“Beware of the myth of building a base … always ask yourself – A base of what?” – Dan Pfaff
Anytime I am planning a General Preparation Period (GPP) I always keep the above quote in mind.
A base of what? Endurance? Speed? Strength?
In my mind we need a base of Movement.
For this GPP we have 3 priorities.
Synergy in Movement (Power)
Support Work for SPP and CPP
Synergy in Movement
Just as the title claims I want all movements to work together. I want to see similarities in foot dynamics within Sprint Drills, Olympic lifts, and Plyometrics.
Simply we should see commonalities in all three.
This synergy enhances the athlete’s ability to stay injury free. It makes no sense to coach one way on the track and another in the weight room — and the reasons are not centered around “Transfer” via the weight room.
It’s simpler that that.
It’s not how much they are loading the bar or how an athlete mimics sprinting movements via strength exercises, its’ how they are loading joints and soft tissue structures.
We want synergy so we don’t have to chase problems via therapy or recovery modalities.
Hamza has progressed well this last year as it pertains to hitting positions during drills and jumping activities. Now that we have a little more time we will break down power development exercises specifically Snatch, Clean, and Jerk Variations (lighter load – technique emphasis) with the focus being full foot power development.
Another goal of GPP is to do work that supports the specific work carried out in (SPP & CPP).
Probably a mashup of my endurance background and influences of Anatoliy Bondarchuk (Transfer of Training Vol.I & II, as well as The Olympian Manual for Strength & Size) but I Like the idea of never going too far away from the specifics and simple categorizing of training.
Bondarchuk’s classification goes as follows:
1. Competition exercises – essentially,
these exercises are the discipline in which the
athlete is competing. They are applied both in
competition and the training process. In the
training process they can be repeated under
competition conditions or they can be made
either easier or more difficult.
2. Exercises for Specific development
– exercises that replicate single parts of
the competition movement. Either the same
muscle groups or a major part of the groups
used in the competition movement are engaged
and the same systems and organs
used in competition are activated. With the
help of these exercises one can effectively and
selectively influence different physical abilities
and these exercises promote optimal training
condition. The level of ability and condition
attained via these exercises is realised in the
complete competition exercises.
3. Exercises for Special Preparation
– similar to the exercises for general development,
these do not replicate competition
movements either totally or partially, but the
muscle groups engaged can be the same as
those used in the competition movements.
These exercises activate the functions and
systems of the organism that influence performance
in the athlete’s main discipline.
4. Exercises for General Development
– exercises where competition movements
are not replicated either totally or partially and,
instead, other muscle groups are engaged.
These exercises do not lead directly to enhancement
of the competition result but promote
many-sided development, have a positive
effect on the levels of general working capacity
and coordination, and promote recovery.
No matter the sport this part of the planning will always take place. The outcome will look something like this. (Sport of Weightlifting can be found here)
This is obviously a poor knockoff of Coach Evely and Tyler’s work off of UCoach, but it’s simple enough for me when it comes to planning. All of the above categories are in play at all times during the whole year. The shape just morphs throughout the season in emphasis.
This is also mirrored in how we will monitor Hamza. Loose in GPP — making interventions in extreme cases (Ex: low DC potential on Accel/Coordination days will resort to plan B) and tight through SPP/CPP — looking for optimal windows for specific work.
This is truly 1# on my list. Without this part everything above is just words on paper. This is also the part that Hamza has to own and be accountable for. Chaos in life will only lead to chaos on the track.
Like I mention in Feedback Analysis Hamza in the past was successful despite living an athlete’s lifestyle — now a bit older we need a different approach.
We have underwent the first round of blood work and are collaborating with Dr. Culleton (Central Texas Integrative Medicine). Culleton is unique for a Functional Med Doc both being an athlete himself and working with elite athletes in the past. His perspective has been instrumental in helping Hamza understand Quality of food is key and you can’t out supplement a crap lifestyle.
Priorities going forward: More Quality Fats, Quality Nutrients — Vegetables, and Improve Meal Frequency.
The basics, but sometimes an athlete needs to hear it from someone other than myself. This usually depends on the level of stubbornness an athlete possesses — Hamza has plenty.
The only hiccup we are facing is meal frequency through Ramadan. This will mean an early rise and will consist of good protein source and smoothie (spinach, fruit, protein powder, etc) every morning. We will move workouts to the evenings so Hamza can refuel right afterwards and the majority of the workouts through Transition (2 weeks) will be in the pool — a way to beat the Texas heat for an athlete we know is coming in dehydrated.
Sleep will be another quality we track. In the past he has averaged around 7.5hrs of sleep per night — with a caveat of 20+ moments of restlessness at times. This is now something we will be writing in on the training plans. The goal will be more sleep on nights after speed/strength sessions (8.5hrs). This is to balance out imposed stress with recovery — and being mindful of it. He has made the investment of a new mattress in effort to help with the moments of restfulness and we believe once nutrition is improved this quality will improve as well — data on this to come hopefully in future posts.
Now this lifestyle portion may seem a bit controlling from an outsider’s perspective, but I believe if you can’t adapt from the workloads — why do it? This last year we have taken a Short to Long approach in planning, even though he is a Long to Short athlete. Hamza wants to feel fit before he can feel fast and enjoys doing longer repeats/sets of special and specific endurance. Yet after the initial assessment when we first started working together (RMSSD of 40) I knew we had 2 options. Low volume of slow running or low volume of fast running. Lifestyle forced my hand to choose the latter. This year we will be planning on a Long to Short approach and I will post details of workouts and monitoring data throughout the year.
This idea to “Know Thyself” is nothing new. It can be traced back to aphorisms in Ancient Greece or sage teachings of “the Self ought to be the subject to know” in Ancient India.
The theme of “Self” can also be traced back through Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
The thirst to Know Thyself has also fueled physiologists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers alike. There is a teaching in Confucianism that you should reflect on yourself 3 times a day.
When is the last time you reflected on yourself 3 times a day? I mean truly slowed down and just. be. still.
Push notifications from social media, emails, phone calls, text messages, adult responsibilities — Who has the time?
Confucius says 3 times a day but Confucius never had ESPN.
We are inundated with dings, illuminations, and vibrations — information, information, information!
We have no time for silence or clear thought.
“True intelligence operates silently. Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.” – Eckhart Tolle
We then operate in chaos and to survive chaos we limit our decision making — in other words we form habits and often times not good ones.
This lack of mindfulness and reliance on habits only perpetuates our stress. Being mindful is always the brake, if you don’t use it sooner or later you run out of gas.
Coaches Get Ready
With more and more tech companies creating applications for health, sooner or later you will have athletes walking into your gym with quantified self knowledge. That means you better have answers.
A recent conversation with a coach/business owner asked “Why would I want my clients to monitor themselves? They would only come in 2 or 3 times a week? Why would we market the 4 or 5 time (unlimited) option? We would lose money.”
Like I said you will need answers. For us at TAE our answers are always “Less is More” and Health is always first.
Below is a video of Carl Valle who talks about the “Quantified Self” and I am in full agreement.
This is the future. As I stated above an individual’s need to “Know Thyself” is not going away anytime soon. Though Carl states this will be a disruption to the healthcare industry, I believe it will be a disruption to the fitness industry first. What do you think?
People ask why we inquire at great detail about our athlete’s sexual health. Frankly for some it seems intrusive and none of our god damn business, especially in our uptight American bubble. Yet, sexual health/function is one of the most early identifiers as health declines. Think about it, if your body is unwilling or lacks the desire to procreate that probably hints at some insidious problem in your lifestyle or physiology. For men we commonly see this depicted as a lack of libido, morning erections, motivation, an increase in fat mass, as well as many other signs and symptoms. These symptoms are fairly broad/common and men are generally extremely uneducated and reluctant to seek help and when they do it is through even more poorly educated avenues. Whereas, women have a much more glaring symptom – their menstrual cycle becomes dysregulated or lost and their sexual function is diminished.
“A physiological system that is extremely sensitive to the stress of exercise training is the endocrine reproductive system.”
Dr. Anthony Hackney
Enter the Female Athlete Triad which is described by the American College of Sports Medicine as the interrelationships among energy availability, menstrual function, and bone mineral density, which may have clinical manifestations including eating disorders, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (loss of the menstrual cycle), and osteoporosis.
In the pro and university setting the Female Athlete Triad is policed very heavily and the proper channels exist to get these women the help they need, but in the private world I see this pushed under the rug and more often than not it is just shrugged off as part of intense training. BUT
“Exercise was found to have no suppressive effect on reproductive function beyond the impact of its energy cost on energy availability, and the suppression was found to occur abruptly below a threshold of 30 kcal per kilogram of fat-free mass per day.”
Dr. Ann Loucks
Thus, what we are seeing is a prominent lack of adequate refueling in female athletes. We see this again and again, some women are flat out scared to eat or fuel performance. But this is incredibly ineffective and silly. If you are eating the highest quality foods and you are still not losing weight or don’t have the body you want you can not starve it to get there. You have to work with it and do some much more educated digging. As discussed in previous posts eating less and exercising more is not the way out, especially long term.
So how much is the bare minimum to maintain your period, 30 kcal/kgLBM/day, and for a 140 pound female at 15% body fat they would need at least 1620 calories a day. AT LEAST. Refeeding protocols for women with amenorrhea generally hover above 70 kcal/kg LBM/day (or 3800 kcals) with a drastic reduction in exercise. My general recommendations for those who are training and beating the beat up is to see how much they can eat and not gain weight as well as see how much they can sleep. Hard training cycles are not the time to try intense diets or go for drastic reductions in body fat.
“Restrictive eating behaviors practiced by girls and women in sports or physical activities that emphasize leanness are of special concern and the first aim of treatment for any Triad component is to increase energy availability by increasing energy intake and/or reducing exercise energy expenditure.”
– American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand
At this point some women may say big deal, losing my period doesn’t seem inhibit my immediate performance and it is kind of nice not bleeding every month.
BUT hold on human beings are absolutely atrocious at objectively assessing how they feel and performance is not even close to the best indicator of health – the following three points on how the Female Athlete Triad effects performance are from Brown University.
Lowered energy availability: an underfueled athlete is a slowed and weakened athlete. No matter what the sport, if your muscles lack sufficient and proper fuel, performance is impaired. At first there might just be some early fatigue. As the fuel deficit worsens, actual loss of strength and muscle size can occur as the body uses skeletal muscle in order to fuel essential body functions, like heart function and breathing. Lack of fuel can also lead to your inability to concentrate, not a quality befitting an athlete. If you are an athlete with strength losses and poor concentration, you can be more easily injured. Injuries then are slow to heal in a poorly fueled body.
Amenorrhea: Loss of menstrual periods may signal a change in your body’s intricate and complicated hormone system. Hormone imbalance from underfueling your body can result in lowered estrogen production. There are also other causes of lowered estrogen levels (estrogen is the female life force and it is probably best not to upset this balance). A diminished estrogen level can have many effects; the most immediately apparent one can be bone loss. Amenorrhea can often go unreported to medical providers because of the common belief it is “just part of the training effect.” We do know that the bone loss that occurs as a result of this is NOT “just part of the training effect” and can start to occur after just a few months with no period.
Low bone mineral density: Loss of bone, especially if you are an athlete, can be an unfortunate setup for an injury. Stress fractures can sideline sports activity and be slow to repair if you are underfueled. Repeated stress fractures and unexplained injuries should be a red flag to further evaluate your eating and exercise patterns. Bone loss that occurs because of amenorrhea can be permanent.
Our sexual function is a window into our overall health and we need to be able to look objectively at the situation and course correct if needed. We always have the choice to pursue performance at the cost of health and that is a decision that some will make, but they should know the whole story before they elect to do something rash in the name of Fran, Grace, or the 400m relay.
For more information on how the NCAA recommends screening for the Female Athlete Triad – click here.
The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. – Peter Drucker
Each year every track and field athlete we work with begins with time spent writing a “Plan”. I will admit the plan is loose and ultimately we spend more time erasing and rewriting than sticking to first draft — a natural by-product of learning the athlete.
The key is to not repeat mistakes and eventually, over time plans will more closely resemble work being done — trial and error.
So this leads me to the topic at hand. Why not talk the “plan” out on the blog?
House and I both have been discussing how we can better educate and simultaneously learn. What better way than being transparent about the process?
Am I always right? No.
Selfishly is this a learning opportunity for me? Yes.
Will I blow minds with science as I try to rationalize my decisions? Hardly.
For example our friend and fellow coach from the south Daniel Martinez came up to talk shop and watch two of our sprint athletes train. He asked a great question about monitoring and prescribing load. I am sure I gave some shit safe answer “yada yada Omegawave yada yada”
When in reality I should have said “Fear”.
Fear is what has driven my decisions over the last year and the eyeball test on the track takes precedence over any data I might collect. Especially with this particular athlete that will be the focus for the series of blog posts. I will sacrifice volume for quality 100% of the time — with the sole goal of keeping the athlete injury free.
Our athlete Hamza Deyaf has an interesting story (athletic resume here, here, and here). He started his first successful company while being a student-athlete at UT (though he would admit the student part was forced upon him). Hamza is an Outlier — would generally skip out on most training that wasn’t on the track. Despite this he still performed and thrived in competition.
During his time at UT he also got married, became a 2 time NCAA All-American, and was well on his way training to make an Olympic team for Libya. Then in 2011 came the Libyan civil war, the dissolution of the Olympic team and the end of Hamza’s training.
Fast forward 4 years…
He is well into his second multi-million dollar company (the first being the Deyaf’s family business), he has one year of training under his belt with us, Libya has stabilized enough for the Olympic team to get organized, and we are in the midst of planning his 2015-2016 season.
The next entry to the series I will outline his general preparation; how we categorize the training and how we will manage fasting during Ramadan.
As training begins I will show all data we are collecting; power indices, Omegawave, and split times.
The information from analyzing the original “plan” to what is being done (plus the training results) will help us build, learn, and understand how to better organize training as we progress through the season.
Pizza, donuts, couch, LIFT, donuts, pizza, couch, sleep, repeat. We know the dudes
Hey you want to help with dishes?
No. It might interfere with my gains. I need to lie here like Jabba The Hut and infuse muscle milk intravenously into my femoral artery.
I have succumb to this ideology more than once and I believe the problem lies in where we think we are as an athlete and well…reality. We want to train like the best in the world train, but we don’t look at what they did on the road to get to where they are, or genuinely assess whether we have a legitimate shot at getting to those heights. CrossFit has invigorated a lot of people to take another shot at professional athletics and has equally awakened a new found cultural love for Olympic lifting, but it has also illuminated how far we are behind other countries and what the average person will sacrifice for the mere chance to stand in the spotlight one more time (myself included).
The best breakdown and philosophy to wrap our minds around this topic is the Four Quadrants by Dan John. Below is a brief introduction to the ideology of the four quadrants, the quadrants themselves, and a bit of information on each. If you would like to read more on this buy Easy Strength by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline, most of this information was gleaned from resources in or related to this book.
The four quadrants are determined by two simple concepts:
The number of qualities the athlete needs to master the sport
The relationship to the Absolute Maximum of each quality
Quadrant I: PE Class and General Physical Preparation (GPP) – Lots of Qualities and Low Level Max
This is the quadrant that has been lost in our current Strength and Conditioning/Fitness (I hate those words) model. We get kids who can’t move, who don’t play, and who live on Doritos and Taquitos, but they think they need GNC creatine and specialization to succeed.
“America got into ‘sports specific’ training 15 to 20 years ago and forgot the fundamentals,”
– Gray Cook
“We need to take away wins and losses before the age of 16 and make athletes play every sport, every position, with both hands.”
– Jim Laird
“In the Russian model, GPP is seen as the foundation on which Sports Physical Preparation (SPP) is built. An estimated 80% of a young Russian athlete’s physical training is GPP. Practicing the specific without the general leads to short-term gains, usually followed by injuries and unavoidable long-term plateauing of sports results…premature intensification, like premature specialization, does not pay off in the long run.”
– Pavel Tsatsouline
Quadrant II: Sports and Occupations – Lots of Qualities and High Level Max (i.e. CrossFit)
If we think of football, basketball, lacrosse, etc you need a tremendous amount of qualities and skills to be really successful. Skill, Speed, Power, Strength, Work Capacity, Movement Quality, and on and on. CrossFit is the epitome of Quadrant II. Yet, many of these qualities compete for adaptation and the coach needs to be able to manage how they interact and how they maintain or peak each of these qualities depending where they are in the training year.
“Quadrant II is nearly impossible to thrive in without having massive support. Professional athletes and American Division I athletes have food, transportation, trainers, doctors, and other support systems that allow them to train so many qualities.”
– Dan John
Quadrant III: Most People – Fewer Qualities at a Low or Moderate Max
In this Quadrant training is purely a means to an end and will be limited by the qualities needed to succeed in said sport or for said goal. Think most of us and most Track and Field Sports.
“There is only one rule in Quadrant III: Do what you say you need to do.”
– Dan John
Quadrant IV: Very Few Qualities (or One) at the Highest Level of Relative Max
“The sport is so narrow and the level of competition so high that there is nearly total focus on one goal.”
– Dan John
Everyone wants to live in this category. We and our mothers all want to think we are special. We imagine ourselves succeeding at the highest level and this leaks into our minds and we lift ourselves up quadrants yearning to claw at Quadrant IV, when it very unlikely that we are ever going to need to be here.
“Balance is the sign of an amateur or a beginner. A professional does only one thing— extremely well.”
– Tommy Kono
Finally, two quotes from Dr. Fred Hatfield or Dr. Squat (First man to squat 1000lbs – Q4)
“Never run if you can walk, never stand if you can sit, and never sit if you can lie down.”
These are the type of sayings everyone likes to quote as rationale for this, that, or the other. Yet, these folks have earned the ability to say them as these are necessary and applicable once you get far enough down the road in a Q4 sport – everything matters. But everything matters for all of us we just see it far less because athletes/people have so many outcomes varaibles they are trying to juggle, their world turns into Quadrant II choas.
“Adaptive capacities of the organism are large but not unlimited.”
So if that chubster weightlifter is Behdad Salimi he rightfully could care less about any indicator of his aerobic capacity. He only needs as much as it takes him to recover optimally and we can assume he has built that up over his training career, as he is the best in the world. Now take a 27 year old who thinks he is Behdad Salimi. Maybe this man-kid even Snatches 300 pounds or 136 kilos (64% of Salimi), but does he have the right to say I need to be waited on hand and foot and can never ever do anything physical other than weightlifting? No. He is not a quadrant 4 athlete (yet or likely ever), even though he plays a quadrant 4 sport. He almost certainly needs to increase his aerobic capacity so he can train more and recover further, he likely has holes in his movement patterns that need to be fixed that are not going to get any better sitting on the couch attacking pudding pops. He may even need to be a productive member of society and help people or produce something of worth that takes physical or mental energy.
You see Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 4 are traps for most of the general population that thinks they are higher level athletes than they really are. We aren’t honest with our abilities, our training age, or the legitimacy of our training goals, and this realization isn’t meant to stomp on your dreams, it is meant to give you a fighting chance to see them to fruition.
For example, if your goal is to qualify or compete in the American Open (Great Goal/Dream) then you have to assess your strengths and weaknesses, create a training, movement, and recovery protocol, assess the results, and then tweak it as you go. It is very likely to include training for qualities that would never be included in someone like Klokov’s training regimen and that is OK because he likely built these qualities to the extent that he needed them by the age of 12 in Mother Russia. Also, keep in mind that some of the best Olympic Lifters in the world have used bodybuilding schematics and Quadrant I and III tactics to allow recovery from the brutalness and the mundaneness of Quadrant IV training.
Now let’s say you want to be the best CrossFitter EVAR or maybe you want to make regionals on a team and have been training harrrrd for 3 to 5 years. You need to again assess your strengths and weaknesses and then devise a long-term training, movement, and recovery program that allows you to build certain qualities at different times of the year and then maintain them as best as possible when you are competing or building other qualities that are counter indicative to the former. You also need to assess how much time you can spend in the Quadrant II fire. Everyone is different in their ability to adapt and you will likely need to jump into Quadrant I or Quadrant III many times throughout the training year to take a few steps back so you can get a running start at your next training phase.
“If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.”
– Rob Lawrence
I have used these quadrants interchangeably, whereas in reality being in a Quadrant is static based on where the athlete is in their career, the sport in question, and the ultimate goal, but I think jumping around allows you to see how a great coach would program and train athletes in these quadrants. Remember these quadrants provide a framework to help you to be honest with yourself, your objectives, and how to get there. The quadrants themselves are unimportant, it is how you use the information that matters.
“There are two types of people: those who divide the world into types of people, and those who don’t…The happiest and most successful people are those who have figured out ways to exploit their Quadrant to their benefit and, just as important, found ways to understand and counterbalance its limitations.”
It is an anterior tilt of the scapula, or anterior resting position of the humeral head commonly seen in CrossFit athletes as a result of poor movement, over programming, and a diet of common movements that feed the position: Bar Muscle Ups, Ring Muscle Ups, Dips, TNG Snatch, etc.
“Most people have good control over mid ranges of a muscular motion. They have poor control over the long range and poor control of the short range.” – Dr. Andreo Spina
Just to be clear, an anterior tilt of the scapula is not bad. It’s only bad when it occurs during a movement where it shouldn’t — a sign of poor control.
Look no further than gymnasts for proper use of the anterior tilt of the scapula — but also note they have great control over large ranges of the shoulder.
A common problem with coaching Type A CrossFit athletes is step skipping. Everyone wants what gymnasts have but few are willing to do the boring shit necessary to earn it. You don’t need fancy contraptions or expensive videos — just focus on the basics.
With our athletes, control exercises are always done in the warm-up, early in the session. This helps identify problems early and if we need to do some kind of performance therapy to achieve a desired position this allows us time to get it in. These exercises are also key for the athlete to “feel” positions and supports dialogue when it comes to the athlete self-reporting to the coach how they feel.
Feel is such a simple concept but I classify all control exercises under this umbrella. We want the athlete to feel either the humeral head sit posteriorly or the scapula move to specific positions depending on the exercises used.
Exercise List (demo’s will be up on our instagram account this week.)
Scap Pull up —- Scap Pull up w/ rotation — Alternating Scap Pull up
Scap Push up (varying Positions)
Inverted Shoulder Elevation & Depression
Inverted Shoulder Protract & Retract
Side Lying Thoracic Rotations
Bear Crawls (Forward/ Back) — Lateral Bear Crawls
Bottoms up KB Press — Half Kneeling — Standing
KB Supine Internal & External Rotations (light)
KB Armbar (light)
KB Half Kneeling Windmills (light)
The standard in CrossFit programming is to strengthen the shoulder using these three exercises:
Trap 3 Raises
The goal is to achieve balance, which is accomplished by doing 8 reps of the above exercises at 10% of your 1RM Close Grip Bench.
I too started here but found loading in this manner wasn’t specific enough for the musculature of the shoulder. In many cases, loading exercises relatively “heavy” (Ex: 285lbs 1RM Bench = 28 pounds for Trap 3, Powell Raises, and External Rotations) only strengthened bad movement. Not because of the exercises themselves but the combination of load and the constant movement onslaught brought on by the nature of CrossFit — movements under fatigue.
Fatigue decreases proprioception (joint position) as well as optimal breathing mechanics during movement. If workouts are over-programmed it may create large movement variances day to day. Therefore great movement during a general preparation phase when testing shoulder strength could potentially be long gone a week into a more demanding preparation phase. Over time, without proper programming, movement, or performance therapy, compensations will occur making the metabolic price of movement more expensive and increasing the risk for injury.
This is not to say we don’t use the exercises –Trap 3, Powell, External Rotations. We do, but with focus on improving endurance with light weight — more specific to the fiber type being trained and shoot for accumulating more quality reps (20+ per set).
Regular conditioning of the shoulder complex and the daily control exercises seem to have a synergistic effect — but the most important component that’s threaded through both is movement quality.