Matt Jordan

When Does Program Variety Become a Sales Pitch??

by Matt Jordan on May 17, 2012 No comments

When I first started out in the strength and conditioning field, I was always amazed at how simple the top strength and conditioning coaches made their training programs.  Their training programs covered all the basic movements, and prioritized a couple of key physiological objectives.  Nowhere is this more evident than the training program design for elite weightlifters and powerlifters.  For example, weightlifters for the most part perform cleans, snatches, and squats as the main focus of the training program along with a few assistant movements to work on technical issues or physiological limitations (e.g. maximal strength, hypertrophy etc..).  I also observed this first hand when I would travel to shadow Dan Pfaff, one of the world’s leading track and field coaches, who’s training programs were always very simple and devoid of fancy, “flavour of the month”, exercises.  Instead of injecting pointless and fluffy exercises into his program that lacked effectiveness, Dan chose to focus his attention on programming the basic movements more effectively, and on understanding the complexity of human movement so that he could coach more effectively.

I am fortunate that my mentors along the way instilled a similar philosophy in me.  The fitness industry, however, often seems plagued with flavour of the month trends, exercises, and training programs.  Some of this I chalk up to a sincere attempt to improve observed weaknesses and deficits that are observed in the athlete or client.  On the other hand, I also see a lot of trainers who mindlessly scour the internet for the latest and greatest exercise in an attempt to win over clients and athletes with bells and whistles that ultimately end up doing a disservice to the person’s physical preparation.

The frustrating part of this reality is that we are training human beings, and any athlete stands to get bored with a seemingly monotonous training program that lacks creativity but is actually tremendously effective.  To further highlight this reality, I once had a conversation with a muscle physiologist who told me there is no physiological basis for variety or periodization.  In some sense he is absolutely correct.  Theoretically, a muscle fibre needs sufficient mechanical and chemical stress for adaptation so other than progressively increasing the training load over time, there should really be nothing else needed in a training program.  Despite the fundamental truth in this statement, I think most strength and conditioning coaches would agree that despite what the basic science indicates, the right type of variety is an essential part of the training process.  A perfect example of this is the pattern overload that can occur by continually performing maximal effort movements in the same plane or at the same angle.

So, this leads me to the following question: when is variety needed for optimal physiological and biomechanical adaptation, and when is variety counterproductive to training and simply there to appease a client or make a trainer look a heck of lot smarter than he or she really is?  This is a huge question so let’s start with a basic component of most if not all effective training programs.  If you look at most movements in sport and life, a common factor is often the involvement of the legs and hips as key power generating muscle groups.  Simply YouTube Mike Tyson training, watch Federer coming out of a 1/2 squat to complete a forehand, talk to a speed skating coach about the key elements for an effective start, or talk to a researcher studying the effects of aging on muscle power and the incidence of slips, trips and falls, and you will gain an appreciation for how ubiquitous hip and leg power are to life and performance.

There are several extremely effective exercises for developing this quality: the Olympic style lifts (cleans and snatches), the squat, the trap bar dead lift, the jump squat, the single leg squat etc… If you examine the research, there isn’t necessarily one movement that prevails over another.  The common thread for obtaining improvement is that the athlete works hard against heavy loads for the appropriate number of repetitions and sets, and with sufficient regularity over a training cycle.  It’s really quite simple;  as long as an athlete has this basic element, he or she will likely improve.  Performing squats with elastic bands or chains, doing box squats instead of an Olympic style squat, or any other subtle exercise variation are really inconsequential to the overall training adaptation providing the athlete works his or her butt off.

Let’s take this a step further.  I once had an athlete, who will remain nameless, who decided to seek the assistance of a personal trainer, who shall also remain nameless.  In order to appease this particular athlete, who happened to dislike strength training, the trainer gave her a movement that required her to hold onto a pulley with one hand, and perform some sort of awkward twisting squatting motion with light weight and in a rapid fashion.  He sold this as a movement that could help her leg and hip power while connecting the core and challenging her balance.  Guess what happened?  She loved it! She thought it was a novel, creative, and fun exercise.  It was so much better than the program I had given her with power cleans and full squats.  Guess what else happened?  She gained absolutely zero strength and power because that movement was absolutely ineffective and nothing more than a random flavour of the month exercise.  Everyone is entitled to his or her own approach to training program design but in my opinion, this guy was way more concerned with whether or not the athlete was happy and liked his program rather than if he was doing the right thing for her physical preparation.  Incidentally, I am a strong believe in doing what I think is right for an athlete not what I think will make them happy.  If you have conviction in what you are doing and saying, and it’s coming from the right place, you should be able to put it out there to someone and to be at peace whether the other party accepts or rejects what you have said.  It is slippery slope if as a trainer or any other professional working with people, you are more motivated by being liked than doing what is in the best interest of the client.

To summarize, regardless of whether you’re talking about improving body composition, upper body strength, core strength or aerobic endurance the general principles outlined above hold true.  Most effective training programs are usually quite simple and contain a few essential elements.  Work hard with the right intensity and training load, perform the movement with sufficient regularity, and don’t be conned into thinking a subtle variation on an exercise is going to make or break the program.  Ultimately it’s a matter of sifting out what really matters and what is absolutely irrelevant.  Remember, a lot of variation is often there to do nothing more than fend of boredom or worse yet to entice clients into an ineffective program.

www.jordanstrength.com

read more
Matt JordanWhen Does Program Variety Become a Sales Pitch??

When Does Program Variety Become a Sales Pitch??

by Matt Jordan on May 17, 2012 No comments

When I first started out in the strength and conditioning field, I was always amazed at how simple the top strength and conditioning coaches made their training programs.  Their training programs covered all the basic movements, and prioritized a couple of key physiological objectives.  Nowhere is this more evident than the training program design for elite weightlifters and powerlifters.  For example, weightlifters for the most part perform cleans, snatches, and squats as the main focus of the training program along with a few assistant movements to work on technical issues or physiological limitations (e.g. maximal strength, hypertrophy etc..).  I also observed this first hand when I would travel to shadow Dan Pfaff, one of the world’s leading track and field coaches, who’s training programs were always very simple and devoid of fancy, “flavour of the month”, exercises.  Instead of injecting pointless and fluffy exercises into his program that lacked effectiveness, Dan chose to focus his attention on programming the basic movements more effectively, and on understanding the complexity of human movement so that he could coach more effectively. 

 

I am fortunate that my mentors along the way instilled a similar philosophy in me.  The fitness industry, however, often seems plagued with flavour of the month trends, exercises, and training programs.  Some of this I chalk up to a sincere attempt to improve observed weaknesses and deficits that are observed in the athlete or client.  On the other hand, I also see a lot of trainers who mindlessly scour the internet for the latest and greatest exercise in an attempt to win over clients and athletes with bells and whistles that ultimately end up doing a disservice to the person’s physical preparation.

 

The frustrating part of this reality is that we are training human beings, and any athlete stands to get bored with a seemingly monotonous training program that lacks creativity but is actually tremendously effective.  To further highlight this reality, I once had a conversation with a muscle physiologist who told me there is no physiological basis for variety or periodization.  In some sense he is absolutely correct.  Theoretically, a muscle fibre needs sufficient mechanical and chemical stress for adaptation so other than progressively increasing the training load over time, there should really be nothing else needed in a training program.  Despite the fundamental truth in this statement, I think most strength and conditioning coaches would agree that despite what the basic science indicates, the right type of variety is an essential part of the training process.  A perfect example of this is the pattern overload that can occur by continually performing maximal effort movements in the same plane or at the same angle. 

 

So, this leads me to the following question: when is variety needed for optimal physiological and biomechanical adaptation, and when is variety counterproductive to training and simply there to appease a client or make a trainer look a heck of lot smarter than he or she really is?  This is a huge question so let’s start with a basic component of most if not all effective training programs.  If you look at most movements in sport and life, a common factor is often the involvement of the legs and hips as key power generating muscle groups.  Simply YouTube Mike Tyson training, watch Federer coming out of a 1/2 squat to complete a forehand, talk to a speed skating coach about the key elements for an effective start, or talk to a researcher studying the effects of aging on muscle power and the incidence of slips, trips and falls, and you will gain an appreciation for how ubiquitous hip and leg power are to life and performance.  

 

There are several extremely effective exercises for developing this quality: the Olympic style lifts (cleans and snatches), the squat, the trap bar dead lift, the jump squat, the single leg squat etc… If you examine the research, there isn’t necessarily one movement that prevails over another.  The common thread for obtaining improvement is that the athlete works hard against heavy loads for the appropriate number of repetitions and sets, and with sufficient regularity over a training cycle.  It’s really quite simple;  as long as an athlete has this basic element, he or she will likely improve.  Performing squats with elastic bands or chains, doing box squats instead of an Olympic style squat, or any other subtle exercise variation are really inconsequential to the overall training adaptation providing the athlete works his or her butt off.  

 

Let’s take this a step further.  I once had an athlete, who will remain nameless, who decided to seek the assistance of a personal trainer, who shall also remain nameless.  In order to appease this particular athlete, who happened to dislike strength training, the trainer gave her a movement that required her to hold onto a pulley with one hand, and perform some sort of awkward twisting squatting motion with light weight and in a rapid fashion.  He sold this as a movement that could help her leg and hip power while connecting the core and challenging her balance.  Guess what happened?  She loved it! She thought it was a novel, creative, and fun exercise.  It was so much better than the program I had given her with power cleans and full squats.  Guess what else happened?  She gained absolutely zero strength and power because that movement was absolutely ineffective and nothing more than a random flavour of the month exercise.  Everyone is entitled to his or her own approach to training program design but in my opinion, this guy was way more concerned with whether or not the athlete was happy and liked his program rather than if he was doing the right thing for her physical preparation.  Incidentally, I am a strong believe in doing what I think is right for an athlete not what I think will make them happy.  If you have conviction in what you are doing and saying, and it’s coming from the right place, you should be able to put it out there to someone and to be at peace whether the other party accepts or rejects what you have said.  It is slippery slope if as a trainer or any other professional working with people, you are more motivated by being liked than doing what is in the best interest of the client. 

 

To summarize, regardless of whether you’re talking about improving body composition, upper body strength, core strength or aerobic endurance the general principles outlined above hold true.  Most effective training programs are usually quite simple and contain a few essential elements.  Work hard with the right intensity and training load, perform the movement with sufficient regularity, and don’t be conned into thinking a subtle variation on an exercise is going to make or break the program.  Ultimately it’s a matter of sifting out what really matters and what is absolutely irrelevant.  Remember, a lot of variation is often there to do nothing more than fend of boredom or worse yet to entice clients into an ineffective program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.jordanstrength.com

 

 

read more
Matt JordanWhen Does Program Variety Become a Sales Pitch??

The Responder Factor

by Matt Jordan on May 17, 2012 No comments

When I was scouting out potential PhD supervisors, I attended a meeting in which the scientist said “life is a normal curve” in reference to the significance of the results he had obtained from a study with a relatively large sample size.  As I critically evaluated his presentation, I realized that while his findings were statistically significant, they would do little for an individual who did not fit the “average”.  

 

The foundation of most scientific experimentation is comparing the average change that occurs between two groups receiving different types of treatments (e.g. a form of exercise, a supplement, a dietary strategy).  Statistical significance is based on the probability of that result having occurred.  It’s basically like determining whether the observed change was due to to a “real effect” or simply due to chance alone.  Without getting into too much statistical jargon, as the sample size or number of subjects in the study increases, the probability of detecting a “real effect” increases.  This is great for scientists who are looking to answer a question or test a hypothesis but how does this affect the individual person who is trying to seek the best course of action for his or her own goals or situation?  What happens if you aren’t the average person?

 

Consider the normal curve or Bell curve (Figure 1).  In the context of sport and exercise science, the normal curve or normal distribution represents the distribution of a large number of subjects with respect to a certain variable.  Let’s take vertical jumping ability: if I took 100 people and tested there vertical jump, there would be an average score, which is the highest point on the normal curve.  This would be where the majority of the subjects would fall in terms of their jumping ability.  However, there would also be outliers or subjects who had amazing vertical jumps (e.g. elite athletes) and the outliers on the other end of the spectrum or those with terrible vertical jumps (e.g. washed up strength coaches – yes I’m taking a shot at my profession). 

 

 

So, if you refer back to my question at the end of the second paragraph, how does this affect the individual who is trying to sift through vast amounts of scientific findings to determine the right course of action with respect to a fitness goal?  Suppose we are now talking about a dietary strategy, and a particular study comes out that clearly demonstrates a statistically significant finding based on comparing the average response between two groups as described above.  What happens if you, the individual, happen to be an outlier, meaning you aren’t going to respond like the average person?  You could spend a lot of money, time and energy trying to make something happen that is NEVER going to happen.  On the other side of the equation, many sport scientists, trainers and coaches are way too quick to attribute a client’s lack of progress to poor dedication, commitment, and work ethic before answering the basic question “is this diet or style of exercise RIGHT for this person?”.

 

If you frame research in this line of thinking, it makes more sense to evaluate some aspects of exercise and nutrition in terms of whether or not you are a responder, an extreme-responder or a non-responder.  I call this the Responder-Factor.  If we approach health, fitness and performance in this manner, the important question is no longer whether a finding was statistically significant based on the average change of a large number of subjects but instead where do you, the individual, fit on a normal curve… or what is your Responder-Factor?  It is absolutely essential to know whether or not you are an extreme-responder (e.g. that diet worked fantastic for you), a responder (e.g that diet worked pretty well for you and you displayed a typical response), or a non-responder (e.g. that diet did absolutely nothing for you!) if you are going to find the right strategies to help you achieve your goals.

 

As I mentioned above, this approach is important for many different aspects of the health, fitness and performance domains.  It can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of many commonly espoused beliefs around exercise and nutrition programs like the benefits of a particular supplement, eating a high carbohydrate diet vs. a high protein diet or performing high intensity interval training vs. long slow distance training.

 

In summary, remember that you are an individual and just because everyone responded to a particular diet or type of exercise it doesn’t mean you will too.  On the flip side it also means that just because you found something that works for you it doesn’t mean that it will work for everyone so don’t force your belief on others unless you know it will be helpful to the cause.  My advice to you is to try to determine where you fit on a normal curve or your Responder-Factor.  Although this can sometimes be challenging, it’s the best way to truly individualize your approach to health, fitness and performance. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.jordanstrength.com

 

 

 

read more
Matt JordanThe Responder Factor

Train Like An Elite Athlete and Stay Lean

by Matt Jordan on May 17, 2012 No comments

With my background in high performance sport, my definition of a workout was pretty complex.  Workouts had to contain a dynamic warm up, main lifts such as Olympic lifts, squats, presses and pulls, an assistant circuit, a core circuit, and some sort of cool down.  My workouts back in the day would easily run 60-90 minutes.

In the past four years, the chances of me fitting in a 60-90 minute workout have been more or less zero, and because of my slightly Type-A personality, if I couldn’t find 60-90 minutes, I would just skip the workout because I didn’t see the value in doing part of a workout.  With a hectic life running a business, getting the dog walked and parenting, this approach to training didn’t leave many days when a workout was possible.  To make matters worse, when I finally had a day to fit in my workout, it had often been 7-10 days since my last session, and my typical 60-90 minute workout left me sore for days.

Needless to say, I re-evaluated my approach to training, and I took lessons from the work I do with elite athletes to revamp my own personal approach to training.  During the competitive season it is next to impossible to fit in strength workouts with my elite speed skaters and skiers.  Skipping workouts is not an option due to the detraining effect on strength and power so we fit in smaller workouts that may last 15-20 minutes at select points in the training week.  Obviously these workouts are considerably different than the workouts they perform in the summer but it allows us to hit the gym and maintain strength and power throughout the competitive season without conflicting with the rest of the competitive schedule.

Here are a few characteristics of these workouts:

  1. The warm up is short, focused and specific.  It includes mobilization and activation of problematic   areas.  It does not address the “full system” warm up that we typically do in the summer months.
  2. The program addresses one or two main lifts, and when possible, these lifts are done in a paired fashion.  To a lot of you a paired exercise approach may resemble circuit training but the difference is the appropriate rest interval between working sets is always taken with a paired approach.
  3. We build to one hard set.  I always indicate a hard set on my training programs with a ‘+’ sign.  The rep and set scheme might read: 3×4+.  This would mean the athlete increases the weight each set and performs the final set to technical failure.  Remember, technical failure doesn’t mean a complete destruction of lifting technique.  It means you couldn’t perform an additional repetition with GOOD technique.
  4. The repetition scheme is usually in the range of 2-5 repetitions.
  5. If time permits, after the main lifts there is a short finishing circuit that focuses on the key weaknesses or physiological needs of the athlete.

I took the principles above and tweaked them to meet the needs of a 30 something guy who wants to stay in shape.  Instead of one hard set, I might perform two hard sets, which is written as 3×5++.  I also keep the rest intervals short.  The rest intervals are usually 60-120 seconds but I often shorten them to 30-60 seconds.  For all you strength coaches out there, you are probably citing scientific research in your head right now that shows the negative effects of short rest intervals on strength and power production but guess what?? I don’t care!  If given a choice between hitting the appropriate rest interval and getting the workout into my day, I choose the latter.  I always pair three main lifts that includes a complex lower body exercise, a pushing movement and a pulling movement.  I rip through these three movements in a paired fashion, building up to one or two maximal sets where I hit technical failure.  After my main lifts, I finish my workout with 1-3 sets of higher repetition assistant exercises, performed in a circuit fashion.  My main lifts are done in the range of 2-8 repetitions and my assistant exercises are done anywhere from 8-50 repetitions.  While still respecting the exercise categories (i.e. lower body, push, pull) I change my exercises on a workout by workout basis.  While the large variety in my exercise selection may limit my potential training gains, I find the variety in the movements prevents pattern overload and resulting overuse injuries, and it is also important for me mentally as it reminds me that I’m not working out for maximal gains in strength but for fitness and health.

Start to finish, my workout takes me about 10-20 minutes.  Because I am performing some sort of exercise for the entire 10-20 minute period, I also get a reasonably good cardiovascular response.  I’ve recorded my heart rate during these workouts and my heart rate remains between my Aerobic and Anaerobic Threshold for most of the workout and often hits my maximum heart rate minus 10-15 beats.  When I have time, I always include a warm up focused on mobilization and activation of my problematic areas.  I usually focus on T-spine, shoulder and hip mobilization, and core activation.  My mobilization warm ups are based on movements from Pilates and Yoga, along with my own unique exercises that I have developed over the years.

Here is my workout from Sunday (performed while I played with my 4-year old):

Start Time = 12:10 pm

W/U:

Shoulder Mobilization on Foam Roll

Hip Flexor Mobilization on Foam Roll

Legs Up The Wall Myofascial Stretch

Pilates Sit Up

Prone Pull In on Swiss Ball x 10

5 Minutes Lego With Son

Main Lifts Pairing (3x Each Movement Building Weight Each Set. Rest Interval = 2’ Lego)

Low Pulley Split Squat 3×30+ (Build Up To a 45 Second Set on the Final Set)

Parallel Bar Dips 4×4+ (Built Up To A Set With 80 lbs and Banged Off 6 Reps on My Last Set)

Thick Grip Pull Up 4×4+ (Built Up To a Set With 30 lbs)

Assistant Circuit (2x Each Movement With a Constant Load and No Rest)

Offset Lunge x 10/side

Thick Grip Dumbbell Zottman Curls x 10

Blast Strap Back Fly

Finish Time = 12:30 pm

This style of training is extremely effective for improving body composition, staying fit and remaining healthy.  If you want more advice on this type of training, drop me a line or visit my website and click on myElite Training Program.

www.jordanstrength.com

read more
Matt JordanTrain Like An Elite Athlete and Stay Lean

Vertical Jump – Performance Measure or Fatigue Measure

by Matt Jordan on May 17, 2012 No comments

I’ve been using the vertical jump for many years to monitor my athletes.  I started with a simple Vertec system, and eventually purchased a contact mat.  A contact mat is a relatively simple device that allows vertical jump to be calculated based on flight time.  Today I use the gold standard measurement device called force plates, which are able to measure a subject’s ground reaction force during a vertical jump.  Using some simple math, I can calculate many different variables including peak power, average power, peak velocity, impulse and peak force.  The exact relevance of these variables is beyond the scope of this blog, so if you want to learn more, email me or attend one of my seminars!  

 

In my early days, I would often notice random and unexplainable changes in vertical jump height.  After a plyometric training block, vertical jump would go down, and at the start of a training block vertical jump would occasionally reach a peak value!  One of my close friends and fellow strength coaches Stu McMillan also recorded vertical jump heights over an entire summer in some of his elite bobsleigh and track athletes, and found many discrepancies with what he expected from a performance standpoint.  

 

Needless to say, I had a tough time explaining these results until I realized the sensitivity of the vertical jump for monitoring the fatigue of the neuromuscular system.  Vertical jumping requires high rates of force development and power production during vertical jumping is depending on motor unit firing rates and intermuscular coordination.  A certain type of neuromuscular fatigue called low frequency fatigue can persist for many days following a training block, and can affect explosive force production and force production at submaximal loads (Figure 1).

 

pastedGraphic.pdfFigure 1: Changes in the Force Time Curve After Exhaustive Knee Extension.  Notice the change in the slope and the total area under the curve.

 

Now here’s the interesting application: by studying various aspects of a force curve from vertical jumping tasks I can better design training programs, tapering and peaking cycles, and monitor my athletes to ensure they don’t get too buried during a training cycle.  One variable I use to evaluate preparedness is rate of power development (Figure 2).

 

pastedGraphic_1.pdfFigure 2: Theoretical changes in Rate of Power Development.

 

By monitoring rate of power development over a training cycle, I can better design my training program and prepare my athletes for competition.  Consider graph below of a competitive fighter in the lead-in period before a fight.  You can clearly see how rate of power development follows the expected physiological state of the fighter as he cuts weight, rehydrates and recovers for the day of the fight.

 

pastedGraphic_2.pdfFigure 3: Rate of Power Development During a Taper

 

To summarize, vertical jumping isn’t always a performance measure.  It can also be used as a marker of preparedness and can greatly improve our understanding of how an athlete adapts to a training stress.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.jordanstrength.com

 

read more
Matt JordanVertical Jump – Performance Measure or Fatigue Measure

Train Harder or Train Smarter

by Matt Jordan on May 17, 2012 No comments

I was once asked about my philosophy on training program design.  My philosophy on training program design is based on the knowledge that I have gained from the scientific literature on human physiology and adaptation to training, and obviously from my 13 years experience working with high performance athletes from a variety of sports.  I have also had the privilege to work along side many great experts in training program design both from within Canada and abroad, and this has provided me with great insight into the nuances of high performance training.

 

To better answer the question, I’m going to delve into the history of sport science and training program design.  If you dig back into the early years of the 20th century, when the modern version of the Olympic games was in its infancy, an athlete’s physical preparation was often far from scientific or methodical.  The challenges included a brief competitive season with one or two major competitions that often required long and difficult travel overseas, lack of knowledge on the biological adaptation to exercise and training, and inadequate time and funding for the type of physical preparation available to the 21st century athlete.  

 

It wasn’t uncommon for an elite athlete to begin training a matter of months or even weeks prior to the big event.  The approach to training can be summarized with the “harder is better” cliché.  It was common to see the simplistic, narrow minded but the all too often espoused approach to training that involves simply mimicking the competition exercise and adding some extra minutes or a bit more intensity.  This would be like a runner, who runs a 40-minute 10k, spending all his training time at a 3.5 minute/km pace and simply trying to out-run the distance achieved in the previous training session.  While this simplistic approach garners a lot of intuitive support from athletes and coaches it rarely produces significant success especially if it is used for any great length of time.    

 

Somewhere during the mid 50’s, European sport scientists, who were being fueled by advancements in human physiology, began to formulate the concept of periodization.  This involved the organization of training into cycles that ranged from short-term (e.g. one week) to long-term (e.g. annual).  The general tenant of this philosophy was that organizing training into distinct periods with planned variation in the training volume and intensity, and the inclusion of distinct rest and regenerative periods was superior to an athlete randomly training hard according to feel and instinct.  The rest, as they say, is history.  In the 21st century, it is hard to find a successful sport program that doesn’t use some form of periodization in their training program design.  The next generation of sport scientists will continue to exploit the advancements in physiological monitoring and genetics to design even more sophisticated training programs that are truly tailored to the individual, providing an even greater rationale for the periodization of training.

 

So, here we are as the sport science community with the technology and knowledge to understand an individual athlete’s specific structural and physiological tolerance to training, and not only are many coaches and trainers not applying the general knowledge that exists on the periodization of training program design but they are ignoring all of it and choosing to run their athletes’ bodies and minds through the proverbial brick wall.  I won’t bore you with idioms like “seeing the light” but obviously this approach has been tried and has failed miserably.  Not only does it more or less eliminate an athlete’s chance of long-term success but it is also an important contributing factor to the physical and mental breakdown associated with chronic over-reaching and under-recovering.  Did I just spend an hour writing that?  I think I might have had something to get off my chest.  In all seriousness, the history I described has relevance to the question because all too often I see trainers, coaches and athletes repeating a lot of the mistakes that coaches and athletes made over 100 years ago.  

 

My personal approach to training program design is systematic and detailed.  I’m constantly trying to plan ahead to anticipate the type and amount of fatigue I expect to be present after training, whether that is a result of a single training session or training stress that has accumulated over a longer period of time.  In a perfect world, I will use several forms of physiological monitoring, which includes regular measurement of certain biomarkers, heart rate variability analysis, and simple questionnaires, to better gauge an athlete’s adaptive potential.  This adaptive potential is affected by the type and amount of training and is characterized by short- and long-term fatigue that ensues from a training impulse, the adaptation and super-compensation of the organism, and the potential reversibility and de-training of the adaptation.  Developing a training program on this basis allows me to take a proactive approach to managing an athlete’s training rather than having to react to preventable injuries or illnesses that occur as a result of poor planning.  

 

I am also sequencing training to avoid the interference effect between different training stimuli. An example of this would be the deterioration in anaerobic power that can occur when it is preceded by a large amount of resistance training that causes extensive central and peripheral neuromuscular fatigue.  In layman’s terms, this would be like doing 10 sets of 3 heavy squatting and then trying to run hill sprints later that afternoon.  

 

Proper sequencing also involves the designation of hard training days and lighter days.  This sounds very simple but you would be amazed at the number of athletes who train too hard on easy days and then not hard enough on the hard days because they are still tired from pushing too much on the light training day.  The end result is a training program that is more or less done at the same intensity, and this leads to a blunted response in physical performance.  The designation of heavier and lighter training also extends to longer periods of time like a string of training days (i.e. microcycle), weeks (i.e. mesocycles) and in some cases months.  

 

The final part of my strategy is the heavy prescription of regeneration and recovery methods.  In the past 10 years, this has probably been the biggest addition to my approach.  In my early days, I felt it was sufficient to simply prescribe rest and expect the recovery to take care of itself.  As I moved along in my career, I began to see rest and recovery as a participatory process requiring prescription of passive strategies such as massage and hydrotherapy, and active strategies like meditation, yoga, and self-performed soft tissue release techniques.  The end result of including this in my training program is an athlete who can truly push his or her physical limits in hard training and recover that much fast in preparation for the next difficult training bout.  

 

So, to summarize, here are a few thoughts.  

 

1. There is much to be learned from the history of sport science and the advancements in technology and knowledge.

2. Simple physiological monitoring can go a long way when you are trying to gauge how you or an athlete is adapting to a training stimulus.  Obviously there are more complex monitoring methods but simple methods work too.  

3. Training needs to be sequenced properly.  This includes having hard days and lighter days that adjust for an athlete’s fatigue and ensuing recovery process.  This also entails that athletes push themselves beyond their limits on certain hard days because ultimately progress is made when an athlete systematically pushes his or her physical boundaries.   

4. Recovery and regeneration is a participatory process.  Recovery and regenerative methods need to be prescribed to the athlete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.jordanstrength.com

 

read more
Matt JordanTrain Harder or Train Smarter