Visiting my alma mater for workshops and lectures is something I look forward to. I enjoy seeing the growth of the institution, the new faces, etc. This was even more so the case this past week when I presented on the concepts of mobility and stability to the Bloomsburg University Strength & Fitness Club. As a former president of the club, it was rewarding to see that the club has continued to find success and a segment of the student body interested in such high-level concepts in kinesiology and human performance.
The workshop began with a very typical introduction to the joint-by-joint approach. Since most anyone who’s listened to me talk at-length have heard about this, I’ll save this concept for its own post some other time. Because this wasn’t classroom based, we quickly moved into a handful of actionable drills and techniques that these students could swiftly employ into their own workout programming.
As long as an hour can seem, it flies by when you’re trying to demonstrate, correct, and generally facilitate these cutting-edge and nuanced exercises in a group setting; but, there were definitely some stand-out moments and takeaways worth talking about further here.
College-Students are Predisposed to Flexion-Based Abnormalities
Long hours locked into flexion in the classroom, library, or lab are requisite for scholarly success; recreating in these positions is not. Rather than spend time outside of the classroom sitting even more in front of the TV, strength training or club sports can offer an opportunity to enhance spinal mechanics as well as overall cognition and more.
To take this a step further, students can spend their time more efficiently during a warm-up for a workout by focusing on the specific areas of the spine and musculature that are most prone to poor mechanics and resting tone. A keen observer to the workshop may notice we didn’t spend much time going over drills that accentuate flexion; this is largely by design.
One all-too-common observation is the over emphasis of the pecs and lats in most strength training programs. With a population prone to long bouts of sitting (flexion), the internal rotation caused by lat and pec dominance can exacerbate some associated musculoskeletal injuries. Reducing volume on the lats and pecs, while increasing the volume of work done by the traps can enhance performance and simultaneously mitigate spinal issues.
Though the real point we covered in-depth regarding all of this was about thoracic spine mobilization. The more the thoracic spine can move unrestricted through the sagittal and transverse planes, the more likely the surrounding musculature can more efficiently function.
Ensuring Soft-Tissue Quality Requires Time Not Equipment
The restrictions on soft-tissue work are usually self-imposed. Going into this event, I was under the impression that our venue would be an empty basketball court, but because of how accessible these drills and exercises are, this wouldn’t have been a problem at all.
Most of the mobility drills and stretches that we demonstrated required little to no equipment and can be manipulated with bodyweight alone to yield an effective response and positive adaptation. For the ankle, drills like the ankle-wall drill, myofascial release with a lacrosse ball, or dorsiflexed ankle drill require next to nothing to complete. Further up the kinetic chain, we can use the couch stretch, bretzel, or saddle stretch for the quads. The hips can be mobilized with the cossack squat, half-kneeling drill, or the posterior hip stretch. And on up the chain…
Though that is nowhere near a definitive list, the larger point is that equipment should not be a constraint; the primary reason that people have insufficient movement quality is due to a lack of time invested on a regular basis to ensure continued improvements to flexibility and posture.
Where was the Foam Rolling?
I have nothing against foam rolling—in fact, I advocate for foam rolling and actively add some variations to the majority of our corrective exercise protocols. When foam rolling is added, it is usually in short bursts. 15-20 seconds per side on areas that aren’t an issue or an approaching problem. This time expands only slightly for areas that are problems, from 30 up to 60 seconds on problem areas. I can’t give a detailed account of what areas may be problems due to the individualized nature of these protocols, but the calves, pecs, and traps tend to be a focal point.
When we do advocate for foam rolling, we do so in these short bouts because we’ve found greater adherence when the demands are so limited.
Foam rolling didn’t make the cut for the mobility workshop because there are greater uses of time, particularly when we’re trying to get a new population to engage in movement and tissue quality initiatives. Foam rolling may provide some relief and facilitate some long-term improvements in these areas but mobility drills are a more proactive approach than SMR/ foam rolling as foam rolling mainly addresses issues once they’ve already become an issue.
Nutrition Workshop Coming Soon
I’ll be presenting at Bloomsburg University once again in just under two weeks. The topic will be cutting-edge and nontraditional dietary modalities for high performance. The event is open to all BU students and is hosted by the BU Strength & Fitness Club. For more information and event details, contact the BU Strength & Fitness Club directly at BUStrengthAndFitness@gmail.com.
Internal Program Review: Strength Programming For a CrossFit Athlete with Patellar Tendonitis – Day 1
Since our Internal Program Review Series has been getting consistently positive feedback, I’m going to continue today with a look at a Day 1 from one of our comprehensive programming athletes. This particular client is a CrossFit enthusiast and upland hunter who has been regularly supplementing his training with Ruthless Performance programs for some time.
Though this is more of a general look at the Day 1 of his strength programming, we’ll be addressing some modifications we’ve made along the way with regards to the patellar tendonitis.
From the perspective of the training lay-out, we’ve cut back his strength programming to 3 days (which has been as high as 4-5 days in the past). We’ve also supplemented with some training that’s been inspired by our in-house Posture Restoration & Injury Prevention Training protocols. The athlete can choose to perform those and forego his traditional strength programming in the case of a day in which there’s a high prevalence of knee pain.
Those supplemental workouts consist largely of stretches, mobility drills, and activation drills of varying intensities designed to enhance kinesthetic awareness and proprioception while minimizing the impact and input required of the affected joints.
Furthermore, the Day 2 workout consists of a lower body dominant day, with exercise designed to keep knee strain to a minimum, while encouraging blood flow for a more expedient recovery. Day 3 is a full body day designed around the primary goals of maintaining size and enhancing strength even under the reduced workload of this phase. The athlete is still undergoing 3-4 CrossFit workouts / week with various exercise modifications designed with his knees in mind; namely substitutions for the olympic lifts, plyometrics, and burpees.
But now onto the subject of today’s Internal Program Review, Day 1…
1. Stimulation through Antagonistic Training
We’ve all seen programs before with two antagonist exercises paired together (i.e. push & pull, bi’s & tri’s, etc…), this is a time-tested way to get more work into a shorter period of time, while building some muscle. To take this a step further, we’ve manipulated the rep range of the Floor Press in such a manner that we’ll see a quick adaptation and supercompensation to the exercise. This will make for enhancements in strength while still stimulating growth.
What we’ve also done here with the A2 is add a contralateral stance. So not only is our athlete getting some good lat work in, but he’s also stabilizing and strengthening the musculature of the foot on the support side.
As opposed to a regular unilateral band row, a contra-lateral band row implies that the athlete is standing with his weight resting on the non-working side. This further enhances trunk activation, glute development, and more. Adding a contralateral position to various exercises where feasible (much like adding the half-kneeling position for hip mobility) can serve to achieve these secondary goals.
2. Make Glutes not Low Back Pain
The Tall Kneeling position is something we don’t use all that much at Ruthless Performance. In fact, Tall Kneeling Overhead Press is one of the select few exercises we advocate in this position. The tall kneeling, when added to the overhead press helps engage the glutes, as the skeletal system can’t so passively stabilize as it may otherwise be able to do from standing.
As far as the reps are concerned on the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press, we are keeping the volume rather high. The reps here are the primary variable that we are manipulating. This does a few things that we find rather advantageous to performance and longevity: the extended time under tension further enhances gluteal stimulation, contributes a greater degree to resting posture (as the shoulders and traps tend to respond better to higher reps), and also takes some strain off of the shoulder when compared to higher loads and lower reps.
Load on this may remain consistent for the entirety of a 4-week cycle. This will more than likely be the case here as this comes with a particularly steep influx of repetitions throughout the cycle (going from 2×10 to 4×20 in a matter of 4 weeks)…
Since we are so concerned with the athletes on-going knee issues, we’ve directed most of our lower body strength work to be hinge-dominant. With this in mind, we’ve gone out of our way here to design this ‘B’ set to lessen the requirements of the low-back. Though the B1 (Tall Kneeling Overhead Press) will require some low-back involvement, we’ve moved the B2 into a split stance position; this is a rather universal modification to help lessen the requirements of the low back in most exercises.
The Face Pulls are a constant in most of our training programs. The high volume of work on these is nothing special, as we’re constantly trying to stimulate that mid-back and undo some of the damages of daily sitting during commutes, work, and even downtime.
3. A 3×8 Protocol is Rarely Ideal on Supplemental and Single-Joint Exercises
Corrective exercise is frequently thought of as unfamiliar and even bizarre body contortions meant to pull and stretch soft tissue from the bone… Very frequently, particularly in the CrossFit world, some very common exercises can be highly corrective. Humeral abduction in the frontal plane can stimulate the rotator cuff in some ways that are rarely replicated in a traditional CrossFit WOD.
With this DB Lateral Raise as a stand-alone exercise, we’re targeting the deltoids for hypertrophy in a manner that happens to be conducive to not only rotator cuff function, but posture as well. This makes for a very efficient exercise choice when we’re trying to help an individual move better while adding some strength and size.
We’ve told the athlete to start with a weight in which he could complete the totality of the reps in approximately 3 sets. The goal here is to progressively do more reps in the same amount of sets as the weeks go on. Ideally this is with the weight remaining consistent from week 1. As many coaches that advocate these high rep ranges for shoulder exercises will point out, athletes that most commonly have large shoulders are those who train the shoulder with a very high frequency and to fatigue like in swimming or gymnastics.
CrossFit is a Sport, Treat it as Such
Many coaches and athletes from the strength sports are quick to assume that since strength is implicit in their sport that they do not need outside strength and conditioning (in this case more specifically outside technique correction and individualized programming). CrossFit participants looking to attain a high level must realize that the highest levels of performance in CrossFit come from highly individualized programming, with CrossFit WODs being a sport-specific skill rather than a fitness challenge (take Fran for example, this should be viewed as an event, not a series of exercises). By customizing training to the needs of the athlete and matching that with the demands of CrossFit as a sport, we can enhance athletic performance far beyond what we can expect with the existing standalone CrossFit model.
Given that Ruthless Performance is based out of a land-locked state, the paddleboarding or surfing communities are not populations which we traditionally cater to, but given my own predisposition to the sport (surf when I’m on the west coast, paddleboard on the east…), I’ve spent some time thinking about the demands of paddleboarding, as well as what it takes for me to make sure that I’m most prepped for when the opportunity to take a road trip with the board arises.
Paddleboarding itself is a workout and can be easily classed as its own sport, so with this in mind, most of the strength & conditioning exercises and techniques I’ll employ to maximize performance on the board are done to stimulate some of the neglected or underused movement patterns, muscles, and skills while alleviating some of the overuse that can develop over long days on the board.
Consider the following points to help develop your skills on the board no matter how far away you are from your favorite spot…
1. Glute Development Still Reigns Supreme
The glutes are the powerhouse of the body and are pretty heavily correlated to peak athletic function (regardless of domain). Even in the case of paddleboarding, where you are more stationary and have less force input/output demands than some other sports, you still need the glutes for a handful of reasons.
Glutes work in synchrony with the lats (most notably through the lumbodorsal fascia) to assist in each stroke of the paddle. Weak glutes in paddleboarding can also cause severe long-term back pain. Because the standing position on a paddleboard relies on a hinged hip, the inability to maintain tension over time throughout the glutes causes unnecessary tightness in the low back.
Consider including box squats, 180 hip extensions, side-lying clams, lateral band walks, deadlifts, and glute bridges/ thrusts to maximize development of all three glute muscles (max, min, med).
2. Don’t Fall Into Sport-Specific Traps
It’s easy to see how an athlete would want to utilize his/her time in the gym replicating paddle after paddle, pop-up after pop-up, but this is not an efficient use of time. Keep the paddleboarding-specificity in the water. When strength training for the sport, you should want to engage in what we call ‘anti-specific training’, which mostly just means engaging in exercises, drills, and positions that bring about a more neutral posture while maximizing power and force development that you couldn’t otherwise get while on the board.
Many paddleboarders will align themselves with the ski erg for their energy system training because it most closely replicates their sport. I’m highly averse to the ski erg to begin with, then putting a population whose entire sport exists in a state of flexion onto this machine is a recipe for overuse injuries in the shoulder (and elbow for that matter), slipped discs in the lumbar spine, and hindered transverse plane arthrokinematics.
3. The Value of Unilateral Work Can Not Be Overstated
There aren’t very many sports or events that exist on such an unstable surface, so maximizing strength and stability at contact points is paramount. Then, take a guy who boarders on flatfooted like me and put him on a paddleboard for a few hours and his/her ankles will be smoked. Strengthening the feet with various unilateral drills will help extend a paddleboarders’ time on the board each day.
Most exercises that can be done on two feet can be done on one. In fact, performing some of the aforementioned glute exercises on a single-leg is a great way to maximize time in the gym. Some of my favorite unilateral exercises are Unilateral Cable Deadlifts (can be done with barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells…), contralateral push press, contralateral low cable row, pistol squat, Chaos Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat.
This shouldn’t be misconstrued as instability work on a BOSU ball. The goal of the exercise isn’t to make balancing harder, but rather to make balancing easier over time. This can not be achieved on something like a BOSU ball / instability trainer.
Overall this has barely scratched the surface of strength training for paddleboarders. These are just some quick thoughts I’ve had on this topic, mostly as it has related to my own development as a paddleboarder, but from the perspective of a scientific and methodological practice and training environment.
Are you a paddleboarder interested in starting a workout program to maximize your skills on a board? Reach out to me at John@RuthlessPerformance.com to get started today.
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.
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
The 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
Breathing 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.
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 at 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.
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.
The 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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
View the last edition of ‘Featured Fitness Content’ here.
Personal Training, Coaching, and Strength & Conditioning
138 | Dane Miller | Country Boys Can Survive Hosted by Zach Even Esh
Everything You Need To Know To Write Incredible Programs By Nancy Newell
Assess And Correct Leg Dominance By Jennifer Pilotti via Breaking Muscle
Should Your Personal Trainer Be Licensed? By Jeremy Lau via Halevy Life
Weight Loss, Nutrition, and General Health
Himalayan Salt Lamps: Benefits and Myths By Helen West via Healthline
Strength Training, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding
5 Advanced Squat Variations You Haven’t Tried By Meghan Callaway via Girls Gone Strong
Will Cardio Give Your Weight Training An Advantage? By Dean Somerset
Motivation, Business, and Success
Freedom, fairness and equality By Seth Godin
The Salt Shaker Theory: 3 Principles of Effective Management By Mark Fisher via Business for Unicorns
Physical Therapy, Alignment, and Injury Prevention
How to Fix Rounded Shoulders By Annette Verpillot via Strength Sensei
The Science Behind Cryotherapy, Ice Baths, Fat-Loss and Recovery By Kevin Masson via John Rusin
Ruthless Performance Coaches’ Content
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.
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.
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
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