strength and conditioning

Why Do Ruthless Performance Workouts Use the Same Mobility Drills in the Warm-Up and Cool-Down?

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Most of the programs that we design and implement at Ruthless Performance have some meticulously detailed cool-down for an athlete to do following their last exercises of the day. And in most cases these are some combination of mobility drills, breathing techniques, or myofascial release strategies.

Past all of the very significant reasons that a proper cool down in crucial for athlete development, there’s a handful of additional benefits an athlete will receive by doing their prescribed combination of mobility drills at this particular time. When an athlete does these drills early on in the workout, likely in their warm-up or as an accessory drill between main sets, more mobility (active use of ROM) is required of the articulations themselves–like in the spine or at the hip.

But after a workout, while there is more blood circulating in the muscles, the mobility drills will more specifically target these areas–even if it is the same exercise that is done pre-workout.

There also seems to be more lasting changes in range-of-motion when these exercises are completed post-workout. Whereas in the warm-up, these drills serve to enhance proper movement and function during the workout, but the lasting effects seem to be negated by the workouts themselves.

This is why we recommend including high-priority mobility drills in the pre and post-workout time period.

Internal Program Review: Corrective Exercise Program for an Elite Female CrossFit Athlete

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Throughout the entirety of my college tenure and time as a collegiate strength & conditioning coach, I was extremely averse to CrossFit. Though my stance hasn’t changed much regarding CrossFit as a means of enhancing athletic prowess, it has changed considerably towards using CrossFit as a means of enhancing fitness in the general population as well as CrossFit as a sport unto itself. My thoughts on CrossFit as a whole are best saved for another day, but my opinions on it have been trending more positively as of late.

During this time in my life, I would have never anticipated that moving forward I’d have a wonderful working relationship with a handful of CrossFit affiliates, as well as having a roster on-hand of over 300 CrossFit athletes that I actively assess, program, and am generally accountable for with regards to health and longevity in the sport.

With all this said, I wanted to do a break down of one of the Ruthless Performance Ex Phys Interventions, one of our flagship corrective exercise protocols. This internal program review will vary slightly from some in the past, as some information has been redacted/blurred. I don’t have any problems answering any questions, or providing explanations for these programs, but because of the highly individualized and semi-clinical nature of these programs, sharing the entirety of these programs can be counterproductive as many exercises that work for the client may not work for others.

I’ve only left the information visible on this program that I want to share (and am capable of covering) within the scope of this article. The Ruthless Performance Ex Phys Interventions are largely just corrective in nature and do not comprise the entirety of an athlete’s program. These are usually done in conjunction with our Remote Programming, Athlete Development Training, or in conjunction with other sports (like CrossFit, powerlifting, or weightlifting).

Ex Phys Interventions typically have a handful of components meant to mend well with existing programing. Programs are almost always comprised of warm-up, cool-down, activation work, and then from here may include some combination of at-home work, daily mobility circuits, weekly totals, etc..

So let’s dig in…

1. To Fix Something Rapidly, Do it Frequently

Jennifer Smith - EPI - 7The daily exercises typically involved in our Ex Phys Interventions seek to address some underlying physical deviation causing undue strain on the musculoskeletal system. By assigning these exercises to do frequently, but with low-intensity, these can be completed shortly before bed, upon waking, during lunch breaks, and so on…

In this case, we’re dealing with an athlete that has prominent Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT), slight Upper Cross Syndrome, and flexion-intolerant back pain (read more on flexion vs. extension intolerant back pain here). The at-home exercises were largely meant to remedy these issues, while requiring relatively little input from the CNS, allowing the athlete to perform these with a greater level of frequency.

This exercise circuit is listed to be performed 3x / week. More is better in the case of these exercises, but 3x / week is a frequency that an athlete can adhere to with relative ease.

2. Breathing Drills are Making a Come-Back

Jennifer Smith - EPI - 7Breathing Drills are one of those topics that deserve their own article (if not their own book). There are many great resources to learn about the significance of proper breathing in greater specificity, but suffice it to say that in a cool-down, we are looking for activation of the diaphragm to help pull the athlete into a more parasympathetic-dominant state (the CNS should be the focal point of Exercise Science curricula rather than the muscular system, again another post, another day…).

The Deep Squat Belly Breathing w/ Lat Stretch drill is useful specifically with this athlete as we’re attempting to alter the CNS, while simultaneously helping the client feel better overhead, minimize input from various accessory breathing structures, and get some extra post-workout work on that deep squat position; mobility drills done post-workout seem to have longer-lasting effects on range of motion and function.

Additionally, I’ve left in the header of her assigned myofascial release work for a quick note… The effects of myofascial release seem to be slightly overblown BUT myofascial release is still important enough to make our corrective programs. By drastically cutting down the time on the rollers & lacrosse balls, but maintaining frequency, we can experience the benefits of myofascial work without it taking up more time than is needed. 15 seconds on the roller and LAX ball per muscle group as a standard and doubling this only for trouble areas.

3. Corrective Exercises Aren’t Always Crazy Stretches

I’ll be the first to admit that many of the exercises within our corrective protocols are complex and can be viewed as a novelty. This theme can encapsulate athletes’ perceptions generally towards correctives, but this isn’t always the case.

Jennifer Smith - EPI - 7

Both biceps femoris (legs) and biceps brachii (arms) tend to be an issue for CrossFit athletes… Since many CrossFit facilities tend to avoid use of machines, the hamstrings (biceps femoris) tend to be neglected, specifically the short head of the muscle, whose primary responsibility is lower leg flexion. In the case of the arms (biceps brachii), which are stimulated by exercises like traditional dumbbell or barbell curls, there again tends to be an imbalance between the long head and short head, leading to problems at the shoulder, elbow, and even wrist.

By adding in a weekly total for barbell curls, we can ensure the athlete is getting sufficient short-head activation without much complexity. Barbell curls, no weights, hit this total every week; that’s it.

4. Multi-Function Joints Need Multi-Function Stimulation

The joint-by-joint theory popularized by Physical Therapist Gray Cook can appear invalid Jennifer Smith - EPI - 7at the shoulder, as it is comprised of two primary joints. But as the data points to, the theory fits as one joint provides stability (acromioclavicular joint) and the other yields greater range of motion (glenohumeral).

With this in mind, we’ve focused the athletes Day 1, 3, and 5 activation drills around ensuring these various functional components of the shoulder and thoracic spine are being stimulated.

The Half-Kneeling 90/90 External Rotation stimulates the Supraspinatus in isolation. I reference the significance of the Supraspinatus regularly, but its significance is largely rooted in its function as one of the few muscles that externally rotates the humerus. Bench T-Spines are ideal for wedging the shoulder blades into the thoracic spine, thus forcing some sagittal plane mobility (thoracic extension). And of course, this variation of carries works the rotator cuffs of the shoulder independently of one another, while ensuring large amounts of irradiation (tension directed upwards in the kinetic chain) because of the bottoms-up grip. This further supports the desired outcome of very active, healthy rotator cuffs.

 

For more details on any of our corrective exercise programs, send us an email at info@RuthlessPerformance.com. Program facilitation available in-person and online.

Ruthless Performance Mavericks Program: A Sneak-Peak

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If you’re not familiar with the Ruthless Performance Mavericks Program, it’s something well-worth looking into as a primary or accessory strength & conditioning program. The program consists of 3-12 workouts per week (depending on season, goals, recovery status, etc.). Though the program is rooted in long-term strength gain, the Mavericks workouts also build up cardiovascular endurance, mental toughness, hypertrophy, and any and all other capacities one would hope to develop through a traditional workout regimen.

 

This is true to the extent that I’ve personally used the Mavericks program as the base for prepping for events across the athletic continuum; from a 65 mile cycling race spanning from Philly to Atlantic City to powerlifting meets. The program has also been the primary physical preparation tool for big-game hunters, swimmers, CrossFit athletes, and more.

 

Hierarchy of PerformanceThe program is so versatile because of the formative and fundamental role that a well-designed strength & conditioning program has on any athletic or performance-oriented endeavor. By building up such an encompassing portfolio of exercises, energy system capacities, movement proficiencies, and athleticism as a whole, individuals are easily able to transition from one skill or sport to the next, and do so at an extraordinarily high level.

 

The Ruthless Performance Mavericks Program differs from some of our other programs in that the workouts are the same from one individual to the next, only differing in load, intensity, and an individual’s overall athletic capabilities. Emphasis can be moved throughout the program as well. For example, a bodybuilder may take the accessory volume more seriously, while a powerlifter may focus more on the strength and primary exercises involved. In our Athletic Development programs, each program is individualized outside of the warm-up. Similarly, among personal training clients, every aspect is much more up to the goals of the individual. The Mavericks program is a cost-effective tool to build an encompassing base of athleticism and is great for individuals who may get bored of traditional or more predictable programing. This program is no better or worse, but if you think it may be right for you, reach out at RuthlessPerformance.com/contact to get started.

 

Today we’re going to show you our current main exercises and how they fit into the bigger picture of the Ruthless Performance Mavericks programming…

 

We’re seriously focused on some elements of training that we’ve largely neglected in the past. These elements are density, volume, and lactate threshold. These elements of programing are in most of our workout bouts, but rarely break into our ‘A1-A2’ sets (or to the unindoctrinated, this would be referred to as the main work).

 

Of our currently programed 7 workouts, 4 are comprised of heavy, high volume-strength work—these will be the focus of today’s post.

 

All of which are done 10×10, and as an ‘EMOM’ (every minute on the minute). The traditional lifts don’t always transition very well into this type of super high volume training and can be detrimental to long-term and short-term central nervous system function, this is why the exercise selection is slightly odd…

 

Day 1 – Front Squat – 10×10 – EMOM

Day 2 – Incline Barbell Press – 10×10 – EMOM

Day 3 – Rest/ Active Recovery/ Conditioning

Day 4 – Romanian Deadlift – 10×10 – EMOM

Day 5 – Overhead Press – 10×10 – EMOM

Day 6 – Rest/ Active Recovery/ Conditioning

Day 7 – Rest/ Skill Work

 

The primary work as listed above is not the entirety of the strength workouts. There is always accessory work which varries from day to day. The Front Squat Day, for example, may be followed by a circuit of 3 strength exercises, like Hamstring Curls, Contralateral KB RDLs, and Overhead Med Ball Slams. Then, either another 2-exercise circuit like calf raises and toes-to-bar, or a quick conditioner like Rower Repeats or a Stationary Bike Tabata…

 

Skill work varies from person to person, depending on their goals or upcoming seasons. For me, skill work currently consists of target work with the bow for the upcoming hunting season. Conditioning work consists of a combination of hill sprints, strongman work, long-distance steady-state cardio, rower, or cycling. Conditioning workouts are included with the Maverick’s program, but these tend to be only for individuals working specifically on the Maverick’s program.

 

For athletes competing in CrossFit, Powerlifting, Hunters, Cyclists, or Runners, their conditioning days and times are traditionally filled by their skill specific training or by the mandates of their coaches.

 

A 10×10 EMOM is by no means standard programing for the Maverick’s Training, but we recognize the need to maximize these capacities. For this four-week cycle, we are trying to maximize hypertrophy, tolerance for higher-volume strength work, as well as to back-off of CNS input before coming back with some higher-intensity conjugate style training.

 

Sign-up or learn more about the Ruthless Performance Maverick’s programing by emailing us at info@RuthlessPerformance.com

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.

Flexion vs. Extension Intolerant Back Pain

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Of the individuals that participate in either the Ruthless Performance Ex Phys Interventions or our Posture Restoration & Injury Prevention Training, there is no across-the-board origin of pain or movement dysfunction at the hip or low back; in fact, client training histories run the gamut in activity level, training history, limb length, and so on.

So what is the common denominator among individuals with low back pain?

In short, there isn’t one singular origin, but rather there are two.

The more frequent of which is extension intolerance. This is common among what we in the Strength & Conditioning world refer to as ‘desk jockeys’, or any individual who is regularly in a resting position of spinal flexion. This includes desk workers, individuals with extended work commutes, TV watchers, and so on… Given our societal predisposition to these patterns, it should be relatively straightforward as to why this is so common.

In opposition to this is flexion intolerance. This is common among highly active individuals such as weightlifters, american football players, backpackers, manual laborers, and so on.

Assessing which category you fall in can usually be done simply with the above information, however there are some easy to perform physical tests as well. A hip extension machine is a great tool for diagnosing the more common extension intolerant back pain. Simply perform a standard hip extension, from here take notice to your range of motion and comfort levels. To assess flexion-intolerant back pain, perform several repetitions of the traditional sit-up or crunch. From here, reevaluate pain, comfort, and ROM.  If a hip extension machine is unavailable, any exercise in which spinal extension occurs (or spinal flexion for the flexion intolerant assessment) can be used.

These tests in congruity can determine a great deal about the cause and symptoms of any dysfunctions or abnormalities in the spine. Oddly enough the solution for both of these issues starts with the same series of correctives…

To gain more mobility in the requisite spinal segments (for extension and flexion), start with rotational spinal mobility to help ensure that as these capacities develop, the movement is coming from the correct areas of the spine (primarily thoracic rather than lumbar). Some exercises and drills which may assist here are quadruped t-spines, cross-over stretch, russian med ball twists, and so on.

From here you can progress into more specific drills to focus on your specific type of intolerance (i.e. focusing more on adding range to spinal extension drills or vice versa).

Spinal health can be simplified into a system of mathematical averages; to regain extension, flexion, or even to maintain a more neutral spine, adequate steps need to be taken to pull the posture in that direction.

For more information on our Posture Restoration & Injury Prevention Training or the Ruthless Performance Ex Phys Interventions, send us a message at RuthlessPerformance.com/contact.

 

Featured Fitness Content: Volume 42

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

Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning

What is DOMS and How Do You Deal With It? via COR

Beyond Mastery: Kettlebell Flow Workout  By Karen Smith via Girls Gone Strong

Restore Your Breathing and Improve Your Conditioning via Diesel Strength

Coaching art & science  By Vern Gambetta via HMMR Media

 

Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health

Could you be developing an autoimmune disease? By Buddy Touchinsky

The Hidden, Unspoken Dangers About Oral Contraceptives By Justin Janoska via Metabolic Effect

Does “low carb” have an official definition? By Kamal Patel via Examine

 

Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

The Deadlift: 3 Reasons By Mark Rippetoe via Starting Strength

Tip: Movement Prep for Olympic Lifting By Wil Fleming via T-Nation

Tip: How to Bring Up a Weak Body Part By John Meadows T-Nation

 

Motivation, Business, and Success

Why The Easy Life Breeds Weakness In AND Out of The Gym By Zach Even Esh

6 Things Entrepreneurship Can Teach You About Fitness  By Mark Fisher via Mark Fisher Fitness

Discounts vs. Packages in Your Cash Practice By Aaron LeBauer via The OMPT

Seeing and believing By Seth Godin

3 Ways to Improve Your Customer Service, Starting Today  By Michael Keeler

 

Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention

Life Lessons I Learned from My Physical Therapist  By Stella Kaufman via Mark Fisher Fitness

 

Research

Can supplemental vitamin D improve sleep? By Kamal Patel via Examine

Do high-carbohydrate diets increase the risk of death?  By Kamal Patel via Examine

What I Learned About Injury Rates from Surveying 1,900 Powerlifters By Andrew Patton via Stronger by Science

 

Ruthless Performance Coaches’ Content

Why Ruthless Performance Doesn’t Emphasize Energy System Training for Our Swimmers By John Matulevich via Ruthless Performance

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

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