Telemetry in Sport? Are you designing programs that are Power specific for a sport?

I tell my athlete’s that all roads lead to power.  Human movement is a result of power being produced in a particular pattern of movement. 

F x Distance/Time (Velocity) = Power.   Examples of absolute power would be a vertical jump, broad jump, 100 meter sprint, Shot put, Home Run hit, etc.  If I ask someone to define the difference between strength and power most will say that power is just faster. That is not completely true.  There is a point where too fast reduces power output. Designing programs for strength is much easier as it is easier to measure the output.  If I add weight to the bar and lift the new weight the overload is greater and easy to measure.  Maximum power is different for each athlete as some produce more power at slower speeds and some at higher speeds.  You have to be able to figure out where athletes are getting optimum overloads in power to properly overload the athlete.   This is much more difficult to figure out than strength. 

I think you really have to start with an understanding of what strength is and then you can start to see the difference between power and strength.  If you look at the equation above, the physics are clear.  Force is the first part of the equation.  What is force in human movement? You have to first understand that strength is your ability to generate a force.  If you pushed against an unmovable object like a wall and there was a force plate to measure how hard you are pushing this would be an example of force production.  The stronger you are the harder you can push and the bigger the F in your equation.  The second part of the equation is Distance divided by time.  Distance divided by time equals velocity.  So staying with the wall example if you are pushing against the wall and it starts to move away from your hands then power starts to be produced as the wall begins to move.   There is an optimum movement speed where power would be the highest in this example.  Maximum power is a point where force is highest with the greatest speed.  It is a sweet spot in a movement and many factors will dictate maximum power.   Every athlete is different dependent on what muscle fiber types they possess, biomechanical advantages etc. If the force is too high and the velocity too slow the power will drop, and if the velocity is too high and the force to low the power will diminish.    Some athletes are better at short bursts of force and power and speed and some are better at longer efforts and lower outputs. Different sports require different outputs to win.  This is also position specific within a sport.  

A visual example of power that may be helpful would be dropping a 5 lb. weight plate.  If I took a 5 pound weight plate and pressed it against your chest as hard as possible it may hurt, but would not do too much harm.  However if I dropped it off a 20 story office building and it hit you in the chest it may kill you.  You can see how power is increased as velocity is increased. As I drop the weight from a further distance away the velocity increases and the power upon impact increases.  A swing of a bat, or turnover of a pedal, throwing of a pitch are all utilizing power, just in different movement patterns.  

So movements of the body for sport are dictated by both force and velocity.  You will see different types of bodies representing different needs for power in different sports. Some athletes are more muscled and bigger and some smaller.  It is my job as a coach to determine what assets the athlete currently possesses. Then to determine the power needs of their sport to perform at the highest level and figure out where there are gaps that can be addressed in program design and training.  This design must support a strategy to support a specific requirement for power needed to be competitive.   Programs must be designed for improvements in power to match the needs of the sport.  Too many programs only focus on one part of the equation above.  You must ask where your athlete is scrubbing off power.  Is it mobility, stability, force, rate of force development, mental focus, body weight, biomechanics etc.?

How do you design a supportive program for a particular sport? You can look at the difference between a marathoner and a 100 meter sprinter as an example of different bodies built for different performance needs.  The sprinter has a body built for absolute power over a short distance.  Big powerful hips to propel the body through space at the fastest speed possible.  Huge absolute power needs.   This body needs to produce much greater force and velocity in order to cover the distance the sport requires in a very short time.  The marathon runner has to maintain the highest average speed over a much longer distance and time.  So the marathoner’s body is built to produce the highest sustainable average power over a long distance and time period.  The physique is much leaner and built for sustaining power.   These are two ends of the power curve.  If I put together a series of races each one progressively longer, the 100 meter runner would win in the short races, but eventually the marathoner would pull away.  This inflection point is where the advantage of absolute power production diminishes and the advantage switches to the marathoner.  Absolute power needed to win diminishes and maximum sustainable power starts to take over.  Typically athletes will “find” their sport based on their natural ability to generate power that lends itself to doing well in a particular sport.  It is then the job of the strength coach to maximize the athlete’s genetic potential through training.  You would also find big differences within the population of athletes.  Some 100 meter runners are good at the 100, but better at the 200.  Some marathoners are good at a marathon, but better at the 5000 meters.  

As a coach I have to develop an athlete’s body to best match the needs of the sport relative to the power requirement of their particular sport and what they have been given by their parents.

In a Formula 1 race the pit crew is utilizing telemetry to determine how to improve power by adjustments to tires, aerodynamics, track conditions etc.  They are in real time making adjustments to optimize power production of the car.  The driver and the crew work together to optimize performance and power.

A program designed to improve an athlete’s ability to produce more power in a particular movement has similarity to making adjustments from the telemetry of a race car.  Your athlete may need better rate of force development, more power in the hips, trunk stability etc.  The difference is that adjustments are made over longer periods of time. 

However, if you do not understand the physics then you cannot really understand how to design a program to most effectively support the athlete’s needs. 

So frame your program design for developing more power to support the particular sport.  That means you have to look at all the components of the equation for power.   In some sports it will require not just higher absolute power outputs, but also how can you improve the efficiency of producing power in your athletes.   In all strategies you must first determine a starting point and then determine a destination.  The program design is the road map on how to match power to a particular sport.   Remember all roads must eventually lead to power. 

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

What I Learned From My 5 Day Water Fast

What I learned from my 5 day water fast:

  • Once you do 5 days without food, missing a meal is a piece of cake.

  • You will have some lulls in energy, but for the most part these lulls pass quickly.

  • I reevaluated my relationship with food and how it is not only the food, but the breaks in your day that play a big role in your daily rhythms.  With that in mind mental breaks should be adopted into your day without food.

  • I think there is a mental clarity that comes with fasting.  You are in a weird parallel world that is really interesting and hard to explain.

  • People think you will die and that you are crazy. 

  • I am going to design a schedule of fasts.  These will include 24 hours, 3 days, 5 days and also toying with the idea of an optimized long fast of  2 or 3 days with small windows of eating and then back to fasting to see how my body responds with a bigger overload and what is the resulting super compensation.

  • You need to look at fasting like exercise.  You need recovery after hard exercise and you need recovery after long fasting.  I also believe that you can create a periodization for fasting that is similar to exercise and I will be looking into developing something and sharing.

  • I think there is great value to adding this to your approach to improving performance and health and the science supports this thought.

  • I have gained back about 6lbs and my strength in the major lifts is at the same level or above my pre-fast levels.  I feel amazing. 

  • It is not right for all.  You need to check with a physician first.  If you have eating issues, or health issues you may not be appropriate to fast.

  • If you are healthy I found that a fast provides a fascinating window into how your body works and you will be amazed at what we have been gifted. 

How I came to trying a 5 day fast.

I was fortunate to listen to a number of interesting presentations during the Upgrade Labs/Bullet Proof conference that I recently participated in as a fitness presenter.  Although the technical term is bio-hacking, I believe that most people were there because the medical system has failed a lot of people.  I do not think that the doctors have failed as much as the system itself.  The system is built more around taking care of you once you are sick.  However, the information available to people today allows many to figure out more effective ways to stay healthier.  It is called bio-hacking, but I think it is just a lot of frustrated people wanting to take better control of their health so they do not get sick and feel more energetic, proactive and in control.

The normal prescription by the medical community is to exercise more and eat less.  This has not been a very effective prescription as the population is getting less and less healthy generation to generation.  This does not mean we are not living longer.  Drugs can keep you alive.

I have no idea how long I will live.  However, I want to live healthy.  That means good choices by designing my exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress to support living healthy, not just longer life. 

I think fasting has a role in this design.  So I want to share some of what I have learned through my research on fasting in a series of posts.  This will also be firsthand experience from my fasts.     

I have done some short fasts in the past, but wanted to learn more about longer term fasts and do some Dr. Frankenstein self-experimentation.  I heard an excellent speaker, Dr. Daniel Pompa lecture on fasting at the conference.  He shared much of what he learned and I was also able to get his latest book about fasting.  With that I embarked on my first long fast.

Our bodies are amazing organisms.  Our bodies are in a constant state of destruction and rebuilding.  It is like a photo copy of a photo copy.  As you get older the copy is not quite as clear and we see that in our skin and in our body’s ability to perform both physically and mentally.  The goal in a healthy lifestyle is to allow the copy to stay as clear as possible as long as possible by lifestyle choices.  In other words the cells of your body are in an environment where you regenerate much healthier versions of yourself and you live a healthier life longer. 

If you were to search for benefits to fasting you would find some of the following:

Autophagy/Mitophagy: This is the body’s natural destruction of sub optimum cells and mitochondria.  It is something that happens naturally, but it is magnified during fasting because of the lower energy availability because of the fast.

Stem Cell stimulation:  As people age the ability to regenerate stem cells diminishes.  Studies in mice have shown increases in stem cell production as a result of the fasting.  It is believed that a metabolic switch is trigger from the fast which aids in this increase. 

Fat burning/Insulin Sensitivity/Ghrelin reset:  Your body in a long fast will deplete glycogen and glucose in the body and then utilize fat to satisfy the needs for glucose.  This is called ketosis.  This also improves the use of insulin and the sensitivity to insulin. Ghrelin is a hormone that will stimulate hunger.  This hormone is often dysfunctional because of poor eating choices.  Fasting has shown to reset this hormone.  

Gut repair and reset:  By giving the digestive system a break it allows it to reset and repair.

HGH/Testosterone: Increases in hormonal production of HGH and Testosterone.

Food Reset:  It resets our relationship to food.  You can break old habits and start with a clean slate post fast. 

There are a lot of other benefits that are identified, however these are some of the primary ones. 

My personal interest was to see if I could help with joint inflammation.   I have a lot of joint damage from competitive sports in the past and I wanted to see if fasting would help in repairing some of the damage in my joints.  I also wanted to see if I could get a performance boost in my training efforts. 

I do not have any weight issues, and I would consider myself pretty fat adapted.  In other words I utilize fat in my body and diet very effectively.  My diet 95% of the time is organic protein sources, tons of veggies of all colors, fruit seasonally, and good natural fats.  I will have an occasional glass of wine with a nice meal, and will have a great slice of pizza from time to time.  However, I do not really desire these types of food.

I have fasted in the past, but no more than 36 hours.  So the first fast I did was for 3 days.  I wanted to see how my body responded and also how it would impact my day as I was not going to stop work or training.  Because of my current diet I do not have an over reliance on starches as a fuel source so going without food for a period of time has not been an issue.  I got hungry in the 3rd day, but for the most part I was not in major distress.  I lost about 5lbs during the 3 day fast.   I then decided that I would try a 5 day.  I think the thing I would do differently the next time is to not go into the 5 day 4 days after the 3 day.  This was a bit much, but the schedule worked with the long weekend over Easter. 

I completed the 5 day and trained throughout the entire fast.  I only drank water and had 3 cups of coffee during the 5 days when I needed to bridge a lull in energy and had to be able to work.   I did intervals on day 2 and lifted on most of the days.  On day 5 I rode my bicycle for about 1.5 hours.  I had manic energy, for the majority of the fast, and had some crazy REM sleep and dreams.  I lost another 5 lbs. in the second fast. I noticed that my knees felt better and my wrists, that bother me from past injuries, felt better. 

I will outline in greater details how I broke the fast in a future post.  Feel free to hit me up with any questions.

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Wednesday Workout Whys

I am constantly reminding my coaches that they need to understand the whys of fitness.  In the world of social media posts I see a ton of posts with cool exercises, but typically they are on a stand-alone basis and also no one really discusses why the workout or exercise is designed in a particular fashion.  If this is passed on from coach to coach the answer to the whys is typically “somebody told me to do it that way” There needs to be more thinking and discussion about why?  So I thought I would start by posting a Wednesday Workout Why.  This will have a workout that we have used with a client and then discuss why I wrote the workout in this way.  I write up to 40 workouts per day and over the last 20 years have written thousands of workouts.  I have them in boxes and can look back and see how my programs have changed over time with my own evolution as a coach. 

Below is an off season workout for a collegiate tennis player. 

Dynamic Warm up precedes all of our workouts.  This takes about 6 to 8 mins.  It is to prep the body for work and check in to make sure all systems are go.

Reverse Hypers:   12 reps, 10reps, 8reps, and 8 reps Weight is added to each rep and the athlete should not be able to exceed the number of reps stated.  In other words if it says 8 reps they should not be able to do 12 reps with the weight.

Ab Dolly Rollouts with a ½ Foam roller behind the knees to increase the intensity. 

20,20,20,20

Hex Bar Deadlift, 8, 8, 6, 5

Single Leg Eccentric Plyo Box Step Downs, 8,8,6,6

Dumbbell Free rows 15,15,12,12

Versapulley Iso Inertial set at a force level of 3 for absolute power efforts.  This is what we call a Short Short Row (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eLqtA_nEc8) that excludes the arms and is all hip explosions for absolute power.  12, 12, 12, 12.  We call this 12 to make 6.  The athlete goes out easy on the first 4 to 6 pulls and then really hits the gas for full power output in the last 6 efforts. 

Landmine Rotations:  20,16,12,12

The Whys:

The workout has a primary objective of trying to get some great absolute power overloads.  The workout is set up in a superset so that we can cover a lot more ground in one workout.  It is also a total body workout because I think it is a much better use of time.  It has emphasis and a primary objective of absolute power in the second half of the workout. 

We start the workout with a dynamic warm up and then go into a set of reverse hyperextensions.  If I know I am going to be loading the hips and lower back I like to lower the risk for injury by adding an exercise that can get the athlete some good activation of the hips and lower back before we get real heavy in the other lifts.  This coupled with the ab dolly trunk stability exercise following gets the athlete off to a good start and also would help identify any potential biomechanical or muscular issues earlier in the workout lowering the risk for injury.

The next exercise the Hex Bar is the meat of the first half of the workout.  It is a heavy lower body strength exercise followed by a slow eccentric stability exercise with the step downs.  I like around a 6 second descent.   I like these two exercises together as one complements the other. 

So the first half allows the athlete to prep to have great muscle firing to support the absolute power objective in the second half of the workout.  Optimum time for post activation is about 6 mins.  So by the time of the last heavy hex to the versa pulley will be close to optimum time for post activation. 

The second half starts with some dumb bell free rows.  These are one arm dumb bell rows without any other point of contact.  So you are hinged at the waist and incorporating a rotational core component in the pull.  Great for a tennis player.

The next exercise is my primary objective of the whole workout.  It is to get an overload in his absolute power in his hips on the versa pulley. 

This is bookended with a higher velocity land mine rotational movement that complements the dumb bell free rows. 

Now you have an idea of the thinking that goes into this workout.  Program design is what makes for great workouts, not just cool exercises.  Keep it simple and have a primary objective. 

Until next time,

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

How can you stay really fit and perform at a high level with only a few hours of exercise per week when you are as old as dirt?

I keep a journal of my exercise on a daily basis.  I use this tool to see how I can improve my fitness with less and less time. 

Everyone states that the reason they do not stay fit is that they do not have the time, they are too old, they have knee issues, shoulder problems, blah, blah, blah.  I have all of those and more, so I will not bore you with the laundry list of injuries I work around.  These can be real issues, but if there is a will there is a way around most of these issues. 

My whole life has never had enough time to workout, but I recently took a long look at how I have been able to accomplish a high level of fitness with only a few hours per week devoted to exercise. 

I looked back at my journal and came to the realization that I rarely spend more than 45 minutes exercising at one time.  Instead I Micro dose exercise throughout the week.  This means I am mindful of just throwing in some exercise whenever I think I can.  I focus more on a goal for the day and then figure out how I will slip it in.   Below is an example of a typical week for me.  Btw, with a little planning you do not have to be in a gym all day to accomplish the same week.  

Monday:  Total exercise time less than 30 min.  On my way out the door in the morning I will do 40-50 pushups or a set of pullups to failure at home.  Later in the day I will do Heavy Deadlifts and Glute Ham raises.  Total time about 20 min.  I warm up with the glute hams and alternate between both exercises.  I execute 4 to 5 sets of each exercise.   This is a heavy lower body strength day.  This day is really important on so many levels.  You have to have this in your week

Tuesday: Total exercise time about 20 mins.   I will execute the pushups or pullups on the way out the door in the morning.  I will execute a Maximum Sustained Power set on the Versapulley or Kbox in my gym.  This typically consists of 2 sets of 4 explosive Short hip rows on the Versapulley or Kbox followed by a 10 to 15 second rest for 4 minutes straight.  I fully recover and repeat.  This is a power day.  Most people neglect this day as it is taxing and also is harder to design. 

Wednesday: Total exercise time about 25 min.  In the morning I do the pushups or pullups out the door.   Versaclimber intervals.  I will typically execute 12 to 20 minutes of short intense intervals on the climber.  For example this could be 8 x 45 second sprints with about 2 to 4 minutes between each.  During the day I may do the ab wheel for a few sets of 20 at different times when I need a break.  This is a needed intense cardio day and is also of great importance.  

Thursday: Total exercise time less than 30 min. I will usually focus on one upper body movement that I feel I needs work.  It may be shoulders arms, back etc.  This could be a pulling or pushing exercise that I can easily execute in sets of 10 to 20 reps.  I will set a goal for the day.  I may set a goal of 50 pullups by end of day.  I may just do 10 at a time during the day at 5 different times during the day.  It takes no time and I do not sweat and in fact I am energized.   This day allows me to focus on a particular area of fitness or muscle groups I want to improve. 

Friday: Total time about 10 mins.   I will typically do a long power set on the versa pulley.  This is a 20x10 by 4 min steady tempo of pulls for my lower body for 2 sets total.  Once again you see power in the equation for the week.  This is just a different energy system than the first power day.

Saturday: Total exercise time 2:15 to 2.5 split in two sections.   This is the longest stretch of exercise efforts.  I may ride my bicycle for 1 to 2 hours.  It is meditative and great to maintain my aerobic base.   I try to do this both Saturday and Sunday, but often it is just one of the days.  This is my aerobic fitness.  You need at least one of these longer days in a week. 

I also do 40 min of upper body lifting.  Saturday is a heavy strength day.  Low reps high load.  I can make gains in upper body strength with this focused approach. 

Sunday: 1.5 to 2. Hours of total time.   I go to the gym early and do all upper body again, but the focus is strength endurance.  Takes about 45 min.  This is strength endurance and hypertrophy.  I can add size in the areas I want to add with this day. 

Sunday afternoon I try to get in another bike ride.  Typically less than 1.5 hours of total time.  More aerobic.  Not totally necessary if you are not trying to improve your aerobic performance.

  

Total Time for the week:  Between 5 to 6.5 hours per week dependent on how long I ride my bike on the weekends.  You can adjust this accordingly.  If you are not as concerned about your longer cardio fitness or not planning on running a marathon or racing your bike you can rely on the shorter intervals to keep you very fit.  I like being 6 weeks away from race fitness so if I want to be able to go out and hammer on the bike.  I can be there shortly if I can get two days in, but I am not always successful. 

You can maintain great health, great performance, and a great physique with Micro dosing your exercise throughout the week.  Of course you have to couple this with a solid diet.  It needs to be solid, not insane.  

My diet is the real food diet.  Organic Protein whenever possible, tons of colorful veggies, fruits seasonally, and lots of natural fats.  Carbs should be nutrient dense whenever possible.  In other words reduce the processed foods and stick with real food.  I do not eat Trans fats.   I do take some supplements, but I do not see the need to partake in any of the anti-aging protocols that many in my age group turn to.  Most of the supplements I take are natural anti-inflammatories as I have so many nagging injuries from the past. 

I will be writing more on Micro dosing exercise for great health and fitness as you age in subsequent posts. 

I believe our bodies were built for micro dosing of exercise.  The idea of 1 to 2 hours straight 3 to 5 days a week is very difficult and I do not think fits well with how are bodies were meant to exercise.   If you are mindful, you can make this happen with little effort and it makes for a better day and week.

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

I can outsprint the fastest sprinters in the world on a bicycle!

Invisible movements are harder to train.  Do you know what they are?  

There are a number of factors that go into a movement.  The one factor that is not seen, and often neglected in training, because there is no movement associated with the contribution to the movement, is the anti-rotation or trunk and joint stability component of a movement.  The super athletic individual can create fast movements without any other points of contact.  In other words in mid-air they can change the direction of their bodies.  How do they accomplish this without any points of contact and make it look easy?    This movement is accomplished without any contact to a solid surface by the ability of the body to utilize other muscles that create a point of contact that is unseen to the observer.  Much of this is accomplished through trunk stability and anti-rotation.  I define this as the current that is running underneath the surface of the movement.  It is invisible, but it is one of the greatest components to great movement by any athlete.  It is also the glue that allows for great force and power production when there is a stable point of contact. 

When I look at improving power I look at the entire kinetic chain that allows power to develop.  I tell cyclists that I coach for strength that I could outsprint the greatest sprinters in the world if they would take their hands off their handlebars.  In other words the kinetic chain from handlebar to pedal is responsible for the power developed in a wicked sprint.  If a cyclist has an elbow injury then the power to the pedals is going to be compromised.  If they take their hands off the bars the power drops dramatically.  My job as a strength coach is to determine where they may be scrubbing off power in this movement and correct or improve it.  Most people think of core as the mid-section.   Core is your body’s ability to transfer power from a point of contact to a desired movement.  So when you are looking at improving your power do not neglect these invisible muscles.  The exercise in the video (https://youtu.be/3EPMUTwS0Og) is an excellent one that can be done with a resistance band as well as a weight stack.

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All,

I thought for this blog entry I would go through a workout that we use in our VersaClimber Fubar workouts and explain the design and objective of this workout.  We are probably the only group cardio workout that is designed and coached to improve performance and not just produce a hard workout. Each of our workouts is designed with a targeted overload of a particular energy system. Phosphgen, Glycolitic, Aerobic.

On the weightlifting side we will look at time under tension to support different results.  You can broadly categorize it as either more volume (greater reps) or more intensity (greater amount of weight on the bar).  So the design is adjusted dependent on the goal.  Hypertrophy, strength, strength endurance, etc. 

Believe or not there is a symmetry between strength and cardio relative to how the body adapts to overloads.    

If you have read any of my blog entries I am big on designing workouts that allow the athlete to spend greater amounts of time at power outputs that match the efforts in the sport and the respective movement patterns.  I do not just focus on improving absolute power.   Remember, power is different than strength.  It has a velocity component and is more difficult to measure.  A vertical jump would be a good example of absolute power.  My focus is not only on how to jump higher, but how to jump higher more efficiently so that you are jumping higher than your opponent when it counts. 

My program design supports spending more time at these outputs so the body becomes more efficient at producing this level of power longer.  A lot of our absolute power output is determined by our genetics.  How much fast twitch vs slow twitch muscle fiber you are given by your parents at birth.  However you can improve dramatically your ability to produce power for longer periods of time through innovative program design.   Our bodies are constantly trying to figure out ways to more efficiently accomplish a task.  We are conservation entities.   The body will figure out more efficient ways of accomplishing these tasks if it is regularly asked to perform a task.  The more time you can spend at a high level the more efficiently the body adapts and the easier it becomes to perform the task.  Greater capillary density, mitochondria and better efficiency of fuel utilization.

You can only produce so much ATP which is the primary fuel for producing power.  You have three primary energy systems responsible for this production.  Since the body is limited on this production based on the duration and intensity of the effort, then the more efficiently you can utilize the ATP the longer you can perform at high levels of output. Your body gets more fuel efficient.  So in other words you do not have to be the most explosive athlete to win, you just have to be the athlete that can produce this power the longest, as Vince Lombardi said “Fatigue makes cowards of us all”.

I am seeing more about this in the scientific literature.  On the weight lifting side it is typically designed as a cluster set.  This is a set designed with rest between the reps.  So you would do 8 reps rest for 40 seconds and then perform another 8 reps.  Instead of doing all the reps in a row the rest between the reps allows for some ATP replacement and then you can produce a greater total volume of work at this 8 rep weight.  This is increasing work capacity. 

I design workouts that utilizes this concept for developing power more efficiently in our athletes.  I call this Maximum Sustainable Power.  It is a design that increases your work capacity for absolute power. 

Below is an example of this in an interval session we perform in a 30 min workout on the VersaClimber.  I have given some explanation of the thinking in italics and underlined.  Give it a go.  It is a great workout for any sport. 

Power on the VersaClimber can be measure by time and distance covered.  If you are covering more feet in an effort and all else is equal then you have to produce more power to accomplish the greater distance.  The workout below is designed to support this improvement.

 

JD Max sustained power: Level of difficulty:  High

Objective.  To maintain your highest power 80-90% output for the longest time possible. 

1.5 to 3 min warm up. 

 #1 15 sec sprint x 15 secs of rest x 3 min.  6 efforts in the 3 min.   At 80-90%.  Do not go all out.  Try to save some. 

The objective in this first effort is to produce an output that the highest possible output you can maintain and still produce it on the 6th effort.  So the goal is to match the power output on each effort.  For example I may be at 300 feet per min on each effort.  I do not want to drop much below 270 feet in the 6th effort.  If I am dropping off then I went out too hard and the overall time at maximum power is diminished greatly.  The idea is to have the highest average output achievable so that you are maintaining as much time at that high level 

1.5 to 3 min rest.  The first intervals may need less rest as you are not in that much oxygen debt at this point in time. 

#2 15 sec x 10 sec  for 3 min 7 times total there is less rest in this than the previous.  The goal is to try to match the effort in the previous efforts. 

So, it is going to get hard here as we are reducing the rest.  You have one more effort than the first set, but the goal is to be back at the same level of power output

4 min rest this is a long rest for a reason.  You need more rest when the intervals are this intense!

#3 15 sec sprint x 5 sec rest for 4 min 12 times total 

This effort is comes at you fast.  You may not be able to maintain the pace but do your best.  It is also a mental challenge.  You have to dig deep to find another gear.

3 to 4 min rest

#4 4 min tempo at 50% output!  This effort is an active recovery from the previous work.

The goal is to recover in an active format.  This makes the last effort easier as opposed to just stopping and resting.  It is also a mental break

1.5 min rest

#5 20 second sprint x 10 seconds rest x 4 min or 2 min this will be hard!! Try to match your 15 sec pace from the first intervals.  I would start with the 2 min.  You will be surprised at how close you can come to matching if you stay strong mentally.

I call this a relative pain interval.  The pace was so high and painful in the first efforts that this does not seem quite so bad.  This is where you can determine if you went out too hard in the first efforts.  It takes a couple of times of executing this workout before you will dial in what type of power you can produce. 

If done correctly you will get 14 min at close to your maximum power output.  This time at this level is a game changer.  It can only be accomplished with this type of design as you will not be able to accomplish this without the breaks between the efforts. 

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

What if you as a Strength Coach were measured the same way your athletes are measured? Would you be a starter or sitting on the bench? You should be asking yourself this question!

We are now capable of seeing a great number of examples of strength and conditioning training on the internet, however most of it is tactically focused.  In other words how to properly execute a deadlift, squat, etc.  I just saw a great technique for reducing back hyper-extension in a glute/ham raise by Eric Cressey.  He had the client fire the serratus with the use of a band to eliminate the back hyper-extension that is often times seen with a glute/ham exercise.  I see Mike Boyle posting videos on training tips.  Brett Contreras is the “Glute Guy” and can show you a ton of ways to fire your glutes.   This is all good stuff and helps on the tactical level, but how does it translate into results for your athletes?  

This type of tactical focus is necessary so you can accomplish the goal of the exercise and also reduce the potential for injury of an athlete.  What it is more difficult to see on social media is the strategy side of the equation. This would be what most people would call the secret sauce.  If you were putting together a portfolio of investments the tactical side is one stock, but the strategy is how all the stocks work together to lower risk and produce the desired outcome for the investor. 

As a strength coach you can read the research on a particular subject and then figure out how you can apply what is uncovered with your clients, but the “how” you incorporate and how big of a dosage is where program design and critical thinking will deliver improvements in your athletes trained.  There are a lot of moving parts.  Age, biomechanics, current fitness level, sport, position, needs of the athlete, etc.  This is what makes this business fun.  It is figuring out the puzzle for your particular athlete that eventually gives the athlete the best outcome possible.  Unfortunately, this is where a lot of programs are lacking.  They stop at tactics, because tactics can be cool, strategy takes much more thinking. 

I believe the strategy side of program design is where the strength coach creates the biggest part of their value added to an athlete and can dramatically change the performance of the athlete.  However, this is much more difficult to put on Instagram.  I see so much criticism of exercise technique etc., but very little discussion on program design.  I call this the “Hows and Whys” of training.  You can buy systems, but all athletes are different and you as a coach have to determine the nuances that can make the difference in average improvements or big gains.  It takes critical thinking as there are a lot of variables that impact results.  You also have to remember that good athletes are already good.  The opportunity for gain is much smaller and harder to get because they are already really good athletes.  Much of the gain will be incremental and in some cases it is a matter of losing less than gaining.  However, incremental gains at the highest level of sport is what makes good become great. 

What would really be interesting is if there was an index of the average improvement in a broad database of athletes on their respective sports and positions from one season to the next.  Ex: What is the average increase in lower body strength and power from off season to the first game of a college tennis player?  If this was known, then the athletes a strength coach trains could be compared to the average improvement of the broader average to see if there is any value added by what this particular strength coach is designing.  It would change the game for seeing what coaches are adding value and which are just good at Instagram. 

We would see in many cases that the improvement the coach adds, although positive, would not be better than the average improvement sport wide. This would negate the Instagram effect and marketing hype of the industry today.  If we tracked this over time with an athlete we would see if the value added is cumulative and how a coach adjusts for maturity of an athlete and time.   We would also discover that there are a lot of smoke and mirrors in this discipline and that a good Instagram post is only a small part of the equation. 

It would also force coaches to improve on their program design and new training strategy and tactics could be evaluated for efficacy and old myths would die a quicker death.  If all of our athletes are measured for their performance why  are we as coaches not measured more accurately and compared to the average of our industry  to see if we are adding value. 

I do not think that anytime soon we will see an average index of performance gains by athletes on a broader basis.  It would be nice, as you could more readily see how your clients are improving relative to the average in the industry. 

However, I do think that you as a coach can look closely at your own populations of athletes and use this information to improve within your own population. 

There is a ton of data tracking tools that can help you see where you are adding value and where you are not.  Ultimately it is the feedback from the athlete that matters.  However, you can better monitor and evaluate your own strategies to see what is working and what is not and then evolve as a coach. 

I have tried spreadsheets and technology, but I have found that paper works best for me.  It allows me to flip back in time and see improvements and evaluate how a strategy worked or did not work.  It allows me to better understand my own strengths and weaknesses and figure out ways to constantly improve. 

Do not rely on the fact that any stimulus to the body outside of the norm will give the athlete some improvement if it is big enough and done long enough.  Spend time being introspective and ask yourself is this the program design of a champion or someone who will sit the bench.  Your client’s career is dictated and judged by the same standard. 

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

Have You Figured Out How to Use Failure to Your Advantage?

Wrestling is what I call a “life sport”.  Like life, if you decide to quit you will probably get beat up and eventually pinned.  In most sports the humiliation is spread around.  In wrestling you have to be willing to risk being humiliated individually in front of friends and family.  Ask anyone you know who earned something meaningful and they will most likely tell you they had to risk great loss and humiliation to realize that success.   I think that too often today this lesson is muted so that people do not have to deal with the reality and the risk of losing and possible humiliation.  The value of competitive sport for life comes from embracing these lessons, not pretending they do not exist.

Wrestling is unique, as it does not allow for the muting of these lessons. In wrestling self-esteem is earned and risked; not given!  To be successful takes discipline, sacrifice, and in many cases toiling in obscurity for not much more than the nobility that comes from being in the battle and not getting pinned.  Wrestlers recognize the value that comes from the struggle and carry that value into the rest of their lives.  I was lucky that I found wrestling.  I hope other young men and women get lucky and find this sport as I did.

Where the lesson from Failure started

I attended a 3 year high school so when I became a sophomore I was just taking PE classes.  I wanted to play football, but the coach said I was too skinny and I would most likely get hurt.  This coach’s decision was a big disappointment at the time.  Someone mentioned wrestling to me so I went in and met the coach and told him I was interested in wrestling.  He told me that they had already been practicing and had the first match that week.  If I wanted to wrestle, I had to come to practice and “wrestle off” for the 98lb weight class position.   I would have to challenge the current wrestler occupying the varsity spot.  This was a match in order to wrestle the match. 

I weighed all of about 85 lbs. soaking wet, and stood about 5’ 6”.  I had no clue about competitive wrestling other than wrestling around in the yard. 

I was nervous to wrestle off a boy named Duke who was the current varsity wrestler.  He was a muscular kid and I was nervous.   Even his name was intimidating!   I just went out there like the Tasmanian devil and much to my surprise ended up beating him for the varsity spot.  I was pretty excited, but had no idea what was in store for me.  Be careful what you wish for! 

I Get My Butt Kicked (over and over again): Let the Lessons Begin

Two nights later I had my first match. (See the pic above for a good chuckle)  They put the mat in the cafeteria as the gym had a basketball game going on and basketball was always the priority sport.  There had to be only about 25 spectators including my teammates.   I was given a uniform, borrowed some shoes, knee pads, and headgear and went out to meet a kid who was a senior and one of the best wrestlers in the state of California in my weight class.  He was built like a gorilla and pinned me in the first period.    My teammates and coaches were yelling out advice from the side of the mat; however all I know was that in a very short time, like a slow motion car crash,   I was on my back looking up at the lights and it was over.  I went to the center of the mat and we shook hands and then they raised his hand. This was my first match and the first loss in my wrestling career.  

The next three matches were more of the same humiliation.  I was pinned in all three. I was angry that I was that bad.  I was wondering if this was the sport for me.  Quitting definitely crossed my mind.

The Payoff

Then like a shot between the eyes the first of many lessons of wrestling was delivered.  Its genesis was the humiliation of losing by being pinned.  I started thinking of what being pinned really meant.  I realized that even though I had no idea what I was doing; getting pinned was quitting.  People always pay lip service to not quitting, but wrestling is one of the few sports that really reinforce the ideal and clearly demonstrates the consequences.  Wrestling matches can end in seconds if your opponent can dominate you and hold your shoulders to the mat and pin you.  No points needed just total domination by your opponent on the mat.   I vowed at that moment to do everything I could to not be pinned again.  I figured that no matter how bad someone beat me in points I was not going to let them pin me.

I worked on strengthening my neck and learned how to fight like hell off my back.  I actually started looking forward to not letting someone pin me.   I would regularly get my head handed to me that first year but I would finish the match with a smile on my face and respect from my opponent.  Both of us knew that he beat me, but we also knew he could not pin me.  Slowly but surely I got better.   I was never pinned again and finally got good enough to go through the season undefeated in my senior year and went on to wrestle at UC Davis.   

Wrestling gave me some of the biggest lessons of my life.  Everyone gets beat, but only by giving up can someone pin you.  I draw on these lessons regularly in my life today.

Many of my closest friends (you guys know who you are) today are guys that were thrown in this crucible with me.  We endured hard practices, cutting weight, training hour after hour so we could put at risk our self-esteem for the whole world to witness.   We tested our bodies and our wills weekly on a mat.  It was absolutely glorious to suffer with these guys.  We shared the glory, defeats and sacrifices of this special sport and special time in our lives.      

These same wrestlers, a long way from their last match, now deal with the ups and downs of life and family with the nobility of wrestlers, and they are all safe in the knowledge that they can handle anything that is thrown at them.  It is a wonderful fraternity of boys who carried the lessons of wrestling into their lives as men.

This fraternity belongs to anyone who has stepped onto a mat, shaken hands, and squared off with an opponent.  The greatest thing about this sport is that it does not matter whether you are an Olympic champion or lost every match you ever wrestled the lessons are the same.   Even the most decorated wrestlers must walk the same path.

There is an acknowledgement and respect that is shared between wrestlers.  When someone tells me they wrestled we both know we are part of this special group of people who were privileged to compete in this sport.   There is no other sport quite like it!  If you were lucky enough to wrestle you know what I am talking about.  If you were not lucky enough, I can guarantee that your life has been positively impacted by this sport directly or indirectly.   

In today’s world we exalt entrepreneurs and visionaries.  Young people are told to follow their dreams; however few recognize the work that is involved in realizing that dream.  They also do not realize that getting pinned may also be part of what realizing that dream requires.  Wrestlers understand this concept.  I think that somewhere in our recent history these lessons have become much less accessible.

Wrestlers are the entrepreneurs of the sporting world.  Most never get much recognition, take huge risk, and toil long hours to build something that is meaningful to them.  Win, lose, or draw the lessons are carried forward and that is what life is all about.   

Truth in Fitness,

Jacques DeVore, CSCS

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 is 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 www.sirensandtitansfitness.com 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: https://youtu.be/0NN-r8Psvfw

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 ( https://youtu.be/-eLqtA_nEc8 ) 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