Monday, May 24, 2010

Improving Body Composition During the Season

Once again we're caught out and we're not 100% ready for the season as it comes around. This time we're carrying a few extra kgs from the off season which carried on well into March.

Your body composition or lack there of, can have a detrimental effect on your playing performance. The more weight you carry, the more stress that goes through your joints, especially the ankles, knees and hips.

More importantly your center of gravity shifts too which can wreck havoc on your coordination and what was once a straight forward skill can turn into something very hard to master in a "new body."

We have already discussed training in some previous posts including resistance and energy systems training so whats left?

Yep the one everyone hates to address, diet.

At least 80% of your fat loss will come from what's going into your mouth and you can't out train a bad diet although that's what most of us try to do, with little to no results.

Here are the 5 most important one's to get handle on:

1 - Cut Out the Grog

I can hear you yelling at me already but this is a must. Alcohol is poison, simple as that and that is what your body perceives it as and it will not burn fat when poison is present. So if you're having a crack on a Saturday night then it's going to take at least 3 days to rid your system of it, regardless of how much exercise you do. So now you've simply cut your fat burning days per week in half, and that's with the perfect diet and exercise regime.

2 - Up the Veg/Fruit

Do you eat veggies? Yeah I have them with dinner. What type? You know, peas, corn and potato. Oh.....

You need to eat fruit and/or veg at every sitting. I like fruit to be had with the first 1 - 2 meals and then veg with all other meals. Veggies, especially the green leafy variety such as spinach and broccoli, contain fiber, which slows digestion of your food and makes you feel fuller for longer. They also contain next to no calories so you can basically eat as many of them as you want. Oh, and peas, corn and potato are starch carbs, the worst of all veggies and should be avoided except for before or after training/playing times.

3 - Up the Water

Ever wondered why those cramps come along on the last quarter? Wonder why your performance takes a dive late in games? Look at hydration. You should be loading up on the water, not Gatorade and soft drinks, during the week and even more so in the days leading up to the game. You should also get a fair bit in on a Saturday, pre, during and post game time. 4 litres a day is the minimum here.

4 - Up the Protein

Muscles are made up of protein and during intense activity, they are broken down so they need to be built back up as soon as possible. The best part of eating solid protein is that they utilise 80% of their own calories just to chew, break down and swallow so for fat loss, this is crucial.

5 - Daily Breakfast

For body composition, metabolism is where it's at. 90% of your calories are burnt through your metabolism so the more often you can rev this up the better. How do we do this? Through frequent feedings and intense exercise, of which we've already taken care of. The longer you take to eat breakfast, the more chance you'll get something on the run and the less time you have a ramped metabolism. Unfortunately, once you miss the boat on breakfast, having it later in the day won't catch you up as your metabolism will already have slowed down and become a little sluggish. The sooner you can have breakfast in the morning, the better so aim for within 30mins.

No break through information here but they bare repeating again and again. The one thing you don't want to do in season is drop your calories which will negatively effect your performance at training and thus during games. In most cases, training and playing hard mixed with some better food choices, timing and portion control, will whip you back into shape.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Improving Your Fitness During the Season

For whatever the reason was that you missed pre season training, it's common for players to need to catch up fitness after the season started.

Now obviously you have training Tuesday and Thursday and a game Saturday so they need to be the times that you try to do this.

A lot of players think that they need to do more but if you train hard enough and be smart enough about it, the 2 training sessions should be enough to get your fitness up.

The game speaks for itself as the intensity and running patterns are unique to an actual game itself and last year when all I did was play on a Saturday running wise, my fitness did improve from that one session a week.

I think the " the need to do more" attitude comes from players usually doing 10km and longer runs over the pre season and that training with stop, start, sprints and such isn't the same.

Now at training you won't run continuously, but you don't during a game either. There are periods where you are stationary and sitting on the bench.

The truth is that the more intense, shorter distance sprints you'll do at training covering maybe 3 - 5kms, will do the same, if not more, then the 10kms ran at a lower intensity continuously.

Here are my tips for catching up on your fitness during the season:

  • at training sprint from cone to cone for each drill. When I was at my fittest (back in the day) it was compulsory to sprint right through to the cone you've kicked or handballed to. Couple that wit fixing your own skill errors by running over to the receiver and assisting, and this can almost replicate a game in some respects.
  • for some extra mileage try running some laps after training if you have the time. I prefer after training as you don't want to tire yourself out for the skills and sprint work during training.
  • on a Saturday, keep running. Even if the game is out of reach, keep running like your a point behind with a minute to go. Ask the coach to pop you in a midfield role if the game is lost to work on your fitness.
  • depending on how you pull up, maybe try a 3km run on a Sunday morning which can be used again for extra mileage and as a recovery tool.
The most important thing is not to ADD more sessions into your week or something will have to suffer. 3 sessions plus an optional recovery Sunday run is more then enough to catch up on your fitness and you wouldn't do more then 4 runs over the pre season anyway.

Just be sure whatever you do that it isn't affecting your ability to back up game day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Perfect Rep Training Part 2

Yesterday we discussed the perfect rep method. Today we'll go into how to actually achieve it.

It's important to remember that we are not testing how much we can lift for a pre determined amount of reps like a 3 rep max set. The will usually mean that for the last 2 - 3 sets, that you are grinding out reps, thus the quality of your workout is more then likely decreasing.

To show you how, let's take 2 lifters for example that can both lift 100kgs for 3 reps.

Athlete A trains like everyone else working up to a 3 rep max where the last 2 - 3 sets are his heaviest and thus slower reps of his workout. Let's say he lifted that weight in 5 seconds.

Athlete B uses the perfect rep method where he only trains in the MPP, MFP and MLP zones where his rep quality is 100% effort and application every time. Let's say he lifted his 3 rep max in 3 seconds.

Who's better?

They both lifted the same weight so aren't they even?


Athlete B lifted the same weight quicker which takes us back to my little send off from last post. Everyone can run 100 meters but Usain Bolt runs it in 9.6secs, so he is better then anyone has ever been.

This is why fast, quality reps are better then slow, quality reps.

Now you're all wondering how we achieve perfect rep status. Well here it is.

First up you want to do 2 sets of 1 with a very light weight to activate the nervous system and to tell it to lift quick. So:

40% x 1
45% x 1

Next up, we start our working sets which CT suggests using 3 reps per set which is a good number where you can get enough reps in to feel like you've done a set, yet not feel like you've done too much. You could easily use anywhere from 2 - 5 reps but the same quality reps rule applies. You also want small jumps going from set to set as you want the nervous system to barely notice the increase in weight so that it continues to provide you with explosive energy for each set.

So you might go:

50% x 3
55% x 3
60% x 3
65% x 3
70% x 3
75% x 3
80% x 3
85% x 3

I've stopped here because this is where most people will start to grind out reps. You must not do this. You may not even reach 85% either, you may start to feel a decline in performance at 70 - 75% which is fine, just don't go beyond it.

Now I've done this and it really ramps up your nervous system and a weight that you have grinded out in the past, will be blasted through if you keep your mind on the job. It is essential that you stay focused on each and every set as one slightest mind shift can wreck the exercise.

Now going back to auto reg training, this is a prime example of why you should not set a specific set number as you may need to use smaller jumps in weight to really get the activation going, depending on your current neurological state.

Some days may feel better then others and you will maybe beat your personal best 6 out of 10 sessions but that's still better then being stuck at the same weight you have been for a month now.

So if you set up your program like normal going for 4 sets of 6 then you do your 4th set and move to the next exercise.


Because your program said so. But what if that 4th set felt easier then the 2nd and 3rd set? What if you could do another at the same weight or maybe more? Shouldn't we take advantage of this? I think so.

As fro rest, you'll only need enough to change the weight for your next set or long enough for your partner to do their set.

Try this out, I guarantee you'll feel different after it and in a good way.

Perfect Rep Training Part 1

The perfect rep method is a newish type of training made popular by Christian Thibaudeau over at t-nation which goes hand in hand with auto regulation training.

What you do is set a rep goal and then ramp up to a max weight that you can handle it but with one major difference.

For every set you do, each rep must be perfectly executed as you want each rep of every set to be performed as quick as you possibly can of which there are a 3 main points in each set that you can aim for.

Max Power Point

The MPP is the lightest weight that you can use but still produce a high level of force with if you try to accelerate the load. For beginners this point may be at 70 - 80% of your maximum and for advanced it might be 40 - 50%. The focus for these sets is actual bar speed and when it slows down, then the set and/or the exercise is finished. Beginners can use a higher percentage of their max because they cannot use a high level of their strength potential yet.

Max Force Point

The MFP is the heaviest weight that you can use where you can "dominate" each and every rep of each set meaning that actual bar speed may slow but your intent and application of actually accelerating the bar is maintained.

Max Load Point

The MLP is the heaviest weight that you can use without encountering a sticking point within a given set. The more advanced a lifter is then the lesser gap they will have between their MFP and their MLP. Elite lifters, sprinters and throwers simply won;t grind out a set. They will either get it with seemingly ease of they'll miss the lift badly.

As with auto reg training, what we want to achieve is to work the hardest that we can but without exceeding our recovery stores. When we work up to a weight that we need to grind out with pauses in the strongest position (such as a bench press lockout), a change in technique (such as moving from a glute dominant squat into a lower back dominant squat) and / or tempo (again grinding and / or slowing down at a sticking point), then you are now working less effectively as the quality of your work is now decreasing.

Think of it like a marathon. You might be running the same distance but the slower time you do, the worse off you are.

Tomorrow we'll go into how we can achieve the perfect rep.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Auto Regulation Training

Getting back to the in season training theme from a few weeks ago, the best way to keep your training from exceeding your recovery abilities is to use the auto regulation training method.

What is it?

It refers to self regulating your performance, each and every workout, to allow you to only train quality and not quantity. When you focus on quantity then you run the risk of every easily doing too much volume, some of which is less then desirable from fatigue build up. An example of this is drop sets where you decrease the weight to continue to pump out the set.

Confusion reigns supreme here as most trainee's think that they are increasing the intensity of the exercise but I must ask how is this happening?

Is it because your arms are on fire when you're on your 4th drop set of 8 reps, even though you're now lifting 20% of your starting weight?

No it isn't. All that is happening then is that you are building more and more fatigue and dipping into your recovery stores deeper and deeper where you'll more then likely, exceed your recovery abilities to point where you don't recover between workouts, locally or systemically and you go backwards quickly.

To increase the intensity of an exercise you must increase the load your lifting. Whether it's by 1kg or 5kgs, an increase in weight is in increase in intensity, not the addition of volume.

When using auto reg, you simply choose a rep number and you ramp up to that weight and / or continue using the same weight and rep number each set until there is a change in the delivery of 1 set to the other.

This change could be:
  • a missed lift
  • a change of technique
  • a grinding rep
  • a rep that has a sticking point
  • the change in tempo of a rep in that one rep is noticeably slower then the last
So as an example you may be shoulder presses with your aim to stay at 3 reps of which there are 2 main options.

The first option is to work up in weight while performing sets of 3 until you feel you've come to a 3 rep max then the exercise stops. This is basically the max effort method.

The second option is work up to your working weight and do as many sets of 3 as you can and once you can't do 3, then stop that exercise.

The beauty of this is that it allows you to take advantage of the days that you are "on", so if you've programmed to do 5 x 3, then you what you may do is get to 4 and the 5th set is a grind and thus less effective and would have been best left out except it said 5 sets in your training diary so that's what you do. It's that 5th grinding set that will dip into your recovery stores.

On the flip side, you might do the prescribed 5 sets but you still might feel good so why finish there? Yes, your training diary says to only do 5 sets but you're feeling primed so don't waste this opportunity. These are the days you want to take advantage of to set personal bests.

Try it at your next workout.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Some Things That Bug Me Part 2

#5 – Program Design

I love when 14 year olds post “I’m making up my own program, can someone tell me if it’s alright.” The alarm bells should ring right there as that must mean that they don’t know if it’s right so why not just do a ready made program form a reputable trainer, or ask for tips on how to make one or even better, research how to make one up.

Here are 10 tips for designing a program:

1 – 95% of us will make the most progress on a full body program performed 3 times a week or 7 times in 14 days. Unless you have appreciable muscle (say 20pds of added muscle, actual muscle) from your starting point or 2 years “proper” weight lifting experience (no, that 1 year when you were 15 and did 280 push ups in your bedroom each night doesn’t count), then full body workouts are probably the best option for you.

2 – Train your lower body more than upper body.

3 – Don’t use just one rep range.

4 – For every bench press, push up, shoulder press, shoulder raise, chest fly, cross over and upright row that you do, you need to at least 1 row variation rep.

5 – If you can do chin ups, then you should never need to do a lat pulldown again.

6 – If you can’t do 10 single leg pistol squats, 20 perfect push ups and 15 perfect inverted rows, then why are you doing leg presses, chest presses and lat pulldowns? I don’t know either.

7 – Antagonist and agonist pairing supersets are far away the best way to set your exercises up as they allow for more weight to be used from relaxing the opposite muscle group and you’ll easily cut 10% of your training time, so your training density will be improved resulting in more calorie use. Obviously this works best with upper body then lower body. Also take into account the load used in each side of the pairing and even that up as best you can. A 100kg Bench Press paired with a 30pd Scarecrow is not even.

Best pairs are Bench Press and Rows, Shoulder Press and Chin Ups and Biceps/Triceps

8 – Training everyday is not the answer and 4 weight sessions a week maximum with 1 – 3 cardio type sessions is plenty. The more weights you do the less cardio you do too.

9 – Do what you need to do not what you want to. Are your shoulders rounded forward? Does your chin enter the doorway 2 minutes before you do? Does your arse enter the same doorway 2 minutes after your chin has? Then why are you still doing 280 push ups everyday, 1/2 squat after 1/2 squat and endless crunches when you should be doing deadlifts, rows and face pulls?

10 – Read the No More Neanderthal series by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson found here. It's a few years old but it changed me completely in the way I trained and trained my clients.

It’s quite a read but you’ll be plenty of steps ahead of 90% of the people in your gym if you can apply it.

#6 – Muscle Confusion

One of my all time pet hates. Strength is the base of all other fitness qualities and without it, you’ll struggle to optimally develop most of the others. To attain strength, you basically have to repeat and repeat a lift so that the action gets wired into your nervous system until you can do it automatically. Performing a lift once every 6 weeks will not do this and you’ll never gain strength, thus never increase your weights enough to gain any meaningful muscle mass either. Those who use the confusion principle often are the one’s simply inducing fatigue, and also not managing it. To get good at something it needs to be repeatedly practiced frequently. When you learn to walk as an infant you don’t do it once a week, you do it everyday until your nervous system catches up with your body and learns the movement/s.

#7 – “…I burnt 1000 calories in that session…”

How do you know that? You don’t and never will. So may people try (and fail) to match up their energy in and energy out numbers. You can never know how many calories are burnt in any given session. You can have a guide maybe, but you’ll never know for sure.

1 – Metabolism boost is not taken into account so if you’re trying to gain weight then you’re expending more calories then you think and then you won’t be eating as much as you need to.

2 – Calorie counters on cardio machines are never right. How could they be? They don’t know anything about you.

3 – People who usually count how many calories they burn per session are usually too caught up on counting calories then training hard and eating right, and the stress is actually making them fatter from cortisol release.

People simply need to train hard and eat the right foods at the right times. If you think you can train harder then by all means do so. If you know that that the cheese burger you had at lunch because you were too late getting up from the 6 pack you had last night and didn’t have time to prepare any lunch was not the best thing you could have had, well then you know what to do. If you don’t then no one can help you.

#8 – Focusing On The Wrong Things

This is similar to #7. Let’s be real for a second, I think we both know that the type of protein your using is not the problem with our lack of results don’t we. Maybe the leg extensions and 60 minute elliptical trainer sessions are the problem. From what I’ve seen with people in the gym, most don’t seem to train hard enough, it’s as simple as that. Even the most basic of programs will give you some benefits if you do it hard and make it harder as you go. Bodybuilders are great for this as they train extremely hard, even if they’re programs suck complete arse. Simply train, eat then sleep and repeat. Don’t make it harder then it needs to be.

#9 – Supplements

Number 1 pet hate. All they do is get you to the same place as training and food can get you, but about 2 weeks quicker. Yep big deal, cash well spent. This also mixes in with #8. Firstly you need to get your diet organised before any supplement should even bare a twinkle thought in your mind then actually find out what they do and how they work before buying them. I laugh every time I read “I just bought some creatine, how should I take it?”

#10 - "...I've hit a plateau..."

To hit a plateau is to have tried everything you can training, diet and recovery wise and then you still can't make any progress, not when you do a program for 2 weeks which consists of the same 3 x 10 for bench press every Monday, Wednesday and Friday you've done for the last 4 programs and wonder why nothing has or is happening.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Some Things That Bug Me Part 1

I have been very light on time lately with the business, employing a new trainer, training him and losing 2 trainers in 2 weeks as well as the wife taking 3 days off from work but I am now back.

What follows is a little rant I suppose of just training in general, not Aussie Rules Football training in particular.

#1 – “…I do it because it works for me…”

This statement sounds fair enough on the outside but in the inside it’s a “put it the too hard basket”, or at least that’s what it seems to me.

There are always plenty of suggestions to find “what is right for you” on various forums but the reality is, most of us here haven’t tried more then 5 ways to train but a lot of us claim to know “what works for us.”

The time you start to think that you don’t have to learn anything new is the time you start to go backwards.

Remember, everything works but nothing works forever.

#2 – “…what type of cardio should I do?…”

In response to your fat loss efforts, this is always the 1st question asked. Yes, cardio is needed in most cases but what constitutes “cardio”? Cardio is short for cardiorespiratory exercise (heart and lungs), so isn’t any exercise effectively “cardio”? Quick answer yes, long answer no. I like the term energy systems work made popular by Christian Thibaudeau which refers to exercise performed in the 3 basic training zones.

1 – Anaerobic System

2 – Lactic Acid System

3 – Aerobic System

Now I don’t want to go into these too much as basic research will give you that answer pretty quickly, but “cardio” needs to be specific, much like the term “I want to get fit”. Get fit for what? I myself would struggle to run a quicker 2km time then any of you for plenty of reasons I won’t go into here, but does that mean that I’m not “fit”? Give me a resistance circuit and I’m golden because that’s what I train for, not to run, swim, bicycle etc.

So the answer really should be, “what do you want the cardio to do for you?” If it’s fat loss then do intervals, if it’s for football then sprints and agility work will be required, for marathon running, well run marathons.

The point is, it needs to be specific to your goal, and 30mins on the treadmill 3 times a week is not really specific to anything except for running 30mins on the treadmill 3 times a week.

#3 – Fatigue vs Intensity

This is a big one that even most trainers will miss. Fatigue is the point where work quality (weight lifted, tempo, technique etc) is decreasing within a given workout. Intensity is the level or weight at which you are performing your set with. Doing 1 set of bicep curls then finishing off the set with 2 or 3 drop sets isn’t increasing intensity, its increasing fatigue. Increasing the weight over a session, weeks or months is increasing intensity.

100 times out of 100 I would rather increase intensity over fatigue. I think we all know how hard it is to train under fatigue and how slowly, if ever, results show themselves which leads me to point 4…

#4 – Manage Fatigue, Don’t Seek It

I need to add in here that for muscle growth you do need a certain amount of fatigue with a certain amount of intensity which is what a lot of Chad Waterbury’s programs are all about. You choose a weight that allows all the reps of every set to be achieved for example using a 5 – 6 rep max for 10 sets of 3 as opposed to trying to get 10 sets of 3 with your 3RM which will ever happen. This set up manages your fatigue by choosing the correct load (weight) used but it also keeps the intensity high (5 rep max or 80 – 85%). It’s important to reach your sets and reps for most of your sessions or what are they there for?

Basically you need to set up your program long term to monitor this.

Eric Cressey follows a high, medium, very high, deload format each month.

High – new lifts are introduced with moderate to high volume and intensity to set a baseline for the next 3 weeks. A surprisingly fair amount of fatigue is induced while intensity is fairly high too.

Medium – weight is added to all exercises but volume (sets and reps) drop slightly compared to week 1 leading into “peak” week 3. Not a lot of fatigue is induced but intensity is increased.

Very High – weight and volume are added to higher level then week 1 and is the week to go for personal bests. Lots of fatigue induced at a high intensity. Most people will try and stay at this level for weeks and months on end but remember, “you can train hard, but you can’t train hard for long.”

Deload – intensity and volume is decreased by 20 – 40% depending on the lift giving your body a chance to recover good and proper from the previous week where you should have pushed your body to the point it hasn’t been before (hopefully!) and refreshing you for the next phase.

This is just 1 example but you can see that it isn’t simply “balls to the wall” all the time as it simply can’t be done.

Tomorrow I'll be back with part 2.