The Anabolic Continuum, “Confounding Variables”, and Physical Culture as Art

The idea that strength and conditioning programming — and, in fact, any pursuit related to the optimal expression of one’s phenotype — is a purely unique-to-the-trainee, n=1 experiment is the underlying theory behind my own day-to-day practice of Physical Culture.  In fact, the TTP blog itself is an on-going ode to the notion that training is more art than science; or, another way of looking at it is that training is one of the main Physical Culture “arts”, and science is but a single color on the pallet used in the creation of that art.

Enter John Barban, Brad Pilon, and the “Phi Life” experience –

If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and add the Phi Life podcast to your bookmark listing; I don’t think you’re likely to find a more truthful, intellectually-based series of discussions on all things related to the intersection of science and Physical Culture.  Plain and simple: these guys know their stuff, and they articulate it well.

Now, why am I so adamant in my (repeated) assertions that training must be an n=1 endeavor?  That it cannot be otherwise?  That training is more so art than science?  Well, check-out the following pair of Phi Life shows, as Brad and John deliver the goods on exactly why this is so.

I am certainly not anti-science, but the problem, at this stage of the game anyway, is that the science of sports physiology (writ large) is only in its infancy.  It’s as if we’ve only just recently identified the pieces of the puzzle, but have no “box top” to reference so as to even begin to figure how the pieces fit.  And on top of that, we continually find new pieces added to the pile.

The following two shows fit nicely together, and each runs approximately a half-hour.  I’ve taken the liberty of lifting the show explanations from the Phi Life site itself, and I hope that Brad and John are cool with that.

Hypertrophy happens; strength happens.  Athletes become faster and more powerful.  Fat is shed; anaerobic and aerobic conditioning improves by leaps and bounds.   From years of experience, we have a pretty good idea of what strings need to be pulled, how often and when, to elicit certain responses.  We have gut notions of why a certain technique, protocol, scheme, etc. will work on one guy, but will fail if used with the guy standing right next to him.  But really, we don’t have a firm grasp of what’s going on inside the “black box”, and those hints that science has eeked out for us really don’t tell us much more than what we already knew – that X protocol will work sometimes, and with certain populations, and that even if it does work, the efficacy won’t last for long.  It’s a moving target, and the gun is poorly sighted.  Do we really know much more now about sports physiology than the East Germans knew in the early ‘80s?  If in fact we do, it can’t be by much.

Check out the shows:

The Anabolic Continuum

Research on muscle building report a wide range of responders. There are those who gain virtually no muscle or strength, and there are those who have very impressive gains. If the weight training program was the same then the people doing the training must be different.

The response you will get from a weight training program is dependent upon your anabolic sensitivity. A number of factors go into assessing your anabolic sensitivity including age, training status, type of training, genetic predisposition, somatotype.

All of these factors collectively come together as a way of explaining where you land on the Anabolic Continuum.

In today’s lesson we’ll discuss what a confounding variable is, and explain that one of the biggest confounding variables in muscle building research is the anabolic sensitivity of each subject. Until researchers start categorizing where their subjects are on the Anabolic Continuum they will continue to have inconclusive results.

Anabolic Slowdown

The effectiveness of your weight training workouts might be dependent upon where you are in the anabolic continuum. This may be why different people get different results on the same workout program.

Where you are in the anabolic continuum may also be you best indicator of which exercise program to choose.

In today’s podcast we’ll discuss the concept of Anabolic Slow Down and Anabolic Resistance, and your “Training Age” vs your “Biological Age”.

We believe this is the biggest confounding variable in resistance training research and the reason why results are not consistent.

Two fabulous shows, and a hell of an education in exchange for an hour’s worth of your time.

The workout rundown for Friday, Saturday and Sunday –

Friday evening

As my days in NC are becoming numbered, my workouts are having to become ever more pin-pointed; quite simply, time is a big issue right now.  Buying a new home, readying for a cross-country move, wrapping up projects with my former employer, saying good-bye to friends – and though my kids are adults and on their own, making their own lives and their own unique way in the world, it’s still tough to leave them behind.  All this adds up to additional stress as well.  I think I manage it well, but still…  So Autoregulation will be the overriding theme for my last few NC workouts prior to next weekend’s “mother of all road trips”.

I kicked tonight’s session off with some whip-snatch + overhead squats, 3 sets of 5 at 95 lbs.  Rapid-fire reps, about 15-secs between sets.  That got the blood pumping nicely, and I’ve found that it’s is a great cycling-to-weight-room transition movement.  Now I can dive right into the meat of the workout, a superset of deadlifts and weighted dips – and pray that I’ve got enough legs left at the end of it all to get me back home  🙂

deadlifts (conventional, over-under grip): 185 x 10; 285 x 6; 375 x 5; 375 x 4

weighted dips: 45 x 10; 75 x 6; 95 x 6; 95 x 7 (+ 3 additional rest-pause reps)

then one set of Hierarchical (hat tip to Art DeVany) barbell curls: 95 x 15, 105 x 4, 110 x 3.  The rest between “sets” was just long enough to slap on the additional weight and get rolling again.  It would be interesting to see what the TUL was here.  I pushed the first two “sets” right to the brink of failure (i.e., the last good, fully-completed rep), then pushed the last set to full-on negative failure – in other words, the last two concentric reps were “cheat” reps, coupled with exaggerated (6-second) negatives.  The addition of bands or chains here would provide a better strength curve – I’ll keep this in mind for future set-ups.

Saturday –

I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s just something brutally effective about a hard lift set, followed immediately by a sprint.  We did versions of this theme back in my college days, but Dan John is the only person I know who has actually written anything about what he calls (and what I’ve now come to call), the Litvinov workout.  Here’s what I did Saturday:

– 20 fast-as-possible (yet with good form) front squats with an 11’ by 4” diameter slosh pipe, then, immediately following that

– a 40 second sprint for distance…

…then, recover just long enough to get your lungs, spleen and pancreas back in their proper locations, and hit it again.  I did 4 of these on Saturday and they took all of about 15 minutes to complete.  Only 15 minutes?  Dude, that’s a warm-up!  WTF, didn’t you do anything else?  Yeah, right.  Give ‘em a shot, and get back to me on that point.

Sunday –

A pair of supersets on the menu today.  First up, a heavy pairing with the intent being to move the weight as fast as humanly possible on every rep.

behind-the-neck push-press: 115 x 3; 145 x 3; 175 x 3; 195 x 3; 205 x 1, 210 (missed lock-out); 205 x 1

weighted regular-grip pull-ups: 35 x 3; 50 x 3; 60 x 3; 70 x 3; 75 x 3; 85 x 2, 2

followed that up with an elevated feet push-ups and GHR superset; shifting gears into the repetition method this time, though:

elevated feet push-ups: bw x 45, 30, 15 (4, 2, 2, 2)

GHR: 20, 20, 10 (3, 3, 2, 2)

this was done in three sets, with rest-pause utilized in the last few reps of the last set.

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Of “Failure”, “Intensity”, “Inroad” and “Frequency”

TTP reader Will asked the following question, in reference to my recent “Single Set vs Multiple Set Debate” post – and just as I was beginning work on this piece; nice timing, my man  🙂  Here’s Will’s question:

A very thought-provoking post (and comments). Thanks very much from a new reader of your blog. I do have a question about how you and your readers conceive of ‘HIT”. I do a modified version (with free weights and cable exercises) but I do not go to absolute failure, stopping instead when my form begins to break down. In terms of ‘intensity’, I question whether absolute failure is necessary (and, therefore, I question whether machines – while they may have many benefits – are necessary to a HIT program. For what it’s worth, my own program usually results in two full-body routines with no more than one set per exercise (but, multiple exercises for larger muscle groups). To restate my question: what evidence is there to support the claim (and, I’m not sure you or your readers are necessarily making this claim) that ‘high intensity’ = absolute failure in a given set?

Thanks,

Thank you, Will, for the thought-provoking input.  The tough part about answering any question related to “intensity”, “failure”, “thorough inroad” and “training frequency”  definitively is that these factors are inextricably tied to highly individualistic intangibles such as training “age”, available tools, and the trainee’s personal goals.  Of course, individual genetic factors also come into play here as well, especially insofar as these factors influence each individual’s recuperative ability.  And, too, we need to keep in mind the differences between effective and efficient strength and metabolic conditioning, sport-specific training, and what I generally categorize as “play” – a catch-all phrase encompassing anything from tennis to Metro Dash, to a couple of my personal favorites, fixie riding and mountain biking.  Add cyclocross to that list as well, as this is on my “new sport to dabble in” RADAR.

So when attempting to answer a question such as yours, I first have to ask “what is your ultimate intent, or, what do you hope to achieve with this training session?”  Now this usually invokes a WTF?? look on the face of the trainee, but I assure you that it is the most important question a trainer can ask of a client, or that a trainee can ask of himself.  And the answers here can be as varied as the individuals themselves – everything from “dude, I jus’ wanna get swole” to “I wanna be a better, faster athlete”, to the stay-at-home mom (or dad) who just wants to be as fit as possible with a minimum time investment.  The thing is, these are all legitimate answers to the same question.

Now, if our ultimate intent is to strengthen and/or hypertrophy our muscles to the greatest extent possible and reap the anaerobic (and by extension, the aerobic component as well) metabolic conditioning benefits in the safest (i.e., easy on the joints, tendons, ligaments), most time-efficient manner possible, then yes – in my opinion, a machine-based, HIT/single-set-to-failure, infrequent, total body workout is the way to go; the ideal, so to speak.  The first limitation we’ll encounter, however, when attempting to realize this ideal, is access to the proper tools – in this case, machines which exhibit proper strength/force curves for each exercise movement.

A quick aside/caveat: yes, I wholeheartedly believe that free weights do indeed play a significant roll in the training of an athlete (a topic for another day).  However, even when the trainee is an athlete (or has athletic aspirations), I do believe that the individual’s strength/hypertrophy gains are best realized via the aforementioned HIT/single-set-to-failure methodology.  Sport-specific skills, including sport-specific explosiveness, proprioception, power-production, CNS efficiency and coordination, rate of force development, etc., are all entities that must be trained appropriately and in addition to strength acquisition.  Note, though, that the degree to which any (or all) of these other aspects must be trained is in direct proportion to level of importance placed on athletic achievement and the available time commitment.  That is to say, a professional athlete has much more at stake (and more available time to commit to training) than the weekend warrior.  And your average trainee, who is simply in search of maximizing his/her health and fitness in a time efficient manner, need not worry at all with these additional aspects.   First things first, though: it’s the rare (and I can’t over-emphasize the term “rare” here enough) individual indeed — from accomplished power athlete to housewife to grandma and grandpa – who wouldn’t benefit from becoming stronger and in possession of a better-conditioned, anaerobic metabolism.  In fact, the dilemma of the necessity of chasing further strength gains only really becomes an issue when available training time is at a premium; in other words, if as a coach I only have a finite amount of time to devote to improving an athlete’s performance, how best do I approach that?  What attributes do I endeavor to improve – and how do I prioritize those attributes – under a given time constraint?  For a little more about that, see this post.  One HUGE benefit, then, to HIT/single-set-to-failure protocols, performed on appropriately designed machines, is that training time then becomes as near a non-issue as can be imagined.  Hell, I can always find a half-hour every 5 days or so to devote to strength training, especially given the fact that performing strength training in this manner will substantially decrease the amount of time I need to devote to anaerobic conditioning.  Indeed, it’s a time-efficient, two-for-one special.  The problem, of course, is access to appropriate and available tools.

As it is, very few trainees have access to a well-appropriated bank of intelligently-designed machines – those designed with a proper strength/force curve.  Nautilus and MedX are the gold standard for the most widely (relatively speaking) available equipment; by far and away my favorite, though, is CZT equipment.   What a properly designed machine allows the trainee to do is reach utter muscular failure – both total (i.e., the muscle/muscle group as a whole), and of each muscle fiber type within the muscle/muscle group as a whole (slow, intermediate and fast twitch).  Free weights, irrespective of all their other benefits (and there are many), simply do not allow for reaching this level of intensity and the attainment of ultimate muscular failure safely, and while maintaining proper form.  If you look at the embedded video of me in the CZT link, you’ll realize that there is simply no way that I could approach that level of intensity, and push to that degree muscular failure (and therefore, degree of inroad) via the use of free weights.

More specific to you question, though – is the achievement of muscular failure necessary, or, is ‘high intensity’ necessarily defined as absolute failure in a given set?  Well, kinda, maybe…sort of.  I guess what really needs to be kept in mind here is the difference between the spirit and letter of the law.

My own personal feeling is that all single-set-to-failure type protocols are a subset of like-intentioned protocols that would collectively and appropriately fall under the HIT — and its fraternal twin, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) — training philosophy.  Personally, these labeling distinctions mean little to me beyond the point of facilitating ease of communication.  I much prefer to look at questions of training in a “desired outcomes”, “available time”, and “available/appropriate tools” kind of way.  This also prevents me from slipping into dogmatic mentality, or attempting to shoehorn a trainee into an existing protocol/modality.  Even through the bulk of my training is centered around a multiple-set framework, with no single set taken to the level of failure reached in (for instance) my run-in with the CZT, I’d still consider it to be HIT/HIIT-like training.

As an example, compare and contrast the RDL hyper-reps I performed on the CZT machine vs what can be approximated via the use of free weights; you can read my post-workout notes here, but the gist of the matter is that I totally wrung all that I could from this movement in a single, 5-repetition set that totaled approximately 50 seconds.  Now, how many sets of conventional RDLs would I need to perform to even come close to this level of accumulated intensity and muscular failure?  Quite a few.  And, in pursuing the conventional route, I’d have to maintain vigilance, as I approached muscular failure, against injury.  As anyone can tell you, pushing one’s self to the ultimate edge, and safeguarding against injury are two conflicting ideas and, ultimately, the safeguard against hurting your fool self will throttle-down your intensity no matter how deliberate you your attempts otherwise.  It’s simply human nature, my friend.  The machine then adds a “safety net” factor which allows for the psychological “freedom” to push further into the failure abyss.  The key, however — in each of these scenarios – is the reaching to, and tapping-out of, all available muscle fibers; especially so, the fast twitch fibers.

All easy enough you say – straightforward, even.  Ah, but there’s one other element we have to account for, and that little variable is time; specifically, Time Under Load (TUL).

So, yes, ideally we want to fatigue the fast twitch fibers in a given muscle (or group of muscles), but we also want to fatigue the slow and intermediate twitch fibers as well, as we’re looking for total bang for the buck here (note: in some instances this will not be the case [e.g., weight-class athletes], but that’s a topic for another discussion).  What machine-based protocols allow for is a specific loading, such that a specific and continuous time-under-load can be utilized until total muscular failure is realized in a single, prolonged set.  And set duration is of the essence here, with the requirement being that failure must be reached within a time span of (roughly) 40 to 90 seconds.  Why such a precise time requirement?  Because this forces the fast twitch fibers – which will not engage unless the lesser fibers have either failed, or their force production is inadequate for the task at hand — to engage and fail before the slow and intermediate fibers have had a chance to recover and re-engage in the effort.  This is tough to accomplish with free weights and thus the necessity, when free weights are the only tool available, of multi-set (and more frequently performed) protocols.  The same ends can be approximated, it’s just a much more efficient operation when utilizing proper machines.

Studies of this subject, as I alluded to in the “Single Set vs Multiple Set Debate” post, are kinda like statistics in that the same data set can be used as support to argue both sides of the debate.  The problem is that the control variables are just so damn hard to account for.  Again we get back to trying to nail down terms such as “intensity” and “failure”; add to this fact that the all-important recuperative ability is an ever-changing and highly individualistic factor.  That said, though, here are a couple of studies that seem to support the single-set-to-failure methodology:

The Effect of Weight Training Volume on Hormonal Output and Muscular Size and Function

Strength training. Single versus multiple sets

My suggestion is to use studies such as these as indicators in formulating your own, n=1 path.  My own n=1 experience leads me to believe that, given access to the proper tools, single-set-to-failure is the best method by which to gain strength and hypertrophy, with a kick-ass side benefit of improved anaerobic metabolic conditioning to boot.

Sprints and Iron; Yeah Buddy!

I hit some Vibram-shod sprints on Saturday, then took my dog-and-pony show inside the gym for a little iron tossing.  Not a bad way at all to spend a pleasant Saturday afternoon, I must say.

I set up the sprints in a 15-seconds-for-max-distance format, full recovery (about 2 minutes or so) between efforts.  As my CNS is much more cycling-specific tuned these days, I decided to pull the plug (assign a drop-off) of being when I ceased to improve, distance-wise, in a single effort.  You just can’t imagine how movement-specific your CNS becomes until you concentrate on one endeavor, at the near exclusion of another, for quite some time.  In my first few sprints I felt as clumsy as a school kid.  In attempts 4 though 7, though, I felt like I was flying.  In attempt #8 I failed to better my previous mark, and so I pulled the plug, headed inside and readied the iron.

I hit a superset of BTN push-presses and Atlantis machine pull-downs.  Not that I think the Atlantis machine necessarily offers a particularly suitable strength/force curve mind you, but because I left my friggin’ weight belt at home.  Ugh…anyway –

btn push-press: 115 x 6; 145 x 6; 165 x 3; 185 x 3, 3; 205 x 1; 215 x 1, 1, miss; 185 x 3, 3

Atlantis pull-down machine: 180 x 8; 270 x 7; 360 x 5; 410 x 4, 6 (rest-pause singles).  Each concentric was performed as fast as possible, each eccentric was at a 6-second count (6-0-x-0).

I finished –up with a round of Nautilus 4-way neck work: 55 lbs x 12 front, side, side and 65 lbs x 12 to the rear.  Total TUL for each of the 4 angles is approximately 45 seconds.

3/27/10; Change-of-Direction Sprints, and Another Look at Walmart?

45 minutes worth of fixie sprints to start this one off today; 17-hours fasted.  I stopped off at the library for about an hour, and winded-up leaving with a copy of The 10,000 Year Explosion.  I’ve been wanting to read it for some time, now, as I keep seeing anti-Paleo arguments infused with vague references to the book.   From what I gather, these arguments are based on misinterpretations of the book’s points, but hey – I just want to see for myself.

Anyway, then it was back in the saddle for another 15 minutes or so, and out to the field where I mixed it up with some 3 cone and pro agility, change-of-direction sprints.  Why change-of-direction sprints?  Because the start/stop, turn & twist nature of these movements is altogether different than straight-line sprinting.  Again, just another tool in the toolbox.

10 x 25 yd sprint starts served as the bike-to-sprint transition; then 6 x pro agility (2 minute rest between runs), followed by 6 x 3 cone drill (2 minute rest between runs)

Pro Agility:

3 cone:

Then it was into the gym and in the power rack for the following:

btn barbell push-press: 135 x 3; 165 x 3; 185 x 3; 195 x 2; 200 x 1

jump squat (from 1/4 squat position):135 x 3; 165 x 3; 185 x 3; 195 x 3; 200 x 3

muscle-ups @ bodyweight: 3 each round

5 total rounds here, then picked it up and biked back home.  Good, good stuff.

Holding one’s own convictions in highest suspicion — this is the essence of epistemology.  It’s also the “freak flag” I most proudly wave.  In the spirit of that epistemocratic philosophy, I offer you the following: a second look at Walmart.  Yeah, that Walmart; the enterprise we all love to hate.

I have to admit that I am (was?) a total Walmart snob, opting to do the bulk of my food shopping at farmer’s markets, and upper-end chains such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and, in a pinch, Harris Teeter.  Over the past year or so  though, those times when I have slunk into a Walmart, I’ve noticed something odd — an abundance of fresh, good-looking fruits and veggies.  Plenty of organic choices and a clean, tidy appearance.  And damn if they don’t have the market cornered on good avocados.  Now, for the most part I’ve turned my nose up at these pleasant offerings (“trucked halfway across hell and back”, shitty employee labor practices, supplier manipulation, etc…).  Well, maybe it’s time to give the behemoth another look.  Can offerings of grass-fed beef be far behind?  Hey, I’m just sayin’…

So check out this recent NPR Talk of the Nation broadcast with guest Corby Kummer, senior editor for The Atlantic. His article, “The Great Grocery Smackdown: Will Wal-Mart, Not Whole Foods, Save The Small Farm And Make America Healthy?” appears in the March 2010 issue of the magazine.  It’s a good companion read to the interview.

Anyhow, listen to the broadcast.  Read the article.  Allow your assumptions to be challenged.  Epistemology is not about just flapping in the direction of the prevailing wind; it is, though, about having the strength to see your core convictions dragged out into the light of day and dusted-up a bit.   I won’t ever stop going to farmers markets, simply for the purity of that social exchange.  But if Walmart is serious about doing good and playing nice with the local farmer, I’ll give them another look, as I will any outlet that does the same.  I’m certainly not loaded with dollars, but those that I do have, I will “vote” with.

Oh yeah, and see if you can resist screaming “just go Paleo!” when, during the Talk of the Nation broadcast, the conversation turns to celiac disease, and the availability/cost of gluten-free products.  UGH!!

2/12/10, Push-Presses, the “Core”, and Cyclic Carbing

Think the “core” doesn’t have anything to do with the ability to handle heavy push-presses?  Try this little combo, then tell me what you think.  Also, the heavy push-press here acted as post-activation potentiation for today’s sprints, which felt “effortless” – a really, really cool, gazelle-like, feeling.

Nothing like a good 200 yard farmer’s walk with a pair of 120s to kick things off.  I try to cover this distance as fast as possible, setting the weights down only when absolutely necessary and then only for a moment.  This old standby gets the blood flowing and the entire musculature warm like nothing else and gets the body set for some good, dynamic stretching.  Still working the OHSs as well.  I probably need to weight these up over the next few weeks and keep them in my warm-up routine as a bridge between dynamic stretching and the real iron work.

Here’s what today’s combo looked like:

Behind-the-neck push-press:
135 x 5, 165 x 4, 185 x 3, 205 x 2, (*partials with 305), 215 x 2, 205 x 1, (*partials with 305),
205 x 1, 1, 1

sprints/sprint starts (20 yds, 20 yds, 40 yds, 20 yds, 20 yds):
11 rounds

ab wheel roll-outs (x 7, full extension, minimal knee-to-ground contact):
11 rounds

*the partials were performed by “popping” the weight off of my shoulders with the initial “dip & drive movement” of the push-press (all hips), guiding the bar up with a “pressing” motion to a point of roughly ear level.  About 5 reps in rapid-fire succession.

From the Things That Make Ya Go Hmmm files…

In the spirit of Arnold’s famous on-screen Pumping Iron statement, equating the rep-induced muscle “pump” to an orgasm, we have Dr. Mauro DiPasquale’s equating of post-workout carb consumption to premature ejaculation.  Quite the SAT-like, word-association pairing.  Now this isn’t meant as a dis toward Dr. Pasquale, as the man is the closest thing to a diet “guru” that I know of; just that the irony was…well…rather ironic.  Anyway, here’s an interesting podcast interview – Carl Lanore of Superhuman Radio chatting it up with the good doctor about carbohydrate-restricted diets.  Plenty of good information here from someone who’s engaged in diet (and workout) theory-to-practice for a good many years.  As always, remember that what may be most beneficial for extraordinary sporting and/or aesthetic appearances may not necessarily be what’s best for overall health.  Is cyclic carb loading necessarily detrimental to one’s health?  That I don’t know –  but I can’t see that it would be in any way beneficial (in an overall health sense).  Thoughts on the subject?  Let me have them!

Chao, and have a great weekend everyone!

1/5/10, Strength-Endurance

Went purposely heavier on the push-presses today (i.e., more of a strength bias, a little less endurance) while extending the total time to completion of the 21 reps.  I actually went a bit heavier than I’d initially shot for, as I’d intended to clock-in at an approximate 12-minute time to completion.  Reps 20 and 21 ended up being a bit slower in execution than I’d otherwise accept, but being that I’d skewed this “set” toward more of a pure strength emphasis anyway, I was ok with that.  Anything slower, though, and I would have pulled the plug on the set early.  Today’s workout:

  1. Behind-the-neck push-press: 135 x 3, 3; 165 x 2; 185 x 2; 190 x 21 (rest-pause) ==> 2s until rep 6, then singles thereafter. 14:15 time to completion.
  2. weighted, reverse-grip pull-ups: bw (ballistic) x 3, 3; 45 x 3; 70 x 21 (rest-pause) ==> 3s and 2s until 15, then singles thereafter.  Straps after rep 12.  4:50 time to completion (compare to same weight at 5:30 last time out).  Increase weight to 75 next time out.

My initial intent was to perform a 21 rep rest-pause round of GHRs.  I think I got plenty of hip work with the heavy push-presses, though.  I also performed tire flips on Sunday and plan to perform low pulls on Thursday.  Don’t want to overdose on hip extension/PC work.

The loading, time-to-completion, and execution of these two exercises today are good, practical examples of the two extremes of the strength-endurance modality, at least in the way I define that particular division of the modality continuum.  Note that in the BTN push-press, the nod was given more toward the expression of strength via a heavier loading, and more rest between reps.  The opposite was true of the round of reverse grip pull-ups, where the emphasis was hedged toward endurance (lighter loading, less between-rep rest).  The actual per-rep execution, in both cases, however (except for the last 2 in the push-press), was fast and crisp.  Not quite as fast as I am capable of in a power-emphasis modality, but still pretty damn fast.  In fact, it would take a fairly astute eye to notice the difference in repetition speed.  The difference in feel is much more noticeable, though.

What I mean by 3s, 2s, and singles is how I managed rep execution within the 21 rep, rest-pause, extended set.  For example, I might hit this frequency within my 21-rep, extended “set”: rep, rep, rep, pause….rep, rep, pause…rep, rep, pause…rep, pause…

Now, the next obvious question here would be what’s the damn difference between a “pause” and in what defines anyone else’s “set”? And that’s a legitimate question for which I really don’t have a definitive answer, other that to say a pause, to me, is “breaking just long enough to enable nailing the next rep”.  A “set” would define a group of reps off-set by a noticeably longer rest period – long enough to ensure nailing the next group of reps.  Or, alternately, breaking to move to another movement.  It’s just one of those things you have to experience in order to understand.  Far off in the distance of my mind’s eye resides the goal of 21, quick-succession, rest-pause reps – and a little further out yet is the time-to-completion goal.  My immediate hurdle, though, while performing the 21 rep rest-pause scheme, is The Next Rep, and only the next rep.  What follows that next rep is anyone’s guess, as far as I’m concerned – I might nail it, miss quit, bottom-out, pull the plug on the exercise, whatever; I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.  And once there, the process begins anew.  Sisyphean in nature.  Mini “Ground Hog Days” is how one of my old training partners aptly put it.

…and speaking of strength…

…check out this SpeedEndurance.com post on sprinting speed being the result of net forces acting upon the ground (as apposed to, say, stride length, and other issues).  A nice summary of the “Allyson Felix” topic I covered in this recent post, and some good commentary – as well as a couple of interesting video clips.  Power-to-bodyweight ratio, folks, is what it’s all about.  Interesting stuff to geek-out on – after you’ve done your work in the gym and/or on the track, of course.  First things first 😉

12/1/09, Ushering-in December, in Style

After a few days away from work and some impromptu bodyweight workouts to bust-up the traveling-induced body-fog, it was back to business as usual (aka, the work-a-day grind).  Up a 4:30 AM, in the gym and busting it out at 6:20 AM.

  • GHR: 50 x 5; 55 x 3, 4; 60 x 2 (55 x 2)
  • BTN Push-press: 135 x 5; 165 x 5; 185 x 3, (2, 1, 1)
  • Weighted reverse-grip pull-up: 45 x 5; 70 x 5; 75 x 3, (3, 2)

4 total rounds.  The last set of each exercise was done in rest-pause fashion.  Terminated reps on all on loss of explosiveness – no grind-it-out reps.  45 lb plate toss x 5 as cns stim prior to each push-press set; rev-grip to reg-grip muscle-up combo x 2 prior to each pull up set.  No sprints today, other than what were included in the warm-up.

Not posted yesterday – stadium sprints.  Alternated between prime-times and sprint starts up the ramps.  Sprints & hops on the upper level deck steps, superset with elevated foot ballistic pushups x 8’s.  Approximately 8 rounds of steps, 20 individual ramps.