Top 5 YouTube Channels to Keep You Motivated

Let’s face it, we are in an exciting digital age where just about anyone with a camera and wifi can produce content for the masses. In this ever expanding virtual landscape, many platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have become very popular, especially in the health and fitness industry. With more and more people trying to share their message and climb their way to internet stardom, finding a quality source of information is becoming increasingly difficult.

However, over the past few years some YouTube channels have stood up to the test of time and weathered the brutal storm of internet trolls and haters alike. Chock full of quality content and useful, motivational videos, these five YouTube channels are what we at ALN feel are excellent uses of what might otherwise be wasted time spent sitting in traffic or during your lunch break at work. Check em’ out!

1. Westside BarbellWestside Barbell is a place where some of the strongest people in the world train. Louie Simmons, founder and owner of Westside Barbell, is a true student of the sport who never stops trying to learn more. Luckily for us, he shares some his knowledge on the Westside Barbell Youtube channel. From raw footage superhero-like lifts, to instructional videos, Westside Barbell hosts some great videos for your viewing.

2. Barbell Shrugged

If you haven’t heard of Barbell Shrugged, you’re missing out! This long-form video channel features an in-depth analysis on exercise and workout related topics. Don’t let the headsets in the thumbnails throw you off! The knowledge these guys bring to the table is extremely valuable and will most likely have you tweaking or altering your current workouts. Most of the videos are 60+ minutes, so if you have a long car ride or a monotonous task at work, here’s your holy grail!

3. CrossFit

For those athletes who train in a CrossFit setting, the CrossFit YouTube channel should be a staple for video browsing. From exercise demonstrations with proper form to motivational full-length movies highlighting athletes, this channel is frequently updated and filled with great nuggets of information. Additionally, the Road to the Games videos are an entertaining and inspiring series that feature athletes and the struggles they endure as they train for the CrossFit Games. Definitely a unique perspective to check out!

4. Calum Von Moger

One of the up and coming names in the fitness social media world is Calum Von Moger. His laid back Australian vibe is highly entertaining to watch and the workout videos he produces will fire  you up to hit the gym. Typically, Calum highlights the exercises he does and adds some classic commentary to keep you engaged. On occasion he will go into the technique behind certain movements, but for the most part this channel is a great place for motivation and ideas for a solid workout plan. Get after it!

5. Elite FTS

Last, but certainly not least, is Elite FTS. This Youtube channel, managed by Elite FTS owner Dave Tate, is a serious honey hole for both powerlifters and athletes alike. With extremely insightful Table Talks, videos highlighting common mistakes, and proper technique guides, you can’t go wrong spending your time on this channel. To top it off, videos are uploaded multiple times per week, ensuring you always have fresh content!

With thousands and thousands of people trying to make it big on YouTube, sifting through the non-educational junk to find quality channels is no easy task. The fitness industry is littered with misinformation and athletes repping products to skew your perception in hopes of taking your hard earned money. Don’t be fooled! Use these digital platforms as a way to increase your knowledge and better yourself as you strive to reach your goals. Keep up the hard work!

And remember, ALN is here to support you every step of the way!

The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #4

The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #4

The first three blogs of this series provided a basic understanding of the molecular underpinnings of the concurrent training effect (the blunting/elimination of the hypertrophy and strength response when both strength and endurance training are performed concurrently).  This edition is going to take that knowledge and use it to recommend specific training protocols focused on mitigating, and potentially even eliminating it.

The primary training factor which seems to drive the concurrent training effect is the intensity of the endurance exercise being performed.  Closely following intensity is frequency, and when high intensity is combined with high frequency the effect is maximized.

Recommendation 1:

As noted in blog #3 both AMPK and SIRT1 are activated by high intensity endurance exercise.  As both can inhibit mTORC1 one clearly does not want them activated when strength training is performed.  What has not yet been noted is that both will return to baseline levels roughly three hours after activation from intense endurance exercise.  The simple conclusion is that there should be at least three hours between an intense endurance session and a strength training session.  CrossFitters take note, if you are going to do an intense endurance session, and can only train once that day, skip the strength training afterwards (or prior to).  If you can do more than one session, intense endurance in the morning followed by strength training in the evening would be ideal.

This couple needs to wait at least 4 hours before any endurance work...
This couple needs to wait at least 3 hours before any endurance work…

Recommendation 2:

As noted above, frequency of high intensity endurance training is a factor in the concurrent training effect.  The molecular reason for this effect is unknown, but empirical evidence and personal experience indicate that no more than three sessions at greater than 70% of VO2max are best for mitigation of the concurrent training effect.

Recommendation 3:

Blog #2 focused on the molecular machinations relative to the hypertrophy response to strength training.  It was noted that mTORC1 is the driver of hypertrophy.  It was also noted that the mechanical stimulation of strength training was not the only manner in which mTORC1 is potently activated post workout.  A huge skeletal muscular spike in the uptake of the BCAA leucine occurs immediately after strength training.  Leucine itself is a potent stimulator of mTORC1.  The recommendation is thus to make sure plenty of blood-borne leucine is available.  Below are some specific recommendations using ALN products:

1) Take one serving of ALN Finish immediately after strength training.  Within 30 minutes, and preferably as soon as possible, take one serving of Recover as well.
2) If fat loss is the primary goal replace Recover above with Nitrean, or take two servings of Finish and skip either Recover or Nitrean to minimize total caloric intake.

ALN's Finish
ALN’s Finish

Recommendation 4:

Strength training immediately after an endurance session of low to moderate intensity (no more than 69%) is fine.  In fact, strength training immediately following a low intensity endurance session positively influences the endurance adaptation while simultaneously not impairing the hypertrophy and strength adaptations.

We aren’t done yet.  I am going to do more research and we are going to learn even more about the concurrent training effect and how to control it.  

Chris Mason
Owner
AtLarge Nutrition, LLC

The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #3

To read the first two installments please see the ALN blog page here: http://atlargenutrition.com/blog/

The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #3

As noted in our first installment, the concurrent training effect is a mitigation or cessation of the hypertrophy response to strength training when both strength and endurance training are performed concurrently.  Now that we understand mTORC1 (from blog #2) is almost exclusively the driver of strength training induced hypertrophy we know that looking into how endurance training can influence it is the key to insight into how to mitigate the concurrent training effect and thus to creating a superior CrossFitter or hybrid athlete.

marathon

In this blog we are going to seek a better understanding of how endurance training can effect mTORC1.  The molecular effects of endurance training on hypertrophy are much more equivocal than the molecular effects of strength training.  There is no single molecular source for the manner in which endurance training can or does effect hypertrophy.  This blog will focus on those sources most generally accepted to have the greatest impact.

We will begin with AMPK (adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase).  Endurance training of sufficient intensity results in metabolic and molecular responses that activate AMPK.  AMPK has been shown in animal studies to be able to inhibit mTORC1.  In humans its effects on mTORC1 are less certain, but overall the scientific consensus is that it (a specific form of it) likely contributes to the concurrent training effect.

Our next focus is on the sirtuin family of NAD+ dependent deacetylases with SIRT1 being of primary interest.  In the previous paragraph it was noted that the intensity of endurance exercise is a controlling factor in AMPK activation.  The same is true for SIRT1.  The presence of SIRT1 has been clearly demonstrated to inhibit mTORC1, thus the effects on mTORC1 of relatively frequent intense endurance training may due fully, or in part, to SIRT1.

The final possible metabolic cause of the effect of endurance training on mTORC1 to be covered in this blog are unfolded proteins.  Intense and frequent endurance training and high fat diets are both triggers for unfolded proteins.  The body’s response to increased unfolded proteins includes the blocking of protein synthesis via a decrease in mTORC1 activity.

Hopefully you have already noted the fact that the intensity and frequency of endurance training are catalysts in each of the above possible metabolic pathways in which endurance training can effect mTORC1.  This fact will be the focus of our next blog when we take the information from the first three blogs and use it to propose specific training protocols which can mitigate, and even nearly eliminate, the concurrent training effect.

The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #2

This 2nd edition of The Concurrent Training Effect blog is going to focus on the molecular underpinnings of skeletal muscular hypertrophy.  Understanding the driving force behind the molecular response to strength training can provide us insight into why concurrent strength and endurance training can negatively affect muscular hypertrophy and strength.  In addition, a better understanding can lead to ways to mitigate the effect and optimize progress.  If you are a CrossFitter, or any other form of hybrid athlete this blog is for you.  Keep reading…

Mike Mentzer - knew a thing or two about muscular hypertrophy.
Mike Mentzer – knew a thing or two about muscular hypertrophy.

A Very Cursory Overview of the Science:

The currently agreed upon molecular key to skeletal muscular hypertrophy is the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).  mTOR exists in two complexes with mTORC1 as the type associated with muscular hypertrophy.  mTOR is most commonly activated via growth factors, but with strength training its activation is executed in an entirely different fashion.  An unknown kinase gets activated causing a chemical cascade resulting in the potent stimulation of mTORC1.

Mechanical kinase activation is the not the only manner in which strength training stimulates mTOR.  We have all heard of the post-workout anabolic window for nutrient consumption.  The following molecular explanation is THE reason the post-workout window has been so widely touted (and misrepresented equally as often) in the fitness world.

After an intense training session (and for several hours) the skeletal muscles pull a significantly greater amount of the amino acids leucine and glutamine from the blood.  The leucine individually is a potent activator mTORC1 and augments the previously mentioned kinase based mTORC1 activation.  The increased glutamine yet again enhances this synergistic effect as the resultant transport of glutamine out of the muscle further up-regulates leucine intake.

Start and Finish provide both leucine and glutamine (as well as other great stuff).
Start and Finish provide both leucine and glutamine (as well as other great stuff).

The Bottom Line

Bottom line, and there is a lot more to it than described here, the end game for strength training induced muscular hypertrophy is it is almost totally dependent on mTORC1.  One can thus reasonably deduct that endurance training can somehow blunt mTORC1 activation, and or its ability once activated to execute its normal spike in protein synthesis and the resultant muscular hypertrophy.

The next installment of The Concurrent Training Effect blog will focus on the manner(s) with which endurance training may effect mTORC1.

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

by Chris Mason

With the recent massive increase in the popularity of training multiple fitness components simultaneously (CrossFit being the driving force of this movement) the topic of exercise sequencing for optimal results has become particularly poignant.

CF gals

Physical fitness and performance are comprised of many different specific attributes. For example, strength has many forms all of which contribute to the body’s ability to move through space. Strength can be viewed as a spectrum ranging from starting strength (the ability to produce maximal force in the first 30 milliseconds of movement), to explosive strength (the ability to very quickly, albeit not quite as quickly as starting strength, generate a high degree of force), to maximal strength (the ability to volitionally produce the highest force possible). Muscular endurance, the ability to produce relatively low levels of force for prolonged periods, also has a strata with things like speed endurance and strength endurance.

Clean

Each attribute above and more must be trained in order to excel physically across a broad spectrum of performance markers. In short, you must get good at a lot of stuff to be a well-rounded athlete. The decathlete has historically best exemplified the all-around athlete, but the best of the best CrossFitters now equally well personify one.
As training time is limited for most athletes those that seek to be all-around machines must organize their training to permit optimized adaptation to all physical traits which are being worked. If all, or multiple attributes are to be trained in a single session the order should be as follows:

1) Technique or skill work
2) Speed work
3) Strength work
3) Endurance work of all forms with speed endurance work being done first to be followed by lower intensity prolonged exercise

Following the order prescribed above will allow for maximized results within the confines of training multiple attributes in a single session. A similar order should be followed when training will target multiple attributes via individual sessions over the course of several days. Care must be taken in those situations to permit recovery of the nervous system after endurance work prior to the next skill, speed, and or strength session. Either a day or two of rest or active rest are recommended.

A Special Note about the Nervous System and Performance

Technique or skill work for athletics are generally understood to be essentially wholly a function of the nervous system. What is perhaps less generally well known is that strength and speed work are also almost exclusively the domain of the nervous system. They may be less known in the scientific sense, but we can all empirically appreciate it as each of us have tried, at one point or another, to perform a high intensity activity when already fatigued from a lower intensity effort and know the sense of a lack of coordination and explosiveness which are manifest at such times.

The Why

In a simplified nutshell, lower intensity prolonged activities exert a negative effect on the nervous system in the short and mid-term. They reduce coordination, increase reaction time, and increase the chance of injury when higher intensity activities succeed them prior to complete recovery.
There is a paucity of scientific explanation for the specific causes of this central nervous system fatigue (central fatigue). One generally agreed upon factor is an increase of serotonin (5-HT) in the brain. This is thought to occur due to an increase in brain levels of free tryptophan (f-TRP) which is an amino acid precursor for 5-HT production.

During prolonged exercise f-TRP transport across the blood brain barrier increases due to two main causes. One has to do with tryptophan and albumin. Tryptophan (TRP) binds to albumin in the blood. During endurance exercise, blood borne fatty acid levels increase. Fatty acids displace TRP from binding to albumin thus increasing f-TRP.
The other main cause relates to branched chain amino acids (BCAA). F-TRP (i.e. unbound TRP) competes with the BCAA for transport to the brain thus a decrease in circulating BCAA will result is more f-TRP being able to pass to the brain. Prolonged exercise decreases circulating BCAA as the skeletal muscles take them up and oxidize them for energy.

A Wrap

While the science as to the specific physiologic cause(s) of central fatigue is scant, there is no lack of scientific and empirical evidence verifying the existence of central fatigue as a result of prolonged endurance exercise. There is also no lack of scientific and empirical data verifying the proper sequencing of exercise for specific adaptations. Take care to properly sequence your training and you will permit the best results possible.

Chris Mason

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.

CrossFit Legend Chris Spealler Q&A 2nd Installment

CF snatch

Question: Chris, how do you alter your training immediately following a competition?

The competition that you have just completed and the time of year largely dictate the recovery process afterwards. By the way, and to digress from the question for a moment, if you are serious about being competitive in CrossFit it’s a good idea to do some local or larger regional competitions. What that does is give you a chance to “test” your plan for tapering, warm-ups at the competition, meals between workouts, and so on.

For the local/regional competitions your rest/recovery time can be as short as a day, and no more than two. You should be able to quickly get back to your training cycle that will allow you to progress for your main competition. If you are feeling run down it’s a good idea to initially get back to the gym with lower intensity and loading in your workouts. Examples of this might be something that provides built-in rest like and EMOM (every minute on the minute). This can also be great to work on some simple skill development or longer cardio respiratory endurance days since they are by nature of lower intensity.

Following the main competition of the year I typically recommend a week or two off from the gym. Personally, I am usually back in the gym within 5-7 days, but with similar principles mentioned above. Even if you placed well in the competition, coming off of the intense pre-competition cycle can often lead to a let-down. In such scenarios it is best to give yourself the time you need to recharge your batteries. Do some fun physical activities which are not stressful. If a couple of weeks have gone by and you are not yet physically hungry to be back in the gym take another day or two and it could lead to a better week or month of training.

CF gals
Question: What do you recommend to get someone up to Rx as quickly as possible? Is it better to use Rx weights sooner and try to build from there, or scale and then work on strength independently?

This is a great question and exposes what many people fall victim to when starting out CrossFit. First of all, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program, not just a conditioning program. With well varied programming you will find a variety of loadings, rep schemes, and movements throughout a week that will help increase strength for most beginner to intermediate athletes.

CrossFit has 4 models that help support our definition of fitness: “work capacity across broad time and modal domains”. One of those models is The 10 General Physical Skills. This list was developed by Bruce Evans and Jim Crawley, track coaches in Texas and is as follows:

1. Cardio Respiratory Endurance
2. Stamina
3. Strength
4. Flexibility
5. Speed
6. Power
7. Coordination
8. Accuracy
9. Agility
10. Balance

Our belief is that he or she who is most fit will be best balanced across ALL 10 of these General Physical Skills. If we have excess capacity in one area it usually means we lack in another. Many people make the mistake of assuming that one of these is more important than the other. This would be true for a specialist such as a power lifter, or marathon runner, but for a generalist that is looking to have GPP (general physical preparedness) none is more important than the other.

It’s easy to think that we need to increase our strength to do workouts Rx’d, which may be the case, but the same could be said about coordination, ctamina, flexibility, or any one of the 10 GPS.

Doing a workout Rx’d is a huge achievement for many and should be celebrated. Having said that we still want to maintain the intended stimulus of the workout the majority of the time. Take the following workout for example:

3 Rounds

Run 400 meters
21 Pull-ups
7 Front Squats (225/155)

If you don’t have a baseline to start with regarding how long this should take an athlete think of a Regional level CrossFit competitor, or even the “fire breather” in the gym. The workout listed above for a Regional Level athlete should take anywhere from 7-10 min.

-Run 400: roughly 1:30/round
-21 Pull-Ups: roughly 45 sec/round
-7 Front Squats: roughly 45 sec/round

Each round taking approximately 3 min

These times allow for transition, chalking your hands, breaks between the bars, etc. Some athletes will be able to do it faster, some a bit slower, but the intention behind the workout is for power output. That means that the athlete should be able to move through the workout with a strong pace. Below would be two different athletes that although capable of doing the workout as rx’d, would be missing the stimulus.

Athlete 1:

This athlete may lack strength and have difficulty with the front squat. They may be able to get them done, but the rep scheme for the front squat is singles or doubles with long breaks between reps from the start to complete the set of 7.

The run and pull ups may not be the issue at all for this athlete since they suit his strengths, but if the front squat weight holds him back so much that the workout now takes him 15 min, we have lost the intention of the workout.

Athlete 2:

On the opposite end of the spectrum this athlete may have no issue at all with the front squat but the combination of the run and pull ups slows them down. Their cardio respiratory endurance for the run which is now taking 2:30-3 min, and stamina on the pull ups which forces them to do sets of 5 and less with long breaks to get to 21 holds them back from getting through the workout quickly. If this causes them to finish the workout in 15 min we have lost the intention of the workout.

The majority of the time the workout should be scaled to allow for a similar time domain and power output to be reached. Athlete number 1 should scale down the weight on the front squat to something where they can get at least the first round in consecutive reps. Athlete number 2 may scale down the distance on the run to 200 meters, or the pull up repetitions to 15/round, and if needed, scale both of them.

From the examples above you can see that strength may not be the glaring weakness. And if it is, well varied CrossFit programming including one strictly heavy day/week will increase the athletes strength over time. If our stamina or CRE is the limiting factor the same could be said. Well varied CrossFit programming providing a variety of rep schemes, loadings, and distances will increase this athletes capacity in these areas.

On occasion it is ok and recommended that you give your athletes a chance to perform workouts as Rx’d without worrying about the time. It will give them a victory, and baseline to work from for improving their fitness. Most of the time, in most situations, and most scenarios the workouts should be scaled down appropriately, first with load, then reps or distance, and lastly the movement, in order to maintain the stimulus intended.

Author Chris Spealler
Author Chris Spealler
Chris Spealler is a multi top 10 finisher at the CrossFit Games and one of the sport’s legends. He currently works for CrossFit HQ and owns his own facility (CrossFit Park City) in Utah. Chris’ amazing strength endurance, endurance, and work ethic always made him a fan favorite.

Shock Your Legs!

Time to grow some legs – already got them..? Time to make them even better. This

program will shock your entire lower body into growth very quickly. Be warned, it

isn’t easy and at times you may feel the urge to quit – don’t do it!

Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!
Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!

If there are two things that stop guys or girls training their legs hard, they are:

• It’s hard, and you don’t like hard

• If you have weak legs or under-trained legs, it seems embarrassing to start with

smaller weights

If you are guilty of the first point, this programme probably isn’t for you… unless you

want to make a change and challenge yourself (which I highly recommend).

If you are guilty of the second, there is one solution – face your fear and get down to

the nitty-gritty of a supremely effective leg shocker.

On the other hand, if you do hit the legs hard but they have stopped growing, other

factors come into play:

1) Exercises used for too long a time with insufficient variation have caused a

plateau

2) Too few exercises choices that are preventing the needed muscles getting the

attention to grow

3) Over-training – using high volume or high intensity training methods too

frequently or for too long

If points 1 and 2 apply, no need to worry – this program is your ticket. If point 3

applies, take 2 weeks of downtime, or easier training to gain sufficient restoration

before starting this routine.

Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.
Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.

This is not a traditional bodybuilding leg training program – it is a little different, and

the reasons for this are:

• There are a greater selection of exercises that are often not used in a traditional

body-builder’s arsenal

Now, what will this program do for you? It will:

• Build crazy amounts of muscle

• Raise your squat

• Raise your deadlift

• Increase your sprinting and jumping ability

• Allow you to do all of this year round with a very high time economy

Sound too good to be true? Let’s test it out and get cracking on the nuts and bolts of

the matter.

The program is performed 2 times per week, preferably with 72hrs in between

sessions.

Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.
Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.

Day 1:

Warm-up – choose from one of the following:

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal height

jumps

• Seated vertical jumps(on box/chair/bench) with light dumbbells – 3-4 sets of 5-

6 maximal height jumps

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) with light ankle weights – 3-4 sets

of 5-6 maximal height jumps

Maximum strength – Choose one of the following and work up to a 1RM

• Deficit deadlifts (wide or close stance)

• Below parallel box squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Snatch grip deadlifts

• Below parallel pin squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Rack pulls

• Full Olympic squats (with brief pause at the lowest point)

Assistance work: choose from one of the following:

• Exercise A: Deficit deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts – 6-8RM

• Exercise B: Hanging bent leg raises or hanging straight leg raises – 8-15RM

• Exercise C: Below parallel wide stance front box squats or below parallel wide

stance front pin squats – 5-6RM or 3RM

• Exercise D: Alternate arm dumbbell suitcase deadlifts or alternate arm barbell

suitcase deadlifts – 6-8RM(per side)

One heck of a seated good morning!
One heck of a seated good morning!

• Exercise E: Seated good mornings or thoracic extensions – 6-10RM

Day 2:

Warm-up – choose from 1 of the following:

• Maximum broad jump – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light ankle weights – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light dumbbells – 10 sets of 1 rep

Follow immediately by:

• Sub-maximal broad jumps – using about 70% of your max broad jump do 8

sets of 3 reps emphasizing short ground contacts. Use the same resistance as

the max broad jumps used in each session. Rest 15 seconds between sets.

Assistance work:

• Exercise A: Broad jumps or rope pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal

distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise B: Kneeling broad jumps or kneeling pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6

maximal distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise C: Backwards sled drags or leg extensions -16-20 steps/8-12RM

• Exercise D: Straight leg sit-ups or decline straight leg sit-ups – 8-12RM

Pallof press
Pallof press

• Exercise E: Pallof press or pallof press & static hold – 8-12RM/15-30 second

hold

Notes:

• The amount of sets can be decided according to your ability to recover – as a

guide, with the amount of time you will have for your workouts, 2-4 sets will

work well. Rest periods should stay at a maximum of 2 minutes.

• If you need extra work on a weaker muscle/muscle group, simply increase the sets by 1 or 2

and reduce the sets by 1 or 2 from an exercise/muscle that is a strength.

• Seated vertical jumps are performed by sitting on a surface then jumping up from

that surface as high as possible with maximal vertical leg drive. Immediately

descend to the surface and do another rep. There should not be long pauses

between each rep. Rest 60 seconds – no more, no less between sets of all

5-6RM jumping exercises, rest 15-60 seconds for 1RM jumps and rest 15

seconds for sub-maximal broad jumps.

• The limits of a persons maximum strength will cap whatever they can do for

reps. The best way to build maximum strength is to work up to the heaviest

weights that can can moved with volitional, controlled effort

• Maximal strength is best trained where you are weakest. For example, if

you fail out of the hole when doing Olympic squats or fail to lockout heavy

deadlifts, rack pulls and below parallel squat variations are very sensible

choices. On the other hand, if you are weak to start heavy deadlifts off the

floor, snatch grip or deficit deadlift variations are sensible choices.

• Working up to a 1RM is great. It doesn’t have to be done every week, but

it can be done if you want to. A 1RM max that trains your particular weak

point should be attempted no less than once per month. Other weeks can

consist of 2 or 3RM maxes or occasional deloads.

• Work up to around four or five 1RM or near 1RM attempts once per week at

around 90-100% of your max for that day.

• If you would like to continuously progress on this program simply

rotate the rep ranges of the exercises here or slightly change the exercises e.g.:

Change from body weight broad jumps to broad jumps with ankle weights

or switch to dumbbells. Switch from deficit deadlifts for 6-8RM to deficit

deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts for 3RM etc – this will help prevent excessive

accommodation

• Keep training sessions to 60 mins at most

• You can do each session once per week or once every 6 days. For example, day

one on Monday, day two on Thursday, day one again on Sunday and so on.

• Don’t spend forever maxing – allocate 10 or 15 minutes at most to this section

– any more time will eat into other work that needs doing. Rest 2 minutes

between sets of 1RM.

• Before commencing high intensity jumps in a warm-up, do one set of 10 easy

jumps and one set of 10 moderate jumps

The author, Will Vatcher
The author, Will Vatcher

Will Vatcher is a strength & conditioning coach based in Cambridgeshire, England. He has published articles online on several major websites, including interviews with experts such as Louie Simmons, Fred Hatfield & Natalia Verhoshansky

You can contact Will at willvatcher@hotmail.com

Complexes for Fat Loss

Note: Win AtLarge Nutrition Fat Burners Nitor & Thermocin – (see bottom of article)

Let’s cut the BS and get down to business: traditional cardio – running on the treadmill, sitting on a bike, riding on one of those stupid-looking elliptical machines – just doesn’t work that well if your main goal is to lose fat (now if your main goal is to watch TV or read a book and portray the illusion of hard training, then traditional cardio has you covered).

Traditional cardio bites the big one for one main reason:

It Doesn’t Burn That Many Calories

We all know that fat-loss is pretty simple: burn more calories than you consume. So riding on a bike seems logical since it burns calories while you do it: the longer you pedal, the more you burn. But how many calories do you burn once you step off the bike? The answer is not that many.

What if there was a way to burn calories not only while training but also after training? My friends, let me introduce you to the EPOC effect. It stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, which is just a fancy way of saying you burn more calories after training since you’re taking in more oxygen and expending more energy than normal.

Interval training like HIIT accomplishes this simply because it’s harder on your body and throws off your body’s natural homeostasis. More calories burned = more fat loss.

So Why Not Just Do Intervals?

Intervals are still great, but most people are already excessively tight in their hip flexors and anterior delts (front part of the shoulder) due to too much sitting and poor posture.  Do we really need to make it worse by riding an exercise bike? And what about running sprints? Truth be told, many of you (and probably me) have horrible, horrible running form. And it doesn’t just look ugly – it’s bad for our bodies, too.

Think about it: if you had poor bench-press form but decided to bench press anyway, you’d be setting yourself up for injury. Well, look at running the same way, except with hundreds (and possibly thousands) of reps. Every time your foot strikes the ground, it could be putting harmful stress on your joints. Kind of defeats the purpose of doing a “healthy” activity, huh?

Weight-lifters Rejoice! There Is a Better Way.

Fortunately for us, weight training is much more fun and challenging than intervals and, when done properly with “complexes”, will lead to the same EPOC effect. Also, if you set up your complexes properly, you’ll get more than just a lung-burning, feel-like-you’re-going-to-die feeling. You can hit all the main muscle groups and even have specific work for your abs, all while burning a ton of calories (and setting yourself up to burn a ton of calories after your workout).

Just What the Hell is a Complex, Anyway?

Good question. A complex is a series of exercises (usually compound movements) that flow into each other with no rest in between. You usually have to use lighter weights than you normally would, but a good complex will be challenging. Remember: we’re going for fat-loss here, not pure strength.

The Equipment

  • You.
  • A pair of dumbbells.
  • A barbell and some plates.

Three Complex Challenges

1. The Barbell Complex

3 sets of 8 reps with no rest between exercises.
Rest for 90 seconds after you complete the full circuit, then perform two more times.

Romanian Deadlift

Bent-over Row

Front squat


Push Press

Barbell Rollout

2. The Dumbbell Complex

4 sets of 6 reps with no rest between exercises.
Rest for 90 seconds after you complete the full circuit, then perform three more times.

Reverse Lunge

Alternating DB Row

Push-up

Burpee

Alternating DB Military Press

3. The Anywhere Bodyweight Complex

3 sets of 12 reps with no rest between exercises.
Rest for 90 seconds after you complete the full circuit, then perform two more times.

Squat

Spiderman pushup

Jumping lunges*

Pushup-to-Plank

Mountain Climbers*


* 6 reps each leg for a total of 12

When Should I Do Complexes?

Complexes are best performed directly after your regular weight training session or on an “off” day.

If you need to lose 15 pounds or more of fat, I’d recommend doing all three complexes, one for each day per week, on the days when you’re not doing your regular program.

If you want to use complexes to “tighten up” or just to become more athletic, I recommend you pick two or three complexes and perform them after your regular weight training session.

The Death of Traditional Cardio

Despite what hardcore bodybuilding magazines or traditional media try to tell you, training should be hard and rewarding. Traditional cardio doesn’t burn as many calories as complexes and can even lead to injury and overuse syndrome.

So wave goodbye to the soccer moms and skinny-fat guys on the treadmill, grab a barbell (or use just your bodyweight), and get one hell of a workout that actually strips the fat off.

Written by Riley Bestwick * All photos of Mike Scialabba were taken at MUST (Missoula Underground Strength Training Center)

Win AtLarge Nutrition Fat Burners Nitor & Thermocin – We’d love to see some videos of Wannabebig members performing the complexes either in this article or your own complexes.

Submit your video on the forums and we’ll pick a few random winners and hook you up with some AtLarge Nutrition Fat Burners, Thermocin or Nitor to help you with your fat loss!

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Complexes for Fat Loss discussion thread.

Plank Progressions for Killer Abs

You are putting together your “beach body” program and trying to find that perfect movement to really set off your midsection, but have grown tired of endless crunches…

Well there is one movement that has been proven effective in martial arts and athletics for years. Are you curious now?

It is as simple as “planks”. A plank is a static contraction in a supporting position that places a great deal of stress on your core muscles, specifically the abdominals and hip flexors.

Today, just about everyone, regardless of fitness level or education is doing planks and everyone seems to understand its benefits.

That said, there is still a large amount of room for improvement. I say this because it’s been my experience as an educator who trains the trainers that even professionals still don’t understand how to make the most out of the abs planks.

This article will change that for fitness pro’s, athletes and exercise enthusiasts alike.

I’m going to provide you with simple, user friendly, battle tested concepts on how to drastically improve the basic plank and how to progress it to challenge the strongest and fittest of athletes.

This article will tell you everything that there is to know about planks including advanced variations for those who are ready to take things up a notch. I hope you brought your Karate slippers because I’m about to give you your black belt in abs plank training.

Wanna build some killer abs like these? Read on…..

Perfecting the Basic Plank

Ask an experienced coach from any sport and he or she will tell you that it’s mastering the fundamentals that are most important to continued success.

The plank is no different. You have no business performing any of the higher-level progressions shown later in this article until you can perfect the basic plank.

There is a three-step process to perfecting the plank and they involve using a dowel rod.

Step 1- Build awareness

The dowel is placed along the spine and is kept in contact with 3 points; back of the head (not the top), Thoracic region (between shoulder blades) and Sacrum (tail bone). This forces you to understand and become aware of proper alignment.

Essentially, the dowel serves as your coach. If it rolls off or wobbles, you aren’t in good alignment.

Additionally, the quadruped position is great to begin to develop awareness of optimal alignment because it takes most of the load off the system while still keeping the torso in a very similar position to the abs plank. 

Once you can hold optimal position for 30 seconds, move on to step #2. 

Build awareness

Step 2- Lengthen the Lever arm

The straight-arm plank is essentially a static hold in push up position. This takes what we learned in step one and adds in some load due to the increased length in lever arm. The load on the abs here is not as great as on the elbows.

If you cannot hold optimal alignment for 30 seconds, keep working here until you can.

If you can maintain optimal alignment without disturbing the dowel, you are ready to move on to level three.
 
As I stated above, the elbow plank with dowel increases the load on the torso even further over the straight-arm variation. In other words, it demands more strength and control of optimal alignment.

Lengthen the Lever arm

Level 3 – Elbow Plank

Once you can hold this position for at least 30 seconds without much fatigue, you are ready to move on to the advanced progressions that I’ve laid out below.

If you cannot, remain here at level three until you can achieve a thirty second hold without too much fatigue.

Keep in mind that just because you are doing planks, it doesn’t mean that you can do them correctly. The dowel is a simple method of telling you how good your planks really are.

Once you’ve mastered the basic plank with the dowel, you no longer need to use the dowel.

Elbow Plank

Planks and Push Ups

Many females that have trouble with doing abs planks also have trouble performing push- ups. This is because both exercises are very closely related. In my article Everything Push Ups, I show you very similar progression spectrum to improve your ability to do push ups. Plus I provide a ton of new push up variations.

I highly encourage you to read that article as well because doing push ups will improve your planks and doing planks will most definitely improve your push-ups.

Plank Progressions

Now that you understand what is required to perform an optimal fundamental plank, I can show you the complete progression spectrum from beginner to advanced planks.

But, before I go into the exercises, I wanted to say a few words on arm position.

Arm Position

While performing any of the abs plank progressions shown below, you can use either of these arm positions:

Arms Externally Rotated
 

Or Arms Internally Rotated

Which position you use will be determined by:

  • Your Shoulder Health
  • The Specific Demands of your sport
  • What feels better to you?
  • Your Postural Habits
  • Or just for the sake of variety

Plank Level #1/2 – Kneeling Elbow Plank

The kneeling plank is easier than the straight leg plank because it shortens the lever arm. If you can’t manage the traditional straight leg plank, start here and work up to doing 2 sets of 1min holds.

Kneeling Elbow Plank

Plank Level #1 – Traditional Elbow Plank
 
The traditional elbow plank is the next step up from the kneeling elbow plank:

Traditional Elbow Plank

Once you can maintain optimal alignment here for 2 sets of 45 seconds, move on to the next level.

Plank Level #2 – Straight Leg lift

The first progression to the elbow plank is to keep one leg straight and lift it one inch from the ground.  Hold for 1-2 sec and switch legs.

Be sure to maintain optimal alignment while lifting leg.

Do not rotate your pelvis or allow your hips to sag.

 Straight Leg lift

You must be able to perform 2 sets of 20-second holds on each w/o rest in between before moving on to the next level

Plank Level #3- Feet on Bench

By elevating the feet, the demand on both the shoulders and abs increases.
 
This is harder than you may think!

Feet on Bench

Once you can complete 2 sets of 45 seconds holds w/o deviating from optimal alignment, move on.

Plank Level #4 – Feet Elevated w/March

Now, add in some more work by pulling one knee in toward your chest. Hold it for a second then switch sides. Perform this march type action for the entire length of your plank.

Feet Elevated w/March – 1

Feet Elevated w/March – 2

Once you can achieve 2 sets of 1 min total work by alternating 10-15 second holds each leg, you can upgrade to the next level.

Plank Level #5 – Wall March

This is the ultimate in abs plank training. Plus you get to work your glutes and hips along with it. Here’s how it’s done.

Begin in optimal spinal alignment with one knee on the ground and the other leg extended behind you against a wall.

Your rear leg should be at the same height as your head and shoulders – shown below:

Wall March – 1

From this position push your rear foot against the wall and lift your bent knee into the air as to hover over the ground as shown.

 

Wall March – 2

By now you will be well aware of the fact that you have abs because they will be working overtime to hold you in place. Also, your glute has to work overtime to push your foot into the wall keep your from sliding down.

After a second or two, bring your bent leg back against the wall as shown below.

Wall March – 3

Transition to pulling in the other knee mimicking a marching motion similar to what was performed in level #3.

Wall March – 4

Work up to holding this position for 45sec-1min. Use varieties of times, form, how long you hold each leg before switching. This can be anywhere from 2 seconds up to 15 seconds.

Perform 1-3 sets.

The added bonus to doing the wall march is that it will make you the most popular person in the gym. You are certain to have folks asking you about how to do it and wanting to try it for themselves. They probably wont be able to do it properly because they haven’t gone through the same progressions that you have.

Training Tips from Coach Nick

  • Be sure to always maintain optimal spinal alignment during all progression levels
  • Do not progress onto the next level until your can perform the current level for at least 30-45 seconds with little fatigue
  • Perform plank exercises for no more than 1 minute
  • Breath as normal as possible during all plank exercises
  • There is no need to hold in your belly while performing these exercises
  • Perform these exercises toward the end of your workout after your major lifts
  • If it hurts, don’t do it! This should be obvious but some folks are stubborn. Find a way to work around your limitations, don’t work through them

In my next installment, I will provide you with a comprehensive progression spectrum for performing side planks. I promise that like this article, it will also deliver many new, creative and battletested concepts that will make your abs stronger and looking better than ever.

Written by Nick Tumminello

About Nick Tumminello

Nick Tumminello, the director of Performance University, is a nationally recognized coach and educator who works with a select group of athletes, physique competitors, and exercise enthusiasts in Baltimore, Maryland.

Nick is rapidly establishing himself as a leader in the field for his innovative techniques and “smarter” approach to training. As a coach, Nick works in the trenches testing, developing and refining his innovative techniques with clients and athletes of all ages and levels.

Go to his website NickTumminello.com to get your free “Smarter & Stronger” video course.

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Plank Progressions for Killer Abs discussion thread.

Everything you wanted to know to increase your Vertical Jump

What are the most essential qualities of a high vertical jumper?

Horsepower and movement efficiency. Strength per pound of bodyweight is the horsepower…movement efficiency is how well you can carry out a movement. You put those 2 things together and they determine the height that you jump. 

You need to be able to put out a lot of force relative to your bodyweight. In other words, you need strong legs! Your body structure influences how efficiently force gets transferred into the ground. 

Movement efficiency has to do with coordination and your ability to carry out a movement optimally. In the case of the vertical jump it’s mainly impacted by by body-fat and coordination with your feet. Imagine trying to jump with a 50 pound tub of lard strapped to your back and you can see how extra fat would negatively affect your vertical jump. On the “feet” end, many people lack coordination on their feet and wear shoes that are too big and cumbersome for them to ever get light on their feet. 

What is Natural Strength?

Some people have a build characterized by long achilles tendons, long thigh bones, and high muscle attachment points that allow them to transfer force very efficiently. So, for each unit of force they develop they will be able to transfer a lot of that into the ground. That’s how guys like Allen Iverson can jump well even though they’ve never seen a squat rack in their life. If you don’t have that great natural body structure (and most people don’t) you’re gonna have to make up for it by increasing your strength. Simple enough. 

There are some skinny guys who can jump very well without being strong in the traditional sense, yet you won’t find ANYONE with a 35 inch plus vertical jump who doesn’t have a lot of “natural” strength. By natural strength what I mean is if you find someone with a naturally high vertical they always have a natural ability to create force. Even if they don’t strength train you can take them in the gym and teach them how to squat and within a week they will be squatting over 1.5 times bodyweight. I have yet to see any exceptions to that rule. If you don’t have that strength naturally you’re gonna have to train to get it. 

But my friends Billy Joe and Jack squat 350 pounds yet I jump 12 inches higher then them. What’s going on here?

You can’t make comparisons like that with any accuracy. Muscle and tendon length, bone length, muscle attachments, endocrine, and neural characteristics all influence the ability to leverage force. That important thing is that YOU improve your qualities and let everything else fall where it will and don’t try to compare yourself to other people. 

What is the minimum amount of strength that I need?

Before I tell you how much strength you need do this so I can make a point: Go in the gym and grab 2 fifteen pound dumbells and lie on a bench and bench press them 100 times. Now stand up and do 100 half squats with your bodyweight. Which is harder? Probably the squats right? So that means it takes more strength to do a half squat with your bodyweight than it does to lie on your back and press 15 pounds. 

Now realize a shotput also weighs about 15 pounds. What is a shotput? Basically a press where you throw the weight. What is a vertical jump? Basically a 1/2 squat where you “throw” your body into the air. The 15 pounds sounds really light until you think about throwing the weight. Now let’s figure out how much strength it takes to be a good shotputter: Well, the routines of top shotputters contain a fair mix of both explosive and strength oriented training but on the strength end you won’t find any that don’t bench press over 400 pounds. The large majority of them will bench press over 500 pounds. 

So, through real world observation it has been established that there is no such thing as a top shotputter who bench presses less than 400 pounds. We’ve also established that squatting and “throwing” your bodyweight into the air requires more strength relatively than does throwing a 15 pound shotput. So, if a shotputter benches a minimum of 400 pounds what does that tell you about how strong our legs should be for jumping? It tells me they need to be quite strong. 

Just as you will never see a good shotputter who can’t bench press 400 pounds you will never see a good vertical jumper who isn’t strong in the legs as well.

In fact I have a $500 bounty for the first person who can show me someone with a legit 35 inch vertical jump who can’t squat 1.5 BW within a week of learning the movement. I could probably crank that up to 2 x BW and I doubt I would ever lose. 

Now, does that mean that just because someone can bench press 700 pounds that they will be able to throw the shotput a mile? Or does that mean that just becuase so and so has a 500 pound squat they’ll be able to jump out of the gym? No. There is technique and movement efficiency involved in both shotputting and jumping. What it does tell me though is if you’re weaker than a kitten you’re completely wasting your time spending all your time with plyometric work until you’ve built a base of strength. Once you have your base of strength you’ll get the best results in Vertical jump practicing jumping related tasks and training explosively.

I heard that it was not good to squat because there is deceleration that occurs at the top of the squat that doesn’t occur with the vertical jump?

Keep in mind when using exercises like the squat we’re not trying to duplicate the exact execution of the vertical jump, we’re just trying to strengthen the muscles involved. That’s also why a deeper squat is better than a quarter or half squat. It strengthens more muscles. Besides that, by that line of logic we shouldn’t walk either since there is deceleration that occurs with each stride. The body and brain are smart enough to differentiate various movements. 

What about deadlifts – Are they good exercises?

Yes, the deadlift is an excellent exercise. My only hesitation in ranking it equal to the squat is the fact that it is possible to deadlift a significant amount of weight without using the lower body at all. A proper deadlift is an excellent exercise.

How important are the calves for jumping? 

Not very important. Try this: Stand on a stair step and let your ankles hang down. Without bending your knees try to hop up onto the next step. Did you make it? Probably not. That’s because the calves don’t contribute much to the jump. Your butt and thighs are what give you the power. The calves simply help transferring that power into the ground. 

Having said that, many people do have a problem with what appears to be weak calves because when they move they struggle to stay in optimal power position – They move back on their heels and have a hard time staying up on the balls of their feet. Their problem isn’t really weak calves it’s lack of coordination on the feet. Exercises designed to improve movement efficiency will improve this. 

How do I determine whether I have a good enough base of strength?

Well first in order to meet my minimum requirements you must be able to do one of the following:

  • Squat 1.5 x your bodyweight to legal powerlifting depth hip breaking parallel.
  • Perform 5 body-weight pistol squats (see below for video example)

Pistol Squat Video

Once you’ve met either of those tasks your training can be more focused in either the strength area or speed area. Initially, you can bring both your strength and speed/plyometric ability up at the same time, but eventually you reach a point where you’ll need a bit more focus in a given area. Just like some shotputters need a bigger bench press to increase their shotput while others need to get faster applying their strength to the shotput (ie get more explosive), some vertical jumpers need more work on their strength base while others need more work on the speed that they apply that strength to their jump. Here are a couple of tests that will help determine that: 

  • Measure your regular down and up vertical jump. Next, get a box about 18 inches high and perform a rebound jump where you step off the box, hit the ground, and jump straight up. If the jump from the box is higher you’re most likely fast enough and could benefit more from increasing your strength base. If the jump with the box is lower you could probably stand to work more on explosive oriented (plyometric) training. 
  • Stand in one place and perform 5 consecutive vertical jumps jumping as high as possible with each jump. Those with highly developed speed (plyometric) qualities will usually find the height of the last 4 jumps is at least the same or higher than the height of the first jump. Thus, they would want to focus more on strength while the group that struggled jumping on the “bounce” would want to focus more on speed oriented training. 

But I heard I need to squat faster with light weights to improve power production for vertical jumping and that lifting heavy weights will make me slow?

Until you have a really good base of strength in place you will get faster with light weights by increasing the poundage on your max lifts. Let me explain: Let’s say we take someone with a 150 pound bench press who wants to be a great shotputter. Someone tells him that he can be an olympic caliber thrower if he just practices being very explosive with light weights. So he trains by putting 100 pounds on the bar and does sets of 5 as fast as he can. What’s gonna happen when he goes out and throws against 400 pound bench pressers who can throw 300 pounds around as fast as he can throw 100? He’s gonna get his ass kicked that’s what’s gonna happen. 

Just for the sake of argument let’s say that the guy who can throw around 100 pounds the fastest will have a superior vertical jump. Who’s gonna throw around 100 pounds faster – The guy with a max squat of 135 pounds, or the guy with a max squat of 300 pounds. Definitely the guy with the 300 pound squat. But if we were to compare a 600 pound squatter to an 800 pound squatter in the same task the answer may not be so clear cut. 

The main point is, unless you’re already stronger than an ox, the fastest way to improve your ability to lift light weights is to increase your maxes, and the best way to do that is to lift fairly heavy with reps between 1 and 10 with weights between 70 and 100% of your 1 rep max. Lifting light loads will not improve max strength. When lifting heav weights the load may not move that fast but it doesn’t need to move that fast. 

As for heavy weights making you slow, this is only true of people who carry strength training to the extreme. Even then, it’s not the strength or heavy weight that creates slowness, it is the excessive muscular bodyweight that can develop. To verify this all you have to do is look at olympic weightlifters. Their entire sport is based on lifting heavy weights, yet they have the best vertical jumps of all athletes and are as fast as sprinters out to 30 meters. 

Some people are sometimes under the misguided assumption that strength training with heavy weights makes one slow because it can create a temporary state of fatigue and soreness in the muscles. That fatigue will sometime temporarily “mask” explosiveness. The solution to that is very simple: Take some occassional downtime and let that fatigue dissipate. 

Is plyometric training a waste of time for someone that doesn’t have a base of strength?

Plyometric training works by boosting 2 things:

  1. The ability to move efficiently 
  2. The ability to display strength more rapidly.

In someone without a base of strength and with lack of cordination, it may help slightly to improve the ability to move efficiently, but won’t do anything to help rapidly express strength that you don’t have. 

How long does it take to see real results once I begin training

Beginners can see results in less than a week. A highly advanced athlete might require 6-8 weeks

Have you checked out any of the other jumping programs? What is different about your philosophy?

There is lots of hype and gimmicks out there and lots of people just making stuff up. The problem is as far as athletes go on average basketball players have inferior jumps compared to other athletes like track and field athletes, volleyball players, olympic weightlifters, football players and even shotputters. The average NBA player might have a 30 inch vertical jump….the average 250 pound NFL linebacker (who really has no desire to jump), has a 38 inch vertical. The world record standing broad jump is held by a shotputter weighing close to 300 pounds! Everybody wants to follow programs written for basketball players but as a whole they don’t work. If you want to know how to jump high look at the commonalities in the athletes that actually have success boosting their VJ. 

There are many different ways to get to the same end result but the principles never change. Anybody that ever increases their VJ did so because they boosted either:

  • The force behind the movement (consisting of strength plus the ability to rapidly display that  strength.
  • The efficiency of the movement

That’s regardless of whether you trained with platform shoes, rubber bands, weighted vest, pool work, weights, or whatever. 

Instead of haphazardly engaging in various training methods and maybe getting lucky and impacting one of those qualities, why don’t we start with the end result and work backwards and find the quickest way to our end goals? So, what if we ask ourselves, “ok, what is the quickest direct way to improve the coordination in the vertical jump? What is the quickest way to improve the maximum force production in the vertical jump? What is the quickest way to improve the ability to rapidly display that force? 

The answer to any of those questions is not difficult. For example, let’s take the case of improving maximum force potential. Some would have you believe that they’ve invented some new age gimmick or training technique that is the end all and be all to develop that quality. But if we look at a sport where the ENTIRE SPORT is based on who can develop the most force. What sport is that? Powerlifting! If such and such gimmick was so effective for force production why aren’t ANY top powerlifters using it? 

Now how about taking the shortline approach towards improving the rapid display of force. If something is really a miracle for increasing this quality why isn’t it being used by olympic athletes like high jumpers, triple jumpers, sprinters, and long jumpers? There is no shortage of information on this. Through 50 + years of research and observation it is quite clear that the most potent training methods to improve the rapid display of force are variations of the following:

  1. Practice the specific movement (jump if you’re a jumper – sprint if you’re a sprinter) (most important)
  2. Lift light weights with great acceleration (use jumps squats and other various explosive lifts) 
  3. Engage in plyometric “shock” training (a.k.a. – depth jumps)

Two and three are frequently not even necessary.

Are there any secrets here? No! 

So basically we can just put those things together and take the shortest path towards reaching our goals. 

So and so (insert coach’s name here) says that they have come up with a new cutting edge system called (insert system name here) that promises to give me a 50 inch vertical jump in 100 days.

What’s more likely:

  • Some 20 year old dude has a professional client list of 100’s and has miraculously discovered a bunch of top secrets for vertical jumping?     or
  • Some internet marketer thought he could make a buck so decided to pass himself off as an expert and make up a bunch of BS? 

Ever notice how these “gurus” alway claim to be the secret coach to hundreds of elite level athletes yet they never can tell you who these athletes are? I have yet to hear of a professional athlete who has any problem telling anyone who their coach is. If a coach does an athlete good athletes by and large WANT to help their coach out by spreading the word. In fact, name me one top level professional athlete and in a day or less I can probably tell you who their coach is.

What are some tips to help improve my vertical leap RIGHT AWAY?

The day you’ll be satisfied with your vertical jump is the day you have the strength to squat 2 times your bodyweight at under 10% bodyfat while having the movement efficiency to be able to jump back and forth over a knee high cone or string 20 times in 10 seconds.

Lateral Barrier Jump

If you wear regular basketball shoes stop wearing them and get a pair of Nike Frees to train in. If you’re over 10% bodyfat clean up your diet and drop some fat. If you have a tape measure you can measure your waist and get a pretty accurate estimation as to how fat you are with this formula: Body Fat Calculator

What type of training split should I follow?

Either get ahold of my Vertical Jump Manual and follow any of the multitude of routines from there or follow these generic recommendations:

If you’re a beginner with no strength training background, check out this article Applying Gymnasts Progressions To The Lower Body

Or you can follow this: Alternate back and forth between the 2 workouts for a total of 2 to 4 training days per week 

Session A:

Prior to your workout choose 1 performance oriented exercise and one movement efficiency exercise. With the “performance” exercise you’ll be performing movements that you can easily monitor for progress. These include things like measured vertical jumps, timed sprints, jumps onto a high box, broad jumps etc. On these, choose a movement and keep doing sets until your performance starts to decline. Take your time between each effort. That generally means you’d do anywhere from 3-8 sets. Then move on and choose a movement efficiency exercise and do the same thing. 

Performance Movements

  • running jumps for height
  • standing jump for height
  • on-box jumps (jumps onto or over a high box)
  • broad jumps
  • hurdle jumps (jumps over a high hurdle, string, or box)
  • sprints (choose distances from 10-40 yards)
  • shuttle drills
  • single leg triple jump
  • resisted sprints

Movement Efficiency/potentiation movements

  • single leg box jumps (do sets of 3-5 reps)
  • single leg lateral hops (do sets of 5-10 seconds)
  • low squat hops (do sets of 5-10 seconds)
  • Drop jumps (do sets of 3-5)
  • Lateral barrier jumps (do sets of 5-10 seconds)
  • Strength Training
  • Squat 3×5
  • Pull-Up 3×10 
  • Military Press 3×10
  • Leg curl or Glute Ham 3×8

Session B:

Pick again from the above list of movement and performance exercises and perform one of each prior to your workout. 

Strength Training

  • Bench Press 3×5
  • Deadlift 3 x 5
  • Seated Row 3×10
  • Lunge or split squat 2 x 8 

If you are an inseason athlete:

Day One:

  • Dips or Bench Press 4 x 6-8
  • Incline Press 2 x 10-12
  • Military Press, Or Hammer Shoulder Press 2 x 6-8
  • Tricep (skull crushers) Extensions or Tricep Pushdowns 2 x 10-12

Day Two:

  • Squats 3-4 x 6-8
  • Deadlifts, or Stiff-Legged Deadlift 1 x 6-8
  • Pull-Troughs, Glute/Ham Raises, or Reverse Hypers 2 x 10

Day Three:

  • Pull-Up 3 sets to failure
  • Barbell Row 2 x 8
  • EZ-Bar Or Dumbell Curl 1 x 10
  • Heavy Abs 3 x 10

For everyone else use The Ultimate split and gear it to either strength development if you need more focus in that area, or explosive development if you need more focus in that area. 

What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when training for increased vertical leap?

By far the biggest mistake is lack of recovery and too much plyometric volume. The reason for this is really 3-fold:

  • Most of the sports involving lots of jumping inherently involve excessive amounts of activity to begin with. A perfect example is basketball. The avg basketball player runs over 5 miles during the course of a game and jumps 100’s of times. Would you take a sprinter and train him by having him run marathons? Consider that most basketball players play year around multiple times weekly and this volumous training has a negative influence on the capacity to display bouts of extreme fast twitch characteristics like jumping or sprinting short distances. 
  • Most of the individuals that leans towards jumping oriented sports tend to have less than optimal ability to recover to begin with. Think about it: What type of athlete plays football? The natural mesomorph (muscular individual). What type of individual leans towards basketball or volleyball? The natural ectomorph (skinny and frail individual). Through years of practical observation it is known that most ectomorphs inherently struggle to make gains in speed, strength, power, and muscle size and have a reduced capacity to tolerate volumous activity. 
  • Most of the information on the market promotes large volumes of plyometric work. Most of these individuals are already getting a lot of plyometric work through their sport. This ultimately means they end up focusing 90% of their training in an area where they should be only be focusing 10%. 

Along the same lines, there is a substantial number of people who have the exact opposite problem. Instead of training with too much volume, too much conditioning, and too much plyo work, they do the exact opposite – They focus all their time and energy on strength work yet have no conditioning, no movement efficiency, and their body-fat is too high. This is the type of cat you usually hear say something like, “Well I put 100 pounds on my squat yet can’t jump any higher now than I did.” What they fail to mention is they piled on 20 pounds of body-fat and never spent a single second playing any sports or carrying out any movement drills. 

Do any of those other gimmicks like jumpsoles and rubber bands work?

They might work but only for this reason: Let’s say I take a group of fat people and give them a fake magic pill and tell them the pill will make them lost 25 pounds in 3 months. I then take them out and run them 5 miles each and every day. Three months later all of them have lost 25 pounds. Was the pill responsible for the weight loss? No. they lost weight because they got up off their butt and exercised. All training gimmicks work the same way. All of them have workouts you have to do along with the gimmick and doing anything is better than nothing. 

How important are things like hyperplasia and fast twitch muscles?

Hyperplasia (the creation of new fibers) is of no relevance because the protein content (or size) of a muscle cell (not muscle) determines how much force that cell produces. Add up the total amount of protein in all cells and that determines maximal potential force production.

Let’s say you take 2 people and they each have 10 muscle fibers of the same size. Person A doubles the amount of fibers he has so that he has 20.

Person B doubles the size of the 10 that he has. What will the difference in force production be? None whatsoever. 

Fast twitch content is important in that fast twitch fibers reach max tension quicker. Thus, the more fast twitch muscle you have, the more force you will be able to generate in a rapid movement, but it’s only really important from a starting point. Let me explain: 

Let’s say your thighs measure 20 inches around and the muscle fiber distribution of them is 50% fast twitch and 50% slow twitch. That means of the total 20 inches of muscle in your thigh half is slow twitch and half is fast twitch. 

Let’s say your best friend Jack has thighs that measure 20 inches around and he’s 75% fast twitch and 25% slow twitch.

Even though you guys have the same size thighs, Jack is likely to have an advantage in power, speed and strength over you. You’re more likely to be geared towards marathon running and the like. So, how can you increase your fast twitch content to that of Jack’s? Well, what muscle fiber type gets targeted with resistance training? The fast twitch fibers. This means that when you increase your muscle size through weight training it is the fast twitch muscles that increase in size. 

So, let’s say you resistance train your way to 30 inch thighs. In going from 20 inches to 30 inches the size of your existing fast twitch fibers doubled or even tripled. So, even though the total “number” of fibers in your thighs may not change, by doubling or tripling the size of your existing fast twitch fibers, now the total distribution in your thigh is 75% fast twitch and 25% slow twitch. Now you will be geared more towards functioning like an explosive athlete. 

How important is flexibility training? Khadour Zhiani says that all he does is flexibility training.

A minimum level of flexibilty is necessary, but too much is just as bad as too little. As for Khadour Zhiani, see the above description of the guy with 20 inch legs and a 75% Fast twitch ratio. Couple that with 5% body-fat and a perfect bone and tendon structure and you could get results sitting on your ass playing video games. 

Here is a good pre-workout Dynamic flexibility routine:

Here is a good post-workout static flexibility routine:

How important is nutrition for gains in vertical?

What kind’ve nutrition plan do you think guys like Vince Carter, Michael Jordan, Spud Webb or (insert whomever you want here) are on? Most good athletes eat copious amounts of food. Usually a significant portion of that food is made up of items that aren’t necessarily concluded super clean. Afterall, McDonalds was the fare of choice at the last olympic games.

From a performance perspective it is important that you get enough of the basic macronutrients – protein (check out Nitrean Protein for a high quality protein supplement) and carbohydrates. As the above example should illustrate, where you get those macronutrients is not really important – at least not in the short-term. KFC vs Chicken breasts?? Thirty years down the road there might be a negative impact but in the short term the body can run off anything. 

However, when it comes to making changes in your body composition (losing fat or gaining muscle), what you eat is more important for the following reasons:

  1. Losing fat is mostly about reducing calorie intake. The problem with most standard diets is it’s very easy to consume an excessive amount of calories and thus easier to put on and/or lose fat. What is harder to overeat on – apples or poptarts? Additionally, it’s difficult to drop calories and stay somewhat full when your diet is made up of pop tarts, cokes, kiddie cereal, and big-macs. 
  2. Gaining lean muscle mass without piling on an excessive amount of fat requires a good protein to calorie ratio. The average diet is terrible in this regard. I like a protein intake of 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of Bodyweight. Let’s say we have a 150 pound athlete trying to consume a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. The standard American diet is about 15% protein. That means if he took in 3000 calories he’d be getting 110 grams protein. That protein to calorie ratio is too low. At 3000 calories he oughta easily be able to get in 200 grams of protein. 

I usually tell people to try and make a gradual change to a better diet. Try to eat more of things you can shoot or grow and try to consume less of the things that are in a box or processed. 

Here’s why I suggest a gradual change: What often happens is a young person starts reading about nutrition and suddenly thinks that they have to have a perfect diet. So, someone who’s used to eating kiddie cereal, pop-tarts, fast food, McDonalds, KFC, etc. gets on an ultra strict plan and now all he’s eating are egg whites, oatmeal, chicken breast, salads, potatoes, and broccoli. What’s gonna happen? Nine times out of 10 he won’t get enough to eat and will feel like crap inside of a week. Strength and performance loss soon follows. The inevitable binge is the result. So, instead of making wholesale overnight changes in your diet I suggest you make gradual changes to more of a natural diet. 

Most young people that need to lose weight can drop all the fat they need just by cutting back on what I call the “C’s”. Cokes, candies, cakes, crackers, cereal, ice (c)ream. 

What about post-workout recovery drinks? Is there really a window where the body can absorb more nutrients and can they really impact recovery that much?

There is a period post-workout when the body can make use of more nutrients but it has really been overblown by supplement companies. As long as you take in protein and carbs within a couple of hours after your workout it really doesn’t matter if you get them through a drink or food. 30-50 grams of protien and 50-100 grams of carbs is about right. Drinks can be convenient particularly if you’re not hungry afterwards but I recommend you take in the bulk of your nutrition through real food. 

As for postworkout nutrition and the belief that taking in certain nutrients, drinks, etc will allow your muscles to recover faster so you can train more often, this is also overblown. Whenever you train you deplete muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores. Having full glycogen stores means your muslces have the energy required to fuel intense contractions. Depleted glycogen stores make you weak. A 200 pound man probably has about 500 grams of glycogen stored throughout his entire body. Even if all those stores were depleted, they can be repleted with one day of high carbohydrate eating. The question is: 

  • How much glycogen is depleted through “normal” workouts?
  • How long does it take to replete glycogen stores from normal workouts?
  • Are glycogen depletion and repletion the limiting factors from a recovery standpoint? 

A typical workout might deplete 50-100 or so grams of glycogen. A marathon might deplete 500 grams. Most likely your workouts are more “typical” then that of a marathon runner. If a marathon runner can refill 500 grams of depleted glycogen stores in 24 hours how long do you think it’ll take you to replete 50-100 grams? An hour? 2 hours? 4 hours? The point is, the ability to replete depleted glycogen stores between workouts is not much of a limiting factor. 

So why is it difficult to train and perform 100% day after day after day? 

The fact is, things like microtrauma (muscle damage) and nervous system fatigue induced from your workouts are more limiting from a recovery standpoint than repletion of glycogen stores (which is what supplement companies focus on). The damage inflicted to your muscles during your workouts is the reason why it’s hard to repeat balls to the wall workouts one day after the other. Your muscles need time to repair themselves. The best thing you can do to ensure proper muscular repair and neural recovery are:

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Eat adequate calories
  3. Make sure you rest long enough in between workouts

There are a few other things you can do like using saunas, contrast showers, and ice baths that can help improve recovery to a minimal extent, but rest is far and away the most important thing. Typical recommendations are 7-8 hours of sleep per night and enough recovery time between workouts so that you note progress in some fashion most of the time you repeat a particular workout. If you’re not strong in a workout that usually means you’re not recovered. 

What about olympic lifts? Olympic lifters always jump very high and I heard the lifts are excellent for VJ development.

Olympic lifters jump high because they’re strong and explosive. The O-lifts don’t do anything special themselves but, just like plyometrics, jump squats, and other explosive oriented movements, they can help an athlete express the strength they have quicker. In my setup the O-lifts can be used as an exercise choice if an explosive oriented movement is needed. There is nothing inherently special about them but they are an effective tool in the tool-box. 

Lastly, If you are looking for a complete guide to improving your vertical jump, check out my Vertical Jump Manual

Written by Kelly Baggett

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