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