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March 7, 2012
Cows and Your Training Track
All successful performances are preceded by the physical and mental preparation for that day and time. The problem becomes when we become myopic in viewing these performances as just the actual competition; a game or a test. When in reality, it is the Thursday practice performance that contributes to that game. Or all those meals during the week, certainly not just the magic pregame meal to “carbo-load” (see Sparta Point). Yet somewhere along these preparations, training has been forgotten as a necessary and critical component of the process. And by training preparations, it doesn’t have to be multiple days; it just has to be ONE day, and a day that is anticipated for several days and hours in order to maximize that experience. This one day defines your training track. We use the word track, rather than plan or goals, because a track is defined as evidence, or a series of marks that something has passed. By evidence, something objective must be obvious to the individual and coach that marks a workout within the track. Such definitions bring to mind the most universally accepted principle of any training regimen, progressive overload, the gradual increase of stress placed upon the neuromuscular system during training. Rather than citing some modern research on progressive overload, this principle is best explained from a story centuries old, when the margins of sport and battle were blurred. Milo of Croton, the ancient Greek athlete, trained for the Olympics by carrying a newborn calf on his back every day for years prior to the Olympic start date and by the time the Olympics arrived, the calf had grown to a full-size cow, and Milo was still carrying it on his back! In essence, Milo adapted to the growing weight of the animal by growing stronger himself. That’s progressive overload. Traditionally, progressive overload has been viewed in its most simple form; muscular adaptation and growth. These soft tissue improvements also include bone, ligaments, and tendons that play a large role in injury prevention and the utilization of the stretch shortening cycle (see Sparta Point). However, with the popularity of books like Daniel Coyle’s Talent Code, we must account for the incredible number of hours required to improve the nervous system’s ability to produce skills at the highest level, consistently (see Sparta Point). These positive adaptations from progressive overload are generally improved from gradual increases of volume, intensity, frequency, or time. As mentioned before, volume refers to the number of sets and reps performed, and intensity refers to the weight or speed of movement. Further challenges can be added by simply changing the rest time and frequency of training. However, the magic of progressive overload is not in these variables. In fact, our advanced leg strength protocols are simple; add 5 kilos to your previous week’s performance. Our athletes always get stronger, and this simple intervention rarely fails. The limiting factor is almost always the consistency of your training track. Training at the same day every week, ideally even the same time, allows the body and mind to be optimally poised for the next step of progressive overload. You can imagine that if Milo skipped a week with his calf, he risked injury if the cow had increased in weight, or worse, risked adapting gradually to a new stimulus that allowed him to grow stronger. There is no good reason to skip your track, as training can help heal your injury faster (see Sparta Point), reduce the current soreness (see Sparta Point), help with mental acuity, so the only explanation can be poor planning. So pick your day and time, that calf will continue to grow whether you are willing to commit or not.
March 7, 2012
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8 thoughts on “Cows and Your Training Track”

  1. I read that you pretty much only have Jeremy Lin doing myofascial release during the season. Why can’t he continue with his strength training track? I realize that he’s doing a lot of endurance volume, but I’ve been able to consistently move my squat up even while playing 24+ hours of basketball a week, in the past. I do crossfit 3 times a week now, and on the side, I push my squat up regularly. It continues to have a big effect on my power output every time I do so.

    Or perhaps it’s because a strength workout temporarily reduces athleticism and you always have to be at your “peak” during the season? I would think that’s shortsighted, as in only a month or two, your depressed state would be higher than your previous peak. And all those missed workouts really have an effect 2 or 3 years down the line.

    The problem as I see it is that an NBA season is really long. That’s so much training time to lose out on improving. I look around the NBA and I wonder why people like Kobe Bryant lose their vertical at such a young age. He doesn’t have the lift he used to. Dr Fred Hatfield was the first to squat 1000 lbs, at 45. He had a 40 inch standing vertical at 45. Stefan Holm was competing in the olympics as a high jumper at 35. If Kobe were still pushing up his squat during the season, shouldn’t he be able to still jump at an elite level today?

  2. We believe strongly in continuing to lift during the season. Myo-fascial release is something that we recommend all of our athletes do EVERY DAY in and out of season.

  3. Both programs adhere to what is known as the “target set” philosophy of working up to multiple heavy sets (in our case 3) after 2 to 3 warm-up sets. This allows us to push the athlete at a weight that we know that, though a struggle, they are capable of handling.

  4. Coach Wagner,

    Just out of curiosity, stepping away from the progressive overload model, do you find use for other periodization schemes with your advanced athletes if they indeed come in with a solid training background? Particularly, have you used or experimented with any “block” models a la Verkhoshansky or Issurin?

    Coach Sam

  5. Speaking strictly in terms of loading parameters, we work in undulating 3 week mesos (similar to Wendler’s 531), however our organization of the Special Strength training, per your Dr. V reference, is completely individualized based off of the athlete’s force-time curve derived from their force plate analysis, and could in some ways be viewed as a “block” scheme as we are typically only concentrating on 2 strength variables at a time (i.e. max strength & reactive strength), however, we always train strength concurrently with skill (we consider speed a skill). We are probably more similar to a CF vertical integration model of training all bio-motor abilities at all times, with gradual shifts in emphasis and concentrated loading.

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