Loading Parameter Table 2018

by Matt Jordan on October 18, 2018 , No comments

Here is an updated loading parameter table for you to download. Please feel free to reach out to me if you want to discuss online learning opportunities

Loading Parameter Table 2018

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Matt JordanLoading Parameter Table 2018

What is your training philosophy? Guidelines for the non-athlete.

by Matt Jordan on June 13, 2014 , 4 comments

Article Overview: 811 words on building a training philosophy for for the non-athlete.

My speciality is designing workouts for individuals with specific sport performance goals and helping athletes come back from injury.  I also get lots of requests to design programs for people who are looking to stay fit and lean while minimizing additional wear and tear on their body.

I understand this battle.  On the one hand high intensity training brings results.  On the other hand, half a lifetime of competitive sport or the normal routine of spending 5-8 hours sitting at a desk takes its toll. Keeping your body healthy  eventually becomes more important than hitting a personal best in the gym.

The pendulum in the fitness industry has shifted towards high intensity training of all modalities and types.  The long-term sustainability of this approach is extremely low especially in the absence of high levels of regeneration/recovery – something to which most individuals are unable/unwilling to commit.

It is important to build a training method and a philosophy that minimizes negative or maladaptive stress, and promotes positive training stress.

The key to a training program’s success is creating a meaningful energy flux (i.e. creating a disturbance in energy balance) and stimulating the body’s adaptive response.  The more frequently we cause an energy flux, the better the results.  The better our timing of changing the training stimulus in light of the body’s non-linear change in its adaptive response, the better the results.

Here are some recommendations for building your training philosophy, and striking a balance between positive training stress and negative/maladaptive stress:

  1. Start your workout by prioritizing three areas of MSK deficiency. This could be mobility-related, motor control-related, or synergist-strength related. It is beneficial to get a set of eyes on you in a formal movement evaluation to pinpoint these areas.
  2. Use a combination of whole-body multi-joint movements in each workout. These comprise your indicator or primary lifts. Multi-joint movements are known for providing the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to hypertrophy and strength development.
  3. Even though you may not be a high performance athlete, periodize your training. A good method is to alternate between a mesocycle (i.e. 3-4 weeks) in which you load by volume (extensification or accumulation where time under tension > 30s – reps 8-15) and then a mesocycle in which you load by intensity (intensification – time under tension < 20s – reps < 8)
  4. Start each each mesocycle with an introductory microcycle (a microcycle = 4-7 days). This can be followed by two building or overreaching mesocycles. In the first of the two building microcycles, it is best to increase the number of sets slightly (e.g. add 1-2 sets onto the primary or indicator lifts), and lower the rep bracket by 1-2 reps (e.g. go from 10-12 reps to 9-11 reps). In the second overreaching mesocycle, continue to increase intensity by lowering the repetition scheme and slightly reduce the number of sets. The final microcycle should be an unloading phase in which both the number of sets and the intensity are reduced.
  5. Manipulate rest intervals and tempo to achieve your training effect while reducing the external load requirement. These may be two of the most overlooked training parameters. For example, by reducing the speed of movement in the eccentric phase from 1 second to 4 seconds, there is an increased time under tension and the reduction in speed reduces mechanical advantage necessitating the use of a lower external load. Remember, time under tension and building tension are two keys for eliciting muscle hypertrophy. Conversely, the conscious acceleration and maximal neuromuscular activation while concentrically lifting a submaximal load can elicit substantial gains in muscle strength and power.
  6. Carefully plan the number of sets taken to technical failure. I say technical failure as I don’t mean passing that point of technical breakdown. Poor mechanics are a huge culprit for accelerating MSK dysfunction. Instead, you should plan in advance the number of sets in any given workout that are going to be taken to technical failure. Emerging research suggests that equal or superior gains in explosive strength, maximal strength and hypertrophy may be achieved by keeping a couple of reps in the bank.
  7. Intersperse higher intensity training sessions with some lower intensity sessions. This is not popular in the fitness world but sub-aerobic threshold training volume and restorative sessions (e.g. mobility/flexibility) will go a long way to increase your tissues structural tolerance and your overall work capacity.
  8. Nutrition and sleep are your two biggest assets for optimizing recovery from training and become increasingly important with age.
  9. Lastly, don’t get stuck doing the same program for months on end. While too much variation (think of chaos training – something I do not support) is problematic, too little variation leads to stagnation and is a real killer for overall gains.

These are just a few principles I find effective for establishing a training philosophy when the goals have moved beyond high performance sport although many of the principles apply here too.

Feel free to send me comments or feedback.

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Matt JordanWhat is your training philosophy? Guidelines for the non-athlete.

Endurance Athletes – You Need Strength and Power!!

by Matt Jordan on June 7, 2012 , No comments

I have been working with the elite endurance athletes for over 15 years.  My client list includes several Olympic gold medalists and World Championship medalists in long distance speed skating and cross country skiing.

When I first started working with the Canadian Cross Country Ski Team in 2004, I brought my experience working with elite long distance speed skaters to the table.

What was my approach with a long distance speed skater? It was simple: I focused on technical acquisition in key exercises like squatting, Olympic lifting, and various types of jumps.  Once the athletes were technically proficient I emphasized maximal muscular strength, and maximal muscular power or explosive strength.

When I started working with the cross country ski team, the previous approach had been pretty typical of what I see from a lot of trainers who simplistically analyze a sport and attempt to build a “sport specific” strength program:

  1. They attempted to mimic movements in cross country skiing with seemingly similar looking weight room exercises
  2. They used high repetition schemes to build strength endurance because skiing is an endurance sport
  3. They emphasized stability exercises because skiers are often hurt and skiing requires balance.

On all accounts I could not have disagreed more wholeheartedly.

First of all, if you were to measure the muscle activity in the SAME movement done over multiple repetitions, no two movements would be the same!  The logic that because an exercise “looks” like a movement in a sport it is inherently more specific and a better way to improve function is ludicrous and unfounded.  Apparent similarity between a sport skill and an exercise has nothing to do with specificity in 99% of circumstances.

Second, high repetitions schemes result in considerable metabolic stress, long-term fatigue, and even have the potential to INCREASE muscle hypertrophy! A lot of skiers were baffled that their 8-12 RM approach to resistance training actually had a better chance of increasing muscle mass than 2-3 sets of 2-4 RM.

Third, there is a HUGE difference between training balance and using exercises that require balance.  If you want to train balance your environment or connection with the ground needs to be continually unpredictable and random.  Once you’ve mastered standing on a balance board, guess what?? This exercise now requires balance it does not train balance!

With that said, I rarely see exercises requiring balance as a suitable way to prevent the overuse injuries that are typically sustained by a cross country skier.  A skier typically requires a good soft tissue therapist to keep restricted muscle groups and fascial connections free so that joints can move properly, and balanced muscular strength around joints.

So how do you change a sports philosophy?  The short answer: you use science.

I went to the scientific literature and found some great research done out of Norway by a guy named Jan Hoff.  Dr. Hoff has published extensively on the effects of resistance training on elite cross country skiers and runners.

Here’s the Cole’s Notes of his research.

Three things go into elite endurance performance:

  1. Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2Max), which is best trained with intervals done in the range of 2-4 minutes.
  2. Lactate threshold.
  3. Efficiency – you measure efficiency by the amount of oxygen consumed at a given workload.

Dr. Hoff took elite skiers and put them through a training program reminiscent of what a shot putter or sprinter would do.  Heavy squats, heavy pull ups, and an adapted pull-down movement with a pulley.  The loading was anywhere from 4×4 to 3×5 RM with the athletes being encouraged to maximally accelerate the load on each and every repetition (this trains explosive strength).

Here were the findings:

  • The athletes who replaced normal training volume with the above mentioned resistance training got stronger and did not increase lean body mass
  • The resistance trained athletes improved their time to exhaustion at a given workload by significantly more than the athletes who did conventional high repetition resistance training
  • The conclusion: the development of maximal muscular strength improved efficiency and economy of movement for the skiers, which positively affected one of the key determinants of endurance performance!!

Here is a short summary of my philosophy:

  • Train what’s on the inside.
  • Train what you can’t see (i.e. the neuromuscular system and the connection from the Brain to the Muscle).  
  • Always design a strength and power program around the physiology of the neuromuscular system and let the sport take care of the specificity!

Now back to my story.  I have presented this data at coaching symposiums several times, and the reality is the sale’s job was tough.

Many scoffed at what I was saying and decided to stick with their conventional approach and ignored the science.

A few jumped on board with what I was saying…. one of these athletes, Chandra Crawford, went on to win an Olympic gold medal in 2006.

After 2010, a coaching change brought a very experienced and knowledgeable American coach to Canada.

The coach essentially re-interviewed me for my position.

He wanted to know my philosophy on strength training for elite cross country skiers.

I reluctantly went back over my experience, the science, and my philosophy that elite endurance athletes ABSOLUTELY need to focus on maximal muscular strength and maximal muscular power.

I told him that I envisioned a program that first of all developed technical proficiency in key lifts, structural tolerance, and balanced inter-muscular strength around key joints.

I then told him that I believed in focusing on developing maximal muscular strength and maximal muscular power with jumps, Olympic lifts, variants of the squat, variants of the pull up, and some form of press.  I know it’s boring – but it’s what I believe!

I told him I believed the sessions needed to be kept short and focused, and in order to minimize the potential negative interaction with his first priority of training the energy systems, that we should use careful monitoring to track neuromuscular fatigue.

The conclusion of our meeting was music to my ears – he completely agreed with me and told me that if I had answered the question any other way, he would have been searching for another strength and conditioning coach.

After 2.5 years of close collaboration between all of the experts that surround the team the results have started to speak for themselves.  The team had over 25 medals at international competition last year.

There is no question that my influence is just a very small part of the big picture and I do not want to overstate the amount I contribute.

But even though strength and power training is such a small part of a skier’s program it has the potential to reek an amazing amount of havoc with training.

Finally, by answering the question of “how do I best train an endurance athlete” with a physiological answer, I think you stand the best chance of really improving performance.

References

Hoff, J. (2006). Muscular Strength Training Effects on Aerobic Endurance Performance. Proceedings for the 6th International Strength Training Conference. Copenhagen, Denmark. 

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Matt JordanEndurance Athletes – You Need Strength and Power!!

Conditioning for MMA and Combative Sports – How to Not Gas Out!

by Matt Jordan on May 20, 2012 , 3 comments

I am a big fan of combative sports, and I have always taken a special interest in training fighters.

Recently, I was asked some specific questions on how I train one of my athletes.  I think they were hoping to hear about some flashy out-of-this-world exercise or a unique training device that had never been seen in the fitness world.

Unfortunately I have nothing to share in this department because generally speaking I stick to the basics.  I am a firm believer in trying to affect the physiology of the athlete, and I do not attempt to mimic what I see happening in the sport.

I let the sport take care of the specificity and I try to improve the physiology whether that be maximal strength, maximal muscular power, elastic (reactive) strength, structural tolerance and motor ability, the power of the anaerobic glycolytic system, maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 Max), or the maximal power of the aerobic system.

– If an athlete needs maximal strength development we squat heavy weights for less than 5 reps

– If an athlete needs maximal muscular power we lift moderately heavy weights very explosively

– If an athlete needs elastic strength we bound and jump

– If an athlete needs structural tolerance we link with a good therapist and focus on mobilizing areas of restriction and activating sluggish muscle groups

– If an athlete needs to develop the anaerobic glycolytic system (20-90s) we do high intensity intervals

But what if an athlete needs to develop the power of the aerobic system? Then what?

Well the personal trainer in your local gym is going to tell you that if you blast off a high intensity circuit focused on full body strength exercises you will develop your “cardio”.

If you read an issue of the most popular fitness magazine they will tell you to NOT do long aerobic capacity training because it will decrease your muscle mass and increase muscle catabolism. (By the way, this is a total fallacy – I can promise you this. I have tons of athletes who do lots and lots of aerobic training combined with the right type of strength training and put on lots of muscle).

If they saw the world of human performance through my eyes they would start by asking “how do I best affect an athlete’s physiology?”.

If they scoured the scientific literature and interviewed the world’s best coaches the answer to this question would be: “Focus on the basics and focus on training strategies that work – don’t worry about bells and whistles like breathing through a straw or buying a $10,000 tent – focus on basic training methods that are hard, effective, and proven in sports that demand this form of energy production”.

As I mentioned above, I’m all about the basics.  My belief in the basics is rock solid but this weekend, after spending time with the Canadian National Cross Country Ski Team,  the rock solid foundation just got reinforced.

My day on Friday started out with a skate ski in Mount Bachelor.  As I was stumbling around the 5 km loop I realized that the metrics a strength coach uses to judge his athletes is so myopic.  These skiers are in incredible shape and their sport demands muscular power, maximal strength, and extreme cardiovascular power and capacity.

They are phenomenal athletes who do more in a single training day than many of us will do in 10-days.  They have power.  They have strength. But most impressively they can absolutely haul ass anywhere for anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes.  It’s actually incredible.

At the start of this blog I mentioned that I was asked how I approached the training program design for a combative athlete.

If we take boxing, athletes fight 10-12 x 3 minute rounds with 1 minute rest.  An MMA fighter fights anywhere from 3×5 minute rounds with 1 minute rest up to 5×5 minute rounds with 1 minute rest.

Let me tell you that the 1 minute rest is doing nothing for your physiological recovery.  If you are gassed after 5 minutes, I can promise you that at 6 minutes you will still be gassed – it’s merely enough time to get the blood wiped off your face and to have a sip of water.

If you are doing the math you are probably saying: “How can a combative athlete produce as much power as possible over 15 to 36 minutes so that the first round’s power output is the same as the 5th round?”

When I say power output I’m referring to the power of the aerobic energy system.  I’m not talking about maximal muscular power (e.g. a maximum power clean or vertical jump).

I’m also not talking about the anaerobic energy system because no matter how hard you train, this energy system is limited.  If you’re blood lactate goes above 10 mmol it doesn’t matter how fit you are you will fatigue.  The key is producing big power outputs but also being able to keep your blood lactate levels to a minimum.

When I approach this problem I look to sports where the cardiovascular demands are similar.  What parallels 15 to 36 minutes of continuous high intensity full body cardiovascular energy production?  I’m sure there are a few answers to this question but a standout in my mind is cross country skiing.

As luck should have it, I happened to run into one of the world’s top cross country ski coaches this weekend in Bend, Oregon.  His name is Tor Bjorn.  He’s coached Olympic Medalists in cross country skiing, and he has an impressive pedigree in high performance sport.

And there’s one more thing… he’s a huge MMA and combative sport fan.

After we finished our ski session I started picking his brain on how he improves an athlete’s power output for a 5 to 25 minute event.  The reason I asked him this question is that he is an expert in this department, and he had surprising insights into what he thought a fighter should do.

I just need to remind you that the Norwegians are powerhouses in the sport of cross country skiing, and the approach of top coaches like Tor Bjorn are all about affecting the athlete’s physiology.  Improving VO2 Max is critical, and interval sessions focused on the power of the aerobic system are the cornerstone of the training program.

Contrary to interval sessions that are typically seen in the fitness world, which are very very intense and involve substantial strength endurance, these sessions are carefully prescribed, and are carefully progressed within and between training sessions.

In fact, as I sat and watched Tor coach an interval session I suddenly realized how much detail was going into every aspect of the session.  I always thought I was particular and specific about how an athlete was to perform an interval session.  I am very strict on ensuring the intervals are done according to plan.  However, Tor took this to a completely different level.

This interval session had so many layers.  There was a psychological layer, a competition specific layer but at the heart of the session was the physiological layer.

According to Tor each properly performed interval session offers the potential of a modest 0.25 ml/kg/min improvement in VO2 Max. Using this scientific estimation it could be said that 12-15 interval sessions are required to result in a noticeable improvement in VO2 Max.  Done at a frequency of 2x/week, this means a training block has to last somewhere between 8-20 weeks.

As we discussed the training methods that are often shown in TV documentaries he quietly scoffed at what he has seen.  He has heard the claims about altitude training, high intensity intervals and all sorts of other methods, and what he observes are athletes who still gas out too quickly.

Why does this happen? Well in Tor Bjorn’s world, the athletes lack one critical ingredient: power in the aerobic energy system.

His formula for training an MMA fighter would be quite simple:

1. Improve efficiency and technical ability.  This means it doesn’t cost you a ridiculous amount of energy to do your sport – so, plan specific sessions that really tax your ability to be efficient.

2. Improve maximal muscular power and maximal muscular strength. By improving these qualities you give yourself another gear, and this in and of itself improves efficiency.  It’s obvious as well that most combative athletes would benefit greatly from being strong and powerful.

3. Improve VO2 Max.

Improving VO2 Max is a key in his mind to making sure you have the gas tank to last 15-25 minutes.  Without a huge VO2 Max you are starting a fight 20 meters behind your competition, assuming your competition has trained properly.

As our day wrapped up in Bend, Oregon I felt as though my approach to sticking to the basics had been validated.

However, the key message is that the basics need to be done properly.  You can’t get the program 80% or even 95% right.  It has to be done 100% correctly each time for the benefits to be gained.  Skipping out will result in sub par results.

As far as I see it, the basics rule the training world…. you just need to make sure the basics are done perfectly.

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Matt JordanConditioning for MMA and Combative Sports – How to Not Gas Out!