The foundation of our work with close to 100% of the population we work with begins with correcting breathing patterns. In a nutshell, here is why…
Part 3 of the "Common Beginner Mistakes" series is underway! Like all the great series' out there (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Star Wars...), it's important that you check out each and every single one. Take a look back at Part 1 and Part 2. I'm sure you'll find a hidden gem or two in there that will help you make better progress in the weight room. As you may know, I'm a creature of habit. I tend to order the same meal from Taco Bell (6 crunch tacos), dry my body off in the same sequence after taking a shower (I know... I'm weird), and I always choose the color blue while playing Settlers of Catan. With that, let's check out a couple of videos of incredible feats of strength.
Mistake #7 - Program Hopping
"Programs Hoppers" are a severe annoyance to all experienced strength and conditioning coaches out. They typically suffer from a mild case of ADD, commitment issues, and a severe lack of gains. These individuals can often be seen at your local Crossfit gym, never performing the same workout twice. These people need a lesson in the mechanisms of musculoskeletal adaptation. Mentioned in part 2, a major principle behind strength training is called the SAID principle. This states that you body will form Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. In other words, your body will adapt to the stimulus that you apply to it, HOWEVER, it's critically important that you apply the stimulus for a sufficient period of time. If you're constantly changing the stimulus, the training effect will be negligible, and your body won't experience enough of the same stress to adapt and grow stronger.
This is why most of the established training programs are designed in blocks. The exercise selection inside of a single block is typically static, and each block typically lasts 3-4 weeks. This way your body has enough time to experience and adapt to the method of training. Now, I'm not advocating doing the same exact thing for 3 weeks straight. Another important principle of strength training is termed the Repeated Bout Effect. This principle states that as you apply a stimulus and your body recovers and adapts to it, the same stimulus will not elicit an equal amount of adaptation. Your body experiences a point of diminishing returns, and this is the reason we apply progressive overload and increase the weight on the bar over time. In this way, we're applying a slightly greater stimulus, but maintaining the movement and allowing our body to adapt to greater and greater amounts of the same stress, and grow stronger because of it. Here at SAPT, we program our clients in 4 week blocks, increasing volume over time, which in turn elicits progressive and consistent adaptation.
Mistake #8 - Sticking to the Same Program Too Long
Now, this may seem a bit contradictory to our previous point, but hear me out. I touched briefly on the Repeated Bout Effect above, and this point of diminishing returns applies to whole strength programs/methods of training as well. Eventually, if you continue to do the same thing over and over and over again, you'll reach a point where you just aren't making measurable amounts of progress. Once this occurs, you need to change the stimulus that you're applying to your body. This doesn't mean do 1 week of 5/3/1, 2 weeks of the Cube Method, and follow it us with another week of Starting Strength. You need to stick to a program to actually elicit the adaptation you are trying to achieve, and then mix it up and change the program once you've gotten all that you can from it.
This is a tricky concept, but in reality, you should be grateful for these training principles! They allow you to gain valuable training experience. All these programs are created using different training philosophies. They utilize different methods of manipulating volume over time to elicit strength gains. We're all unique human beings, and, because of this, we respond to stimuli in different ways and to different degrees. Some people respond better to high frequency training with low to moderate intensity loads, while others adapt more efficiently to lower volume, high intensity training plans. You may not respond to a training program in the same exact manner as your best friend, and you also may not adapt as well the second time you perform a program. As you become more and more experience in strength training, you'll discover what works best for you. You'll discover the style of training that meshes with your personality, lifestyle, and preferences, and, with a little bit of patience, you'll develop a system of eliciting strength gains progressively.
You must clearly understand the difference between basic training and special physical preparation. [SPP] is different for everybody; one beats up on a tire with a sledgehammer, another does figure eights with a kettlebell, and someone incline presses. Basic training is roughly the same in all sports and aims to increase general strength and muscle mass. Powerlifting was born as a competition in exercises everybody does.
— Nikolay Vitkevich
Don't you want to know more?
I wrote a guest post over at Concentric Brain you can read it HERE.
No, sorry, this is not a post on how to become a Jedi by increasing your rate of using the Force. Shucks.
The Rate of Force Development (RFD) we're going to talk about is that of muscles and is *kinda* important (read: essential to athletic performance). Today's post will enlighten you as to what RFD is and why one should pay attention to it. Next post will be how to train to increase RFD. So grab something delightful to munch on (preferably something that enhances brain function, like berries.) Caveat: There is a lot of information and other stuff that I’m not putting into this post, sorry, this is just a basic overview of why RFD is important for everyone.
What is RFD?
It is a measurement of how quickly one can reach peak levels of force output. Or to put it another way, it’s the time it takes a muscle(s) to produce maximum amount of force.
For example, a successful shot put throw results when the shot putter can exert the most force, preferably maximal, upon the shot in order to launch it as far as humanly possible. She has a window of less than a second to produce that high force from when she initiates the push to when it's released from her hand. Therefore, it is imperative that the shot putter possess a high rate of force development.
Where does RFD come from?
Well, let me introduce you to a little somethin’ called a motor unit. Motor units (MU) are a motor neuron (the nerve from your brain) and all the muscle fibers it enervates. It can be anywhere from a 1:10 (neuron:fiber) ratio for say eyeball muscles, which have to produce very fine, accurate movements. Or 1:100 ratio of say a quad muscle which produce large, global movements.
There are two main types of MUs: low threshold and high threshold. The low threshold units produce less force per stimulus than the high units. For example, a low unit would be found in the postural muscles as they are always “on” producing low levels of force to maintain posture. A high unit would be in the glutes, to produce enough force to swing a heavy bell or a baseball bat (even though the bat is light, the batter has to move that thing supa fast in order to smack a home run).
Also note the different stimuli required for the different units: small posture adjustments vs. a powerful hip movement. A low stimulus activates low threshold units and a high stimulus activates the high units.
Now, MUs are not exclusively low or high; MUs throughout the body are more like a ladder, low MUS at the bottom, with each successive rung being a higher threshold MU than the one below. And, like a ladder, you can just all of the sudden find yourself at the top of the ladder without having to climb the lower rungs. Unless of course, you’re a cat:
High MUs rarely (if ever) activate without the lower MUs activating first. So, the rate of force development is dependent upon how quickly the lower rungs of the MU ladder can be turned on to reach the highest threshold units (which produce the most force per contraction)… Not only that, but all those units working together produce more force than just the higher ones by themselves, so it's a good thing that the lower ones must activate too. The muscular force produced is the sum of all the motor units.
Why Care About RFD?
Since those higher threshold units won’t be active until the lower ones are on, force production will remain low until the higher ones can get their rears in gear, therefore, going up the MU ladder faster will result in more force produced sooner in any sort of movement.
Let’s take the example of two lifters, A and B. Both are capable of producing enough force to deadlift 400lbs. However, lifter A has a higher RFD than lifter B. Lifter A can produce enough force to get the bar off the ground in about 2 seconds and lock out (complete the lift) in about 3-4 seconds. Lifter B takes 3 seconds to get the bar off the floor and another 5 to get it near his knees. For those who don't know, a deadlift should be roughly 4-5 seconds TOTAL (typically, most people's muscles give out around then if the lift hasn't been completed). B-Man is going to fail the lift before he gets that bar to lock out and will hate deadlifting forever. Bummer.
Or, utilizing a Harry Potter for my analogy for this post, it is analogous to the rate of spell development; how quickly and how powerfully a wizard's spell is performed. In a duel, the faster and more forceful wizard will win. For example, when Professor Snape totally pwns Gilderoy Lockhart:
Hence, if one wants to get stronger, increasing the rate of force development is essential! Moving heavy weights is good (and high RFD helps with that as we saw with Lifters A and B from above); moving heavy weights FAST is even better when it comes to stimulating protein synthesis aka: muscle building. Possessing a high RFD is vital in order to move those bad boys quickly.
Next post, we’ll delve into training methods that can help increase the RFD so you won’t be these guys and skip deadlifting because your rate of force development is less than stellar…
Hopefully by now, you've read about the signs and reversal of overtraining. Now let's look at why and how to train intelligently in-season. A well-designed in-season program should a) prevent overtraining and b) improve strength and power (for younger/inexperienced athletes) or maintain strength and power (older/more experienced lifters).
First off, why even bother training during the season?
1. Athletes will be stronger at the end of the season (arguably the most important part) than they were at the beginning (and stronger than their non-training competition).
2. Off-season training gains will be much easier to acquire. The first 4 weeks or so of off-season training won't be "playing catch-up" from all the strength lost during a long season bereft of iron.
I know that most high school (at least in the uber-competitive Northern VA region) teams require in-season training for their athletes. Excellent! However, many coaches miss the mark with the goal of the in-season training program. (Remember that whole "over training" thing?) Coaches need to keep in mind the stress of practice, games, and conditioning sessions when designing their team's training in the weight room. 2x/week with 40-60 minute lifts should be about right for most sports. Coaches have to hit the "sweet spot" of just enough intensity to illicit strength gains, but not TOO much that it inhibits recovery and negatively affects performance.
The weight training portion of the in-season program should not take away from the technical practices and sport specific. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the program, it should:
1. Lower volume, higher intensity-- this looks like working up to 1-2 top sets of the big lifts (squat or deadlift or Olympic lift), while maintaining 3-4 sets of accessory work. The rep range for the big lifts should be between 3-5 reps, varied throughout the season. The total reps for accessory work will vary depending on the exercise, but staying within 18-25 total reps (for harder work) is a stellar range. Burn outs aren't necessary.
2. Focused on compound lifts and total body workouts-- Compound lifts offer more bang-for-your buck with limited time in the weight room. Total body workouts ensure that the big muscles are hit frequently enough to create an adaptive response, but spread out the stress enough to allow for recovery. Note: the volume for the compound lifts must be low seeing as they are the most neurally intensive. If an athlete can't recover neurally, that can lead to decreased performance at best, injuries at worst.
3. Minimize soreness/injury-- Negatives are cool, but they also cause a lot of soreness. If the players are expected to improve on the technical side of their sport (aka, in practice) being too sore to perform well defeats the purpose doesn't it? Another aspect is changing exercises or progressing too quickly throughout the program. The athletes should have time to learn and improve on exercises before changing them just for the sake of changing them. Usually new exercises leave behind the present of soreness too, so allowing for adaptation minimizes that.
4. Realizing the different demands and stresses based on position -- For example, quarterbacks and linemen have very different stresses/demands. Catchers and pitches, midfields and goalies, sprinters and throwers; each sport has specific metabolic and strength demands and within each sport, the various positions have their unique needs too. A coach must take into account both sides for each of their positional players.
5. Must be adaptable --- This is more for the experienced and older athletes who's strength "tank" is more full than the younger kids. The program must be adaptable for the days when the athlete(s) is just beat down and needs to recover. Taking down the weight or omitting an exercise or two is a good way to allow for recovery without missing a training session.
A lot to think about huh? As a coach, I encourage you to ask yourself if you're keeping these in mind as you take your players through their training. Athletes: I encourage you to examine what your coach is doing; does it seem safe, logical, and beneficial based on the criteria listed above? If not, talk to your coach about your concerns or (shameless plug here, sorry), come see us.