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Programming | Evolutionary Athletics

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  • John Heinz 9:00 am on June 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Easy Strength Is Antifragility Training 

    “Everything in excess is opposed to nature”—Hippocrates

    Perhaps you, the reader, are familiar with Easy Strength by Pavel and Dan John, but you are probably not so familiar with the book Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Even if both these books are unknown to you, don’t fear and keep reading—I am about to explain what a strength training book and an economics book have in common.

    Though not immediately self-evident, the authors’ hypotheses should be important to you whether you are a coach, trainer, teacher, or athlete. In both books, the reader is presented with commensurate philosophies, and hopefully, by the end of this article (if I have done my job) you will find a beneficial paradigm to apply to your program design.

    First, What Is “Easy Strength”?

    In their book, Pavel and Dan John demonstrate with anecdotal and scientific examples that there is more than a “one size fits all” approach to strength training. More specifically, depending on the kind of athlete and where they are in their life-cycle, there should be different intentions in their programming. A novice athlete would not train in the same fashion as a professional athlete.

    Antifragile Kettlebell Swing

    To give you an example of what Easy Strength does not espouse, let me use my daughter’s experience as a novice javelin thrower for her high school (Go Pirates!). Her throwing coach has her in the weight room four to five days per week, after several hours of daily field training. I will not sadden you with details, but it suffices to say that every lift (and there are a lot of them, including deadlift and hanging cleans without much hands-on instruction) is to be performed in the 3 sets of 10-12 rep range.

    The programming couldn’t even be considered GPP, never mind that it is being done in season, not during the off-season. It is more of a bodybuilding split routine, and regardless of the skill of the athlete, they are supposed to use the same programming. Therefore, a freshman/novice thrower, like my daughter, is following the same programming as the senior/advanced thrower. Do you think the needs of both athletes are the same? I would suggest not.

    I know the above example is anecdote, but I have talked with handfuls of SFG leadership and instructors, and they too have had similar experiences with their children. This is not to be a polemic on the state of high school athletics, but to offer an example you might also be familiar with. Therefore, to return to the example of my daughter’s experience, the weight room training she receives in no way relates to Easy Strength. In fact, it could be considered the exact opposite due to the volume and number of lifts. As will become clearer later on, the Easy Strength approach provides a philosophical and literal template for strength training that allows you to more mindfully develop an athlete’s strength attributes over his or her life-cycle/career.

    Second, What Is “Antifragile”?

    AntifragileTo quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

    [A]ntifragility is defined as a convex response to a stressor or source of harm (for some range of variation), leading to a positive sensitivity to increase in volatility (or variability, stress, dispersion of outcomes, or uncertainty, what is grouped under the designation “disorder cluster”).

    Or more simply, for our purposes: that which gains from stress.

    It is also helpful to define what antifragility is not. Obviously, it is the opposite of fragility. But it is not resilience or robustness. These qualities are beneficial, but inherently do not increase their own qualities when subjected to stress. Examples of resilience or robustness might be bamboo or a thick stone wall. An example of something antifragile might be your femur.

    If your bone breaks, it should knit back together and become stronger at the fracture line. Likewise, this is why weight training is recommended to help decrease the risk of osteoporosis; the incurred stress of lifting weight can help to increase bone density. But if a stone wall is pushed, eventually it will fail and collapse. I have a friend who works on demolitions who saw a 200-year-old, thirty-foot-high stone barn gable end flex over two feet from center and back to plumb, before it gave way—talk about resilient! But not particularly antifragile given that the stress of breaking does not gain that gable anything, whereas our bone can become stronger.

    Easy Strength Is Antifragility Training

    The concept of antifragility can be applied to almost anything. Indeed, Taleb, as a Professor of Risk Engineering, has primarily applied this to the economic realm, though not exclusively. So what does this have to do with Easy Strength? My contention is that the methodology in Easy Strength is inherently an application of the antifragile concept to strength training.

    I am a simple person and a visual learner. I like images. Therefore, I found a diagram on page three in Pavel and Dan’s book to be helpful. It is the premise of the whole first chapter, that is to say, the quadrant. The Y axis represents the relative absolute quality of maximum (meaning, how good you are at something) and the X axis represents the number of qualities (meaning, how many things you are good at). Pavel and Dan’s hypothesis was that most of us should be “living” in ESQ3 for a majority of our training.

    Easy Strength Is Antifragility Training

    Again, I like diagrams. So, in Antifragile (which contains a lot of words and not many pictures), I was pleased to find another quadrant. It is found in the appendix section on page 437. To simplify Taleb’s quadrant, we can represent the Y axis as exposure to risk and the X axis as potential gain.

    Easy Strength Is Antifragility Training

    So as you can easily surmise from Taleb’s quadrant, in general you should seek to maximize gain and minimize risk, that is to say, “live” in AFQ3.

    Two pretty graphs do not an argument make. Likewise, these quadrants do not perfectly overlay one another. That said, you can (and I do) make the argument there is a general correlation between them.

    ESQ1 and AFQ1

    I would argue Easy Strength’s Q1 is similar to Taleb’s Q1, low levels of risk and gain, but beneficial. Remember, in ESQ1 we are developing the potential athlete, learning a whole host of movements but there is not any great skill.

    In my mind, this relates to Taleb’s flaneur, traditionally defined as a lounger or idler. The flaneur in the antifragile context is someone purposefully experiencing a whole host of different things, developing a palate, as it were, and intentionally not specializing in anything. In the AFQ1 quadrant, being exposed to multiple and varied experiences sets the stage for developing antifragility. Likewise, training in ESQ1 prepares the athlete for more rigorous and specialized training, in the future.

    ESQ2 and AFQ4

    ESQ2 would relate to Taleb’s AFQ4 in that the rewards and risks are increased. In ESQ2, we are developing many qualities (speed, power, and explosiveness in multiple skills, etc.) and high levels of their maximums. This works for a period of time, but is inherently unsustainable over the long run.

    Professional athletes such as football players have careers that span maybe two decades. Certainly, active professional athletes, especially in collision sports, near the forty-year-old mark are an outlier. Similarly, with AFQ4 there are potentials for large positive outcomes, but it is the potential for large negative ones that make it unsustainable and hence tends more toward fragility.

    Football is not for longevity

    ESQ4 and AFQ2

    ESQ4, the rare air of having few qualities but of a very high level of maximum correlates to AFQ2, having a large improbable downside and small upside. Think of this as it relates to powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or girevoy sport. The lifts themselves become the goal in competition, so maximum volume or tonnage determines the event winner. Reaching sub-five seconds in the forty-yard dash is not relevant to a professional heavyweight powerlifter, or for many other people for that matter. Likewise, these technical lifts themselves may become heavily specialized. Too, performing a max attempt, by definition, contains a greater degree of risk.

    That said, I must reiterate there is nothing inherently “wrong” or “bad” about any of this. The quadrant is not a moral judge; it just offers insight into potential outcomes. Any time you heavily specialize, other non-relative skills have to be put to the side.

    ESQ3 and AFQ3

    Lastly, we come to ESQ3, the developing of fewer qualities at low or moderate levels of relative maximum. This in my mind, correlates to AFQ3—a large upside with small downside.

    If you read Easy Strength pages 33-38, there are listed eight strength attributes. These attributes are generally and specifically beneficial to anyone, an athlete or desk jockey. To be proficient in these attributes does not require massive specialization, hundreds of different lifts, tons of equipment, or tens of hours per week in the gym (large upside). Overtraining and risk of injury are decreased (small downside). Likewise, achieving them with an Easy Strength approach does not leave you mentally or physically spent. You have the energy and/or ability to pursue other skills if desired, allowing for a more balanced athletic development. This methodology then, tends toward antifragility.

    Train Kettlebells for Antifragility

    So for ESQ3, let us coin a “new” term for now—antifragile training. I think longevity is a part of it. Not just longevity as it pertains to overall lifespan, but to the athlete in their given sport or the continued quality of a person’s physical actions. That said, maintaining and then increasing our strength (becoming more robust) over the long run is not an original idea. Sports periodization, with its macro, meso, and micro cycles, is a part of this. Outside of our Easy Strength system, Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 comes to mind.

    This antifragile training concept applies to you and me, but it is important to note these quadrants are not mutually exclusive all the time. They are sort of like fractals, being self-similar across different scales. Remember, our overall philosophy in training is to tend toward antifragility. Therefore, we should always start from ESQ3. For example, as a non-professional athlete, perhaps I have a certain skill I want to get better at, e.g. I want to improve my deadlift for the TSC (don’t we all?). I can focus on that goal and move into a heavily specialized series of mesocycles. Meanwhile, using ES tenets as my baseline, I can maintain and/or improve my lifting in my squat and bench without detracting from my short-term goal. Therefore, “living” in ESQ3 does not preclude me from visiting other quadrants.

    The Application of This to Your Training

    In this article I have made several assumptions: that the Easy Strength principles are a beneficial and practical way to increase strength, and that antifragility is a desirable outcome. That said, based on the comparison of the quadrants between the two books, it seems the practice of developing moderate levels of relative maximum strength with fewer qualities contains large upsides and small downsides.

    Therefore, when planning out your next three or six months of training for reaching whatever goal you have set, perform an analysis of your training template, not solely based on the outcome of any one lifting event, but on whether or not your whole plan tends toward you becoming more or less fragile.

    What quadrant are you spending most of your time in? You are investing in your body and your health. Short-term exposure to high risk/high reward can be profitable, but over the long term probably not so much. Only you are accountable for the choices you make so do your own cost/benefit analysis.

    John Heinz StrongFirstJohn Heinz, Senior SFG, FMS, has been teaching with kettlebells since 2003. He has had the good fortune to teach people from all walks of life, from youth to the elderly, amateur to professional athletes, LEO to Tier One. He runs weekly group classes and privates out of his barn: usually with kettlebells, sometimes throwing hay bales.

    John has studied various martial arts over three decades, Tae Kwon Do in his youth, Shotokan (on his college team), Shim Gum Do, and most recently, Machado BJJ.

    John is also has worked as a blacksmith and bladesmith since 1992 and farming and raising goats for cheese making over the last decade. He may be contacted at dosoo@epix.net. If you are in interested in cutting tools, please visit www.herugrim.com.

    The post Easy Strength Is Antifragility Training appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Fabio Zonin 9:00 am on June 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The 1TRM EV PS Program: Escalating Volume in the Plan Strong Style 

    By Fabio Zonin, Master SFG, SFB, and SFL

    Note: In my last article, How to Intelligently Define, Determine, and Test Your 1RM, I promised to follow up with a more advanced variation of The 5TRM Back Squat Program, based on the 1TRM and with a volume progression that recalls that of the Plan Strong methodology. Well, here it is.

    Considerations Before You Begin The 1TRM EV PS Program

    Although it has been designed for the back squat, the following program is suitable to most of the squat and press variations (front squat, Zercher squat, barbell military press, bench press). You can also use it for pull-ups, as long as your 75%1TRM is equal to or more than your bodyweight.

    StrongFirst Back Squat

    With regards to the kettlebell military press, this program is suitable if you have at your disposal kettlebells of sizes that match 75%1TRM±5%, 85%1TRM± 5%, and, of course, your 1TRM. For instance, let’s say your 1TRM in the military press is 36kg. You will need a 28kg, 32kg, and 36kg. 28kg equates to 79%1TRM and 32kg to 89%1TRM. When the program calls for a set with 75%1TRM, you will use the 28kg bell, and when it calls for sets with 85%1TRM and 90%1TRM, you will use the 32kg bell. Finally, when the program calls for a set with 95%1TRM, you will use a 36kg bell.

    Deadlifts are usually trained with lower volume and a lower number of sessions per week compared to those prescribed by this program. I will therefore suggest you apply this plan to your deadlift only if you are used to training it three times a week and with a monthly volume of at least 180-220NL. (“NL” means “number of lifts.”)

    In order to begin the plan, you need to know your 1TRM on the lift you are targeting and calculate its 75%, 85%, 90%, and 95%. Once you’ve done that, you are ready to go.

    The 1TRM EV PS Program: Overview and Analysis

    Now that all the guidelines have been laid out, it’s time to take a look at the program.

    1TRM EV PS Program

    First of all, let’s analyze the parameter volume (NL or “number of lifts.”) and its progression.

    Weekly Volume Trend

    If you take a look at the weekly NL column in Table #1, you will see the volume gradually increases for the first three weeks, and drops on week 4. It increases again on weeks 5 and 6, and then gradually decreases in weeks 7 and 8. So the volume peaks on week 6 and tapers on the following weeks, as you approach the new 1RM test on week 9.

    Note that on week 9 you will test you 1RM, not your 1TRM (please refer to my classification of PR, 1RM, and 1TRM in my article How to Intelligently Define, Determine, and Test Your 1RM).

    Monthly Volume Trend

    The total monthly volume is 200NL (30+56+70+44) in month one (weeks 1-4) and 240NL (67+84+53+36) in month two (weeks 5-8). So the volume increases by 20% from month one to month two.

    The Relationship Between Weekly and Monthly Volumes

    Month 1:

    • On week 1, the NL is 15% of the total volume (15% of 200 = 30)
    • On week 2, the NL is 28% of the total volume (28% of 200 = 56)
    • On week 3, the NL is 35% of the total volume (35% of 200 = 70)
    • On week 4, the NL is 22% of the total volume (22% of 200 = 44)

    Month 2:

    • On week 5, the NL is roughly 28% of the total volume (28% of 240 ≅ 67)
    • On week 6, the NL is 35% of the total volume (35% of 240 = 84)
    • On week 7, the NL is roughly 22% of the total volume (22% of 240 ≅ 53)
    • On week 8, the NL is 15% of the total volume (15% of 240 = 36)

    In looking at the above, a couple of things should stick out to you:

    • The volume, whether it is increasing or decreasing, changes by at least 20% from week to week.
    • The weekly percentages of total volume are recurrent in both months, although they occur in a different order: 15%, 22%, 28%, 35%.

    The 4 “Magic Numbers” and the Volume Variants

    15, 22, 28, and 35 are “magic numbers” that are used in several different combinations and are a staple of many winning Soviet strength programs. They are used to ensure one of the main components in the effectiveness of these Soviet programs: variability.

    No matter in which order these four numbers are aligned, there’s always a difference of at least 20% between adjacent numbers. Therefore, when used to calculate the weekly share of the monthly volume, they guarantee a volume variability of at least 20% from week to week.

    The different combinations of these numbers are called variants. There are 24 possible variants, even if only sixteen are generally used for waving volume. If you want to learn more about the four magic numbers, volume variants, and how both are used in Soviet strength programming, the best way to do so is to attend a Plan Strong Seminar with Pavel.

    Waving Volume: A Cornerstone of Soviet Strength Programs

    Most Western strength programs are characterized by a linear progression of volume and intensity, and these parameters are usually tied together by an inverse relationship. This means, Western programs typically start with a fairly high volume and low intensity, and progress through a decrease of volume accompanied by an increase of intensity. For example, an athlete one week does a total of 25NL with 75%1RM and the following week does 10NL with 80%1RM.

    One of the key differences between Western and Soviet programs is that the inverse relationship between volume and intensity doesn’t happen in the Soviet programs. In fact, in Soviet programs, the average intensity generally fluctuates around 70%1RM±3% of 1RM throughout the entire cycle. This doesn’t mean heavy lifts are never prescribed, but simply that most of the lifts are performed in the 65-85%1RM range. When heavy lifts (>90%1RM) are planned, they don’t necessarily have an obvious relationship to the change in volume. Sometimes the volume drops down when intensity goes up, and sometimes it does the opposite.

    Another key difference between the two methodologies is that in Soviet programs the change in volume is not linear, but waves from week to week. This is because Soviet scientists discovered that waving both volume and intensity leads to better recovery and greater strength gains. In Soviet cycles, the difference in the NL between two adjacent weeks is usually ≥20%, and here is where the previously mentioned four magic numbers come into play.

    To discover more about this topic, I suggest that you read this excellent article by Craig Marker, SFG II, SFL, SFB, and COO of StrongFirst.

    StrongFirst Bench Press

    Change in Volume Within a Week

    The weekly volume is divided among three training sessions:

    • Day #1 is the medium volume day, and accounts for roughly 33% of the weekly NL (e.g. on day #1 of week 1 NL=10, which is ≈33% of NL=30)
    • Day #2 is the low volume day, and accounts for roughly 25% of the weekly NL (e.g. on day #2 of week 1 NL=7, which is ≈25% of NL=30)
    • Day #3 is the high volume day, and accounts for roughly 42% of the weekly NL (e.g. on day #1 of week 1 NL=13, which is ≈42% of NL=30)

    As it was with the four magic numbers and the volume variability from week to week, the above percentages ensure there is enough variability of volume among the sessions within a week. Remember: volume variability is one of the keys to the success of the Soviet strength programming methodology.

    Breakdown of Session Volume Into Sets and Reps

    In the tables below you’ll find the breakdown of the program into weeks, sessions, sets, and reps. Once you know your training weights, you can use the tables as your training journal. To do so, just perform the number of reps prescribed in the cells related to the week and session at which you are, and then mark them as done. Easy!

    As it was in the 5TRM Back Squat Program, the daily NL is broken down into rep ladders of 2, 3, and 5 reps. For instance, if the daily NL is 10, it is broken down into the following three sets: 2, 3, 5. If the daily NL cannot be reached with the 2, 3, 5 rep ladder scheme, the number of reps of the last set(s) will vary from 2 to 5 in order to total the planned NL. For example, on week 2-day 1 of the chart below, the NL is 18, so it is broken up into the following six sets: 2, 3, 5, 2, 3, 3.

    All sets are to be executed with 75%1TRM, except on low volume days, where some singles with a heavier weight (85%-95%1TRM) are inserted between sets of the rep ladder. This means that on day #2 of any week, whenever you encounter the instructions 1@85%, 1@90%, or 1@95%, you will perform, respectively, a single with 85%, 90%, or 95% of 1TRM.

    1TRM EV PS Program Day 11TRM EV PS Program Day 21TRM EV PS Program Day 3

    What to Do on Week 9

    Practice only twice, let’s say Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday.

    • Day #1: Perform 3 sets of 3 reps with 75%1TRM. Rest at least three minutes between sets.
    • Day #2: Perform 3 reps with 75%1TRM. Then a single with 85%1TRM. Then a single with 95%1TRM. Rest at least three minutes between each set. After the single with 95%1TRM rest for at least five minutes, and then test your 1RM.

    The Results from Athletes Who Have Completed This Program

    • Arianna Zaccagnini, SFG II, Iron Maiden, added 11kg to her back squat, taking it from 94 to 105kg, for an increase of over 12%.
    • Matteo Brunetti, SFG II, added 12.5kg to his back squat, taking it from 160 to 172.5kg (+8%) and added 10kg to his bench press, going from 100 to 110kg (+10%).
    • Serena Fabi, SFG I, was able to perform two reps of kettlebell military press with a 24kg bell, which was her previous PR.

    I look forward to reading about your results!

    Fabio Zonin StrongFirstFabio Zonin is a Master SFG, SFB, and SFL. He is a former powerlifter, natural bodybuilder, and owner of fitness centers. He was the first Italian to accomplish the Beast Tamer Challenge and has been a Master Teacher for FIF (Italian Federation of Fitness) for almost two decades (1994-2012). He is also the Ground Force Method National Director for Italy.

    He is the Former vice president of the AINBB (Italian Association of Natural Bodybuilding), and has trained many athletes at national and international level in natural bodybuilding, powerlifting and other sports.

    He has authored numerous articles for Italian popular magazines and websites dedicated to fitness, bodybuilding, and strength training, and has worked with to leading Italian companies in the field of sports equipment, body composition evaluation software, and nutritional supplements.

    The post The 1TRM EV PS Program: Escalating Volume in the Plan Strong Style appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • John Spezzano 10:00 am on May 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Use “Time Under Load” to Solve the Group Class Time Crunch 


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