Friday, May 16, 2014

Goals for Strength, Power, and Endurance

Like no one can serve two masters, you can't have two primary goals. You could have a primary goal and a couple of secondary goals, and a handful of minor goals, so long as there are no direct conflicts. In general. There might be some exceptions.

Recently on a Facebook group I belong to for Ultra Runners (running a distance greater than a marathon, typically 50k, 50 mi, 100k, 100 mi) someone posted about slow tired legs after doing a strength/weight training workout. I commented about setting your goals and using the right protocols for training.

If running is your primary goal, then your strength training should support your running and not interfere with it.

  • 3 sets of 10 at moderate weights uses some endurance specific muscle fibers and has the potential to detract from running training
  • 8 sets of 3 at heavy weights uses strength specific muscle fibers and normally won't interfere with running training
  • 5 sets of 5 at moderate weights does use a mix of muscle fibers and can be recoverable or not depending on failure and rest.
  • 4 sets of 25 at light weights is a high volume training protocol that can improve training efficiency if used with moderation, even though it uses almost exclusively endurance specific muscle fibers.

RDL (Romanian Dead Lift) from my "Mountaineering Fitness: Beginner Training Manual" coming soon.

The caveat to these is that normally the first is a bodybuilding protocol so you would be going to failure with at least the final set. Normally the second is a powerlifting protocol and you'd avoid the negative and rest as needed to avoid failure. The third is a general do-it-all protocol and you'd rest as needed to avoid failure.

Failure is a bodybuilding protocol. If you don't go to failure you somewhat reduce the chances of getting big muscles. Big muscles are generally a no-no for any distance more than once around the track (400 meters). With sprinting short distances, your muscles all work together to generate speed, so you do generally end up with larger muscles as you are faster. This is a chicken/egg situation. Sometimes sprinting a lot gives you big muscles. Sometimes having big muscles leans you more toward sprinting as a specialty.

Springtime Trail Running includes mud, ice, slush, snow. Enjoy.

If your goal is to run fast 100 meters, then by all means train hard and heavy with a variety of protocols. If you have a secondary goal to do a 400 pound raw squat, then by all means go for it. These two goals will not interfere with each other, and might even supplement each other with a synergistic effect.

If your goal is to run a marathon, then you should probably stick to 8x3 or 5x5 for most of your training, and never fail. You might only be able to do body weight bar loads for these, if even. It might take a couple years of training for an average runner to achieve that load, but it is well within their ability, in general. As an example, if you're an average runner at 170 pounds, you could do:

Squat: 5 @ 170 x 5
Bench Press: 5 @ 170 x 5
Dead Lift: 5 @ 170 x 5
Romanian Dead Lift: 5 @ 170 x 5
Pull-up: 5 @ BW x 5

And that would be a great workout.twice a week. If I were writing up that program, I'd add it in on cross training days, and the day before rest day, such as the Hal Higdon training programs include like this one at [CLICK HERE]

1Cross3 m run5 m run3 m runRest5 m pace8
I would have my trainee do their two weight sessions on the Monday Cross Training Day, and the Thursday Run Day. The Friday Rest Day will be plenty of time to allow for rest before the Saturday Pace Run Day.

So as you can see, it's all about your priorities and goals and how you want to train to make them happen. If you need help learning how to prioritize your mixed training goals into more synergy and complementary training objectives, please sign up for my Lose Weight Gain Muscle Newsletter [CLICK HERE] for weekly updates on how to make it all work together for the best success in the least time.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Personal Trainer Personalities Part One

I've seen quite a few personal trainers over the years. I've interacted with quite a few too. Over the past few years I've had a few contact me on various social media sites. If you recall at one time I was certified by ISSA, which is recognized by many clubs and institutions. While this lends a certain amount of credibility for some, there are always the college educated ones out there too.

If you've never climbed a difficult peak in a remote setting, you might be able to offer valid training advice.
According to the reputable Mark Rippetoe:
A modern university education is most often an expensive waste of money. Universities compete for students. They do so by developing a reputation students are attracted by, and by offering degree programs they think students will want to pursue, whether they are useful or not, marketable or not, or even legitimate in an academic sense. They host sometimes-successful sports teams, they spend money on beautiful campuses, and they cultivate an academic reputation by hiring faculty who publish in peer-reviewed journals. They seldom cultivate an academic reputation by hiring competent teachers – people who know how to communicate the material to college students, regardless of their publishing history. T-Nation
He goes on to rip on the publishing machine based on irrelevant studies:
So it turns out that as you get tired, the exercise gets harder. And the longer you rest, the easier it gets. Oh, and heavy stuff is harder to lift than light stuff. This is pointless nonsense, assembled for the sole purpose of obtaining a publication credit. But the NSCA actually reviewed this paper and published it in their "research journal."
If you've never trained someone who placed in an International Skyrunning Event you might be qualified to train another with similar goals
He also points out using basic principles of lifting that are hard to dispute, that the electromyograph isn't a reliable indicator of muscle activation and exercise efficacy, though science type people are relying completely on them now. I've read countless articles about how different exercises are garbage or "The One" based on these studies. In fact, you could honestly quote study after study to prove or disprove the exact same point, sometimes even using the exact same studies.

How do I know? Well, for some odd reason I'm troll bait. I post a comment somewhere, and like my Quora Stalker, within the same day I get my entire post ripped apart by someone who obviously has no life and gets to read lots of studies. That level of diligence implies they have no clients as well. Especially when they're in a 3rd World Nation and not in any way competing with me. Same on Facebook. Within the day someone posts results of some study to prove that I'm wrong about something.

If you've never run a marathon, you might not be able to offer valid training advice for one.
One of the ways to convince people you actually know what you are talking about, as discussed by Mark Rippetoe, is to have a lot of paperwork on your wall and know all the different names and angles of all the little tiny ligaments that cause an ankle to move and how to train each and every one of them in isolation for the best effect. Why, after 10 years of solid rehab/prehab work you could be running 15:00 miles. That's encouraging, right?

Another way is if you're a genetic freak and look gorgeous all the time no matter what you do. That can usually be milked into the mid-30's until it all comes back to haunt you. You can say any silly thing and people and clients eat it up. Many of the bodybuilding article ghost writers are completely dependent on these people to front for them. Well, the two of them anyway...

If you've never finished an International Skyrunning Event you might be qualified to train others
Lastly there are the people in the trenches. They've trained enough people to success of one type or another, or they've achieved their own success in some endeavor that they can teach clients how to do the same in similar endeavors. This last category is where I fit in. Yeah, I used to want to chase certificates and even considered going to college to learn more.

I became somewhat cynical over the years and realized that a lot of the mythology out there was to sell supplements and magazines and cult fitness centers. I plugged away with basic lifts and basic cardio methods and eventually formed my own training protocols that helped me achieve my goals.
  • I gained over 14 pounds of muscle and lost over 74 pounds of fat. A net loss of 60 pounds. I have kept it off for 4 years. 
  • I finished the Elbrus Race 2014 Skyrunning Race in the Caucasus of Russia, while Kilian attempted his record. 
  • I trained Elbrus Race 2014 3rd Place Finisher Todd Gilles.
  • I successfully climbed Carstensz Pyramid, one of the most difficult of the Seven Summits in spite of grave injury.
  • I have completed several trail 10k and half marathon events, and one trail marathon.
The list could go on, but the point is that I am here in the trenches going about my business of trying to make myself the best I can be for whatever goal I set my mind on. I would like to help my select group of clients to do the same in those things I feel qualified to help them with. No, I can't prescribe a 3 year rehab program to stabilize some ligament issue during which time they can quit all other forms of working out. But I can work with people on mountaineering goals. I've been there several times.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mud Run on Keystone Gulch Road - May 3

Springtime in Summit County is called "Mud Season" for a reason. Here's a brief video I made of my run up Keystone Gulch Road on Saturday May 3. It was a real blast. There were maintenance crews from the resort up the road putting in small trenches to keep the erosion down. I encountered snow, ice, slush, mud and the very rare and coveted dry dirt.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Skewed Anti-Cardio Study Example

I've mentioned the prevalence of the "Anti-Cardio" smear campaigns, usually advertised by someone trying to sell a HIIT or other Insane or Box program. Here's a perfect example of how these studies work:

One study divided participants into two groups. One ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes 4x a week for 4 months. The other group did only one set of either burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks or squat thrusts with 20 seconds on 10 seconds off 8x through 4x a week for 4 months. VO2max was improved roughly the same in both groups. However, muscle endurance improved significantly more in the HIIT group (leg extensions, +40%; chest presses, +207%; sit-ups, +64%; push-ups, +135%; and back extensions, +75%). So, if you're short on time or looking to mix things up, HIIT could be the way to go. 

My first response to this study is

Why did you not report the 30 minute cardio test from the HIIT folks?

Obviously, if the one group is strength training only, and the other group is cardio training only, the strength training group would make some gains in strength, while the cardio group would probably not. This study at least negates the whole "HIIT always makes better VO2 gains" mythology. But to be totally fair, they would have to measure the 30 minute treadmill performance of both groups and report that. A really famous HIIT style training Mash-up reports that HIIT alone will give you a spectacular 5K result. If that's true then the HIIT folks in the study should be getting in 4.5 to 5 miles in that 30 minutes. I'd love to see that.

It's also interesting that they tested a "Tabata-Like" protocol of 8 sets of 20 seconds on/10 seconds off. Though I doubt that they were puking in that last few sets, as you would be likely to if it were really "Tabata-Like" with the whole 120% of Max HR thing. I'm not sure I could do that with Jumping Jacks. They also disregard the physical status of all the study participants. Strength gains are usually highest in low-ability trainees. I doubt someone who could do 400 pound squats will quit that and do Jumping Jacks for 4 months and suddenly be twice as strong. As far as the treadmill goes, low-ability trainees could take 4 months just to figure the whole treadmill thing out and make any gains.

When a study is so obviously skewed it most likely has an intended audience of low-information clients. Don't be one of them. HIIT does have an application, and honestly, there are much better exercises for HIIT than these simple bodyweight exercises. Do as many weighted squats as possible in 4 minutes, then go on to bench presses and pull-ups and shoulder presses and rows. Count progress as more weight or more reps. That's 20 minutes of agony that I'm fairly certain would have a much greater impact on your strength gains than hopping up and down waving your hands for that same 4 minutes.