“I’d rather live with a good question than a bad answer.” – Aryeh Frimer

I like to revisit certain performance markers every now and again throughout the ebb and flow of the training season; markers that, over the years, I have been able to correlate, at least within myself, to a well-rounded athleticism.   These are not, mind you, performance maxes or PRs.   In other words, these markers are not the result of a performance driven by a particular dedicated and pin-pointed focus, but rather a performance indicator that, in a well-rounded athletic sense, things are as they should be; that no excessive imbalance exists between speed, strength and sprint repeat endurance.  In fact, I use such touchstones as an indication that any dedicated focus that I might be engaged in has not resulted in the degradation of another, “competing” factor.   For instance, pushing a max squat number at the expense of (in my case, at least), sprinting and/or repeat speed or performance.  Conversely, I know that a nice, snappy, 7 rep 2xBW deadlift, while I’m in the throes of sprinting/saddle-time season, is a good indication that I’m still good-to-go in the weight room.

15 under 15 and in 15

…or, as they were affectionately known back in the day, simply “15’s”

Hard as it is to believe now days, collegiate football players of the early 1980’s actually went back home during the summers and (the Brian Bosworth‘s and SMU‘s of college football notwithstanding) worked legitimate — and in my case, heavy-ass, manual labor — jobs over the summer break.  The coaching staffs at that time sent players home with the parting message that said jocks better (insert filthy string of pejoratives) return “in shape and ready to play”, lest they face some unspecified, but decidedly heinous, form of public castration.  In our case, said punishment would surely be performed in front of a full assembly of cheering Strutters.

Nothing like a little incentive.

And still, few paid the threat any mind.  Oh to be 20 and bullet proof once more 🙂

At any rate, every August, upon returning to camp in preparation for the upcoming season, linebackers, strong safeties*, and tight ends were expected to be able to reel-off 15 100-yrd sprints, all in less than 15 seconds each, with a 45 second recovery before the start of the next sprint.  Nothing superhuman here of course, but pulling this off does reveal a decent, base level of repeat sprint endurance.  Something to work with, something from which to build upon.  And I still use it as a yardstick test today.  Other, more accurate measures of sprint repeat endurance could surely be argued for, but this simple (on paper anyway!) test is at once a great workout in-and-of-itself, and pretty decent measure of fitness.

I’d just like to report that I passed this test with flying colors this past Sunday, just as I did every August during my career.  Yeah, I was one of those  guys, even back then.  One of those middling talent guys who had to “train” their way onto the playing field.

In health,


*note – that strong safties were considered “small, fast, linebackers” is, in itself, telling of a bygone era; defenses designed for a single purpose — to stop the option.

8 responses to “Touchstones

  1. Like it. I think benchmarks are more important than tedious, bookkeeping types of workout logging where the logging becomes an end rather than a means (guilty). Of course, how do you know the benchmarks if you don’t log for a period of time? After a point I think the benchmarks are more important than the daily details.

    However, once you get older (guilty) the benchmarks have to be modified or changed (see Clarence Bass), or you won’t be likely to hit them.

    • Spot-on, Al. A constant process of intelligent assessment & reassessment is required if one wishes to stay in the game for the long haul. Log taking is a necessary process in the overall evolution of the Physical Culturalist, but at a certain point, one needs to reach beyond maxes and PRs — to the point where “…a punch is just a punch, and a kick is just a kick.”

  2. I think the concept of “benchmarking” is an interesting, and important, one. As in Keith’s case, it may be a way of determining – somewhat objectively – that one ‘still has it’. Or, it may be a way to confront the fact that it’s time to get underway with a different approach. Although I’m not an obsessive recorder of my daily workouts, I admire those with the discipline to do this. And, regarding the mention of Clarence Bass, he has written somewhere that he’s recorded and kept every workout that he’s done for the past several decades; remarkable.

  3. Keith-

    Really enjoy reading the blog. I’ve been doing some thinking about some of your recent posts regarding sprint work and your personal workouts. I sporadically incorporate sprinting into my training at various times in the year, and it’s something I enjoy, but typically get lazy about, and ignore. My sport is Olympic Weightlifting, so a smart sprinting routine would be a natural complement to improve power and leg strength (that and it would be nice to regain some semblance of conditioning, haha).

    I feel like the key is being smart about ramping up volume and intensity so as not to detract from being able to squat heavy (the last time I tried to do both, I pushed it like I was in track shape, and got burned out- shocker). So I guess my question is, any guidelines or suggestions as to incorporating sprint work into a 3-5x week weightlifting routine?

    M / 22 y old / 5’8″ / 76 kg / 85kg snatch, 112kg clean + jerk, 132kg front squat

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and perspective, it’s always interesting and super helpful.

    • So here’s the thing – if you’re actively competing in OWL, I wouldn’t mess with sprints, as OWL (and/or the power derivatives) will certainly bolster sprint ability, but the opposite – at least in my experience – is not true. On the other hand, if you’re looking to be a well-rounded athlete, then I’d feather some sprint work in once or twice per week (depending on how many times you lift). Volume is highly n=1 dependent, but I can tell you that (again, at least in my experience) a back-track in squat ability is the first indication of too much sprint volume. To the extent that you can justify such a backslide will determine your volume tolerance. Personally, a dive in squat ability is something I’m fine with in the spring, summer and fall.

      • So your saying I can’t have it all, all at once? Now this is just crazy talk. Maybe I’ll save them for next summer for a GPP phase to keep the legs strong while taking some time off from under the bar. I blame the start of the NFL season for making we want to mix sprinting with weightlifting; as Dan John says “the goal is to keep the goal the goal”, so I’ll stick to the heavy back/front squats. What are your thoughts on sled pulling / pushing (more for load than speed) as a complement to squatting?

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