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Achieving Your Training Goals

May 31, 2002 06:26 PM

Bill Starr, Strength coach at John Hopkins University, once said 'I don't care how my athletes train for strength, whether its lifting weights or rocks, as long as they follow specific guidelines'. I completely agree!!!

The misconception among avid exercisers is they MUST lift weights to increase functional strength, body composition and sports performance. I am here to show there are alternatives if lifting weights is not your bag. Whether you are lifting weights or your own bodyweight the key is maximizing muscular tension. The body cannot "see" if you are hoisting db's, machines, or even using a resistance band; it only knows how much muscle tension it is experiencing. The higher the tension, the greater the stimulation, providing the stimulation is not exceeding the body's ability to handle the stress. A common saying among high-intensity enthusiasts is the stress or stimulus MUST exceed the body's current ability in order for growth to occur. That is, what they are implying is in order for the body to experience further increases in strength or mass, the body must have a reason to change and that reason is most likely caused by increasing the weight or reps. Many bad things happen with false thinking: overly stressed joints, nervous system fatigue, immune system breakdown, and the biggest in my opinion, the continuous mental stress of 'trying to better the last set/workout".

Charles Poliquin suggested that the missing link to superior mass and strength lies in the nervous system. This statement led to my current workout routine of pure 3-dimensional exercises where the nervous system involvement is the greatest; pushups, dips, various chins, and sprinting. I truly don't believe ANYMORE that isolation exercises are necessary to increase strength or mass in specific bodyparts. Gymnasts have some of the best arms in the world and yet rarely do specific bicep and tricep exercises, however they do plenty of chins, pushups, and dips. If you really want to do bicep curls try filling a sturdy bucket with water and perform curls without spilling the water. Watch your biceps grow like never before!! Or, do tricep pushups with a 4 second pause at the bottom. Can you say horseshoe?!!!

Pavel has often said that volume cannot be underestimated in making lasting changes to the body. Since my goal is mostly purely aesthetic, I try to increase volume without overtaxing the endocrine system and causing eventual systemic and localized overtraining. In my opinion, the reason why most trainees don't experience increases in muscle and bodyfat loss is systemic overtraining caused by not monitoring the volume/intensity inter-relationship(the higher the volume, the lower the intensity and vice versa). Under such conditions, the body's hormonal systems are severely compromised and usually the person experiences many physical symptoms that are brought on by a breakdown in the body's energy systems.

Whether you choose lifting weights, rocks, or doing bodyweight exercises you need to identify your goals and design a logical approach to achieving it. The body quickly adapts to a specific training protocol so don't do the same thing over and over and expect results. In my experience, when you continuously add weight to the same exercise you are misleading yourself in thinking you are experiencing progress. You are doing nothing but increasing your skill level at that particular movement pattern. To protect the joints and increase longetivity try coming up with different ways to stimulate the body WITHOUT increasing resistance. Remember, the objective is maximizing tension in the muscles, not seeing how much you can lift. As the spiritualists say, "when in doubt, look within".

The following is only a sample of what I may do:

3 weeks-volume phase.
Frequency: 2-3 times per week,
Duration: max of 45 mins.

A1) Bar dips(body tilted forward)-Ladders, rep speed usually done 4/4 (4 seconds up, 4 seconds down).


A2) Ring chins=Ladders but done slightly faster with a pause at the top. I always try to pull with the lats and keep a lordotic curve and not round the upper back. As you know, try to crush the rings and keep tight!!!


Rest 5 mins??.

Sprints: 40 yard dash done at 80% max speed, resting 30-45 seconds between sprints for a total of 10 sprints. IF I DO THE STATIONARY BIKE I DO 12 MINS OF 1 MIN HARD, 1 MIN EASY.

Stretch hamstrings, groin, and all upper body for 10 mins. I ALWAYS stretch post-workout no matter the phase.

2 Weeks-Intensity

Clarification: By "intensity" I do NOT mean reaching 100% of my max and failing.

Frequency: 4-5 times a week
Duration: 20-30 mins.

A1) Bar Dips: done in same fashion as above. Rep speed: 8/4 for 3-4 reps

Rest 3 mins

A2) Undergrip chins(using thick bar on playground). Rep speed: 8/4 for 2-3 reps.

Rest 3 mins. Repeat A1) with 10% less weight, same for chins.

Resistance band external rotation work. 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps done at 5/5 speed.

Jandas situps: done ladder style for 5 mins. I pre-exhaust this with a ab wheel isometric hold for 45-1 min.

I repeat the above 4-5 times per week. During this time, I will do no cardio. For work related reasons I refrain from leg work but this does not mean you should. However, if I feel in the mood I may do some Strength Shoe jump ropes for 1 min and 15 second rest intervals for 10 mins.

3 weeks-Volume Phase

Pushups: Ladder style with a rep speed of 2/x. 'X' means fast as possible but not out of control. I try to hit 500 total reps on these days. I attempt to shorten the time it takes me to hit 500 reps, but normally it ends up being about 15-17 min.

Rest 10 min so the blood accumulates in the muscle. Blood, in my opinion, is very crucial for healing, growth, and maximum delivery of nutrients.

Overhand Wide grip chins: Ladder style, done at 2/3 speed. I aim for 100 reps in a given amount of time. If I feel fatigued too quickly I cut the session short, NEVER pushing it.

End of workout exercise: Parallel bar walks. Like it sounds. I walk the length of the bars-15 feet-turnaround and walk back. This is a great finishing exercise for the upper body, especially shoulders and abs.

Next day: One legged squats and high rep ab work (1000 crunches with a towel under the back).

2 days off and repeat above. I train instinctively. If I feel wiped after Day 1 I will not hesitate to rest a day. Also, you notice during this time I won't do ab work. I feel its unnecessary FOR MY GOALS. I don't need or want BLOCKY abs. Besides, I get plenty of ab work flexing my abs during pushups and chins and try the dip walk. You'll know what I mean!!!