Do you want to stay lean and fit? Some thoughts on how to sustain a high level of training, performance, and great health.

Sustainability is often defined as the capacity to endure.  For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of wellbeing.  How do you more effectively accomplish sustainability in fitness and health? 

When training for peak performance sustainability is of great importance to reaching the highest level of performance and health.   Whether you are an Olympic Sprinter or just the average person we all encounter similar obstacles when it comes to sustainability.  I recently consulted a competitive 100 meter sprinter about his training.  He indicated that he was losing his motivation to train and was concerned about the impact on his future.  He was recovering from injury and the clock was ticking and with each passing day his level of stress was increasing.  This is common with many competitive athletes.  Many are more driven by the fear of failure.  You ask any successful athlete and most hate to lose. 

The advice I gave him applies just as well to someone who is just trying to improve fitness and overall health.  I suggested to him that he not allow himself to look so far ahead.  I could see in our conversation he was already looking ahead over a year away as if he was in the blocks racing tomorrow.  The anxiety was palpable.   I suggested that he focus on what he could control in his training right now.  Focus on getting the most out of his next training session measuring the outcome of the session.  Did he get a great workout?   Did he focus on the pure joy of being able to run fast?  I asked him to focus on some goals that would be attainable in the training today.  We discussed sustainability and how difficult it can be, even for the most motivated of athletes to sustain the discipline to train effectively.  This is where a coach can really make a huge impact. 

Most people are unable to sustain good diet and exercise for long periods because their perception of the effort creates an obstacle that is insurmountable.   This perception is what creates an mental environment that will lead to failure.  It also can allow the individual to easily find a reason to fail. 

So if you want to sustain a healthy exercise and eating plan, do not create an environment that raises anxiety.    Start with little steps and soon you are able to handle more.   If you start attempting Everest on your first climb you may never climb again.  In exercise, I call it post traumatic exercise syndrome.   You expose yourself to an exercise and eating change that is so stressful no human will ever want to continue forward. 

Focus on the outcome first and the goals second.  Be in awe of what your body can do at any level and then slowly challenge yourself until the athlete or champion emerges. Get a great coach that can help when things get difficult. 

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

One of the most important contributions a coach can make if letting their athlete know it is "Ok" to rest.

Your body makes changes based on stimulus or stress to a particular energy system.  What we know is that your body is overloaded by a stimulus that is out of the normal range of work.  This overload can be in many forms, for example, higher intensity of an exercise or greater volume.  We also know that as intensity increases volume decreases.  As I mentioned in a past entry, overload/ adaptation, small incremental overloads on regular basis will result in an adaptation that will increase your performance.  The modulations of these overloads are of great importance and there is a whole body of science on how to optimize rest to work ratios.

As the athlete matures and reaches a higher level of fitness it is the responsibility of the coach to determine what overload is most effective in eliciting a response.  As higher levels of fitness are gained determining and obtaining an overload becomes much more complicated.  In many cases this is where the wheels come off the wagon.  The coach does not recognize the fatigue and the athlete does not have enough rest to recover from the training and progress is slowed or reversed.  In addition often times it is more difficult to get an overload.  The science of exercise science and program design play a big role in order to get small incremental gains in performance.

We know that a greater stimulus will result in fatigue, followed by the body compensating for this fatigue, followed by supercompensation, and a resulting improvement in performance.  If the stimulus is always the same this cycle does not result in improved performance.

On the surface this seems simple.  Most athletes have a “Type A” approach to training.  More is better and much more is even better!  If an athlete does not measure fatigue effectively the slippery slope of overtraining is only a step away. 

What we don’t know as well within this cycle of adaptation is how you measure the fatigue.  It is easy to look at a squat, count the reps and multiply by the weight to come up with a number on total load and subsequent overload.  The problem comes into play on how you measure the resulting fatigue.  You can feel the fatigue and see the result at the moment of the lift.  This is called peripheral fatigue.  However another fatigue is also at play. Velocity based training is helping with this issue.  It allows the coach to see the velocity of the bar with a particular weight.  In other words how hard was it for the athlete to move the bar is evident in the speed of the bar. 

Fatigue is generally classified as the direct mechanical fatigue on  muscle contraction capability during an exercise.  This fatigue is peripheral.  In other words, when do you reach the point of inability to execute a particular exercise?  However, there is a great level of Central Nervous System (CNS) fatigue which is very important to monitor in training.  This type of fatigue is insidious and can lead to lack of enthusiasm, burnout, sleep issues etc.  It is typically the type of fatigue that creeps up on an athlete over time.   You just feel tired and burned out.  Performance drops off, and it is harder and harder to obtain the type of outputs you were easily accomplishing in the past.  Athletes will say the “feel flat”.   The problem is that if you accumulate too much of this type of fatigue it takes some time to recover and can lead to major setbacks in training.  Therefore it is very important that this is monitored. 

The science is still trying to determine how to better monitor this type of fatigue.  BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) have been shown to help, monitoring effective sleep,  but the jury is still out.  Sleep, good nutrition, will always be a part of the process and should be monitored.  Different athletes respond to different levels of intensity and volume in exercise  differently. Serotonin levels are at play in this overall fatigue.

At Sirens and Titans we monitor a core group of exercises for each athlete dependent on the sport. Power performance seems to be a better reflection of overall fatigue than strength exercises.    If an athlete begins to drop off on power performance on a regular basis we pay close attention and reevaluate the training to determine how to taper the workload down and incorporate longer recovery times and rest.  Since we cannot look into the body and see the level of fatigue on the CNS we have to look for markers outside of the body.  As an athlete becomes fitter these markers become much more important to observe.  We are constantly asking the athlete how they feel in an overall sense as well as observing the markers we have established.

One of the most important contributions a coach can make to the athlete is to tell them to rest.  If the coach tells the athlete to rest there is no sense of guilt.  At Titan we also incorporate play into the equation.  This reduces the mental stress associated with high levels of training.  Even with our personal training clients we closely monitor fatigue and rest.  Weekend warriors do not realize the impact of daily stress on their performance.

So the take away is to give yourself markers of performance and measurements of feel to help you monitor the impact of overall fatigue on your body.  Be aware that fatigue is not just your inability to perform an exercise in the moment. 


Truth in Fitness

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Are there Diminishing Returns to Training for More Strength?

They say that if strength was everything a bull could catch a rabbit.  So as strength coaches we have to determine where on the bull/ rabbit continuum our athlete and sport reside. 

We call ourselves strength and conditioning coaches.  The name itself has a strength focus.  However, is there a point where more time and focus on strength training has diminishing returns? 

Force x Distance/Time (velocity) =Power.  This is the physics equation for power.  The force velocity curve is something we as strength coaches are well aware of in training athletes.  This curve shows that as force increases velocity decreases and vice versa.  There is a sweet spot on the curve where optimum power is produced.  I design programs to produce a response that supports the improvement of the athlete’s ability to produce power in a movement that is specific to the sport.  In other words I want to target overloads in that sweet spot of power in a particular movement and for a particular amount of time.   

There are some obvious examples of where more strength would not improve performance.  For example, adding Popeye like forearms to a cyclist would not add, or actually may take away from, performance in climbing a big mountain on a bicycle.  This would also apply to leg strength if too much body weight is added. 

Where the athlete resides on the continuum of the force velocity requirements of the sport is what determines the type of program design that needs to be developed for the sport.  For example if you look at a marathon runner.  Their sport requires hours of sustaining the highest average percentage of their maximum power longer. This is also true of most events taking place longer than 20 seconds in time.    The physique of the athlete reflect the needs of the sport’s power requirements.  I know this sounds obvious, but there are subtleties in the training that will dictate success for the different types of power required.   If you start with the physiques of 100 meter sprinters and then go to ultra-endurance runners you can see the continuum.  As the duration of time increases in the event the need for higher absolute power outputs diminishes and the need for sustainable power increases.   This also applies position specific in most team sports. 

So as a strength coach you have to ask yourself what wins in your sport from a strength and conditioning standpoint.  My goal as a strength coach is to improve the execution of movement specific to a sport for as many times as the athlete needs this movement to win in that particular sport.  I have to make sure if the athlete wants to change direction he is able to do it at the speed necessary to outplay his opponent and win.  I know this sounds simple, but the next part is what takes a lot of thinking. 

There are a lot of reasons to be focused on strength.  Look at the physics in the equation above.  You have to be able to produce force.  Strength is your ability to generate a force.  If force diminishes too far then power drops off dramatically.  Now there can be other things impacting force production besides just the muscles ability to create force, but assuming your athlete is not suffering from some immobility etc. then we have to look at how to generate more force in order to improve strength. 

So when we get to the level of mature athletic movement what wins most often? 

Let’s use running as the metaphor for this example.      

100 meter winner:  Winner is the athlete that can produce the most absolute power to weight for a very short amount of time.  Your best 100 meter sprinters are typically your best vertical jumpers, not your best squatters.  Vertical jumps are a measurement of absolute power to weight.   However, vertical jump can be improved by squats. 

200 meter winner:  200 meter winner is not always your best 100 meter runner.  It is the runner that can hold on average the highest percentage of their 100 meter dash speed the longest.

1500 meter:  Winner is definitely not the best 100 meter runner, but once again the runner that can on average hold the highest percentage of their 100 meter speed the longest. 

As we continue increasing the distance we get further away from higher absolute power needs of a 100 meter sprint and what wins is how much of that absolute power can an athlete on the average produce and sustain, and in some cases you may reduce the athlete’s ability to win. 

With this in mind there has to be a tipping point where you will get diminishing returns on spending more time on strength training. 

The focus has to shift to power and then as we work our way down the continuum to sustaining the highest percentage of absolute power the longest.  Are you spending time in the areas where winning is built? 

Ask yourself how are you creating training that addresses these issues?  Is adding more weight on a deadlift going to make your athlete better in their sport?

Look at the continuum and ask yourself if you are designing programs that address the needs that win events which is many cases is the ability to sustain high power outputs longer.    Not just strength and absolute power where many programs have their primary focus. 

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Truth in Fitness

Are you Designing Programs That Win?

In designing strength and conditioning programs for athletes and clients my job as a strength coach is to design a program that, without injury, elicits the fastest response possible for the sport the athlete plays and the time I have to train with them and improves the athletes ability to win and maximizes their genetic potential.


So, like any good strategy I start with evaluating the starting point of the athlete.  Next I look at what are the components of optimum performance in their sport  and then I determine where the gaps exist and how can I close those gaps as much as possible in the time I have to train the athlete.  So there are both short and long term solutions. 


I believe that all roads in most sports lead to a development of power.  The needed amount and duration of power is dependent on the sport.  A high jumper has a need for a few big jumps.  A cyclist has a need for thousands of revolutions and power produced in their legs over 4 hours of riding in a race. 


Other than a contest like high jumping, most sports are determined by who can produce high levels of maximum power longer in an event.  Inflection points of speed and power or effort at key moments are key in winning.  One more big effort!  This wins most sporting events lasting longer than 20 seconds.  However, many solutions focus only on maximizing strength and power on an absolute basis.  This will improve on one front, but typically does not make the big leap.  Training that focuses on both maximum strength, power and then how to sustain the highest percentage of maximum power will produce more wins.  This prepares the athlete for the inflection points of competition.


Many programs are developed in systems.  The problems occur if the framework you have to train in does not fit the system or the system does not match the needs to win in a sport.  In other words the system is based on a 6 month training window and you have 6 weeks.   The system is strength focused when strength is not the primary factor in wining an event.  So systems can be good, but the strength coach has to be able to improvise or use other methods to maximize gains when systems are incongruent to the training environment. 


Our bodies are conservation mechanisms.  The body is constantly trying to find the most efficient way to solve a problem.  How can our bodies perform a task with the least amount of effort?   Our bodies will only make a change if the current performance capability is insufficient in overcoming a particular task.  This works both mentally and physically.  So overloads need to be designed to fit the needs of the sport. 


The body makes change when there is a stress introduced that is over and above the normal stress the body has experienced and adapted to in the past.  The stress has to be large enough and regular enough in order for this change to occur.  The body has built in excess capacity to handle short term stress, but to efficiently execute a task regularly the stress has to be  introduced regularly so that this level of stress becomes the new normal and the athlete can perform at the level needed to win. 


This is where the thinking becomes complicated.  If the stress is sub normal the body sees no need to change and if the stress is low for long periods of time the body will establish a new norm at the lower level of performance output (detraining). 


So you need to design programs not for the skills of the coach, but for the needs of the sport.  Time is the athlete’s real enemy.  Great program design that truly addresses what wins an event is a gift of time to your athletes.  Make sure you are hitting the right target


Truth in Fitness


Jacques DeVore, CSCS

What Are Some of the Biggest Mistakes I See People Making When Training to Improve Power?

1.        Way too much volume:  If you want to improve your power you have to be at the high end of power output in order to get an overload.   Power exercises are taxing.  Too much volume changes the workout from getting an overload in power to an endurance exercise.  Volume should be low and intensity high. 

2.        Not enough rest between sets:  So you get the volume correct, but then you do not get enough rest between efforts.  You want to get full ATP replacement and Creatine replacement in the muscle so the next effort has value.  I like 4 to 6 minutes between sets.

3.        Too much weight:  Power cleans, push press, hang cleans, snatches, etc are the go to power exercise for most athletes.  However you can throw plyos into the mix, but you just have to measure the output differently. Power training has a velocity component.  If the velocity is too low and the force production too high (too much weight) then you are not getting maximum output of power and therefore no overload and little improvement in power.  I always err to the side of more velocity and less force.  Most athletes spend plenty of time on the force production side, so even if you are a little light in the weight in your power training, you are getting a high speed stimulus that you do not get with heavier weights.   Studies have shown that max power is typically produced around 30 percent of one rep max.  If you are not measuring this with gym aware, or an iso-inertial equipment like a Kbox or Versapulley, etc. then you have to eyeball the movement.  If the movement looks slow then the weight is typically too heavy.  Egos will drive the weights higher.  Don’t be that guy. 

4.        You can measure power in your intervals as well:  Time and distance is the poor person’s power meter.  Determine what types of power you want to overload and then whatever you are using for your intervals you can figure out how to measure the power.  EX: Sprint up the hill for 20 seconds and mark the distance.  The next time if you got there faster than the first effort you have increased your power as long as you have not lost a significant amount of bodyweight.  

So remember you will not get better if you do not get overloads.  Pay attention to the overloads in your power training so you can get more time in power ranges that make a difference.

Check out our video on this subject here:

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore , CSCS

My 2% Difference Rule

I believe that most things in life come down to about a 2 percentage point difference.  If you have a prospective client and they are looking at hiring you as a coach vs. the competition.  Typically, the vote is 51% for you and 49% for the other coach.  Hence the 2% difference typically decides the choice. 

In most competitions at the highest level the difference is even less than 2%.  I am a cyclist and have been watching the Tour de France this week.  The leader’s time is 4,789.5 minutes of total time.  Second place is only .0428% and the 10th place finisher is 11.49 minutes behind or only .23% slower overall.  If you were to ask me who was in tenth from last year I would have no clue.  The difference is so small, yet it is all the difference in the sport.  Most sports are similar in one way or another. 

So how do you make sure that you have the 51% advantage?  The little things.  It is not necessarily getting them all correct.  That takes experience and time and you will never get them all correct.  It is reducing the risk of not getting the 2 percent in your favor.   So, it is more important to be mindful that these things are important.  You need to think about your appearance, your language, your energy, going the extra mile with your clients, being prepared for your sessions, improving your knowledge, etc.  You never know what is really important to a client, so you must lower the risk of error. 

Most people think they can wing it, and then wonder why they never seem to make that leap to where they can no longer remember when it was slow.  Life and business is built on small increments that are often times determined by 2% or less.  I am always evaluating my business to improve the odds that the 2% goes in my favor.

Something to think about.

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore

How do you prepare your athletes to perform better at the end of a game?

In sport I define endurance as efforts lasting longer than 20 seconds. I know many would argue with this, but I am looking for the tipping point in effort where you can no longer hold your maximum power output.  This typically takes place at about 10 seconds plus.  It also takes place at about 6-8 reps of maximum output in most power exercises. 

In other words if you were to measure your vertical jump, how many jumps can you get before the height of the jump begins to diminish.  How efficient are you at producing power dictates the total number of jumps. 

We utilize cluster sets for power in a very interesting and unique fashion to insure our athletes are producing higher percentages of power at the end of a game.  There is more and more research looking at cluster set training.  It allows the athlete to spend much more time at a higher power output.  You group the repetitions into small groups of mini-sets to allow the athlete to perform a higher amount of volume at this higher output.  It is a game changer!  Especially for endurance athletes.  You have to design the reps and rest and total time to match the needs of the sport. 

In the video ( ) Matt Lurie, a college tennis player, is performing power clusters on the Versapulley.  The effort designed with 4 pulls, within 10% of his maximum velocity, every 15-20 seconds.  So he is getting about 12 reps per minute.  He completed 3 sets of 3 minutes total.  So he was able to get an overload of almost 40 reps in each set at close to 90 percent of his maximum power output.  So in total 120 total reps.  You need to have a great foundation of fitness to accomplish these efforts.  The clusters allows Matt to improve his efficiency of power output. 

If you have athletes that require high power output for long periods of time this is a game changer. 

Truth in Fitness:

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

If you want to Win in sport why is efficiency of energy output important to understand?

Doing something efficiently.  What does that mean?  It means you produce work with the least amount of energy expended.  When you look at a company’s ability to efficiently produce a product, it means that the investment of capital, both human and dollars is lower.  Henry Ford developed the concept of the assembly line to mass produce cars efficiently. 

How does this concept apply to program design and training for sport?  You see the result of needs for efficiency in the bodies of world class athletes in different sports.  Take a marathoner vs a sprinter.  The marathon runner has to produce an average power over 26 miles that is greater than his competitors.  The runner must be able to hit the gas and surge at different points in the race and still be able to recover and maintain a pace faster than the other runners.  This means that the energy output of the surges and the pacing in between must be produced with the lowest amount of energy expenditure.  If the runner is inefficient in producing a surge the subsequent pace would diminish greatly and the race would be lost.  In other words, it is not the fastest sprinter that wins a marathon.  It is the runner that can maintain the highest percentage of their sprint output throughout the race.  This is an example of the efficient production of power in the body. 

Marathoner: The body of the marathoner reflects the need for long durations of power produced with the lowest amount of energy expended so that the pace can be maintained over the entire race.  That is why the body of a marathoner carries much less muscle mass than a sprinter.  The need for efficiency will result in a body that is more efficient.

The Sprinter:  Sprinting is an absolute power sport.  In other words the need for efficiency is much less.  The sport is considered an anaerobic effort.  It other words the need to efficiently utilize oxygen is not needed.  It is one big burst of power and then it is over. 

Now if you start stretching the duration of time past the 10-15 second mark the need for efficiency of power production becomes more important.   The 200 meter winner is not always the fastest 100 meter runner.  It is the runner that can more efficiently produce the highest percentage of their 100 meter speed. 

The body of the sprinter reflects the needs of the sport.  Much more muscle.  The body of the sprinter reflects the need for short needs of maximum power. 

The program design for different sports should reflect this need for efficiency.  This applies to all sports. The training needs to be designed accordingly.   The differences would be in the movement patterns.  Soccer would look different than tennis even though there are some areas of crossover. 

So when designing programs look at both the absolute need for power in a movement and the efficiency needed to win.  Then look at the athlete and identify the gaps.  If your athlete already has incredible absolute power then design should focus on how to improve the efficiency of the power output.   This is often overlooked and a lot of time is wasted in the training.  Typically the winner of a match is the athlete that can most efficiently produce power for longer periods of time. 

Truth in Fitness

Jacques DeVore

How is Technology Destroying Your Gains in the Gym? The Death of the Perfect Set

Even though I am a strength coach and own a gym, I like to go to other gyms and have always had multiple memberships. It is educational for me to see what is going on in the big box gyms and I also have lifting buddies that I have been training with for years. 

It used to be much more fun, before the “smart phone” arrived. I observe people in the gym going from a lift to the phone non-stop. I am sure we could all list the annoying people who sit on a bench texting or talking or taking selfies and not exercising while you wait for them to move. Anecdotally I can see a direct correlation of fitness level to phone usage. The least fit are typically the heavy phone users. 

So if you just look at the time it takes to do both it is easy to understand the impact. However, I think the impact is much greater than just time lost in the workout.

The Death of the Perfect Set:

I have stated in the past that what great strength coaches really provide to their clients is time. Their skill accelerates the performance of an athlete. Hence they are fitter earlier in their career and the coach has given them time. We all have a limited amount of time, so this applies to all, but more so to the competitive athlete, as careers are short. What if the phone is diminishing the impact of the coach? 

If you are wondering why you are not seeing change in your body or performance you may want to look at the impact of your phone more closely. I have been training for a long time, and I realize the importance of focus when training. Fitness bumps come randomly. One day you go to the gym and feel like a monster when you lift the weight. You did not know it was going to be this way until you got deep in the workout. This is an opportunity that will present itself less and less as you get fitter and fitter. In addition age will also impact how quickly these bumps occur.  For performance improvements these are the day’s strength coaches wait patiently to capitalize on for improvements and big overloads. 

Multi-tasking does not work! EX: You are doing a heavy deadlift day and you are feeling great on your early lifts. So far you are having the perfect set! You are going for a 3 rep PR and you get a text. You are in the zone. You look at your phone and it is something that is going to be a distraction and irritation later in the day. Now you go back to your lift. You have lost the focus and the perfect set disappears before your eyes. No matter how hard you try your mind can not get you back to where you were. You fail at the lift and you wasted the opportunity for improvement until the next time you have that rhythm. The window of opportunity is lost. Time is lost. It adds up quickly. This is the death of the perfect set. 

Our minds prioritize information as it comes in. If the phone beeps with a text it draws your attention to the phone. This in itself may or may not take you out of the zone, but once you look at it, you are gone. Lost to another world. 

PUT THE PHONE DOWN! Focus on your lifts. Connect your mind and your body like never before and truly understand how much better you can be without technology for a short time during the day. 

You devote the time to training, but you may not be getting the result you want because you think you can multi-task your workouts. 

I know in today’s world the phone is connected to most people. However, if you can figure out a way to detach during your workouts you will for the first time experience the meditative effects of a great workout, and you will have much greater improvements. Those of you that have had the Perfect Set know what I am talking about. 

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

If you want to increase your chances of winning more you better understand how to improve your power efficiency.

Understanding this concept is crucial in training athletes.  Examples of absolute power are a vertical jump, shot put, short sprint, broad jump etc.  They combine force and velocity to overcome gravity.   These are one shot efforts.  However, in most sport you need more than one shot.  What wins is who is jumping the highest or running the fastest at the end of the game.  This is Power Efficiency.  In other words how fuel efficient are you at producing power so that you can produce the highest percentage of your absolute power longer?


You do not jump higher, you just jump higher longer!


Below is a good example of how to train for improvement of your power efficiency using box jumps. In my center we utilize the Kbox and the Versapulley for these workouts.  However, there are a lot of DIY substitutes.   The objective of the workout is to produce as close to your absolute power for long periods of time.  When you keep requiring the body to jump at close to maximum for long periods of time it adapts by recruiting more muscle fiber.  You spread the workload out so that you can produce the same efforts with less fatigue.  It is like carrying a log on your shoulders.  Carrying it yourself you will soon fatigue.  If you can spread the load out by recruiting friends to help you can carry the log much farther.  With that in mind, you are not jumping higher on each jump you are just jumping at close to your highest output longer.  The rest of 20 seconds allows this to occur for long periods of time in the workout.  These are power cluster sets.  You can adjust the number of jumps and the time to match the sport you are competing in. 


#1.  Establish a box height that is about 90% of your maximum jump height.


#2. Execute 4 jumps in a row, stepping down after each jump. Rest for 20 seconds, then do 4 more.  Keep executing these jumps for as many rounds as possible without compromising form or reducing the height.  Stop, when you start to question your ability to make the jump.  You want to jump as close to maximum as possible or you will just be executing an endurance exercise. 


#3.  Mark how many rounds you were able to execute.  Have complete recovery between sets and then go again.   The rest between the 4 jumps allows you to replace ATP in the muscles.  If you tried doing them all in a row you would quickly fatigue.   As your efficiency improves you will be able to go for more and more rounds.  Be careful as these are taxing, both metabolically and they will make you sore.  In this example it is primarily a concentric load (jumping up).  You have much less eccentric load as you are stepping down in between jumps. 


Using the Versapulley and Kbox we add a much bigger eccentric load and are able to accurately measure the output. 


After a few weeks of this type of training you will see huge gains in your ability to produce big power longer.  Enjoy!


Truth in Fitness


Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Sirens and Titans Fitness

What is Power Efficiency and Why You Should Know?

In the past I have talked about Maximum Sustainable Power (MSP). This is a term I came up with for what is really power efficiency. I have developed a number of training methods to improve power efficiency you can find in the book I co-authored titled Bicycling-Maximum-Overload-Cyclists. But what is power efficiency and why is it important to understand?

Power is F x Distance/Time. This is the physics behind power development. The best examples of maximum athletic power would be a vertical jump, shot put, snatch, power clean, broad jump, 100 meter sprint. You get the idea. It is force with velocity. However, what is most important in sports lasting longer than 10 seconds in length is the athlete’s ability to keep producing big power outputs longer and later in a game. 

Power Efficiency: If have two athletes of equal fitness, both with 40 inch vertical jumps and I had the athletes jump every 15 seconds what percentage of the 40 inches are they able to keep producing after numerous jumps? This is an example of Power Efficiency. The athlete that completed a greater number of jumps would have greater efficiency because they were able to maintain a higher level of performance longer. They both jumped the same maximum height, so their ability to produce absolute power was the same. However, one athlete was able to maintain more maximum jumps. This athlete had better efficiency. So let’s say you had the athletes keep jumping until they dropped to 35 inches in jump height. How many jumps could they execute before dropping below 35 inches? This would be another measurement of power efficiency. In other words, if you were to compare the two athletes and one could execute 30 jumps before dropping down to 35 inches and the other athlete could only complete 20 jumps then the athlete with 30 jumps completed would have a 33% greater efficiency in power production. The athlete with 30 jumps completed has better athletic gas mileage for higher power production. So, you may design a program that produces a higher vertical jump, but what makes for better performance in a game if the efficiency of the athlete is so low that in the fourth quarter of the game a much lesser jumper is able to out jump your high performing athlete? Who is the better player?

Something to think about, more to come.

If you wanted to look at the Versaclimber as a Sport How Would You Design a Program?

The Versaclimber is becoming more and more popular and I think will eventually be something that athletes will compete on as a sport.  Kind of like the Concept 2 Erg.  When it first came out it was for athletes that rowed on the water to train indoors.  Now there are world records and it is a competitive sport outside of rowing on the water.

LeBron James, Andy Murray, Lady Gaga, and a large number of UFC fighters have recognized the advantage of the Versaclimber equipment as a wonderful training tool.  The Versaclimber has been around since the eighties, but is finally getting the respect it deserves.   We were the first center to offer group cardio classes on the climber over 2 years ago and have become really familiar with the climber.  Our group workouts are fitness game changers for so many clients.  The problem with the workouts is if you truly embrace the science of HIIT then these 30 min classes are very difficult.  It can be intimidating at first, but then once you get past the initial shock you want to see how fast you can go.

Recently I heard about the unofficial mile record on the Versaclimber and thought I would make a run at this effort.  5280 feet on the climber in 24:47 was the previous unofficial record for the mile.  About 10 years ago, I completed a mile in 27:30 which is a 192 feet per average pace on the climber.  I thought this was a pretty good time and was curious how I would do now.  So we had a little mile high challenge at our center and I wanted to see if I could break the “unofficial” record.  I am a cyclist as well as a weightlifter so I carry a descent aerobic base of fitness.  I gave it a go and I was able to come in at 23:13.  Then of course the next thing I thought was if I really focused on getting faster and trained on this with some purpose how would I design a training program for this event? 

Knowing what I know as a cycling coach and strength coach could I design a program that would bring me in around 21 minutes? This would be an eyeball bleeding pace of 250 feet per minute.  If you have not tried the Versaclimber this is a fast pace to hold for longer than a few minutes.

After my last attempt I now have a baseline and can better design what I will need to attempt 21 min.   

I believe that all efforts lasting longer than about 20 seconds should be looked at from a percentage of your absolute power output.  In other words a 200 meter runner needs to look at what percentage of their 100 meter time they have to maintain to win.  This helps to see where the biggest areas for improvement can be realized.  Are you really fast on the short end or vice versa and where you should put your training focus.   It is not always the fastest 100 meter runner that wins the 200 meter race.  It is the runner that can hold the highest percentage of their 100 meter speed longer.  It is the highest sustainable power or power efficiency that wins most events lasting longer than about 30 seconds yet too many athletes focus little time on how to improve this efficiency.

So the key to these long efforts is to keep the highest percentage of your maximum power output the longest.  I am no longer actively a bike racer, but I still ride enough to keep my fitness at a pretty good level for a noncompetitive cyclist.  However, the Versaclimber is a different animal. 

So this will be the first of a series of blogs on how I see the program design for a mile on the climber.

Strategy Development:

So when evaluating a sport and developing a strategy to improve performance to the highest level I look at the goal of performing at a world class level and work backwards.  In other words what are the components of the greatest performers?

I thought it would be fun to do this with the Versaclimber even though it is not a competitive sport it would give insight into how to look at designing programs for any discipline and be a fun exercise. 

So first what are the needs of the Versaclimber from a physiological and psychological perspective?  If I was to look at this as a sport what are the requirements?  I am only going to look at the physiological needs at this time. 

In general it is a power to weight effort,  the bigger you are the more difficult it can be as you have to carry the weight on the climber. However similar to rowing taller people have an advantage biomechanically as the longer stroke at the same pace covers more ground and also provides a longer lever for movement.  Similar to rowing there is a tipping point where more bodyweight is detrimental unless it can produce power at a higher percentage of others.  So there will be a sweet spot of height and weight that will produce the greatest speed.  Think of a tall light runner as more of the optimum size.    This is also what makes this machine so difficult for both short and longer efforts.  There is nowhere to hide and you cannot really rest.  If you are resting you are climbing slower or else you do not cover any ground.  In addition you have to have the ability to transfer power unilaterally.  In addition, your arms are working as well and for the most part they are above your heart so the blood has to be pumped to them and this has a greater metabolic load. 

So what are the basic needs of the sport of Versaclimbing?

·         Arm and leg length matter and impacts the leverage on the down stroke.  Taller lighter athletes will have a biomechanical advantage, however there is a limit on the total stroke length attainable at 21 inches.  Shorter people can excel if they have long legs and long arms and a shorter torso.  This can allow them to get a long stroke length even though they are not as tall.  Hip flexion and knee flexion can impact stroke length.

·         A power to weight sport.  There will be an optimum power to weight for longer efforts.  Shorter efforts are more determined by absolute power output, so body weight is not as impactful as it is on longer efforts.  

·         For longer duration efforts it is sustainable power that is most important not absolute power output like a short sprint.  It is similar to an uphill time trial in cycling or running up a hill. 

·         Short sprints need high absolute power output. 

·         Lower body centric, similar to rowing, but upper body pulling and stabilization is a component and can add to the speed.  There is minimum limit requirement of output while moving because of body weight being carried.  There is nowhere to hide below the minimum level!

·         Quad dominant, although with altered position hips can be highly engaged, as well as upper body, biceps, forearms, and upper and lower back. 

·         Linear vector of movement limited to up and down movement.

·         Cross crawl movement, so body is more stable with the points of contact being balanced.  Some core engagement, but not overly taxing on core, however lower back is highly engaged on longer efforts.   

·         Different handles can change load on upper body and wrists.

·         Foot positon on the platform can transfer load from quads to more hips or vice versa.

·         Metabolically very taxing, as the athlete has to carry body weight at all times if moving.  The only time there is not load is when foot platforms are even. 

·         There has to be a good aerobic engine for long efforts as there are a lot of muscle groups working in tandem.  This is why the heart rate can get so elevated and it is so metabolically taxing. 

So the list above establishes the basic physiological needs to perform on the climber.  The next thing I would look at is establishing the athletes’ current abilities to compete in this discipline and what are their specific strengths and weaknesses and where are the gaps between the list above and the current fitness of the athlete.  I am looking for tipping points where I can make big gains with small improvements.  In these discussions I will be discussing attempting to do the mile on the Versaclimber at a 250 pace and 21 minutes of time.

So looking at myself as the athlete I am coaching, I have to develop a program designed to accomplish this pace for the mile.  I can see from my last effort on the mile I have a baseline speed of 230 feet per minute currently.  I have to improve my speed from 230 to 250 per minute.  That is an 8.7 percent improvement.  The next step is to try to see where I can pick up this speed. 

I will start this process by looking at my maximum power output on the climber.  I consider that my best 30 seconds to one minute time.  Currently my best one minute time is 327 feet, and my best 30 seconds is 198 feet or a 396 pace.  My last mile effort was 230 feet average or 58% of my 30 second absolute power output.  So the first thing I have to ask is where am I going to get the speed.  I do not think that I can go much faster in a 30 second sprint, so I have to look at increasing the percentage of my absolute from 58 to 63 percent.  

So where do we start?  The first thing I will do is see how long I can maintain a 250 pace.  If I had to guess I would say currently it is only 8 minutes.  That is only 38% of the total time needed. 

So this is a starting point that will allow me to start developing a program designed to support these data points and the current gaps.  You could go through the same exercise for your training, but just apply this thought process to your own personal goals. 

I will be looking at how I can increase my sustainable power longer.  I will be looking for areas that need work.  I will be designing tactics that will allow me to hold higher percentages of my maximum power longer.   I already know that I have some issues with my right knee that could be a tipping point.  It has to do with a lot of old injuries and knee flexion.  I need to address this issue and that will help quite a bit.  In addition I need to start adding more efficiency at higher outputs.  This will include both long runs at a steady state and also longer intense short efforts.    I will slowly start to merge these types of efforts together so that the tempo is steadily increasing and that I am increasing the duration of the higher output runs until they merge to the pace I need to maintain to hit the goal.   

Recent Tactics:

The first workout I did with this in mind I focused on my pacing at the new level of output.  I call this getting weight on the bar to get the feel of the weight.    I climbed one minute at a 240 pace (this is higher than my current mile pace) and then followed with one minute at a 260 pace which is above my goal pace. I did this for 4 mins straight.   I then recovered and did again.  This design forces me to elevate to a higher level of output than needed for my goal and then partially recover and then go up again.  This is very taxing.     I will keep adding time all the while working on the shorter end of the range of 45 secs to 1.5 minutes at a pace closer to 300. 

In the next post I will focus on my evaluation of my current strengths and weakness and how that will impact the program design moving ahead.  


Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Progressions. How much? How Fast? And why it is probably the most important contribution a coach can make.

Overload/Adaptation.  We all know what it means, but I do not think that there is enough attention paid to both.  Today I am going to talk about the overload part of the relationship and how to manage progressions to optimize time and performance improvements. 

The myth of Milo was that as a small child he would go out every day and, at first, lift a calf and then as the calf grew Milo was lifting a larger and larger animal until as a grown man he was lifting a bull.  This is the lesson of small incremental overloads over a long periods of time that can lead to great strength gains. 

My experience has shown me that properly timed progressions are the quickest way to make gains for my athletes.  I believe that all the fancy exercises and technology in the world cannot compete with a great understanding of how to progress an athlete. 

I believe that a great coach’s real value is in the gift of time to their athletes.  Most think it is injury prevention, athletic performance, sport specific performance etc.  However all of these things provide the athlete with more TIME.  It is a gift of more productive years of the highest level of performance.    If an athlete is injured they cannot train, poor program design wastes an athletes productive years (even if there are gains made).  Could the gains have been greater?  I see my role as a coach to realize the greatest amount of sustainable genetic potential of the athletes I am charged with training without injury.  My understanding of the science and the athlete’s body allow me to give the athlete much greater performance in their most productive years of play.  Athletes are dynamic, that is why the monitoring of how you are progressing is so important.  I have a hard time understanding a coach that does not write things down.  I am always writing notes to myself and even though there are a ton of spreadsheets available to use, I still rely on my notes to help me understand the dynamic nature of training.  These notes allow me to learn better ways to make progressions. 

I am looking for incremental changes in my design to produce greater and faster marginal gains that when added together create what I call “tipping point” fitness. 

Years ago when the Raiders were in the Superbowl I was lucky and got to train Regan Upshaw that off season.  He was one of my first high profile elite football players.  When I trained him he had been 11 years in the NFL.  I had never worked with a defensive end at the time so in my evaluation of him the first thing I did was look at what was my primary objective if I was to improve him as a player in the gym.  If I could create an athlete that when the ball was snapped was immediately in the quarterback’s face I would be a tremendous coach.  Now that is an impossible task, however I have to look at what percentage of that objective I could achieve and work backwards.   With that mandate in mind I began to tear apart everything he did once the ball was snapped.  What did he require physically to perform at his best based on the needs of the position?  I would use the tools of exercise science and training to reduce the time it took him to get to the ball.    It started with looking at his stance to determine how I could reduce the time of his first movements in any direction.  We found that he had a very long rear foot stance.  This was comfortable, but slow.  His time off the ball was about 30% faster if we brought his rear foot up closer.   I then looked at what I needed to do from an exercise physiology standpoint to better accommodate this new foot position as it was initially awkward.  Adding more hip flexor mobility made this new stance more comfortable for him.   This was my first incremental gain and it was a tipping point for him.  The time immediately after the snap has much greater value to a lineman.  During the Superbowl, as I watched the game I saw him line up on the ball and then move his back leg forward and it put me on the field.   I was elated.   Of course we then moved forward to evaluate all the other physical needs of his position.  With great athletes marginal gains add up to big performance gains. 

With that in mind what have I seen as one of the greatest influencers to really fast results without injury?   Is it a better understanding of technology, pre-hab, program design, exercise science, mobility, stability, exercise selection, Olympic lifting skill, coaching capabilities etc?  The list goes on and on.   I am not discounting the importance of having a basic understanding of all these tools.  However, with a decent understanding of these tools the greatest impact I have found is determining when and where to progress athletes.   The great thing about this skill is it relies more on your ability to pay attention, listen and observe than all the science in the world.  Without regular incremental overloads you will dramatically slow progress!!  I will say that again.  Without incremental overloads on a regular basis you will see little change!! Milo would have been puny if the calf did not grow. 

After High School, athletes today have short off seasons when you may get blocks of training time that are big enough to have an impact.  Let’s say an athlete is 19 when he starts college.  According to the NFL Players Association the average career length is about 3.3 years. The NFL claims that the average career is about 6 years (for players who make a club's opening day roster in their rookie season).  If this is the case, and each player has about 8 weeks (I am being generous) when they can train consistently in the off season the time disappears fast.   That is a total of 4 years in college and about 6 years in the pros.  So about 80 weeks of total off season training time when gains can really be made.  So if you believe that adding 2.5 lbs to a lift is insignificant you are really missing the boat.  I tell my athletes that proper progressions are like compounding interest for retirement.  At first it does not seem like it is doing much.  Then all of a sudden you look at the account and there is significant money in the account.  Building an athlete is similar.  Sensible regular progressions compound and appreciate in value over time.

If there is unproductive time it is costly.  One week a year of lost gains in fitness is 12.5% of the total time the average player has in a NFL career after high school to make gains.  2 weeks lost is 25 percent of potential that is lost to the athlete.  This is devastating when you know that the difference between franchise player and getting cut can be very small percentages in performance at that level. 

The problems that arise in progressions are because the human body is a dynamic mechanism. 

This attention on progression needs to be devoted to strength, but even more so to power and any metabolic conditioning you may be performing with your athletes because there is a bigger risk of overtraining these metabolically taxing exercises.  Progressions are even more important as the athlete becomes better and better.  This is because overloads need to be bigger or more intense to get a change in performance as the athlete gets fitter and fitter. 

What are the factors that need to be considered when progressing an athlete? 

Time:  How much time do I have to train the athlete?

Maturity:  How long has the athlete been training at this level?

Chronological Age: This will have an impact on recovery time.  It does not mean an older athlete cannot recover quickly, but age needs to be taken into account.

Recovery and adaptation time: This is more of an individualized evaluation. 

Fatigue:  CNS(central nervous system )/Peripheral (muscle specific)

Current level of relative fitness:  What level of fitness are you starting with?  The fitter the athlete the more important the progression.  An unfit athlete will make gains quickly with most types of stimulus.  However, the fitter athlete has to have a more focused design.  

Biomechanical issues and impediments: This may limit your ability to make big progressions until this is remedied.  However, I have found that from injury I become a much better coach at figuring out ways to improve the athlete in areas that have been neglected for long periods of time. 

Past or recent injuries: Athletes have injuries.  How far away from the injury is your training and always remember it can impact your progressions.  It is equivalent to driving a high performance car fast on bald tires. 

Baselines to establish overloads:  Poor baseline analysis wastes a great amount of time as you do not get to an overload level fast enough.

Mental toughness:  Some athletes hate to train at things they are not good at.  No one does.  However, it is like getting a kid to eat their veggies.  Sometimes you have to figure out how to make them think it is dessert. 

Winning a workout:  Athletes want to win.  If you are not creating little victories in each workout, morale diminishes and progressions are more difficult as you will see breaks in training. 


Type of progressions: Periodization

So what is the most effective method of progressing an athlete?  When how much, how often is the science of periodization.  The Eastern Bloc in the 1960s were employing 10 year periodization.  They would identify a candidate in their early youth and then start the process.  They would look at progressions over a very long period of time.  Tudor Bompa is considered a pioneer in the study of periodization and brought much of the eastern bloc training methods to the West. 

Overload/progression: A simple definition of a progressive overload is anything over the normal that creates a stress large enough for the body to make an adaptation. 

Examples of Overloads:

Load/Intensity:  More weight. More power output. Higher Velocity, Higher percentages of maximum output. 

Volume:  Time of output.  More reps.  More total sets. 

Rest/Density: Rest between the sets, Rest between the reps.  Most do not think about rest between reps.  I utilize this method very effectively in training for efficiency of producing power. 

Tempo: Speed of a movement

Metabolic load:  Anaerobic, glycolytic, and aerobic.  What are the fuels needed and rest to recover ratios?

Periodization is just the design of the overloads and rest to elicit a desired outcome. This design will impact progressions in your training.   Typically it is organized in blocks.  The blocks cover different energy system needs or physiological objectives. .  Strength, Hypertrophy, Strength Endurance, Power, Power Endurance, etc.  You typically have a micro cycle, mesocycle, and macrocycle.  The micorcycle is the individual objective of a workout, mesocycles may be 3 weeks and the macrocycle is the overarching longer term strategy.  I have studied Vershonsky and Siff’s and Bompa’s work on the subject.  The problem with most of the original periodization models is that they are develop for weightlifters or competitive Olympic lifters who sport is their training. As a strength coach, and a competitive cyclist I have learned much about how periodization impacts aerobic performance on the bike.   How do you take the lessons of these progressive overloads  and apply it to a particular sport for power and strength?  You are not trying to build weightlifters most of the time, but you are trying to improve movement and power by way of the weight room. 

Endurance athletes are much better at periodization than most team sports.  The endurance athlete’s seasons are long and there is often times a need to peak for particular events and this lends itself to an effective periodization.  With a field athlete or team sport there is more of an overall need for fitness and then some peaks throughout the season that are dictated more by the coaches of the sport itself, not the Strength Coach. Once the season starts it is more play and rest with lots of maintenance to minimize de-training.    However, the principle behind periodization is really just a physiological management tool for overloads and adaptation so that the athlete is at their peak when it of most valuable. 

I think the take away from all of these periodization programs is that you need to build a solid foundation of fitness that addresses the need for the sport.  This allows the athlete to progress from this foundation with higher and higher intensities and overloads that have a low risk for injury or overtraining, and then build on this fitness throughout the season through maintenance workouts and competition.   

There are a number of different types of periodization and I will not go into detail on all of them in this post.  The two most common I see in use are a linear periodization and an undulating periodization.  Linear, would break out blocks of time with objectives in each block.  Hypertrophy, strength, strength endurance etc.  Each block would have a focus and you would progress through the blocks.  Undulating periodization has multiple objectives and peaks and troughs more often within each of the objectives.    Personally I like Louie Simmons Conjugated system for my strength and power training (much more undulating in nature) the best as the principals can be applied much easier to different sports and level of athletes and fit well into a commercial center.  Collegiate athletes have mandatory practice which makes some aspects easier.  The undulating system more easily allows me to better address the unpredictability of an athletes time and more rapidly progress athletes that progress at a greater rate of speed and may have faster recovery times.

My personal system I label Training with Windows:  I am a visual guy so I like to visualize my overall training design for an athlete as if I was looking at a wall of windows.  Each window represents a particular physiological requirement for that particular sport.  Remember, most athletes we train are not competitive weightlifters, so the ability to have multiple physical qualities is very important.    The windows reflect the needs of the sport at the highest level of performance.  During the year some of the windows are wide open and some just slightly open.  The only time they are all wide open is during competition.  I spend a lot of time identifying the needs of the sport and what skills the athlete comes to me with and then determine the gaps for gains. 

So let’s look at a couple of examples.  Let’s say I have a competitive high jumper.  Some of the primary physiological windows for the sport would be the following:  Lower body strength, lower body power, mobility in hips, mobility in back and shoulders, dynamic core, stability and power, t spine mobility, drive leg power and strength, high rate of force development, hamstring strength and eccentric loading capabilities, strength endurance, speed strength, knee stability.  These are some of the primary windows I would be evaluating.  Most of these are pretty obvious, but what is the current physiological infrastructure of the athlete that I need to improve to address these needs and how do I progress the athlete?  We need the athlete to have the ability to perform a large number of strength exercises with large amounts of weight.  In addition we will also need to make sure there is enough mobility to handle the upcoming training for power.  I am looking for correlation coefficients to the act of jumping.  A correlation coefficient is the amount of influence one variable has on another variable.   Your best squatters are typically not be your best vertical jumpers, but squats will help improve a vertical jump.  So therefore squats are part of the program that will help support the power training to improve vertical jumps.  An extreme example of this concept would be forearm strength and high jumping.  I would say there is a very low or nonexistent relationship (correlation coefficient) to high jumping.  In fact if your forearms got to big they would add unnecessary body weight which would negatively impact the athlete’s jumping height.    However without good wrist mobility and forearm strength power cleans are difficult to execute.  So there has to be a window opened to this skill of wrist mobility and shoulder integrity even though it is not a primary window. 

So the size of the window I utilize is determined by the relationship it has directly or indirectly in supporting the final requirements of the athlete for the sport. 

So with the idea of these windows how do we design and monitor progressions?

As is said when it comes to strength and power I like the Conjugated training system, because it is regularly addressing all the needs of the particular lifts, but with emphasis on particular areas at different points in time.  This also supports my idea of little victories and keeping the athlete engaged.  Remember, athletes do not like doing things poorly.   So you need to balance these skills.  My high school athletes want their biceps to look good when on the field.  The need for biceps may be very low in their respective position, but I have no problem killing their arms and sending them out of the gym with a big pump from time to time to give them a win.  

So following through with my windows metaphor, I never completely close the window on any required skill, however I may just crack the window open at one time and have another window wide open.  All the while changing the focus so that I am marrying the individual’s progressions to the needs and weaknesses in their performance skill set that may already exist.   If an athlete is monster strong on deadlifts and squats what is the added value of adding more squats if the position or sport they play does not require greater lower body strength than they already possess.  Therefore, the window may be cracked to maintain the lower body strength but allows me to shift my focus and time elsewhere.   I may skip ahead and go to maintenance on these exercises and jump right to improving the athlete’s power.  This saves me valuable training time that I can gift to the athlete.   This is also why I am not as fond of systems of training with elite athletes.

I believe in sport that all roads lead to power.  Now in some cases it is a high output of power for a few efforts. (High Jump, Shot Put etc.)  However, most sports require multiple efforts of power in different planes of movement.  It is not the highest output of power that wins, but the ability to hold the highest percentage of that power the longest in a competition.

So once you have established the Windows (needs of a particular sport and position) and established what baseline skill set you athlete possesses (How big are their current windows?), the next step is designing the program that will best address these needs and gaps that the athlete may have and also which are most important to change.   This is your overarching program design to address the improvement necessary to bring your athlete to their highest level of output in the time you have.  I call this inter-workout design. 

Now, within the workouts we have intra-workout design.  This is where I most often see time being wasted with poor progressions.

My goal is to progress the athlete to the greatest overload the fastest without any risk of injury.  So, I do not want to waste sets, reps, or a workout, because I did not get the overload I wanted.  Time is where the value exists.  Every coach will say if I had more time with the athlete I could make bigger gains.  This type of analysis can give you more time. 

The first thing I do is set a primary objective of my workout.  Ex:  I am going to get a max in the deadlift or bench, or bump absolute power.  The primary objective can also be to reign in the athlete so that later in the week I get the big lift.   This primary objective is the win of the workout.  Then if you have a hiccup, which you always get, you can still see if you can accomplish your primary objective.  Sometimes you just can’t get an overload, but by going in with the objective you know what direction you want to be heading.  You also know that maybe today is best suited for active recovery, because if you try to force the overload at a subpar output you just dig the athlete into a hole and risk overtraining. 

Intra-workout progressions can be set up a number of different ways.  They can be arbitrary from week to week.  You just set an increase in weight that is fixed from week to week or a percentage increase week to week.  I think this may work better for individuals that are new to lifting or have not been in the weight room for a number of months.  The progressions will usually be bigger jumps as the athlete gets back into the lifts and the body makes a more rapid adaptation back to the previous normal.  The athlete has been here before, and you are just working on technique and seeing if there are any biomechanical issues that need to be addressed so this transition time is not real improvement over where they were at the start of last season.    

You can also progress week to week and make changes based on the performance the week before.  I like this with more mature athletes and it may work well in a bigger groups.  This can be on a fixed percentage or perceived exertion by the athlete.  If you use perceived exertion you have to educate your athletes on what this means or you will not get the output you desire. 

My goal is to reduce what I call wasted reps and sets and workouts.  I want training not exercise.  Exercise is a component of training but may not contribute to moving the needle forward. 

I use a rep scheme that allows for the dynamic nature of how an athlete feels.   It is based on past lifts, but not wedded completely to the past lifts.  The past lifts act as a guide.    I overlay this with trying to have max lifts in one or two exercises in each workout.  I monitor the type of lifts so that I do not do a squat max and deadlift max in the same workout or back to back on days.  I am careful about designing the workouts so that recovery time is adequate.    These could be an upperbody and lowerbody, pulling or pushing maxes on the same days of the week.  It is also dictated by how many days in the week I get to train the athlete.  If you get the athlete more often you can be more creative with the maxes.    This would be similar to the conjugated system.     I or one of my coaches will observe the lift and try to progress the athlete based on a previous weeks lift, but at the same time take into account the possibility of a fitness bump during that workout.  As we know as athletes get fitter jumps in fitness come slower and less often and I want to take advantage of a bump as soon as it takes place. Not a week later!! This is really important and why I like notes.  I can immediately go back and see what the last max lift was and the date executed.  You will also start to see patterns in the time between max lifts for different athletes. 

The Workout:

So I start with a check in set.  It is typically 10-12 reps.  I want to see how the athlete feels.  It also is a way to reduce injuries.  The more days of the week the athlete is training the lower the rep count can be on this set as the athlete is more in tune with how they feel.  If you have bigger gaps between workouts 

I may do 2 of these sets.    You could look at this as a warm up to the bigger lift to follow.   If I see any issues with form or if the athlete just feels weak, we progress accordingly.  If my objective is to get an overload with a heavy lift then I want to get there as soon as possible so I do not hinder my ability to overload by too many prior sets and volume.  Some athletes are more comfortable with bigger jumps in weight.   The next set will typically be 6 to 8 reps.  I like the range of two reps as it allows me and my coaches and the athlete to have some flexibility and still feel success.  I always tell my athletes I want to target the lower rep range if possible.  What this means is that the 6th rep should be about all that can be accomplished.  If you see that it is to light do not do more reps.  Just make a bigger jump on the next set so as not to add unnecessary fatigue that may compromise you getting an overload.    My next set is typically 3-5 reps and the last set is 2-3 reps.  Each set will have a bump in weight with the target in mind.  The range of the reps allow us some flexibility in targeting.  If I can get a 2.5lb increase in weight I am going to get it.  Do not discount the smaller increases as having little value. On endurance days the smaller increase are also of great importance and are sometimes overlooked.  You want the increase in total volume on these days.   You must allow the body to get the weight on the bar.  This method requires the coach to be more observant of the athlete in the lift or educate the athlete on the goal of the rep scheme and progression if the coach is not there to add value and monitor. 

I also am very cognizant of taking into account the level of athletic maturity in the athlete and typically I will look at “max” lifts for a novice differently than a seasoned lifter.   A less mature lifter I may have 6 to 8 reps “max” as the top end and an elite lifter 1 to 3 reps. 

I have seen great technical coaches get poor performance results from their athletes because of poor progressions.  Less Instagram moments and more focus on what really adds value and cannot be seen in a photo.  My belief is that with a few solid exercises and great progressions you will make much greater improvement faster than any other form of training.  It is a dynamic process that requires a coach to pay attention and figure out ways to lead the athlete to obtain the greatest overloads without injury or overtraining. 

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS


Goals vs. Outcomes Both in Training and Life

Goals, most athletes make them; winning my next competition;  win the State Championship, etc.   There is an art to Goal setting and it takes some thought to make the experience useful. 

We utilize goals on a regular basis at .   We set goals on a particular workout, exercise, week of exercises, months etc. .  Goals are built into the periodization calendar we create for the athlete.  Utilizing and monitoring these goals is of great importance in making rapid progress in strength and conditioning. 

However, many athletes confuse goals with outcomes.  Especially younger athletes who are oftentimes trying to figure out what sport they really like to compete in.  This is where the difference between goals and outcomes becomes clearer and more important.

As stated in the example above a goal has a particular hard measurement of achievement.   A win, a PR, etc.  Whereas an outcome typically has an emotional component to the individual involved.  I want to be happy.  I want to enjoy the camaraderie of a team.  I want to experience the joy of competition, training, pushing myself harder than I ever have etc.  It has a feeling attached to the experience.

The outcome will dictate how you feel.  You could win all your competitions and still not have a positive outcome.  You could also lose all your competitions and be the happiest competitor on the field of play.

So remember to look at both.  Goals are important, but Outcomes will make you feel better about your sport and in most cases are of greater importance.

You are typically happier by focusing on outcomes first and goals support the outcome you desire. 

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS, Primal Health Coach Certified.

Exercise vs. Training: What is the Difference and why you should know!

In one of my past blog entries I discussed the primary components of fitness and how many people are very one dimensional in their approach to fitness.  They may be strong at endurance only, strength only etc.  This is many times a symptom of poor program design. 

In this entry I want to discuss the difference between exercise and training.  I am often asked what differentiates Sirens and Titans  from other programs.  We are often lumped in with all the different circuit programs, Crossfit studios, etc. I believe our primary differentiator is our focus on results and the reason we get great results is because we are not just providing exercise.  We  integrate a complete program design that begins with a thorough evaluation of the client.  I know this may sound confusing but read on and it will make more sense.  The easiest to understand real world example would be mapping out a trip across the country before you started driving.  This is even more important if the trip has a time element and you have to be at your destination in a certain amount of time.  Imagine stopping at random gas stations along the way to ask for directions.  This would not be the most effective method to get to your destination within the time.  Fitness is no different.  You have a limited amount of time to get to your destination.   Most approaches to fitness are based on this inefficient methodology.   

Strategy, strategy, strategy!!  This is worth taking the time to look at closely.


Exercise:  The generally accepted definition is a  physical activity to become stronger or healthier.  Walking, yoga, Crossfit, Zumba, spinning, etc.  All of these are exercise.  You go to a class and with minimal regard to your goal you perform movements that are physically demanding.  Think about a spinning class.  You do not know what type of class you get until the instructor walks in the door.  In addition the level of intensity is determined by you.  You can go hard or easy or moderately it is not prescriptive exercise based on a primary goal of improvement.  Unless you dictate an overload in an energy system you are targeting you are pretty much just getting exercise.  You are letting luck and your understanding of the science to dictate the result.  You are moving and that is good, but quickly your body will adapt and you will see little change in your body or fitness.  This is the “No Man’s Land” of training.  You will be in good company as most people that workout regularly end up here.  Even some elite athletes with poor coaching end up here as well.  This is why the fitness industry is poor at delivering results to the clients. 

Is your time valuable?  Training/Coaching:  A strength and conditioning coach’s responsibility to the athlete is to design a program that results in the highest level of improvement possible within the time allocated to train with the coach.    One is coached with an overarching strategy to improve the athlete to the highest level of fitness in the shortest amount of time based on an evaluation of their current strengths and weaknesses and what are the particular needs of the sport. 

The technical term for this in the world of strength and conditioning is a periodization.  A periodization can be long or short.  The objective is to move the athlete as far to optimum with their conditioning as possible in the time devoted to this training.   The Eastern Bloc athletes were utilizing 10 year periodization for some of their athletes.  Every workout builds on the next.  There are a number of different approaches to the periodization.  Undulating, and linear are the two most common. 

Most of the time strength coaches do not have 10 years of training time with an athlete.  I have always believed that the real product of a great strength coach is time.  An athlete has a depreciating asset with a limited window for greatness. With good coaches the athlete can have much greater production in their sport within their window of productive years.  In other words they are much fitter earlier in their career with great strength and conditioning coaching. 

If all you had to do was exercise to get really fit then all pro athletes would just play their sport and do nothing else but their respective sport for improvements in fitness and then rely on their genetic gifts.  This would be an ineffective method to realize peak performance in elite athletes.     The difference between what the average person does to improve fitness and what we provide our client’s  as strength coaches is prescribed exercise. Typically the average person randomly determines the exercise prescription.  Or they take a class that prescribes only one type of exercise without any consideration to what would be the most effective training for their desired result.

The problem with this approach is that the average person spends countless hours of wasted time with little or no improvement.  It would be like a doctor prescribing hemorrhoid cream for bi-polar disorder.  The person may see some result but very unlikely.    Dependent on what the diagnosis is for the athlete’s current level of capability, maturity, strengths and weaknesses, and what the specific sport requires, we will prescribe the appropriate activity to fit the overarching strategy we have developed for that particular athlete.  There are a number of components that go into designing this strategy. In order to obtain the greatest result in the shortest time each workout is a link in a bigger chain.    I have discussed this in previous blog entries.  It is what is typically lacking in most training programs.  Most people focus only on the exercise component and not the training and coaching part of the equation. Exercise is better than nothing, however I think most people would like to see positive results in the shortest time and ongoing improvement in their level of fitness and body composition for the effort.  Without considerable thought put into the prescription of exercise there is typically failure which is exemplified in slow or no change in body composition and fitness.   If you are struggling with your training this is typically the problem.  Unfortunately, it is not always so easy to solve unless you find someone who can effectively design a program.  Program design is a dynamic process.  How the individual adapts to the exercise determines progressions, rest, intensity, volume, and type of exercises.  This is typically where the wheels come off in the process.

So think about the difference between exercise and training and you will have a much better chance for success in your fitness and body composition. 


Truth in Fitness!

Jacques DeVore, CSCS Primal Health Coach Certified

Versa-Climber / Versa-Pulley Workout Today: 12/6/2017

I am continuing my training to make a run at 1000 feet on the 20x10 Tabata 4 min interval on the Versa-Climber.  That is a 20 sec sprint with a 10 sec rest for 7 efforts and the 8th effort is 30 seconds to end at 4 min of time.  In order to break 1000 ft I have to average close to 353 feet per minute.  That is about 13 feet per minute faster than my current Personal Best.

When I did my last effort I finished at 961ft, my legs were really starting to fade in the last few efforts so I have been experimenting with the Versapulley as a way to allow my body to adapt to better lactate buffering so that I can alleviate some of the late fading in my legs in the efforts.

So today I am going to do 4 x 45 second efforts on the Versapulley followed by 4 x 45 second efforts on the Versaclimber.  I will have a complete recovery of approximately 2-3 minutes between efforts as I want to keep the power at the highest possible level.  I usually give myself more recovery in the latter intervals as you start to see oxygen being depleted at a greater rate as I fatigue.  In addition the 45 second interval is over twice as long as the efforts for 1000 feet so it puts me in the pain cave longer, which mentally is advantageous.   

Utilizing the Versapulley first will allow me to get a great amount of muscle activation before my efforts on the Versaclimber.  I will be alternating from one to the other so I can benchmark my outputs and have some targets to hit. 

Go to our Facebook at Sirens and Titans Fitness to see the video showing part of one of my 45 second runs on the Versa-Pulley and part of my 45 sec on the Versa-Climber.  I am paying attention to the power being produced on each pull on the Versa-Pulley and also trying to keep my feet per minute over 300 on the Versa-Climber.  This forces me to produce the highest average output during both intervals.  This is important so that the total overload is greater as opposed to blowing up in the first 20 seconds and then dropping off dramatically.  This is an example of designing a workout to target a particular overload by combining two types of efforts.  Individually they are not as valuable as combined together. 


Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS , Primal Health Coach Certified.

Do you understand your physics? You'd Better if you want to Speed Results.

·        Power = Force x Distance/Time =Force/Velocity

·        Force = Mass x Acceleration +Weight of Mass

·        Rate of Force Development= ∆ (force)/∆ (time)

·        Maximum Sustained Power =The ability to hold the highest percentage of your absolute power the longest.


Strava bike records, Map my Run, CrossFit Games. All of these roads lead back to the laws of physics. How does a body move through space? They say that you cannot defy the laws of physics, and that’s true. But sometimes, when you watch athletes perform, you can’t help but wonder if it’s always true. The three equations above are of great importance in training your body for improvement on the bike in the Maximum Overload program outlined in my book.

Cycling is a sport that requires thousands of revolutions and the ability to produce maximum sustainable power over long periods of time. This sustainable power is what makes the final climbs of your ride much more enjoyable. By understanding the physics you can better understand how your body works as well.

Let’s start by looking at the first equation. People confuse power with strength on a regular basis. This drives me crazy. Strength is the ability to generate a force. If you were pushing against a wall with your hands you would be creating a force. The force could be measured using a force plate to determine how many units of force you are creating. Force is a measurement of Mass x Acceleration plus the weight of the mass. It is typically measured in Newtons. If you look at the equation for power it takes Force (strength) and incorporates the time it takes to generate the force over a particular distance (velocity).

Think about getting out of a chair. You rise up and generate enough force and velocity to overcome both the weight of your body and gravity to lift you out of the chair. If you continue to increase the speed at which you go from sitting to standing, eventually you would increase the speed to such a point that your body would leave the ground. In each subsequent time out of the chair you are producing more power as you increase the speed (velocity) of rising up. So it is one thing to have the ability to produce enough force (strength) to rise from your chair and overcome the weight of your body and gravity. However, once velocity is increased you will rise higher and higher as you rise from your chair, generating greater and greater amounts of power as the velocity increases.

Ever watch an old person rise from a chair? Usually the hands move to the knees and then with a grunt they rise up. The hands are changing the biomechanics and un-weighting the hips by moving the body forward and incorporating the arms. When force production is low and velocity cannot be achieved, the body will look for biomechanical tricks to execute the movement successfully. In sport this can lead to injury. Stay away from the old person get-up if you can.

Rate of force development equals the change in force and the amount of time it takes to make that change. Rate of force development is what influences your velocity greatly and, subsequently, your power.

If you have ever played the game Slaps, in which one person stands with their hands clasped in front of them and their opponent faces them with their hands to their sides and then tries to slap the other person’s hands, you have a little idea about rate of force development. If you are slow at rate of  force production in this game, you are in for some pain. We used to play this game as kids and usually someone ended up walking away with red, sore hands. If you were the hitter, you would stand there and concentrate to try to increase the speed at which your body moved your hands. The faster you were able to fire the muscles and produce a force, the faster your hands would cover the distance and deliver a resounding slap. In boxing they call this beating your opponent to the punch. 


Why are these physics equations important to training?

When I am evaluating an athlete, I look at all of the components in these equations to determine where the athlete has the biggest gaps. Many of the short term gains made in strength training are neuromuscular (muscle firing) in nature. In other words we always will see strength gains neuromuscularly in an athlete before we begin to see size gains. If you were to focus on nothing but strength gains, there would be gains in strength but not necessarily in rate of force production. Rate of force production improvement is seen more readily in explosive types of exercises where high levels of power are being produced. (Hakkinen et al., 1985) This type of evaluation is ongoing with the athletes I am training. I am reevaluating areas of fitness that need the most attention. For example, an athlete may come to us with a good base of absolute strength, but be lacking in the velocity side of the equation. In many cases I can identify this lack of velocity just by observing the athlete’s movements. With more highly trained athletes we utilize measurements of power to get specific measurements of our starting point and subsequent progress. The faster an athlete gets to peak force, the faster the rate of force production. With this information we can develop a better training program that will improve the athlete’s ability to generate a force and, subsequently, more power for their specific sport. The D.I.Y. version is measuring distance over time in an exercise requiring power. Start by measuring your time to that mailbox at the top of the hill.

Utilizing the equations above in the evaluation of your fitness can oftentimes lead you to an area of training that could result in a big improvement in your performance in much less time. Understand the physics and you will be able to better utilize the training time you have available.


Truth in fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS and Certified Primal Health Coach


Absolute Power vs Maximum Sustainable Power

Do you know the difference?

Power is an interesting concept and often mistaken for strength. Strength is a component of power. If you throw a bullet at someone it is harmless, however once velocity is added to the bullet it becomes lethal. Power has velocity! Strength without velocity is good for some things but for movement at high speed we need velocity. This is what makes for great athletes and athletic performances. The combination of both strength (force production) and velocity are both needed to develop great power. 
Examples of Absolute Power are High Jumpers, Shot-put, a broad jump, a one time vertical jump, a short sprint, a one punch knockout. All of these have one thing in common they are short maximally explosive efforts. Maximum Sustainable Power is the ability to hold the highest percentage of your absolute power longer. 
Why does it matter to know the difference? Well although a one punch knockout in the first round is impressive, typically what wins the fight is the fighter that can hit the hardest in the latter rounds. In basketball winners are those who can still be explosive in the fourth quarter. The ability to sustain power, rounding the curve in a 400 meter sprint, and still maintaining speed is the ability of the athlete to continue to produce higher percentages of absolute power. 
So if Maximum sustainable power is what wins more events that last longer than about 10 seconds how do you train to sustain your power longer? 
You can have a big impact on your absolute power, but a much bigger impact on your ability to sustain a higher percentage of power longer. This impact is greater as one matures as an athlete. 
That is what MSP (Maximum Sustainable Power) training is all about. We accomplish this in our facility by measuring Absolute power output (APO) and then creating training protocols that allow the athlete to spend the most amount of time at this highest level of power output. 
The body adapts by being more efficient at producing APO for longer. If you want to find out more DM me, stop by , or read my book which explains how we accomplish this type of overload. Bicycling’s Maximum Overload for Cyclists.

Truth in Fitness,
Jacques DeVore, CSCS /Primal Health Coach Certified.

Goal: Complete 1000 Feet on the Versa-Climber in a 20x10x4 min session

Training Design:

Sometimes I have to ask myself why I do these things as you can see the pain in the video above.  About 9 months ago I broke 900 feet in a 20 sec effort/ 10 sec rest with the last effort at 30 seconds over 4 minutes on the Versa-Climber.  I completed 961 feet (see video).  I now want to beat that and cover 1000 feet in the same workout. (Same pain faster pace J )

So, I am spending more time on the Versa-Climber and will be sharing my workouts leading up to my attempt at this new record on the climber so you can try the workouts on your own. 

The first thing I did was to look at the pacing necessary to accomplish this goal.  7- 20 second efforts and one 30 second effort is 170 seconds of total time.  Divide this by 60 and you get 2.833 minutes of total effort.  Divide 1000ft by 2.83 and you get an average pace of 353.35 ft. per minute for each of the efforts.  The last time I did this effort I paced at 340 feet for a total of 961 feet.  I need a 4% increase in average speed per minute.  It does not sound like a lot but it will be tough.  This is where precise program design comes into play. 

So how do I design a program to accomplish this 4% increase?   In most sports 4% can be huge! The efforts are close to all out on each effort with only a 10 second recovery between bouts.  The pacing is important.  There are all three energy systems involved.   The ATP-PC system is fueling the engine in the first 10 seconds of the effort and then we see the glycolytic diesel picking up the load as the effort gets longer.    The total time of the effort is over 4 min which requires the long running aerobic engine to support the recovery between efforts.  That is why this effort is so difficult.  The primary requirement is the ability to deliver oxygen in large quantities to support the sprinting on the climber.  This Tabata interval is really a VO2 max interval magnified.  So the speed that I am moving the steps at are greater than what my maximum oxygen delivery would be pegged at.  So in layman’s terms my eyeballs are bleeding. 

With that in mind I am focusing most of my training on the first two energy systems.   ATP-PC and Glycolytic.  So this week I did one workout of 5, 4 min efforts.  The efforts were 30 secs at a high tempo, and then 30 seconds at a sprint or elevated effort.  This is focused on improving my oxygen delivery capabilities or my V02 maximum.  The tempo effort at a pace of 215ft per minute to 220ft partially depletes the oxygen stored in my body, and then the sprint effort at 240ft to 250ft following forces my body to get better at delivering more oxygen as I ask my body to match the output on each effort.  That is the important part of these efforts.  I want the same tempo pace and sprint pace in each of the four minutes.  This forces my body to step up my ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles.    If I cannot accomplish this level of output I reduce the number of total efforts or lower the pace for now.  Most people make the mistake of just finishing the intervals instead of measuring the quality of the overload. 

The second effort in the week will be all ATP-PC/Glycolytic or all out sprints.  I like 30 to 45 second sprints as these are both longer than the 20 seconds in the record attempt and also the 45 second ones help with lactate buffering as my legs start to burn after 3 or four of these.  I get full recovery between efforts of 2-4 min and I try to do a minimum of 6 and no more than 8 total efforts.  If I can easily do 8, I am not going hard enough.  I also monitor the output and want to be within 10% of my best output.  If I start falling off more than 10% I stop the session or else shorten the time of the effort and stay at the same pace. 

So I am focusing my workouts to support both of these energy systems.  My weekend training on the bicycle supports my overall aerobic training. 

This is what program design is all about.  Looking at the physiological requirements of a sport or effort and then building a program that best supports the needs of that effort.  This is what we do for all of our athletes and clients at Sirens and Titans Fitness.


‘Truth in Fitness’

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Take a look at how we develop training for our athletes and clients: American Football

As a strength and conditioning coach you must develop a strategy for an athlete first then determine tactics based on the sport and the player’s current fitness level. The fitness requirements of the sport need to be evaluated first, then the requirements of the position, as well as developing an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the athlete. An effective training program can only be developed after this type of evaluation takes place.

Let’s look at American Football. 
The game consists of 2 halves lasting about 24-30 minutes dependent on the level of play. (College, NFL. High school). Halves are separated by 15 minutes of halftime where no play takes place.
Each quarter lasts about 15 minutes and there is 1-2 minutes between the quarters.
There is typically 45 seconds between plays and each play last on average 3-6 seconds. There are a number of other clock stopping events such as penalties, time outs, moving chains, first downs etc.
Evaluating the work/rest ratio shows that there are multiple bouts of high intensity work for very short durations with brief recovery in between most plays and then some intermittent longer duration rest.
The high intensity efforts vary from position to position. Some players are not even in the play and some are in a high majority of the plays with a 100% effort. There is a high requirement for anaerobic capacity and the ability to recover quickly from these high intensity efforts. As a result of the short recovery time between efforts the athlete is often times in oxygen debt. Recovery from these types of efforts is improved (speed of recovery) with a stronger aerobic capacity. In addition some of the positions are more of a battle with an opposing player. These positions have a high strength and power component. 
Training for American Football would require training that would focus on high intensity efforts with short rest. All positions require a minimum amount of strength and power. However some positions may rely more on speed, acceleration, lateral movement and change of direction. Other positions may require movement in a very short distance, with great amounts of strength and power production. 
So if you are trying to improve your ability to play football, or any other sport, you must evaluate the sport, the position, and the player in order to develop an effective training program. Break down the movements and energy systems necessary to support the highest levels of output and then train accordingly. The strategy becomes very clear after performing this type of evaluation. 
At Sirens and Titans Fitness we go through this process with every player or client, every sport, and every position. Also remember that training is dynamic and must reflect increases or decreases in fitness and level of play. 
All roads will eventually lead to some type of power need to be produced in a movement. Power is different than strength. Strength is the force component of power, it must then be married to velocity. Bio-mechanics, balance, rate of force development plus a number of other metabolic needs go into producing the power. Once we establish the need then we have to evaluate the level of sustainability. Most programs often just focus on the need of absolute power and neglect the need to sustain the highest percentage of this power the longest. That is what wins a game! Are you accurately evaluating your strategy and tactics?

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS, Primal Health Coach