Monday, 24 September 2012

Step up

Using squats numerous times to help strengthen my back and legs I have found once I get to a certain point, as I pointed to in my last post, my legs become stronger than my back and then the squats end up doing more damage than good. So instead of making the same mistake more than twice I decided to utilize high step ups and split squats instead and in only three weeks have made noticable gains in back strength.

Back squats are potentially dangerous to the structure of the lower back and high step-ups produce greater gains in thigh and hip power as well as the back stabilizer muscles and cause fewer low back flare ups.

Thus far these step ups have helped me gain leg and hip strength without the normal pain I have been accustomed to. After three weeks my back is not in pain which has helped my running and I have also been able to sleep better and perform daily functions with more ease.

So as we progress my daily squat program has been adjusted to my daily step up program with some workouts like yesterdays Sunday long run where I use step ups in my warm up and cool down to work the muscles when fatigued.

If things keep progressing this well I may be able to squeeze in a fall marathon, fingers crossed:-)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


So what does one of these strength workouts look like, you ask, well it changes each day as I tweak but here are the basics of my workouts on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Some days if I have time I will do a morning workout similar to this but with 6RM and 10mph intervals. Certainly having a home gym helps as some days during the 5min rest break I get breakfast or supper started or do computer work and have a timer that reminds me to get my butt back downstairs for the next set:-)

Basic Set
This is my full set with current weight, the squat will remain the same but I will aim to increase weight of other exercises as strength progresses.
  • Front plank - hold 2min building to 10mins
  • Squat - 3RM @ 165lb
  • Step up - 1RM @ 115lb
  • Bulgarian split squat - 1RM @ 115lb
  • Pistal squat - 1RM @ 25lb
  • One leg deadlift - 1RM @ 95lb
  • Overhead press - 1RM @ 95lb
  • Chin up - 1RM w/ 25lb weight vest
  • 1min interval @ 12mph - aim to increase to 4mins as speed increases.
    • No rest between exercises
    • Rest 3 to 5min between sets
    • Repeat above three to five times
    • Complete workout takes roughly 45 to 60mins
So there we have it, then on Wednesday and Saturday I do regular tempo runs and long intervals depending on the week and I do a 1km time trial on the track on Sunday if no racing that weekend.

At present I can run 35mins for 10km based on my run at the Rotary Run for Life last weekend so I will use that as my base line as well as using the Frank's XC races to monitor effectiveness of the program over the next few months.

Tally ho!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Next step

Now that I am up to 200lbs for my 1RM squats my legs are stronger than my back and I run the risk of back flare ups so it is time to change over to single leg exercises to increase the strength of my Glute Medius, Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL), Adductor Complex (adductor magnus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, gracilis and pectineus) and the Quadratus Lumborum (QL).

In single leg movements such as running and skiing, this group of muscles are most involved in the “stance” phase of gait, leg force reduction and single leg landing/deceleration, as well pelvic and spinal stabilization.

The bilateral squat is the cornerstone movement for hip mobility, neuromuscular efficiency/coordination and patterning.  However, single leg movements are key for lumbo-pelvic stability, postural support and improving injury prevention. Each of the following exercises targets these muscles and engages the lumbo-pelvic complex for stabilization which will be key in kicking my current back issues.
  1. Warm up squat "aka" squat:-)
  2. Box step up "aka" painful:-)
  3. Elevated split squat "aka" Bulgarian squat 
  4. Single leg deadlift "aka" hard:-)
  5. One leg squat "aka" Pistol squat
It has been a long road for sure and I am still having flare ups but with the less volume and a greater focus on strength and speed I am making small steps forward each week for the first time in a few years.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

"the Bulgarian System"

So what does this new training entail, well it is evolving and will be adjusted over time but I can sum things up by saying, I wanted to try something completely different. I have been training for allot of years and have enjoyed studying various methods of training and over the past few years have become quite interested in weight lifting and how the ideas might transfer to running, in particular "the Bulgarian Method".

For those not familiar with the Bulgarian method, it was developed by the famous Bulgarian weightlifting coach Ivan Abadjiev. It was based on the premise that if you subject the body to a constant load of heavy stress composed of steady repetitive explosive movements, it would adjust to this load and adapt to handle the increased stress. 

Abadjiev's training methods, the creator of the Bulgarian Method, at the time were unheard of. His athletes trained twice a day, six days a week. There were no assigned recovery days, they trained hard every day. Also, the athletes competed frequently, and competitions were incorporated as an integral part of the training cycle, meaning there was essentially no off-season. The methodology was so radical and so distinct, that it became known as "the Bulgarian method." Abadjiev was constantly adjusting the application of training in order to improve performance; most notably he would later emphasize specificity, meaning that the training revolved around an increasingly small amount of movements. Only movements with high correlation and carry-over to the competition movements were implemented in training.
Traditional understanding of muscle development calls for 48-72 hours of rest between training muscle groups. The theory behind this is that the muscle fibres that are damaged in training take time to repair and grow back stronger than before. 

The accepted training model is based on the idea of periodization. The general model used is to begin with a high-volume, low-intensity phase, then progressively decrease volume and increase intensity and following competition there is usually some period of rest in order to allow the athlete to recover.
Periodized training does produce improvements in performance, and is still a common and arguably effective training method and yet Abadjiev's system contradicted the accepted principles of periodization in almost every way. What made it successful was a different interpretation of the idea of adaptation, the recognition of the human body's ability to adapt. This meant frequently lifting a certain limit percentage of the athlete's maximum ability and forcing the athlete's body to adapt to the training, not to train the body to simply respond to stimuli, but to force the body into a stress-response state, an adapted state. This was achieved through intense and frequent training as well as the integration of competitions into the training cycle, in order to induce a psychological as well as a physical stressor upon the athlete. 
Abadjiev's application of the adaptation theory called for the human body to be placed under an environment of near-constant stress, both physically and psychologically. His training system was, in his words:
"(Not) like any other system in the world. It contradicted every basic principles. In Bulgaria, many other sports disciplines are build on the methods developed by the Soviet experts. The main concept is distinct periodization, preparation stage, interim stage, competition stage. I threw it away at once. When a rabbit is being chased by the wolf, does he have an interim stage for running? Yes, he can hide in the bushes but he is ready to start running 100 percent at any time. Is it logical to achieve outstanding results by hard work and then to stop and to go back to a lower level?"
To allow the body to rest and "recover," to Abadjiev, meant to return the body into the "recovered" state - that is, the state in which all physiological functions were normal, the state in which muscle development and neuromuscular function were not in a stress-response state. To remove the stimulus of intense training was to return the athlete to a lower level of performance.
There are, of course, criticisms of Abadjiev's methodology, the injury rate was known to be excessively high, and while it consistently produced top-level competitors and champions, its athletes also had the shortest competition lifespans. Many were eventually overcome by injury or an accumulation of injuries and unable to continue training.
Despite the criticisms against it, the principles of Abadjiev's method are undeniably an important training resource. It is perhaps best perceived not as the most effective training method, but as one effective training method. When the Bulgarian method was first introduced, it was radical, and yet it was accurately based on the understanding of the human body at the time. There will never be a truly perfect training method, as the functioning of the human body will never be completely and perfectly understood. The idea is not to follow Abadjiev's principles, but rather to use his principles and apply them to meet the demands of running and more importantly continue to search for training methodologies that focus on strength and increasing my ability to run without back pain.

So that is the premise of the idea and over time I will look to apply these ideas to running...

New training

It is that time of year again, Franks XC Race Series starts on Wednesday and for the first time I have signed up for the full series. Training is progressing nicely and I am looking forward to using the Frank's Series to test my new training system with the shorter more race specific workouts and strength training.

Tally ho!