Q & A

Q & A: Can I Add an Extra Session to my College Strength and Conditioning Program?

I recently received the email below from one of our student-athletes who's currently playing D1 baseball for a university, and I thought I'd share the question+response for those of you who may be interested. Hey Steve,

I just had a quick question for you. Right now, the lifts we are doing as a team are pretty intense, but only last about 30-45 mins. I feel tired at the end of them, but don't feel like I am getting the necessary amount of work in. Obviously I have to do the team lifts but is there anything else I can be doing on my own to try and increase my strength? Right now, we do Squats-mon, Bench-wed, and close grip press-friday, however, all three days we do complete body work in some way. I know, two bench lifts in a row...bad. One day is bad enough. Could I be doing dead lifts on Sat or something?

Any input you could give me would be great. Thanks.

Always a good time when you're bench pressing twice a week, on back-to-back lifting days, right? Especially in the context of a baseball strength and conditioning program, given that bench press numbers have consistently shown such a strong correlation with rotational power, throwing speed, and batting average......Or not.

First of all, I'm honest when I say I'm extremely proud of you for recognizing some of the "holes" in the program you're doing, and your drive to make yourself better by working hard even outside of the mandatory lifting hours you're required to complete with your team. And while bench pressing can certainly have its place in a good resistance training regimen, you hit the nail on the head by recognizing that it may not be the best option for you personally, given your sport and time constraints.

That being said, there are two points worth noting before we continue:

1) In a strength and conditioning program, you can't always just "keep adding." Your body, unfortunately, only has a limited capacity to recover, and there comes a point where adding extra exercises, training days, etc. can hurt you more than help you.

Stealing an analogy from Tim Ferris: “To boil water, the minimum effective dose is 212ºF (100ºC) at standard air pressure. Boiled is boiled. Higher temperatures just consume more resources that could be used for something else more productive.”

Carrying this analogy over to your strength training regimen, you have to be sure that your body's "pot of water" is not already set to "boiling." If it IS, then adding extra stressors (exercises, training days, etc.) are only going to actuate more fatigue, lengthen your recovery time, and could actually REDUCE your power output and strength.

So: Give yourself an honest, unbiased, introspective assessment into how you're doing. Are you at "boiling" already? If not, then proceed with #2.

2) Since #1 is true, then you must begin your quest of adding an extra session by using the lowest intensity and the least amount of volume in order to incite adaptation.

See how your body responds and feels during the following week - both in the weight room and out on the baseball field - and then you can continue to tweak and refine from there, but still only adding the "minimum effective dose," and nothing more, to see continued improvement.

William of Occam said it best:

"It is vain to do with more what can be done with less."

Solution

You're on the right track suggesting a "deadlift day" for Saturday. Provided you're smart about it, I think it could really help fill in the missing gaps you're currently facing, along with providing you the perfect stimulus for continued strength and power gains.

Based on what you told me, I'm guessing that your coach isn't having you all do any dynamic effort work. Since most of your barbell work is probably being done at heavy loads+slow speeds (or "absolute strength" work) you could definitely use some work on the "speed-strength" end of the continuum.

Enter: Speed Deadlifts.

I love speed deadlifts for four reasons:

  1. Provided you do them correctly, they have enormous potential to actually refresh you upon completion, leaving you feeling charged up and ready to kick down the doors of the playing field (if your playing field has doors....)
  2. They provide an EXCELLENT way to tap into the higher threshold motor units, namely, those that have the greatest potential for force production. They also assist in neurotransmitter uptake and release, along with positively impacting the excitation-contraction coupling mechanism in muscle cells, for you exercise physiology nerds in the crowd.
  3. Since you'd typically perform multiple sets at a load load and low rep scheme, it's certainly a good time to hone in on technique, practicing the set-up and execution multiple times in one session.
  4. If you move the weight AS FAST AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, and if you're good at doing this, then you experience the inevitable pleasure of causing everyone unfortunate enough to be around you at the time to destroy the backs of their pants.

For your first session, I'd recommend starting off with 6 sets of 2 reps, at 50% of your 1-rep max, with :45-:60 rest between sets.

And move the bar as fast as you can.

Did I mention you need to move the bar as fast as possible?*

Toss in some very low volume horizontal rowing (bent over DB rows, chest-supported rows, single-arm cable rows, etc.) and some scapular stability work (low box walkovers, forearm wallslides, easy pushups, etc.) after your deadlifts and call it a day.

Hopefully your coach doesn't mind you doing this, either. If he does, you may very well have to enter the weight room surreptitiously and pray he doesn't catch you.

The most important thing will be to start with the LEAST required to get stronger, LISTEN to what your body is telling you, and then make further adjustments (if even necessary) from there.

*You need to move the bar as fast as possible.

Q & A: What's Wrong with Sit-ups?

Q: "What's wrong with situps?I've read Steveo's comments about rarely programming them and offering better choices.  I also read that getting an obese person to endless situps won't work.  My wife wants to argue with me about it!  Do they just plain not work?  Are the somewhat effective?  What makes the wrong?

Thank you!!!"

A. I wouldn't go so far as to say that sit-ups are WRONG, per se. It's just that the majority of people's time would be better spent throwing themselves in front of a moving school bus, or traveling back to the 14th century to ensure a solid infusion of the Black Plague into their bloodstream. Either one, really.

All kidding aside (even though I wasn't really kidding), when it comes to performing sit-ups: there's a time and a place. When people tell me they they "need" to perform sit-ups, I usually ask them a very simple question:

"WHY do you feel the need to do sit-ups?"

To which they'll usually respond with one of four answers:

1. "I like feeling my abs burn. You know, because I enjoy that sort of thing." 2. "I want six-pack abs." 3. "I partake in activities that require repeated spinal flexion (ex. MMA or military training)." 4. "Now that you mention it, Steve, I actually do not know why. Please kick me in the balls, repeatedly, to remind me not to be so stupid."

Maybe #4 is made up, and maybe #4 only applies to males, but I digress. Let's briefly tackle responses #1-3.

1. "I like feeling my abs burn. You know, because I enjoy that sort of thing."

Sure, I get it....fair enough. Allow me to present you with a myriad "core" exercises that will allow you to satiate your palate craving for all things burning abs without putting your spine at risk.

According to Dr. Stuart McGill (professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo), when you perform a sit-up, it places roughly 3,300 N (or, 730lbs) of compressive force on the discs of the lumbar spine. In case you were wondering, that's not a good thing.

Given that 80%+ of Americans will experience significant back pain during their lives, why include something in your routine that will only make your odds even more unfavorable? Maybe, perhaps, if we still lived in hunter-gatherer societies, we could get away with them. Not so much anymore thanks to the invention of the computer, office work, and sitting 8+ hours a day.

And please, for the love, never perform something like this, let alone for a bazillion repetitions:

I'll still train the heck out of people's "core", and give them plenty of what they need to reach their desired goals, but I do my best to do it via methods that AVOID placing that kind of ridiculous compressive force on lumbar vertebrae.

Try a few sets of any of the following, and I guarantee that both you - and your low back - will thank me later.

Pot Stirrir Plank

Bodysaw Plank (performed by my beautiful wife) If you don't have sliders, you can use towels on a tiled floor.

TRX Jacknife with Neutral Spine

Plank with Band (or Cable) Row

Reverse Crunch (hold a towel - or a half foam roll - between your calves and hamstrings)

Landmine (again, performed by my better half)

Any of these:

Not to mention, I didn't even include any of the myriad chop, lift, and pallof press progressions. Be consistent with training spinal stability (ex. using variations similar to the above), for a few months, then get back to me and let me know if your midsection didn't become stronger.

You're welcome.

What it comes down to is that if someone is paying me to help them look, move, and feel better - oh, and not to mention virtually putting me in charge of a large portion of their spinal health - I'm not willing to roll the dice with sit-ups.

Could they get away with it? Maybe. But why not strengthen their core via safer, and more effective, means?

2. "I want six-pack abs."

I have a very simple answer to this one: Be less fat. And, maybe, choose a different set of parents.

Don't mistake my tone here...my aim is not to appear cold, aloof, and perhaps even narcissistic toward their situation. I'm simply trying to save them some time, give them some realistic expectations, and save their spine to boot.

Possessing visible abs is a function of two things, and two things only: Bodyfat %, and genetics. The former is pretty self-explanatory, and with regards to the latter - well, some people will "unveil" their abs at a higher bodyfat than others.  Also, typically, it's easier for people with longer torsos - relative to their legs - to see their abs sooner than those with shorter torsos. There are other forces at play, of course, but in general it is how it is.

Do you really think that performing sit-ups is the way to a shredded midsection? How about putting away the Oreos, and maybe saving dessert for weekends and special occasions? (Hint: getting home from work doesn't count as a special occasion.) Every one of us, as Homo sapiens, possesses a six-pack. Some are just more insulated than others.

I'm not going to elaborate on this point any further simply because I feel that the majority of you are able to put these puzzle pieces together for yourselves.

3. "I partake in activities that require repeated spinal flexion (ex. MMA or military "stuff")."

As deep-rooted as my vendetta is against sit-ups, I'd be foolish not to program them for this group. After all, there's a point where we have to respect specificity of training, and it's tough to get good at sit-ups without, well, TRAINING THEM to an extent.

With this group (fighters, military, along with some contact sport athletes), I will indeed intersperse sit-up variations into their training. Heck, we've even given the military guys timed BAND-RESISTED sit-ups in preparation for their testing. (Jason cursed us for this and continued to remind us of how much he hated them.)

Another favorite of mine is the Turtle Roll, which, IMO, looks like the easiest exercise in the world but yet will provide the most insane abdominal contraction of your life:

I've seen many well-conditioned athletes lie on the floor, gasping for breath after turtle rolling for just one set of twelve reps.

And there you have it. 

Q & A: How to Write Resistance Training Programs, Part 6: A Blueprint

Q: Hi Steve,I’m very new to the powerlifting/strong(wo)man training world … and I love reading your blog! It’s always chock full with information. One thing I was wondering, and maybe it’d be a topic to write about … how do you come up with workouts?? Do you make stuff up?? Have a “grab-bag” of moves and pull out of that?? Borrow and modify from other trainers??  I always wonder where trainers come up with new ideas.

Thank you for all the great info!!

A. For those of you who have missed it, you can find Part 1 (Train Yourself), Part 2 (Coaching), Part 3 (Practice Writing Programs), Part 4 (Try Yourself, and Borrow/Steal), and Part 5 (Perfectionism) in the respective links. FINALLY, we're going to wrap up today with a few "blueprint" suggestions.

This is going to be far from a comprehensive list, but hopefully it will get you started on the right track and shed some light into a few things that go through my brain as I right programs. Honestly, I'm just going to spill out a few bullet points as they come to me, so forgive me for the potential non sequitur and/or lack of structure that may appear below.

6. Bluprint

 

  • Yes, I do have a "grab-bag of moves" that I pull from. I make sure that every program contains at least one exercise from the following categories: Squat, Hinge, Pull, Push, and, stealing a chapter from Dan John's book, a Loaded Carry. I have a list of exercises from each category, and pick and choose from them based on the athlete and his or her needs.

 

  •  For stronger athletes, 10 total REPS is a good number to hit for the main lift in one session. Ex. 3x3, 2x5, 5x2 will be plenty to make them stronger, while at the same time not frying them.
  • For the in-season athlete, stop the workout if they begin to feel exhausted and/or more tired than when they walked through the door. In-season training should "fire them up" and allow them to perform better (duh?), so there's no need to beat them into the ground. A general rule of them would be to reduce the volume by 50-65%, and primarily focus on the main, compound movement of the day.In fact, it's funny as we've had numerous baseball players tell us they had some of their best games (in-season) the day after training at SAPT because their CNS was so charged up.
  • Everyone needs mobility drills, but not everyone needs them in the same places (ex. while Person A may need some closed-chain ankle dorsiflexion work, Person B may not need it at all).
  • 3-4 main movements per day is really all most people need to reach their goals. Anything more than than that and you get become mediocre at a lot of things instead of great at a couple things (and I'm not just talking about the actual lifts in the gym). Give it your all on just a couple lifts each week, instead of half-hearted effort on a bazillion exercises.
  • This list could literally go on for pages, but I'll stop now as I'm out of time. In actuality, if you follow Parts I, II, and III from this series for an extended period of time you *should* discover a lot of this yourself.

Note: In case you missed Sarah's notice from yesterday, SAPT is currently giving 25% off for our training sessions. Click HERE for more information, and spread the word!

The Pitfall of Perfectionism (Q & A: Writing Training Programs, Part 5)

Okay, I'm almost done with this seemingly never-ending series, I promise. I only have today's post - to cover an often overlooked component of program design - and I'll finish off the series on Wednesday with a few "blueprint" suggestions. Moving on, let me briefly touch on an achilles heel of mine....

5. Perfectionism

I'm currently reading a phenomenal book on writing, titled Bird by Bird (thank you Tony Gentilcore for the recommendation), and the author, Anne Lamott, touches on this very topic:

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while doing it."

Now, before I go any further, take a moment to read that again and really let it sink in. While I'm currently addressing the writing of training plans, the advice above can easily be applied to any facet of life for those of you who are perfectionists (you know who you are).

Be it your work habits, your possessions, your relationships, the obsessive believe that you need to be perfect can, and will, utterly destroy you.

Perfectionism, in my opinion, is analogous to fire. It can be very useful provided it's retrained to its intents and purposes, but all-consuming and incredibly destructive if it's not contained. A small fire can be used to forge and refine a steel blade, or provide warmth, but it can also bring your entire house to the ground should it spiral out of control.

Yes, I actually did just come up with that analogy myself, and yes, you may steal it.

My office space isn't necessarily the neatest, I don't wash my car every other day (unlike my brother), and I don't line up everything in my home at 90 degrees to each other. Heck, maybe all those things are more closely related to OCD than perfectionism....I don't really know....but the point is that there are areas of my life in which I'm a perfectionist. In high school, one of these areas was my schoolwork (choosing homework and studying over hanging out with friends, anyone?), which, over time, translated over to this obsessive need to perfect anything I take honest time out of my day to complete that involves a pencil, paper, computer, and that little thing they like to call the "cerebral cortex."

My high school life basically consisted of homework, studying, reading book after book, and lacrosse practice (I've heard getting outside and remaining active is important for cognitive function).

Helloooo to good grades and cruising into the college of my choosing, but goodbye to time with friends, overall sense of enjoyment, and my hopes of becoming globally ranked in Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past speedruns.

Needless to say, there was a price to pay for my perfectionism, and I missed out on some pretty important stuff (I'm referring to Zelda rankings, of course, not time with friends).

Where was I again? Oh yeah, perfectionism and writing programs.....

Look, when it comes to designing workouts and resistance training programs, IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. I'm speaking from personal experience here, as I used to spend an unholy amount of time writing programs. In fact, I'm not even going to tell you how long I spent on on a 2x/week training plan, let alone a 5x/week training plan, as it'd be embarrassing to recount.

I would practically torment myself with finding the perfect set-rep scheme for each and every exercise, the most flawless waving of volume and intensity, and the best sequencing of exercises. Guess what? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter.

I realized that I was, in fact, doing my athletes a disservice, because it was taking time away from continued education, and I remain a bit emotionally distant during their training sessions because I would still be thinking about the program design. And you know what I discovered in the process, that was a bit of an "ah-ha" moment for me?

Good coaching will trump "perfect" program design, any day of the week.

A good coach will help someone get more out of a freaking bodyweight split squat than many poor trainers can provide someone during a bilateral squat with a barbell. Along a similar vein, an excellent coach can help someone receive a better training effect from PUPPing correctly than a bad coach/trainer walking someone through pushups (at least what they're calling a pushup).

And, you know what? I can't tell you how many times I've written a program for someone, only for them to walk in the following day telling me they tweaked their back, shoulder, or knee, and I've then had to modify virtually the entire thing anyway, right there on the spot. Or, they have an unexpected business trip, which is going to throw the workout split off schedule. Or, their girlfriend just broke up with them and they had their computer stolen. All of these things are going to require program-modification on the fly.

The point in all of this isn't to tell you to stop working hard in your job, or to fail to give your clients and athletes everything you've got. But there is a very thick line between giving other people your best, and allowing your perfectionism to spin out of control like a wild fire, negatively affecting your own mind, along with those around you.

Q & A: Writing Training Programs, Part 4: Try Things Yourself, and Borrow and Steal

Q. One thing I was wondering, and maybe it’d be a topic to write about … how do you come up with workouts?? Do you make stuff up?? Have a “grab-bag” of moves and pull out of that?? Borrow and modify from other trainers??  I always wonder where trainers come up with new ideas.

4. Before Giving Something to an Athlete or Client, Try it Yourself

One of the things I pride myself in as a strength coach is never giving someone an exercise or program that I haven't tried myself. Well, most of the time.

DCIM100SPORT
DCIM100SPORT

One such instance in which I failed to do this happened a little over a year ago. I was doing the programming for Ron, who was in the middle of a "get shredded" phase. I had progressed him through the basic planking exercises, and wanted to spice things up a little. Sitting at my keyboard, Ron's excel file open and perhaps a bit too much caffeine running through my blood, I had a vision of a more challenging plank variation I wanted to give him. It was a single-arm PUPP with the feet suspended in the TRX (see picture on the right).

No, I hadn't actually tried this myself at the time, but I figured, "How hard could it be? Ron's a beast and he'll love this one."

Well, the following week, I'm on the coaching floor and I hear some laughing followed by grunts of frustration coming from the corner of the gym that Ron was using. I turn around to only to see him face down on the floor, feet suspended in the TRX, laughing a bit to himself. He then looks up at me and shouts across the gym for everyone to hear:

"Steve, have you actually TRIED this exercise, you inconsiderate, good-for-nothing, bag of fart???"

That was not verbatim.

So I stood there, stammered for a bit as everyone else around waited for my response, and then replied, "Ummm, yes of course I have....well, kinda....okay maybe I haven't actually tried it."

Come to find out, it was a pretty darn hard challenge even for me to do! I'll admit it took me a few tries to get it, as you literally have to fight for your life to prevent yourself from being barrel-rolled 180 degrees in the air and thrown onto your back.

Now, fortunately Ron is very good-humored and knows how to laugh at his own expense (he also never forgets to remind me of that fail of mine with his programming). We figured out a modification so that he could do something similar, and we moved on. He also never hurt himself in the process.

But what if you're working with someone who's not-so-good-humored? What if the athlete ends up getting hurt because you didn't try something beforehand? I really don't feel I need to explain the "why" behind trying an exercise or program out yourself before giving it to someone else, as I feel it's pretty self-explanatory.

The key is to set people up for success. Make it challenging, but at the same time ensure that you match the appropriate progression/regression to the individual so that they can see and experience themselves succeeding as opposed to failing.

And the best way to do this is to yes, practice writing programs and coach people on a regular basis, but also try everything yourself before giving it to someone. You'll discover a number of things this way:

  • Some programs look MUCH easier on paper than they actually are in application
  • What supersets really suck, and others that don't
  • Exercise sequencing that is brilliant, and sequencing that is not-so-brilliant
  • What exercises make you unnecessarily sore (that will negatively impact a subsequent training day and/or sport practice and competition)
  • The ideal set and rep range depending on the movement/where it is in the program

Etc., etc., etc.

5. Yes, Borrow and Steal

You asked if I ever borrow and modify from other trainers/coaches. In a word: Absolutely, and shamelessly.

But rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll direct you to this post by Mike Boyle (seriously, read it, it's short) as he discusses the very topic:

Should You Stick to the Recipe?

HOWEVER, remember that other strength coaches and trainers are only human. They still make mistakes, and not everything they say should be taken as pure, liquid gold.**

Following the programs of other trainers can be fantastic start (assuming you don't pick a doofus to emulate), but eventually, once you become a "chef," as Boyle said, you need to be confident in you're own program writing skills. In fact, I find myself disagreeing, on multiple occasions, with the opinions of many of the world's current "renown and expert" coaches. Does this mean these men/women are inferior and less knowledgeable than me? Of course not. But you have to be careful to avoid falling into the trap of blindly following every word they say without doing some critical thinking of your own.

Another note is, once you have taken a look at a number of trainers and coaches, only pick a few to follow. Often we quickly experience paralysis by analysis by continually looking at too much "stuff." You'll begin to spin round and round with no direction if you try to follow everyone out there.

A book that holds a special place in my heart is The New Rules of Lifting by Alwyn Cosgrove and Lou Schuler. It was the first book I read that took me away from the stupid, brought me over to the Dark Side, and opened my eyes to the beauty of good training habits. If you're brand new to the field, I highly recommend this. Is a bit of it outdated? Yeah. But if you're still programming 3 sets of 10 for everything, reading Flex magazine and Bodybuilding.com for your primarily sources of information, it's a great place to start.

If you've been in the field for a while now and/or have a solid base under you, I honestly can't recommend Easy Strength, by Dan John and Pavel, highly enough. The book is easily worth its weight in gold, and I honestly think that the price is a steal for what it provides. If you train anyone, be them elite athletes or pure newbies in the weight room, do yourself a favor and read it.

And that's it for now. I'll be back on Friday discussing the pitfall of Perfectionism. And yes, I realize we're bordering on a marathon here with this series so I promise you I'll save you from your misery soon enough.

**Unless they're the SAPT staff.

Q&A: Pre-Competition Carbohydrate Loading

Q: I have a question, Do you know or have an opinion on whether or not carb loading the night before a sports match (in this case a crew regatta/race) is beneficial?

A: This is a great question and something I haven’t considered much lately. My opinion is that carb loading is unnecessary for 99.9% of the population and is most likely to lead to gastric distress, not faster race times.

However, I’m quick to admit when a question is treading upon territory I rarely visit and this area is not my specialty. So, I consulted a couple sources to see what the research is saying.

First up, a study regarding carbohydrate loading and resistance training (The effects of carbohydrate loading on repetitive jump squat power performance.):

…only few data are available on the effects of CHO loading on resistance exercise performance. Because of the repetitive use of high-threshold motor units, it was hypothesized that the power output (power-endurance) of multiple sets of jump squats would be enhanced following a high-CHO (6.5 g CHO kg body mass(-1)) diet compared to a moderate-CHO (4.4 g CHO kg body mass(-1)) diet. Eight healthy men (mean +/- SD: age 26.3 +/- 2.6 years; weight 73.0 +/- 6.3 kg; body fat 13.4 +/- 5.0%; height 178.2 +/- 6.1 cm) participated in 2 randomly assigned counterbalanced supplementation periods of 4 days after having their free-living habitual diet monitored. The resistance exercise test consisted of 4 sets of 12 repetitions of maximal-effort jump squats using a Plyometric Power System unit and a load of 30% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM). A 2-minute rest period was used between sets. Immediately before and after the exercise test, a blood sample was obtained to determine the serum glucose and blood lactate concentrations. No significant difference in power performance existed between the 2 diets. As expected, there was a significant (p </= 0.05) decrease in power performance between the repetitions in every set. Blood lactate concentrations were significantly higher postexercise with both the high-CHO and the moderate- or lower-CHO diet, but there were no differences between conditions. The results indicated that the power output during multiple sets of maximal jump squats was not enhanced following a higher-CHO diet compared to a moderate- or lower-CHO diet. These data show that elevated carbohydrate intake is not needed to optimize a repetitive power-endurance performance when it is done as the first exercise in a workout.

The second reference I’m using is the position of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and is looking at endurance performance:

• Part of all the ergogenic effect of carbohydrate loading recorded in most studies to date could be attributed to a placebo effect (endurance athletes are typically well educated and would expect a performance boost thus introducing a psychologic bias).

• The performance-enhancing effect of carbohydrate loading is small and in real-life competition most likely only significant in influencing the finishing order among top elite-level cyclists, not “back-of-the-pack” cyclists.

• Consuming adequate carbohydrate during prolonged exercise (at least non-steady events)may be more important that glycogen supersaturation via carbohydrate loading before exercise.

Another side to the above research worth pointing out is that the control groups are always consuming PLENTY of carbohydrates already! The first study has the controls at 4.4 g CHO/kg bodyweight while the second position from the ISSN is citing a study in which the control was at 6.0 g CHO/kg bodyweight!

This brings me to my own question: What happens if you purposely deplete glycogen stores and then try to resaturate them immediately prior to a race or competition?

Recently, I noted that the strength/conditioning coach for University of Maryland’s women’s basketball team imposed a period of carbohydrate depletion to quickly establish improved glycogen sensitivity to help power them through the ACC tournament. I can’t tell you for certain if this worked, but in theory I think it’s a great approach. It’s common practice among physique athletes (i.e., bodybuilding, figure, etc.) to deplete carbohydrate stores leading up to a competition only to really load up the day of the show. The goal being to “fill out” the muscles again. This doesn’t have anything to do with athletic performance, but worth noting.

To get back to your question: no, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to carbohydrate load the night before (or even three days before) a competition. My advice would be to moderately increase carbohydrate in the hours before a race. Begin with a carbohydrate dense meal at four-hours out, a well-tolerated and significant carbohydrate dense snack at two-hours out, and then sports drink from then on.

Hope this helps!