When an athlete suffers a burner or stinger, it is usually due to the nerve being traumatized in some way. If there is disk involvement in the cervical spine, then this program will not be beneficial and could even be detrimental to the athlete. Make sure that the integrity of the cervical spine is good via communication with the athletic trainer and/or a physician.
The exercises are simple to implement, but it is crucial to err on the side of caution. When this program was first implemented back in the mid- 80’s for college level football athletes, the information we were given from the medical staff was that the damaged nerve only recovers at 2-5 mm per week. In severe cases there was tingling, numbness and weakness to the hand, meaning the athlete could be out several months. The second caution the medical staff advised us to be cognizant of was that the nerve would tire rather quickly. So many exercises were done to the limit of the damaged side with dumbbells that were unequal in weight so that the nerve was allowed to progress in recovery and regeneration. Neural tiredness is characterized by a heavy, tired, dull, dead and/or weak feeling. When this happens it can actually slow or even harm the recovery process of the nerve.
The exercises are as follows:
Manual Neck –
This drill is done four ways emphasizing both the concentric and eccentric resistance range of motion. The anterior version wraps the towel over the forehead and on the chin for grip and for sanitary purposes. The athlete will lie on their back and concentrically go from almost full extension to almost full flexion with resistance. Then the partner will provide the force to eccentrically push the head back to almost full extension. Do not get to full extension as this may trigger the nerve and cause the burner/stinger symptoms again.
The prone version requires the athlete to roll over onto their stomach. The towel is placed upon their posterior skull and the athlete will go from almost full flexion with resistance to almost full extension. The partner will again provide resistance for the eccentric portion of the range of motion. Again, the purpose behind going from almost full extension to almost full flexion is that no additional stinger event will be caused by the exercise program, as this would set the recovery process back.
Lateral is accomplished by having the athlete sit upright at the end of a bench and grab the front of the bench so there is no lateral flexion of the upper body. The towel goes over the head and the resistor places one hand on the outside of the head and the other will support the outside of the opposite shoulder. The athlete will attempt to go from ear on the shoulder to ear on the shoulder with concentric and eccentric resistance just as in the anterior and posterior versions of the exercise.
Shrug Series –
There are four versions of shrugs that are incorporated into the burner/stinger program. The first is the overhead shrug. This is not a strength exercise as much as a motor learning exercise. In contact sports the upper shoulder complex must brace and support the neck upon contact. This is accomplished by elevation or “bowing the neck” and many athletes are unable to do this movement with the arms in an overhead, extended position. Holding a bar overhead in a fully extended, locked out snatch grip, have the athlete attempt to press the bar using shoulder elevation. As the athlete does this, the spotter should place each of his index fingers on either side of the neck under the ears. The athlete should attempt to pinch the spotter’s fingers between the traps and neck muscles. The load is a bar only. Full ROM is important, especially at the top end or fully contracted part of the movement.
The second shrug to learn is the hang shrug. This shrug is done from the hang clean position with dumbbells in order to force the athlete to shrug up and back to increase the strength of the upper and mid trap in order to support the elevation/bowing action. This is also a motor learning drill that once learned, can be moderately loaded. Full ROM is important, especially at the top end or fully contracted part of the movement.
The next version is the bent over shrug. Just as the name implies, the athlete is bent over so that the back is parallel to the ground and the dumbbells are hanging from the shoulders in the hands. Varying of the grips by rotating the dumbbells will challenge the motor learning part of the exercise. Emphasis should be put on contracting the traps/shoulder blades down and back for full contraction. This drill can be moderately loaded. Full ROM is important, especially at the top end or fully contracted part of the movement. The dumbbells will go from the hang position in front of the thigh to the outer hip, almost to the back pocket.
The final version is the upright row, again with dumbbells in order to allow each side to be appropriately challenged without over stimulus of the nervous system. This version can be loaded the most in relation to the other drills. The spotter technique of placing the fingers on the traps is again recommended here so that full ROM contraction of the traps is accomplished.
Recommended Training Program –
The sets and reps are determined by the ability of the athlete and the traumatized nerve(s) to withstand the level of stimulus with out being over trained. Manual neck sets and reps are 1 set of 8-10 reps. As the athlete progresses, this becomes a max effort drill in which the athlete can only do 10 reps each direction. For each of the shrugs, begin with 1 set of 8-10 reps. As the athlete becomes accustomed to the training prescription, the volume can be progressed up to 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Remember that quality is much more important than quantity as the rehabilitation program progresses.
In injury prevention programs, emphasize ROM, optimal patterning and quality movements. The loads can be moderately heavy as long as full ROM is performed. Prescriptions can be 3 x 8-10 down to 4 x 5-6 or even 10-8-6-4.
Dr. Greg Rose stated in one of his great lectures for the Perform Better team that motor learning (i.e. muscle memory) is never erased. One pattern can be overlaid upon another, but our basic motor patterns are archived and remain with us for our lives. For example, piano lessons when we are young and our nervous system is so plastic stay with us. Same with the ability to ride a bike, learn multiple languages fluently and form certain sounds with our mouths (think of accents from people that learn a second language well into adulthood and have trouble with some sounds).
Why is this point important? In many instances from sport to law enforcement to Special Forces novices are put in situations in which extreme stress is a part of the test in order to determine the motor pattern that will emerge under times of such duress. A current popular example is Tim Tebow’s throwing motion. When in a closed drill in which the outcome is set, the motion improves. When the drill is open, such as in competition, the throwing pattern reverts to the earlier learned pattern typical of a baseball windup.
Many Special Forces and military selection courses include high levels of stress in which the candidate is deprived of sleep, food and given tasks that are extremely difficult and in some instances even impossible to accomplish. Why? To determine if the candidate can function at a high level in times of extreme discomfort; to determine what muscle memory patterns will emerge and finally, to get a glimpse into the will power of the individual candidate.
What does this have to do with sports teams? It is becoming more and more difficult to put high school and collegiate athletes under duress in order to determine how they will respond in terms of will power, motor patterns and ability to function. The high school coach in many instances is not backed up by his administration if even one parent complains. In college, the NCAA has mainstreamed the athlete into the student-athlete collegiate experience to such an extent that in the summer, when school is paid for, the athlete does not even have to workout one time, while all expenses, room and board are paid for during the summer semester. Many coaches do not support making athletes uncomfortable since they end up in their offices complaining.
It is imperative our young people are put in situations of distress that are planned, well thought out and have a purpose in order to create young people with confidence, competence and will power in order to face the challenges of adulthood.
The last winter ball in football I participated in had 9 stations with a goal of 7-8 reps at each station. This created a load of 63-72 reps in less than 35 minutes. This workload mimicked a football game in 1/6th of the time. When warm up and cool down was included as well as penalty runs, this was a 60 – 65 minute workout. This was done 3 – 4 times per week and the athletes had to come back in the afternoon and lift weights 3 – 4 times as well. The lifting was not as difficult as the focusing and commitment to doing it right, doing it hard and doing it with a positive mental attitude. This was done to create toughness in the eyes of the coaches, but I now know it creates hard motor patterns that are difficult to peel back.
During the 2013 spring game at Ohio State University, Urban Meyer stood just behind and over from the holder on each and every field goal attempt. Why – To put pressure on the new kickers of course. What happens when the kicker feels the pressure? He reverts back to his worst pattern, which may result in a miss, much like when he is iced before the big kick to win the big game.
What is our lowest level of motor pattern? The fetal position. When there is too much stress for our ability to cope, too much stress for our level of training, too much stress for our experience level, too much stress for our mind to comprehend, we will revert to the fetal position. Remember the culmination of the final battle scene in “Saving Private Ryan”? Why did Steven Spielberg Show Matt Damon in his foxhole screaming? What position is he in. . . . . ?
Making it tough in a well thought out progression that is appropriate for the age group, the ability level and culture of the team/individual will go a long way toward preparing a team, group and individual for the trials and tribulations of the future.
Credit to co-worker Logan Brodine for the 6-8-10 Push up. This is just push-ups but with weight placed on your back in the form of plates. Put two plates on your back and do 6 push-ups. Remove one plate and keep going for 8 more push ups. Remove the last plate and do 10 more push-ups. Now, for the variations. Put the heavy plate on top of the lighter one, for example to make it easier. To make it more difficult, put the light plate on top of the heavier one. Maintain good push up form throughout the movement. Excellent drill to do followed by the medicine ball partner bench press for power and fast twitch muscle fiber training.
Many people interchange the usage of the RDL and the SLDL. Is this accurate? In a word, no. Let’s examine the lifts and their heritage. The RDL comes from Russia or Romania (depending on who you ask what the R stands for) and the SLDL comes from the bodybuilding world.
The RDL is meant to simulate the top of the second pull in the clean and the snatch. The RDL is a heavy version of the kettlebell swing. The RDL SHOULD be executed down to the top of the knees with a moderate tempo and up with a quick, explosive movement, much like the kettlebell swing. The feet stay on the ground as the hips drive the bar up to the high pocket position. Remember, it is a partial movement lift prescribed to assist the second pull in the clean and snatch.
The SLDL is designed to load the glutes and hams throughout the entire ROM of the backside chain. The knees MUST be UNLOCKED in order to load the muscles and tendons and NOT the ligaments and discs. Executed from the ground or on a small box depending on the flexibility of the hamstrings. Proper form is to shift the weight back loading the heels while hinging at the hip. The lumbar spine should NOT flex, the core should stay braced throughout the entire movement. The grip should be shoulder width and the tempo should be controlled.
So, in essence, the two lifts come from different heritages and are designed for two different reasons, impacting vastly different neural patterns. While using the same musculature, the ROM, loads and tempo of movement should be very different in execution.
If you want a nice butt and hams, do both lifts. If you want a bigger, faster, better clean or snatch, focus on the RDL.
NO NO NO – Legs too straight!! Single leg version of the SLDL Traditional Version of the SLDL
One of the most accurate ways to estimate your max at any given time is to do indicator sets. An indicator set is a heavy load where you will do 2 – 5 reps and cannot do another. The reason you do less than 6 is at six reps, due to time under tension, the energy systems begin to switch from ATP-PC to the lactate system and the variability is greater.
After you do your heavy indicator set for as many as possible for 2 – 5 reps, just use some simple math. Take the total number of reps and subtract one. Multiply what is left by 3%. Then multiply this number by the load used in the heavy indicator set. Add this number back to the load used in the set. For example:
5 reps at 225
5 – 1 = 4
4 x 3% = 12%
.12 x 225 = 27
27 = 225 = 252
This works very well and can give you an idea of where you are in your strength development during training without having to prepare to max or max.
What if I want to know what my max is on a lift in which I do not max? This is quite common, as many lifts are not tested, but an athlete wants to cycle this lift. Here are the percentages for a couple of lifts to train percentages off of without having to max on those lifts.
Incline is 80% of bench press
Snatch is 70% of the Clean
Squat is 80% of the Dead Lift
These are excellent rules of thumb to use in order to train with percentages without having to test several different lifts.
I have observed many people pounding the pavement as they go out for their daily run. Some have been lost in the bliss of the runners high while others seem to be struggling along a highway of hell by the looks on their faces and the rhythm of their run. While some are truly runners, many others fall into the categories of jogging or even trotting as they slowly lean into the wind. What is the difference between a trot, jog, run and a sprint? In its most simple form, I have come to believe it is where the ankle on the swing leg crosses the support leg.
For example, a trotter will only lift the swing leg slightly off of the ground and the ankle will cross just above the support leg ankle. A jogger’s swing leg ankle will cross at the support leg calf. A true runner will cross the support leg at the knee and a sprinter’s swing ankle will cross the support leg above the knee with the heel of the swing leg just brushing the buttocks.
In teaching speed and observing runners and sprinters throughout my career, I have learned many drills to teach the mechanics of speed. These drills tend to fall into the categories of push off drills, turnover drills, arm drive drills and posture drills. If the athlete is not crossing the support leg above the knee with the swing leg, then all the other drills are for naught since there is no conservation of angular momentum.
Truly gifted runners in distance events and sports such as cross-country tend to have great conservation of angular momentum and outstanding mechanical efficiency in their turnover and stride mechanics. This is a strength mechanism and cannot be drilled, exercised or trained if the athlete does not possess the genetic predisposition for handling the loads upon ground contact in order to facilitate the turnover as a gifted runner. This is why there are so many joggers out there chasing the runners high.
Volume and nutritional timing are the keys to size. More reps and the muscle will get bigger. 10 sets of 3 and 3 sets of ten are both a total volume of 30 reps. However, the time under tension of the muscle for 3’s is usually under 10 seconds, so all the energy needed to complete the set is already stored in the muscle cells. When doing sets of 10 (or any set that takes longer than 10 seconds to complete) the energy needed to complete that set must be recruited from outside the muscle cell and stimulates the muscle cell to store more sugar and water for work. This results in a corresponding increase in the cell and the overall muscle.
If carbohydrate and protein are provided within 2 hours of completing training (within first 30 minutes is optimal) then the sugar and protein are present for replenishing the muscle energy substrates and the muscle will “grow” at an optimal rate.
Total volume will stimulate the muscle to grow. Time under tension will stimulate the muscle to grow. Providing liquid carbohydrate and protein within 30 minutes of completion of the workout will optimize the muscle recovery and growth potential.
For more dense muscles, increasing time under tension by going heavy or doing pauses and holds at a moderate load will increase the density of the muscle tension as well as the strength of the connective tissue such as the tendon. Holds and pauses can be done at various joint angles and for various lengths of time up to a full 10 seconds.
The load and/or force the body imparts into the ground can be focused through the forefoot, the heel or the mid-foot when standing, running, accelerating and landing. In my experience women and elite strength/power athletes tend to slightly front side to mid foot load in many single leg exercises such as lunges and step-ups. Let’s examine some differences in loading the foot when training.
Acceleration– When starting from a standing or stance position, the load will seem to be more front side due to the lower the
center of gravity and the lean into the direction of movement. However, in elite athletes, the load will be on the fore foot with the backside chain tremendously engaged. Many true front side loaders and less elite athletes will tend to impart force through the forefoot with less than maximal/optimal backside chain involvement. Think of jumping rope for example. Many poor jump ropers will plantar flex and keep the heels off of the ground and just use the lower leg and foot to jump rope. Accomplished rope jumpers will flex at the hip, knee and ankle, using the entire lower body to absorb and produce force in order to jump rope. Many start drills and technical warm-up drills are front side mechanics emphasized in terms of coaching cues. For example, in A skips, the emphasis is in knee up/toe up front side action rather than force into the ground via the support leg. Another example; in wall drills the common coaching cues are knee up/toe up rather than back side chain emphasis via glute extension and force into the ground. Emphasizing backside chain involvement and focus via glute activation, recruitment and focus is a key to improving performance as greater force into the ground will improve acceleration. One way to do this is to emphasize backside recruitment and full/mid-foot loading over forefoot loading. This stands true and includes jumping, change of direction drills, sprints and plyometric training.
Running – This has come to the forefront in the popular media via the minimalist shoes and the book “Born to Run”. Forefoot/mid-foot running as opposed to heel force absorption jogging/running is a huge debate. For most runners, I feel the load of the fore foot strike over distance is much too great for many runners/joggers due to the fitness level, lower leg and foot strength as well as the size of the athlete combined with the lack of force absorption properties of the minimalist shoe. If you have spent much of your life running on the forefoot/midfoot as many barefoot runners in the warmer climates and poorer parts of the world, your ability to forefoot run has not been compromised with hundred dollar running shoes, too much sedentary time and too much food. For most of the people that we as fitness professionals come into contact with, minimalist shoes are great for walking around, warm – up and maybe even short interval training. But, most of the population that wants to run distance in minimalist shoes will find the foot unprepared and unable to handle the trauma of force absorption without an extended transition period of weeks and even months in order to prevent injury.
Strength Training– In strength training the load is full footed in many/most cases. The load is distributed fairly evenly,
50/50 from the heel to the forefoot. Full footed is much different than flat footed as flat footed is relaxed and collapsed while full footed utilizes an active arch and foot and is expanded. If the load is too fore foot, especially with the resistance distributed on or through the shoulders, the resulting transfer of force through the spine transitions from compression force to greater and greater sheer force. This places greater forces on the ability of the front side core to resist collapse and the resultant spinal flexion, which is the mechanism of injury for disc trauma. In squatting and dead lifting, it is common training cues to turn the foot out 7-15 degrees and impart the force down and laterally by pushing out through the feet as the loads increase in order to lessen the load on the lower back and increase force through the hips and glutes. In Olympic lifting it is also common to turn the feet out 7-15 degrees and push out, as the pattern of the lifts begin with a squat/deadlift type movement. The difference being the acceleration of the bar and the technique after the pull as the load is less in terms of the absolute strength level of the athlete compared to the power lifts such as the squat and deadlift. In each case, the load will be full footed. In less accomplished Olympic lifters the load will shift through the forefoot at the top of the pull.
Landing– When absorbing force as in landing after a jump, sport skill, plyometric or Olympic lift it is critical to absorb the force in the same pattern as the lowering phase of the squat. If the force absorption phase is so great that the athlete goes lower and lower into a squat, the pattern should mimic a normal squatting pattern. When the load is centered in the mid-foot the backside chain can assist in force absorption and the load is closer to the center of gravity. As the force is absorbed increasingly on the front side and through the fore foot, the knees and lower back will be forced to become more and more involved. For an example, when doing multiple loaded step ups as in the Javorek Dumbbell Series which use 10-15% of fat free body weight, the inventor, Istvan “Steve” Javorek emphasized the
full foot loading of the foot on the bench as when this does not occur, the athlete will have back discomfort. Gymnasts are coached to land on the forefoot for dismounts and when tumbling. Talk to multiple national class gymnasts in their 40’s and older and inquire as to their back and knee health. Even though it happens fast in gymnastics, the force absorption is much the same as when the load drifts forward in a squat and dead lift, which occurs slow enough that we can see it and we are all aware of the consequences of losing your form forward in a squat and/or dead lift.
Gender – Women tend to front side load more than men. Why? In my opinion it is cultural and well as gender related. When women wear heels, the load when squatting will tend to drift forward with the increasing height of the heel. When wearing a skirt, women are precluded from using optimal squatting technique with the knees out and the hip hinging, so women learn to squat loading the forefoot and flexing the knees first. In addition, many women tend to have relatively weaker glute utilization in my experience than comparable elite level male athletes. This glute weakness will lend itself to dependence on the quads for greater force absorption/application.
Full footed, toe out 7-15 degrees, lateral pushing the feet while hinging at the hip is the optimal way to load force. Bracing the front side core, keeping the chest up and leading the movement up with the heart is the key to jumping, squatting, dead lifting and force absorption/force production for optimal patterns, power and long term health.
Most novice lifters train from a canned program which usually consists of bilateral lifts using two arms and/or two legs. These exercises traditionally are presses, pulls, squats and occasionally bendovers. The compensation pattern for these lifts are to move the core forward or backward as the load increases or fatigue begins to set in. Most people are more challenged in terms of core strength and stability in the lateral plane, let alone the challenges of diagonal/rotational motion. In order to increase the core challenge on one side or through one hip to the same side or opposite side shoulder, consider adding single arm and/or single leg training.
Single Arm Presses
Single arm presses will make the core stabilize in order to prevent rolling off of the bench when doing decline, bench or incline.
When doing single arm overhead presses, the stance should be with one foot elevated onto a short box. This will unload the hip compensation pattern front to back and load the hip side to side compensation pattern. If the pressing arm is on the straight leg side, the load will seem heavier. On the bent or elevated leg side, the load will seem lighter as the hip will shift underneath the pressing shoulder. Most of the core training will take place above the hip when using a bench for support. Standing as in the shoulder press or when using a cable trainer or tubing for incline, the bench pressing pattern will engage the glutes and depending on the stance, other parts of the hip and core musculature. The decline will place more front side core load than normal single arm pressing while in a standing stance.
Single Arm Pulls
Single arm pulls will also add to core training while training the back and shoulder musculature. When standing the entire posterior core from the hamstrings, glutes, QL and erectors will definitely be involved to provide stability as the pulling motion is engaged. The stance (parallel, diagonal, linear) will influence the amount of stress through the posterior core as will the angle of the elbow in relation to the floor. The wide elbow, abducted away from the body will cause relatively greater stress through the core as the resistance is farther from the midline. An elbow near the body will feel stronger on each rep as the resistance is near to the midline. The linear stance will be easiest to execute one arm pulls from as it is in line with the line of stress. The parallel stance will be perpendicular to the line of stress and will cause a feeling of greater stress through the body.
When seated and doing one arm pulls as in a lat pull or low row, most of the core stress will be above the hip. To counteractthis, a small ball can be placed between the knees and squeezed to engage the inner sling adductors and low abs or an ankle band can be put around the knees and pushed out in order to stress the outer sling. I personally prefer training the inner sling with this exercise for most of my people. The opposite arm should punch forward as the pulling arm pulls back and the posture should be emphasized with a big chest attitude.
Single Leg Squats
The single leg squat is excellent for training the legs while not stressing the back. If the single leg squat is prescribed as a split squat with the rear leg elevated rather than as a pistol type squat, the balance is better and the core training can be pretty intense. In order to elevate the core involvement, I will assign a weight held in front, much like a steering wheel. This will make the front side core engage. If I want to stress the lateral core, I will assign a weight held in one hand at shoulder height on the opposite side of the leg squatting, as if preparing to do a shoulder press. This will create resistance above the hip on the opposite side forcing the hip, core and shoulder to stabilize against the forces. The front foot of the squatting leg should be turned in slightly in order to add more balance and the back knee should almost touch the ground, enhancing thigh separation needed for acceleration and sprinting. In addition, with the weight held in front, the resistance can be pressed to the right or left by a partner which will add rotational stress through the core.
The single leg sit back squat is executed just like a normal sit back box squat, the difference being the stance is very narrow and the opposite leg is extended in front to create a counter balance. The weight resistance is loaded in front in the hands or in the case of extremely strong athletes, the addition of a weight vest. Additional stress can be added by pressing right and left on the weight held at arms length, thereby adding rotational stress as in the split/pitcher squat. The addition of a partner will create vertical resistance as well as rotary resistance to the person doing the exercise which, at the hip, knee and ankle will cause the lower limb system to stabilize against this rotational resistance and familiarize the nervous system with this type of feedback. Rotational stress at the hip, knee and ankle is a prime cause of injury when coupled with a loss of stability in this system.
Step – ups
Step – ups are an excellent exercise to add opposite arm, diagonal core stress through the body in order to foster strength and stability on single leg movements such as running, walking, hopping, bounding and jogging. The weight will be held at shoulder height and at the conclusion of a short (4 – 8 inch), medium (12 – 16 inch) or tall (above 16 inches) step up, the weight will be pressed or just held at the shoulder pressing position. The hip is not allowed to “drop” upon the step down portion of the movement and is encouraged to drive through the shoulder in order to execute the step up and press portion of the pattern. Most people just limit their training to linear step ups. Lateral step ups and crossover step ups will enhance hip and ankle mobility and help to spare the knees and low back.
Single Leg Bendovers
Single leg bendovers are one leg good mornings, one leg RDL’s or one leg stiff legged dead lifts. No matter the range of motion,
the knee is flexed to some degree, the load is in the hand(s)s or on the shoulders and the hip is pushed back with a hinge motion in order to foster the hip hinge action, braced core, pillar posture that is a key to low back health. Single leg bendovers (as opposed to double leg bendovers) are usually much more stressful to the inside hamstring adductor area (especially when lifting the swing leg up for thigh separation) and much more challenging to the balance and stability system. If the weight is in the opposite hand and the swing leg is moved out in order to move the weighted hand inside the support foot the rotational stability and strength required is very demanding, even with very light loads. Posture is paramount. The back should be flat, the abs braced and the pillar core maintained throughout the movement. The foundational movement pattern of the bendover should have been mastered prior to assigning this exercise. If the swing leg is rotated the other way and the hand(s) go outside the support foot, this move is similar to the follow through on a throw and is slightly easier to accomplish.
Adding some single leg and single arm training to your workouts will accomplish many things. It will add core stress, lower loads, are safer, creates a greater neural load, will increase balance/stability and are more functional, more akin to the normal movement patterns of the body in normal life skills as well as sport skills. Try it – you just might like it!
Many people like to resistance train 3 days per week as a part of their lifestyle training program. I believe that 3 days per week of resistance training done in the giant set or circuit style training program which will keep your heart rate up while you are training for strength, thus accomplishing two things at once. If the Giant Set philosophy is utilized, where a push, pull, leg and sometimes core and/or total body exercise are added to the training session, strength and power can be emphasized at the same time fitness is being improved. The key is how to periodize the strength training program when not using percentages of your max.
When resistance training (using bodyweight, DB’s, KB’s, bars, etc.) and not using a one rep max to figure the percentages OR with a mixed group showing up to train that are at a variety of strength and fitness levels this system is relatively easy to implement. It does not utilize a set time per set, rather it uses the fitness of the athlete to determine the pace and tempo of the circuit. The fitness level, exercises and loads will determine the pace of the circuit for each individual. Next, the ingenious part of the formula for maximizing the strength gains for each individual without spending hours on programming.
Each day will have an emphasis based on the exercises selected and instructions imparted to the group. The heavy day will use big muscle group, heavy lift type exercises such as squat or dead lift (basically the same lift), bar bench press, pull – ups, for example. The rep scheme will be moderate such as 4-6 reps, a pyramid (8-6-4-2-4-6-8), work up/work out sets (10-8-6-4 5×5), etc. The loads will be determined by the individual as they move from the squat/deadlift to the bench to pull-ups (usually done with rubber band assistance for the weaker people and with added load or pauses on the way up and way down by the stronger people). This is the heavy day of training.
The medium day utilizes medium loads, but the time under tension for the muscle will go up. The athlete will control the tempo of the lift by pausing/holding half way up and halfway down on the movement as well as at the top/bottom of the lift. The load is medium, so posture, form and quality of the pattern should not be an issue but as always is critical. For example, the pause/hold workout will be written 3 hold bench press 5 x 5 – 4 second hold. In this workout the athlete would lower the bar halfway, hold for 4 seconds, lower to the chest, holding for 4 seconds, come ½ way up and hold for 4 seconds and then finish the rep. This will make the time under tension for each rep 12 seconds, much longer than most 1 rep max attempts. As the reps go up as in 4 x 8 hold for 3 seconds, the hold/pause time will go down. As the rep scheme prescribed goes down, the hold time will go up as in 8 x 4 hold for 6 seconds. This will also control the load the athlete puts on the bar. These giant set circuits will also be controlled by the athlete and their choice of loads. If the load is too heavy and/or the form is compromised, then the athlete will lag beyond the group and have trouble finishing.
The light day will utilize much different implements for resistance. However, the pattern and angle of the exercise will remain essentially the same. The bench press would become medicine ball bench (where the athlete will lay on their back with their legs bent and as a partner drops the ball to their chest, the athlete will catch the ball, bring it to their chest and punch it up to the ceiling), clap push-ups (done on their knees if they are not strong), tubing punches from a standing position, etc. Air squats or squat jumps will replace back squats or the dead lift and tubing pulls for speed will replace the pull-up. The pattern of movement is the same, but the stimulus will be quite different. This is the day the timer is used and the work bout is controlled by the instructor/coach. The work bouts should be no more than 20 seconds with up to 60 seconds to recover. Why such heresy? They won’t get fit you say? This is not about fitness by the work bout, it is about quality of the work bout and can the athlete recover in the time allotted to have great quality in the next work bout. As time progresses, the work bout remains 10-20 seconds and the rest can be squeezed down to 40, 30 and for short sets, even 20 seconds.
Why do such training for “normal” clients?? I believe we can all agree fast twitch fibers have been proven to respond quicker to hypertrophy training and are designed to contract quickly and with high force for short bursts of time. Slow twitch fibers respond poorly to hypertrophy training and contract with relatively low force for long periods of time. Intermediate fibers can mimic either fast or slow twitch fibers, correct? Now, just based on looks alone, which type of fibers will make you look better – slow twitch or fast twitch? Do you want to look like a muscled up, cut up sprinter or a smooth, skinny long distance athlete? Easy answer – muscled up, cut up for any of our people, whether they are athletes or soccer moms. So, if we always train at the same speed, using relatively the same loads, the fast twitch fibers never get stressed and the intermediate twitch fibers will begin to take on the characteristics of the slow twitch fibers. So, the programming, over time, will create fit people that can work for 30 – 60 seconds at a time that have fewer and fewer fast twitch acting fibers to call upon in training, performance and life.
So, to summarize, have a heavy, slow big lift day; implement a medium load day with extended pauses and holds; and have a fast explosive day with light, fast explosive exercises and reps done for short burst intervals (think Tabata style training, but with breaks if needed for fitness levels) and the emphasis is on quality, quality and quality!!
After just a month of this change in quality and emphasis of training, you will find your muscles thicker and dense (thanks to the holds and explosive reps) and your fitness and strength levels breaking through to new plateaus due to the giant sets increasing the tempo of the workout and training all the muscle fibers!!
Remember . . .