Posts Tagged ‘strength training pittsburgh’

I have used visualization in my training for many years. Skeptical at first, but the results of it have been great for training progress.

I first started using it during the 1980s when I was learning to trade sleep for study time at the University of Pittsburgh. I would take a study break and find a quiet spot and visualize where I was going to lift that day including the sounds, smells and feelings.

I would close my eyes and feel what the weight would be like on the first rep including the lift off. I would feel each successive rep getting heavier and more difficult to accomplish. Most importantly what the last rep which was my extra rep or increased weight from the last workout would feel like. I would always visualize the succesful completion of the rep. You really have to get your confidence up and “buy in” for the completion of the final rep.

My workouts became more businesslike and matter of fact. I went on some great training runs with this technique and I believe it to be well worth a try. Think of it as a very effective free training supplement.

A Junior High School Basketball player name Gavin approached us to ask me to help him develop his game to be able to play at a higher level.

After a functional assessment revealed some classic basketball imbalances we embarked on an interesting and what turned out to be record setting quest.

Over the next 12 weeks we addressed inadequate knee punching, overstriding and inefficient shin angles and a lack of drive at the shoulders which can contribute up to 10% of an athletes “oomph” when they accelerate. We also woke up his hamstrings since we explained his brakes would be key as much as his engine. We also addressed back jumping where athletes try to recruit slow twitch fibers in the back mistakenly rather than the power legs and glutes. We also provided some suggestions for alterations to his strength program getting into rep ranges designed to encourage fast twitch and enhance intermediate twitch conversion.

We introduced some work on eliminating false step and reaction work to movement, sound and color. Acceleration and Lateral movement continued to be overloaded.

We covered transition steps that occur when you have to stop start, turn and lateral transition, etc.

It should be noted that this young man never missed a training session and always took care of strength training sometimes at the facility and sometimes on his own.

Excellent outcome.

12 weeks later…Vertical Leap +10inches………..10 yard dash……. .45 improvement……. .6 improvement

Your ability to stop and start unpredictably is at the root of agility.

If you do not add the element of surprise(open drills) to your agility training repertoire, you become good at a skill like you get good at a golf swing or dancing or a ladder or cone drill.

Once the foundation of good mechanics is laid, unpredictability must follow unless you just want to be an instagram or combine or showcase star only.

Don’t play like a robot. Become an athlete.

I was on a trip to Disney in 2003 and we stopped in at the Hall of Presidents. There was a great scene there that stuck with me and it was a conversation between Mark Twain and Ben Franklin I believe. Twain said, “The greatest enemy to progress is success.”

After thinking about this off and on through the years there are several reasons why this is true. One would be the obvious which means you get complacent and let yourself get comfortable with the status quo. Problem is things around you are always changing and you must be aware of this whether it is how you live your life, money decisions, business decisions, etc.

Another less obvious reason is that you are making progress and doing well and be wrong about the reasons why you are making progress. A training example would go as follows. Someone has been lifting for only a few years and decides that more will be better. They get locked into what they see on youtube or online magazines and figure that they can live in the gym and make better progress. I am here to tell you that this could not be further from the truth. You actually need MORE recovery time as you get better at generating training intensity. In the end your nervous system recovery will be the limiting factor. There is no natural drug free override of this mechanism. But I digress.

A simple business example would be thinking that running a certain ad online will lead to more business since the same ad led to big results in the past. You neglect to look further into who has seen this ad and realize that it fell into a region with high discretionary income. Wasn’t necessarily the ad but the market that it reached.

The devil is always in the details. I have made it part of my everyday learning to study mental models and ways of thinking outside of my own paradigms. Knowing the absolute causes of the effects you are experiencing will greatly enhance your own chances of “success”.

It also doesn’t hurt to take a pause when presented with a stimulus to prevent a knee-jerk reaction which you will regret later on. There is a time to think quick and a time to think slow. It’s in the way that you use it.

“Progress” is nothing more than an outcome of which you need to be really certain of the source.

If you are an advanced trainee how would you like to add 10-15 pounds to your bench as well as increase your pec and upper body mass in 12 weeks. If you are an intermediate, how does 15-20 pounds sound?
The so-called “secret” to these gains involves using the bench press in the power rack. The power rack is an advanced tool and is not for beginners or early intermediate trainees. It is a largely neglected method since it is not in style and is very difficult work. Many sources have espoused the use of the power rack including Bill Starr, Brooks Kubik, and Dr. Ken Leistner to name a few.
To further convince the reader of the power rack’s efficacy is not difficult. Consider the following scenario. A certain trainee had been stuck at 255 for 5 repetitions on his best set of bench presses. This stagnant period lasted for an incredible 2 years. This certain trainee gave the power rack a shot and lo and behold at the end of the 12-week routine he performed a 275 for 5-rep set.
The routine calls for the chest to be worked heavily once per week while cutting back on work for the shoulders and triceps. Say about 3 heavy sets for each of these groups no more than once per week. Don’t let this low volume of work scare you. You will not get weaker or smaller. Do not accept this mindset. Push hard on the sets that you have limited yourself to.
Before we get into how to use the rack, let’s discuss form. Most trainees (the author included) have learned to press the bar in a vertical line off the chest with the elbows flared out at 90 degrees from the sides. This is great in placing stress on the pectorals, but will inhibit your poundage potential and size and strength gains in the long run. Try this version instead. Lower the bar under control, not necessarily super slowly, to the nipple line while keeping the elbows in towards the lats. Shoot for 45 degrees or so between the upper arms and the ribcage. If you are a wide grip bench presser, this may necessitate moving the grip in several inches so that this can be accomplished. This increases the distance the bar must travel, but the payoff is that you are now coiled like a spring at the bottom portion of the movement. Drive the bar off the chest while simultaneously digging in with your feet and exploding with your chest as well as your latissimus. The first 2-3 inches can be a vertical drive off the chest. At this point allow the bar to drift back towards the clavicles while still driving upward. When it feels right, swing the elbows out to 90 degrees and drive the bar back towards the eyes to complete lockout. Be sure to have a spotter stand by, as this form feels very strange to “vertical” bench pressers. It just so happens that an easy place to learn how to do this is in the power rack. Warm up by doing two to three sets of benches with the form described earlier. If you are new to this, allow yourself a few weeks to learn the form before pushing hard on the rack program. Place the pins in the rack such that the bar is resting just above the chest. Prepare to do a few more warm up sets before reaching a weight that is about 40 pounds or so below your best set of 5 in the bench. The start position is with the bar resting on the pins. Explode the bar off the chest in the form described earlier in the article. Lower the bar back to the pins in the same arc that the bar followed on the way up. The bar should gently come to rest on the pins. Without bouncing, repeat for the required number of repetitions. Resist the temptation to bounce the bar off the pins. Do not relax in the bottom position. This would be defeating the purpose of the rack. Do another set at this height in the same good form. Next, raise the pins up to the next available hole. You may want to do a practice set at this height before moving to your heavy set. Generally, one can use about 25 more pounds at this height. After your heavy set at this hole, raise the pins up to the next hole. A whole lot of weight can be used at this height since it is generally past everyone’s sticking point. About 50-75 pounds more can be used here. After this set, you will perform a regular set of bench presses in good, strict form. On this set you will experience what I call the” medicine ball effect.” Did you ever pick up a medicine ball in gym class and pass it back and forth for a few minutes, followed by the same with a basketball? Remember how light it felt? The same rule applies to this last set of bench presses. Your nervous system has been primed to “over recruit” muscle fibers for the lighter task at hand. The weight will feel lighter than if you had worked up to it in the traditional fashion because you already have had a set where maximal recruitment is necessary. The critical first few reps will feel lighter which is good psychologically for a strong finish on the set.
All heavy sets in your routine should be cycled for maximum success in the long run. Start out at eighty percent of your previous best poundages for week number one. Work up to your previous records over 6 weeks. During the next 6 weeks add 1 to 2 pounds per week(no more even if you could) to your exercises. You may add slightly more per week on the bigger, basic moves like the squat and bench. Do not add so much that you fail to achieve the required number of reps. This will kill your momentum and shatter your confidence. Tease the mind and keep it hungry for more weight. Feel free to take a light week on weeks seven and eleven. You will be surprised at how strong you feel after you take a week in which you use about eighty-five percent of your scheduled poundage. Cycling is not new and has been around in some shape or form for many years.
In summary, although the program is brief and focused, it is a specialization program that has worked time and time again. Almost all of my trainees have had great success with it as I alluded to earlier. Rid yourself of the mindset that your muscles must be annihilated with multiple sets in order to grow. This is simply untrue and leads to overtraining for most trainees. The intensity that one puts out during the set as well as poundage progression provides the stimulus for muscle growth. In order for the body to elicit the response, however, adequate rest and nutrition must be a given. A solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep and maintaining as tranquil a mind as possible should cover rest. A multivitamin supplement and a moderate protein, high carbohydrate, low fat diet with enough calories to at least maintain bodyweight should cover nutrition. Focus on the above routine, believe in it, and grow in size as well as strength.

Hi Ed,

This is the third year Irene has been working with Jake at Strength, Fitness and Speed. Her athleticism has improved greatly each year!

This being her junior year she has been attending a lot of Soccer ID camps. So we want to share some of the positive feedback she has been receiving from the college coaches. I attached part of an email we received after one of her camps she attended recently. It really is a testimony to Jake and SFAS!

Thanks for everything!

Chris

Irene is continuing in season recovery/maintenance! Commitment!

The Importance of In Season Maintenance for Sports

  • Many factors are involved in speed and strength development, including, but not limited to specific strength, specific power, and multiple neuromuscular movement patterns
  • There is a nervous system component as well as a muscular component
  • Unfortunately, without continued tending to these factors, SAQ and strength has a detraining component.
  • The nervous system gains decrease first after 2 weeks, followed by specific muscle gains after about 6 weeks or so. The end result is that one loses acquired strength, muscle, speed, agility, and quickness slowly over time.

A recent research study entitled, “DETRAINING AND TAPERING ADAPTATION ON STRENGTH AND POWER PERFORMANCE” was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Aug. 2007 and provides definitive scientific data that addresses your question of whether it is worth maintaining some level of training frequency versus stopping altogether and participating in a sport.

  In the study, speed and strength training was conducted for 16 weeks prior to the experimental detraining (DTR) or maintenance (MT) work.  Following the training period, DTR stopped additional exercise; the other group, MT, performed low volume, high intensity work periodically.  Both groups continued to participate in their given sport.  Following 4 weeks of this modification, DTR lost some strength but had over a 15% decrease in muscle power (slower running speed and lower vertical jump), while  MT (the group that continued with their performance training) showed a small increase in strength and maintained power (maintenance of performance gains)

We like to do a “flush” workout with the athletes along with myofascial release techniques which promote recovery. We also do low volume, high intensity drills which preserve and in some cases increase speed even though the athlete is “in season”. Recovery and maintenance is our key.

In order to maintain sports performance in season, one must also look at musculoskeletal changes that occur that inhibit performance. These include reduced thoracic and cervical mobility and a reduction in your body’s ability to use its deep abdominal muscles. Thoracic and cervical mobility are key factors in preventing concussions and are addressed accordingly.

Training is having an organized specific plan to achieve a very specific result.

Working from the endpoint backwards 12-16 weeks is a great place to start.

Any team that I have ever trained has always been asked the question: When does your season begin and what do you want to accomplish?

Working Out is going to the gym and saying today I feel like hitting chest and not having a clue as to what weight or scheme or goals you have going on. Working out is going to 3 different coaches for 3 different things(or even better 3 for the same thing) and having no scheme as to how these things should operate together. Cluster bomb results especially for advanced athletes.

Training is an organized approach to things. You can’t do a high rep high endurance crossfit session 3 times per week while trying to improve your 40 time or vertical leap for your season or a camp. Yes you can make progress but specific gains that involve explosion are being compromised.

High nervous system component work like acquiring a skill or refining a movement should take priority in your sequence of training in any given day. If this work is to be fit into a day here is an example. Working on pitching or throwing a javelin technique first, plyometric and CNS work next, strength to follow and any base conditioning or GPP work last.

Plyometric work at the end of any training day makes no sense. If explosion is your goal then on and off box hops for high reps and high volume makes absolutely no sense. Depth jumps off of a box with 100 % effort for bouts of 3-5 makes plenty of sense done fresh early in training. You can’t improve power when NS fatigue or high lactic acid levels already exist.

Train. Be smart. Organize.

Auburn throwing athlete Maura Huwalt on her way up to 400(pictured)

This is the most common thing I hear from high school athletes. “I can’t move my bench and my knees hurt from squatting and I can’t get low enough. My poundages are stuck!”

“How often do you train?”, I ask.

“We max out every week and bench 3 days and squat or deadlift 3 days.”

HUH?

“But we are using the reverse pyramid, dynamic, hypnotic bungee cord, 12/10/8/6/4/2/1/1/1 BFS, triple decker 3 dimensional path to progress system,” they say.

“We use wobbly bench press bars and bamboo sticks and we squat all day on BOSU balls.”

HUH?

Listen. If you can CORRECTLY Bench 275, Squat 375, Clean 185 and Deadlift 400 then go for some crazy ACCESSORY work. If not then be concerned about getting to these lifts first. Benching correctly means you are not ricocheting the bar off of the back of your spine and your spotter is not pulling 50 of your 275 pounds. Squatting correctly means you are not bouncing off of a plyo box set at 1/2 Squat position and that your spotter is not bear hugging 50 pounds for you. Cleaning correctly is too hard to describe in words so I will not. Deadlifting means if you start your lift in a neutral lumbar position you finish it there. You are not riding the bar up your thighs by doing the limbo and standing up with it. Every Deadlift you hump will have a cost later in life trust me.

1 or 2  leg and push/pull days per week is plenty and often just 1 for legs.

Most individuals need to be concerned with how and when to add weight and how much effort is to be put forth at each training session. An effective training cycle allows trainees to make continual progress in size and strength cycle after cycle. Sticking points can be avoided by focusing on how the body adapts to training stresses and rolling with your body’s unique recovery ability as opposed to fighting against it with no results forthcoming. Don’t confuse this with lack of effort.

            This is a very simple periodization model and one actually has workouts where you are not going to all out failure. Read that again.

            There is much scientific evidence that supports the concept of cycling your training efforts. One such bit of proof comes from the many works of Dr. Hans Selye.(1) Yes I know it is very generalized but the concept holds true.

            One particular experiment involved imposing work upon rats. Rats that were given time to adapt to moderate levels of work(5 weeks or more) could then handle increasing intensities of work for months. Rats that were not given time to adapt at the moderate level could not handle increasing levels of work as the other rats did. The rats that did make it to the higher levels eventually failed to adapt any further despite increased amounts of food or even a return to levels of moderate work again. Performance continued to diminish.

            Does this sound familiar? Let me provide an analogy. I had been stuck for a year at 465 for 5 reps in the Full Squat. After a layoff, I would play with 415 or 435 for a few weeks before my assault on 465. I would push as hard as I could every leg workout to get the sixth rep. Occasionally I would switch exercises or try doing 20 sets to shock the exercise upward. Wrong answer. I was like the poor rats who did not have time to adapt to moderate levels of training stress. Older and wiser as they say. During one approach to the 465 pound wall I decided to hold back my efforts at the 415 pound mark. I added 10  pounds per week for 5 weeks and lo and behold, I hit 465 for 5 reps easily. I was behaving like the fortunate rats who had time to adapt to the moderate levels of stress. It did not stop there. I continued to add 5 pounds per week and went to 470, 475, 480, and then to 485 where I got stuck for 4 weeks. If I knew then what I know now, I would have terminated the cycle after 2 weeks of being stuck, rather than wasting 2 additional weeks. I had proceeded through what Dr. Selye described as the General Adaptation Syndrome.       This includes three phases: (1)Alarm Reaction(The weeks leading up to 465), (2)Resistance(The weeks leading up to the point that I adapted up to 485), and (3)Exhaustion(The 4 weeks I was stuck at 485).

            This is a very simple example of how to apply cycling efforts to your training. Rolling into the gym and doing what you feel like will lead to failure.

            The exhaustion phase inevitably comes on using any cycling approach. No matter how much effort is put forth, further gains are not forthcoming. I would stay at this point for 2 or maybe 3 weeks, to confirm that you are just not having a bad day. Remember, no matter how much effort one puts forth, one cannot bully their way through the exhaustion phase. Use common sense, bite the bullet and take a light week to recharge for the next training cycle. 

            In closing, I have used a cycling approach in some form or other for the last 35 years. I had thought I was at my genetically imposed limit before I tried it. It has allowed my strength and size to reach a level that I had previously thought unreachable. I strongly suggest that you give it a try in your own training.

More on the nuts and bolts of an effective cycle method on how and when to add weight in a future blogpost.

Disclaimer: These should not be used during a lower body strength or power cycle. These should not be used when you anticipate a sprint or lower body power test like vertical jump, etc. They are meant for an off season bump to your training.

You could use them on leg day maybe at the end of day. Or you could use them solo.

Here is the key. You must pick a weight that you can do for 10 failing at around 10. Then with 2-3 breaths between reps do 10 more reps with the same weight after that. 20 should be impossible but get it anyway. You should tease the body about survival a bit.

Why do these work? Read On. It gets thick. Read it anyway.

GROWTH HORMONE

 Growth hormone(GH) is a peptide hormone that is produced in the anterior segment of the pituitary gland. GH has a role in the growth and development of bone, connective, visceral, adipose, and muscle tissue. GH may act either indirectly or directly. Directly speaking, GH may bind directly to a GH receptor on a muscle cell where it then exerts its anabolic effect. On the other hand, some studies show that GH exerts its effects indirectly by stimulating the release of somatomedins from the liver. Somatomedins bind to the plasma membrane of the muscle cell, where it carries out growth promoting effects. Regardless of how GH works its magic, it promotes the hypertrophic response by stimulating amino acid transport into the muscle cell and translating these amino acids into protein. GH output is obviously something we want to maximize, so what is the best way to do it?

In most studies it appears that GH release is related to intensity of exercise, volume of work performed, and shorter rest periods. In one particular study, a comparison between 2 different exercise protocols on evoked GH responses during and after weight training exercise was carefully observed.(10) One protocol consisted of 5 sets of 5 repetitions with a variety of basic exercises using a weight that was 80-95% of each movement’s 1 repetition maximum. A second protocol consisted of 3 sets of 10 repetitions with the same exercises using a weight that was 70-85% of each movement’s 1 repetition maximum. Rest periods for the first protocol were 3 minutes. Rest periods for the second protocol were 1 minute. Growth hormone levels during and after exercise were significantly higher using the second exercise protocol. Lactate levels increased during the second exercise protocol and not in the first, leading the researchers to believe that lactate may be the stimulus for GH increases. Other studies bear out the same contention.(11)

Diet also has important ramifications concerning GH release. During the first 1-2 hours of sleep, a significant pulse of GH is released into the bloodstream. The presence of glucose in the bloodstream, and therefore usually insulin,  has been shown to inhibit GH secretion. Therefore, theoretically it seems to make sense to avoid a high carbohydrate meal close to bedtime. A better option would be a high protein shake or snack coupled with some low glycemic index carbohydrates so as to minimize a large increase in insulin.

                                                              TESTOSTERONE

Testosterone is a steroid hormone that has an anabolic effect on skeletal muscle tissue. Anyone who has seen an athlete that supplements with anabolic steroids can see what modified testosterone can do.

Anyhow, under normal physiologic conditions a region of the brain called the hypothalamus secretes GnRH which stimulates the anterior segment of the pituitary gland to release LH(luteinizing hormone) into the bloodstream. LH then stimulates the Leydig cells of the testes to create and release testosterone into the circulation. At rest, 97% to 99% of this hormone is bound to SHBG(sex hormone binding globulin) or albumin. The rest is active and free to exert its effects.(2) Anabolic effects are due to the fact that testosterone increases protein synthesis and decreases protein catabolism within the muscle fiber. To delve a little further yet, testosterone binds with receptors in the cytosol of the cell which causes an increase in the transcription of the genes located on nuclear DNA that code for the synthesis of muscle proteins. The messenger RNA that results from this returns to the cell cytosol where actual protein synthesis occurs.(3) This is great but how do you get your testes to make more of this stuff? Several studies demonstrate that weight training induces elevated testosterone levels during and after exercise. It seems as if the most important factors in eliciting an elevated testosterone response are the amount of muscle mass used in a movement as well as the total work performed.(4,5) This tells us that for the most efficient testosterone release we want to be sure to include the squat, deadlift, and bench press in our routines. Doing higher rep sets of 10 and even 12 so as to increase total work performed may be advantageous in maximizing testosterone output. Sets of 5 repetitions still have their place in any routine, but they are not as efficient in eliciting testosterone secretion.

How about those old time 20 rep squat routines that were touted as being able to pack on lots of muscle mass and add to your vitality. Both criteria for maximizing testosterone secretion are overwhelmingly met. Maybe those old timers were onto something. Myself and many of my clients achieved personal best lifts in UPPER BODY lifts while on a 20 rep squat cycle. This implies that one must look not just at the effects of a specific exercise on a target movement or bodypart, but systemic effects of various schemes as well.

Enough said.