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BENEFITS OF SCALING | TRAINING TALK EPISODE 4

Scaling workouts. Scaling resistance of exercises.

We all have heard of the term “scaling”. It is a term popularized by Crossfit. However, the science behind it is not new: to cater the workout to the specific needs of the individual.

Scaling allows people of various fitness levels to train together – which helps build an inclusive community around fitness – a huge motivating tool for people to keep up with an active lifestyle. Long gone is the mentality that a certain workout is designed exclusively for advanced athletes or beginners.

SCALING AS A TRAINING TOOL

With that being said, how can scaling be APPROPRIATELY applied?

Scaling is not just about making sure that EVERY single exercise in a given circuit is doable by the athlete; it is about achieving the training objectives of the prescribed workout/ session.

Take for example this workout below:

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes:
5 pull ups
10 push ups
15 squats

You will need to identify the key training objective of this workout. For this instance, the workout listed above would be one of muscular endurance and increasing your general cardiovascular endurance.

Therefore, if you ONLY have a max pull up score of 5-9 pull ups, some scaling needs to be done in order to achieve the training objective above. If you do the workout as prescribed, you will end up being able to do the first 2 rounds in 3-4 minutes and end up having to spend the rest of the 16 minutes only completing 3 more rounds as you need to take long breaks to complete the set of 5 pull ups.

Your heart rate will not be elevated, there will not be sufficient repetitions to induce muscular endurance adaptations due to the long periods of time spent resting on the pull ups.

Yes you did the workout as prescribed.

BUT the training did not achieve its objectives.

If you had either:

A. Scaled down the pull ups to incline pull ups/ ring rows after you aren’t able to perform pull ups anymore OR

B. Just scale 5 pull ups to 10 incline pull ups from the get go,

you will be able to elevate your HR, get in more repetitions and achieve your training objectives.

KNOW WHAT ARE YOUR TRAINING OBJECTIVES, SCALE YOUR WORKOUTS ACCORDINGLY.

Planning of workouts calls for another episode of training talk. The tips offered below will be useful in helping you scale your workouts effectively.

Metabolic/Endurance Workouts
Do make sure that the exercises used for such workouts are of light – moderate resistance TO YOU.

Strength is relative.

Some of who can do weighted pull ups might classify bodyweight pull ups as “light – moderate” but to someone who has a PB of 3 pull ups, “light – moderate” resistance might be scaling to banded pull ups/ incline rows.

A key tip would be to ensure that you are able to perform the exercise for the entire duration while keeping ur HR up and with minimal rest.

Strength Workouts

Again, strength is relative.

As you are aiming to increase your strength, do pick a weight which is challenging enough for you to feel the effects BY the last set. 

And the weight must allow you to do the repetitions with full range of motion and proper form.

Hope you guys find this useful!

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a personal message on my blog, Facebook or Instagram!

Train Hard!!

Jack

WEIGHT TRAINING FOR RUNNERS | TRAINING TALK EPISODE 3

In this episode of Training Talk, we talk about how weight training (calisthenics and free weights) can benefit runners.

As runners (myself included), we tend to shy away from the weight room and embrace the pavement and trails. After all, the more mileage you clock, the better you will get at running right?

This is indeed true.

However, there is a huge BUT.

Doing nothing else but running alone will set you up for a wide variety of problems which are usually chronic overuse injuries as well as being dysfunctional.

Yes, that means you can only run and anything physical tasks aside from that either hurt you or you cannot do at all.

WANT TO FEEL STRONG, FAST and INDESTRUCTIBLE?

Here is the secret: Hit the weights.

Essentially, weight training complements running – it helps to reduce injuries caused by running and can even improve running performance.

REDUCING INJURIES

How many of you feel that as you log in more mileage during the week, you start to feel your ITBS, piriformis syndrome, shin splints, strained Achilles and all sorts of pain starting to appear? Then you are forced to take a rest and when you build back up again to the similar level again you get injured again.

Then you are forced to take a rest. And when you build back up again to the similar level again you get injured again.

And when you build back up again to your old fitness level you get injured again.

All these can be reduced via weight training.

Weight training helps to reduce injuries by:

1, Improve your running biomechanics

Your running biomechanics is USUALLY the main cause of chronic pain. Because we are running SO much, a slight misalignment in running posture can cause pain. When ignored, they can blow up to inflict some serious damage to your body.

Take for instance for myself. I had an issue with my ITB – it was causing some serious pain as I was running with a less than ideal gait; my knees were caving in slightly during the landing phase and as such, over time, it adds up and caused the injury.

After reducing the mileage and picking up weight training, I learnt how to squat with the proper technique by engaging the glutes and applying external rotation in order to prevent valgus knees. I applied this technique to running as well, making sure that my knees don’t come inwards upon landing and it worked WONDERS. Nowadays I don’t really feel pain in my ITB anymore and I believe this is partly due to the correction in running gait!

Similarly, the deadlift is also a great exercise which teaches your body how to engage the power of the posterior chain (glutes and hamstring) while you are running. This will prevent you from “leaning from the hips” and instead learn to “lean from the ankles” which translates into more efficient force generation during toe off!

2, Correct muscle imbalances caused by too much running (too much specific work)

The motion of running builds the hamstrings more than the quadriceps (if you are only running on flats), and does little to work on the abs, obliques. As such, there can be muscle imbalances caused by strong lower back-weak abdominals, weak quads-strong hamstrings, etc.

Weak quads-strong hamstrings are one of the most common reasons why runners get the runner’s knees – the weak quadriceps (specifically the VMO) prevents the proper track of the patella (knee caps), coupled with the strong force production of the hamstring, is the main source of knee pains. By doing more squats it can essentially strengthen your quadriceps and this helps to keep your knee cap in place and thus removing the pain.

Lateral movements are also often neglected –  as such runners tend to have weak abductors and adductors. They are a huge contributor to pelvic stability on top of your core and thus they need to be worked on to prevent injuries caused by excessive rotation of the pelvis, which can also cause knee pain and ITBS.

3, Prevent overuse injuries by switching up your training.

Lastly, weight training gives your body a chance to REST your legs from all the pounding while getting in work to strengthen your body, which mitigates the chance of overuse injuries. All the running is catabolic in nature. Weight training helps to strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments in order to increase their tolerance to the high impact nature of the sport!

ENHANCE PERFORMANCE

Weight training can ALSO improve running performance (WOOHOO)!

1, Bombproof legs

Squats. Deadlifts.

The two most essential lifts that you can do to increase fatigue tolerance in those legs. By being able to lift more, the power generation in your legs increases, each step that you take will also feel easier due to the decreased percentage of max power in every toe off.

2, Able to hold an efficient running posture for a longer period of time

Push ups, pull ups, dips, planks (plus their variations).

These will form the bulk of a runner’s upper body regime, and are some of the exercises which forms the building blocks of my strength development.

Get good at them.

They will help you to hold your posture late into a race. A loosely or poorly held upper body and a weak trunk will cause poor force generation and will be an energy leaking tap which prevents you from moving efficiently.

By building up a strong CORE and UPPER BODY strength, you can hold your running posture much better. The upper body strength that you acquired will give you the energy in the arms to sprint to the finish. Yes, when your legs are tired and when your arms are still fresh, taking advantage of contralateral movement patterns between the arms and legs, swinging your arms as hard and as fast as you can will induce your legs to do the same and that is how you get the “edge” in a sprint to the finish!

SO..HOW DO YOU START??

Here are a few tips for weight training which will help you achieve BOTH benefits:

1, HEAVY SQUATS AND DEADLIFTS 

Try to shoot for 5 x 5 reps of squats and deadlifts at a relatively challenging weight, with 1:3 to 1:6 work to rest ratio. The idea is to not put on mass, but to induce the neuromuscular stimulus which increases force generation without putting on significant mass (which may affect your running performance).

2, CALISTHENICS WORK

Get good at pull ups, push ups, dips and planks. The idea is to develop a base level of strength and you can do that by performing these exercises for reps. A good benchmark will be:

50 push ups in a minute
15 pull ups
20 dips on the parallel bar
30s planks with contralateral limbs lifted off the ground

3, UNILATERAL LEG WORK

Single leg balance on unstable surfaces, Bulgarian split squats, lunges and pistols squats. Work on them to develop single leg balance and strength which can help a lot in injury prevention. I like to build up to being proficient at pistol squats (10 per leg) for 3 sets.

4, ADDUCTORS and ABDUCTORS WORK

Grab a resistance band and perform adductor and abductor raises.

3-4 sets of 15 reps will be a good.

Alternatively, you can try clamshells and adductors lifts.

SO. 

There you have it, the tools necessary to build up a strong body to handle the rigours of running. Treat strength training as an integral part of your running program – I’d replace 1-2 sessions of running per week for weight training rather than it on to the running session itself. That is the level of importance that I rate strength work.

During your off-season you can afford to have 2 sessions of weight training, but during on-season you can afford to reduce to just 1. During the sharpening phase you may remove it entirely.

I strongly recommend all runners to incorporate weight training into their regime.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, feel free to drop me a message in the contact me section, or drop me a PM on my Facebook page or Instagram!

Mastering your BODYWEIGHT!! | TRAINING TALK EPISODE 2

Yet another summary of Training Talk!

This episode we discuss an interesting topic: mastering your ability to lift your own weight!

I feel that being proficient at lifting your own bodyweight crucial regardless if you are an elite athlete or a working professional.

The reason being:

1, It allows you to be more athletic; you are more nimble and agile, which helps you to perform physical tasks (daily household chores to moving around in combat load during reservist) more easily.

2, Sets a solid foundation for you for further strength development – your ligaments and joints will be stronger after a period of bodyweight work and thus allow you to move on to lifting heavier loads with lesser risks of injury.

3, OF COURSE, LAST BUT NOT LEAST, perform fancy bar skills and increases obstacle immunity during Obstacle Course Races (OCR)!

In this episode, we focus on how to go about mastering your own bodyweight in order to achieve the third benefit. We specifically focus on three skills which I thought would be of interest to you guys:

1, Getting your first muscle up

2, Clearing the monkey bar

3, Clearing the multi-rig

There are 2 huge concepts towards training in order to help you achieve these 3 feats which demonstrate feats of bodyweight mastery: Physical training and technical training.

Physical training prepares your body to handle the rigors of technical training, allowing you to practice technical drills safely and is the foundation strength builder for these 3 movements.

Technical training grooves the motor pattern of these movements via drills and thus allowing you to pick up the skills gradually.

1, Physical Training

This refers to the development of strength specific to the muscles, tendons and ligaments required to perform these movements. This concept applies to mastering any other intermediate-advanced bodyweight movements.

The Muscle Up

There are 3 primary movements in the muscle up: the pull, the transition and the dip.

The pull and the dip are the primary physical movements that we need to get really strong at before we are ready to handle the technical drills of muscle ups.

I always recommend my clients to be able to first perform 15 pull ups  and 15 bar dips before attempting technical training for the muscle up. I am sure some can pick up this skill with 10 of each, however, it is not safe to do so. I remembered how I injured my rotator cuff through technical training of the muscle up and that is when I was able to do 20+ pull ups and 30+ dips. If you don’t have adequate strength, the movement drills that you

If you don’t have adequate strength, you will not have deliberate control over the movement drills that you practice. You are just “trying your luck”. There is no deliberate and purposeful practice of the drills and it can lead to injuries.

Even when you are able to do 15 pull ups and dips, don’t stop there –  the better you are at your basics, the better you will get at the more advanced movements; after picking up weighted pull ups and dips + some explosive pulling work, my ability to perform the muscle up improved dramatically – all these with little technical work and thus I firmly believe in the development of your foundation movements to build up performance for more advanced movements.

Multi-Rig and Monkey Bars

Primary movements for monkey bars and multi-rigs are the ability to shift your bodyweight from one arm to another while hanging in mid-air. Thus, it is crucial to first develop your grip endurance. This can be done by:

1, Hanging on the bar (or different handholds such as globe balls, fat grips, cliffhangers, etc), first with both arm, then subsequently 1 arm.

2, Performing loads of pull ups

2, Technical Training

Technical training gets you smooth in the movement itself. Therefore for the case of the muscle ups, here are some drills which can be performed in order to groove in the necessary movement pattern:

1, muscle up negatives

2, banded muscle ups

3, other muscle up progressions

Some drills for practicing the multi-rigs and monkey bars (getting used to shifting weight from one arm to another):

1, monkey bar traverse (monkey swing/ single rung method; bent elbows/straight arms)

2, gymnastic ring traverse (with differing height and handholds)

3, switching grip pull ups

As you can see, technical training for multi-rigs and monkey bars are quite straightforward, whereas for the muscle ups it can get a little more technical. This all depends on the complexity of the movements. The muscle up is definitely more technical than the monkey bars/multi-rigs but I firmly believe that with proper strength development via physical training will definitely expedite the learning process in the technical phase of training.

So before you try out any fanciful bodyweight skills, always ask yourself this question:

Do I have the adequate strength to perform the movements?

If no, it is better to work on developing the basics (e.g. pull ups, dips, push ups, hollow hold) first before moving on to practice technical aspect of the movement.

If you have any queries or need a customised plan to build you up towards achieving your first muscle up, clearing the multi-rig or monkey bar, feel free to drop me an email, or DM me on Instagram or Facebook!

Goodluck and Train Hard!!

Jack

Obstacle Immunity in OCR: The MOST neglected secret | TRAINING TALK EPISODE 1

If you are not up to watching the video, you can read about it below!!

When it comes to obstacle course racing, gaining strength and learning the right technique to clear each obstacle comes to many people’s mind. As such, many boot camps focus a lot on high-intensity circuits, heavy lifting and lots of grip/hanging work.

Don’t get me wrong, these sessions will get you ready for obstacle course racing; however, I felt that one aspect of training is SEVERELY lacking – time on feet AKA running/walking. There simply is not enough time spent consistently moving around to develop a strong aerobic foundation which is so crucial in building a high work capacity for obstacle immunity.

The next question many will ask is: how does running/walking and an improved aerobic capacity improve obstacle immunity in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)? Here are the benefits:

1, Reduction in fatigue during the race.

If you take a look at most OCR races, they are in actual fact, a form of a footrace, with physical tasks to be cleared between the start and finish line. Thus, having the endurance and stamina to complete the distance is a primary requirement. If you cannot complete the distance (without obstacles) without significant fatigue, you will have issues clearing the obstacles

If you cannot complete the distance (without obstacles) without significant fatigue, you will experience difficulty clearing the obstacles during the footrace itself, as the fatigue from covering distance will set in and make obstacle clearance that much harder.

By increasing your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular efficiency via running/walking, you will be able to cover the distance without much effort, and this sets aside your energy and allows you to focus on clearing the obstacles itself.

2, Ability to beat the crowd to obstacles.

As more people clear the obstacles, the more slippery the obstacles (such as monkey bars, multi-rig, atlas balls, etc) gets, which makes the obstacle much harder to clear as you will need more energy to grip onto them. In addition, OCR races are usually designed to be on trails; certain segments of trails with soft dirt will turn into gooey mud after being trampled on by thousands of feet, which increases the difficulty in moving through them.

Therefore, to conserve energy, with a strong aerobic foundation developed from running, you can beat the crowd (in your wave at least, or even better if you are in the earlier waves), to run on firmer dirt and clear dryer obstacles which will not require as much effort as the wet and slippery ones, increasing the chance of clearing the obstacles!

3, Faster recovery between obstacles.

With a strong aerobic base developed from running/walking, the runs/walks between obstacles will become recovery segments instead of wearing your down, allowing your body to clear the lactic acid in your body and gets you ready for the next obstacles in a few minutes’ time!

4, Better performance on long loaded carries.

How many of us dread the sandbag carry, bucket carry or tractor pull? With a strong aerobic foundation developed from running/walking, you will be less winded while performing these draggy loaded carries (possibly even move faster than the rest), and thus conserving energy to clear the more crucial obstacles (multi rigs, Atlas carry).

How can you build a strong aerobic foundation specific to OCR?

1, Long runs

Spending time on the feet at low intensities is the cornerstone of developing endurance. Below are the recommended distances which you should build up to prior to each specific distance in the Spartan Race:

Sprint (5-8km) – 10-12km long run

Super (14-16km) – 16-20km long run

Beast (21km) – maximum 25km long run

These runs should be done at a conversational pace; running with a friend will be enjoyable. Ideally, you should try to get in these runs on the trails with some elevation as it will mimic the course to a certain extend. Since the key is to keep moving at low intensities, don’t be afraid to walk up the inclines.

2, Burpee-long runs

I particularly love such runs as it mimics the Spartan Race. These runs can be anywhere between 5-16km long. At each kilometer mark, perform 30 burpees. This will build up your burpee resistance during the race and it is a REALLY good way to build OCR specific endurance. Start off with 5km and you will know what I mean:)

3, Obstacle specific intervals

This is to simulate fatigue on the course itself and clearing of the obstacles under high heart rate. This should be done closer to the race itself when your aerobic condition is at its peak and after gaining the ability to clear obstacles properly (without fatigue).

An example of OCR specific intervals will be:

6 rounds of:

-800m run

-clearing the monkey bars

-20 burpees

-200m sandbag carries

Hope that these gives you an insight to training for OCR from the endurance perspective.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email (contact me section), drop me a DM on Facebook or look me up on Instagram (@thefitnessextremist). I do design

I do design customized training programs and do personal training as well so if you are looking at upping your game in OCR with proper programming,  you may drop me an email and we can further discuss how I can help you achieve your goals.

Goodluck and train hard!

Cheers,

Jack

The Secret to building a HUGE Work Capacity 

We all have seen elite endurance athletes run at a superbly fast clip for almost forever. Crossfitters who can perform really well for several metcons over 3-4 consecutive days. MMA fighters who can fight at high intensities for 15-25 minutes. There is a secret to building this large work capacity other than just high intensity work.

Build a huge and efficient aerobic system.

You build your aerobic system more efficiently by exercising at lower intensities. However, many athletes are not going slow enough and thus not able to build their aerobic engine efficiently. Over a long period of time, an underdeveloped aerobic system can cause plateau in fitness. On the extreme end, it can lead to burnout or overtraining. 
The aerobic system, unlike the anaerobic system, has a greater room for development and thus, a properly developed aerobic system will be able to bring your performance to another level in most of the sports.
So how slow do you need to go?

If you are measuring your intensity using the 5HR Zones, then your aerobic efforts should be spent in Zone 2.
If you are measuring your intensity based on a rate of perceived effort scale of 10, then it should be hovering around 6-7. 

In short, the pace should be conversational (it should not allow you to sing though). Another way to find out if you are going slow enough is to use the breathing test; you should be running at a pace slow enough to run to breathe in and out through your nose without using your mouth comfortably.

The heart is a dumb muscle; as long as you stay in this heart rate zone/ conversational effort for a sustained period of time, it really doesn’t matter what form of exercise you do – good news for athletes as they can apply this concept and introduce sport specific exercises to develop the aerobic system to the specific requirement of the sport.

If you truly want to build a large engine which helps to increase sports performance, do cater time to put in those easy continuous efforts!!! You might feel that you are not doing much as these sessions might feel “guiltily easy”, but the adaptations gained are worth it over the long term!!

Run Training – Part 3: Strength Training for the Lower Body

Many runners (including myself in the past) place strength training for the legs as the lowest priority in our training program. Reason being: we are running so much! Our legs are bulletproof and strong, why is there a need for strength training? It is a waste of time!

This thinking flawed because of a few reasons:

1) Development of Strength and Range of Motion

I am not denying running hills and stairs can build strength in the legs, but they are not enough to develop strength throughout the entire ROM of knee flexion. Yes you can climb steep elevations, but can you do a full pistol squat? Can you do a full depth goblet squat? The last bit of depth of ROM in the squat is crucial – it aids you in getting you from a standing position to a sitting position on a stool, or simply to squat to reach for something which is on the lower shelves in the bookstore or supermarket.

2) Transferability of Movement Pattern

The squat and hip hinge are two of  the most important movements that we will utilize in our daily lives.

The hip hinge helps you to lift loads efficiently off the ground, while squatting and its variations aid in power generation (lifting/pushing loads) and helping us get from ground position (prone,supine, sitting or kneeling) into an upright standing position.

These movements cannot be developed by running stairs and hills alone! The range of motion, mobility required are much larger.

In addition, running hills and stairs do not teach you proper activation of muscles required to perform the hip hinge and squat, however, with squats and hip hinge work (deadlifts and kettlebell swings), you will learn the mechanics and transfer these skills into running hills and stairs, which increases running efficiency (activation of the glutes while running) and reduces risk of injuries.

3) Balance and Pelvic Stabilization

Running hills and stairs does not work on balance (unless you are running on trails). However, unilateral leg exercises like single leg deadlifts, pistol squats, single leg squat, all help to work on your balance and strength while maintaining proper pelvic position. To maintain proper pelvic position requires trunk and leg stabilization – all not explicitly “trained” during running of hills and stairs.

If you break running down into the different stages, you will realise that it is a continual series of single leg hops! With every footstrike, it will get you into a single leg hop landing position – In order to be strong in running, you will need to be able to hold that posture for extended periods of time.

Many runners are not able to hold a neutral pelvic position during running because of poor core and leg stabilization and is the cause of injuries such as ITBS. I was one of those in the past but thankfully things had gotten better after I started to include more leg work in my routine!

Ending Thoughts

With that being said, I still feel that hills and stairs work are essential for run training! Afterall nothing beats training for running other than running!

However, I feel that deadlifts and squats gets your legs ready for run-specific training (getting in more mileage) and is the basis for injury prevention and general leg strength development and thus improve your body’s functionality in playing other sports and carrying out other physical tasks other than running!

So, to all runners: Don’t EVER neglect strength training for the lower limbs!

Picture taken from: https://towerrunninguk.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/istock_running-up-stairs-2.jpg

4 Tips that will get you ready for the Hurricane Heat

1. Train at Night

Do incorporate some training sessions at night. Most Hurricane Heats are conducted through the night. If you had done a night event before (be it running an ultra marathon or taken part in previous Hurricane Heats), you will know that it is psychologically much harder to get through the night as compared to the day. Time seems to pass slower, much slower if you are alone.

There will be physical benefits as well when training in the dark. Your body will learn to cope with the stress of staying awake the entire night (when you should really be sleeping). If you had not been doing night training, you might experience severe sleepiness and fatigue really quickly during the event.

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Photo taken from: https://www.spartan.com/en/community/blog/spartan-news?article=20777

2. Include LONG Workouts

Do incorporate long workout sessions into your training program leading up to the Hurricane Heat. My advice would be to include one of such session every fortnight OR if you can manage the workload, once weekly. I would not recommend incorporating it too frequently as it will be really stressful on the body and your body needs time to recover from such workouts.

These sessions should be 2-3 hours long. You can kill two birds with one stone by doing them through the wee hours of the morning. During these sessions there will be several objectives:

  1. Test out your hydration plan
  2. Test out your equipment (hydration pack, hydration bladder) and see if they feel comfortable, making adjustments if necessary.
  3. Test out your fueling plan (what gel/food works for you)
  4. Learning how to cope with such workouts psychologically.

Do plan out the workout before hand; write it down on a piece of paper and bring it with you in a ziplock bag. This will prevent you from changing your plan on the fly when you are tired. If you are doing this alone, an extra motivation would be to post your workout plan on Facebook and/or Instagram and announce it to the world, which keeps you accountable to the workout that you had planned. The best way would of course, be to ask a few of your buddies to sign up for the Hurricane Heat with you and train together during these sessions! It will give you the extra motivation to push through the workout and reduce the psychological stress as compared to doing these workouts alone.

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3. Include Loaded Carries

Carries are one of the primary movements involved not only in Hurricane Heat, but in every Spartan Race event. During the Hurricane Heat, you will be required to carry odd objects which might not have uniform load distribution and regular shape unlike a kettlebell or a barbell.

Therefore, it will be crucial for you to incorporate loaded carries into your training program in order to familiarize yourself with carrying weird objects. Some of the objects which you can use to practice loaded carries are sandbags, weighted duffel bags, bucket carries, huge rocks, logs, etc.

If you do not have access to such equipment, you can also simulate irregular load distribution by performing unilateral loaded carries (farmers walk with heavy kettlebell/dumbbell in one hand), loaded carries with different weights in each arm.

Do practice these loaded carries in various positions as well: rack carries, shoulder carries, bear hugs, briefcase carries are some variations of the various ways which you can carry a load.

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4. Master Your Own Bodyweight

Finally, the final tip would be to master your own bodyweight. Being able to pull yourself up the rope, get through the monkey bars, multi rigs, over the Spartan walls or getting across and beneath the barb wire requires a combination of great pulling strength, athleticism as well as power.

Some of the exercises which you can incorporate into your training programs as such would be your Ape, Beast and Crab Crawl. These will improve your athleticism by improving coordination of your limbs. Do include pull ups, working towards towel pull ups in order to tackle the rope climb, monkey bars and multi rigs more efficiently.

Lastly, DO NOT forget to get in your BURPEE CONDITIONING! Unlike the Spartan Races (Sprint, Super, Beast), whereby burpees are optional (if you clear the obstacles, you will not have to do them), in the world of Hurricane Heat, burpees are the absolute favourite of the Krypteias!

So do turn up prepared to do loads and loads of burpees!

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NOW..GET BACK TO TRAINING!!

Whether you are an aspiring Hurricane Heater-to-be, veteran Hurricane Heater aiming to complete your next Hurricane Heat, I hope that this 4 tips would be useful in helping you get ready for your next Hurricane Heat!

All the best for your next Hurricane Heat!

AROO!!!!!

Plan Your Training! Part 2: Types of Periodization and Their Uses

There are many different models of periodization, each with their unique benefits. As such, there is no such thing as a “universal” periodization model. The type of periodization model that should be used will be dependent on the needs analysis of an athlete, according to these factors (Abbott):

  • Training age
  • Athlete’s developmental phase in the sport (Beginner, intermediate, advanced, elite)
  • Macro-cycle phase (Off-season, on-season, competition season)
  • Existing physiological state
  • Existing psychological state
  • Weak physical attributes
  • Technical problems/deficiencies
  • Type of sports and the position that the athlete plays (Offensive midfielder in soccer, quarterback in football, etc)
  • Dominant movement pattern/energy pathways/qualities

According to these information obtained, you will be able to derive the type of periodization model to be used in order to reduce chances of injury during training and maximize training performance. In the subsequent parts of the article, I will be elaborating on the 4 different periodization models and their uses.

Sequential Method/ Linear Periodization

The sequential method of periodization was first invented by Soviet sports scientist Metveyev, and subsequently adopted by the West which is popularly known as the linear periodization model.

Essentially, this style of periodization involves a unidirectional loading of motor ability in discreet phases of usually 4 weeks, before moving on to the next phase, focusing on a motor ability which builds upon the previous phase. In power-strength or strength sports, the sequential method usually involves 4 mesocycle phases in the order of muscular endurance, hypertrophy, maximal strength and then conversion to power.

Linear periodization would be the bread and butter approach towards training for an endurance race. First popularized by Coach Arthur Lydiard for producing Olympic champions and world record holders in distance running in the 50’s and 60’s, it continues to breed top tier athletes. The linear periodization of endurance training would begin with building an aerobic base via clock high mileages at low intensity for 8-12 weeks, thereafter transiting to hillwork and speedwork for 4-6 weeks and then the sharpening phase of 4 weeks before concluding with a taper 1 week before the major race.

The sequential method/ linear periodization established the relationship that intensity is inversely proportional to volume.

Benefits of Linear Periodization/Sequential Method

  • The relatively light loads with high volume of work done in the initial phases provide a platform for skills and technique to be properly developed before moving on to subsequent phases, which focuses more on intensity.
  • The high volume work at relatively low loads/ intensity gives tendons and ligaments time to develop adequate strength to handle higher stress demands in higher intensity work required in the later phases.
  • Phases build upon each other and thus provide progressive overload gradually, reducing chances of injury.
  • Model emphasis on unidirectional loading provide highly specialized stimulus – great for developing sports specific performance via specific physical preparedness(SPP) training.

Drawbacks of Linear Periodization/ Sequential Method

  • Only allows for a single peak, which is not practical for an athlete who races a few key races every season.
  • High volume of training at initial phases may deter the motivation for a beginner. Volume of loads maybe too high for beginners to handle.
  • Rotation of physical attributes. It takes as little as 4 weeks of not training a particular fitness attribute for detraining effect to set in. Since the mesocycle phase of linear periodization is a minimum of 4 weeks, some fitness attributes gained in the previous phase maybe lost by the end of the current phase. For example, an athlete who just finished the hypertrophy phase of strength training may have lost some of the muscular endurance adaptations going into maximal strength phase.

Who is best suited to use the model of linear periodization?

  • Linear periodization is best suited for beginners who need to build a firm foundation in technical skills. The high volume, consistent work throughout the initial phases allows proper technique to be ingrained into the athlete. In addition, progressive phases of linear periodization allow the athlete to develop technique in the model of “introduction-consistency-intensity”.
  • Suitable for endurance sports with a single major competition in mind. The linear periodization saw much success in the endurance scene over the past few decades and would be a good model to be adopted to train for major competitions. However, a single long slow distance (LSD) session still need to be done in the subsequent phases after base building in order to maintain the aerobic base developed.

Who is not suitable to use this model?

  • Performance in sports which requires multi-faceted fitness attributes, such as crossfit, mixed martial arts and boxing.
  • Law enforcement jobs like police, soldiers and firefighters, as they require a broad development of the various fitness attributes.

Undulating Periodization (UP)

UP allows the athlete to work on more than one physical attribute at the same time. In the world of strength-power sports, UP allows the athlete to gain strength and mass at the same time, allowing for neural and physiological adaptation to take place.

There are many variations of UP. The first form of UP is a model developed by Poliquin with 2 weeks cycles, alternating between high intensity, low volume strength work to develop neural adaptation in order to increase strength and higher volume work at a sub maximal intensity in order to work on hypertrophy (Abbott).

Poliquin believed that strength training lost their training efficiency after two weeks due to the law of diminishing returns. Thus, after two weeks, training stimulus and focus is switched in order to avoid this issue and continue to make progress in strength (Abbott).

This style of training also remove the detraining effect experienced by a particular fitness attribute as experienced in linear periodization since detraining effects only sets in after 4 weeks of not working on a particular attribute.

However, there are many debate as to whether the two week cycle works as:

  • As much as detraining effects are reduced, the ability for real progress to be made in the particular attributes within the time period of a 2 week cycle is questioned. American College of Sports and Medicine (ACSM) states that rate of muscular strength gains is 40% in untrained individual, 20% in moderately trained individual, 10% in advanced athletes and 2% in elite athletes, spanning across duration of 4 weeks to 2 years respectively (Bradley-Popovich & Haff, 2001).
  • 2 weeks in a high intensity, low volume cycle is capable of pushing the athlete into the state of overtraining (Bradley-Popovich & Haff, 2001).

In general, I would think the 2 weeks cycle puts a lot of stress on an athlete. Therefore, this style of periodization would require an athlete to be in a matured state of development with good technical foundation and work capacity to handle such an intense workload. This cycle did achieve help to achieve success in strength-power sports, and I would believe that it is very much for these sports, not so much for endurance athletes.

Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) – A Better Alternative?

The daily undulating periodization, or the concurrent method of periodization, is an alternative from the normal undulating periodization with 2 weeks cycle. As the name suggests, DUP involves doing workouts which are consistently changed up within the week.

For example, for a strength athlete training 3 times a week, DUP periodization would be something like having a session on Monday which focuses on raw strength (85-95% 1RM at 3-5 reps for 3 sets), a session on Wednesday which focuses on hypertrophy (75-85% at 6-8 reps for 4 sets) and probably a session which works on power on Friday (60% 1RM for 3-5 reps, 3 sets, focusing on speed).

I feel that this style of training allows the athlete to work on more fitness attributes than the normal UP and in fact, this style of periodization is not only applicable in the strength-power sporting world – it is also applicable to developing multi-faceted fitness.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in September 2008 had shown the effectiveness in DUP in raising the fitness levels and emergency preparedness of firefighters (Peterson, Dodd, Alvar, Rhea, & Favre, 2008). The study was carried out with a group performing DUP for 3 sessions a week for 12 weeks, whereas the standard control group did the standard linear periodization regime for 3 sessions a week and for 12 weeks as well. The group performing DUP experienced greater improvement in performance as compared to the control group.

In addition, another article published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal in February 2001 also stated that “daily and microcycle fluctuations produce superior strength gains” due to its ability “to prevent overtraining while maximizing adaptive stimulus” (Bradley-Popovich & Haff, 2001).

Who is suited to use DUP?

  • I feel that DUP is a great model to build on a wide range of fitness attributes, thus increasing GPP. Therefore, I feel that law enforcers, who need to be strong, fast and have a high level of work capacity year round, will benefit from the periodization pattern of the DUP.
  • DUP is also great for power-strength athletes.

Who is NOT suited to use DUP

  • As the periodization model jumps straight into the physical work with no preparation phase, it may not be ideal for beginner athletes who do not have the proficiency to perform some exercises at high intensity in the correct technique/ the foundation strength to follow a DUP program without getting injured.
  • Even though there are studies which had shown that DUP can effectively increase strength, it may not be the best method to work on sports specific fitness.One example would be endurance athletes. This is because there are no studies or examples which had proven that DUP actually can increase endurance more effectively than the linear periodization approach.

    However, recently, the program developed by Crossfit Endurance, founded by Brian MacKenzie, seems like a DUP approach towards endurance. It was subjected to lots of criticism from traditional endurance athletes as the core principle of the program was antagonistic to the traditional approach towards training for endurance.

    I feel that the program is interesting – it is still relatively new, being established for only less than a decade and hard to judge if it is actually an effective form of training for endurance athletes. The program however, does emphasis on strength training and GPP as the foundation – a potentially effective way to build a strong and injury resistant body as a base to build a huge endurance engine within it. Will definitely attend a Crossfit Endurance course to learn more about it if I get the chance!

  • Another reason why DUP might not be the best way to build SPP is because due to the nature of it being able to focus on multi-faceted fitness attributes, it reduces the specialized fitness stimuli. While this might not really affect the beginner or intermediate athlete due to the high transfer of trainedness (Myslinski, 2012), the advanced or elite athletes will fail to improve on their SPP as the stimulus provided in a GPP oriented program will be inadequate to raise the SPP due to the decrease in transfer of trainedness as the athletes reach higher levels of fitness.

Conjugate Sequencing System (CSS)

The conjugate sequencing system has elements of concurrent/DUP periodization and the linear periodization. Its purpose is to preserve the fitness gained via GPP training while working on providing additional stimuli to the fitness attributes needed for SPP (Abbott).

This periodization model is best described in a graph as shown below in Figure 1.

CSS

 

 

Figure 1: Pictorial representation of the Conjugate Sequencing System  (Abbott)

In figure 1, hypertrophy, maximal strength and specific speed are put on maintenance loads while explosive power is worked on, using the concept of linear periodization. A, B, C and D are the progression exercises, each with progressively greater stimulus in helping to develop explosive power. An example would be:

A= Jump Squats

B= Barbell Jump Squats

C= Depth Jumps

D= Depth Jumps with a weighted vest

When the desired result is obtained, the particular fitness attribute can be put away on maintenance load, while another attribute can be brought to focus and worked upon using the same concept.

Using figure 1 as an example, should the desired result be obtained in explosive power, it can be put on maintenance load and maybe work on hypertrophy for the next 8-12 weeks.

The CSS does possess a drawback. Due to the high level of work done to maintain and develop fitness attributes at the same time, there is a high probability of overtraining if the program is not designed properly to balance maintenance work and fitness development work. In my opinion, it would not be ideal to carry out such program design year round – a period of solely doing maintanence work would need to be allocated to allow the body to recover from the strain of CSS (Abbott).

Who is suited to use the CSS?

In my opinion, CSS is great for multi-sports athletes, such as triathletes, obstacle course racers, law enforcers, sports which have extended periods of competition such as soccer, basketball, etc. This is because it helps to preserve the base level of fitness in athletes while working on SPP which helps to keep an athlete strong and injury resistant throughout the season while maintaining a high level of fitness.

Who is not suited for the system?

The CSS is physically demanding, just like UP and DUP. As such, it is not suited for the beginner athletes who still do not have a base level of strength, work capacity and technique to perform at and/or to recovery from the high volume and intensity that the CSS demands.

CSS also has an emphasis on performance. A high level of GPP would be a mandatory criterion for building SPP using CSS. This would not be ideal for the beginner athlete as well since he will not have the solid GPP foundation and would be more susceptible to overtraining and injury.

Conclusion

Periodization models are tools which aid in an athlete’s fitness development. In order to maximize the athlete’s potential in his/her sport, it is essential to know how the various periodization models work and use them at the right time during the course of the athlete’s physical development in order to maximize performance and the effectiveness of training.

Ultimately, the concept of an athlete’s development would be to develop robust technique in core exercises, establish consistency in technique, basic strength and work capacity before he can focus on performance.

Periodization, in essence, is used to prepare to train, to program training protocols for competition and lastly, design training programs with the objective to win.

In the next blog post of this series, I will be blogging about the concepts and considerations taken to develop a training program based on the linear periodization model.

References

Abbott, C. (n.d.). The Application of Periodization Moels for Athletes of Different Standards – A Practical Approach.

Bradley-Popovich, G. E., & Haff, G. G. (2001). Nonlinear Versus Linear Periodization Models. Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Myslinski, T. (2012, May 30). The Development of the Russian Conjugate Sequence System. Retrieved from Elitefts: http://www.elitefts.com/education/training/the-development-of-the-russian-conjugate-sequence-system-needs-banner/

Peterson, M., Dodd, D. J., Alvar, B. A., Rhea, M. R., & Favre, M. (2008). Undulation Training for Development of Hierarchical Fitness and Improved Firefighter Job Performance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

 

 

Plan Your Training! Part 1: Introduction to Periodisation

Why plan your training program?

There is a saying that goes “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. This holds true in the aspect of physical training. Without an intentionally planned regime to guide you towards your training goals, you will have a lower chance of attaining them.

Periodisation is the term used to describe the intentional and systematic approach towards training, designed in cyclic structures or broken into discreet phases, each with their own training objectives which builds upon one another, in order to help to achieve timely peak physical performance and/or long term fitness goals.

Benefits of Periodisation

There are numerous benefits to periodisation:

1) Prevention of Injuries
Periodisation enables you to switch up your training consistently to prevent overused injuries while still making gains in fitness.

2) Adequate Recovery
Periodisation enables you to factor in adequate rest, which is an important element in a training program in order to achieve improvement in fitness. However, rest is very often neglected, especially among endurance athletes.

3)Consistent Overloading
Unless you are looking at maintaining fitness levels, improvement cannot be achieved by doing the same workout at the same intensity and volume repeatedly. The body will gradually adapt to the load up to a point where training adaptation will no longer occur.

Thus, periodisation will ensure that the body is consistently exposed to a stress which is greater than it could handle in order to allow room for adaptation, thus potential for improvement in fitness.

4) Peaking for Competitions
Periodisation can help you to achieve peak sporting performance within a certain period of time.

The key objective of training is to be in the best physical state possible by competition day/period. Periodisation will help you to get the most out of your training and achieve your best physical state by competition day with the time period that you have leading up to the day of competition.

5) Breaking Physical Plateaus
Very often we hit performance/training plateaus after training for a period of time. By periodising your training, your body will be constantly exposed to new stimuli which “confuse” your body and allows for further adaptation to take place.

Principles of Periodisation

One may argue that increase in performance can still be achieved by seemingly random programming structures; however, those that did often employed certain principles of periodisation unknowingly.

There are a few principles by which all effective periodisation models adhere to:

1) Principle of Specificity
In order to be good at a skill, you will need to work at that specific skill. That is the only way you can get better. This is because practicing a specific skill will cause the increase in efficiency and economy of the movement due to neurological adaptations. In addition, the muscles involved in the movement will be stressed in a specific way which only practicing that specific skill can provide.

For example, when you are running, the pattern (order) which the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves are activated relative to each other, the high impact demands of running and the way each muscle contracts through the running gait cannot be FULLY replicated and substituted by any other movement ALONE. Elliptical, aqua-running, cycling are great substitutes but cannot full replace running as:

Elliptical – Movement looks similar however there is still quite a significant difference in muscle use and how the muscles are activated when compared to running. Hop onto an elliptical and you will get what I mean.

In addition, elliptical trainers are relatively low-impact – a huge contrast to the high impact that running has on the legs.

Cycling – the movement of cycling is totally different from running – limited neurological adaptations to increase running economy.

In addition, like the elliptical trainer, cycling is low-impact and thus, cannot stress the legs in the same way running does.

Aqua-running – Probably involves movement which is closest to running. However, the lack of impact will prevent the body from adapting to the high impact demands of running.

There is no doubt that these 3 exercises can provide valuable adaptations to increase running performance, such as additional development of aerobic base and injury prevention, however to bring your running performance to the next level, you will need to run as well!

In short, if you run professionally, your training should mainly consist of running, if you are a professional cyclist, cycling should form the bulk of your training. Cross training and strength training are supplemental training sessions and are not meant to replace core training workouts.

2) Principle of Progressive Overload
The body will need to be gradually exposed to greater training loads in order to improve. When the body is exposed to constant training volume and intensity, over time it will not experience improvement in fitness due to the lack of training stimulus and thus only helps to maintain fitness levels. So in order to stress your body consistently, volume or intensity needs to be increased in small increments week by week.

3) Principle of the Law of Diminishing Return
The body is very capable at adapting to training stimuli. The Law of Diminishing Return states that, the body will gain the most out of a certain training session or style during the first few times that it was exposed to them, however, if similar workouts and/or programs are done repeatedly, the adaptation that is gained by the body will start to decrease and no longer become as effective in increasing fitness levels.

Thus, it is essential to consistently mix up your training either by introducing new skills, different rep schemes, varying the loads or mixing up the volume and intensity in order to “confuse” the body to allow for further physical adaptation to take place.

4) Principle of Supercompensation

Supercompensation is a process where the body recovers from fatigue due to training stimulus, to a fitness level which is higher than previously before.

The 2 key factors to achieving supercompensation are: adequate overloading of training and adequate recovery. The latter is usually neglected and thus it is crucial to make sure adequate rest is planned in order to reap the benefits of tough workouts.

5) Principle of Individualisation

Everyone is born with different genetics, muscloskeletal structure, etc. Basically, everyone improves at different rate. Thus training programs cannot be used as a one-size-fits-all template but rather, a template from which a customised program through a detailed analysis of an athlete could be developed to build on his weakness and optimise his performance.

Therefore, periodisation is paramount in optimising train performance. In the next post, I will be talking about the various forms of periodisation model and how they can be suited to different fitness levels and age groups.

6) Principle of Consistency

Periodisation heavily relies on the consistent progression of skill and fitness attributes; each phase builds upon the next.

If too long a break is taken between training sessions or phases, the athlete will experience regression or detraining effect. Thus, it is essential to be consistent throughout the different phases of training or else you will not reap the full training effect from periodisation.

In the next blog post I will be sharing the different periodisation models and how they can be applied.

 

 

 

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