- Maximal strength
- Strength endurance
These attributes are not simply limited to the muscles themselves. To fully develop the whole body needs be trained, including:
- Connective tissues: tendons, ligaments, fascia
- Neuromuscular recruitment
- Kinetic chain integration
- Skeletal strength and structural integrity
- Neuroendocrine response
Isolation exercises such as bicep curls or hamstring curls do not develop all these. The following main exercises and their variations all work to do so:
- Pull Ups
All these exercises require substantial muscle mass recruitment, involve numerous joints, require coordination and flexibility and have a pronounced neuroendocrine response. Furthermore they develop movement patterns that are similar to, or at least transferable to every day and sporting tasks.
How does it fit?
There is a structure in the process, even if it appears obscured when looking at my training template. Over the 2-4 week period leading into each race the main focus will start at Maximal Strength, progress to Strength Endurance/Workload Capacity to Power Development. Depending on the time line and what I believe I need to work on the most, the number of sessions devoted to each element will vary.
The reason for this approach is that not only does it allow for a comprehensive development of strength and power, but it should also enable appropriate fatigue management resulting in good quality race specific training, not to mention feeling fresh for races.
Lift heavy things to get strong. It is almost that simple. The lifts will be the so-called slow lifts, squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, pull ups. They will be performed with heavy loading usually in the repetition range of 1-6. Sometimes going for maximal possible lifts. The sets will be multiple, possibly 4-8 and with relatively long rests (2-5 minutes). This training often leaves me feeling heavy or slow for a couple of days. Best to keep it away from the few days before an important race.
One method I enjoy for this is what has been called the Shotgun Method. This involves selecting only three exercises and performing each one for 6-8 sets of 3-6 repetitions with 2-4 minutes rest. The three exercises will cover in each session a push movement, a pulling movement and leg movement. An example would be overhead press, bent-over row, squat or bench press, weight pull-up, deadlift.
Strength Endurance/Workload Capacity
Under this title there is the chance for a lot of variety. The approach can include a mixture of near-maximal strength work with minimal rest, high repetition lifts, extended sets or any combination. The key challenge should be on the ability to sustain a given workload over a relatively extended time frame. These sessions hurt. They often have me sore for one or two days following.
Olympic lifts. Moving moderate to heavy weights quickly. That's it. The exercises will focus on snatch, cleans and the explosive presses such as push press or jerks. The faster and more aggressive a load can be moved the better. The rest breaks should be ample. The repetitions will usually be only 1-3, but for many sets. The number of exercises chosen at each session will be small. Only 1-3.
Power training usually has me feeling like I cannot perform the session again the same day, but just doesn't result in any ongoing pain. In fact, I usually feel energised for the next couple of days. Furthermore, my running often feels easier. Good in the week prior to an important race, if I plan on training through. Which is what I am looking to do for some time.
On other training days, I will continue to develop technique as part of warm ups or as supplementary to the main focus of the day. In the past few years I have found that attention to strength and power seems to help me avoid injury. Hopefully it will also add directly to my racing performance. Of probably greater importance, is I believe it will improve my abilities to function physically in life. My work involves lifting and manual handling of various soughts. My near-future life as parent will also likely demand functional strength. To borrow a Crossfit phrase:
Train to not suck at life