Thursday, December 6, 2012

It Depends...

Over the past five years, I have studied anything and everything that I could possibly get my hands on that related to human performance.

This includes a ton of different media forms: books, articles  journals  programs, binders, eBooks  manuals, DVDs, YouTube videos, .mp3s, and so forth.

I'd venture to say that the amount of media I've reviewed is well near 4000 hours (a little over two hours per day, every day, for the past five years) which means I've had a substantial amount of exposure to all things encompassed by human performance.

If there is ONE, single thing that I believe has transcended every distinct part of human performance (i.e. physiology, kinesiology, neurology, nutrition, physical therapy, athletic training, strength training, speed training, psychology, and anything else that is a specific discipline in its self) is the statement, "It depends".

I'll do my best to succinctly explain myself.

Every time I go and talk with my good friend Brian Raneri we begin to ramble about specific situations that we've dealt with from the college, high school, bodybuilder, powerlifter, general fitness, elderly, adolescent  etc. populations; usually as we explain the experience we had, being that we are genuinely interested in what the other did, we ask "Well what would you do in this situation?".

In our most recent conversation, Brian was asking me about the training I was planning for the college I work at, he was curious about what the specifics would be and wanted my thought process would be.

I responded, "It depends..."

How I know I'm not completely off the mark is the fact that in an interview with world renowned biomechanist, Vladimir Zatsiorsky, he states after being asked a very general question, "It depends... It depends on the sport".

You see, there are SO MANY different, dynamics to take into account when you begin to plan out a training plan for all athletes (or humans), regardless of sport (or occupation, background, etc.). The situation will always dictate how you address the desired outcome.

From what I've learned and gathered over the past five years is that there are few and I mean VERY FEW absolutes and TRUE principles when it comes human performance.

Nothing is truly black and white?

I'd like to expand upon what I BELIEVE (not what definitely are) to be those absolutes, but that will come in a later post.

Here is a brief list of what I believe to be absolutes for all things encompassed in Human Performance:
-Biomotor abilities
-Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands
-Dynamic Correspondence
-General Adaptation Syndrome (modified for sport and real life situations)
-Persistence, Consistence, Success
-Hard work
-Fuzzy logic (I might start calling this the "It Depends clause")

Notice that I don't mention any specific mean or exercise (power cleans, squats, push ups, etc.), method (Olympic lifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, etc.), or methodology.

"Many roads lead to Rome..."

There is no doubt in my mind that a path to success for human performance can be guided by a mixture between the following two quotes:

"The end justifies the means"

"The process is more important than the result"

Which quote describes your path?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Training Methodologies?

Here are some of my thoughts about the use of “Block” methodology (this includes Issurin’s Accumulation, Transmutation, Realization model, Bondurachuk’s GPE, SPE, SDE and CE Exercise Taxonomy model and Verkhoshansky’s Conjugate Sequencing System or Block Training System) and why Charlie Francis’s model is much easier to implement with team sports and non-high/elite level athletes:

Verkhoshansky Presenting his Block model
First, I must point out that the term “block” is merely synonymous with mesocycle, phase, etc. and is merely just a period of time in training; usually 2-5 weeks.  Vladimir Issurin has block defined as (I’m paraphrasing) “a period of time with concentrated loading focusing on a limited amount of abilities” but again, using the term “block” in most context is purely semantics as it lacks the key elements elucidated below (I’m guilty of this).

Issurin's Block Periodization Model
What’s interesting about comparing all of the individuals mentioned above models is that they all have a few key and similar elements:

-concentrated loading in the form of very high volume & intensity for one mean in one session (ergo Verkhoshansky’s 8x10 (2) barbell jump squats) or multiple sessions (workouts) in one day (ergo Bondurachuk and Issurin’s model using 10-15 sessions per week)
-emphasis on a limited amount of bio-motor/energetic/dynamic abilities
-logical sequencing/progression of means (exercises)
-high ratio of special exercises (using specific criteria/taxonomy)
-use with high/elite athletes

The elements above each pose a problem for use in the team sport setting along with those athletes that are not at the highest level of their sport and cannot sustain the stress that is placed on them by the demands of the methodology.

-Concentrated loads are not necessary for developing lower level athletes and they get by with normal loading schemes in terms of the interplay of volume, intensity, frequency and density
-Team sports require a VAST array of bio-motor/energetic/dynamic abilities
-logical sequencing/progression of means (exercises) is the only element that crosses over from the block methodology to Charlie Francis’s model
-they do not need special exercises in as high amount as a higher level athlete to improve because they have not mastered basic exercises

Example of Anatoli Bondurachuk's Block Model

Now what’s great about Charlie Francis’s Vertical Integration Model (which is based on a business model if I’m not mistaken?) is that you can manipulate all of the training variables from top to bottom using:

1. Bioenergetics/Biodynamics/Biomotor abilities
2. Intensity
3. Volume
4. Density
5. Frequency
6. Method 
7. Mean (exercise) 

And then finally, manipulate them to suit A) the sport and B) the individual.  

A key note is to look at the interplay of all these variables as they can be manipulated to achieve many different objectives (i.e. Depth Jumps can develop maximal strength (>.7m) and reactive strength (<.3m), Back Squats can be used to improve oxidative properties (<30% 1RM, 2 sec. concentric and eccentric, no hypoxia, 40 sec. work, 60 sec. rest) or for the development of explosive strength (30-70% of 1RM, <5 reps, 3-5 minute rest period)

The way programming should be done is based on sporting demands first and then all the intricacies that make an individual athlete (or team) unique.

Charlie Francis’ model fits much better for an overall methodology as it is quasi-block and you are able to manipulate training variables more objectively to fit a concentrated sequenced structure (used for high level athletes) or use it in a concurrent structure (appropriate for lower level athletes) without causing any “lost in translation” to your athletes or other coaches.

Basic example of Vertical Integration
What Buddy Morris said about vertical integration mimics my sentiments exactly, it is quasi-block in that you emphasis (notice that word again) different biodynamic needs, bioenergetics, bio-motor abilities and then fluctuate volume, intensity, density, frequency, methods and means.

Vertical integration is by far the easiest model for programming to implement with team sports because of:

1. Varying abilities of athletes
2. Conflicting bioenergetic demands
3. Many biodynamic considerations
4. Many bio-motor abilities needed
5. Limited time for athletes (due to work, school, governing body guidelines, etc.)
6. Logistics of equipment, facilities, staff, etc.

Using Vertical Integration allows for much more adjustment to the individual(s); manipulating all acute training variables becomes much more simple with this model. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Increasing Biological Output: Part 2

In my last post, I put forward my theoretical thoughts on how an ex-athlete who wants all things that are encompassed by being an athlete (lean, strong, powerful, fast, etc.) without training for any particular sport (football, basketball, track & field, etc.) or with any specific means that are typically used in training (Olympic lifting, powerlifitng, bodybuilding, etc.). 

Lets revisit the desired adaptations that make up the abilities that all athletes desire (Strength, Power, Speed, Stamina, and Endurance).

-Increase in total amount of creatine phosphate 
-Larger number of mitochondria in the cells (and increase in size via hyperplasia)
-Faster splitting of ATP into creatine phosphate and inorganic phosphate 
-High oxidative capacity of both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers 
-Hypertrophy of muscle fibers and immune cells
-Parasympathetic dominant autonomic nervous system
-Faster neural drive from the CNS 

When training to induce these adaptations, you simply do a specific type of activity within specific parameters of various metrics (i.e. intensity, duration, rate of work, etc.) that will elicit the desired adaptation.

Below is an incomplete explanation of how each of these adaptations are achieved. 

-Increase in total amount of creatine phosphate 
  • In order to increase the total amount of creatine phosphate stored in the cells, the intensity of work and mean must be "high" (i.e. sprints, jumps, weights), the duration must be alactic (<10 seconds), the rest period is incomplete (10-60 seconds depending on the interplay of all other variables) and the total amount of work must be substantial relative to the athlete (yourself). 
-Larger number of mitochondria in the cells (and increase in size via hyperplasia)
  • This is by far the simplest adaptation to elicit; any sort of "aerobic" activity will increase both the size and total amount of mitochondria in the cell.  The intensity of work and mean is low to medium (walking, jogging, skipping, abdominals, calisthenics, etc.), the duration is more extensive (usually 20-60+ seconds), the rest period can short or there can be a series of exercises in a circuit, or if the intensity is low enough, the activity can be done continuously. 
-Faster splitting of ATP into creatine phosphate and inorganic phosphate 
  • When speaking of this adaptation, you are simply trying to maximize output in the alactic regime. Thus, the intensity and mean is very high, the duration of work is in the alactic regime, rest periods must allow complete recovery (which again is dependent on the interplay of all acute variables and depending on the individual usually 3-5 minutes, however). 
-High oxidative capacity of both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers 
  • This adaptation is a hybrid, in that it is brought upon by performing various activities in both the alactic and aerobic regimes.
-Hypertrophy of muscle fibers and immune cells
  • These adaptations are again resultant from physical activity (mainly with the immune cells); hypertrophy of muscle fibers can be induced by simply "overloading" a muscle, this is done by typical "bodybuilding" type work
-Parasympathetic dominant autonomic nervous system
  • Again, this adaptation is more of a result of increasing your physical activity, especially in aerobic work.  This adaptation is key in that it allows you to recover faster within a workout (in terms of between sets, exercises, etc.) and between workouts.
-Faster neural drive from the CNS 
  • Similar to the increase in ATP splitting, improving the working ability of the CNS is done by using means of high intensity, for short duration, with complete rest periods.  Again, this adaptation is usually a result of proper exercise progression, rather than a goal itself.
Now that all the boring adaptations have been explained, I'll now give practical examples of how I induce all of these adaptations in my own training.

My typical workout will look something along the lines of the following:

Active/Dynamic Warm-Up

Heart Rate/Circulation Increase
-I will use any sort of low intensity mean such as walking, skipping, jogging, abdominals (200-300 reps), medicine ball throws (6-8 pounds), etc. in order to raise my heart rate and induce several other acute effects physiologically 

-Any sort of basic joint circle, swing or any other anatomical movement, working from low amplitude (range of motion) to high amplitude and from the top to the bottom of the body.

Dynamic Stretches
-These are any sort of calisthenic while walking 

Power-Speed Drills
-The classic A, B & C drills from Gerard Mach and Charlie Francis 

-During this time, I target any specific weakness or imbalance I have (i.e. markedly weaker left side)

My warm-up usually lasts 10-15 minutes and is done in a continuous fashion; I do it ritualistically and simply change the different exercises I use (for novelty purposes to break up monotony) but always in the same sequence.  All of this work takes care of several of the most important adaptations (parasympathetic dominance, mitochondria number/size and oxidative capacity).

Resistance Training

After my warm-up is complete I move on to resistance training.  At this point in my training process, I am in somewhat of  realization phase where I do some sort of max effort work in at least one exercise every 72 hours.

I have relied upon special exercises of the squat, bench press, and deadlift; I rotate through 3-4 exercises for each category and pair them in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary.  This allows emphasis on the most important or largest output exercises (for me the three classical lifts).

These primary exercises have gone the normal block loading scheme of Accumulation, Intensification and now Realization, using Prilepin's Chart for the total volume.

My accessory work in targeted at the muscles I want to increase in size and are done for a total volume or in a simple bodybuilding scheme of 3-5x8-12.

What sets my training apart from others is what I do and have done in-between my sets.  I always do some sort of activity in between sets; whether it is a box jump, medicine ball throw, low intensity abdominals, rehab/prehab exercises, skipping, relaxation exercises, mobility work, etc.  This has allowed me to raise my work capacity immensely  by increasing the density of the workouts and increasing the total load without having to take out any extra real time from my week. 

This training has resulted in many all time personal records.

Resistance training induces several of the desired adaptations, including: These include: Increase in total amount of creatine phosphate, Faster splitting of ATP into creatine phosphate and inorganic phosphate, Hypertrophy of muscle fibers and immune cells and Faster neural drive from the CNS. 

Besides increasing my biological output, the training set-up I have been using has resulted in the improvement of some nagging structural problems.

What I want to make a point out of, is that I worked up to this point in my training since late August.  I used a methodical progression from simple, extensive means, to more complex, intensive means.  Using vertical integration has been the easiest way to manipulate all of the training variables which I outline in a post here.

When you look at the training process as an ever evolving entity, set out with a plan, and adjust when needed, there is no doubt in my mind that you can and will achieve your goals. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Increasing Biological Output

Ever since my competitive career (NCAA American Football) ended in November of 2011, I have been searching for some sort of methodology and means of training that will fit my into my life, around school, work, family, friends and will help me achieve goals, keep me lean and at a high level of preparedness and fitness.

Basically I wanted to continue to be an athlete, without training for anything specific.

What I've discovered through my study and experimentation with my own training program, is that overall goals of the training process should be to increase biological output.

What increasing biological output comes down to is simply improving the working ability of your body's systems as a whole (ergo organism). 

This-as I've come to realize from the readings of Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, Charlie Francis & Mel Siff, along with seeing the practical examples from coaches such as James Smith, Buddy Morris & Mark McLaughlin-can be done in MANY, MANY different ways.

You do not have to squat, bench press, deadlift, do the Olympic lifts, or any other specific exercise (mean) in order to increase your biological output.  What you must do in order to increase biological output is to perform physical activity, in specific parameters, that will elicit specific biochemical, morphological and physiological adaptations.

These include:
-Increase in total amount of creatine phosphate 
-Larger number of mitochondria in the cells (and increase in size via hyperplasia)
-Faster splitting of ATP into creatine phosphate and inorganic phosphate 
-High oxidative capacity of both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers 
-Hypertrophy of muscle fibers and immune cells
-Parasympathetic dominant autonomic nervous system
-Faster neural drive from the CNS 

This is an incomplete list of the desired general adaptations for an organism (athlete).

When you have no TRUE goals or objectives in your training because you have no governing sporting rules (or personal goals) that require specific adaptations, your only goal should be to increase your biological output.

For instance, I have no desire to compete in powerlifitng, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, CrossFit, or play any team or individual sport now that I am no longer competing in American Football; however, I want to be strong, fast, powerful, have great stamina (work capacity) and endurance, that is why I turn to biology in order to govern my training process.

YouTube Channels

I currently update two YouTube channels quite frequently.

One is for the team at Waynesburg University in which I post different videos of the football players training.

The other channel is my own personal account in which I post my own training; mainly for keeping track of my PR's in all of the different exercises I perform.


My name is Ryan Williams.

I am currently a physical preparation coach at Waynesburg University for the American Football team.

Over the past four years I studied Exercise Science and Biology at Waynesburg University; I also played football and assisted with the strength and conditioning department during my spare time.

This blog is going to do be dedicated as a platform for me to synthesize my thoughts on everything pertaining to physical preparation for all sports, sports training, sports psychology, nutrtion, philosophy, and anything else I find interesting along with a log for my own personal training as I still actively train consistently with different goals for strength and aesthetics.

All of the opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, they do not reflect the opinion of any institution or company.