Thursday, March 31, 2016

April 1st Special- Gravity Busters!

Don't let gravity ruin a great workout!

We’ve all had that feeling. Some days it seems that the weights are just nailed to the floor. In the past this has been the cause of many ruined workouts. But, NO MORE!!!!

With our new Gravity Busters you never have to suffer a poor workout again!!!!

Under the wrong conditions, excess gravity tends to collect on plates and even over lifting areas.

As most experienced lifters know, removing excess gravity from plates is a fairly simple process. Merely spin the plates rapidly in a clockwise direction ( in Navajo we call this Shaa' Bik'ehgo) and the excess gravity spins off rather quickly.

However when a gravity pocket develops over a platform that is much harder to deal with, UNTIL NOW!!!!

We are Introducing our new line of Gravity Busters. For only 12 easy payments of $19.95 you can have one of your own. They are available in school colors. The Red Model is extremely popular at the University of Utah.(Gotta love them Utes)

Merely plug in the Gravity Buster and move it rapidly around the affected area. You can feel the excess gravity breaking up. Now you can get back to lifting heavy weights without the pesky excess gravity.
We have an economy model for those on low budgets. Available only in white for a one time cost of $49.99.

Send check or money order to:
Gravity Busters
PO Box 552
Kayenta, AZ 86033

Below is a graphic example of what can happen when a gravity pocket moves in over a lifting platform. Luckily it moved in after the weight was lifted in this case, but the effects are obvious as the weight is returned to the platform. A Gravity Buster could have saved a lot of pain and destruction.

Hurry, Available April 1st only!!!!!

Don't let this happen to you!!!!!

Monday, March 28, 2016

No Excuses

Barni working hard with what is available.
Great article/video on dealing with adversity and making things work.

The CrossFit Games site has a great write-up and interview with 18 year old Barni Böjte, a Romanian teenager with his sites set on the Reebok CrossFit Games. Like a lot of teenagers bitten by the fitness bug, Barni works out before and after school, balancing his studies with strength and conditioning. But unlike a lot of teenagers with easy access to affiliates, Barni lives nearly 100 miles from the nearest CrossFit gym, meaning he’s largely self-trained on homemade equipment that has included concrete-poured kettlebells, a homemade pull-up bar, and sand-filled medicine balls.

Basically, all our excuses are now invalid.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Harrrison Maurus in competition .

This a really great example of the cumulative effects of training over time. Two videos about 5 plus years apart show an amazing transformation.

By           BarBend Team               March 22, 2016
Harrison Maurus is part of an exciting crop of young, talented, and rapidly improving American weightlifters under 17. Along with CJ Cummings, the 15 year old Maurus turns heads on social media and the platform, posting lifts and totals that crush American Records with abandon and may soon – given the right competition – give Youth World Records a real shot.

What caught our attention most recently, though, wasn’t Maurus chain of PRs or eyes-forward approach to training. (Don’t worry, we’ve got videos of him lifting heavy things below.) It’s actually a video from September 2011, where an impossibly young looking Harrison Maurus completes a Starting Strength-style workout under the watchful eye of his coach. Harrison credits coach Kevin Simons with the bulk of his success.

If you’ve ever doubted the impact of consistent work and dedication (and, yes, some serious genetic talent probably doesn’t hurt), look no further than this video and compare it to the progress Maurus has made over the last four years and change.

(H/t to Jay Rhodes for bringing the old video to light. Video from Kevin Simons.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Baylor seeks to unlock players' potential through DNA

Very interesting article. Time will tell if this is really an effective and economical way to test athletes.If not now, I imagine in the future, for sure, we'll see this happening.

In an unassuming area nestled inside Baylor’s weight room sits the university’s Department of Athletic Performance, which attempts to balance the football program’s strength training with equipment and data-collection tools rooted in a more scientific approach.

Players run, lift weights and exercise, as at every other school in the Football Bowl Subdivision, only with gear meant to augment more traditional methods. One tool, called Omegawave, allows the Bears’ staff to track a player’s heart rate and general athletic readiness. Players practice with a GPS monitor placed between their shoulder blades, with the goal of tracing the total distance traveled, and at what velocity.

These tools — along with several others — combine to allow staff members to tailor plans for individual student-athletes. Baylor’s latest advancement brings this specialization down to an even more precise level: a player’s DNA.

In the first such partnership on the NCAA level, Baylor has teamed with a Nova Scotia-based performance company, Athletigen, to develop individualized training programs based on a player’s genetic information. The collaboration, which began earlier this year, has the goal of using the collected genetic data to improve the performance, health and safety of Baylor’s athletes.

“We’re all trying to climb a mountain, and there’s an infinite number of ways we can do so,” said Dr. Jeremy Koenig, the CEO of Athletigen. “In knowing that information, you can optimize an athlete’s training plan or nutrition plan, based on their needs and also based on their goals.”

The process begins with a swab, which gathers DNA through a player’s saliva before being sent to Athletigen for analysis. Athletigen is then able to use the resulting data to unearth a trove of genetic information — including traits geared toward athletic ability.

These genetic tests could reveal additional insight, from a heightened risk of injury through nutritional demands; Athletigen may uncover a specific student-athlete’s heightened sensitivity to saturated fat, for example, which would allow the Bears’ nutritional staff to better prescribe an effective meal plan.

One gene both Athletigen and Baylor expect to find among the Bears’ student-athletes, called ACTN3, correlates with sprinting and power. The information will give Baylor’s training staff increased awareness of the individual needs of each athlete, which in turn can allow for a more concentrated and focused degree of training.

“For the most part, the higher you get in elite sports the more everybody is looking to uncover what can help them be better, and be the best athlete they can be,” said Chris Ruf, Baylor’s Director of Athletic Performance. “I suspect that we’ll have several athletes that because they’re very driven to be great, they’ll want to leave no stone unturned.”
Unlike basic medical tests, however — such as an annual physical or training data — the resulting genetic information is solely the property of the individual student-athlete. Athletigen will see the data in aggregate, meaning on a team-wide level, and will share with Baylor its findings.

Those who choose to participate in the program — and there has been nearly unanimous opt-in, Ruf said — have the option of not sharing the resulting material.

“We’re able to arm the athletes with a little more information about themselves,” Ruf said. “If they’re willing to share that information with us, then we can guide them to make some changes. If they don’t feel comfortable sharing that with us, it’s fine; they’ll have the information, and it’ll help guide them to make some better choices.”

Though the program remains in its infancy, Baylor sees benefits that will extend long after the end of a student-athlete’s playing career. In addition to giving players increased knowledge of their own inherent athletic ability, the genetic testing is expected have a profound impact on overall health and wellness, particularly in nutrition.

The hope, Ruf said, is that athletes can use this information to help take better care of their bodies — and not just as athletes but as individuals, and long after they leave Baylor.

“We want our athletes to be able to live to be real old, to be able to play with their grandkids and run around with them when they’re older,” he said.

“It’s another tool in that person’s tool box, to help them and us create a more resilient athlete and person down the road. It will ultimately help them not only in their athletic career, but part of this is also really looking at the long-term health of the individual as well.”

For the Bears’ training staff, which has long embraced cutting-edge technology, the genetic information provides an additional line of data: Baylor can add this knowledge to its growing collection of material on each athlete, granting its athletics department another slight edge against the competition.

“It’s just about giving athletes more information about their bodies so they can make the most intelligent decisions possible,” Koenig said. “This is a group where that last one percent matters, so they’re hungry for more.”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

More doctors are prescribing exercise instead of medication

Here's your prescription. Go home and Snatch 80 kg. for 3 reps.

No surprise here. Exercise is often the best medicine. Know what type and how much to prescribe is a skill that takes study, practice, and experience. Our society can surely benefit from more of it.

BOSTON — When Dr. Michelle Johnson scribbles out prescriptions, the next stop for many of her patients is the gym, not the pharmacy.

Doctors treating chronic health problems increasingly are prescribing exercise for their patients — and encouraging them to think of physical activity as their new medication.

In one such program run by a health center in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, primary care physicians, internists and psychologists prescribe access to a gym for $10 a month, including free child care, classes and kids programs. Providing affordable gym access for patients ensures compliance, said Gibbs Saunders of Healthworks Community Fitness, a nonprofit gym in Dorchester that has partnered with several health care providers to help low-income residents fill their exercise prescriptions.

Executives at the Whittier Street Health Center say low-cost access to a gym is important, since many residents' income is low and 70 percent of those they treat suffer from chronic problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.

Life expectancy in Roxbury is 59 years — well below the national average of 78.8 years.

"Exercise is not a new medicine. It's really an old medicine," said Johnson, who prescribes exercise to patients at the Roxbury-based health center. "But you know, I think we're now coming to the point of understanding how important it is."

Monisha Long, who is morbidly obese and suffers from hypertension, got a doctor's prescription for exercise and says she's gotten visible and dramatic results after more than two years of regular workouts.

"I lost well over 150 pounds, and I've been keeping it off for the past couple of years," she said after working out on an elliptical machine at Healthworks.

And Long cites other, less-visible benefits.

"I'm more energized," she said. "As far as my energy, I feel like I'm stronger. I feel like I'm less tired. I feel like I can do almost anything now."

People who are physically active tend to live longer and are at lower risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. Yet fewer than one in four American adults exercises enough to reap those benefits, the agency says.

Dr. Edward Phillips, a Boston physician, is so sold on exercise he pedals on a stationary bike that's integrated into his office desk. Phillips said exercise is "like taking a little bit of Prozac — an antidepressant — and a little bit of Ritalin, which is a stimulant."

"Our bodies are meant to move," he said. "Integrating movement into our day allows the system to work optimally. Part of the system that needs to work is our brain, and includes sleep, mood, cognition, ability to concentrate."

A prescription for exercise is a bargain, said Stephanie Dennis, who works out on a treadmill to stay fit.

"$10 a month is what? $2 a week, $2-$2.50 a week," she said. "A lot of people pay that every day for coffee. It's not a big sacrifice for something that you get big rewards from."

Follow Rodrique Ngowi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ngowi

And while your at it, do some Squats too!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sleep is the Best Anabolic!

Why do you think babies grow so fast and sleep so much?

Recently I read two articles online written by Charles Poliquin entitled "Six Secrets to Gaining Muscle" and "The Top Five Habits of Successful Lifters." One thing I found common between the articles was the emphasis put on the importance of rest and a good sleeping habits. Poliquin in one of his articles says- "Take a power nap. Napping is also good for grownups! The more naps I took, the more I grew. Robert Kennedy, who owns several popular muscle magazines, is also a big proponent of napping for muscle growth. A good nap should be 20 to 60 minutes, no longer; otherwise you will become too groggy. Whenever I teach in Sweden at the Eleiko Education Center, I always tend to gain mass back very easily because there I found the perfect hiding place to take a nap after lunch. My gift is that I’m the type of guy who can nap anywhere – on a clothesline, at a busy shooting range or in a newborn nursery; no amount of noise or postural discomfort will prevent me from sleeping. So nap as often as possible and GROW!" In the other article he says- "Recently I had dinner with Ed Coan, a legendary world powerlifting champion who set the bar, literally, for his peers. How good was he? He became world powerlifting champion at age 21 in the 181-pound bodyweight division, winning by 138 pounds. In 1991, at 220, he totaled 2,402 (962 squat, 545 bench, 901 deadlift), and to this day his deadlift record has yet to be beat. When lifters faced Ed Coan, the only questions asked were what record he would break and who would take second. While magazine interviews with such champions often focus on the athletes’ intensity level, the secret that Ed shared with me concerns the exact opposite. Coan says that one of the crucial parts of his training was plenty of rest, including a daily nap. He didn’t offer any peer-reviewed scientific papers to support his contention – although interesting theories are being presented about the value of a daily siesta; it was only common sense: “You don’t recover, you don’t grow!” In an article written by Brent Vleck about muscle growth and sleep he said that The number one reason sleep is important is because Growth Hormone (HGH) rises during deep sleep, which often begins about 30-45 minutes after falling asleep. There are many ways to improve sleep and it changes from person to person. I also remember reading on Charles Poliquin's site explaining how we are made to sleep in cave like places just like our caveman ancestors did. We should make our bedrooms like a cave meaning dark, quiet and secluded. The mayoclinic online gives us these ten tips-
1. Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, even on the weekends. Sticking to a schedule helps reinforce your body's sleep-wake cycle and can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
2. Don't eat or drink large amounts before bedtime. Eat a light dinner at least two hours before sleeping. If you're prone to heartburn, avoid spicy or fatty foods, which can make your heartburn flare and prevent a restful sleep. Also, limit how much you drink before bed. Too much liquid can cause you to wake up repeatedly during the night for trips to the toilet.
3. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol in the evening. These are stimulants that can keep you awake. Smokers often experience withdrawal symptoms at night, and smoking in bed is dangerous. Avoid caffeine for eight hours before your planned bedtime. Your body doesn't store caffeine, but it takes many hours to eliminate the stimulant and its effects. And although often believed to be a sedative, alcohol actually disrupts sleep.
4. Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can help you fall asleep faster and make your sleep more restful. However, for some people, exercising right before bed may make getting to sleep more difficult.
5. Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet and comfortable. Create a room that's ideal for sleeping. Adjust the lighting, temperature, humidity and noise level to your preferences. Use blackout curtains, eye covers, earplugs, extra blankets, a fan or white-noise generator, a humidifier or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.
6. Sleep primarily at night. Daytime naps may steal hours from nighttime slumber. Limit daytime sleep to about a half-hour and make it during midafternoon. If you work nights, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight, which adjusts the body's internal clock, doesn't interrupt your sleep. If you have a day job and sleep at night, but still have trouble waking up, leave the window coverings open and let the sunlight help awaken you.
7. Choose a comfortable mattress and pillow. Features of a good bed are subjective and differ for each person. But make sure you have a bed that's comfortable. If you share your bed, make sure there's enough room for two. Children and pets are often disruptive, so you may need to set limits on how often they sleep in bed with you.
8. Start a relaxing bedtime routine. Do the same things each night to tell your body it's time to wind down. This may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. Relaxing activities done with lowered lights can help ease the transition between wakefulness and sleepiness.
9. Go to bed when you're tired and turn out the lights. If you don't fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do something else. Go back to bed when you're tired. Don't agonize over falling asleep. The stress will only prevent sleep.
10. Use sleeping pills only as a last resort. Check with your doctor before taking any sleep medications. He or she can make sure the pills won't interact with your other medications or with an existing medical condition. Your doctor can also help you determine the best dosage. If you do take a sleep medication, reduce the dosage gradually when you want to quit, and never mix alcohol and sleeping pills. If you feel sleepy or dizzy during the day, talk to your doctor about changing the dosage or discontinuing the pills.

Hope this helps! Have a good nights rest!

Sleep can make the difference between making it and almost.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What Kind of Practice Makes Perfect?

The Hammer is a complex skill that requires a great quantity and variety of practice.

Here is an article that appeared recently in TIME Magazine. I don't usually expect to find anything of training value there, but happened to run across this. The web address is posted at the end of the article. While this refers to golf and tennis as examples; my experiences agree that it would apply to throwing as well.Personally I don't think it is a good idea to just throw full throws in practice day after day. As mentioned, I think your brain/nervous system becomes stale and performance tends to deteriorate. Interspersing full throws with technique work in the form of drills and partial throws seems to allow the neuromuscular system to stay fresher and allow long term progression. It seems the more complex the movement, the important this is. As usual, I will insert some commentary in blue.
The next time you putt 100 balls at the range, because you know the practice
will improve your short game, know this: it probably won't.

Why? Because it's not just practice that makes perfect. It's practicing
intelligently that improves performance.
If hard work was all it took, it would be easy to improve in a linear fashion. Results would be proportional to effort. However; any experienced athlete knows it is much more complex than that. Smart work is more productive than mindless hard work.
Such are the conclusions of a study published this week in the journal Nature
Neuroscience by a group of neuroscientists at the University of Southern
California and the University of California, Los Angeles. The authors compared
the performance of people who tried to hone a skill through "constant practice"
— that is, the rote repetition of a task, like taking 100 serves across the net
— and those who underwent "variable practice," in which you work on a mix of
skills during a training session. An example of variable practice: taking a
serve, followed by a backhand, then mixing in a drop shot and forehand.

In the study, participants were asked to mimic a 60-degree forearm movement that
was represented as a wavy line on a computer screen. They moved their forearms
while holding a lever, and their results were superimposed onto the target line
after each movement. The more the movement mimicked the target, the better the
performance. Those who repeated the movement 120 times (constant practice)
performed just as well during the practice session as those who did the
60-degree movement 60 times, and a 30-degree, 45-degree, and 75-degree movement
20 times each, in a jumbled order (variable practice).

Of course, you can knock the cover off the ball in practice. But it's the game
that counts. About 24 hours after the volunteers finished their practice
sessions, the authors tested their performance again. This time, they found that
those in the variable-practice group performed better on the 60-degree movement
than those who trained with rote repetition. The suggestion is that during the
key postpractice period when the brain processes and retains the lessons it has
just learned — known by neuroscientists as the consolidation phase — mixing
tasks pays off.
I have never played tennis. Where we come from it is considered a rich persons' game. But I have had similar experiences in throwing and lifting. I have found that variety leads to longer periods of progession and better technical skills.

Why? Psychologists have long known that variable practice of motor skills leads
to better retention. The current study, however, offers a neurological
explanation for this phenomenon. Immediately after the practice sessions, some
study participants (from both the variable- and constant-practice groups)
received transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a procedure that temporarily
interferes with brain activity through the application of electric coils on the
primary motor cortex, the area of the brain associated with simple motor
learning. "We kind of messed with the brain after practice," says Shailesh
Kantak, a former Ph.D. student in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical
Therapy at USC and the lead author of the study. Another group received TMS on
the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with higher-level
cognitive functions like problem-solving and planning.

The variable-practice participants who received TMS to the prefrontal cortex did
not perform as well as those who received TMS to the primary motor cortex, or
the control group. Since interference, and a temporary "slowing down," of the
prefrontal cortex negatively affected performance of the variable-practice
subset, the authors were able to conclude that variable practice engages this
problem-solving and planning area of the brain. The engagement of this more
powerful part of the brain, in turn, explains why variable practice improves
retention levels the next day.
Very interesting. Learning is a physiological process. You can't seperate the physical from the mental and the idea of the stereotypical "dumb jock" is a myth.Similarly, people in the constant-practice group who received TMS to the primary
motor cortex performed worse on the next-day retest than those who received
prefrontal-cortex TMS. This implies that the rote drills engage a lower part of
the brain, and further explains why constant practice is less effective for
next-day retention of motor skills.
And why cramming for finals is not as effective as consistent study.Tedium is bad for the brain. So is high school, for the same reason!!"In constant practice, people just go into auto
mode, and are just like, 'Whatever,'" says Kantak, who is now a postdoctoral
fellow at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. "In variable practice, your
brain is more actively engaged and actively processing information, which allows
it to hold information better. Our brain is like a muscle, and when it gets a
good workout, it gets stronger."
Variation in throwing and lifting is also achieved by varying weights.So go ahead, take those 100 serves. But don't forget to work on your drop shots.
Your brain will thank you for it. And your opponent, perhaps, will rue the day
you mixed up your workout.

Some may not agree. There are some who seem to thrive on only full throws and doing only the competitive lifts, but; I think most of us do better with variety.

Read more:http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2004141,00.html
The late George Frenn throwing.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Is Bigger Always Better?

Here is another Poliquin article that I really like. As usual, he communicates some uncommon sense truths in a direct and often humerous way. Go Charles!
(I will interject some comments in Red)
Is Functional Hypertrophy the Key to Athletic Performance?
The answer is more complicated than stating that “bigger muscles are not always better”
by Charles Poliquin
“All things being equal, the strongest athlete will always win!”
“The strongest shall survive!”
“You can never be too strong!”
These are all inspirational slogans that you might find on the walls of any high school or college weightroom.
I've used all of these over the years.There is much truth to them, but here’s the catch: There are many ways to get strong, and for an athlete sometimes the type of muscle mass associated with these methods is not the optimal way to train. What I’m talking about, more specifically, is the concept of functional hypertrophy.
Don’t confuse functional hypertrophy with functional training. I’m not talking about doing squats on Swiss balls or juggling kettlebells [excuse me while I throw up in my mouth] but the best protocols to develop muscle mass for athletes. The term functional hypertrophy is exactly what it describes, which is “muscle mass that contributes directly to sports performance or the activity you are training for.” As such, there can be one type of functional hypertrophy training for a tennis player, and another for a football lineman and still another for a fireman. “One size of muscle,” you might say, “doesn’t fit all!”
Right on. For a fairly current example; about a year ago or so, maybe 2 now, Jose Canseco, a former major league baseball player who was famous mostly for craving fame and a pumped up physique, challenged anyone to a fight in the ring. It seemed that Jose was still craving attention and needed some money to continue his major league lifestyle outside of the major leagues. Vai Sikahema, a Philadelphia area sportscaster and former NFL football player (and BYU alumni) took the challenge. Vai was also a former Golden Gloves boxer. Vai took this challenge as a motivation to get back into top shape in his mid 40's and to donate the money to charity. Vai has always been undersized for football, weighing about 185 or so. Canseco weighed in about 240 lb. of pumped up bulk. Supposedly he had been practicing martial arts of some kind. Vai also expressed his desire to show some respect for the sport of boxing and the fact that being a boxer and thinking you can fight are two different things. To make a long story short, the fight was over in one round and Jose did not ask for a rematch. (Who in his right mind would ask for a fight with a Tongan?) Vai was quoted as saying, "There is a reason why boxers do not look like bodybuilders."To the general public, sometimes there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between muscle mass and athletic performance. Watch a men’s basketball game at any level and you’ll find exceptional players with tremendous physiques, along with exceptional players who look as though they could gain weight by sucking on an orange. The same state of affairs exists with women’s tennis, as you’ll see heavily muscled champions such as Serena Williams and champions with fashion model figures such as Maria Sharapova. Even in the sport of weightlifting you’ll find considerable variation in the physiques of the competitors; in fact, because the Olympic press was eliminated from competition in 1972, as a group the champions of the modern era are less physically impressive than the champions of 50 years ago.

A great example is Turkey's Taner Sagir. Built like a tennis player, he lifts amazing weights.One of the reasons for the confusion in sport is that there are many factors associated with high levels of athletic performance. Factors such as talent and coaching quality.
Talent. First there is the belief that “Talent prevails.” Is it just possible that the Division 1 college football teams that consistently finish in the top 20 in the polls generally have more talent than the teams that finish in the bottom 20? Ya think? Nevertheless, many football strength coaches still play “follow the leader” by copying the strength programs of the current championship teams. Yes, talent does make a coach’s job easier, which is why for team sports in countries that don’t have the financial means of the US, athletes often must go through extensive screening to determine if they are worth the investment.
The strongest guy on our football team at BYU when I was there, was a 3rd string guard. Lifting big weights did not make him a better player. Other factors are involved, obviously. Coaching Quality. The quality of coaching is also an important factor in athletic success, especially when you consider that many coaches of young athletes in the US have no academic background or credentials in coaching. Further, the expenses associated with hiring the best coaches limit the number of talented athletes who can afford to work with these coaches (especially in costly sports such as skiing, golf, tennis and figure skating). The story of the Jamaican bobsled team was certainly fascinating and entertaining, but without the funding for proper equipment and training, the success of these athletes must be regarded as an anomaly. The same goes for buying ice skates and golf clubs, reserving practices times on the courts and the greens, and travel expenses. Sure, some high schools have exceptional coaches and training facilities, but elite athletes are training year-round in most sports, and that means outside sport teams and working with higher-level athletes.
Although the muscle mass of a pro bodybuilder such as Ronnie Coleman is impressive, his training methods may not be the best for an Olympic lifter. Coleman photo by Milos Sarcev.
Yes, bodybuilders look strong – and there are many bodybuilders who are as strong as they look. Eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman could squat and deadlift over 800 pounds. And yes, the top strongman competitors are very, very strong. Canadian strongman Hugo Girard, who gave a presentation at our Eleiko Strength Seminar in June, could bench press 804 pounds for 2 reps and deadlift 848 pounds – oh, yeah, he could also flip a car! Does this mean the training programs that enabled Coleman and Girard to do these exceptional feats of strength will help a tennis player serve at 140 miles an hour? Or a sprinter run 100 meters in under ten seconds? Or a baseball player hit a home run out of the park? Maybe not.
Probably not!Because strength training is only one factor in athletic success, often strength coaches and personal trainers can get away with prescribing inferior workout programs – which in turn will create a multitude of unfortunate and unpredictable factors. Charles, have you been to B YU? That being said, let’s talk about muscle fibers.
Muscle Mass: the Variables
Developing functional hypertrophy is not just a matter of telling all athletes to focus on using relative strength training methods. Perhaps for female athletes who are in sports with an aesthetic component, such as gymnastics and figure skating, this might be the way to go throughout their entire athletic career. In contrast, athletes in contact/collision sports such as football players often need a significant amount of muscle mass to perform at a high level, and if these fibers are not trained at an early age, the athletes might not be able to activate them later in their career. In fact, I believe this is one reason that I’m not good at performing high-rep sets with heavy weights, at least compared to sets I can perform for low reps.
When designing protocols to develop functional hypertrophy for a specific athlete, many variables need to be taken into consideration. Here are a few.
Some good applied science here...Muscle Cell Growth. There are basically two types of hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic and sarcomere. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy involves the increase in non-contractile proteins and fluids between the muscle fibers – in other words, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy presents itself as an increase in muscle size but does not contribute to an increase in strength. Sarcomere hypertrophy involves the increase of contractile fibers that do work. These differences help explain why bodybuilders may display enormous size in their chest, shoulders and arms but cannot translate this development in a big bench press. Not that it’s necessary to bench press to get a great physique, but I think it’s rather odd that I have seen three Mr. Olympia winners who could not bench press more than 315 pounds for 6 reps in the off-season, when they are supposedly at their strongest.
Fiber Typing. Back in the ’90s when I first published The Poliquin Principles, I discussed the importance of working a variety of muscle fiber types, both high and low threshold, to achieve maximum results. The rationale came from the observation of top weightlifters who focus on the high threshold fibers with low reps – often they have exceptional levels of muscle mass. (Examples of outstanding bodybuilders from the past are Franco Columbu, John Grimek, Sergio Oliva and Bill Pearl, who reached the highest levels in bodybuilding while also being able to perform well in the Iron Game sports.) So it makes sense that for the highest levels of muscle mass, a bodybuilder should also perform lower reps.
For a general overview of the variety of hypertrophy methods, start with a copy of The Poliquin Principles.
Neurological Efficiency. Neurological efficiency refers to how effectively an individual recruits the higher threshold muscle fibers, and is of special concern to prepubescent athletes and all female athletes. Having these groups focus on sets of 1-2 reps may not be an efficient use of training time as they often cannot recruit a significant number the high-threshold fibers in the first place, especially if they have no previous weight training experience. Because neurological efficiency is such a complex subject, earlier this year I held two Special Considerations seminars: “Training the Prepubescent Athlete” and “Training the Female Client.”
Muscle Dampening. This next concept concerns the way muscles contract. The sliding filament theory involves the sliding of the contractile elements (thick and thin filaments such as myosin and actin) past each other. The relevant training issue here is that this sliding occurs at different rates depending upon the muscle fiber being activated, and these reactions are not independent. As a result, creating too much hypertrophy in the lower-threshold fibers can have a dampening effect on overall speed of muscle contraction.
Biomechanics. Speed is king in sports, but it’s important not to confuse the slow muscular contractions associated with aerobic training with slow movements that occur in many eccentric training protocols. This is because the intent of moving quickly can activate high-threshold fibers. Pierre Roy, one of Canada’s most accomplished weightlifting coaches, has had excellent success using eccentric training protocols with his elite athletes. But there are exceptions.
Consider that even though an exercise may have an exact movement pattern, at high speeds it's possible that different muscle groups are recruited. For example, the brachioradialis muscle is not recruited at slow speeds during a biceps curl, but it is recruited at fast speed. Likewise, Russian weightlifting coach and sport scientist Robert A. Roman has published papers citing research showing that performing pulls with especially heavy weights (such as above 90 percent of 1RM in the classical lifts) adversely affects the coordination pattern of the pull.
Vascular Adaptations. It’s pretty much accepted that carrying excess bodyfat will adversely affect endurance, and in fact one way to make dramatic increases in VO2 max results is to simply lose bodyfat. But it’s also true that excess muscle size also places a burden on the vascular system and as such this hypertrophy could adversely affect athletic performance. It’s been said that endurance is a big factor in the fourth quarter of a football game, but sometimes it’s a case of being tired going into the game. Lighter football players often need more muscular endurance, as they have to work harder to deal with heavier players on the other side of the ball. Again, this is why I won’t say, “To develop functional strength for a football player do 4-6 sets of 2-5 reps with 30-second rest intervals.” It’s not that simple.
Specificity Principle. Performing a high volume of muscular endurance work for a prolonged period causes the fast-twitch muscle fibers to behave like slow-twitch fibers in an attempt to adapt to the high levels of fatigue. This is related to the specificity principle, which refers to the body’s ability to adapt in a specific manner to a specific stimulus. Can a man bench press 600 pounds? Many have, some without any supportive equipment, and the current world record is 1,075 pounds by Ryan Kennelly of the United States. Can a man run a marathon in less than two hours and 20 minutes? Many have, and the current world record is 2:03:59 by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia. Has anyone ever been able to bench press 600 pounds and run a marathon in less than two hours and 20 minutes in the same week? No – and for that matter, no one has been able to do it in the same lifetime.
Marathon running and being able to bench press major household appliances are certainly extreme examples, but studies have shown that even small amounts of aerobic training can compromise strength gains. In fact, focusing on aerobic training during prepubescence can prevent an athlete from achieving their full power potential when they get older – so, consider aerobic training a form of brain damage!
I've always said that Fun Run is an oxymoron.Jim Thorpe was a great athlete,(and a Native Warrior) as was Babe Didrikson. The winner of the decathlon is considered the greatest athlete, but that’s just a title. The performances of Olympic champion Bryan Clay in the 2008 decathlon are amazing but still are far from the absolute world records or the best performances at that Games. For example, Clay won the discus component of the decathlon with a throw of 53.79 meters (176 feet, 6 inches) and the 100 meters with 10.44. The winning throw at the Games in the main discus event was 68.82 meters (225 feet, 7 inches) and the 100-meter winner ran 9.69. When it comes to multiple sports, with the exception of a few superstars as Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, athletes simply cannot compete at the highest levels in more than one sport.
Simply put, the functional hypertrophy of one athlete may not necessarily be the functional hypertrophy of another.
And the Answer Is…
...complicated. As you can see, due to a vast number of variables, there is no easy way to prescribe appropriate strength training protocols for all athletes at all levels of development. And even if you can’t expect to find all the answers to your questions about achieving functional hypertrophy from reading only one article or one book or from attending one seminar, I hope you won’t stop there. Although no one can guarantee you’ll find the absolute best answers to your strength training challenges, if you’re willing to keep learning, you’re destined to find better answers that will make a difference!
Great Stuff!