The Principles of Training – Progression

Every program that you are on has to have some form of progression. Progression can come in a variety of forms. Progressing in to too many ways, or too much at once is a recipe for disaster, not having any progression will lead to stagnation which is not necessarily a bad thing

Forms of progression:

Intensity

This can be looked at in a few ways. One is how hard you are working compared to your best efforts. In aerobic exercise this will be your pace relative to your maximal ability (max heart rate, VO2, etc). In resistance training this is how heavy the load is relative to the heaviest weight you can lift for one repetition. Overall you can think of this as literally how hard your effort is compared to how much you have left to give. Think about adding another 1-5% to the bar or effort each time and keep this moving at a slow pace to consistently and slowly make progress.

Movements

A subset of increasing intensity is to progress your exercises to harder options. Think about going from a push up to a handstand push up, or going from doing a body weight squat to a barbell squat. This is a good way to slowly break someone in to hard training without having to immediately start with hard barbell movements that require skill and coordination to perform.

Volume

This is literally how much work you are doing. For aerobic performance think about how much distance you are accruing both on the day and over the week. For example if you run three miles 5 days a week your weekly training volume is 15 miles. With resistance training this is the sets x reps x weight that you do in a movement. So if you squat 100lbs. for 3 sets of 10 you have effectively done 3,000 lbs. of squatting volume. You can break down this volume for all training based upon the muscles that are used individually or the movement patterns. So you can be used to doing 40 miles of aerobic work on your legs each week from running, but if you never swim just doing half a mile in one session might crush you for days afterward since you aren’t used to any of this volume. This is a great way to progress body weight movements since you can literally count the reps and then each week try to add 10% so start off with 50 total pushups over a session and then increase it to 55 total pushups the following week.

Frequency

A good way to split this volume up in to doses that re much more easily dealt with in the body is to divide it over multiple sessions. By adding in an extra lower body session or swim you will be doing more volume overall. When you first add in an extra session be sure to decrease the volume you do on the normal training days and then slowly increase the volume with time in those sessions.

Rest periods

The final major way to progress your program is to shorten your rest periods in a training session. This causes a greater accumulation of metabolic byproducts which in turn will make it harder on you. Keeping track of your normal rest periods in a training session and then slowly shorten them up each week. A good rest period to start with is two minutes and then progress it with time to possibly be as short as 30 seconds.

Stagnation

If you don’t change your program in any way for periods of time you will not make any more progress in that area. Your body will adapt to this level of fitness and you have effectively hit a plateau. This is not a bad thing. Once you are strong enough, flexible enough, conditioned enough. You can hit your basics in that area to maintain it and then focus your efforts in the other areas you want to. As you go further and further in to training you need to do more and more to continue to make progress, and at some point this is no longer feasible due to life commitments or other parts.

Appropriate rates of progression

Sadly at the end of the day your goal should be to progress 10% or less a week. High level athletes will make less than .5% per month in progress. So when you are progressing your program, be aware that you are only going to make so much progress in one given area at a time and being too aggressive is a great way to get hurt, or at the least be disappointed.

If you have any questions as to how progression works feel free to leave a comment below and thanks as always for reading.

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The Principles of Training – Individuality

When it comes to training it is important to understand the basic principles of training. The goal with this series of posts is to help you understand not only what the principles are, but how to apply them and be aware of how they are currently working for or against you. So with that being said, let’s dive in to our first principle of training:

Individuality

Each person will adapt at a different rate to any training program compared to another. This is a basic and incredibly important concept to keep in mind for a number of reasons:

Using someone else’s program.

Elite level athletes have programs that are written specifically for their strengths and weaknesses. Exercises are selected that work for their mobility, anthropometrics, and skill. High level athletes are capable of tolerating high intensities and/or high volumes that would bury a normal individual who hasn’t trained for years to deal with that amount of volume. The program for the elite are not designed for the weekend warrior and likely will lead to injury or lackluster results. If anything you want the program that the elite person used when they were at your level.

Using a cookie cutter program

Things like Insanity, Crossfit, Beach Body, etc. can be good programs, but they aren’t always set well for the basic trainee that isn’t prepared for large amounts of exercises they aren’t well versed in. This can be a good way to get started, but get some in person instruction on your technique along with change exercises where they are needed so it will be more effective and safer for your own abilities.

Progress that you make on a program

If you train with another person or have a program that has expectations for you to make progress at certain rates you might over or under perform simply due to your own adaptability. Keep in mind this isn’t a failure of your own performance, but this can be simply due to things like training age (when you have been training for longer periods of time you don’t make progress as quickly as you did when you first started). You might outrun the program if it is too easy and you are a very new trainee that is still making rapid progress.

Pick a program that is appropriate

Pick programs that will get you consistent and slow results. Look at the entire program and ask yourself if you think you can realistically handle the increases in intensity and volume that the program requires. You have a real life and a job which is not to train for a living (if it is, lucky you), so don’t kill yourself with adhering to a program that is too much for your life.

Learn your own body

Figure out what works and doesn’t work for you. We each adapt at our own rate and will have certain performance areas that we can make fast or slow progress. Part of the reason I enjoy strength sports is that frankly, I have always been kinda decent at them. Play around with different exercises and training programs to find what works the best for you, and be mindful with them to figure out what are the programs that you can do for the rest of your life.

Working with students after a brain injury

Being a cheerleading coach unfortunately concussions are a significant risk in the sport. I have suffered them myself and seen athletes receive them from the sport. The good news is the brain can heal itself and with time along with proper recovery protocols it can get back to good. Concussions are not a death sentence that everyone will get CTE if they ever receive a blow to the head. If that was true lord knows there would be a whole lot less humans on this planet since just about everyone suffers a brain injury at some point. Obviously the severity varies massively between individuals and the initial injury doesn’t always correlate well to the later severity of symptoms and the time it takes to recover from it. My goal here is to give some ideas and reasons why as an educator you should work with the concussed athlete to help them recover and get back to their life and school at an appropriate rate.

Concussions

Just a few facts to help folks understand some things about concussions. In 90% of concussions, people do not lose consciousness. The hits on TV where you see someone out cold are actual rare, most concussions people can work through. Symptoms for concussions also don’t always occur directly after the injury. Sometimes they can take a few hours to a few days. This is why an athlete playing in the NFL might take a big hit, and finish the game just fine. Then the next day be on IR for a concussion because the symptoms didn’t set in until later on. These symptoms can effect mood, hormonal balance, GI function, balance, motor control, and really anything the brain does (which is a lot). Sometimes symptoms can take months or years to resolve, but thankfully most resolve in a month (or less). Here is the problem, since an academic semester is only so long. Also, in order to help the brain recover an individual needs to rest more through both sleep and less brain stimulation and learning itself is a stimulating activity.

After the injury

One week after a diagnosed concussion a student should be limited on how much work they can do, and possibly be doing no work if the symptoms are bad enough. You wouldn’t make someone with a broken leg run the mile in PE class, so why make someone with an injured brain take tests and work on hard projects? The academic time clock is related to old traditions from agriculture which now are engrained since they are convenient. Brain injuries are not convenient so we have to be able to give students extra time and even extend the end of the semester for them to make up work they have missed. So what does this mean in practice?

When I have a student who gets a concussion, I tell them to go home and not to worry about class work until they are cleared. I do make sure I get medical documentation and I’m lucky here in that the training staff is as transparent as they can be on these topics so no one is abusing this. Then once they are cleared I have them restart from where they left off. I will record my lectures in the meantime so that they can follow this progression and then when they feel ready accelerate them so they can be up to speed with the rest of the class. Power point does a good job of recording in the application of your lectures and other software like screencast-o-matic can work well in these cases too. Some students never get to this catch up phase so instead give them the final at a later date and do grade change request forms for them. Don’t be afraid to have open conversations with the students about how they are performing and make changes accordingly so they can be successful with things like extra time on tests so they can be successful.

I want all my students to be successful, and sometimes life comes at students hard and they have to go at a different pace for a while. Understand that concussions are a weird animal in that you don’t see a brace or cast over the head to show the injury, but inside people can be really struggling to just get through their day. Meet them with where they are at and do your best to make sure they can be successful. Thanks as always for reading.

Pookie Monster Training Program, metabolic training

My sister is wanting a bit of a change to her training program with the goal that she will get better at body weight exercises and increase her work capacity. Below is the basic 4 day split that I am giving her for the next 1-3 months to really work on owning some body weight exercises. The goal is to still hit a heavy exercise then make the assistance short but aggressive circuits aimed at increasing that work capacity. Lots of inspiration here from Javorek Complexes and work with Rick Perry the first strength coach that I worked for.

Day 1 2 3 4
movement squat bench deadlift Military press
Sets x reps 5×5 starting at 75% then progress it each week if you can Top 5, then down 10% for 2 sets AMRAP Top 5, then down 10% for 2×5 3×5
Movement Dumbbell complex: snatch, squat to press, Romanian deadlifts, lunges, bent over rows, snatch. 6 reps of each exercise and do the complex three times. (You can bump up the reps to 10 on each exercise in the future) Bodyweight complex: pull ups to push ups ladder, start with 1 pull up and then do 2 push ups and alternating building reps each time (i.e. set of 1,2,3,4….). add in band pull aparts for sets of 5 between each exercise. Barbell complex: snatch, squat to press, lunges, good mornings, lateral lunges, bent over row, snatch. Six reps of each exercise and do the complex three times through. (same rep options like day 1) Bodyweight complex: body weight lows rows, dips, lunges, TRX scare crows, fallout abs, handstand hold. Perform 3-5 times through the sequence and try to stop just short of failure each time with the reps on each sets
Movement: Choice quad exercise: 3 sets Choice tricep exercise: 3 sets Choice hamstring exercise: 3 sets Any exercise you want to do for fun 3-5 sets.
movement Planks, front, side, side, back start with 2x :30 then increase this 5 seconds each week Medball abs: 10 reps of , crunches, toe touches, v-ups, diagonal sit ups, spread eagle sit ups. Start with a 8-10lbs. ball and work up to three sets through Sit up to squat, sit ups, v-ups, windshield wipers, hand toe crunch, sit ups, feet wide sit ups, diagonal sit ups. Do 1 set of 10 on each then start over and try to collect three sets on each Physioball pikes on the ball, stir the pot each way, windshield wipers with ball between the legs, straight leg raises, crunches on the ball. Sets of 10 on each 3-4 times through.

 

So that is all. Let me know if you have any questions about how to set up this type of programming. I would also suggest that she does some type of cardio work 2-3 times per week for half an hour each time. It should be done at high enough of intensity that she can’t easily hold a conversation with another person while doing it. I also suggest that she runs hills at least once per week also, and since she is in Saint Louis that she does this at Art Hill in Forest Park. 10 total hills to start will be enough with running up and walking back down.

Protein powder recipes

To change up the pace a bit, this post are some simple recipes that I have made throughout the years with the help of my wife as a means to get in more protein in the diet while giving myself foods I enjoy. Take a look and give them a shot and see what you think.

Protein pudding

Take any flavor pudding you want and mix in vanilla or matched protein powder (chocolate flavored protein powder in chocolate pudding). Doing this with the instant and sugar free has been the method I have most used and be a nice little desert when you need to get in more protein and you have to watch how many calories you are taking in. Another option is vanilla pudding with orange flavored Metamucil and vanilla protein, this tastes like a dreamsicle, but can lead to a rough day the next day depending on how much fiber you add in. Also, I like to go with unflavored protein powder in more exotic pudding flavors like pistachio.

Banana ice cream with protein powder

Peel and then freeze inside of your blender 3 or more bananas which you start off by breaking in to small chunks. When you take it out of the freezer throw in any type of protein powder you want, but chocolate or peanut butter flavors are your best bet. You can add in more peanut butter if you want then blend this up in the blender and you now have banana ice cream with some chocolate flavor. This is far better than you would think, give it a try. Also, you can throw in some Splenda and an avocado or two if you want to make this have more fiber and some good fats (I feel so pretentious writing that sentence).

Goo balls

The final recipe I received from my friend Reko which is where you mix chocolate protein powder with peanut butter and then add in some honey or sweetener if you want. This is a great high calorie snack and you can transport easily with you. This can be good if you are heading out to go hiking or doing a long competition and want something simple to eat. Think about going one scoop of protein powder to every 3-4 tablespoons of peanut butter and mix this together by hand.

Hormesis

“Hormesis is a term used by toxicologists to refer to a biphasic dose response to an environmental agent characterized by a low dose stimulation or beneficial effect and a high dose inhibitory or toxic effect.”

Hormesis is an important concept when it comes to human health and performance. The big key is that somethings are great in small to moderate doses, but as soon as we get in too much of it, it then has a negative effect on the body. Think of it as it is the dose that makes the poison. You can die of water intoxication (but it takes a huge amount of water to do this) and moderate to high consumption of water improves our health.

There are a number of things where small doses can have lots of positive effects on the body. Good examples of this are the sun, heat, and cold. A little sun helps improve health through vitamin D production and a few other positive effects other than a tan. Get too much sun and you have a sunburn and an increased risk of cancer. A sauna helps with overall health from circulation to heat shock protein activation, lock yourself in one and you will dehydrate out and die of heat stroke. Taking a cold tub or cryo therapy can help with immune function, mood, and recovery. Too much cold exposure and you are talking hypothermia and freezing to death. Keep in mind that the dose makes the poison and something effect you far faster than others, but take some time to learn how certain things can help your health, but at what point does it start to work contrary to your goals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2248601/

Discretionary calories

This is a fun way to refer to calories that you can spend on whatever you want. Well, before we get to discretionary calories, we need to understand how many calories that you need in a given day.

BMR+TEF+Exercise(+NEAT)

Your total caloric demand each day is made up of four components. The first is your basal metabolic rate which is essentially a fancy way of saying how many calories you burn just maintaining your body temperature, having your heart beat, replacing dead cells (like skin cells) over the course of the day. For most people this is the majority of your caloric demand. Second, is your exercise caloric needs, this is straight forward with the amount of energy you expend when you are lifting weights, running, swimming, playing sports, etc. Third, we have the Thermic Effect of Food, which literally means the amount of calories that you burn to simple digest the foods you eat. Foods that are high in protein literally take more energy to digest and then simple processed foods (like pure sugar) are readily brought in to the body with very little energetic needs to break them down. Finally, we have Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, this is an interesting little addition since this is literally the energy that you expend by simply fidgeting. Things like tapping your toes, shaking your legs slightly when seated or playing with your pen in your fingers actually does burn some calories, albeit a very small amount.

With all of this combined we have the total calories used in one day. Now we have some options. We can ingest that same amount of calories from food (protein, carbs, fats, and alcohol) and this will keep us at the same body weight. We can take in less calories than this need and we will start to lose weight, finally, we can take in more calories than that amount and gain weight.  The rule of thumb here is to eat 250-500 calories above or below your daily need in order to have sustainable weight gain or weight loss. Then with those calorie needs we also require certain amounts of each macronutrient in order to reach our daily goals. For example in order to help maximize muscle gain (drug free) while in  a caloric surplus you need to be taking it at least 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you are trying to preserve muscle mass while calorically restricted that number can be as high as 2.5grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. When it comes to carbs we are typically looking at 70 grams just to keep our brain happy each day and then extra carbs for all of the exercise we are performing. Finally you are looking at .6 grams of fat per kilogram of body mass each day to just maintain normal hormonal performance and recovery from exercise.

Ok that was a lot, so here is a basic table to show you the same idea:

This is for someone who is trying to lose weight and is burning 3,500 calories per day so they set their intake at 3000 calories per day, they weigh 100 kg.

Calories needs Chang to total Calories remaining
Total Calories Needed per day 3000 Calories need 3000
250 grams of protein needed -1000 Calories 2000
60 grams of fat needed -540 Calories 1460
270 grams of carbs (70 base + 200 exercise) -1080 Calories 380
Discretionary calories   380

 

This is for someone trying to gain weight who is burning 3,000 calories per day so they need to take in 3,500 calories per day, they weigh 100kg

 

Calories needs Chang to total Calories remaining
Total Calories Needed per day 3500 Calories need 3500
150 grams of protein needed -600 Calories 2900
60 grams of fat needed -540 Calories 2360
270 grams of carbs (70 base + 200 exercise) -1080 Calories 1280
Discretionary calories   1280

 

Now we have the basic calorie needs per day and the basic macronutrient needs based on certain goals. The gap leftover between those two calories are our discretionary calories. We can essentially do whatever we want with these leftover calories. You want more carbs? Go for it. Want more fat? Have at it. Notice how the discretionary calorie number evaporates when someone is trying to lose weight, but boy howdy you can have some fun when you are trying to gain weight. If you have questions as to how to do this math and make it work for you please just leave a comment and thanks as always for reading.

Feast Vs. Graze

When it comes to eating and dieting a simple divide to look between is the difference between feasting and grazing. When it comes to eating strategies (simple systems you can set up), aim to feast and not to graze when trying to lose weight and vice versa. Why is this? Well let’s break down the two separate approaches:

Feasting

This is eating a large meal, once it is done you are effectively done eating until your next meal. This makes it easier to track calories and effectively fill up before you go out to work or what have you. Think like a lion or other predator that has one large meal after it has made its kill and then doesn’t eat for quite some time until the next kill. Animals that eat with this general strategy tend to be lean.

Grazing

This is snacking throughout the day. This can easily cause you to over eat without even realize that you are taking in too many calories since you don’t think about how one chip at a time gets you further from your goals. Cows are grazing animals and they tend not to be very lean (on farms which I know is an artificial environment). The reason I use farm animals as a reference is that is pretty much how we live, divorced from nature and living typically with an overabundance of calories at all times.

So when it comes to your daily intake aim to have large meals without snacking in between if you are looking to stay or get lean. Snacking is a great thing to do if you are looking to gain weight. Apply the eating strategy that works for you. Also, I know the animal references aren’t perfect since there are huge differences between us and other animals (humans suck as athletes in the animal kingdom at anything except ultra-long distances if you don’t factor in birds). Thanks as always for reading and have great day.

“There is nothing else to do”

What you meant to say is “there is nothing else I can do”. Going through my concussion recovery I have learned a number of things about neural plasticity and recovery. What I have also been painfully aware of is the quality of care in this area still needs to improve. Now this isn’t meant to throw people under the bus, but instead point out limitations of knowledge and what you can learn as one person and how you need to look at a variety of perspectives from different health care professionals.

One offer I had was for getting botox to deal with the headaches that I have every day since my concussion two years ago. Honestly, the pain is not that bad, but the solution given to me from an MD specialist in the area of concussion was mechanistically speaking, “let’s just put a band aid on it and not actually fix the problem”. This isn’t a judgement of their expertise and pain management is obviously a controversial topic (deservingly so) right now. However, I’m about fixing problems not treating symptoms with short term methods to improve them. Think about what is the mechanism and what can we do to help the body recover from a disease, illness, or injury that would fix the entire body. I’ve met people who have had far more severe traumatic brain injuries than I and went through expert after expert who all said there is nothing that can be done and eventually they found their solution, taking years or more in certain situations (the heads and tales podcast has a number of great recovery interviews if you need some inspiration).

Another issue is there thing else they can currently do. This can be due to technology and research is not there. At some point science will be able to regenerate or replace limbs with either organic methods or prosthetics that will be as good as the body’s original. Science is developing and improving, but it takes time and unfortunately it is still very much in the search for answers. Understand when you meet with professionals in any area, that no person can know everything. We are all fallible and so if one person doesn’t have any answers for you this doesn’t mean to stop searching for answers for yourself. Keep looking for your solutions and don’t give up.

Concussion Avoidance Protocol

Unfortunately at some point if you play a contact/combat sport your chance of getting a concussion is pretty high. Most people don’t realize that their greatest risk for a concussion is simply going to be when they are riding in a car with a seatbelt on. Some folks recover in a few days after a concussion others can take much longer. Just like any other injury to recover from the best way to recover from it, is to never get injured in the first place. With that in mind here are some basic things you can do in order to help yourself avoid a brain injury.

Get enough sleep

Any time you are sleep deprived your performance goes down and so does your recovery from hard training. What people also overlook, is this is when you brain can recover and make concrete the things that you learned that day. This helps you improve your technique faster and will then carryover to your sport by decrease your risk of getting injured by simply doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sleep also helps improve your reaction time and overall awareness. When you are sleep deprived you tend to be more sluggish and your reaction time decreases which can make the difference between suffering a blow to the head and dodging it.

Strengthen your neck

A stronger neck serves as a shock absorber for your head. By simply doing a little neck strengthening three times per week you can decrease your risk of concussion and suffering a serious neck injury. This is one of those “an ounce of prevention”n situations, but it can be hard to convince your athletes to do neck strengthening due to concerns about it getting bigger. If their goal is to play their sport and not get hurt they can deal with having a slightly larger neck for a little while.

Wear a mouth piece

Your jaw rattling your head when you take a blow to it can cause a concussion or cause a concussion to be more severe. Wearing a simple mouth piece can help with decreasing your risk and the damage you will take from a collision. Also if your sport allows for it, wearing appropriate headgear. Be careful since this equipment can give you a false sense of security, or make you likely to now use your head as a weapon (spearing in football) which undermines the entire goal here.

Practice good technique

Learning how to tackle correctly, perform high risks skills efficiently, and knowing how to minimize risk to yourself is key in any sport to enhance performance. How you practice is how you are going to play (or worse than how you practice). So by striving to perfect your high risk skills you will decrease your risk of injury and improve your play. Take the time to start off at slower speeds (if applicable) and then work your way up to full speed. Make sure that you are always practicing perfect technique so that when it comes time you can not only keep yourself safe, but do things correctly.

Take Fish Oil and Creatine

The two supplements that aren’t too expensive that I would advise anyone who risks their brain frequently to take is creatine and fish oil. Any form of creatine will do, you are looking to take in about 3-5 grams per day (monohydrate is the cheapest), every day (think about 50mg/kg of body weight). This taken chronically increases the creatine stores not only in your muscles, but also in your brain which can be used for energy when needed. As for fish oil, aim to be taking in about 1-2 grams of DHA per day. DHA is one type of fish oil that is an omega three fatty acid. The other two is EPA and DPA. You want to probably take in about 1-2 grams of EPA per day also. Now if you don’t do fish you will have to take your omega threes in the form of ALA, but the conversion of ALA into EPA then into DHA is not very efficient, so look for algae based supplements that give greater amounts of DHA. The line to think of here is what protein is for your muscles, fish oil is for your brain. Aim to take this every day and it can possibly have a positive effect on your inflammation levels and your cognitive functioning.

After suffering a number of concussions in my life with the last one being the worst I have had, I honestly hope no one has to go through what I have had to. These are simple things that you can do to decrease your risk, and sometimes stuff will happen regardless what you do, but we can at least try to control what we can. If reading this causes a few people to not get a concussion then it was worth it. Thanks for reading and please pass this along to anyone you know that plays any combat/contact sports.