Today’s post will be short and sweet. I am sure you have seen some of the Olympics by now and if you haven’t watch the sprinters, make it a point to do so. These guys and girls are some of the worlds best athletes and watching them sprint is a thing of beauty. Last night, Usain Bolt defended his Olympic Crown as fastest man in the world. He ran the 100 meter dash last night and only 2 rounds of it, spaced hours apart. That is 200 meters of all out effort and intense CNS activation.
Why not run more races in a day? Simple: The body can’t handle it. If you are truly training at full capacity in the gym, you shouldn’t be going for over 45 minutes and you should have the need to take off every once in a while. The mindset that more is better is ignorant, much like taking to much medicine. Apply just enough to get the desired results and no more. If you do want to train multiple times per day or more than 4 times per week, the workouts must be short and sweet and you must pay proper attention to recovery. Education by simple observation.
The above pic is of one of the gym members at Newell Strength. As you can see from the picture, his right calf is much smaller than his left. 4 years ago, Mike ruptured his achilles tendon and he says that the calf just never really came back.
Now, Mike joined the gym at the right time as I have taken a much bigger interest recently in lagging muscles because I know I am going to have an uphill battle with my left leg after I can full range of motion back. I have read of NFL players with similar injuries to mine not being able to ‘re-grow’ their leg after coming back, which will of course impair performance. Forget about any average folk that rupture a tendon, they are content just to walk again, even if it is with a limp.
So, when I saw Mike’s leg, it presented a great chance for me to put my theory to the test. My theory is that some muscles, injury or not (it is just more pronounced with injury) are ‘trapped’ by the surrounding fascia. The whole purpose of foam rolling is to ‘release’ and make ‘pliable’ the fascia. But here’s the thing, most people only put half ass effort into soft tissue work, thus getting nothing out of it. With Mike, I have him finish every workout with some direct calf work followed by some intense grinding and rolling along a barbell of the fascia surrounding the soleus, gastroc and achilles. So we pump the muscle, expanding the fascia as much as possible and then roll the shit out of the fascia making it more pliable.
I was planning on using this technique with my leg training in preparation of my comeback to the bodybuilding stage for all muscles groups, especially the legs! I will keep you posted of the progress we are making as I am pretty sure this is the culprit behind body parts that are ‘uneven’, although innervation might play a role in it too.
K, quick update, I have been making great progress each and every time at PT. Yesterday one of the therapists asked me to try not and scare the other patients because of my rapping, screaming and intensity in my corner. I approach it just like I would a personal record in the squat. I get in the zone, feel the pain and push through it. I did some light sled dragging this morning and plan on picking up the wheel barrow this weekend to start working with. Keep in mind, I am only 6 weeks post operation from what my PT calls the worst knee injury he has ever heard of. It is all in the mind at this point and I have to be careful not to let frustration set in because as is my nature, I am very competitive even with myself.
I plan on hitting some wheel barrow work early tomorrow morning, followed by PT and then an hour in the pool….the comeback continues….
I was having my young kindergarten students practice throw with both hands last week. It didn’t look as uncoordinated as you might imagine. In fact, I looked more awkward demonstrating.
How could this be? Simple, before a person gets to be 15/16 years old, their nervous systems are more like play-doh, meaning we can shape and mold it how we want. This means that learning movement patterns is much easier the younger we are.
I think it is a huge mistake when strength coaches don’t squat and bench younger athletes early on. It is a mistake when they do those lifts too heavy because of course you want the athlete to be able to master their bodyweight first.
But I can guarantee you that the younger a person learns key lifts, the better they will be at those lifts later on down the road. If you teach a trainee the olympic lifts during their middle school years, they suddenly aren’t too difficult.
Speaking of the Olympic lifts, I think they are rather ridiculous in the fashion the are used at many college and high school weight rooms. Olympic lifting is a sport and a very technical one at that. I understand that we want people to be able to apply a high amount of force at a rapid rate to develop power, but this can be done with much simpler lifts than the clean and snatch.
Many of my athletes are being tested for their upcoming seasons in the clean. We don’t do too much of the clean at my gym. So I have my theories, but just in case I called and spoke to Louie Simmons last week. He told me that when he was 140 pounds, he was cleaning 265 pounds, without really practicing the lift, because he was so strong in his deadliest and lower back. He told me to keep doing what I am doing with my athletes, make sure they are strong in the key areas and practice some light cleans and they will smoke the rest of the high school trained athletes.
I had my monthly call with uber strength coach, James ‘The Thinker’ Smith the other night and one of the things we spoke about really stuck with me. Too many of my men and athletes are under the old ‘traditional’ way of thinking in which they want to either puke or have to crawl out of the gym. This is dumb for a few reasons and unfortunately what is preached in many globo gyms throughout the country. Exercise is like medicine, only give the minimum daily dose to get a response. I view myself as akin to a doctor in that regard, I must be able to read my athletes and men and know what dose is needed.
With athletes, it is very important as they advance to train the higher threshold motor units (HTMUs). This would involve things such as Olympic lifting, jumps, sprints, medicine ball work-anything that involves a high degree of power output and speed. The thing is, these things don’t feel like they are draining at all. In fact, the athlete will often leave a session with this type of training wondering why they even came that day because it doesn’t ‘feel’ like they did anything. Getting back to what James said, -”Extensive works is not intensive”. This means that high volume and a ton of draining work and longer workouts are not central nervous system intensive. With athletes, CNS intensive work is often the most important. In order to get an athlete faster or more powerful, they need to be fresh. I even favor keeping the fat loss work for my older guys to shorter workouts. No point in draining a body to the point in which it can’t recover for the next session or apply maximal effort at the next session.
The more advanced that an athlete is, the more likely they are to ‘trash’ themselves in a workout because they are so capable of applying all out effort and recruitment of HTMUs in their training. This is something that Charlie Francis spoke of extensively. Apply what is needed and realize that as an analogy, we only have one cup worth of CNS reserves for a week or training cycle, once you are out, you are in trouble. Pick and choose where to pour that CNS reserve out each week and then recover. Be an artist, not just a coach!
Let me tell you a little story. There was once a great athlete. You could tell from the time this kid was young that he could possibly be something special. He remained ahead of the pack all the way up until high school, at which point his coaches thought they would work on making him ‘faster’. Again, this kid had some serious potential. His coaches ran the heck out of him, his parents made him play 11 months out of 12 in his sport. Yes, he wasn’t getting faster. Surely it had to be his strength coach’s fault. The kid was taken away from his strength coach and put into a ‘speed and agility’ class at some big fancy facility. Lo and behold, 3 months later, still not any faster. How could this be? This is an all too common story. If parents and coaches would take more time to understand speed development, we would have faster and fresher athletes. If speed and agility ladders worked, don’t you think you would see the faster sprinters in the world using them? Check out the video below..
****Announcement**** I was nominated as author of the year on www.elitefts.com. This is THE dominant website and fitness and strength in the world. This is quite an honor and if you’d like, feel free to go to www.elitefts.com to vote for me. Thanks!
I had the great honor to speak with James “The Thinker” Smith on Sunday night. First off, very nice guy. What a source of knowledge as well. Here are some of the key points to our conversation:
Strength training can mean but doesn’t have to be weight training. Weight training is a form of strength training. Read that again if it doesn’t make sense at first glance. The whole goal of training athletes is to improve their performance in their chosen sport or game. You must always think of how you are going to accomplish this. Sometimes, weights are not what is called for. I had some of my guys do a contrast speed day last night and the only ‘weight room’ stuff they did was a superset of TRX rows and walking parking lot lunges at the end. Again, what is going to make them better?
The more advanced an athlete is skill wise (talent), the less they are going to need and be able to handle in the weight room. Their central nervous systems are so advanced that they will simply not require a ton of work to get an adaptation. On the flip side, too much can fry them a lot quicker than it would a lesser athlete. This is why at the professional level of sport, you don’t see as much heavy lifting or lifting in general going on.
You have to think of the CNS as a cup of water. At the beginning of the workout (hopefully), your cup should be full. I say full because it depends on your recovery and recuperation methods up until this point. Actually, you can think of this as a two way cup. If you put any too much of one component in and then try to fit too much of another in, the cup will overflow and this will not be good. If this happens, you did not create a positive adaptation. As well, you only have some much in the CNS tank going into a training session. Once that cup is empty, it is empty. Again, many strength coaches spend 99% of their time on strength work. That is going to leave them 1% for the rest of the skills they may need to work on, including, power, strength endurance, core, flexibility, coordinated movements and so on.
I have about 5 pages of notes from the other night and I am a smarter coach for speaking with Coach Smith. Learn from the best!
I had the great opportunity to speak with two very accomplished strength coaches the past two days. These exclusive interviews with Steve Maxwell and Elliott Hulse will be available shortly, but one of the common threads that I spoke about with them was ‘health’. This doesn’t just mean exercise in this case, but rather mind-body-spirit health. Coach Maxwell is known as a mobility expert and he explained that the joints have no direct blood supply so they can only be nurtured in synovial fluid through movement. I just did an hour of one of his routines and it was awesome! There is much research behind some of his moves such as figure eight movement with the joints that show it is calming to the Central Nervous System. This means that it will stimulate the peripheral nervous system, the opposite of fight or flight. Coach Maxwell also told me the other day that ‘movement is life’. I wholeheartedly believe in this and this means that you should be doing some type of movement everyday. These are what you would call recovery workouts and they can even be used to calm and focus the brain.
Elliott and I spoke about training and I was happy to hear that we have a similar philosophy. We are not married to one program but rather a hybrid style of what works. Interestingly, we spoke more about the mind than anything. Elliott is a busy guy, only 32 years old but he has 4 kids, a wife and a thriving business. He is located down in Florida. Elliott also keeps a similar schedule to me in that he sleeps about 6 hours a night and I know this is not ideal, but we did discuss meditation. Elliott said he does one hour every single day of meditation and for this he recommended “Brain Wave Entrainment” audio. These put your right into a state of relaxation and stimulate the right side of your brain more than usual. This leads to a more optimal hormonal profile and once again, a stimulation of the peripheral nervous system. Elliott said it drives him nuts sometimes that he needs to do this because that is an hour that he can use doing something else, but he said in the end, he gets more done this way and with a lot more ease.
It is important to realize the connection between physical activity, recovery, strenuous activity, the relationship between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system and that ‘movement is life’. You cannot let any one side of the triangle get too long or you in for some trouble. What does this have to do with becoming a better athlete? Everything, mind and spirit flow right into the body and the body energizes mind and spirit. I will be incorporating some ‘Brain Wave Entrainment’ classes this fall in addition to re-vamping my ‘recovery’ days for the guys at the gym. As always, put it to use.
I don’t care what you go out and do on your guys night out or how you excite your nerves on that night. That is a different story for a different place. As an athlete or coach, you must make sure that you are training for speed in different ways than just running sprints. Yes, it is true that nothing in the gym can mimic anywhere near the forces produced during sprinting, but you must be training to get stronger at the same time. I have been incorporating med balls more into my workouts after listening to Smitty and Joe Defranco at their seminar. I want to either producd a high amount of velocity before going into one of my strength lifts or I want to go for explosive power in one of the main lifts before going to a sprinting drill. You are going after Post Activation Potentiation. Potentiation means an effect that will last for minutes after you completed the said exercise or drill. PAP allows you to recruit more motor units=more speed, more power or more strength, depending on how you are structuring your workouts. If a coach just has you performing standard exercises without regards to power and speed development, it is time to start looking elsewhere. There will be more on this topic to come, its late and I am tired. I need to get my 6 hours before I wake up and shoot for the mountain top again tomorrow!
*The CNS is like play dough before the age of 16, before this, we can affect things like agility and athleticism, after this, very tough. The play dough becomes hard so to speak.
*Loading up the hands heavily as in deadlifts is very stressful to the CNS. However, I believe loading the spine is also stressful (squats). These two exercises should not be performed in a max effort within 72 hours of each other.
*You should definitely get the primed for work through a proper warm up.
*Systemic exercises cause muscles to grow, not localized exercise like you see in a bodybuilding program.
*If you don’t rest the CNS and listen to the signs from your body, you will end up sick and fatigued.
*Supplements such as magnesium, calcium and vitamin C are huge in restoration of CNS function.
*Sleep and recovery are the two most overlooked training elements.
This can go on and on and each post could serve as an entire article. I have some cool summer projects coming up, so stay tuned!
I had the great pleasure of presenting at the NJ state strength and conditioning clinic yesterday down in Vineland. It was a great honor but more importantly I got the chance to see some other great speakers and I got the chance to learn. To me, it is a continuous process of learning and growing. The topic that I want to speak about tonight is recovery. One of the presenters was from Virginia and he was one of the top guys for the Navy and their exercise programs. So you know that he had access to the finest equipment and top research in the world, literally. He showed us scans of athletes and men that had been monitored by the OMEGA wave machine which can measure CNS autonomic activity. This machine is used by some NFL and top college football programs. It can basically tell you how much more you can push before illness or injury results. Pretty cool stuff. Dallas, the presenter also showed brain images of a brain that goes on 6 hours of sleep versus a brain that gets 8 hours of sleep. The blood flow difference was dramatic to say the least. A brain that stays awake for 17 hours functions as if it was over the limit intoxicated. I was ready to jump out of my seat because I am constantly awake for 18 or 19 hours. The combination of the two, pushing to hard and not enough rest has led to a back injury for me. If you are going to train hard, you must recover hard! It has to be a part of the program. Adaptation does not take place under the bar. My friend Ryan, another presenter was telling me that when he got to speak to the Nebraska strength coaches, he found out that recovery and nutrition are emphasized even more than the training in their program. Recover, recover, recover!