Friday, February 26, 2010

Course I Attended on Periodization For Sports

Today I just wanted to write a short review / summary of a course I attended last weekend called "Sports Specific Training and Periodization Training for Sports". I know, it's a mouthful. Periodization is the manipulation of training techniques over yearly plans. To some of you this content may seem a little dry, but I thought it was worth posting because you may find some of the information useful or interesting.

Overall I was pleased with the course, although there were areas that could have been improved with the presentation (ie- audio/visual).

Much of the information presented was simply review for me, which was encouraging to receive confirmation of some of my training philosophies. I did learn a couple of new things as well, and I may adjust my long term training schedules based on ideas presented. However, I didn't necessarily agree with everything that was being taught. I won't get into the details of how we looked at periodizing a training program over a yearly plan, but I'd like to summarize some of the key points that stood out for me:

  • The text for this course was Periodization Training for Sports by Tudor Bompa and Mike Carrera. Bompa endorses a linear model of periodization which has become popular with Western athletes and coaches, whereas for my own needs and the goals of most of my clients I have found a conjugated (or "concurrent") model of periodization more effective in the long term... especially when there are several competitions during the year, or a trainee wishes to maintain optimal strength and power all year round. Although there was alot of great ideas discussed regarding microcycles and macrocycles, I would still choose to apply these to conjugated periodization.
  • One great point that was brought up was that when training to increase power for sports, one should not simply try to mimic the sport activity in training.  For example, training for power using weighted implements (such as baseball bats, tennis rackets, or golf clubs that are heavier than normal) will actually make the athlete SLOWER rather than more explosive! In part this is because it teaches the athlete to focus on decelerating the heavy implement to control it at the end range rather than moving it faster.  It may also disturb the normal movement pattern that is developed.  The main goal in training for power is to increase the ability to contract muscles faster, not to simply mimic the sport movements.

  • We got into Energy System Training as well, which I enjoyed.  The use of ATP during Alactic, Lactic, and Aerobic energy system training.  The focus was on training for power rather than endurance or hypertrophy in this course.  We looked at how to incorporate Max Effort training (heavy load, low reps, more rest) to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers and maximize force generation, then how to use Dynamic Effort training (lighter loads, faster reps) to active additional fibers and increase the rate at which muscle fibers were "discharged" (ie- recruit more fast twitch fibers and fire them off faster). 

  • 20 minutes of light cardio post workout can help to flush out lactic acid build-up and speed up recovery.

  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Training: CNS training is the synchronization of movements through repetitive training / learning of those movements.  The purpose of CNS training is to reduce the inhibition on muscle contraction (reduce the influence of the Golgi Tendon Apparatus) so that greater force can be generated.  Long term training results in a more efficient CNS with less GTO inhibition and more powerful contractions.  However, fatigue should be avoided in training for this goal.  For example, training for max strength involves fewer reps and more rest between sets, as opposed to training for hypertrophy (growth) which requires a fatigued state to be reached using more reps and less rest.

  • Training Economy: Stick with compound, multi-joint exercises targeting majority of muscles involved in the sport to make most efficient use of time.  Small isolation exercises and accessory movements should only be considered if time allows.

  • Multi-lateral training for youth: Studies have shown that youth who engaged in specialized training for sport early on played best at 15 years old, but those who focused on building their foundation early on (ie: multi-lateral development including physical activities for fun, bodyweight exercises, etc) became better athletes later on.  This should encourage parents and coaches not to push their children into high-performance training too early in life.  Let them develop their athletic foundation first, then consider specialization training for 15 to 18 year olds.

  • Super-Compensation: I learned something new on this topic. As most athletes and trainers should know, it is favorable to aim for a training program to "peak" just before a competition, so that the athlete has reached a state of fatigue (close to over-training). Then they can rest and recuperate for several days before the event, allowing their body to "super-compensate", causing an increase in performance.  What was new to me was that they suggested still including some form of light training right up to a couple of days before competition to prevent "involution" (basically "decompensation").  This can simply be light aerobic activity or technical training (ie: movement rehearsal) with very light loads.  According to the resources presented, active recovery was superior to complete rest in most cases, even pre-competition.

  • Stability Training: I was pleased to hear that the current research out there also indicates that training on BOSU balls, stability boards, stability balls, and those little "whoopie cushion" things will reduce athletic performance, increase risk of injury, and decrease the amount of force and power you can develop in training.  Thank you! I've been arguing this point with trainers for too long.  These stability training implements certainly have a place in the rehab setting, but they've become a fitness industry fad and are being used WAY out of context!

  • Flexibility Training: I was also encouraged by the fact that this course explained how static stretching before and during training can reduce performance and increase risk of injury.  I have been saying this for years.  Again, another point of contention for many trainers, who still insist on stretching their clients out before a workout, despite the current research.  Active stretches such as a dynamic warmup should be performed pre-workout, then passive / static stretches can be performed after IF NEEDED.

  • Yoga is not a complete workout, and may even hurt you!  Yep... that's what I've been tryin' to tell people, but I feel like one man against a Yogic Cult.

  • Core Training: after the initial adaptation stage of training, minimal isolation work is needed for core strength, as long as you are doing big, compound exercises that involve core.

  • Deep Squats: OK, I do not agree with the the argument they presented on this topic.  The instructor explained why they believed that one should not squat below 90 degrees of knee flexion.  I disagree, and I can present resources to support the fact that deep back squats performed with good technique are healthy for your knees and provide favorable training results.  Provided a safe progression is used over time, and the trainee has no knee or lower back injuries, deep squats are a terrific exercise!  To be fair, the instructor did acknowledge that he does use deep squats for some athletes, depending on sport requirements. 

  • Overspeed Training: we looked at how overspeed training and resisted speed training differ, and how some studies show that this type of training (using straps, bands, parachutes, or sleds) may interfere with an athletes contact time with the ground and negatively affect their running technique.  Sled dragging still has great applications in training, however.

Well, those are some of the topics that I found interesting in this course.  As I mentioned, most of the information presented was not new to me, but it's also important to review as well as to learn something new.  Overall, I would consider pursuing further education on the subject of periodization and training for sport.

I hope you found something of interest in this post.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them below... I always like to hear from my readers!

I have an interesting article on growth hormones to post next time... watch for that one!

Until then, Stay Fit!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Want Fast Results Right NOW? Time to Get Real and Face These Facts!

I want to talk about five basic facts you need to accept in order to get the fitness and performance results you're after.

This past weekend I had a chance to watch the beginning of the Olympics and was very impressed with the athletic performance I witnessed!  It really makes you appreciate the years of sacrifice and dedicated training that goes into developing an athlete of Olympic caliber.

It got me thinking about how any worthwhile goal in life really does require a significant level of committment and effort.  For some this is difficult to accept because in many ways we live in a culture that expects "instant gratification".

As a trainer it's my responsibility to get real with my clients to help set realistic goals and to understand the committment they need to make.
  1. It's going to involve hard work! To get long term results you will have to get outside your comfort zone, both physically and mentally. You will have to sweat, push through muscular fatigue, experience muscle soreness, and work really hard! Accept it... it's a fact.
  2. You will need to make some changes in how you eat. Just because you are now training doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want. To get the best results you will need to clean up your diet.

  3. Exercise and healthy eating are a lifestyle. This is not a quick fix for a short term goal... this needs to be a lifestyle change. Forget the "diet" mentality and adopt this as a new way of living. Otherwise that fat you lost will come back faster than it came off!

  4. Results take time. Don't look for short-cuts. Consider how long it takes to get out of shape... be patient and set realistic goals for achieving results and you will be successful. A well designed program and expert coaching will certainly help you get there faster, but you still need to be patient, persistent, and consistent.

  5. Exercise must be a priority. The main reason most people don't exercise is because they don't have time. However, no one has time unless they make it. This needs to be high on your priority list for you to be successful in reaching your goals. It's important... give yourself the time you deserve to get in shape.

I hope this gives you something to consider as you work towards your own fitness and performance goals. If you understand these facts you are well on your way to success!
Stay Fit,


Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Interview With Fitness Expert, Karsten Jensen

This is a short interview I did a few months ago with Karsten Jensen, strength coach to World-Class and Olympic athletes from 7 different sports. You can learn more about him at

Karsten talks about his services and shares some great tips on making your workouts more effective and metabolizing more calories through simple breathing techniques.

Learn how simply changing your training environment can significantly enhance your workout!

Check out this great resource he has made available for high performance athletes:

High Performance Athletic Conditioning

Train Smart and Play Hard!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The 7-Step Detox Diet

It's about that time of year. This is when folks slowly start dropping off from their workout program, or cheating on their diet.

And for a lot of folks, weekend eating - particularly SuperBowl weekend eating - is to blame.

When some folks binge eat, they go looking for a "detox diet", thinking that will reverse all their mistakes.

But I don't necessarily recommend that.

Instead, I have a great article from fitness expert Craig Ballantyne about a simple 7-Step Detox Diet that you can easily follow everyday... that you never need to do an extreme 7-day or 2-week cleanse.

Here's Craig to tell it like it is:

I just got back from the SuperBowl and got a chance to sit in the front row right in the endzone. It was really cool, and I also got a chance to see "The Who" live in concert at half-time.

But, while I was there, I had a few extra "non-compliance" meals than normal, so it got me thinking about detox diets.

I have a pretty strong opinion about detoxing, and I put together a simple 7-step detox diet plan that you can easily follow so that you never have to do a 16-day detox ever.

You see, my biggest "beef" with the entire theory of "detoxing" is this...

It is simply NOT possible to EVER detox your body. Why?

Because it's such a vague statement.

  • What does "detox" mean?
  • How do you measure "detoxification"?
  • What do you even define as toxins?
  • And when do you officially become "detoxed"?

The answer is, "You don't." It's nearly impossible.

After all, every single second of every day your body produces carbon dioxide, which is a toxin. And if you have deep belly fat, research shows that this "visceral fat" is constantly releasing inflammatory toxins into your blood. Every second. The more fat you have, the more toxic you are.

Plus, every breath you take includes pollutants. And even the water you drink may contain "toxins".

So....what's the real deal on detoxing?

Listen, while every "expert" is out there arguing about tiny little details and "gurus" are trying to sell you on detoxing so they can sell supplements, the TRUTH is that you really just need to know a few steps to avoid getting toxic in the first place.

In my opinion, the #1 factor in living a "low toxin life" is simply to keep as much garbage out of your body in the first place, rather than depending on a 3-day, 7-day or even 16-day detox to be healthy.

So what do I do to prevent "toxin build-up" in the first place?

Well, I live the Turbulence Training Lifestyle of course, including my "7 Step Detox Nutrition Plan":

1) Start each day with a blender drink of berries, spinach or other greens, raw nuts (such as walnuts - rich in healthy fats), and other ingredients packed with antioxidants and healthy fats.

2) For lunch, have a large green salad with spinach, beans, broccoli,peppers, avocado, onions, etc.

3) Eat an organic apple a day. Certain fruits (i.e. apples, peaches,cherries, and strawberries) and vegetables have a higher exposure to pesticides, and you should choose organic when possible.

4) Eat RAW snacks only - of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Try using this one simple rule and limit all of your between meal snacks to raw fruit, raw vegetables, and/or raw nuts and I promise you'll drop the pounds because you'll be full on a smaller number of calories.

5) Drink Green Tea (2-3 cups) and filtered water (3 liters) instead of beverages that contain calories or chemicals.

6) Limit the amount of red meat you consume. You don't need to be a full vegetarian to live a longer life, but you should probably avoid eating meat 5 times per day, like people in Chicago.

(Hey Chicago, don't get mad at me for was a born-and-raised Chicago native who told me 5 servings of meat per day was the average Chicago meat consumption.)

7) Minimize or completely eliminate alcohol intake. While research does show that for men, up to 2 drinks per day may help cardiovascular health (and for women, up to one drink per day), I'm not about to recommend you start drinking.

After all, if you go above those limits, you start to destroy your health...and you risk addiction. Alcohol killed my father, and I don't want to see the same thing happen to you. Tread cautiously with the booze.

So that's it. A simple 7-Step Detox Diet Plan.

By the way, it goes without saying that you should avoid:

- cigarettes
- trans-fats
- excessive amounts of sugar
- refined grains
- and 7-11 nacho cheese

Right? Of course.

And you should be exercising to lose the belly fat...using proven methods, such as high intensity interval training - which is proven to beat long, slow cardio when it comes to burning dangerous belly fat.

Plus, you should be using Turbulence Training resistance supersets to burn more calories and sculpt your body.

If you've never used Turbulence Training, you can try it out today for less than the cost of a Superbowl hot dog.

Click here to get Turbulence Training for less than 5 bucks:


Simply follow those 7 nutrition guidelines and use the short TT workouts to cut out as many toxins from your body - without detoxing.

Stay strong,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

PS - I also believe you should avoid toxic relationships... so you need to take a hard look at the people you surround yourself with in life.

Do you have the right work friends?
Are you in the right relationships?
Do you spend enough time with the right family members?

Or are they toxic too?

Remember - you need social support for success in life and in fat surround yourself with positive people, like the good folks on the TT Member's forum.

If you need to dump the toxic folks and get positive social support, we'd love to see you on the forum and help you out.

You will get a free 3-month TT membership access to the forum when you try out Turbulence Training for only $4.95 today:


Go ahead and click that link to get started losing fat & getting rid of the toxic baggage in your life.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 5 Best Exercises for Size and Strength

There are a couple of new training resources available for my subscribers, including a video demonstrating the 5 best exercises for gaining size and strength, as well as important training and nutrition habits to follow.

If you are a subscriber you will receive the links to this information in a day or 2... otherwise you can sign up at to check it out.

Once you've had a chance to watch the video and read the reports, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject:
-what are your favorite strength exercises?
-what lifestyle or training habits do you find help bring you results?
-do you have any questions on this material?

Leave your comments below and I'll be sure to reply!

Thanks everyone... keep your focus on your goals, and train hard!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The 5 Best Core Exercises for a Solid Abs

In this tutorial I look at what I consider to be the most effective core exercises. Some of these movements are more advanced, so I suggest you check out my Fat Loss Report for some progressions to help you prepare for those exercises. (Sign up at

Almost everyone who is interested in getting fit and staying in shape also wants to develop a toned, solid midsection. Strengthening the core muscle group can enhance ones appearance (the much sought after “six-pack”), improve athletic performance, reduce back pain, and maintain better posture. Whether the goal is functional or aesthetic, the quest for a stronger core is very popular. Unfortunately, many people don’t know the most effective ways to reach that goal and end up wasting time doing hundreds of crunches or one of the dozens of other abdominal exercise variations. Training your core this way can take a long time and delivers minimal results.

I subscribe to the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short n’ Simple) philosophy in order to accomplish more in less time. To accomplish this we need to implement a simpler, more efficient approach using more effective exercises. In this chapter I will explain the basic anatomy and function of your core musculature and describe what I believe to be the most effective exercises to train your core, and why.
First of all, let’s take a look at the core structure and anatomy. The core muscles are the muscles in the body's center of gravity that support the spine and torso and they are also the muscles that initiate movement.

Often people only consider their “core” as being their abdominals; however, the “core” musculature includes your entire midsection, including the following:

•Rectus Abdominis. - The abdominal muscle group referred to as your “six-pack”.

•Internal and External Obliques. - These run in opposite directions to each other and are on the abdomen and sides.

•Transverse Abdominis (TVA). - This is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles that wrap around the waist, located underneath the obliques.

•Multifidus & Erector Spinae. - The lower back muscles that support and rotate the spine.

•Hip Flexors and Abductors. - The muscles of the hip and inner thigh.

•Gluteus Medius, Minimus, & Maximus. - These muscles are often referred to as the butt or “glutes”.

You don’t need to remember the names of these muscles, but it’s nice to be able to visualize where they are on your body so you can get an idea of how to train them. These are the muscles in the front, sides, and back of your midsection that run vertically, diagonally, and even horizontally (the transverse abs). The exercises I will be describing to you will target each of these main areas.

The basic action of these muscles when they concentrically contract in isolation is to flex, extend, rotate and side-bend the torso. Their primary function is actually to resist motion in these planes, and to maintain posture and stabilize the midsection and spine during functional activities. Considering this you need to challenge these muscles isometrically as well, by including exercises which force you to resist movement and maintain core stability.

Let’s look at what I consider to be the most effective core exercises. Some of these movements are more advanced, so I will also suggest exercise progressions to help you prepare for them. Here the Five Best Core Exercises:

1.Power wheel rollouts (resisting extension)
2.Power wheel knee tucks (resisting extension)
3.Hanging knee raises (flexion)
4.Resist the Twist (resisting rotation isometrically)
5.Deadlifts (extension; resisting flexion)

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With these basic movements you are targeting all the primary core muscles.

Placing the body in an extended position and adding load has been shown to be the best method for stimulating abdominal strength. During Power Wheel roll-outs the core muscles are engaged isometrically to resist the extension, which makes this an extremely productive AND functional movement.

As part of an integrated approach to exercise and nutrition, these exercises will contribute significantly to a achieving a stronger, leaner looking waistline. They can be incorporated into a circuit training program, or they can be performed separately as a core workout.

The exercises I’ve shown you were chosen based on solid research, exercise science, as well as personal experience. They were not picked at random because they looked cool in a fitness magazine. Building powerful core muscles will also increase your gains in every area of your workouts, because your core is the central area of your body which supports every other part of your body.

Josh Hewett

Note: this article is a short excerpt from the FPA Report on Fat Loss Strategies. For the free full report, subscribe at