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Internal Program Review: Collegiate Swimmer Off-Season Strength & Conditioning Program – Day 1

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The strength and conditioning community is far too fractioned; proprietary training programs and secrecy hide the inner workings of many sports performance coaching theories and facilities. At Ruthless Performance, we find this idea entirely backwards—this mentality is a sign of some fragile egos and insecurity within the industry. To do our part in mitigating this, we’re going to start a new on-going series where we’ll deconstruct some aspect of a selected program from one of our Ruthless Performers. Hopefully this will help coaches and athletes get a better idea of programming and the science of sports performance, regardless of their affiliation with Ruthless Performance.

Our inaugural installment of our Internal Program Review begins with a look at Day 1 of a male, college swimmer’s dryland training program. First, we’ll provide some context…

This swimmer is in between the freshman and sophomore season of his collegiate swimming career. Currently, we’re training him 5x per week. Most workouts have their own day of the week, but occasionally he’ll do doubles if schedule conflicts are present.

As you can see in the figure, his programming is currently changing every 4 weeks and his workout week can most easily be broken down as follows, note that each day is not specifically ‘upper’ or ‘lower’ but rather these ideas denote the dominant exercises for that particular day:Internal Program Review-1

Day 1 – Lower Body

Day 2 – Upper Body

Day 3 – Conditioning

Day 4 – Upper Body

Day 5 – Lower Body

For our Internal Program Review, we’ll examine day 1…

 

1. Box Squat

More than 80% of athletes that we see on a regular basis have some box squat variant somewhere in their training macrocycle, usually this is on a recurring basis as well. The box squat provides a variety of benefits, going into detail here would be too great for the scope of this article. If you’re interested in learning more about how to box squat as well as their benefits, I would recommend performing a quick search for Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell and the Box Squat.Internal-Program-Review-1-2232796486-1528147415624.jpg

In this case, we’re slowly reintegrating the squat into his program after having some time off following his long swim season. Here, we’ve added the box squat as a means to help assist in developing leg strength, posterior weight shift (integral to developing a proficient and technically sound squat) and building muscle to subsequently assist in force production coming off of the blocks and during turns.

 

2. Hanging Straight Leg Raises

A crucial component to any strength and conditioning program developed by Ruthless Performance is a substantial element of force transfer in various planes. In our A2, which is paired with the A1 (Box Squats), we’re emphasizing this force transfer, and we’re doing so specifically in the Sagittal Plane.

With the Hanging Straight Leg Raises (HSLR), we’re also building the anterior chain, specifically the abdominals. Though swimmers are no stranger to ‘core’ exercises, they can be unfamiliar with lower-repetition strength-dominant work in the abdominals like this. Whether its poolside after practice or at-home at the behest of their coaches, swimmers frequently train with high repetition crunches, sit-ups, or poorly performed planks.Internal-Program-Review-1-2.jpg

Exercises like the HSLR are rarely given at Ruthless as these can place too much emphasis on the Rectus Femoris which already receives ample stimulation during regular swim practice. But unlike with Bent Leg Raises, the straight leg variation provides more stimuli to the abdominals, which can partially explain why it is much harder than bent leg variations (also worth searching, but beyond the scope of our review: passive insufficiency).

Something also worth noting with the HSLR is how we manipulate this to maximize efficacy. With most weighted exercises, this is done via an increase in resistance. With a bodyweight exercise like this, we are slightly more confined in our ability to progress this over a 4-week period. Therefore we’re slowly adding more repetitions to each set throughout the program.

 

3. 180 Hip Extension

If you’ve never trained with us, you’ve likely gotten familiar with this exercise being referred to as a ‘back extension’. This is partially a misnomer, specifically at Ruthless Performance as we actively coach a rounded upper back on this exercise to maximize glute input, while minimizing lower back activation.Internal-Program-Review-1-3.jpg

The erector muscles already receive a great deal of stimulation any time the back/hips are being used as a fulcrum (which is close to any time you are doing a non-isolation/machine exercise). Additionally, the capillary network of the low back is rather poor, causing a slow recovery time. Doing low-back work in addition to all of this could be a decrement to performance rather than performance enhancing.

This can be progressed with weights or bands as needed, but a large emphasis should initially be placed on glute activation during this exercise rather than on a large range of motion (ROM). We typically encourage an external femoral rotation when possible, which further activates the glutes on this. When the glutes can’t contract any more on the hip extension, there is no reason to add more ROM.

 

4. Calf Raises

One of the benefits of working with an athlete with such frequency is that we can get into some details holding them back that would otherwise be unachievable on a 2x or 3x /wk program. With this athlete, poor calf hypertrophy is likely a weak link holding back lower body development. From a physics standpoint, mass can’t be added without a broad base of support.  Consider the tyrannosaurus rex, with its massive legs serving as a point of contact and base of support, or in engineering the structure and shape of the world’s largest buildings.

Specifically, to build mass in the calves without taking too much time away from more pertinent programming, we focus on density. Through the course of the program, we’re trying to have this athlete perform more reps with the fewest amount of sets possible. It is very rare to manipulate the volume so drastically from weeks 1 to weeks 4, but this is precisely what is needed in this situation.

Internal Program Review-1

 

5. High Handle Sled Push

We rarely have our swimmers perform energy system training, but in this case, the athlete is out of season and will need to preserve some basic level of cardiovascular conditioning for when he returns to college in the fall. You can learn more about our theories and thoughts on energy system training for swimmers in our article aptly titled “Why Ruthless Performance Doesn’t Emphasize Energy System Training for Our Swimmers”.

The sled provides an opportunity to help generate greater ROM between the legs, build concentric strength, increase hip and ankle mobility, and is just a generally versatile conditioning tool. You’ll also notice that the distance is relatively short. He’s been performing these bouts between 6-10 seconds. This by no means will provide an amount of conditioning conducive to in-pool training and performance, but will help maintain and improve ATP usage at the end of a long workout, which transfers nicely into a strong finish in a mid-distance/distance event.

 

Have any questions about what you see or would you like further clarification? Send us your questions at info@RuthlessPerformance.com. Your question may even turn into inspiration for a blog or social media post.

Lecture Takeaways: Ruthless Performance Methods & Practices for Peak Athletic Function

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Its easy to imagine how a lecture scheduled for 30 minutes, on a topic as encompassing as optimizing performance, could end up being an hour and 6-minute open-ended discussion. This is precisely what happened this past week at Bloomsburg University during our guest presentation on how Ruthless Performance trains individuals to achieve high performance.

The content of this lecture ranged from specific exercises to an exploration of the Central Nervous System; similarly, questions ranged from the efficacy of BCAA’s to proper running gait—all of which led to an extremely informative and productive talk, filled with content and subsequent questions.

Below is a summary of some of the most important takeaways from this lecture. Remember, human performance is a broad topic, but the information below meets some objective criteria for significance within the theories and practices we endorse at Ruthless Performance.

 

First, a Definition of Terms

Because there is not one set definition of ‘high performance’ across sports and fitness endeavors, let’s assume the definition is as follows: high performance is the ability to perform within the top 10% of your own ability within any fitness doctrine.

For a 5K runner, this means being able to run a 5K within a margin of 10% of your best time at your current state of training. Similarly, for a weightlifter, this means being able to Clean & Jerk or Snatch within 10% of your current capacity for a 1RM. This is not to dismiss linear periodization (though Ruthless Performance typically does shy away from this style) nor is this a sleight on tapering for a significant bout or competition.

During a high-mileage segment of a marathon runner’s training regimen, she may be outside of this 10% margin from a previous race or time. The 10% margin of performance as defined here is referring to a precise training state. In the case of the marathon runner, her ability to complete a half-marathon trial within 10% of her previous season’s high-mileage training cycle is what we are referring to. The closer the training variables are, the more applicable this rule becomes.

 

The Motivational Training Montage is Just the Icing on the Cake

The significance of training to perform is predicated on fundamental health and wellness practices. A 6-hour a day training program would get world-class athletes no where were it not for a broad base of fundamental behaviors.Basics of Health & Function

These behaviors are known universally at some intuitive level, but not always acted upon. What could be viewed as boring and frivolous can make the difference between 6 more weeks of training and 6 weeks of sitting out with the flu while your competition trains because you didn’t get a flu vaccination from your primary care provider.

A similar situation could be ignoring the necessity for injury care work and corrective exercise during the early onset stages of shoulder pain or movement dysfunction as presented in a movement screen. The examples here are limitless, suffice it to say that all of the traditional variables of wellness like sleep quality, nutrition, lifestyle stress, and on, are all predecessors to your ability to train and compete within our newly defined parameters of ‘high performance’.

 

More to Come…

This just grazes the surface of the lecture but provides valuable insights into some fundamentals of high performance. First, high performance must be defined; when a term is open-ended, its implications are only speculative and unattainable. Second, high performance is the sum of the boring but necessary components of life that makes an athlete healthy enough to train and compete within their specific doctrine.

As we continue to review the Ruthless Performance Methods & Practices for Peak Athletic Function lecture, we’ll cover nutrition for high performance, ‘anti-specificity training’, universally essential exercises, and the role of the central nervous system in high performance.

Have a question on this topic or want to train with Ruthless Performance? Contact us via email at info@RuthlessPerformance.com, RuthlessPerformance.com/contact, and be sure to follow us on social media at @RuthlessPerform on Twitter and Instagram.

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 44

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View the last edition of ‘Featured Fitness Content’ here.

Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

Performance Programming Principles: Installment 2  By Eric Cressey

The 3 Main Goals of an Assessment By Dean Somerset

Step-by-Step Glute Training By Mike Robertson

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

Why You Might Not Need to Learn More About Nutrition By Mike Roussell

Carbohydrates – My Take on Carbs By Charles Poliquin

The Greatest Public Health Mistake of the 20th Century By Joseph Mercola

Honey Lemon Water: An Effective Remedy or Urban Myth? By Jillian Kubala via Health Line

7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Selenium By Jillian Kubala via Health Line

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

Are You Making These Strength Training Mistakes By G John Mullen via COR

Complete Core Questions By Michael Boyle

Get Tough: A Beginner’s Guide To Impact Training By Walter Dorey via Breaking Muscle

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

The Power of Accepting Personal Responsibility By Jen Comas via Girls Gone Strong

Truth: Half of What We Call ‘Fitness’ Isn’t Fitness at All By Lee Boyce

Before you design a chart or infographic By Seth Godin

Don’t create new content. Repurpose content. By Sol Orwell

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

[VIDEO] Recent Training and Evaluation Insights By Charlie Weingroff

Research

Science Is Self-Correcting – The Case Of The Hip Thrust And Its Effects On Speed By Bret Contreras

Why Ruthless Performance Doesn’t Emphasize Energy System Training for Our Swimmers

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Outside of a handful of technological advances in competition suits and some isolated factions of coaches and athletes, the sport of swimming is largely stuck in a late 90’s – early 2000’s mentality; which is a generous approximation on my part, as the sport of swimming in the 90’s-00’s wasn’t all that much better from the handful of decades preceding it. This old school training mindset included a great emphasis on high yardage in the pool, followed by a big taper leading up to important and championship swim meets.

 

The high yardage/ big taper approach certainly has its applications, but much like how swimmers took the alleged 10,000+ kCal ‘Phelps Diet’ leading up to the 2008 Olympics as an excuse to overconsume and under-nourish with empty-nutrient and calorie-rich foods, braggadocios swim coaches have hijacked the good intent of high-yardage programs, and now misinformed coaches are globally vying for title of who can put their athletes through the most pain.

 

Since the semi-archaic idea of mega-yardage programs still have some merit, I’d like to focus dryland training, the dated and frequently perpetuated fallacies surrounding this, as well as what Ruthless Performance does with our swimmers and what other high-level programs are engaged in from a strength training perspective.

 

This well-known Ruthless Performance philosophy regarding dryland training for swimmers leads many concerned parents and swim coaches to ask the Ruthless Performance staff about our programs. Since swimming requires so much cardio, shouldn’t that be a main part of dryland training?

 

Simply put, no. But here’s the longer answer…

 

In the past, dryland training has mirrored pool-based training very closely. This would include ideas like distance running and other high intensity-based conditioning routines (and if you’re lucky, some lackadaisically performed, poorly designed rotator cuff band complexes). Not only is this additional energy system training unnecessary (during the in-season), but it can also be burdensome, ineffective, and at worst, harmful to performance.

 

One of the main reasons we don’t program a large amount of energy system training in our swimmers’ training programs is because of the sheer volume of energy system work that swimmers get while in the pool. Most swimmers can get through a large part of the warm-up without realizing that they are engaging in conditioning already. Add the various work sets done through a workout, and then repeated on a nearly daily basis, and you have a recipe for fantastic cardiopulmonary function and sport-specific energy-system development.

The problem is that coaches too frequently confuse the cardiovascular demands of the sport of swimming with the cardiovascular demands of swim practice.

Running is one such frequently assigned dryland activity for swimmers, used as a means of developing cardiovascular function. This is in part, due to the perception that swimming is a sport which requires a lot of cardio—which it does. The problem is that coaches too frequently confuse the cardiovascular demands of the sport of swimming with the cardiovascular demands of swim practice.

 

Adding more conditioning work on top of what is done in practice is simply providing an athletes cardiovascular system with diminishing marginal returns on ability to practice; this is largely ineffective because of how quickly the cardiovascular system responds and adapts to training stimuli. A few weeks of pre-season practice and a base level of cardiovascular function is restored to the point where an athlete can successfully compete at meets and return to more rigorous in-season training. Since most events are over in less than two minutes, this style of dryland training can become redundant and inefficient.

 

Adding running or various other conditioning modalities on top of traditional in-pool training can yield greater performance; just not as great as swimming performance could be if we focused on some other modalities and training tools. This is a conversation for another day entirely, but all of the strength-based training that we have our swimmers perform help in a variety of ways. Our strength training does, in fact, enhance energy system capacities, specifically the phosphocreatine (quick anaerobic energy system pathway). This is the system which leads to faster starts, quick turns, breakouts, and even negative splits in distance events.

 

All this to say that strength training with minimal traditional cardiovascular input is the primary way we train our athletes and for good reason. Rather than simply packing on additional volume of similar work, we are building up muscles which help prevent overuse injuries, minimizing the impact of training stressors, improve reaction time, coordination, catch in the water and so on. This allows athletes the opportunity to train more optimally in the pool, which is the primary vessel for developing skill-specific capacities in swimmers.

 

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 41

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Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

The Complete Guide to Dynamic Swimming Warm-up for Swimmers via COR

Reverse Engineering The Plank By Charlie Weingroff

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

The surprising truth about sugar.  By Brian St. Pierre & Krista Scott-Dixon via Precision Nutrition

Artificial sweeteners fail dieters; cause health risks By Buddy Touchinsky

Hack Your Mood & Optimize Your Sleep By Ben House via Onnit Academy

5 Life-Changing Nutrition Tips for New Moms By Jesse Mundell via Girls Gone Strong

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

So You Say People Who Don’t Squat or Deadlift will End Up Broken…  By Lee Boyce

5 Keys to Training Success By Mike Robertson

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

Getting More Dream Clients By Being More Who You Really Are  By Mark Fisher via Business for Unicorns

Four Apps That Improve My Business and Lower My Stress  By Michael Keeler via Business for Unicorns

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

A Better Way to Mobilize the Wrist  By Erson Religioso

How to Spot and Correct Hamstring Tightness By Brent Frayser via COR

Why Serratus Anterior Matters  With Eric Cressey

 

Research

Science Is Self-Correcting – The Case Of The Hip Thrust And Its Effects On Speed By Bret Contreras

Do probiotics improve quality of life in seasonal allergies? By Kamal Patel via Examine

21 of the best arguments for and against coconut oil  By Kamal Patel via Examine

 

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 40

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Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

Trouble Shooting Your Program: 5 Powerful Principles for Better Adaptation By Jeff Moyer via Just Fly Sports

Perceived Value and the Fitness Industry By Dean Somerset

You’re Supporting the Get Rich Quick Schemes of 21 Year Olds, and It’s Ruining Fitness By Lee Boyce

Online Coaching: Past, Present and Future By Mike Robertson

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

The Truth About Coconut Oil and Your Heart By Sean Hyson via Onnit Academy

Having low blood pressure also carries health risks By Buddy Touchinsky

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

Step Up Your Quad And Glute Strength And Hypertrophy With Step-Downs  By Meghan Callaway

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

The TV Shows You Watch Are Making You Broke  By Tim Denning via Addicted 2 Success

Forget “career hacks”… Here’s the real key to career success that almost no one is talking about.  via Precision Nutrition

3 STRONG Life Success Tips & Why Successful People Are Considered “Crazy” By Zach Even Esh

Brandscaping and the Fitness Industry By Eric Cressey

45 Lessons I’ve Learned Along The Way…  By Pat Rigsby

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

2 Halfs of a Hamstring  By Dean Somerset

5 Reasons Why I Don’t Use the Sleeper Stretch and Why You Shouldn’t Either By Mike Reinold via The Manual Therapist

Must-Follow Guide for Strength Training AFTER Physical Therapy  via COR

 

Research

The No Barbell Experiment On Squat And Deadlift And Hip Thrust Strength  By Bret Contreras

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 39

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View last week’s edition of ‘Featured Fitness Content’ here.

Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

Interview with Lee Taft on Coaching Agility, Speed and Athletic Movement By Joel Smith with Lee Taft

Why I Don’t Like Scap Push-ups By Eric Cressey

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

How Much Cardio Do You Need To Get Ripped For Summer?  By Sean Hyson via Onnit Academy

A Really Bad Long Term Strategy for Weight Loss By Mike Roussell

Doctors should emphasize exercise, not weight loss By Buddy Touchinsky

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

8 Mobility Moves For Better Squatting, Pressing, and Pulling By Mark DiSalvo via Onnit Academy

7 Tips for a Bigger Bench  By Bret Contreras

3 Ways to Reduce Stress and Improve Recovery During Your Next Workout By Harold Gibbons via Mark Fisher Fitness

28 Years of Lifting: Strength Training In Your 40s & Training As You Get Older By Zach Even Esh

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

5 Powerful Life Lessons From the Book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss By Liam Seed via Addicted 2 Success

How To *Not* Be A Spineless Leader By Tim Denning via Addicted 2 Success

How to Build a Fitness Practice that Brings You Joy  By Elizabeth Stacey via Mark Fisher Fitness

Waking up to life By Kim Lloyd

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

6 Hip Mobility Drills Everyone Should Perform By Mike Reinold

[VIDEO] Communicating with Docs, PTs working as Strength Coaches & Essential Reading for Students With Mike Reinold

Stretching Isn’t Bullshit  By Jasper De Coninck via Dean Somerset

 

Research

Fact check: Is boxed macaroni and cheese actually toxic?  By Kamal Patel via Examine

 

Ruthless Performance Coaches’ Content

Why Do We Need Fats in Our Diet? By Jesse Rodriguez

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 37

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Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

The Most Versatile Training Tool of All Time: Hills for Strength, Speed, and Endurance Via Just Fly Sports

5 Essential Athletic Assessment Skills By Joel Smith

My new favourite exercise: Half-Kneeling band Pallof press By Elsbeth Vaino

Fix Your Push Ups and Planks with the Foam Roller By Joel Seedman

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

Move of the Week: Resting Metabolic Rate By Jeremy Lau via HalevyLife

The surprising truth about sugar. By Krista Scott-Dixon and Brian St. Pierre via Precision Nutrition

How to solve the two biggest health and fitness problems most women face. By Krista Scott-Dixon via Precision Nutrition

7 Ways Fitness Professionals Can Help Their Clients Improve Their Body Image By Jessi Kneeland via Girls Gone Strong

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

The Hybrid Deadlift Stance By Eric Maroscher via EliteFTS

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

Opinion: Amazon Buying Wholefoods Won’t Make You Healthier By Jeremy Lau via HalevyLife

Gym Owner Musings – Installment #5 By Pete Dupuis

Taxes, Fees & Expenses Not Included – Budgeting For Gym Ownership By Pete Dupuis

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

Best Lat Stretch Ever! By Diesel Strength

Why Stretching Something That Hurts Isn’t Always The Answer By Nikki Naab-Levy via Girls Gone Strong

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 36

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**Editor’s Note: Since The Fitness Resource merged with Ruthless Performance, we will be continuing TFR’s ‘Featured Fitness Content’ on our site. Be sure to subscribe to get the best content in health, fitness, and human performance delivered to your inbox every week.**

Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

Considerations for Masters Lifters Via Juggernaut Training Systems

The Fallacies That Dominate Youth Athletic Training  Via Breaking Muscle

Do You Know What Your Core Really Is And What It Does? Via Breaking Muscle

The “Crowd” Wants Sets & Reps But Coaching MUST Go BEYOND Sets & Reps By Zach Even Esh

Fastpitch Friday Ep.28 Strategies to Avoid Low Back Pain for the Trap Bar Deadlift By Nancy Newell

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

Why Liver Is a Nutrient-Dense Superfood By Alexandra Rowles via Authority Nutrition

10 Health Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice By Alina Petre via Authority Nutrition

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

[VIDEO] Maximizing the Deadlift Warm-Up By Dr. Quinn Henoch via Juggernaut Training Systems

Step Up Your Glute Game With This Goblet Variation By Meghan Callaway

Busting the High Bar vs. Low Bar Squat Myth By John Rusin

Train Harder & Recover Faster with Concentric Only Training By Justin Ochoa via Dean Somerset

Strength Training Methods for Distance Runners via HMMR Media

This Is The Single Responsibility of Your Core Muscles By Harold Gibbons

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

The Biggest Problem For Personal Trainers By Michael Keeler via Business for Unicorns

45 Lessons I’ve Learned Along The Way… By Pat Rigsby

MF’s 15 Business Principles By Mark Fisher via Business for Unicorns

5 Ways To Consistently Finish Anything You Start By Denise Damijo via Addicted 2 Success

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

Improving Shoulder Motion: Lat Inhibition By Dr. Quinn Henoch via Juggernaut Training Systems

Cossack Squats: Breaking Out of the Sagittal Plane By Dean Somerset

 

Research

Low-carbing for endurance: the oxygen problem By Kamal Patel via Examine

Does diet soda cause strokes and dementia? By Kamal Patel via Examine

 

Ruthless Performance Coaches’ Content

Managing Post-Workout Hunger By Jesse Rodriguez