitting there ready to receive it. If I combine two hydrogen with an oxygen, I get water. Synthesizing water is the most effective and least harmful strategy that organisms have adopted for dealing with the potential threat of hydrogen. When your body is able to power its behaviors via an electron transport strategy, the organism is operating in the least costly, most highly efficient manner possible, with the least amount of threat presented. When oxygen supply inside the mitochondria is not sufficient to deal with the amount of hydrogen present inside the mitochondria, or the shuttling of NAD/NADH to and from the Krebs Cycle/ETC is not robust enough or fast enough to move hydrogen through the oxidative pathways, the body is forced to go to a checkdown option and deal with hydrogen another way. This other way is via the creation of lactate.

Lactate

Lactate is created when pyruvate binds to two hydrogen ions. Pyruvate is the product of glycolysis. To see pyruvate, let’s revisit our glycolysis diagram.

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When it comes to glycolysis, things can be summarized into the following statement: one glucose enters, two pyruvates leave. There is no aerobic or anaerobic glycolysis. There is only glycolysis where a glucose comes and two pyruvate leave through ten enzymatic steps. The fate of pyruvate is what determines whether we operate with an oxidative or non-oxidative strategy. The hydrogen load inside the cell determines the fate of pyruvate. If the Krebs/ETC processes can handle the hydrogen load, things run smoothly. If Krebs and ETC are unable to handle the hydrogen coming from a specific rate of ATP hydrolysis, then we must call on the backup system, which is the synthesis of lactate. Lactate equals pyruvate plus two hydrogen. It is as simple as that. View the following image to appreciate this concept:

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In viewing the above image, focus on the bottom. Pyruvate is on the left, lactate is on the right. Look at the molecular makeup of the two substances. The only difference between pyruvate and lactate is that a singular bond attaches one hydrogen ion on the left side of the structure, and another hydrogen is bound to oxygen on the right side of the structure. Lactate is a fantastic method of removing two hydrogen ions from existing in a free state. The purpose of the lactate system is to act as an alternative strategy for dealing with hydrogen load during times of extreme behaviors. Lactate is your checkdown receiver on a hot read.

Closing Thoughts

As the great Mike Cantrell likes to say at PRI courses, it’s cool that the aspirin works, but it’s cooler to know how it works. It’s cool to know that the program design approaches of Joel Jameison work. It’s cooler to know what’s happening inside the system that drives the reasons behind why they work. If you do not know why things work, you do not have a good BS detector. You will fall for stupid training concepts and you will be a garbage strength coach. If you want to be a beast in the majority of American sports, you need quality energy system development coached in the proper sequence of development. This may not be the fastest road to success, but it will be the road to the highest success with the least amount of detrimental stress put on your organism’s homeostatic control systems. We live in an age of information and accountability. If you are stupid, you are easily replaceable. Be an intellectual savage who does not accept ordinary, mundane, or low level things in your life. As you were.

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

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

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

Extension Patterns

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

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

Extension and Performance

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

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

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

Fitting the Mold

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

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

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

about the author

d9ca6c07fc91bb289822a676849ad941.jpeg

pat davidson

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

-Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College, 2009-2011

-Assistant Professor, Springfield College 2011-2014

-Head Coach Springfield College Team Ironsports 2011-2013

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

-Renaissance Meat Head

Arousal Theory and Strength Sports: How to Harness Nuclear Energy

At the elite level, a large difference in performance between the three medalists on the podium is not typical. We see this across various individual strength sports such as weightlifting, sprinting, and gymnastics. One percent could be the difference between missing and breaking a world record. In weightlifting, both lifts are very explosive with neither one taking more than a few seconds to complete, and optimum power output must be produced. There is often only 2.5 kg separating the lifters in the top 5 spots, meaning the smallest variation in performance can be the difference between securing a medal and failing to place. Sports, which have very little variability between the top athletes who place, express a need for training modalities that can push performance just by a slight increase.

Overworking vs. Underworking

Because numbers can easily measure weight training progress, athletes have a tendency to pursue testing methods often. The aggressive consciousness, which weightlifters seem to possess, is a rivalry against oneself, and often leads to overtraining. Athletes typically have a competitive personality, which makes them assume overworking is better than underworking.

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The theoretical goal is to design a training program that will provide stress, but not continue to the point of distress. Little room for error can be left when peaking and every competitive advantage should be used for a successful performance. These factors can be measured and maintained by monitoring mood and excessive arousal while helping avoid the negative effects of over-reaching, which can lead to over-training.

A stressor is anything that may knock the body out of balance (a.k.a. homeostasis).

*for more on homeostasis and stress read here.

The stress response is what your body does to re-establish the balance. Your body’s physiological response mechanisms are beautifully adapted for overcoming short-term physical traumas. When we turn on the same physiological responses that are provoked chronically with heightened arousal, it then becomes disastrous. Fitness and fatigue cannot exist independently and often the demands of competitive athletes do not match according to the current level of not only physiological functioning, but psychological. Almost all athletes are overworked in some capacity, and although we all want to embrace ‘the grind’, constant excitement will cripple our success for long-term athletic development.

When to Turn It On

Many of us fail to differentiate between activating a stress-response out of necessity and for the sake of it. We become accustomed to turning our anticipatory defenses into an uproar of unnecessary activation. If you constantly mobilize energy at the cost of energy storage, you will never create a reserve for when it counts the most (aka competition). Excessive arousal may seem necessary, but more often than not is hindering performance as opposed to aiding in a successful attempt.

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Arousal and Threat

Arousal is a combination of physiological and psychological activity theorized to fall along a continuum from a completely relaxed state to intense state of excitement (Moran, 2004). Arousal is suppressed and activated by the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the Autonomic Nervous System. The sympathetic nervous system prepares our body for when energy expenditure is needed. During arousal our body needs to pay attention to the task at hand, so it neglects other systems such as immune and digestion that are deemed lower priority at that moment. For example, let’s say you’re roaming the Serengeti and a lion pops up ready to eat you. In that exact moment, what is most important to your body:

  1. - Digesting the food you just ate
  2. - Defending against a disease that may harm you tomorrow
  3. - Getting an erection
  4. - Running away to ensure survival

While 1-3 are indeed important, they do nothing to help you run away from the lion and must be “ignored” for the time being.

Yerkes & Dodsen (1908) developed the inverted-U theory in an attempt to explain the affiliation between arousal and performance. The relationship is curvilinear, specifically stating performance is lowest when arousal is very high or very low, and optimal at a moderate level (Singer et al., 2001). In Weightlifting, an athlete must presumably lift the most weight possible during an optimum level of arousal, however, either hyperarousal or diminished arousal may lessen performance (Jensen, 2009).

Although heightened arousal can impair the performance of some motor tasks, the relation between a stressor and the change in arousal varies markedly across individuals. It is also important to note that there are always exceptions to the case, but the vast majority of people happen to perform better with moderate levels of arousal. What is considered a eu-stress for one individual may in fact be a dis-stress for another.

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Generally speaking, certain sports require distinctive arousal levels

Fine motor control requires less arousal while motor tasks, which require strength or ballistic movements, require higher levels of arousal (Noteboom, Barnholt & Enoka, (2001). Ultimately, many variables play a role in creating a successful athlete, and to appropriately accommodate those variables an individualized program must be administered. For example, not everyone will respond to a certain stimulus of physical training the same way, just like how everyone will respond to stress management in slightly different ways

New athletes often make an assumption that psyching up or creating a high level of arousal is imperative to optimally complete a heavy lift. While higher arousal helps strength, compromised coordination and technique may occur, especially if technique is still being learned. The common mistake a lifter will face is overdoing it or using techniques at the wrong moments in training. A beginner is less groomed and so the motions of their sport are not as habitual in those who have ample amounts of experience. Typically a beginner will do better with low levels of arousal because performance is based on utilization of relevant cues and narrowing of attention as arousal increases. Too many cues, or an excess of arousal, can cause the lifter to heighten his or her state of sensory sensitivity to a state of hyper vigilance. When we approach a lift with excessive arousal we can trigger inappropriate responses such as excessive physical strain associated with somatic anxiety.

Once a lifter becomes accustomed to the motor patterns of their sport, then they will be able to determine their optimal zone of functioning within the arousal continuum.

New athletes get a pass because they don’t know any better. For those of you who are familiar with training and are constantly in the weight room screaming about your next lift to come, you are wasting your time and giving us all headaches. You’ve also caused a substantial amount damage, which now must be dealt with somehow.  You simply can’t train like this as often as you’d like. Threat Matrix Theory (Visser & Davies, 2010) explains how any number of multiple outputs may form from a stress response. We do not only encounter a single variable altered during this process. Determining which part of the fatigue was caused by the training itself, and what was caused by the emotional stress of an elevated arousal state is the hard part.

A stressor may be as simple as anticipation before a competitive situation, which at first may appear as psychological, but as it manifests becomes physiological as well (Jensen, 2009). Such a response can lead to a failed lift or technical failure resulting in injury, or improper recovery causing you to peak or fatigue earlier than you should be when competition time comes (Lee, 1990). Competitive weightlifters understand competitions provide incentive for hard training. A successful meet involves more than being stronger compared to competitors of the same weight class. In addition to physical training, psychological aspects such as mood and vigor will play an important role in an athlete’s performance as well.

Don’t train harder, train smarter.

Profile of Mood States Questionnaire (POMS) is a standard validated psychological test formulated by McNair et al. (1971) which requires you to indicate for each word or statement how you have been feeling in the past week.

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Athletes scoring below norms on scales of tension, depression, confusion, anger, and fatigue, and above norms on vigor, are said to possess a ‘positive profile’ that graphically depicts an iceberg. Monitoring of mood states may offer potential methods of mitigating loads, whether that be psychological or physical.

Serious athletes will push their bodies hard enough, often riding that fine line between wellness and illness. Simply tracking how you feel related to qualitative variables, which mirror excess stress, can be of use to athletes and coaches. You can do this by writing it in your training log (if you don’t have one yet, what are you waiting for?). Remember, stress comes in all shapes and sizes and we deal with it enough, so why add more to training than necessary?

Optimizing performance is contingent upon proper stress regulation and will differ between training and competition environment. Coaches are often attempting to increase the likelihood of success within an athlete’s performance and will make most of the decisions for an athlete, but for those who do not have this advantage should educate themselves. In accordance with proper programming, mental skills training to control or alter arousal levels may be of interest. Beginning to use skills during practice will have a carry-over effect in competition, and is valuable in both situations. Utilizing such skills will not likely benefit the day of competition if not practiced.

Learn how to create a balance with combinations of relaxation and intensity. These are two things that don’t seem to go together when you first think about it. Managing arousal levels is key in not only competitive situations, but during training as well. If you experience every lift in a working set during training as a max effort lift you will pay the price. Being able to harness nuclear energy is the name of the game. Conserve it for a time when it is most necessary. To understand the stress response, fundamental knowledge not only of physiology but of psychology as well, must be possessed.

about the author

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

Advanced Modalities to Increase Weekly Training Volume

Below you'll find a recent interview I did on energy systems, autonomics, and how to increase training frequency...enjoy: 

about the author

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

Cleaning Up the Pull in the Olympic Lifts: Technique and Drills for Success

Olympic lifting isn’t just for athletes who compete in meets. The various exercises dramatically improve both rate of force development and rate coding while recruiting the largest motor units. And since most sports require both strength and speed—i.e. explosive power—many athletes benefit from incorporating the Olympic lifts into their training. The obvious advantages gained from weightlifting lead to its popularity in strength and conditioning facilities around the world. The lifts—that were once relatively obscure—are now staples of training programs. But that popularity also generates inconsistency. And unfortunately, inconsistency leads to the spreading and teaching of of many different—often incorrect—lifting techniques.

One of the biggest offenses occurs in the initiation of the movement, or in the pulling phase.

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If you’re the wrong kind of aggressive in the pull, you’ll forget to be aggressive in the catch.

The pull should be aggressive, but also controlled and fluid. Because the purpose of the first pull is to disconnect the stationary barbell from its motionless position on the platform, the start of the lift should be slow and controlled. The middle portion of the lift only becomes fast because the control exerted on the first pull allows for speed to accumulate.

Pulling turns out to be the additive combination of start speed and acceleration in the middle of the lift. It results in the chain reaction of turnover and receiving the weight at the top of the movement.

Athletes often have the desire to pull the bar from the floor harshly and overemphasize the use of their upper body in order to get the barbell to the ideal position. (This could be due to five-time national champion Donny Shankle’s popularized quote to “rip the bar like you’re ripping a head off of a lion.”)

But in doing so, the barbell breaks away from your body—thus disrupting your center of gravity, making it hard to complete the lift. And it’s what I refer to as being the wrong kind of aggressive. Yanking the bar harshly transfers the angle of the back to an undesired, even dangerous, position.

This improper initial movement causes problems up the chain, too, forcing you to tug aggressively at the top of the pull. Instead of adding speed, this extra movement actually slows you down and inhibits you from being aggressive at the proper time. And that makes the transition to receiving the barbell—either overhead in the snatch or on your shoulders in the clean—more difficult to perform.

The barbell goes where you want it, not the other way around.

The pull seems more strenuous and complex, so we focus on it—maybe a little too much. Because if you put the same energy into sitting hard into a receiving position, as you do the pull, your lift will be more successful. You must place the bar overhead with intention. In weightlifting, the barbell goes where you want it to not the other way around.

Unfortunately, if you teach the start position and pull incorrectly, you cannot expect your athlete to perform the full movement properly. That’s where the power position comes into play.

Working from blocks works well with athletes who have a tendency to pull incorrectly—whether they’re veterans or beginners. Since the power position allows you to keep the bar close to the body, it naturally limits your ability to tug the bar at the top by reducing the room you have to move. The result is a more stable, controlled center of gravity, in order to optimize the force applied to the bar.

Below are two examples of how each pull is properly done from the blocks:

Snatch Pull

Clean pull

During both lifts, the athlete in the video uses the power from his lower body to guide the bar upward. He maintains perfect posture by pushing the knees out while looking ahead or slightly up.

The middle portion of the pull is predominately accomplished by a push with the legs while the elbows guide the bar up to the midsection. To get this out of my own athletes, I often cue them to push the floor away with the heels—instead of thinking about the movement as a pull. This forces the athlete to focus on not coming to their toes or being too concerned with their arm movement.

A pull should always directly correlate with the full lift. There is no purpose in teaching a pull if it has no transfer-over effect into the exercise. In the video above you see the athlete performing the snatch by allowing the bar to guide up in a smooth motion. Then he completes the lift by sitting hard under the bar, maintaining a strong overhead position.

Start small for big results

In addition to teaching more fluid traditional pulls, a way to begin attacking these common problems can be dealt with by adding warm up drills prior to each specific lift and strength exercises (pulling variations) at the end of the workout. I have my lifters start with an empty barbell, or even a PVC pipe, broomstick, or training bar.

The movements below are breakdowns of the full lifts and will teach the athlete to gain the proper feeling for certain positions. The first five exercises are warm up drills, which will help athletes who have trouble transitioning from pulling into sitting under the barbell (often noted as the third pull).

  1. Pull to front drop snatch warm-up complex:
  2. 1. Pull the bar to sternum height and pause.
  3. 2. Without tugging at the top flip the bar over head and begin to sit hard into a full squat.
  4. 3. Hold the seated position and do not rush up immediately.

Here you will learn to connect the dots between finishing the pull and transitioning into dropping under fast. Your arms should immediately be prepared to lockout overhead while maintaining a solid core. This movement teaches you to understand that when snatching to apply aggression into sitting underneath the barbell.

  1. Snatch grip front press variation
  2. 1. Without using momentum, maintain a high chest and sit hard under the bar as if you were sitting under a push jerk.
  3. 2. Poke your head through and push up into the barbell with your trapezius.

This is another drill used to mimic the movement underneath the bar. The motion must be precise and short. want to focus more on the movement which occurs underneath the bar after the pull.

  1. Behind the neck snatch press: in full squat
  • 1. Beginning in a full squat, engage in your core and push up into the bar.
  • 2. Be sure to keep your heels planted on the floor.

A true test to strength and stability: This should not be done in excess weight or reps. Typically, I utilize this during a warm up with an empty barbell in a complex for 4x4.

  1. Behind the neck Snatch grip jerk
  • 1. Slowly dip with knees out and chest up.
  • 2. Once the dip is complete, a short drop underneath the barbell happens in order to secure the lift overhead.
  • 3. The first drop is short and the second will end in a full squat.
  • 4. Visualize pulling the bar apart over head and remain in the catch for about 2-4 seconds.

It’s easy to be more concerned with standing up with the weight, as opposed to securing the lift overhead. But, many lifts are lost because of impatience and rushing.

  1. Clean drill
  • 1. Swing the weights back and forth slowly.
  • 2. Once the weights begin to come back in front of you, flip your elbows up in a rack position.
  • 3. As you flip your elbows, sit hard into a ½ squat.

Here is a great exercise if you use your arms too much in the pull. It reminds you to immediately turn the bar over fast. It’s particularly useful for beginners who are just learning how much power comes from the legs. Sometimes I will incorporate these in between working sets.

These next two examples will help athletes who struggle with general pulling technique and strength. Each exercise will focus on controlling the barbell by using the lower extremities as the main driver in gaining height in the pull.

  1. High pull to stick

This exercise ensures you’re pulling the bar high enough, and allows you to work harder at the top. Variations from the floor as well as complexes and adjusting the height can be applied.

  1. Staircase snatch muscle pull

Usually done with light to moderate weight, this is a great exercise to focus on the eccentric portion of the lift. Starting from the box, raise your elbows (picture a puppet) as high as possible while maintaining form, then slowly lower the bar allowing it to just slightly tap the staircase.

Closing Thoughts

While the olympic lifts take YEARS to master, I hope these drills and cues help you on your journey to become a better lifter.  Post any questions or comments you have below, and be sure to apply for our olympic lifting coaching program if you want help with programming and optimizing your lifts.  There are ONLY 3 SPOTS available right now, and those are on a first come first serve basis.

about the author

fac188db2d11c567ecf4133a5a44ea64.jpeg

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

Be A Goal Digger: The Complete Guide to Goal Setting

I am geographically limited. I use my IPhone GPS everywhere I go, even when I may know where I am going. Part of it is because I have a terrible attention span; the other part is I lack the self-confidence in reaching my destination without getting lost. Since I am constantly on the road and I don’t particularly like traffic I like to listen to my radio as loud as can be, rock out and enjoy myself. I plug my phone into the Aux cord so I can hear the directions when I forget to look. Occasionally, I miss the exit. By occasionally I mean almost every time. Fortunately, I attempt to give myself extra time when arriving somewhere for that reason. I remember one specific time I was driving to NY from MA and I got so wrapped up in my thoughts I drove an entire 45 minutes past my exit almost into NJ. I was paying attention to the road, just not the specifics. My driving antics remind me of goal setting. Sometimes, we have no idea where we are headed. Other times, we have our ideas perfectly mapped out for us. Either way, you are going to get lost somehow. I am aware of this reoccurring situation, which is why I give myself some leeway and plan ahead for the obstacles I may face.  I constantly look at the map every few minutes to see where I am in relation to my destination. The main point is that I know how to get back on track regardless of the obstacles I may face, and I am willing to switch routes if need be.

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  • - Goal setting is one of the most popular and effective performance-enhancement techniques. However, the technique behind the application is far more complicated than it appears.
  • - Using it wisely may be fostered into a positive performance-enhancing tool or conversely may lead to ambiguity and fear of failure.
  • - Motivation is the area coaches want to know the most about and is one of the top studied theories in sport psychology.
  • - Both concepts relate to one another on various levels but more importantly share a drawback: success is often seen as an end product. 
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We live in a world where we are distracted by shiny images of perfection. We see pictures of Michael Jordan slam dunking, and showing off rings but don’t see the hours he spent away from family and friends on the court by himself. We don’t see a highlight of misses, just the ones he makes.

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  • - When we focus on numbers or one particular event we seem to lose sight of the work it will take us to get there and become frustrated when we do not see accomplishments immediately.
  • - Becoming too caught up in the daydream of the outcome and far less concerned with our development as an athlete removes us from the path.
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  • -Training is often boring and repetitive requiring a huge responsibility as well as self-control.
  • -Many of us like the idea of goal-setting on paper, but not so much the actions which must take place in order to achieve so-called goals.

The Hardest Mental Toughness Technique

The reason goal setting is such a hard technique to master is because It’s a highly flexible skill, meaning it has many paths to a good result.

  • - Nothing is set in stone, what may work for one person may hinder another. There is no exact template to follow.
  • - The reason goal setting becomes so individualized is due to the process we go through, which gives the goal meaning.
  • - Each of us will vary how we formulate ideas and cope with obstacles along the path to our destination.
  • - We learn to recognize patterns and spot hidden opportunity, limitations, as well as learning how to problem solve.

We have both rational and emotional sides to our personality, which may clash with one another. Our rational side has the ability to analyze and deliberate for the long term, while our emotional side evaluates situations in terms of pain and pleasure. As a realistic being, we understand our ambitions can be challenging to put into play, and our hunger for instant gratification provides for much more immediate incentive and feedback.

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  • - The idiosyncratic relationship between our passion and effort derive from how our emotions evoke particular feelings, which lead to our actions.
  • -Emotions are spontaneous biological process, which are not in our full control.
  • - Our decision process is then based on feelings or how we consciously interpret our emotions.
  • - We have control over our feelings- or how we react to a situation (emotions).
  • - Allowing our emotions to control our goals is often a recipe for disaster.
  • - When we allow negative situations to effect us in terms of re-evaluating our goals or aim low, we are not fully committed to the work that  is required to become a great athlete true to our potential.
  • - We often remain in a past state of sentiment towards our goals and guide our next move based on a false evaluation of the situation.

Commandments of Goal Setting

1. OBSTACLES ARE GOING TO HAPPEN, SO MAKE THE BEST OF IT.

We can map out a detailed list of steps, but learning how to be flexible and drop our egos is going to be the most eye opening realization of the entire method.

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When you hit an obstacle, you tend to switch focus and harp on your long-term goal imagining how long it’s going to take to get there. This usually results in cutting corners and moving around from interest to interest in order to redeem some form of instant gratification. It is natural because we want to be happy. However, you have to keep pushing the boulder up the hill.

2.  FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

What we will always have control over is our perception and attitude. You have to maintain control and structure in order to keep your logic and emotions happy.

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Winning is not a good goal to have. You cannot control who wins and who loses.

  • - Often we seem to talk to ourselves in a negative connotation. The way you word something is extremely important and has an impact on how we react to the situation. Set positive goals by focusing on behaviors that should be present rather than those that should be absent. This can help athletes focus on success rather than failure.

3.  AIM FOR THE MIDDLE

Aim for the middle of the spectrum. Be realistic, but don’t be easy on yourself or sell yourself short. Using moderately difficult goals will still push you to work hard, but in a more realistic sense. They are also more satisfying when attained.

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  • - Ego oriented athletes also have a tendency to set unrealistically high or low goals so they can have an excuse if their goals are not attained. Task oriented athletes, on the other hand, set goals about doing their best and making incremental improvement.  These athletes experience success more frequently, persist at tasks longer and are more confident.

4.  Use Short Range Goals

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Small goals along the way yield major results

  • - We need to develop goals that create a higher standard for being satisfied with our performance in correct form and technique vs. a poorly executed personal record lift.
  • - In order to put up the big numbers on the platform, we need to focus on developing small accomplishments and being satisfied without receiving instant gratification.

We can become easily derailed by minor setbacks, so reassurance is key when it comes to staying the course. This is the main idea behind short-term goals

  • - We need to make an effort in reminding ourselves what’s already been conquered. When we receive no immediate pay off, it can become frustrating.
  • - Set practice as well as competition goals – Practice goals should match competition performance goals as often as possible. Goals related to work ethic and attitude during practice are essential.

5.  Keep Your Big Goals a Secret

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You can announce progress, but your “dream goal” should be personal. It’s easy and natural to want to share everything, especially now since everything can be shared with the clock of a button. However, I say keep your big goals away from those you are close to as well. Often people may discourage you, some directly and some indirectly. Seeking support is natural but finding an environment that actually facilitates your goals is incredibly difficult, so be weary of where and with whom you are sharing your ideas and time with.

5.  Write Them Down, Post Them Up

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Regularly monitor progress, goals are ineffective if forgotten.   Write them in your training logs (DO YOU HAVE A TRAINING LOG? how else will you measure your progress). Put a note in your weightlifting shoe for the next day with something to focus on for that session. Face it every day, read it and ask yourself what you are going to do to attain

  1. 6.  FIND A COACH WHO KNOWS WHATS BEST FOR YOU

It is important as a coach to make sure goals are internalized and the athlete to feel in control of their goals. Whether or not a player is ego oriented (compares their performance to that of others) or task oriented (compares her performance to herself) could determine the extent to which they will be able to internalize goals.

We have difficulty looking at ourselves from an outside-unbiased perspective. The best lifters have coaches because they cannot see their mistakes themselves even if they video a set. The same goes for goal setting. Find a coach who believes in your capability and then some.

Closing Thoughts

Spending your time in the weight room without setting goals is like shooting at a target without aiming. You are probably enjoying yourself here and there while perceiving small strides, but there’s going to come a point where blasting that gun and wasting ammo gets expensive and aggravating and you eventually wind up injured, bored, or quitting. Without goalswe would remain forever stationary, incapable of moving forward.

Evaluate your current plan, Ask yourself:

What have you done to get better today? Seriously think of every single move you made in the last 24 hours. Was everything geared towards your goal? Do you even know what your goal really is? We need an honest evaluation of where we are right now. Then we can focus on shaping the path.

Assessing your goals will take time, so sit down and pay attention on these next few questions:

  • - Am I focusing on myself, or comparing my goals to others success?
  • - Is my goal measurable? And repeatable?
  • - Am I tracking my progress?
  • - Am I being realistic and fair to myself?

about the author

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

Fight Conditioning: How to Build an Engine that Won't Gas Out

The easiest way to lose a fight is to gas out. When this fatigue sets in, not only are your muscles weaker, but you also make poor decisions because of it. This is why proper conditioning is absolutely essential.

But how do you do it? If you know a little bit of physiology, it’s actually not that difficult to understand.

A fighter of mine recently competed in a tournament, so I’m going to use his case study to illustrate how someone like him would want to prepare for a fight.

INITIAL ASSESSMENT

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First, I had him send me a bunch of pictures and videos to get an idea of his muscle balance/imbalance.

After that, I had him perform multiple conditioning tests.

From this assessment, I can come up with a rough outline for what he needs to work on.

Here are my notes on his assessment (we’ll define these abbreviated terms soon):

  • - Extended posture; obvious need for deep abdominal muscles
  • - Not in pain
  • - HRR to 130 BPM took 1m50s (biggest weakness)
  • - RHR ~58 BPM (not great)
  • - AT = 172 BPM, almost went one mile in 6 minutes (not bad)
  • - Fight rounds are 6 minutes with a minimum of 6 minutes between rounds
  • - Fights are only one round
  • - Has a good training foundation

If you’re unsure on how to do conditioning tests, read this.

We had 11 weeks from when I started with him to the day of his fight.

11-10 WEEKS OUT

Since his fight prep will start 8 weeks out, we have these two weeks to build a stronger foundation (which is always important).

The focus will be on max strength and local muscular endurance using the strength-aerobic method on one day with two different exercises. The strength-aerobic method consists of heavy weight, low rep sets followed by low weight, constant tension sets. This method trains the contractility of the fast-twitch muscles to make him strong, then the size of the slow-twitch muscle fibers to make him more resistant to fatigue while maintaining work output..

We also incorporated some explosive repeats to develop his HRR, which, as you recall, was his biggest weakness in the conditioning tests.

Heart Rate Recovery (HRR) - a measure of the ability for the recovery systems to turn on after a bout of intense activity

Here is how we organized his explosive repeats

  • - 10s:50s (work:rest) x 6-7 rounds
  • - Then a general strength exercise
  • - 10s:40s (work:rest) x 6-7 rounds
  • - This gradual decrease of the rest period is to develop aerobic power

Aerobic Power - how quickly the aerobic system is able to turn on and produce energy

The aerobic system can produce the most energy over a long period of time, but it takes a while to get going. Developing aerobic power is essential for any fighter.

We also used some HICT for fast-twitch muscle endurance (so he can still be fast in later rounds).

High Intensity Continuous Training (HICT) - a training method for making the strong fast-twitch muscle fibers more resistant to fatigue

And we used COD for left ventricle eccentric hypertrophy (so his heart can beat more efficiently).

Cardiac Output Development (COD) - a training method for increasing the efficiency of the heart.

The following image is a graph of his heart rate during COD.

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9 WEEKS OUT

This was a taper week to get ready for a grueling training camp, so his training volume was low here.

8-6 WEEKS OUT

The focus of these weeks was on local muscular endurance.

We used HRI to develop aerobic power.

High Resistance Intervals (HRI) - a training method similar to the explosive repeats we talked about earlier, but the recovery time of each set is based on HRR instead of a fixed time interval.

He had a general strength and movement day.

We also ramped up the difficulty of the explosive repeats:

  • - 15-20s:50s (work:rest) x 8-10
  • - Split squats
  • - 15-20s:40s (work:rest) x 8-10 (made the intervals slightly more difficult than before)

The longer work periods just place a little bit more stress on him, making it even more necessary that his heart rate turn on.

6-3 WEEKS OUT

The focus of these weeks was on cardiac power.

Cardiac Power - the contractility of the heart; how hard it can work.

To make his heart contract harder, I had him do MMA drills for CPI (increased sport specificity)

Cardiac Power Intervals (CPI) - a training method for developing contractility of the heart muscle.

This is how I had him do CPIs:

  • - 60s-120s work
  • - Recover HR to 130 BPM
  • - 10 rounds

The following image is a graph of his heart rate during CPIs.

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He also did the strength-aerobic method from earlier to hold onto his max strength and the hypertrophy of his slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Lastly, we introduced some threshold training.

Threshold Training - a training method for raising the anaerobic threshold, allowing for more work to be done at his maximum sustainable level of intensity

His initial tests showed me that his estimated AT was 172 BPM.

Anaerobic Threshold (AT) - the point at which the work being done becomes too much to maintain; where the energy demanded surpasses the energy produced

For his threshold training, he just needs to keep his heart rate around at 172 +/- 5 BPM for as long as I prescribe. We started off 4m:3m x 3 rounds, and progressed to 6m:6m x 3-5 rounds, making the intervals just like the worst-case scenario for his tournament (his rounds are 6 minutes long and he will have no less than 6 minutes between fights).

The following image is a graph of his heart rate during threshold training.

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Constant Monitoring

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In an email exchange, he sent me the above picture and told me that he noticed it takes him 40-45 seconds to rev his heart rate from 130 to about 165 BPM.

What this tells me is that he’s super efficient, but could use some increased contractility of his heart muscle. This made me decide to keep in his CPIs and make that a focus of his training camp for as long as possible.

3-2 WEEKS OUT

The focus of these two weeks is fight specificity.

Basically, everything needs to resemble the fight so that his body is acclimated. As I mentioned above, we decided to continue CPIs.

We also continued threshold training.

  • - 6m:6m (work:rest) x 3 for worst-case scenarios, or
  • - 6m:10m (work:rest) x 4 for better-case scenarios

The reason we didn’t stick to only the 6m:6m intervals is because I wanted him to be able to develop higher intensity during the 6m work period if he was given a long rest time between rounds. The hope was that he would be able to spar at these intervals. If not, I asked him to do drilling on whatever skills needed practice instead.

2-1 WEEKS OUT

The focus of these weeks is rest. This is also known as a taper.

Start taper on 7/10.

Fight is on 7/18.

Intensity and volume both come way down during the taper so that he can recover from the intense 7 weeks he just had.

On one day, I gave him a COD exercise circuit to get some active recovery.

He was allowed 3 easy mat days.

I instructed him to recover as hard as he’d been training (e.g. diet, sleep, compression leg sleeves, acai bowl by the pool).

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He went in to the gym on Friday, did his warm up, then left.

On Saturday, his instructions were simply to go whoop ass.

To measure his recovery, we monitored his RHR.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR) - how fast your heart beats first thing in the morning; can be collected and used to monitor recovery

I had him start tracking his RHR a few weeks before the competition. Your heart rate will usually be lowest in the morning because you haven’t been moving, then it will rise and fall throughout the day.

The following graph shows his recovery (as measured by his RHR) over the last few weeks.

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This is especially remarkable when I tell you that the 46 BPM he measured on July 15th was at 2PM, not immediately upon waking. Plus, this is the lowest his heart rate has ever been, telling me that he is more prepared for this fight than ever.

[Click Here to apply to be a Team RP Athlete today]

This graph illustrates the power of a taper before a fight. Had we not allowed his body to recover from his training, he would have been fatigued going into the competition and would not have been able to perform his best.

OUTCOME

Here’s what he had to say when I asked him how he did:

“All in all - not bad. Choked the guy in first match, lost on points in second. I showed both physically and mentally. Gas tank was for days.

“Not happy with overall results though wanted to bring home some hardware. Next time.”

The second round was actually kind of amazing. He pulled off a great move that would have scored him enough points to move on to the next round… but time expired too soon.

“There is a rule [that the] athlete needs to stabilize position for 4 seconds before getting points. What I did was 5 points move: 2 for take down + 3 for getting to side control. If I initiated scramble 5 seconds earlier - I would have stayed alive in the tournament… Shitty timing on my part. Lesson learnt though.

“Just want to say thank you for the though [sic] and work you put in in [sic] my prep. It changed many things in a positive way. The biggest tournament of the year for me is ***** [removed] in spring and I look forward to getting ready for it with you.”

[Click Here to apply to be a Team RP Athlete today]

REFLECTIONS

  • - This guy is the perfect client and 100% compliant
  • - It was difficult to plan what he would do on the mat
  • - Life stress can get in the way
  • - I'm glad we had good communication because otherwise I wouldn't have known how long it took his HR to climb during CPIs
  • - As he becomes more experienced, he will do better and better
  • - I am 95% happy with his training leading up to the tournament
  • - I wish I had asked him what drills he needed to work on the mat
  • - I wish I had redone the conditioning tests after the fight

The biggest lesson that I want you to walk away with is that your conditioning alone probably won’t win you a competition, but it can certainly lose you a competition.

Don’t let that happen to you. If you need a strength and conditioning coach or any advice on your fight prep, don’t hesitate to reach out.

about the author

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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.

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.

[Click Here to Buy MASS Now]

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.

[Click Here to Buy MASS Now]

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.