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Amplify the Slow Twitch

rufp weights

When it comes to skeletal muscle, our bodies contain different types of muscle fibers.  Generally speaking, there are slow twitch and fast twitch fibers.  Slow twitch are more geared towards endurance and low force activities like a marathon run while fast twitch are more geared towards fast, high powered, high force and shorter duration activities like a sprint.  Different muscles throughout the body will generally be composed of more of one than the other.  Furthermore, different people will genetically have more of one than the other.

While fast twitch can technically be divided to multiple different subsets, the two main subsets agreed upon by most are type a and b; with type a known as fast twitch oxidative.  Fast twitch oxidative fibers have some good potential for good force and power output while still having the capability to assist with endurance activities.  Through specific training, we can manipulate them to develop their oxidative potential to a certain extent. (or manipulate them the other way if that is the goal).  By developing this oxidative potential in the weight room, these fibers can benefit an endurance athlete to a greater extent outside of the weight room.  In addition to this, while most endurance athletes seem to grasp the concept that slow twitch fibers are utilized heavily with their runs or their bike rides, many don’t realize that they can be developed and trained in the weight room.  How do we do this? The answer is Tempo Lifting.

While there is more than one way to do this, I will discuss a method we have been using with a former elite long track speed skater now turned competitive cyclist.  I took a lot of this specific programming idea from sports scientist legend Yuri Verkhoshansky and his “Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches” and adapted it how I needed to for the task at hand.

Using the Yoke Squat as our main exercise, we will do the following for the first and key part of the training session on one day in the current programming phase.

In 1 series, he’ll hit a set of 15 to 20 slow tempo squats (currently 3 seconds down and 3 seconds up) to tap into his slow twitch fibers and get some hypertrophy out of them, followed by a set of 20 to 25 explosive squats to tap into his fast twitch oxidative fibers in order to prepare his body for the pace changes that can occur in a race. This is done for 3 series in his current program.  There is 90 seconds rest between sets and 3 to 4 minutes rest between each series (of 2 sets).  The weight for the explosive set is lighter than the slow tempo set.

To hit the oxidative fibers, we need enough resistance to require the body to utilize the fast twitch fibers (need to tap into their larger motor neuron) but also enough time with that resistance to tap into the oxidative side of things.  The multiple series of the high reps with enough resistance and the explosive nature of the reps is a recipe to make this happen. So within these series we accomplish a few good things that are race specific:

1. We get some slow twitch hypertrophy (muscle growth) to help with their resiliance during the course of the race

2. We get some fast twitch oxidative development to help the slow twitch fibers on their journey and to help with the turbo boosters that will be needed at various points of the race

3. We train our bodies and muscle fibers to be more resiliant, stronger and more adapative to the tempo, intensity and pace changes that will inevitably occur through different stages of an actual race.

 

He follows this up with prowler pushes used in a similar manner.  Trip 1 is slower paced followed up immediately by Trip 2 at a sprint pace. This is done for 5 to 6 sets. This is then followed by different accessory exercises such as glute ham raises and static inverted row holds.

His other lifting day in the program is focused on max strength and speed strength, which are also very important to any endurance race enthusiast though also often overlooked.  He then has multiple bike days where we will develop specific energy systems and their subsets depending on the stage we are in leading up to the race.  We can cover more on these other qualities in another article.

The goals for this article are to make you aware that we can develop and train slow twitch and the oxidative capability of type a fast twitch fibers in the weight room to help performance in that next race.  Check out the videos below of Liam hitting his squat sets.

 

Tempo Squats

 

Explosive/Fast Twitch Oxidative Squats

 

Are you getting the most out of your race performance?  Train with a purpose!

Note:  It is essential that you have a decent strength training base built up before diving into something like this.  You should know how to squat with proper movement/form and should have a decent level of general strength built up.  Also, Liam is an elite athlete and can handle the workload and volume discussed.  Those at a lower training level might not need as much.  This is where the individual coaching comes into play 🙂

Steppin Into Fitness

Today, we have an article by our fantastic trainer and coach Brittney Wilinski about staying active and eating healthy while traveling.  Great information for any of you traveling out there……….

 

brit pushup

Brit doing her thing on the beach

Recently, I went on vacation to St.Petersburg, Florida for a week… and let me tell you, the weather was much more beautiful and consistent there! Like myself, I am betting there are quite a few of you who will be traveling, even if it is a 3-day weekend vacation. It is definitely a time for relaxing, having fun with family and friends, and most likely splurging a little more on food and drinks. But what about all that hard work you’ve been putting in at the gym and all the time you’ve been slaving in the kitchen making healthy meals?!

News flash, you don’t have to completely ditch your workout and eating habits just because you are going on vacation! It really is pretty easy to stick to your normal routine for the most part. While I was gone for a week in Florida, I stayed in a condo and was able to go to the grocery store and buy food for the week that I could cook or prepare easily. Some of the main foods I grabbed were: eggs, turkey, chicken, a bunch of veggies, Greek yogurt, fruit, granola, and salsa and guacamole (I love eating my veggies with both of these!). Even when we did go out for lunch or dinner I would try to order something that was more towards the healthier side and stayed away from deep fried, super greasy foods. One day I got a Jerk Chicken sandwich but ditched the bun and put it on a bed of lettuce… it was amazing! Don’t be afraid to ask your servers ‘weird’ or ‘picky’ questions, it really pays off because many times restaurants are very flexible, so you get a healthier meal and they get a better tip 😉 Win, Win!

Eating healthier is one goal to stick to, but there is also the working out and being active part! One thing that I tried to do every single day was walk on the beach. Again this is a win, win situation: I got to enjoy the warm Florida weather and amazing view, while also getting the benefit of being active. Another way to enjoy my vacation while also getting some exercise in was by walking to shops or stores, swimming in the pool or ocean, and playing volleyball or fun pool games that required me to move around a lot.

When I wasn’t outside enjoying myself, I was in the condo doing a quick bodyweight circuit to start my day off! Here is what my circuit consisted of:

1a. Suitcase Goblet Squats 3-4×12
1b. Pushups 3-4×15-20 60s. rest

2a. One leg hip thrust 3-4×10
2b. Suitcase rows 3-4×12 60s. rest

3a. Step-ups 3×12/leg
3b. Suitcase offset carries 3x 45s. rest

4a. Planks 3×6 w/10 sec. hold
4b. Double Leg Lowering 3x 30s. rest

5. Bent over ITY’s 3×15 30s. rest

I used my carry-on suitcase and loaded it up with a computer, book, and some full water bottles for my squats and one-arm rows. You could also do bodyweight squats and add a pause to make it more challenging. For the offset carries I used a larger suitcase that had some shoes in it and added my computer and book to make it slightly heavier. In our room there was a bench and chair; I used the bench for my hip thrusts and the chair for my step-ups. If a bench isn’t available, you can do glute bridges (double leg/single leg/march) from the floor and add a few more reps. To add weight to your ITY’s you could use water bottles or soup cans, or just body weight with more reps. If you are doing body weight or very light weight, you are still getting a great metabolic effect by doing more reps with less rest time.

As you can see, it really isn’t that hard to stay somewhat on track while you are out enjoying yourself on vacation. The main thing is to plan ahead of time what you will do for workouts and figure out where the nearest grocery store is. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out some restaurants’ menus to see which ones have healthier food options especially if you are going on a road trip!

Travel workouts can be some of the best and most fun workouts you will have.  Be creative and spontaneous and you can get some awesome training in while you are away!

 

Deadlift Through That Sticking Point

nick lockout

 

If you are at all serious about strength training then you undoubtedly have deadlifted.  If you are at all working to increase your deadlift, you have most likely felt a sticking point at some portion of the lift.  Personally, if I miss a lift on a max attempt at a meet, I tend to get stuck an inch or two below my knees.  While there are multiple exercises I have been using to destroy this sticking point and get my pull to the low to mid 600’s where it should be (I missed 578 a couple times in recent memory and had 600 to my knees last august), one of my favorites is paused band deadlifts.

     Paused Band Deadlifts

With this exercise, you put bands over the bar and you pause at or just before your sticking point, before driving through to lockout.  If you don’t have platform attachments as shown in the video, you can loop them under a power rack or under dumbbells.  Simply performing these pauses with straight weight can also work well; you just won’t have the added band tension trying to pull you through the floor.  With this pause, you basically train your body to grind through that sticking point.  The neurological drive you will send to your muscular firing and coordination at that specific range of motion is a surefire way to train your body to blow past this point.   It is essentially an isometric exercise in the middle of a full range deadlift.  With isometric training, you will generally gain strength up to 3 inches above or below the point of the ROM that you are training.  Throw in the band tension and these will make you a monster. Check out the video and give them a shot. (Note: I purposely started with my hips a little higher than normal in this video; I’d recommend pulling them down a little lower to start for most people)

 

    Block Deadlifts

Another great exercise that can help is block deadlifts.  I give thanks to Dan Zwirlein and Dan Pasholk for recommending these to me.  Since the weights rest on the blocks instead of the bar resting on pins, it more closely resembles the feel and position of this point of the range of motion of a regular deadlift (pulling off of the rack is a little different).   In general, these will be harder when pulling from a sticking point than when pulling from the floor since you have NO momentum to get you past it.  When done correctly, if you PR from blocks at a point that is hard for you, it should carry over to improvement with your full pull.  Here is video of me hitting a PR about a month before my meet from last weekend.  These were done BEFORE the band deads in the first vid. You could use both or cycle between them in different cycles depending on what you are doing. Note: you should mimic the same hip position that you would be in at this point of the range of motion if you were doing a full deadlift.

 

The result? I just smashed an all time PR last weekend at the WABDL World Cup in WI Dells with a 601 lb deadlift at a bodyweight of 186. While there were definitely other variables that helped make this happen, I definitely feel that these exercises really played a big role.  Give these two exercises a shot and watch your deadlift sticking point disappear!!

 

 

Train hard!

-Nick

Open Your Shoulders but Don’t Crush Your Back

 

       If you have been exposed to any type of movement or postural training, you undoubtedly know at least to a certain extent that “being tall” and having open shoulders are important when pushing or pulling or in many cases, standing or sitting posture. Exercises such as rows, w’s, pull aparts, etc. train our upper and mid back muscles such as the mid and low traps and rhomboids to become stronger and more endurable so that we can have more opening in our anterior shoulder region. You essentially train this “opening” with these exercises. While this is generally a great idea for many people, a common mistake that is often made is substituting posterior rib tilt for scapular retraction (pulling the shoulder blades together). In a failed attempt or an exaggerated attempt to open the front of the shoulders up, people will tilt their ribs back and overextend their lower and mid backs instead of simply driving their shoulder blades together and opening the chest up. I especially see this with many high school athletes that I work with.

 

     This should be watched for with many exercises and positions. The cue “big chest” can sometimes work but many times can lead to the rib tilt just discussed instead of simply opening the anterior shoulders up. “Be tall” tends to work better when fixing this problem. This carries over to squats, standing posture and many things in between. Next time you are thinking of fixing that shoulder posture: Be tall and open those shoulders up but don’t get too crazy and crush your low back. One final thought: If someone has no flexion in their thoracic spine, their scapula will be unstable until you restore that flexion so “shoulder opening” exercises won’t help as much until that happens.

    Below are a video of a Band W with level ribs and then a Band W with posterior rib tilt .  As I mentioned, this is a compensation you want to be aware of with many exercises, movements and positions.  Take note and your posture, movement and strength will improve.  Other example vids can be found here:  proper position and improper position.

 

 

Row that Weight Properly Please

Rows are an important exercise to strengthen and develop the upper and mid back, improve shoulder and head posture and to make you an all around awesome person; however, many people do them entirely wrong and in turn, make themselves much less awesome.  It is essential to get proper motion through the scap and glenohumeral joint along with proper positioning of the thoracic spine.  The low and mid traps, rhomboids, lats and posterior delts should all work together to accomplish the job (with a little assistance from a few other players but for now we won’t confuse you)  Mid and low trap are often not engaged as much as they should be.  Today, our awesome intern and great up and coming coach, Brittney Wilinski, shows you how to properly perform a row and common mistakes that are made.  She even puts in a nice tongue twister for added entertrainment 🙂  See if you can catch what I did with that last word and then try saying glenohumeral 5 times fast.  Enjoy!