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Fitness and Performance

Periodization as a Strategy, Not a Tactic –

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By Karsten Jensen

Periodization is a controversial topic within our field and has been since I started training back in 1992.  Whether you believe in periodization or not for your athletes, this article will shed some light on the topic.  Enjoy!

 

Below are some of the critique points that I have come across in recent years:

  • Periodization is not scientifically proven.
  • Periodization is overrated and over studied.
  • Periodization is too rigid and does not work for our athletes.
  • Periodization is too time-consuming.
  • Periodization is too complex and only for people in lab coats

These critique points may be true if your understanding of Periodization is limited to Periodization as a tactic. However, Periodization is fundamentally a strategy.

From my personal experience as a strength coach, author, and lecturer over the last 25 years, I have found it incredibly useful – even absolutely necessary – to distinguish between principles, strategies, and tactics in order to really understand a particular topic.

Thus, the purpose of this article is to

  • Highlight the difference between principles, strategies, and tactics as it applies to Periodization.
  • Show that you can reject any one example of Periodization as a tactic, but you cannot reject Periodization as a strategy (and this insight will be extremely helpful)

What is a principle?

A “principle” is a basic truth, law or assumption (thefreedictionary.com).  A first principle is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

What could be deemed the first principle of athletic development? I recommend that you answer that in detail for yourself in a way that resonates with your work.

My background is strength and conditioning, not coaching a specific sport. Thus, here is a suggestion for the 1st Principle of  Athletic Development as centered on the physical side:

Optimal development of bio-motor abilities (physical qualities) to support the ability to practice and compete (the specific sport/s) – with maximal quality – at the desired level, at a given age.

You could say that a principle is vague. However, the above phrase invites critical questions and consequences:

  • What does optimal mean? It is the balance of all involved abilities that support the young athlete’s ability to practice and compete.
  • Supporting the ability to practice and compete with maximal quality implies prevention of injury and the nourishment of motivation, joy and confidence.

Thus, the 1st Principle defines the overall objective of our work as coaches.

How are we going to achieve this objective?

principle strategy tactic

Figure 1: The overarching task is defining the 1st Principle. The strategy is chosen to achieve the 1st Principle. Tactics are used to execute the strategy.

 

A Strategy is Chosen to Achieve the Objective That is Defined by the 1st Principle

A strategy is the larger, overall plan designed to achieve a major or overall aim. The strategy will be comprised of several tactics.  A strategy is broad, big-picture and future-oriented (1)

The training literature contains multiple but related definitions of Periodization. (2)  Fundamentally, the word periodization means “a division in to periods.”

If you do a web search with the word periodization, you will find books on sports training, history and geology.

Thus, “periodization” is a word similar to “categorization” (dividing items – for example, apples divided into categories) or classification (for example dividing athletes into age groups, levels or weight classes).

From the definition of periodization as a ‘division into periods” it becomes clear that, fundamentally, periodization is a strategy for organizing long-term training by dividing the training into shorter periods.

We can take this definition a step further and suggest a more training-specific definition of periodization:

“Periodization is a division of a longer training cycle into periods with different goals, structures, and content of the training program.  When these periods are sequenced in such a way that the training adaptations in one period prepare the athlete for the training in the next period, then the selected physical abilities are optimized at the goal-attainment date.”

The above definition highlights why periodization as a strategy is virtually unavoidable unless your training programs always:

  • Are geared toward the same training adaptation
  • Have the same structure
  • Have the same content

Tactics

Clearly, there are more decisions to be made before we have a finished program. These more detailed decisions are the “tactics.” The strategy can be executed with different tactics.  Tactics are plans, tasks, or procedures that can be carried out. Tactics may be part of a larger strategy.

So far, Linear Periodization, Reverse Linear Periodization, Undulating Periodization, and Block Periodization are the only systems that have been researched in controlled studies. These systems are all periodization tactics.

I have never seen a critique of periodization as a strategy. When I have seen a critique of periodization, the critique has been of a particular periodization tactic.

As a trainer, you can look at any one of those systems and decide whether or not they are not ideal tactics for the athletes that you work.

However, once you make that choice, you still have to decide how are you going to organize your long-term training?

Conclusion

This article described a hierarchy of 1st principles, strategy, and tactics. It made the argument that periodization is fundamentally a strategy. Yet, the critique of periodization is typically centered on tactics rather than principles or strategies.

A “next step” in exploring periodization is the question about how to divide the long-term period into shorter periods as well as a deeper look into the characteristics of the mentioned periodization systems.  More to come….

  1. https://www.diffen.com/difference/Strategy_vs_Tactic
  2. Jensen, K. Appendix 1. Periodization Simplified: How To Use The Flexible Periodization Method on the Fly. www.yestostrength.com

 

Karsten Jensen has helped world class and Olympic athletes from 26 sports disciplines since 1993. Many of his athletes have won Olympic medals, European Championships, World Championships and ATP Tournaments.

Karsten is the first strength coach to create a complete system of periodization, The Flexible Periodization Method – the first complete method of periodization dedicated to holistic, individualized and periodized (H.I.P) training programs.

Karsten shares all aspects of The Flexible Periodization Method (FPM) with his fellow strength coaches and personal trainers through The Flexible Periodization Method workshop series (Levels I-VIII).  Find more information at www.yestostrength.com

3 Reasons Distance Runners Shouldn’t Skip Strength Training

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Distance runners often intuitively feel that the only way to improve running performance is to increase mileage and run more.

Although this approach will work for a while, you will eventfully reach a point of diminishing returns. Once you’ve hit that juncture, any additional running will not bring many benefits in terms of improving performance, but the injury risk will continue to increase.

With each step, you make contact with the ground. Those contacts create impact forces that travel through your body and need to be absorbed somewhere. If your muscles are not strong enough to absorb this load, connective tissues like tendons and bones will suffer most. This may eventually lead to many of the most feared injuries amongst runners like stress fractures, IT band, and tendon problems.

The logical way to improve muscle strength and avoid many of the previously mentioned issues is to incorporate strength training into your routine. But distance runners often fear weight training will make them slow and bulky, as carrying the extra weight of added muscle mass means more work on every stride. However, research has found that if the strength training is performed complementary to your running, this won’t be the case. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that “40 weeks of strength training can significantly improve maximal- and reactive-strength qualities, (running economy) and (velocity at maximal oxygen uptake), without concomitant hypertrophy, in competitive distance runners.” That means the runners became stronger, more efficient runners without experiencing significant changes in body composition.

But stepping into the weight room and performing hours of Biceps Curls isn’t going to get distance runners the results they want. Exercise programs we create for runners need to take into account their running training, address specific weaknesses, and focus on specific physical qualities that will have a high transfer to running.

With that in mind, here are three benefits well-implemented strength training offers distance runners.

1. Better Running Efficiency

Like the fuel economy of a car, the less energy and oxygen used at a certain pace, the longer you can run at that specific speed. For distance runners, this means you can maintain higher speeds during your runs, which translates to better times. In addition to the study discussed above, a 2013 study found that runners who incorporated strength training as a part of their training improved running economy by more than 6 percent! And again, this improvement in running economy came about in the absence of any increases in body weight or muscle size.

2. Increase in Running Speed

Aside from incorporating hill running, tempo running, sprint and interval running, if you want to fully develop your speed potential, strength training is a must. Developing adequate muscle strength will provide a base for power training, which will rely on that strength to convert it to speed. Greater muscle strength relative to your body weight, as was achieved in the aforementioned study, means greater potential to further develop running speed.

3. Injury Prevention

A stronger body and stronger muscles are better able to absorb impact forces and resist injuries. By incorporating progressive overload with strength training, we are not just improving muscle strength, but also getting our tendons, ligaments and bones thicker and stronger.

Having adequate muscle strength means muscles are able to properly stabilize joints and allow expression of proper running form. This usually means reduction or prevention of pelvic drop, crossover, or even the heel strike pattern.

As a result of the repetitive nature of the sport, runners tend to develop asymmetries and weaknesses at specific points along the kinetic chain. This leads to an over-reliance on one side, which can cause overuse injuries on that side. Properly designed strength training will reduce or eliminate these asymmetries and weak points and thereby reduce the risk of injuries.

Aside from all the previously mentioned benefits to running, strength training has many other benefits that make it worth investing extra effort and/or energy in making it part of your exercise routine. The good news is that you don’t have to do much right away to experience these benefits. Start slow, make it a habit, and over time, as you get more advanced, start increasing the volume and intensity of your strength training.

Thanks to Stack.com and Nemanja Sambaher – Nemanja Sambaher is a Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Kinesiologist in Toronto, Ontario with a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology.

Improve Speed Now!

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Part 1: Actual Drills to improve speed ASAP.
by Kevin Haag, CSCS. Speed and Agility Coach

We are starting with the actually drill so that our young athletes can practice them and improve on-field speed immediately.  Be sure to check with your coach to make sure they are being done perfectly!!

I Believe, (Speed = Biomechanics + Force + Power)

Therefore

  • Step 1) Learn Proper Sprinting Mechanics and Fundamentals
  • Step 2) Increase Power – You need muscles to move fast
  • Step 3) Generate force into the ground

Speed is a skill….Skills are learned……so, therefore speed can be learned:

Below are 3 drills to improve each of these areas.  For you to elicit change in your body, you must perform these drills at 100% and with consistency.  Not in any area of life, will 1 hour a week change or improve anything. Perform these drills 3 times a week for immediate results.

Fundamental Mechanics of Sprinting

Although not an individual segment of mechanics in sprinting, posture is the foundation that allows the other techniques to be performed properly. Listed below are components of posture:

  1. Erect body with hips under the center of mass
  2. The head is looking straight with the chin slightly in.
  3. The pelvis should be neutral or slightly posterior to allow for complete cycling of the legs.
  4. The chest should be up and the shoulders back (neutral) to allow for proper swing action of the arms from the shoulder joint.

Once proper posture is established, the actions of the legs and the phases in which they should go through will be more efficient.

 

Step 1: Mechanics Drills

  1. Seated Arm Action.Arm Speed Controls Leg Speed) 1) Rotation at shoulder 2) Elbow at 90 degrees 3) Thumb moves from cheek-to-cheek
  2. Wall Drill – 1 – 3 – 5 Counts. Set-up: Straight Line from head-shoulders-hips-knees-ankle. Wall: wrists at shoulder height
  3. Acceleration A-Run. Faster Movement with High Knees

Step 3 Power Drills: Get Stronger and more powerful

Step 2 Force Drills:  Put Force into the ground

 

 

Preseason Basketball Training

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By Tim DiFrancesco, former head strength coach for the Los Angeles Lakers.

A preseason basketball workout program should prepare your body for the movement skills of the game—jumping, landing, acceleration and deceleration.

“You need to prepare your body to be fluid and able to execute those skills with repetition,” he says. “This will prepare your bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles for those types of actions, which you’ll be doing more and more of as you get into the season.”

Many basketball players fail to take this into account with their training. They fall prey to old-school preseason workouts that emphasize long-distance running to improve conditioning, but fail to address the many other aspects of the game. Worse, they often set themselves up for injury by causing their bodies to break down before the season even begins.

“A lot of players come in and are more prepared to run a marathon than to play an acceleration-, deceleration-, jump- and landing-based sport with physical contact and short-burst energy system requirements,” he adds.

Exactly as we do at K2, DiFrancesco’s solution is a workout program that pairs plyometric and strength exercises together. He explains this formula is the ideal way to improve both performance and durability, which are equally crucial to a healthy and productive season.

preseason basketball workout

Preseason Basketball Workout

DiFrancesco’s plan features three workouts per week. These workouts should be done in the four weeks leading up to your season, and can be completed if you’re currently playing fall basketball or another sport.

Each workout is broken up into two tri-sets—a tri-set is essentially a superset with three exercises. The first exercise is a lower-body strength move, which is followed by a lower-body plyometric (except for Farmer’s Walks on Day 3). The tri-sets finish with an upper-body strength or core exercise. Many of the exercises are single-arm/leg or lateral moves to prepare your body for moving in multiple directions in a game.

Here’s how to use the plan:

– You’ll notice that each exercise has four rep prescriptions separated by a forward slash (3×6/8/10/12), which indicates the number of reps you’ll perform on Week 1, 2, 3 and 4. In this instance, you’d do 3 sets of 6 reps on Week 1, 3 sets of 8 reps on Week 2 and so on.

– Perform the exercises back to back to complete a set of the tri-set. Then work your way back through the exercises for another set, and once again for a third set.

– Moving through this with minimal rest between exercises will provide an excellent conditioning effect, but make sure to rest when needed to maintain proper exercise form.

– These workouts are fairly short but that’s all you need. If you stick to the plan as written, this is more than enough to challenge your body and make you a better athlete.

– Choose a weight that allows you to complete every rep for each set with perfect form. The goal here is quality reps to build a stronger and more durable body, not to get hurt attempting to lift a weight that’s far too heavy.

– Do the workouts on non-consecutive days to allow your muscles to recover between workouts.

– Finally, stay consistent!

Day 1

1A) Barbell Rack Pulls – 3×6/8/10/12

1B) Broad Jump – 3×4/6/8/10

1C) Push-Up – 3×8/10/12/15

2A) Goblet Squat – 3×6/8/10/12

2B) Squat Jump – 3×4/6/8/10

2C) Chin-Up – 3×4/6/8/10

Day 2

1A) Goblet Lateral Squat – 3×4/5/6/8 each side

1B) Skater Jump – 3×10/12/16/20

1C) Dumbbell Single-Arm Row – 3×8/10/12/15 each side

2A) Kettlebell Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat – 3×5/6/8/10 each side

2B) Split Squat Jumps – 3×4/6/8/10

2C) Dumbbell Incline Bench Press – 3×8/10/12/15

Day 3

1A) Dumbbell Single-Leg RDL – 3×4/5/6/8 each side

1B) Bounding – 3×10/12/16/20

1C) Band/Cable Half-Kneeling Single-Arm V Row – 3×6/8/10/12 each side

2A) Dumbbell Hip Thrust – 3×8/10/12/15

2B) Farmer’s Walk – 3x10yd/15yd/20yd/30yd

2C) Squat Stance Pallof Press – 3×8/10/12/15 each side

How To Increase Your Deadlift

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By Bret Contreras
In the gym, the deadlift is quite possibly the ultimate test of manhood and is often referred to as The King of all Exercises. The task is simple – see that really heavy barbell over there?  Now go pick it up. Looking in from the outside, it would seem like a simple task that doesn’t require much thinking or technique. But nothing could be further from the truth. When broken down, the deadlift it a very technical lift, and is quite difficult to master. It might appear that the movement is simply a hip hinge which is present in many activities of daily living.  However, it’s not so simple under heavy, heavy loading.

 

The deadlift is a brutal movement and may be the trickiest of all in terms of programming due to its insanely high cost to the central nervous system (CNS). Heavy deadlifting is akin to bringing Everclear to a keg party; things can either end up going really well, or end up utterly disastrous. Some lifters will do best by pulling heavy every week, while others do better by pulling heavy every other week. Some prefer to mix in submaximal sessions throughout the week, while others prefer to avoid the movement altogether until it’s time to max. Finding the optimal frequency, intensity, and exercise selection that suits you best is the key to excelling in this lift. I created this guide to help point you in the right direction

deadlift snipped

Form

The first topic to address in attempting to increase your deadlift is form. It is not uncommon for novices to increase their deadlift strength by 50 or more pounds in a single session just by working with a coach who is well-versed in deadlift mechanics.

Your ideal deadlifting form will revolve around a combination of factors. For example, your anatomy will play a large role in terms of how your form looks. It should be understood that the form that allows you to lift the heaviest may not be the form that allows you to train injury-free week in and week out. Therefore, you want to find a sweet spot between the form that allows you to demonstrate your strength with the form that minimizes joint stress and CNS fatigue. Finally, your goals will influence form as well; a competitive powerlifter will likely accept more risk during the deadlift compared to an 8-figure salary athlete (especially on the platform). Here are some general recommendations.

Foot position (stance width and foot angle)

The conventional deadlift is performed with the feet around shoulder width apart (sometimes closer, and sometimes further out), with the hands placed just outside of the legs. Most lifters prefer to keep the toes pointing straight ahead while others prefer to slightly externally rotate the feet in more of a duck stance. Foot flare is influenced by hip anatomy, so it is important to experiment in order to find what works best for you. If you are having trouble finding a comfortable foot position, first try this: take the same stance you would as if you were performing a vertical jump. This may help get your body into a more advantageous deadlift position. Tinker from there.

Bar position relative to the shin

Bar position in relation to the shin is highly dependent on the lifter. Some lifters prefer to line up directly up against the bar, some approximately 2 inches away, and others 4 inches away. In general, you want the bar lined up very close to the shins at the start of the movement. When looking down, the bar should be positioned over the middle of the feet. Anthropometry will play a large factor in terms of how far away you should line up from the bar, so experiment to find what works best for you. Lining up with the bar too close to the body can limit quadricep activity, while lining up with the bar too far away from the body can impair balance and lead to excessive spinal loading. It should be mentioned that during the sumo deadlift, the bar should be touching your shins.

Grip Options

The most common grip used in powerlifting in the over/under grip or ‘mixed’ grip. This is where the lifter holds the bar with one hand in a pronated position while the other hand is supinated. There is a slight risk of experiencing a distal biceps tendon tear with the supinated arm, so be sure to alternate arms from one set to the next.

Another option would be the hook grip. The hook grip is most commonly seen in Olympic weightlifting, but can be quite painful while getting used to it. The thumb is wrapped around the bar then the index and middle fingers are wrapped around the thumb to secure it into place. After 6 weeks or so, the pain diminishes and the body becomes accustomed to hook gripping.

The double overhand grip is an additional option, whereby the palms are facing the body. I recommend using a double over have grip as long as possible during your working sets to build grip strength. However, very few lifters can rely on the double overhand grip when the weight approaches maximum or the set approaches failure.

The last option would be to use lifting straps. For powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, lifting straps are not allowed, but straps are commonly allowed in the deadlift in strongman. Training with straps diminishes the benefits of forearm and grip strengthening that can be achieved by training without them, so use them sparingly. Grip strength can indeed be a limiting factor with regards to maximal deadlifting. If this is the case, using chalk is highly recommended, as is performing specialized grip work.

Deadlift grip pics

Hip position/height

A common mistake made by trainees newer to the deadlift is starting with the hips too low. This turns the movement into a squat-type movement which is not an advantageous position. Finding the optimal starting position will be highly dependent on your body and lever and limb lengths. The height of your hips at the time when you initiate your pull should be the same height when the bar leaves the floor. Many times you will see this position change with inexperienced lifters. Beginners will typically start with the hips low, and upon lift initiation, the hips rise considerably before the bar even breaks off the floor. This is wasted movement and should be minimized for an optimal deadlift. Find the optimal position and stick to it as the bar leaves the ground. 

In general, when looking from the side view, the hips will be right in between the shoulders and knees in terms of vertical height. Lifters with certain anatomical proportions such as short femurs or long arms will be more upright, whereas lifters with long femurs, short torsos, and short arms will be much more horizontal.   

deadlift hip height

Spinal Positioning

The spine should be kept in a neutral position throughout the lift, with the abdominals braced throughout. Some lifters feel most comfortable pulling with an arch, some in neutral, and some in a slightly rounded position.

For advanced lifters, some rounding of the upper back (thoracic spine) is usually beneficial in terms of performance for most lifters, but this is not something I would recommend for beginners. Over time, tolerance to roundback deadlifting may be something that can be trained and improved upon, as many of the top strongman competitors and powerlifters perform the movement in this manner. But there’s not good evidence to support this as of yet. According to biomechanical analysis and anecdotal feedback, the safest deadlift posture is neutral. There is certainly wiggle room, so make sure you’re keeping ROM in mid-ranges and avoiding end-ranges of motion as these ranges when combined with heavy loading can be damaging to ligaments, discs, and other spinal structures.

bad dead

deadlift spinal position

Left: Neutral Lumbar and Rounded Thoracic                      Right: Neutral Spine (Safest)

Some strength coaches feel that it is of great performance to keep the neck neutral, while others feel that neck packing (making a double chin) is the most optimal position. Personally, I feel that this debate is overrated; clips from the strongest deadlifters in the world shown HERE portray a variety of head and neck positions. However, my general recommendation would be to avoid any type of excessive overextension or flexion.

deadlift neck position

The lockout of the deadlift should be executed by extending the hips using the glutes. You don’t want the spine to be hyperextending to lock out the load; you want to push the hips forward with a strong glute contraction.

Shoulders

At the start of the movement, the shoulders should either be in line with the bar, or slightly in front of it. Click HEREto see shoulder position with elite deadlifters. This allows the lifter to get his or her body in the most advantageous position for the lift. A common mistake involves retracting the shoulders when performing the deadlift. This actually increases the distance the bar has to travel to complete the lift. Keep tension in the lats and upper back, but do not retract the shoulders blades. When the bar leaves the ground, the scapula will usually be protracted when loads are heavy.

Many lifters feel that since increased lat involvement keeps the bar closer to the body, it will improve deadlift performance, but this might be specific to the lifter. Experiment with focused lat contraction to figure out if it works for you.

deadliftshoulderpositioning

Developing Maximum Strength 

Building maximum strength refers to increasing the total poundage a lifter can move. There are several ways to go about this, but going into the gym and maxing out week in and week out is not one of them. While this may work for a short period of time for those newer to lifting, you will soon plateau or even worse injure yourself. A more appropriate plan of action involves utilizing specialized set and rep schemes to help you achieve your goal. Here are some of the most effective methods:

Tempo – I do not believe that you should be counting rep speed during deadlifts. However, I do feel that you should control the negative component rather than just dropping the bar to the ground (this is more common in gyms with lifting platforms and bumper plates). This topic has been hotly debated among coaches as the eccentric portion can be dangerous for those who aren’t well-versed in the deadlift, but the fact of the matter is, eccentrics build strength. Moreover, they can refine good technique – the lowering phase should be initiated by a strong “sitting back” action at the hips while dragging the bar down the thighs and keeping vertical shins. When the bar passes the knees, then the shins can angle forward. You don’t have to lower the bar slowly on each rep, but I feel that you should control the descent for greater strength gains.

Straight sets – For straight sets, you will perform the same number of reps with the same load for the prescribed number of sets.  I’ve found 3 to 5 sets of 1 to 5 reps to be most effective when using this method. You want to lift heavy enough so that you approach failure, but there should always be a rep or two left in the tank. It is a common debate whether or not each rep should be started from a dead stop or whether touch-and-go reps should be used.

I recommend that you start each rep from a complete dead stop. In between each rep, reset to your starting hip positioning before starting any additional reps. This is especially important when training for powerlifting where the goal is to lift as much weight as possible in a single attempt. Touch-and-go reps should be used when training for a strongman event where endurance is and specificity is most crucial (assuming of course that this type of technique is allowed in competition).

Ascending sets – With this method you will be going up in weight each set. This is highly effective and useful when trying a new weight that you have never used before. Since you are going up in weight each set you will be less fatigued as opposed to using the same weight every set and burning yourself out. The approach in this method is the same as straight sets; the sets and reps say the same, with the only difference being an increase in load each set.

Pyramid sets (ascending with back off) – Pyramid sets involve performing several sets of increasing weight while decreasing reps, with a final back off set performed at the end. The back off set is a crucial component here. After building up in weight and fatiguing the muscles you will drop the weight and do a burn out set close to failure.

Pause reps – Pause reps are performed by initiating the pull and then pausing 2-4 inches off the floor for 3-5 seconds. Once the weight is held for the specified time, you will finish the movement as explosively as possible. This pause takes away the momentum gained from pulling off the floor and is great for learning how to stay tight and under control during the lift. This makes the lift much harder, and even though you will be handling less weight than a regular deadlift, it will ultimately build more strength and develops your technique.

Partial ROM – Partial range movements allow for an increase in the amount of weight that can be used when deadlifting. This is especially useful for those lifters who have trouble at the lockout rather than off the floor. The most commonly used example of this would be block pulls or rack pulls. To the untrained eye, these two partial variations may look the same, but they do not feel the same. Block pulls have a similar feel to an actual deadlift since the plates are resting on the blocks similar to the position from the floor. With rack pulls, the bar is resting on the safety pins, and in this position the “slack’ is taken out of the bar.

Rack pulls can be performed from a variety of positions, but the most common is just below the knee caps. Blcok pulls are usually performed off of 3-5 inch blocks. Going above this will allow the lifter to use heavier weight, but anecdotally it doesn’t transfer as well to performance. Make sure to sit back and have fairly vertical shins with partials to ensure for maximal dynamic transfer to the regular deadlift; many lifters allow the knees to migrate forward and “quad” the weight up, which isn’t representative of deadlift from from that ROM.

Extending ROM – Extended range of motion movements increase the difficulty of the movement by putting your body in a disadvantageous position prior to pulling (however, some lifters actually find that their position improves with extended ROM) and requiring more work to be performed. The most commonly used example of this would be deficit deadlifts. Deficit deadlifts can be performed on a platform ranging anywhere from 1-4 inches. The movement is performed in a similar fashion to a conventional deadlift off the floor, except the hips will either start in a lower position or a higher position depending on the lifter.

Speed Work – One of the most common methods of training for increasing maximal strength and power is speed work, also knows as the dynamic effort method.  Lighter loads are used to move the bar with as much acceleration as possible while maintaining perfect technique. An example for deadlifts would be using ~70% of 1RM and performing 6 sets of 2 repetitions as explosively as possible with around 60 seconds rest between sets.

Variable Resistance – bands/chains – When pulling for a maximum attempt, lifters tend to round a bit, in which case the lift-off is easier but the lockout is harder. In this case, end-range glute strength is needed. This is where variable resistance training can be a huge help (as well as speed work, partial ROM and pause deadlifts). These tools offer an increase in load as the weight is lifted off the floor, where the movement gets easier the weight is the highest. When coupled with speed work, it increases the time spent accelerating the bar and the muscle activation throughout the lift.

variable resistance

Clusters – Cluster sets are characterized by performing heavy singles or doubles performed several times in succession but resting around ten seconds or so in between. Although this short break doesn’t allow for full recovery between the mini sets, it does allow the lifter to use a weight that he or she would normally not be able to complete the desired reps without stopping. An example of a cluster set with a 500lb deadlifter follows: 425lbs for 1 rep, rest 10 seconds and then repeat three more times. That is equal to one total cluster set. This will be repeated for 3-4 sets.

Other Factors to Consider

While the deadlift is primarily considered a lower body exercise, it strengthens a large majority of the musculature of the upper body as well. Training these secondary muscles involved is critical to improving your deadlift performance and physique and is commonly referred to as “support work.” Support work differs from lifter to lifter dependent on strengths and weaknesses and can be used to strengthen the particular region where you begin to slow down and fail (known as ‘sticking point’).

hip thrust

Volume of support work will differ depending on strength levels and general physical preparedness. A common mistake for beginners is to go overboard with support work, which impairs ability to recover, thus taking away from their ability to deadlift. Do not make this mistake!

Grip strength – When the weights start to get heavy, grip strength becomes a large limited factor for a majority of lifters. Many lifters will need to incorporate some type of grip training into their programming to counteract this. While many exericses will strengthen the grip, such as simply performing deadlift warm-up sets with double overhand grip, bent over rows, shrugs, chins, rows, and lugging dumbbells around, my favorite targeted exercises for grip strengthening include: farmers walks, bench squeezes,1-arm static hangs, and the gripper

gripper

farmers

Assistance exercises for the lower body – Assistance exercises for the lower body are used to help develop weaknesses whether it is muscle size or muscle strength. My favorite lower body accessory movements for increasing the deadlift include: squats, front squats, block pulls, deficit pulls, hip thrusts, leg presses, and heavy kb swings.

Capture

block and deficit

Methods

All the methods listed above will work for any experience level, and I recommend rotating them through and seeing what works best for you. However, there are certain methods you should focus on depending on your experience in training the deadlift, along with other factors such as your training age, anatomy and current level of fitness.

Beginners/novice – For less experienced deadlifters it is a good idea to use methods that focus on perfecting technique and building strength. Exhausting sets taken to failure is a recipe for disaster for beginner lifters.               

Straight sets – i.e. 225 for 4 sets of 3

Ascending sets – i.e 185×3, 205×3, 255×3, 275×3

Pyramid sets – i.e. 205×6, 255×4, 275×2, 185×8

Intermediate – The techniques suggested for intermediate and advanced lifters can be mixed and matched. These techniques can all be of benefit depending on a lifter’s strengths and weaknesses.

Partials – i.e block pulls or rack pulls

Extended ROM – i.e. Deficit deadlifts

Advanced

Pause reps – i.e. 365 for 4 sets of 3 reps, counting “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand” 3-4 inches off of the ground

Clusters – i.e. 1 cluster = 405 for 1 rep, then 10 seconds rest, repeated 4 times

Speed Work – i.e. 70% of 1RM for 6 sets of 2 with 60 seconds rest

Variable resistance – i.e. bar plus band deadlift, bar plus chain, combinations of both, combinations with extended or partial range of motion

Conclusion

Some of these methods many be new to you and some may not. In the world of strength training, it is important to remember that the journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time to find out which of these techniques works best for you, and always be honing your technique.

Not only is a strong deadlift beneficial for sports performance and building an impressive physique, it also transfers to everyday activities and can prevent you from injuring yourself when moving furniture or doing heavy labor. If you’ve shrugged off the deadlift, it’s time you gave it a try. Form comes first, then load.

The Importance Of Post Workout Nutrition!

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You just finished up an awesome workout and you’re trying to decide what to eat. This article is for you! You will learn what the best things are to eat post workout!

You don’t need to be a resource management specialist to know that time is the most valuable finite resource that you have. And as you well know, there’s a very limited amount of it to go around. So if you’re smart, you’ll figure out ways to get the greatest return on the investment of your time.

While this may be well recognized and applied in many aspects of modern life, it confuses me as to why people seem to ignore this when it comes to their exercise training. From what I see on a daily basis, it’s clear to me that most people in the gym are wasting their time investment. They’re spending precious hours engaged in strength or endurance training programs that yield little or no results?

Need proof? When was the last time someone in your gym made any noticeable physical progress? In fact, when was the last time that you made any significant physical progress? Exercise training has the potential to yield huge returns on any given time investment. Isn’t it a shame that most people don’t ever see this magnitude of return?

Despite this disappointing reality, I’m here to tell you that hope is not lost. In fact, there’s a very easy way to capitalize on your investment. You see, in most cases the exercise is not the problem. The problem is that people fail to invest in the other important commodity that, in combination with exercise, yields the biggest returns.

They’re buying the cart without the horse, the lemonade stand without the lemonade. They’re spending their time focused on only the exercise program while ignoring the importance of a sound nutritional program.

Now I could write a dozen articles focused on straightening out the nutritional problems of the world. But those articles are for another day. In this article today, I intend to focus on what is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of exercise nutrition – eating during the post-workout period. The knowledge of how to eat during this time will maximize your efforts in the gym and yield the biggest returns on your time investment.

REMODELING AND THE POST-WORKOUT PERIOD

Exercise, both strength and endurance training, is responsible for countless health and aesthetic benefits. However the exercise itself is a significant physiological stressor. Perceived symptoms of this “stress” are often mild and include muscle soreness, the need for extra sleep, and an increased appetite.

These symptoms let us know that the exercise has depleted the muscle’s fuel resources, caused some minor damage, and that the muscle is in need of replenishment and repair. While the words depletion and damage may sound like negative things, they’re not if they only stick around for a short period of time. You see, these changes allow the muscle to adapt by getting better at the exercise demands placed on it.

Therefore if you’re doing endurance exercise, the muscle will become depleted and damaged in the short run, but in the long run it will super compensate, building itself up to be a better aerobic machine. And if strength training is your thing, you’ll tear down you’re weaker muscle fibers in favor of building up bigger, stronger ones.

In all cases, exercise essentially tears down old, less adapted muscle in order to rebuild more functional muscle. This phenomenon is called remodeling.

While the remodeling process is much more complex than I can describe here, it’s important for me to emphasize that this remodeling only takes place if the muscle is provided the right raw materials. If I plan on remodeling my home I can hire a guy to tear down a couple of walls, a guy to clean up the mess, and a guy to come in and rebuild better walls than the ones that came down.

But if I don’t give that guy any bricks, how’s he going to get anything done? If I don’t give him the bricks, all I’ll have in the end is a much smaller, unfinished house.

The same holds true with exercise remodeling. In particular, during the exercise bout and immediately following it, exercise breaks down our muscle carbohydrate stores and our muscle protein structures. Then, the immune system comes in to clean up the mess.

And finally, signals are generated to tell the body to rebuild. However, as I hope you can now see, without the proper protein and carbohydrate raw materials, this building can’t take place. You’ll be left with muscles that never reach their potential.

So with this analogy, I hope it’s obvious that this post-exercise period is not a time to take lightly. Remember, you spent a significant amount of time in the gym breaking down the muscle for a good reason. You want it to be better adapted to future demands.

So to realize full return on your time investment, you need to give the body the raw materials it needs, namely protein and carbohydrates.

FEEDING HUNGRY MUSCLES

As I mentioned earlier, all trainees (male or female), regardless of their chosen mode of exercise, must take their post-exercise nutrition seriously in order to provide the muscle with the raw materials it needs. As all types of exercise use carbohydrates for energy, muscle carbohydrate depletion is inevitable. Therefore a post-workout meal high in carbohydrates is required to refill muscle carbohydrate/energy stores.

However any ol’ amount of carbohydrates will not do. You need to consume enough carbohydrates to promote a substantial insulin release. Insulin is the hormone responsible for shuttling carbohydrates and amino acids into the muscle. In doing this, carbohydrate resynthesis is accelerated and protein balance becomes positive, leading to rapid repair of the muscle tissue.

Therefore, by consuming a large amount of carbohydrates, you will promote a large insulin release, increase glycogen storage, and increase protein repair. Research has shown that a carbohydrate intake of 0.8 to 1.2 grams per 1 kilogram of body weight maximizes glycogen synthesis and accelerates protein repair. However, unless you’ve had a very long, intense workout, 1.2g/kg may be a bit excessive as excess carbohydrate can be converted to bodyfat.

Therefore I recommend 0.8g of carbohydrate per 1 kilogram of body weight for speeding up muscle carbohydrate replenishment while preventing excess fat gain (van Loon et al 2000a).

In addition, since muscle protein is degraded during exercise, the addition of a relatively large amount of protein to your post exercise meal is necessary to help rebuild the structural aspects of the muscle. After exercise, the body decreases its rate of protein synthesis and increases its rate of protein breakdown. However, the provision of protein and amino acid solutions has been shown to reverse this trend, increasing protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown.

Researchers have used anywhere from 0.2g – 0.4g of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight to demonstrate the effectiveness of adding protein to a post-workout carbohydrate drink (van Loon et al 2000b, Roy et al 1998). As an increased consumption of the essential amino acids may lead to a more positive protein balance, 0.4g/kg may be better than 0.2g/kg.

While your post-workout feeding should be rich protein and carbohydrate, this meal should be fat free. The consumption of essential fats is one of the most overlooked areas of daily nutritional intake but during the post workout period, eating fat can actually decrease the effectiveness of your post-workout beverage. Since fat slows down transit through the stomach, eating fat during the post workout period may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and proteins.

As your post workout feeding should be designed to promote the most rapid delivery of carbohydrates and protein to your depleted muscles, fats should be avoided during this time.

Finally, another important factor to consider is the timing of this meal. It is absolutely crucial that you consume your post-workout meal immediately after exercise. As indicated above, after exercise, the muscles are depleted and require an abundance of protein and carbohydrate. In addition, during this time, the muscles are biochemically “primed” for nutrient uptake.

This phenomenon is commonly known as the “window of opportunity”. Over the course of the recovery period, this window gradually closes and by failing to eat immediately after exercise, you diminish your chances of promoting full recovery. To illustrate how quickly this window closes, research has shown that consuming a post-exercise meal immediately after working out is superior to consuming one only 1 hour later.

In addition, consuming one 1 hour later is superior to consuming one 3 hours later (Tipton et al 2001, Levenhagen et al 2001). If you wait too long, glycogen replenishment and protein repair will be compromised.

In conclusion, when you decided to start exercising you decided to give up a specific amount of time per week in the interest of getting better, physically. However, if you haven’t spent the necessary time thinking about post-exercise nutrition, you’re missing much of the benefit that comes with exercising.

I assure you that once you start paying attention to this variable in the recovery equation, your time in the gym will be much better invested.

WHOLE FOOD VS. NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION

Anchored firmly atop their calorie-counting soapbox, nutritionists have traditionally asserted that whole food always trumps supplemental nutrition. For them I have only one sentiment:

Always…it is a meaningless word. -Oscar Wilde

While I wholeheartedly believe that complete, unbleached, untreated, and unprocessed whole food should form the basis of any sound nutritional regimen, there are some instances in which supplements can actually be superior to whole food. In the case of post-exercise nutrition, I believe that liquid supplemental nutrition is far superior to whole food for the following reasons.

LIQUID MEALS ARE PALATABLE AND DIGESTIBLE

Typically, after intense exercise, most people complain that eating a big meal is difficult. This is understandable as the exercise stress creates a situation where the hunger centers are all but shut down. However, as you now know, it’s absolutely critical that you eat if you want to remodel the muscle, enlarge the muscle, or recover from the exercise.

Fortunately liquid supplemental formulas are palatable, easy to consume, and can be quite nutrient dense, providing all the nutrition you need at this time. In addition, since these formulas are structurally simple (I’ll save the biochemistry for another article), the gastrointestinal tract has no difficulty processing them. Your stomach will thank you for this.

LIQUID MEALS HAVE A FAST ABSORPTION PROFILE, WHOLE FOOD IS JUST TOO SLOW

The latest research has demonstrated that liquid supplemental formulas containing fast digesting protein (whey hydrolysates and isolates) and carbohydrates (dextrose and maltodextrin) are absorbed more quickly than whole food meals.

To put this into perspective, a liquid post-exercise formula may be fully absorbed within 30 to 60 minutes, providing much needed muscle nourishment by this time. However, a slower digesting solid food meal may take 2 to 3 hours to fully reach the muscle.

LIQUID MEALS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE “WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY”, WHOLE FOODS MAY MISS IT

The faster the protein and carbohydrates get to the muscle, the better your chances for muscle building and recovery. Current research has demonstrated that subjects receiving nutrients within one hour after exercise recover more quickly than subjects receiving nutrients three hours after exercise. Liquid nutrition is making more sense, isn’t it?

LIQUID MEALS ARE BETTER FOR NUTRIENT TARGETING

During the post exercise period, specific nutrients maximize your recovery. These include an abundance of water, high glycemic index carbohydrates, and certain amino acids (in specific ratios). It’s also best to avoid fat during this time. So the only way to ensure that these nutrients are present in the right amounts is to formulate a specific liquid blend. Whole foods may miss the mark.

POST-EXERCISE CHOICES

So your workout is over and it’s time to reach for your post workout meal. What do you reach for? Here are a few examples of good post-workout choices in order of effectiveness.

REFERENCES
  1. Levenhagen et al. (2001). Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasisAm.J.Physiol Endocrinol. Metab. 280(6): E982-993.
  2. Tipton et al. (2001). Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. Am.J. Physiol Endocrinol. Metab. 281(2): E197-206.
  3. Roy et al. (1998). Influence of differing macronutrient intakes on muscle glycogen resynthesis after resistance exerciseJAP. 84(3): 890-896.
  4. Van Loon et al. (2000a). Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixturesAm J Clin Nutrition. 72(1): 106-111.
  5. Van Loon et al. (2000b). Ingestion of protein hydrolysate and amino acid-carbohydrate mixtures increases postexercise plasma insulin responses in menJ Nutr. 130(10): 2508-2513.

How Survival Instincts Drive Speed Development

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Written on September 25, 2017 at 6:27 pm, by Eric Cressey

 

As a kid, I was a big fan of “The Flintstones.” I loved how Fred and Barney could run so fast. I can remember when they were chased by a Sabretooth Tiger; it was amazing how they could escape so quickly. Hmm, maybe there is something to that…

Fast forward to 2017, I still love speed. But now, I actually study it. I continually ask myself the question; “Why were humans given the ability to have speed and quickness?” This question has taken me down a road not many speed coaches travel. Many of these coaches like the traditional route of current methods of training. That’s cool, and in most cases, proves to be quite successful. But…

What if coaches would investigate more down the road of our human history? What if they allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the ways of how we escaped or attacked for survival? How would they think differently about speed?

What if we asked the question, “Why were we given the ability to have speed and quickness?” What can we learn when we venture down that path?

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Survival drives us through channels not so easily understood from a Central Nervous System (CNS) standpoint. We have to bow down to the subconscious effort that makes us move quickly on instinct or reflex. This is harder to understand, so we try to ignore it as a viable option for speed training.

2. Playing competitive sports actually taps into our CNS – or should I go deeper and say our “sympathetic nervous system?” This is where our heightened awareness of our surroundings kicks in. If I am caught in a rundown in baseball – or going to be tackled in football, or being chased during soccer i- it takes us to a level of effort we don’t commonly experience in our daily lives.

3. Our body kicks into what we call fight or flight: the survival mode. This occurs all the time during sports competition. It drives us to make incredible speedy plays. It forces us to react in such a way that our feet move quicker than our conscious mind can drive them. This is where I want to concentrate on for the rest of this article. I want to share with you strategies to make you faster!

Repositioning

Repositioning is a term I use to relate to how an athlete moves his or her feet quickly into a more effective angle to either accelerate or decelerate the body. Terms I have used to describe repositioning are:

Plyo Step: The plyo step is an action that occurs when one foot is repositioned behind, to the side, or at any angle behind the body. This act quickly drives the body in a new direction of travel.

Hip Turn: This is basically the same as the plyo step except the athlete turns and accelerate back away from the direction they were facing. Repositioning occurs to find an angle to push the body in that direction.

Directional Step: Think base-stealing. The athlete will face sideways but turn and run. The front foot opens to be in a greater supportive position to push down and back during acceleration steps.

The goal is to get into acceleration posture as quickly as possible to make a play when one of these repositioning steps occur.

A great drill to work on repositioning is what I call “Ball Drops.”

a. Simply have a partner or coach stand 10-15 feet away from the athlete with a tennis ball held out at shoulder height.

b. The athlete is in an athletic parallel stance facing the coach, turned sideways, or back facing- depending on the drill.

c. The coach will drop the ball and the athlete must accelerate to catch the ball before the 2nd bounce. I encourage the coach to use the command “Go” at the exact time of the drop to help when vision is not an option.

The action you will see 99.9% of the time is a repositioning or a hip turn or plyo step (the directional step is the act of preparing the front leg for push off; it angles in the direction of travel). Perform this drill facing forwards for four reps, sideways for four reps, and backwards for four reps (2 to each side for the side-facing and back-facing). Perform this drill 2-3x per week to tap into the “fight or flight” response.

Reactive Shuffle or Crossover

In this drill, the focus is on reacting to either a partner (like a mirror drill) or the coaches signal to go right or left.

a. The athlete gets in a great defensive stance and prepares to explode to her right or left.

b. The coach will quickly point in either direction.

c. The athlete will create quick force into the ground in the opposite direction of travel. Typically, there will be a repositioning step unless the athlete starts in a wide stance where outward pressure is effective in the current stance.

d. As soon as the athlete shuffles one to two times, he will shuffle back.

e. The same drill is repeated, but now using a crossover step.

Perform 3-4 sets of ten seconds of both the shuffle and crossover drill. Allow 40-60s of recovery between bouts.

Shuffle

Partner Mirror

Crossover with Directional Step

Hip Turn to Crossover

The final skill I want to write about might be one of the most important “survival” speed skills an athlete can have. It falls under the “retreating” set of skills where the athlete moves back away from the direction they are initially facing.

The hip turn can allow an athlete to escape or attack. The critical features are:

1. The athlete must “stay in the tunnel.” Do not rise up and down; stay level.

2. By staying level, the immediate repositioning that takes place allows for a great push off angle to move the body in a new direction.

3. The athlete should attempt to create length and cover distance quickly. Short choppy steps are not effective when in “survival mode.” GET MOVING!

4. In the snapshots below, the athlete is performing a hip turn based on the coaches command or signal. The athlete will perform a hip turn and either a shuffle, crossover, or run – and then recover back to the start position as soon as possible!

Perform 3-4 sets of 7-10s of work. If quickness/speed is the goal we want to do it in short bursts of time and not long duration where speed in compromised. Recover for roughly 45 seconds and repeat.

Now, I know it sounds kind of crazy to be talking about survival, cavemen, and “fight or flight” when we are referring to speed, but we have to always look at the genesis of all things. Animals that don’t have reactive speed have other ways to protect themselves. Humans have intelligence and the ability to escape or attack using systems derived out of our CNS to help us use our speed. Our job as coaches is to tap into this ability and use it to help our athletes “naturally” move fast!