Jarrett Brumett

All About The Hype


It’s generally thought that being more amped up, means more weight on the bar and a better lift. This is true, SOME OF THE TIME. With any seasoned lifter, it only seems advantageous to get hyped, pump yourself up and crush your workout. Heck, there are even powerlifting PR soundtracks packed full of heavy metal and Batman soundtracks to put you in that state of mind. There are then of course those who take this too far to the extreme…


Anyone who has trained individuals from the ground up knows that you can’t pump up the newbs for training the same way that you can veteran lifters. Well… you can, but it may look something like this:


Getting a newbie hyped will often times give them misconceptions about their own ability and cloud their judgement of what they should be doing. The internet is full of montages to prove this. It will also ensure that they just have a hard time learning the new movement in general, according to the Inverted U Theory.


The Inverted U Theory

Have you ever been looking for something when driving and instinctively turn the music down when you know you’re close, almost as if the loud noise would somehow hide what should be in plain sight? This seems pointless and silly, right? It also seems like that same idea would have nothing to do with getting better at lifting heavy things. Both are wrong. The reason for this, is you are adjusting your arousal level


I know hearing me talk about your arousal levels is kinda weird. But the definition for arousal is: “A general physiological and psychological activation of the organism that varies on a continuum of deep sleep to intense excitement.” To keep the rest of this blog from sounding morally questionable, I’ll be subbing arousal  out for other synonyms like excitement when I can.


The Inverted U Theory states that for every task, there is an optimal level of arousal. Meaning that if the individuals becomes too excited, it could potentially hinder their performance. Tasks that are heavily influenced by things like fine motor control, decision making, and attentional requirements generally require less excitement for optimum performance. Today, we’re going to be looking at it from a strength training point of view, but this can easily be used within any sport.

                                                                                        The Inverted U... Kinda looks like an n... Why didn't they call it the n theory?

                                                                                        The Inverted U... Kinda looks like an n... Why didn't they call it the n theory?


To try to decipher the correct excitement level for a skill, you first need to consider the experience and ability of the individual.  If I have little Billy-Bob on his first day of learning how to squat, I’m going to prefer to not have him too amped up so that he can pay attention to my cues and focus on the movement. If he had too much Mountain Dew or his friends start hyping him up before his first set, you can bet that I’m going to have a heck of a time getting this kid to focus on the finer points dropping it low. This will be the case until he becomes autonomous and skilled with the movement, making it second nature for him. Once that occurs, little Billy-Bob can pump up the music, chug some Dew and get hyped to squat to his little heart’s content. In this way the apex for the individual on the inverted U is going to always change as they become more skilled. They will be ab able to get more pumped and use that extra energy correctly.


On the other side of the spectrum we’ve all dealt with the individuals that have the ability, but are lacking the drive. The notion of putting more weight on the bar does little to drive more effort in their session. These individuals may actually need a little more pep in their step to be performing optimally. Raising their arousal level will help with their workout and skill acquisition for the session.


The exercise being executed is important to note in regards to technicality. I’m going to psyche myself up way more for a heavy deadlift than I am a heavy Turkish Get Up. In fact, some days I’ve even had to bring myself down to better execute my TGUs. My current get-up PR of 130lbs actually came from a session of listening to Phantogram and doing breathing resets between sets.


With that being said, even some of the less technical lifts can be over-hyped in execution. This may not necessarily result in a poor lift, but it does result in wasted energy. The amount of mental effort that it can take to get yourself hyped for each set can take that much more out of you without adding anything to the workload.  It becomes a skill on how to identify the needed excitement level for each movement and is definitely something worth thinking about during your next training session.


Applying it in your own training:

Applying these ideas to your own training is actually easier said than done. I try to keep this in mind fairly often in my training and I have seen many benefits to it. Days that I have more skill-based movements, I generally have more breathing-based core work to help keep me from getting ahead of myself. I also make sure that these are the days I put on a more steady style music. This all helps me to maintain more internal focus and allows for me to more easily better my technique. It’s also a great model for active recovery days as the next day I feel great.


For days where it’s time to just rip heavy things off the floor I go with a different approach. I’ll blare some, “Rage Against The Machine” and go to town. I’ll occasionally talk to myself (shut up, it’s not weird) and I’ll hype myself up whenever I’m coming up to a challenging set. If I feel like something may be feeling off, I’ll grab another coach and have them watch the lift I’ll then calm myself down and focus on whatever advice they gave me for the remaining sets rather than keeping myself hyped and still pounding away. You are your own hardest person to pull back and I’ve learned the cost of not doing so at appropriate time. It’s hard to swerve back onto the road when you’re still flooring the gas pedal. So even if the training session is feeling great, if there’s a problem, pull yourself back and fix it.


Applying it in a Trainee’s Session

Knowing what level of excitement the trainee should have is one thing, getting them there is the other half to the puzzle. To amp them up, which is way easier in my opinion, you can do any of the following:

  • Raise your voice and own level of intensity- First and Foremost

  • Slap them on the back

  • Blare some of THEIR music - I actually know a guy who gets pumped to lift with acoustic guitar solos

  • Do your Ronnie Coleman impression and yell, “Yea-buddy” or, “Light weight!” - my personal fave

  • Bet with them -yes I constantly lose bets with my clients.. it’s almost as if I knew they could do what I bet them they couldn’t….

Bringing them back down to work on skill development is a whole ‘nother beast. Once someone is pumped up, they seem to like to stay in the heightened state. This goes double for if you ever have the misfortune of getting a new client that’s already riding the pre-workout supplement train. It’s awesome to have clients that are raring to go, but if you can’t get them to respond to your cues try any of the following first:

  • Breathing Drills - Yet again they answer another problem

  • Calmer music - I usually go with Pink Floyd or Phantogam

  • Temporarily distract them - I know this sounds like taboo for a training session, but if they don’t seem to be adhering to your cues and are just off, you probably need to pull them back. Ask about their family or something close to them to get them out of the intense state of mind. Then revisit the exercise.

  • Make ‘em walk- If someone’s got too many ants in their pants, I’ll have them do a quick lap around the gym, then they’re usually at a more coachable level when they get back.

With all of this, everyone is going to have their own level at which they perform best. A good coach or trainer should be able to identify this and match their coaching to it. Doing so will only expedite their results and progress them quicker.

In summary

Having intensity in the weight room is a good thing, but being intense and amped without already having mastered the required skills is almost always a wasted effort. If you haven’t mastered the movement, you have not yet earned the right to slap yourself to get psyched and crush the bar. Even if you do have the movement down pat, if anything ever feels off, pull yourself back and spend a session or two greasing the groove at the appropriate level of excitement for skill-building. Manipulating the environment through your own presence and the music can have incredible results on the energy level of your trainees. In fact there are several studies out on the effects music can have on an individual for learning new skills. Just like everything else, it’s a tool in your toolbox to make yourself and others better.


Own Your Profession

With the Spring semester coming to an end, many of our interns are preparing for their graduation and saying their final goodbyes as they move on to the work force. This has made me somewhat sentimental as I reflect back to my graduation just a few years ago, remembering the panic and worry as the thought, “what now?” ran through my mind. I have been a trainer since I was 18, and I still love it and know it is what what I want to continue to do. But at the time of beginning my senior year of college, I felt as though I still had no idea what I was actually doing. Yes, I had improved from when I started, but I hadn’t obtained the overall understanding of human adaptation  that I thought I would get from a college degree. There had to be more.

Even though I was just a few classes and an internship away from finishing my bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, I felt as though I was still a blank slate for knowledge within the field. And I was. I still am. At the time, this filled me with frustration. My whole intention throughout  college was to get out and crush it as a trainer and performance coach, but when I got done, I realized how little I still knew. I started thinking that I had to go back to school to get the rest of the puzzle. Maybe get a doctorate in physical therapy? Surely then I would understand the body and its neurological, physiological, and mechanical variables upon movement and how they could all be manipulated in training. I could master the realm of corrective exercise and then use the background knowledge to conquer the performance realm. “Yeah, that’s what I’ll do,” is what I thought as I began to immerse myself in the idea of going back to school.

After looking at my already daunting student loans and the prerequisites that I would still have to fill to get into a DPT program, I became nauseated with how much more needed to be done just to be able to apply. I told myself it would still be worth it and decided to just study what I could in the meantime and then figure out how to tackle the prereqs later.

I started reading more into clinical work and research. I read about the Janda and his ideas, about DNS, some Kendall & Kendall, lots of functional anatomy and several blogs that focused less on performance and more on rehab and general function of the body. I followed Gray Cook, read all of his books, took several of his workshops, whent to other seminars on human movement. I loved all of it and started applying the new concepts and methods with my clients. I became very good at correcting movement. I started to figure out better progressions, better ways of coaching movements and I started to notice something… Many of the PTs and chiros that I saw at these seminars were just as new to many of these ideas and concepts as me.

How could that be? These people had spent YEARS learning about functional anatomy, physiology, joint arthrokinematics, and all things tied to pain and movement. Surely they could already tell what compensations were apparent in the individual’s squat with whom we were using as an example. I had been certain that they would know great regressions, progressions or even breakouts to help correct the issues and train the person with restored function… That certainty turned to disappointment as it became apparent that many of them had little experience with this.

The idea of going back to school started to lose its luster. I started to shadow a PT of whom I really respect. I then noticed how much of current physical therapy is actually manual therapy followed by isolation work. I noticed how insurance limits them to working on and rehabbing one body part at a time. I saw clear compensations going on in many of the patients, yet he could only focus his work on one area due to time and/or insurance restraints. I started to realize that this is what they had been prepped for in school and it did not seem to be in line with what I wanted to do. Why had I thought that this would provide me with the answers I wanted?

Then it hit me. I had put the clinicians on a pedestal, viewing them as the next step up from trainers, when in fact it’s not even comparable. It’s a totally different profession with different objections and entirely different scopes. This is also not to say that one scope ranges further than the other. Yes PTs can do manual therapy and other treatments, but when was the last time you saw a PT write a macrocycle to prep a soccer athlete for their season, including such factors as injury prevention, conditioning and applied agility work (put your hand down Charlie Weingroff). A GOOD trainer is just as valuable as a PT, we’re just going to have an entirely different skill set and knowledge base. In order to become a great trainer you do not need to try to mimic another profession, you just need to really own what you do. (I’ll get more into this at the end.)

This made me then wonder: Why was it that I originally viewed Physical Therapists to be a step above trainers rather than in their own rightful category? I mulled this over while scanning facebook one day, then it hit me like my mama would have had I been rioting in Baltimore once I saw this:


The fitness industry is stupid. There I said it and I’m not taking it back. Yes, there are some REALLY smart trainers out there, but they RARELY get credit for the genius that they put into their craft. In fact, look at the 100 most influential people of the fitness industry. The top 50 alone  is full of misinformed zealots who preach, “muscle confusion” and an ignorance of exercise form, not to mention that quack, Dr. Oz, being number 2.... This aspect alone had harvested a distaste for the industry within me since my introduction to it. Deep down I wanted to separate myself from it, I wanted to be evidence-based and results driven. I wanted to be like Cook, like Weingroff, like Boyle and Gentilcore. I realized that one of the other differences in trainers and PTs is that PTs need to know their shit, in and out, to be able to treat a patient. Trainers just need to be able to sell. I wanted to know my craft, in and out, just as PTs do theirs. I had put them on a pedestal because they practice in an industry that regulates competence, whereas my industry couldn’t be any further.

Society has no way to quality-check a trainer (other than, you know, fact checking their claims with research) so people often go with the hype and dump their money into whatever shows the most pictures of a six pack. Because of this, the industry has grown less science and results-based and more sales and revenue-based. Certain “fitness” academies, associations, councils and groups of  monkeys wearing silly hats will even sell personal trainer certifications consisting of a weekend or even online course just so they can get a high turn-around. There is no way possible you can learn everything you need to know about training an individual in one weekend... Just to prove my point more, Jilian Michaels holds the weekend certification that I linked. That's the one she's had since 1993...

This has  flooded our profession with individuals who don’t take the time to apply themselves in their craft. Trainers who may drive their clients into the ground, regardless of what training stimulus they’re trying to achieve. Trainers who don’t program and just do a different workout every session, hindering their client’s results. Trainers who have no rhyme or reason for the exercises or methods they prescribe. Yet, their clients may still feel exhausted, giving a false confirmation that their session was actually productive towards their goals. Or maybe the trainer is really well liked by their clients, gaining trust and hiding their actual competence level. I’m not saying they’re bad people, but if they aren’t programming a systematic progression of workouts and do not have science-based reasoning behind what they’re prescribing, then I can absolutely say they are bad trainers.

I can say this because that was me when I started training at 18. My clients got very little results, yet I never got questioned or even put on the spot like I should have because again, there was no way for my clients to understand the quality of what I was dishing out. Even though I had gone through a legitimate certification program, I was still equipped with only a fraction of the knowledge needed to truly, in my mind, be competent. I slowly improved with experience, but I don’t think I really reached any clairvoyance until that point in my senior year when I started asking myself, “what am I doing?” and, “why?”

I’m still very early on in my career, but I can honestly say that the more questions I ask myself, the more it pushes me to know and own my profession. To know movement correction, to know programming, to know energy system training, to know nutrition, to know the subtleties of cuing, it’s literally endless. Each variable of training in itself has a wealth of detail and other factors contributing to it. This plethora of details can seem daunting when considered, but we should view it as a challenge. It’s a plethora of opportunities to become better and a plethora of things to understand to better serve people within your scope. It's actually quite empowering when you realize all the different ways your role as a trainer can positively influence someone's health, happiness and well-being.

If you’re a trainer, I urge you to never stop questioning yourself. Always look for better ways to improve and don’t dare stop seeking out new information. If you’re a client, I urge you as well to always ask your trainer, “why?” Hold us accountable to be the trainers that we claim, want and charge to be, it is what you’re paying for after all.

For those that are graduating this Spring, congratulations! But don’t stop there. College gives you the tools to grasp a very basic understanding of many of the variables you will encounter in your line of work. It’s up to you to continue to ask questions and seek out the answers you need. Start to know everything about what you do and never get comfortable with your knowledge base, then you will really start to own your profession.

**Just a quick note: I by no means am saying that ALL of the individuals listed on the aforementioned top 100 list are incompetent, there are many on there whom I very much admire and aspire to be like.

That Time of Year for a Track Workout

The other day, I got a message from an old friend asking if I could give him advice for a track workout. With Spring here, there's no better time to be outside huffing and puffing on a track. He was interested in doing some HIIT and other methods that he had read about to help get in shape for the summer, but didn’t know how to put the program together or how to progress it. I know exactly how he feels, it's gorgeous outside and if I can do my workouts in the sun, I feel better for it. I like HIIT training, especially for general fitness and weight loss, but I think often times it’s misused and put on a pedestal as God’s greatest gift to anyone owning a stop watch.  The problem is there aren't many good resources that explain many of the popular conditioning methods such as HIIT or how to progress into them. So when I write track programs for my weight loss and general fitness clients, I like to structure it like this:

*Though this is a track workout, this is not what I would give track athletes. This is for the gym goer who wants to get some workouts outside, improve their work capacity, lose weight and add to their overall level of bad-assery.*

Phase 1: GPP (General Physical Preparedness), Aerobic Power Development

If you’ve been training over the Winter, then you can probably forgo this phase. If you’re just getting off the couch, you need this. GPP is needed to ensure that your body is functioning and moving well before you start to stick it with more intensive and specific movements. Going into an intense track program without a good movement base to ensure proper mobility/stability would be akin to riding a bull without ever having rode a horse. It’s going to hurt and it won’t last long.

A standard weight-training plan, chalk full of diverse movements, should get you where you need to go. Recently, Coach Kelsey did an article on the subject of GPP, powerlifts and all things heavy for Tony Gentilcore that may give you better understanding of the subject.

The other goal of this phase should be some aerobic power development. Aerobic Power refers to the amount of energy (ATP) your aerobic system can produce in a given amount of time. This is needed to build an aerobic base for recovery between bouts on the track. Unless you’re performing slow, long distance runs (booooooring), the energy for almost all sprint work you do will largely come from the anaerobic system and depend on your aerobic system for recovery between the bouts. Therefore, if you lack an aerobic base, you’re not going to make it through many rounds of the “meat and potatoes” of wave 2.

Translation: Lets say you have a solar-powered hybrid (and hopefully you don’t drive like most hybrid owners). It runs on electricity and gas. The electricity can last a long time, but not produce a whole lot of energy at once or get you where you need to go fast. The gas can make you go faster, but is used up at a much higher rate and usually forces you to revert back to using electricity when it runs low. In this way, your body’s aerobic energy pathway (the one that uses oxygen) is like the electricity and the anaerobic pathway (no oxygen needed) is like the gas. If you aren’t driving hard, then the solar-pannels can actually charge your battery as you drive. If you drive really hard then you are forced to use you gas until it depletes and you must slow down and use electricity.

Now the cool thing about your body that unfortunately our cars can’t do, is it can use those solar panels (breathing) to regenerate the gas (anaerobic pathway), just at a very slow rate. Traditional distance running at a slow, steady pace will give you a bigger battery (aerobic capacity), but will not help you to recharge any faster (aerobic power). For phase 1, we’re going to be improving the battery slightly, but mainly focus on connecting those solar panels to help you recharge faster.

I personally like to develop aerobic power work while performing GPP work through circuit training. Maintaining your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 160 (+/- 10 bpm depending on age)  throughout a workout of 40-60 minutes is really all you need to get a training stimulus for the aerobic pathway. Not letting your heart rate dip much below 110 will keep your aerobic system going and help with overall work capacity, though the main adaptation we want comes from the brief rest periods between exercises that should help with aerobic power. After each set, it’s important to let the heart rate drop back down to around 100- 110 bpm so as not to rob yourself of the power adaptation. We then get it back up and repeat. Doing this 2-3x/week at varying intensities will produce the aerobic power needed in roughly 3-4 weeks. I should also note that it really helps to put running style movements into the workout.

For example, the workout would look something like this:

3-5 Rounds: :20-40 between exercises 2-3:00 between rounds of active mobility work (not static stretching)

A1. RDL                                                       x5-7

A2. 3 Point Row                                          x8/side

A3. Spiderman Crawl                                  x 10 yds down and back

A4. Stepback Goblet Lunge                        x8/side

A5. Plank                                                     x:30

3-5 Rounds: :20-40 between exercises 1:00-2:00 between rounds

B1. Goblet Squat                                          x8-12

B2. Pushup(adjust as needed)                    x6-8

B3. Lateral High Knees                                x10-yds/side

B4. Side Plank                                             x:15/side

* The rest periods should be manipulated so that that individual can stays within the 120-160 BPM throughout the circuit. When you rest between sets, let it drop down to 100-110*

This initial stage is when you should start running and acclimating your body to the repetitive motions, strides and forces if you haven't already. Let the aerobic development of the circuit training be your main conditioning whereas your actual running work should be more technique focused. Nothing fancy, work up to running 1.5 miles TOTAL at a steady working pace in one training session. I recommend doing this by just breaking it up in shorter bouts and making sure you’re RUNNING, not jogging (jogging makes you easier to kill). Again, if you already run one to two times per week, you’re probably good to go. This could even be a game of any field sport on weekends. The purpose of all this is more to be sure that when you start adding time on the track that your body doesn't have a negative response to the sudden increase in running volume.

Phase 2: Explosive Repeats and Extensive Tempo

The quick bursts of explosiveness followed by longer rest may seem easy, but you’re actually maximizing the quality of work being done for the session. The fast twitch muscle fibers that we’re addressing have the most capacity for growth. They are also more anaerobically based. This workout is designed to help teach them to recover aerobically (beefin’ up dem solar panels) and allow for more overall quality sprint work to be done. It also allows us to ease into our sprint work more efficiently. Waaay too many programs take you into high intensity sprint work too quickly which usually results in muscle pulls.

The constant repetitiveness of the acceleration phase of the sprint is also going to tax your muscles without taking you into the max velocity phase of the sprint. Plainly stated: in the acceleration phase, your muscles must primarily focus on the overall force output. In contrast, during the max velocity phase you have to fight to keep up the pace and maintain a high rate of force production. It is then that you have a higher chance of muscle pulls or strains, especially as you try to maintain that speed longer.

It’s for these reasons that for this first day,most of our work is in the acceleration phase. Each work bout should last between 8 and 12 seconds and be timed so that you don’t reach your max velocity of the rep until about 5-15 meters from your finishing point.

On the second day, we’re going to introduce some longer distance sprint work at moderate intensities. The longer distance helps trainees to self-regulate their sprint speed so they can maintain form for the duration of the sprint. This should negate any issues that usually arise from training the max velocity maintenance phase that was mentioned in the previous paragraph. It’s also going to help the trainee to collect his/her sprinting rhythm.

Sprinting rhythm is something that must be practiced before indulging in any sprint-style conditioning program. That’s why we’re doing it now before moving onto the most intensive phase. Many people like to over-tense their body, thinking more effort means more speed. More effort often means wasted effort and the longer distance sprints will make you think twice before wasting it. It also gives you more time to collect said rhythm.

These workouts will be done in an A-B-A-B fashion, totaling 3 workouts per week. Meaning over 4 weeks, you should have had 12 track workouts. If you’re limited on time, doing these each once per week will still provide huge benefits, however I would scale the next phase back a little. Also, I should note that I’d recommend still maintaining an intelligent weight training program in cohesion with this twice per week.

**A quick note on the intensity percentage: It’s meant for the intensity of the relative distance. Meaning that if I can run 100m in 10 seconds at 100% intensity, then it would take me 12 seconds to run 100m at 80% intensity. Your estimated time does not have to be 100% accurate, you’ll have a feel for it after your first couple workouts. But, if you start missing your projected/estimated on bouts, then add more recovery time.**

A Day

1)General Warm Up

2)Striders 3-5 rounds increasing intensity with each set

3)Explosive repeats: 

*Vary your reps based on heart rate. 8:00 minutes of active rest between sets. Fit in some dynamic mobility work and form drills in the 8:00.*

Workout 1   2x6-8 40M Sprint at 85-90%. :50-1:00 between reps,

Workout 3   2x7-9 40M Sprint at 85-90%. :40-:50 between reps

Workout 5   2x7-9 40M Sprint at 90-95%. :35-:45 between reps

Workout 7   2x6-8 50M Sprint at 85-90%. :35-:45 between reps

workout 9   2x7-9 50M Sprint at 90-95%. :35-45 between reps

workout 11    2x7-9 50M Sprint at 90-95%. :30-40 between reps

B Day

1)General Warmup

2)Build Ups

3)Extensive Tempo Runs:

*Do not add more than 600M at a time to your total volume between sessions*

Workout 2 3x3-5 200M at 75% 30 with 2-3:00 between reps 5-6:00 between sets

Workout 4 3x4-5 200M  at 75% 30 with 2-2:30 between reps 6:00 between sets

Workout 6 4x3-4 200M  at 80% with 1:30-2:30 between reps 5:00 between sets               

Workout 8 4x2-3 300M at 75% with 2-3:00 between reps 5-6:00 between sets

Workout 10 2x4-6 300M at 75% with 2-3:00 between reps 7:00 between sets     

Workout 12  3x3-4 300M at 80% with 2-2:30 between 5-6:00 between sets

Phase 3: Lactate Capacity

With the exception of certain sporting events, lactate capacity work is really overused  in conditioning programs. However, it does yield nice results in a general weight-loss program due to the increase in GH that high levels of lactate yields. This phase is a bit more grueling as your muscles are going to be pumping battery acid on the 400 M repeats. Recovery-based movements will be done immediately after to move the lactate from the prime movers to the tonic/stabilizing muscles. This will help because tonic muscles are generally more slow twitch and thus better suited to metabolize the lactate and recover. This is also why developing the aerobic power from the last wave will be so crucial. If you did not attain the necessary base, your recovery time between each bout will be significantly longer, making the training stimulus we’re shooting for less effective.

If we go back to our car analogy, this wave is going to get your car to be able to floor it longer, then utilize those solar panels to be able to floor it again. We’re also going to put in a day to ensure that everything stays aligned and running well.

Depending upon how well your body handles it (and how well you can feel your legs the following days) you can do the 400m repeats UP TO twice per week. This will largely depend on your recovery and general training history.

A Day -If only doing once per week, do the odd days

1)General Warmup

2)Build Ups

3)400M repeats: All to be done at 85-95% effort depending on how you feel. Perform a slow cross crawl march for about :30 of recovery time

Workout 1 2x3-4 400M sprint with 1:30 between reps   5:00 between sets

Workout 2 3x3-4 400M Sprint with 1:45 between reps  6:00 between sets

Workout 3 4x3 400M sprint with 1:30 between reps  5:00 between sets

Workout 4 2x5 400M sprint with 2:00 between reps 4:00 between sets

Workout 5 4x3-4 400M sprint with 1:15 between reps

Workout 6 2x5 400M sprint with 1:30 between reps

Workout 7 4x4 400M sprint with 1:00 between reps

Workout 8 2x5 400M sprint with 1-1:30 between reps

The second day only needs to be done once per week as it’s just helping to feed your body for the 400m repeats. This is going to be a less traditional workout and focus on quality sprint work at a lower relative intensity when compared to the A day, but you will be more active with drills in between bouts. The drills serve to add to the efficiency of your form and/or rhythm, keep your HR from dipping down too low and give you a break from the monotony of more or less running in circles. Keep in mind the effort of executing them right should be high and the intensity at which they’re performed should be low.

Where as the A day will have your metabolism ramped up for a more extended period of time after the workout, this workout will burn more calories intra-workout. It will also aid in recovery as your body stays in a predominantly aerobic state and includes movements that will address a greater diversity of tissues/joint motions.

As far as weight training with this phase. A 1-2x/week plan is adequate whereas 3x/week may be a little much for most people.

B Day

All sprints to be done at 80-90%, all form/mobility drills should be done at about a pace of :25-35 execution. HR never dips below 110.

A1) 30-50 M Sprint

A2) 50 M light A Skips

A3) 30-50 M Sprint

A4) 50 M Reverse Open Gate Skip

A5) 30-50 M Sprint

A6) 50 M Goose Steps

2:30-5:00 rest

Some 0ther drills that you can use/swap in and out: B Skips, Butt Kicks, light bounds,  and lateral step overs.

There you have it. Three waves of programming to get you off your butt and onto the track. Keep in mind to listen to your body and track your rest times carefully. From here, you could try traditional HIIT training or tabatta work as you should be pretty well suited for it. Go run and enjoy!

12 Core Exercises to Make You Harder to Kill and Easier to Look At

“Core” training is always a popular topic in the fitness field, but it’s usually as misunderstood as Bill Cosby after a root canal (or in general). Popular fitness divas, whose names must not be said, like to show you the best new crunch variation to hit your “Abz” or your “Luv Handles” and try to pawn it off as core training. Not to burst your bubble, but these aren’t real core exercises. These are usually just isolation exercises that happen to target a muscle or two of the torso.

“But my abs are part of my core”

True they can be considered part of your core, but they aren’t necessarily your core. Your core is a unit of muscles that work together to stabilize parts of your body during movement. Truth be told, it is very hard to define what the core actually is or consists of. Some people define it as, “from your head to your toes and everything in between.” Some people say it’s everything that attaches your pelvis to your rib cage. Coach Charlie had a great post a few weeks ago about how almost any exercise can work your core, but he points out that there’s a difference between working and targeting. In order for us to be on the same page on targeting the core, I feel that I should share my definition.

I define the core as the group of muscles that create a stable base for movement, allowing your limbs to accelerate, decelerate and transmit force through your body or an implement. In this way, the core becomes very relative to the activity or movement. It allows for an easier understanding of how the stabilizing area should be trained for maximal transfer to specific activities. Put simply, the muscles that define your core depend on the movement you're doing.

For Example: Watch above, you’ll notice the actual force generation comes from the hips and is transferred to the bat. You’ll also notice that the torso itself stays locked down as it’s rotated by the hips until his follow-through. The torso stays stable so that the force from the hips can be transferred effectively into the bat. This is the rotary stability (ability to stabilize rotation) function of the core. And for this movement, I’d broadly define the core muscles as the muscles that make the rotary stability for this movement possible: hip extensors/stabilizers, oblique slings, rectus abdominis, rotares/multifidi, scapular stabilizers and so on. By training these muscles to be active as a unit in rotary stability type movements, I should have the most carryover to his swing and a very effective core exercise.

Trying to work these muscles in isolated groupings would be akin to doing team building exercises by yourself. Isolation work has it’s time and place, but it rarely yields the results that most of us strive for. It misplaces much of your effort into one element, rewarding you with a false sense of satisfaction because you can, “feel the burn.” Just because you feel that muscle burning, does not mean you’re going to receive your desired training adaptation.

If you’re trying to look good naked, and you’re limiting your training stress to just one isolated muscle at a time, you might as well be doing HIIT with a shake weight. You need to put the stress over a large quantity of tissue to help elicit a much more potent metabolic stressor. The more fibers that are put under tension, the more calories that are burned and hormones that are released to elicit a training response. There's no better way to do this than through compound core movements.

If you’re trying to become harder to kill, training muscles in isolation has little carryover to movement, ESPECIALLY with core work. Your muscles don’t work in isolation when they are stabilizing your spine, allowing you to run, throw, punch, jump, kick or swing that bat. You need to focus on the sequencing of these muscles and their ability to stabilize and transmit forces effectively. This will allow you to run faster, punch harder, and protect that lower back better.

The main functions of the core can be grossly broken down into rotary stability, anti-extension and anti-flexion (lateral and linear) exercises as these strategies are usually how the muscles fight for stability. I have found that using my definition of the core, in cohesion with these functions, is extremely useful for being objective about what will carry over best for my athletes. It helps me pick the best variation of movement for particular sports and positions. I have also found that the variations that fit this bill, seem to be the most challenging and metabolically demanding exercises to hit your mid section. But, I’ll let you be the judge, here are my 12 favorites sorted from hardest to easiest and by category,

Anti Extension:

Dragon Flags


My training partner once slapped me in the gut after I did a set of these, his hand is still in a cast. This is probably the most advanced and grueling anti-extension exercise I know other than the Front Lever series. Dragon flags are a great way to include eccentric loading (lengthening phase) of the anterior chain. Just make sure to do them nice and slooooow, while keeping your body straight from the bottoms of your ribs to your toes. Admittedly, this one mainly focuses on the abz and may look like a crunch's foreign cousin, but it's a popular variation for gymnastic style training and strengthens your anterior core very quickly.

Turtle Rolls


Warning: Side effects of turtle rolling may include muscle soreness, strength gains, slight gas, shortness of breath and a sick feeling of satisfaction. This is another great anti-extension exercise that focuses on the anterior chain as a whole unit. Though the limbs do not move, there is still a transmission of force as your partner pulls you up and down. Maintaining this position at a slow tempo is extremely challenging, but can have huge mojo for any grapplers in the crowd.

Bodysaw Planks


Do you grow tired of normal planks? If you have sliders or a suspension trainer, give these babies a whirl. This is an anti-extension exercise that moves the vector of strain throughout the range of motion, causing different fibers of the anterior core to be stressed more than they would in other anti-extension exercises.

Rotary Stability

Landmine Rotations


This is a more advanced, standing, rotary stability exercise that will force you to create tension from the ground up. As you can tell from our intern, Mike, the goal is to keep your pelvis square with your hips and not allow any rotation from the spine as you move the barbell from side to side. A little weight can go a long way if you have longer limbs, so really focus on staying tight and increasing it slowly. I’m talking, “grind a pebble into a pearl with you butt cheeks,” tight.

Hard Rolls


There has never been a more straightforward name for an exercise. These are freaking hard when you first try them. You want to squeeze your opposite elbow and knee together while trying to touch the walls of the room with the other limbs. You’ll then pick your head up and look to the direction that you’re rolling. NO KICKING OR PUSHING OFF, USE ONLY YOUR INTERNAL TENSION FROM THE ELBOW AND KNEE! It helps to squeeze a basketball or something in between your elbow and knee when first starting out. This is what you see our athlete, Red, doing above. The decreased ROM will make it much easier to recruit the desired fibers. Once you can master this, dump the ball and go elbow-to-knee.

Wide Stance Pallof Press


This one will help get those buns of steel while still hitting your abz and obliques. There are many different variations of the pallof exercise, I just really happen to like the wide-stance for limiting adductor recruitment (they like to help people cheat). Once it becomes easy, you can start moving on to the chop and lift version to help you kick more butt with your Bo staff.

Deadbug with Stability Ball Squeeze


This exercise can be deceivingly brutal due to the constant tension placed into the ball. You’ll quickly feel it working and learn how to recruit the right fibers to resist rotary forces and lumbar extension. It’s a great place to begin as you progress to the harder variations listed above.

Anti-Flexion (Mainly laterally)

Overhead Pallof Press


Rotary stability at the bottom with some nice lateral flexion-resistance at the top. Though you can load up the fireman carry way more, I would say this one is more difficult and more directly challenges the lateral system when paused at the top. People will literally go weak in the knees and start hiking through the hip on this, so be tight, stay stable, square and reach for the stars!... Then hold that reach for infinity!

Fireman Carry


Put something heavy on one shoulder and walk. It’s simple and a great way to resist lateral flexion while building up the muscles of your side. There’s a reason Firemen are strong.

2 Point Single Arm Bent-Over Row


This is a great anti-forward-flexion exercise that also has a hint of rotary stability. It’s surprising the amount you will feel this in your anterior core when breathing correctly, despite being in a hinge dominant position. You’ll notice this is the only anti-forward-flexion exercise that I’ve really listed. I find that the back extension pattern is already worked enough in main movements like deadlift and squat variations and rarely needs to be targeted with extra work.

Suitcase Carry


There’s no exercise more applied to everyday life than picking up something heavy and carrying it. Doing one side at a time will help you to resist flexing to one side or falling over. Though this one is simpler than the others, don’t underestimate its usefulness in a training program.

My Favorite All Around:

Renegade Row


This hits a little bit of each of the core functions. I consider these much more of a core exercise than an actual row. The limiting factor is never the rowing strength. It’s always the ability to stabilize on the 3 points of contact, so don’t be an egomaniac and use typical rowing weights. Also, for the love of all that is Holy, please don’t look like a hungry cow when you perform them. I see people attempt them all the time, letting their hips sag way too low while their head nears the ground, like they’re about to graze on some grass. It makes me want to bang my head against the wall until that form makes sense. Keep the hips level with the shoulders and square with the ground as you row. It’s that simple.

Try throwing a few of these variations into your next routine. Remember to progress yourself into them as many are harder than they look. After a few weeks, you'll be punching sharks and turning heads like never before!

Priming Your Programming

Programming is the poetry of the Strength & Conditioning world, except way more awesome and less awkward to talk about in public. Some programs flow smoothly, creating synergy in movement and some seem to be as random and mundane as a lazy haiku. If you're on this site and reading this, chances are that you have experienced both. And chances are, you've seen the differences in effectiveness as well.

Most people will go with simple antagonistic pairings, ensuring that the exercises don't pull from one another. A simple push-pull template works well for this and is a common go-to for any trainer or coach. Others may go with simple muscle group splits within their pairings, addressing certain fibers appropriately while others rest. Some may even choose to do all their sets of one exercise at a time, not worrying about pairings. These are all tangible ways to design a program, but what if I told you that there was a way to have your pairings improve the effectiveness of one another? To, "prime" some of the movements in the program if you will. (It's oddly satisfying dropping the title of your article in the article).

Yes that's right, by putting certain exercises together, you can actually improve the movement efficiency and strength. I've seen this work with individuals of all training ages. We've had experienced lifters PR and we've had newb trainees show significant improvement in execution of the exercise between sets.

The reason for this is biofeedback. With any exercise of corrective or, "functional" measure, you should see some instantaneous changes in movement when done correctly. Whether it's a sudden increase in range of motion or a new found ability to stabilize a joint. Using  a movement to practice muscle synchronization or just prime muscle activity can create a temporary increase in function. Pairing movements that carryover with biofeedback is a sure fire way to drastically improve the effectiveness of the workout. Not only will the trainee be able to lift more weight in the applied movement, it will make the improved function stick that much more. It's a win-win!

So what exercises work well together? Ones that are working upon different aspects of the same pattern. So for example, a deadbug is mainly focusing on the ability of the obliques to stabilize the spine as the hip extends and shoulder flexes. This is addressing activation of the anterior oblique sling, a system of muscles that act together in gait eccentrically during the push-off phase and concentrically during leg swing. If this system is dysfunctional, it's going to severely impact the individual's ability to control the rotation during things like gait or throwing. Due to this, deadbugs are a perfect pairing for a lunge variation, especially for those individuals who like to turn out at the hips. By pairing lunges with deadbugs, we're priming the obliques to stabilize the pelvis/torso and talk to the adductors to stabilize the rotation of gait. This will improve the force transmission of the lunge and create better acceleration and deceleration. AKA Better performance!

Thought must also be put into the threshold strategy at which you're training your client. If you plan on pairing two intensive movements, the chance of good carryover between the two will be minimal, though you can still get a great training affect. Of course, as the individual becomes stronger and more trained, they will be able to perform more advanced variations of each and still have them compliment each other. I personally like to scale it by goal of the more compound movement and training level of the client: higher intensity and max strength work = low threshold pairing. Accessory movements = moderate threshold depending largely upon individual's abilities and training age.

** I feel this should be noted: Any low threshold work you do she be able to be done while maintaining good, diaphragmatic breathing, this will carryover much better as it'll address the local stabilizers much more. You can learn more about threshold strategy here.

So for example, if I have a client squatting heavy for their main movement, I will most likely pair that with a quadruped rocking variation.  The rocking is a low threshold version of the squat, so it's addressing  the tonic muscles (stabilizers rather than prime movers). This will make the local stabilizers within the spine and hips be more active in the pattern and improve the actual squat. I can also manipulate the rocking variation to address any issues in the squat pattern. So if I want to get more out of the anterior  chain of stability, allowing them into a deeper position, I may try an RNT quadruped rockback vs a band. You could get as creative with it as you want for your training purposes. I've seen great success with not only getting people squatting better, faster, but even in improving depth and ease of movement in some of my experienced trainees.

This guy is tall and has a ways to go down, so emphasis is placed on the eccentric phase in the squat and the rock.
This guy is tall and has a ways to go down, so emphasis is placed on the eccentric phase in the squat and the rock.

You're going to find that certain movements create more biofeedback for some individuals than others. This is where a good evaluation becomes key to really dissect what needs to be addressed. However, for the most part you are going to see that certain exercises just really mesh well with each other to get people moving optimally. This is why if you look at the templates that I have created in Concentric Brain, you will see that my pairings are matched up as such. All I have to do is match the right intensities and ensure that the variations are appropriate for that individual.

Some other pairings that I really like:

Side Planks and Step Ups: It's pretty common to see some hip hike in step ups, though not at all desirable. A common issue is that people will have poor frontal plane stability and  be limited in training this exercise. There is usually some dysfunction in the way the QL, obliques, glute med and adductors talk to each other to stabilize the pelvis in that chain. I have found side plank variations to be great tools for having instant carryover in this pattern. You can choose the variation that puts emphasis on the muscle that you think may be the weak link. They're also very scalable in intensity, making them usable for all levels of trainee.

Concentric Brain has a plethora of side plank variations for you to match to your client.
Concentric Brain has a plethora of side plank variations for you to match to your client.

Bird Dogs and Overhead Presses: Yup, the exercise that has traditionally been a cook-book back care exercise can actually help your overhead press. The bird dog links several movement systems together and when performed correctly should really help with alignment while the shoulder and hip go through full ranges of motion. It's a relatively low threshold movement and as such should get the tonic muscles more active. As I noted in last week's blog, alignment and positioning are the keys to a good overhead press. I've also found that playing with the hand positioning  in quadruped rocking variations can be advantageous by creating more scapular stability via the serratus anterior.

SFMA Rolls and Balance Work: Biofeedback actually works on many more levels than just altering range of motion or mechanics. It can actually work with sensory components as well. Many people look at SFMA rolling as a way to disassociate upper and lower limb movements and work on rotational mechanics. They do all of those and because of that, they can have great carryover to almost any movement for those less coordinated. But the other thing they do that is they help to stimulate the vestibular system via the otoliths within the cohclea. Gravity gives us sensory feedback by using the gel-like substance within the otoliths to pull on the hair follicles. Sensory information about the positioning of the hair follicles is sent to the CNS and tells us which way is up. With a lot of people, especially older clientele, this feedback may be muffled due to less sensitivity of the hair follicles. The SFMA rolling patterns make them slowly roll back and forth, causing more movement of the gel-like substance within the cochlea and stimulating the vestibular system. This creates carryover into upright movements by capitalizing on the increased stimulation and its transfer to body awareness. If the rolls are a little too much for someone (they get dizzy easily) then you can even gently rock/shake them while supine to help recalibrate the gel-like substance first. So long as you can put your hands on your client that is.

Slide from the upcoming rehab-based class I will be teaching at NPTI. AKA Shameless self-plug.
Slide from the upcoming rehab-based class I will be teaching at NPTI. AKA Shameless self-plug.

As you can tell, you can get pretty creative with the combinations. There are several pairings that I use that I didn't even mention in this article for length's sake. All it takes is a bit of thought, creativity and some trial and error. As long as you are taking notes, you'll soon have a toolbox full of pairing variations to get people moving right. This becomes extremely helpful when creating your templates and when put in Concentric Brain, you can easily just pick the variation of the movement appropriate for that person. Once you have your methods and templates down, you will be writing smooth works of art in no time.

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Elevation Training Masks: Tool or Trend?

Trends come and go in the fitness industry and most of the time, I’m happier to see them go. Every once in a while there is some validity to the method/workout/diet/equipment and it can be usefully implemented by a trainer or coach who has done the research and knows how it should fit into the program. On the other end of the spectrum, you see less reasonable individuals throw the trends directly into their program, ignorant of the effects it may yield on the trainee.

One such trend seems to be the high elevation masks. For those that don’t know, these masks are supposed to create an hypoxic(oxygen decreased) environment to stimulate affects similar to high altitude training. They also make you look like Bane, which is a just as important variable. They have become very popular in many different circles and even I fell victim to the challenge they added to workouts after receiving one for Christmas about 4 or 5 years back. I played with it for about a month before doing some digging on the subject and finding that it wasn't the best tool for my goal of crushing the upcoming Tough Mudder. So I threw it in the closet and forgot about it until recently, which is what sparked this blog post.

The Dirt

Now hypoxic training is still relatively infantile in research. Anthony Roberts has a great article on the contradictory and limited research and how it applies to these masks. One major bump in the road that he hints at, that I would like to reiterate, is that we are assuming that these masks do indeed create an hypoxic environment similarly to that of the hypobaric chambers and areas of high elevation that are used in the research. Though they do decrease the amount of oxygen in which you uptake while wearing them, they do so in a different way. It manipulates the rate at which you can ventilate, so it’s almost as if you’re forced to breath through a straw. Whereas traditional elevation training and research puts you in an environment in which there is less atmospheric pressure, making less oxygen available within the air you breath, creating a slightly different effect. There is no research(from unbiased sources) to suggest whether or not this creates any difference in physiological adaptation but I would theorize that it does. The reason I say this is  the resistance provided on inhalation is going to stress muscles of respiration in a different way than breathing the thinner air at the top of a mountain.

So let's assume despite the difference in the way it decreases oxygen, that it still creates an hypoxic environment. There is also the debacle of how traditional high-altitude training is used and how these masks are used. Though hypoxic training research is limited, it has traditionally been used as a means for endurance athletes to increase their levels of hemoglobin due to the need for their systems to maintain homeostasis in the face of hypoxic environment. The main supported method of doing this is to live high, and train low(LHTL).  In order for the elevation mask to replicate this, one would have to wear the mask for the majority of the day, except for when training, for about 3 weeks straight. If anyone feels committed enough to keep the mask on that long, then please tell me if it works, but be prepared to have the police called on you while in public.

Note: Of all hypoxic training techniques, the live high, train low method has been the most researched and used. One reason why endurance athletes have gravitated towards this method is that it provides the increased hemoglobin without sabotaging their workouts. When training in an hypoxic environment, work capacity becomes more limited as the system struggles for oxygen. This cuts the workouts short, and the decreased amount of work can have negative effects on other mechanisms that need to be trained. For more information you can also look here.

Though I’d like to have this as a tool to improve endurance training adaptations, I’ve found waaaay more research to support that intermittent hypoxic training yields no greater results than normoxic(training at sea level). You're better off taking it off. But this is going off of a lot of the research that used mainly aerobic-based exercise, which makes me wonder if it could have any affect when picking up heavy things?

What About Picking Up Heavy Things?

What’s interesting is that there are a few studies that delve into the influence that a hypoxic training environment can have on resistance training. One study done in Japan measured size and strength gains of elbow flexors and extensors after 6 weeks of training elbow flexion and extension for 4x10(Those dudes were bro’n out!). They found that size and strength increased significantly more in the hypoxic group and speculated that hypoxic resistance training may be a promising  new method.

The study performed at the Japan Institute of Sport Science that Roberts references in his article shows that a hypoxic environment can lead to more growth hormone and more localized endurance within the trained fibers(though strength and size were the same between groups). The thing is, I’m fairly certain that you could get similar results to what these studies found by just lowering the rest periods. By depriving the body of oxygen as in the hypoxic environment, you are essentially limiting its recovery between bouts of resistance exercise. I would think that this is going to place more metabolic stress on the tissues in question and force more of an endurance adaptation to the system. After all, the glycolytic system gets replenished aerobically. What’s more, is we know that for optimum hypertrophy results in resistance training, the rest periods need to be limited while intensity under load stays fairly high. This creates more lactic acid accumulation within the tissue and in turn leads to more growth hormone response. Not to mention it can be pretty grueling and make for an intense workout, which I’m sure the hypoxic groups would attest to. What I feel would be interesting is having the subjects gauge their efforts on an RPE scale as well and compare which group perceived more exertion. My money is on the guys with less air.

So What Good Are They?

Even though it’s impractical to use an elevation mask for traditional elevation training and the fact that it may only be a question of rest periods for its effects on resistance training, doesn’t mean that we should throw the baby out with the bath water. Though I would argue that the usefulness of these masks are very limited, there could still be a time and place(though not often). It's really just up to research to further itself on the subject to really confirm when that is. But, if I had to guess:

These masks seem to have the ability to stress the metabolic system with oxygen deprivation and will raise the heart rate faster with less movement intensity. They should also tax localized active tissue more quickly due to the poor oxygen supply to the muscle. When used, it will almost be as if the athlete's VO2 Max has been temporarily lowered, causing his lactate threshold to also lower. This could result in a higher rate of blood lactate accumulation within the active tissues and all the training adaptations that go along with it. Though I would say this is typically a negative aspect, as you would get less overall work out of the athlete, if they are injured and the goal is to keep up certain aspects of their conditioning, then I could see some possible benefit to it.

You could theoretically put the injured athlete through less rigorous movements to help avoid the injury in question and yet still get a higher-intensity conditioning affect on their system. A necessity for this to work would be having the trainee wear the mask for 15-20 minutes prior to exercise to help deplete resting levels of plasma oxygen. It should also be worn for a brief period afterwards. For anaerobic conditioning, you could have the athlete do a relatively lower intensity movement and get the heart rate to the point of their lactate threshold much easier than in a normotonic environment. For the aerobic conditioning, the same rules would apply, however you would just manage their heart rate and movement variations differently. I would also consider setting the mask to a higher oxygen deprivation level for the anaerobic conditioning to limit aerobic metabolism; Whereas for the aerobic, I may start with a higher level when the mask is first put on then decrease it for the exercise to allow the aerobic pathway more capacity. The issue is that the actual carryover that this would have to maintaining the athlete's work capacity or sport-specific condition would still have to be determined through further testing and study. Until then, the above ideas are all just speculation of how it could potentially be used and should be treated as such when considering implementation. (I personally will wait for more research before throwing this at someone.)

The other aspect of these masks that I feel could be useful is their resistance affect on the breathing mechanism. This would be less physiological in effect and more neuromuscular. Since you are essentially trying to suck air through a hole or hole(s) of variable size, you are causing the muscles of inhalation to work harder. This could be very beneficial if the coach is subjective about how the trainee is breathing and includes it within low threshold work on the right individuals. Many individualshave limited diaphragm involvement upon inhalation(think neck breathers). Introducing an elevation mask along with some world-class cuing could help to reinforce proper breathing function and add some more advanced breathing drill variations to your repertoire. You could also include it in core drills and force the trainee to inhale against resistance while maintaining the proper tension for the exercise. I personally like the idea of a forced-inhalation deadbug. Whereas I wouldn't go to this variation of breathing intervention with everyone, I could definitely see a time and place.

In Summary

To sum it up, these masks do have potential to elicit very unique affects on ones training. The problem is that the physiological adaptations that will come of it are still questionable when in comparison with other methods. I believe that more research is needed to validate whether they actually replicate a hypoxic environment similarly to an actual change in elevation for the individual. I also think that whether they do or don't replicate it, the ways they are currently being used and implemented into programs by most of their users are going to elicit sub-par results when compared to other means of training. This does not mean that they are completely useless though; They still create a unique affect to alter stressors on the body physiologically and neuromuscularly. This gives them potential to be useful, though there is no substantial proof as to the carryover it will have on performance. Until that proof comes, I'm going to say these masks are just a trend.