Saturday, December 3, 2016

Where Running and Weightlifting Collide: My Experience with Barbell Strategy

The alternative to weight loss is an increase in relative strength through gains in muscle mass. This is completely justified, and athletes should not be wary of muscular growth (for muscles carrying the main load in their sports movements.)
-Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky (Science and Practice of Strength Training)
I have heard few people tout the opinion that being a female high school athlete is an easy undertaking. The amount of pressure females are under in today’s society to look a certain way and present certain physical attributes is enormous. Runners, in my opinion, have it especially tough because there is such strong stigma around female runners being super lean and waify.

As a freshman in high school, with my running performances, I relied a great deal on natural talent. I would go to practice, get though the workouts and return home. I was tiny at the time, tall and thin, and my stature caused my high school coach to frequently ask me if I was eating enough (which I was, mind you, I have quite a large appetite as Randy can probably attest.) Anyways, I found great success my freshman year and ended up being able to compete at state, which was a huge accomplishment. I followed the same regimen my sophomore year. Unfortunately, that year, I found myself getting defeated race after race as my times were not improving and I started gaining weight but not muscle mass. Going through the motions wasn't good enough anymore. My self-confidence began to drop and I started dreading going to practice but gaining nothing from it.

I started training at Barbell Strategy the winter of my junior year. After taking a serious look at what needed to be modified with my training plan, I also began to incorporate various strength training, conditioning, and cross-training workouts along with my running workouts. After experiencing such great success my freshman year, I wanted to get back to the level that I was on before. Shortly after beginning to train at Barbell Strategy, I noticed a difference in my muscle definition. My legs felt so responsive and efficient my first meet back on the track, I didn’t know why I hadn’t started the training sooner.
That track season I dropped just about 6 seconds in my 800m time, going from a 2.18 to a 2.12. After placing 14th at State in the 800m Sophomore year, I came back my junior year and took 4th (the 1st place finisher crossing the line in 2.11.) My 800m performance from that spring allowed me to greatly broaden my college search to include D1 universities that I never imagined would be possible, and I will be continuing to run for Colorado State next year.

If I hadn’t started strength training, I absolutely believe that I would still be stuck in that rut that I found myself in, and that so many other female high school runners find themselves in. Hitting a plateau is a tough experience, and I have seen many friends and competitors give up when they aren’t reaping the benefits from their workouts. I am strongly of the opinion that to be a good runner, you need to be doing more than just running. To be a good runner, you need to be taking good care of your body and building and replenishing muscles is one of the most important things an athlete can do for their bodies. Unfortunately, strength training is often given little emphasis with high school athletes. Especially runners. Especially female runners. By putting strength development on the backburner, coaches are not only sacrificing the talents of their young athletes, but heightening their likelihood of injury. Fortunately, for me, I still have two more track seasons ahead of me (indoor and outdoor) where I can showcase all that I have gained with my strength training.

Comparison Photos: Both of these pictures were taken at around the same place in the 400m dash, coming down the back stretch. (Captions below)


IMG_1955.JPG

IMG_3393.JPG
Top Picture: Sophomore year. Slouched body position due to weak core strength. Inward rolled shoulders, poor arm drive. Dragging feet and landing on outside of foot- external rotation. Limited muscle mobility and muscle capacity. No ability to drive strongly with knee at this point in this race. Visible fatigue in face. I had injuries in both of my interior calves (notice black KT tape.)

Bottom Picture: Junior year. After a few months of training at Barbell Strategy. Proud, upright posture, Full knee and arm drive. Forefoot landing. Relaxed and comfortable face. Injury free. And I brought my relay team to a victory in this race! (we won a pizza.)

Brief note: I am aiming to do a series of blog posts interviewing other runners about their experience with Barbell Strategy. If you would like to be involved, please shoot me an email! hfreeman3083@gmail.com



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Friday, December 2, 2016

Run BoCo Gala Tonight


Our runners from Hudson Elite running team are holding their annual fundraiser tonight at 7:00. They have a silent auction where you can pick up a 3-month membership to Barbell Strategy, if you're looking for a Christmas gift for a friend. If you're looking for something to do after the 5:30 workout, check it out. (Weightlifting practice is cancelled, so you have no conflicts.)

More details here.



Workout

front squat 8-8-3x8
2 TGUs between sets

then

not for time:
5-4-3-2-1 barbell push press
5-4-3-2-1 kettlebell push press each arm
try to go up in weight each set



Endurance Option

front squats
2 TGUs between sets

then

not for time:
5-4-3-2-1 barbell push press
5-4-3-2-1 kettlebell push press each arm
try to go up in weight each set



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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The new cycle starts today


A coworker once told me that the best thing about being a big corporation is that you can redefine reality to fit your perspective. We were talking about the new fiscal year we had which starts in July - exactly 6 months out of phase - our Q1 is everyone else's Q3.

It turns out that I also redefined my reality: my programming year starts in December, not January. Today is the first day of our new strength program. It's the start of a new cycle. As the winter progresses, we're going to focus on strength and power. To start, December will be all about building up the durability of your connective tissues and stimulate some soft tissue remodeling - in other words: higher volume than you're used to.

What better way to start a new cycle than with deadlift, my favorite movement. The deadlift hits all the big muscles and implicitly works your core. You'll never meet anyone with a big deadlift and a weak core. Also, don't worry about your upper body. The hormone cascade that a deadlift starts will stimulate muscle growth everywhere. Kind of crazy to think about it.



Workout

deadlift 8-8-3x8
2 TGUs between sets

then

8 rounds
every 3:00
3 heavy C&J



Endurance Option

deadlift
2 TGUs between sets

then

8 rounds
every 3:00
3 less-heavy C&J



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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You can't improve what you don't measure


I hate that quote, I hear it all the time in my mangement stuff at my real job. Most useful work is really unmeasurable. The stuff that actually gets measured (like number of hours at work) is what people look at and it is only tangentially related to being productive.

I think the same thing goes in the fitness industry. People pay too much attention to their PRs in a lift, or their best 10k time. If you're a weightlifter or a professional runner, then those numbers have a direct relation to how good you are. Even if you're a power athlete (like a football player), getting a bigger squat may not necessarily translate to the field - it probably can't hurt, but it's not the metric to judge you.

Too many times I've seen people put way too much stock their PRs or specific times in arbitrary workouts, so we decided when we started the gym we wouldn't track those things. We would rather people come in and simply get fitter and stronger without worrying about scores.

However, over the last year and a half, I have noticed that there is some value in knowing if you're improving. Or better, seeing that you're not improving in a specific area so that you can turn your attention there. So I'm going to modify my stance on the no-measuring rule. I've got the bones of the programming for 2017 done, and I put in some regularly scheduled strength tests so that you can track if you're getting stronger. Don't play NCLB and practice the test - use the test as a gauge if you're getting fitter and stronger.

Most of our tests are pure strength tests, since we believe that's the most important skill. However, we're not just a strength gym - we're a strength and conditioning gym - so you'll also need some tests to see if your conditioning is getting better.

What will you see? Over the next year, you should have about 1 test per month on one of our core strength movements. We'll rotate among movements so that you're not spending too much time testing. As you progress, you really only have 2-3 true max efforts a year on any one movement - we don't want to overdo it.  You'll also see some conditioning benchmarks come up, about 1 per month.

Strength is easy to quantify: how much can you lift? For conditioning, we have to make some judgment calls. We picked three workouts as our core benchmark workouts. You'll see these throughout the year, and we'll make a special note in the blog posts when they come up so that you can be sure to get in and get a score.

Row 2k - ugh, more rowing? Yes, the 2k is the perfect test for how much suffering you can handle. It's short enough that you can go really hard, but it's long enough that you need to trick your brain into continuing. You can't do a good 2k row without being well conditioned - it's impossible to fake.

21-15-9: Burpees, KB Swing 24/16, Box Jump 20" - this is a classic benchmark that I've used for years. It is fast and painful, a great test of power output.

AMRAP 20: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 air-squats - I stole this one from CrossFit, but it's a good one. It's a great way to test sustained cardio output.

So in addition to the 1RM tests that come up, pay attention to these conditioning workouts. We'll do them the same way each time and you'll want to log your scores to keep track of your progress.



Workout

snatch push press 5x3
2 TGUs between sets

then

3 rounds for sense of urgency:
row 1k
20 squats (empty bar)



Endurance Option

snatch push press 5x3
2 TGUs between sets

then/or

3 rounds below AeroMAX:
row 1k
rest 1:00



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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A periodized strength program for the new year


Last year we started including a progressive strength program as part of every class. It was a huge success. Not only did everyone get stronger, everyone looked pretty doing it. By frequently revisiting our fundamental lifts, you get enough practice and you learn great form. I'm always proud to hear that when a member is traveling and visits another gym that they get great feedback on their form.

Starting in December we're going to modify our strength program to add a little bit of periodization to it. Last year's program was designed around a very simple linear progression, which was perfect since most of you were new to the lifts and simply increasing weight each time was the best way to get strong. Now that everyone has a good strength base, we thought a little bit of periodization would help your progression.

Don't worry if you're just joining and are new to the lifts. This is just a tweak on our basic program and it will work fine for everyone - I just didn't want to be too fancy the first time. There are only two minor tweaks to the program: an adjusted rep scheme and a slight change of focus.

Rather than simply doing a 3 sets of 5 reps and adding weight each time, we are going to to approach our strength work in a periodized fashion. We'll cycle through 8s, 5s 3s and sometimes 2s and 1s. The cycles will be aligned to take advantage of the seasons so that you'll try to get strong during the winter. Most people do something active in the summer, and it's very likely that that summer activity would be considered endurance work, which is antagonistic to getting strong. So we'll focus the heavier strength work in the winter with some lighter cycles in the summer.

Additionally, the workouts will focus more on the big muscles and give your shoulders a break. A while ago, I wrote about the revelation I had that most of the S&C literature I read is for 18-year-old football players and that most of the folks I train are older and less power-centric in their activities. So I need to bias the movements we do toward the bigger muscles (to get the better hormonal response) and away from the shoulders (because many of you have a shoulder injury of some kind). The pool of exercises that we choose from in our new strength program will be weighted more towards squats and pulls with just enough necessary pressing to keep you strong but not aggravate anything.

Pay attention to the rep scheme that we prescribe every day. It won't simply be a 3x5 like it has been in the past.  It will be written something more like this

8-8-3x8

In our notation, sets separated by dashes mean to go up in weight, and ones written as sets x reps mean stay at the same weight.  So the above notation means that you do two warm-up sets of 8, going up at each dash, followed by 3 work sets of 8 at the same weight.  I noticed in the old program where I didn't specify warm up sets, some of you were only doing 1 set (not enough) and others were doing 5 (too much), so for the new program we'll prescribe your warm-ups too. For example, if this were squats and my working weight was 225, I'd do one set of 8 with the bar, one set of 8 with 135, and then 3 sets of 8 at 225.  Pay attention because different movements will have different rep patterns.

Our old program was evenly distributed among squatting, pulling, and pressing movements. I noticed over the course of the last year that the overhead work came up too frequently to get enough recovery. So the new program will have more than 40% squatting and more than 40% pulling with the remaining less than 20% pressing movements. By focusing on the big muscles and hitting them often, we'll start a good hormone cascade that will promote whole-body strength.



Workout

squat 3x5
2 TGUs between sets

then

3 rounds for sense of urgency:
7 KB snatch plus push press left arm
7 KB snatch plus push press right arm
7 pull-ups



Endurance Option

accumulate 15 squats at 5RM
2 TGUs between sets

then/or

3 rounds below AeroMAX:
7 KB snatch plus push press left arm
7 KB snatch plus push press right arm
7 pull-ups



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Monday, November 28, 2016

Low-intensity program for Endurance and Masters athletes


In addition to our normally scheduled workouts, we also have a modification for endurance athletes. Our definition of endurance athlete is pretty broad - basically anyone who does other outdoor activities (hiking, running, biking, mountaineering) in Colorado. Our goal with the endurance program is to make you stronger but not get in the way of your fun - or really make you stronger so that you can have more fun.

It turns out that our endurance program is also great for masters athletes. It's great for putting on muscle while keeping you healthy. Mark (pictured above) has been doing the program since we started it, and it's working really well for him.

Here's how it works: you do the strength workout with everyone else, but instead of doing the prescribed rep scheme, you just accumulate 15 reps at your 5RM, breaking up the sets any time you start to struggle. Once you can do 3 sets of 5 with no struggle, you add a few pounds the next time.

For the endurance modification of the daily workout, you need a heart rate monitor because we use your heart rate as a metric of how hard you're working. The goal is to keep your heart rate low (below 180-age) and slowly chug through the work. Only rarely will we let you go all out. We keep the endurance option similar to the main workout so that you can still enjoy the group nature of our workout. Everyone works together, and you just have make small modifications for your specific goals.

The goal is to play the long game and slowly build your strength and endurance without stressing your body. You will get fitter and stronger while still being able to enjoy the Colorado outdoors.



Workout

power snatch 5x2
2 TGU between sets

then

8 rounds for sense of urgency
3 heavy deadlifts
15 heavy swings



Endurance Option

power snatch 5x2
2 TGU between sets

then/or

8 rounds below Aeromax
not-so-heavy deadlifts
10 not-so-heavy swings



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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Small Business Saturday: What does it mean to run a small business?


Today is known as Small Business Saturday, and I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on what it means to run a small business. If you train with us, please take a moment to share this post and say what you like about Barbell Strategy to help others learn about us.

A small business is local. We truly get to be a part of our community by being business owners. We love running into you at the grocery store. We love providing a service to our neighbors.

A small business is personal. We know every person that comes in. There are no nameless, faceless customers. We work to adjust our programming to work for each person and their goals. We care about everyone's progress.

A small business is hard work. There are not really any days off. No two week vacations, no calling in sick. When you're committed to your business, you are all in.

A small business is fun. We love being part of your path to fitness. We love teaching and learning. We love seeing our community grow and people make connections.

A small business is a long journey. It requires patience, flexibility, determination, and more patience. When you're in the real world outside the tech bubble, success takes time.

Thank you, and see you in the gym!