040618 Balancing Out Your Exercise Program

040618 Balancing Out Your Exercise Program

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS

It is well established that exercise benefits us in many areas such as increased self confidence, improvements in our moods, and longer healthier lives. Simply being able to do what you want to do physically and mentally may be made easier by engaging in a long term pattern of running, weight training, stretching/balance, and recreational sporting exertions.

During spring time the runners start hitting the road, especially those who are getting ready to run Bloomsday here in Spokane, Washington. While running is an admirable endeavor, it is not enough to keep your body in top physical condition. Our body needs physical and mental stimulation which is only achievable through the use of a variety of methods.

Cyclic exercise, similar to running, stresses the cardiovascular abilities thereby increasing the capacity to engage in lengthy activities through enhanced oxygen transfer to the working muscles. However, exercising in this manner will not increase the lean muscle mass composition of our body. In order to do that resistance training is necessary.

040618 The general principles of the warm up 1/4

040618 The general principles of the warm up 1/4

The warm up session starts with exercises that are low in intensity, progressing up to the actual work out movements. Starting with high intensity exercises leaves little left in reserve for the main work out. The body quickly uses its stored muscle glycogen and increases the lactate levels in the blood when engaged in high intensity work. When the lactate increases the free fatty acids decrease leaving less to help produce energy. You don’t get into your car on a cold morning and go racing out the drive way and onto the expressway at maximum speed. It’s the same for our bodies; warm them up for the tasks ahead.

General principles of arranging warm up exercises normally follow few these guidelines. Start from the distant joints and work toward the center or proximal portion of the body, from one end to the other or from top to bottom or vice versa. The exercises move from one into another so that the end of one move floats directly into the start of the next movement. This is also how a regular strength training session should be set up.

A solid warm-up will take anywhere from twenty to forty minutes. Many people don’t have the time to take this long so adaptations will have to be made by taking into account the total length of the exercise session. If the intensity of the workout is high then the warm up will, of necessity, be longer. Longer warm up periods would be in order for the explosive sports endeavors such as sprinting and the more difficult technical sessions. Aerobic and endurance exercise periods need much less, as the pre stages of these activities are in and of themselves a warm up.

Repeating the same warm up in successive workouts is not beneficial to the athlete as the goals of each workout are not necessarily the same, thus the warm up should reflect the workout goal. The warm up should prepare the athlete for the workout; bearing this in mind the last minutes of the warm up will be more or less specific to the first training exercises and ultimately blend into the actual workout itself. After the session has started then each different move will be preceded by its own specific but short warm up as the training continues onward.

040618 Loading patterns

040618 Loading patterns

Successful training programs apply a number of loading variations to consistently challenge the neuromuscular system. These range from the simple pyramid to the flat pyramid.

The basic pyramid loading pattern has been an effective tool for many successful strength enthusiasts. In this commonly used pattern the load progressively increases as the repetitions and sets decrease. For example after a general and a movement specific warm up the practitioner will begin with a set of five to six repetitions at 85% of the 1RM. After an appropriate rest interval this initial set is followed by another set of three to for repetitions at 90% of 1RM. Successful completion of these preliminary sets leads to a set of two to three repetitions at 95 1RM. The final set is at 100% with one repetition. This completes the sequence at this basic level.

The double pyramid begins as the basic. However, once the scheme reaches the 95% level, it repeats the 95% load. The schedule then calls for a set at 90% for two repetitions, which is followed by sets at 85% for three repetitions and a final one at 80 for repetitions.

A skewed pyramid improves upon the double pyramid in this aspect; the load constantly increases throughout the session until the last where a built in taper appears. The last set is performed, with good form, as quickly as possible.

The major disadvantage to all of these layouts is the load varies greatly between light to heavy. The load goes from hypertrophy to maximum strength. Nothing is worked effectively. There is a more efficient method of becoming powerful.

The flat pyramid loading pattern provides the maximum training outcome. Maximal strength gains result from intensity levels above 80%. The lower ranges contribute very little to the eventual outcome of power, unless the goal is speed development. Neurological adaptations occur as the physiological stresses exceed the 80% 1RM.

Keeping the intensity level in the correct strength building range throughout the entire series is the forte of the flat pyramid. The body is not confused by wide percentage changes of intensity and adapts to the imposed load.

The flat pyramid begins with a specific movement warm up then moves right into the strength ranges of intensity. The chart shows this scheme very well.

70% 80% 80% 80% 80% 70%
80% 90% 90% 90% 90% 80%
86% 95% 95% 95% 95% 85%

*Serious Strength Training,
Bompa, T.O., Pasquale, M.D., and Cornacchia. L. J.
Human Kinetics, 2003

Various load patterns can be developed with the flat pyramid. Focus on the objective and insert the proper percentage of intensity in the working portions of the scheme, i.e. the center four sets at the chosen percentage values represent the target goal levels.

280518 Relative strength-are you really as strong as you think you are?

280518 Relative strength-are you really as strong as you think you are?

Does your relative strength match these standards? In the following chart* you will find commonly accepted values for determining whether or not your strength is good, excellent or elite in the three power lifts.

Squat Male Female
Good greater than 2 x bdwt greater than 1.5 x bdwt
Excellent greater than or equal to
2.5 x bdwt
greater than or equal to
2 x bdwt
Elite greater than or equal to
3 x bdwt
greater than or equal to
2.5 x bdwt
Bench Press Male Female
Good >1.25 X bdwt >0.8 X bdwt
Excellent greater than or equal to 1.75 X bdwt 1 X bdwt
Elite greater than or equal to
2 X bdwt
greater than or equal to
1.25 X bdwt
Deadlift Male Female
Good greater than 2 x bdwt greater than 1.5 x bdwt
Excellent greater than or equal to
2.5 x bdwt
greater than or equal to
2 x bdwt
Elite greater than or equal to
3 x bdwt
greater than or equal to
2.5 x bdwt

Relative strength means balancing out your lifting.  This requires adequate attention to each of the lifts; which in essence means your lifting should be in a ratio of one to the other across the board. It has been suggested by practitioners of the sport and the scientists who support these lifters that a ratio of 1:1.5:1.5 will provide the ratio for success. In this case the first number represents the bench press followed by squat and the dead lift 1 repetition maximum numbers.

*Adapted from Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength by Stoppani, J Human Kinetics 2006

210518 Muscular strength-continued from last week

210518 Muscular strength-continued from last week

Here is the bottom line for those of you who don’t have the time to read it all. This is akin to eating your dessert before your meal and before you get too full to actually enjoy it.

Excellent nutrition guidelines are followed after each training period

Concentrate on the separate exercises each time
Ten to twelve sets of one to two repetitions working up to 90% 1RM over a forty-five minute time span in the morning and up to 100% of the mornings lifts in the afternoon and late afternoon.

Reminder: Afternoon sessions follow a similar path with the exception that the lifter moves on up to near 100% 1RM of the morning training periods with one to two reps for ten to twelve sets

Late afternoon sees a lifter going up to 95% 1RM of the afternoon schedule, same reps and sets as before.

These are grueling training schedules and are not for everyone. Use caution if you decide to give this schedule a ride.

140518 Muscular strength-continued from last week

140518 Muscular strength-continued from last week

Here is the bottom line for those of you who don’t have the time to read it all. This is akin to eating your dessert before your meal and before you get too full to actually enjoy it.

Successful overload occurs by increasing these components above the normal:
1. The load on the bar
2. The frequency of lifting
3. The duration of time under the load.

The load on the bar must be high enough that it creates a maximal muscular tension, or nearly so, on the body. Train at these intense levels by using low repetitions and more sets. For example, an effective form of high intensity strength training uses load levels between 85-100% of the one rep max (1RM) for two repetitions for six to twelve sets.

Lifting frequency is increased according to a periodized plan based on the desired outcome. A method that has produced excellent results for many years is one that has multiple lift times a day. These training plans are for elite or highly trained athletes. Heavy lifts performed up to four and seven times a day are possible under these strictly controlled situations.

Each session emphasizes just ONE exercise per period in this type of a sequence throughout the day. The following five exercises depict an example of such a daily lifting schedule.

  1. Squats, rest and recovery
    2. Military presses, rest and recovery
    3. Deadlift’s, rest and recovery
    4. Bench presses, rest and recovery
    5. Front squats, rest and recovery

Here are the prerequisites for the schedule.

Warm ups are required for each session
Rest periods from fifteen minutes up to one hour in duration between each lift period (morning (2)-afternoon (1)-late afternoon sessions (2))

Separate the morning sessions from the afternoon ones by up to three hours.

The afternoon is separated from late afternoon by the normal fifteen minutes to one hour

Recovery methods are used between each session

070518 Muscular strength

070518 Muscular strength

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS

Here is the bottom line for those of you who don’t have the time to read it all. This is akin to eating your dessert before your meal and before you get too full to actually enjoy it.

Aerobic activities have very little carry over into muscular strength or muscular endurance.
Aerobic fitness can alter the muscle fibers from a fast twitch characteristic to a modified slow twitch fiber.

A complete fitness program will entail the three main components of cardiovascular, flexibility and strength development. Focusing on one part, to the exclusion of the other two, will adversely affect them. But that is exactly what we are going to do here; we are going to discuss strength, not cardiovascular or flexibility, but just plain strength.

Strength comes in many forms from absolute to endurance, from speed to special strength. Moderate intensity training which is high enough to develop and then maintain muscular fitness while also increasing lean muscle mass is an effective means of exercise. It is not an effective means of raising levels of strength and power for those who want to become competitive or want to be a LOT stronger than the average lifter. In order to do that, heavy weights have to be used on a regular basis.

The overload principle applies to this type of training. And it means just what it says. You WILL NOT get stronger lifting ‘soup cans,’ no matter what the infomercial’s say! Lifting a soup can is about as effective as lifting a bag of air. Unless you are extremely out of shape, move on to a weight that will challenge your body in a positive way.