“In this age of specialization men who thoroughly know one field are often incompetent to discuss another. The great problems of the relations between one and another aspect of human activity have for this reason been discussed less and less in public…”
Specialization, though extremely important, inevitably leads, however (unless the specialist remains ever vigilant), to blinkered thought patterns. We need erudite generalists to connect the dots, to see the inherent co-relations between what look to be, at ground level, completely disparate entities. Only from the generalist’s 30-thousand foot view can the Venn-like associations be found. Check out the following, from big think: A Universal Cure for Cancer?
I’ve touched on the subject of the problems inherent to the dogmatic approach to Physical Culture many times in the past (most recently, here), but the sentiment bears repeating: no single method, protocol, or modality works for everyone, and no one can continue to make progress continually using the same method, protocol or modality. Be prepared, my friend, for what has worked brilliantly over the last 6 weeks is, even as this is written, readying to dump your sorry ass without so much as a hastily jotted “Dear John”, or a dry kiss goodbye. Once the body accommodates to a specific stressor — and it most assuredly will (and with some much faster than with others) — progress will abruptly cease. This, of course, is the basis which underpins the Conjugate Method — a method many folks mistakenly assume is a powerlifting-only phenomena; wrong answer, my friend. Yes, Louie Simmons has manipulated this idea and applied it specifically to the field of powerlifting, but the basic underpinnings can be tweaked so as to apply toward any training specificity, or to no specificity at all. Case in point: I am a fitness generalist who employs the Conjugate Method; now, if I ever decided to specialize in any single event, or train toward a specific sporting goal, I’d simply tweak the parameters (specific exercises, modalities, etc.) of the Conjugate Method to better support those goals. As Louie Simmons says, There are countless sports and sport-specific pursuits (including, I would add, sporting generalism) but only three methods of strength training: absolute strength building, hypertrophy work (via the repetition method), and speed-strength training. And remember this: sport specific technique training is an entirely different animal — even if your sport of choice happens to be Oly or powerlifting itself.
Still a bit fuzzy on what exactly the Conjugate Method is? Below is an excerpt from a Dave Tate-written, IB Area 51 piece, Debunking the Myths, in which Dave gives a very truncated summary of the Conjugate Method as practiced by the athletes at Westside Barbell:
…The methods we use are explained in many books on training including “Super training” (Siff and Verkhoshansky), “Science and Practice of Strength Training” (Zatsiorsky) and many other textbooks and manuals from the former soviet union. The problem in the country is that people are reading the wrong information. For review, the major methods we use are:
1. The Maximal Effort Method: This method is defined as lifting maximal and supra maximal weights for one to three reps and is considered superior for the increase in both intramuscularly and intermuscular coordination. This is because the central nervous system will only adapt to the load placed upon them. It has also been proven that weights over 90% elicit the greatest gain in strength but will quickly lead to over training state within one to three weeks with the same movement. The is because of the great demand placed on the neuromuscular system with this type of training.
We devote two day of the week for this type of training. One for the Squat and one for the bench press. This schedual is followed all year long. The reason we do not have problems with overtraining with 90% plus weights is because the movement is switched every one to three weeks. The movements we choice are called “special exercises” and are designed for maximum strengh output both the squat and dead lift.
2. The Repetition Method: This method can be defined as lifting a non-maximal weight to failure; it is during this fatigue state when the muscles develop the maximal possible force. Because of this it is only the final lifts that are important because of the fatigue state. This type of training has a greater influence on muscle metabolism and hypertrophy when compare to the other methods.
We use this method in a conjugant “coupling fashion” intermixed in with the other training days. Any supplemental or accessory movement using this method must be changed after three to six workouts using the exercise. This is to avoid the over training state as described above.
3. The Dynamic Effort Method: This method of training involves lifting non maximal weight with the greatest possible speed. This method of training is not used for the development of maximal strength but only to improve the rate of force development and explosive strength. Angel Sassov during his trip to the USA mentioned weights 50 to 70% are best for developing explosive power.
We devote two days a week to this type of training for the bench press and one for the box squat.
All these methods are coupled together “conjugated periodisation” This type of periodisation is different then the western method that is very over practiced in the United States today. As many of you remember the western method consists of a Hypertrophy Phase, Basic Strength Phase. Power Phase, Peak Phase and a Transitional Phase. These phases are all independent of each other meaning that you first complete the Hypertrophy Phase then move on to the Strength Phase and so on. This is the type of periodiastion we do not practice or believe in. We have found it better to maintain all the strength abilities throughout the year. This again is accomplished by the conjugated periodisation method. The other type of periodisation we pratice is cybernetic periodisation. This simply means you have to listen to your body and make adjustment when needed. With the western method if you are programmed to lift 90% for 2 sets of 3 and have a bad day or do not feel well ten you are screwed with no alternative but to miss the workout and try to catch back up the next week or to try the weight and hope for the best. With our style of training on the dynamic method days, bar speed or concentric tempo is what determines the load. If the bar slow down then you reduce the weight. We do use percents as a guide on this day, but he bar speed still is the determining factor. On the max effort days a bad day will only equate to a lower max effort. This really does not matter because it is the straining with maximal loads we are looking for not the actual weight lifted.
Now personally, I like to use Autoregulation in conjunction with cybernetic periodization, but that’s really getting down to the splitting of proverbial hairs.
So yes, I utilize all manner of machine, free-weight and bodyweight exercises. I run sprints and bike sprint as well. I train at times like a powerlifter, and other times like a track and field thrower and/or sprinter — and yeah, sometimes I even train like a damn (God forbid!!!) bodybuilder (but much to Meesus TTP’s relief, sans the 80s clown pants). One thing I do not do, however, is combine exercises in a session as if “pulled from a hopper”. CrossFit does plenty of great things for sure, and is, in my mind, a fantastic overall concept — save for the programming side of things. Should a well rounded athlete be able to perform well at a series of exercises pulled at random from said hopper? Most definitely, yes, I think. That an athlete should train in such a fashion, though, in my mind is just, well…wrong minded. There is a huge difference between training for an event and training with an event; couple the overall CrossFit concept with smart programming and now you’ve got a winner.
And now, on to the workout front…-
Monday, 1/31/11; as brief, brutal and basic as it gets:
Trap bar RDLs: 265 x 10; 355 x 7; 405 x 6; 455 x 4, 3, 3, 3
Lift something very heavy off of the ground — quickly; set it back down under control. Wash, rinse, repeat…
So, can one get a bad-ass workout in 15 minute’s time? You bet. Would I do this all of the time? Nope; but then again, I don’t follow any protocol or modality “all the time”. Workouts are indeed like cuisine (see above); variety, within certain limitations (limited to Paleo choices, say) are key. The anatomy of a 15-minute, quick-HITter workout can be seen in these following four examples:
(A1) T-bar swings: 125 x 25, 25, 25, 25
(A2) weighted dips: 90 x 5, 5, 5, 5
(A1) Nautilus pec dec: 95 x 10, 10
(A2) Nautilus rear delt: 95 x 10, 10
*both at a 3010 tempo
(B1) Xccentric flat press: (+50): 5 rest-pause reps w/8-count negatives each rep
(C1) Nautilus pull-over: 255 x 10, 2, 2, 1 (one extended cluster set, 40×0 tempo)
(C2) reverse-grip pull-ups: BW x 5, 3, 3 (one extended cluster set, 40×0 tempo)
Dynamic box squats (high box, thighs parallel): 185 x 7 sets of 3 ~ Speed!
2-hour break, then 225 x 7 sets of 3 ~ again, speed, speed, SPEED!
Straight bar bicep curl: 95 x 12, 105 x 6, 115 x 5, 120 x 4 ~ performed as clustered sets, 15-seconds rest between “sets”.
clean (from the floor): 135 x 10; 165 x 5, 185 x 5, then 185 x 8 sets of 2, with the 8 x 2 done as a cluster set; approx 30 seconds rest between “sets”.
So, what do Efficient Exercise trainers do when they’re just sittin’ around between clients, chillin’ out, recovering from one of those 15-minute “quick-HITter” workouts detailed above? See the link below. Yeah, we’re sick like this 🙂
Seriously though, this is one bad-ass, dynamic hamstring hit.
Discipline? Really? Meh, let’s call it love. The positive physiological effects of reframing your reference. Yeah, “love of” is most definitely a more effective way to approach any aspect of Physical Culture than is “discipline”. Discipline might get you through the day, my friend, but love will carry you though a lifetime.
An lastly, I would love to see an analysis here of the elite sprinter’s heel bone, especially in relation to that of the distance runners’. The problem with much of this research is that all manner of “running”, much like “resistance training”, is lumped together under one, catch-all phrase. This, of course, is utterly absurd in the same way that classifying all of art under a single umbrella is patently useless. Help! Is there a generalist in the house? 😉
An interesting story, though, nonetheless:
You make life worth living amigo.
Thanks, my man! Proper diet + smartly-designed exercise programming can make *everyone’s* life worth living…to the max!
Great post. You continue to bring it with thoughtful and thought provoking posts. Your lack of dogma is refreshing in a world of many who claim there is only one way to do things.
A couple of thoughts on this and a question:
1. It appears you are working out almost every day. With all the new toys in the gym I think it would be hard for any phyisical culturist to stay off them for over 24 hours. Do you have any fear of overtraining? How can you tell if you are overtraining?
2. You wrote “Once the body accommodates to a specific stressor — and it most assuredly will (and with some much faster than with others) — progress will abruptly cease”. I think many in the more orthodox HIT community would say that the ceasing in progress is really just the ending of the skill portion of the movement involved and the beginning of the real progress. The gains at that point tend to be less pronounced than the earlier skill based advancement, but they are there if you have a fine enough measurement method(TUL is what many use). Any thoughts on this?
I have found my progress to be continuing well beyond the 6 week limit that many start to see their progress cease. I have been doing a weekly or so HIT beat down mostly super slow style for the last 2 years and have added weight or TUL each workout. This experience and the experience of others who do something similar would fly in the face of the idea that training progress will cease after a few weeks.
Since I am dogma-less as well, I have added another workout or two each week in addition to my HIT beat down. My progress has not slowed at all as a result, as many HIT dogmaists(is that a word) would suggest. In fact, I think I may be getting stronger doing it and progressing faster. On the off HIT days I focus on load as the primary factor, not fatigue or failure. I just ramp up and do low reps of as high a weight as I can for a few sets. I suspect that, as my friend Richard Bourgeois told me years ago, that the body will adapt to the highest load you are exposed to. While I think there is more to it than that(fatigue, by products of the workout, etc.), load matters and some of the HIT orthodoxy aren’t keyed in on it. Any thoughts greatly appreciated.
Thanks again for your great posts and I hope you are enjoying the heck out of the new job(it sure seems that way).
1 – I maintain my daily and overall weekly volume very low. Intense, yes, but the total volume of work is still very low. Overtraining can be signaled by many, many things, but for me the main (and most easily discernible)warning sign is a lack of the true *want* to train — I don’t ever drag myself into the gym (or otherwise) and go through the motions just to get a workout “in the books”. If I don’t really, truly feel like hitting the iron (or sprinting, or …whatever), I simply don’t do it. Sounds kinda woo-woo/New Agey, I know – but there it is, and that’s how I roll.
2 – to some extent, yes, I believe this is true. But here is where the art of training comes into play; to know the difference between an “artificial plateau”, and a true, pending stall in progress. Time in the trenches, my friend. The same way that @Michelle just “knows” that a dish needs a pinch (no more, no less!) of curry.
And yes, load is most assuredly a key player in overall development (hence my “max effort” days and CZT utilization) — not the everything, mind you, but certainly a key player. Depending upon your unique n=1 poker hand, consider load to be a card in your Physical Culture royal flush 🙂
Thanks for the good words, Jeff. And yeah, I’m lovin’ the hell out of my new gig! 😉
Forgot to sign up for follow up comments.
If you look at things from a sub-atomic perspective, everything is made up of the same thing… energy. That undeniable fact alone should be enough for people to realize that everything is interconnected… No?
Agreed; an even more to the point, what is the dividing line (if any) between “I” and “it”?