What is Sprint Training

Continuing from last week, hopefully you have grasped my basic argument that while some of the differences between sprinters and endurance athletes does have to do with training it’s also partly genetic, some of which is racial (I didn’t get into detail about this and spare me the racist comments), and some of which is sporting selection for certain body types.  Mostly whether or not a given individual who does one sport or the other has more to do with the presence or absence of weight training than anything else.

But let’s play a game today.  Let’s ASSume that the body types of sprinters is built by their sprint work (I still see this floating around, the idea that you should run sprints to be built like a sprinter even if it’s total nonsense).  It’s not true but let’s assume that it is.  And I want to assume that it is to make a point that what people think sprint training is or the types of training they use this idiotic comparison to promote is actually almost never what sprinters actually do.  I’ll also address an alternate part of the argument is that sprint training is not only superior but more time efficient than endurance training.

And here’s my own tl;dr: All of those ideas are completely false.  And now I’ll show you how that is the case.

HIIT

A bunch of years back, High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT (not to be confused with the 1-set to failure HIT weight room work) became popular.  Here’s some trivia, I believe that I was one of the first people to actually write about this in my first book on ketogenic diets in the late 90’s.  I had known for a lot of years that the intensity of aerobic work really didn’t matter (i.e. the Fat Burning Zone is crap and calorie expenditure was the primary driver on fat loss in the big scheme of things) and wrote about the Tremblay study in The Ketogenic Diet (I recall MM2k having done an article about it as well).  But as usual it would be years before the industry jumped on the HIIT bandwagon.

And jump they did.  With increasing amounts of evidence that HIIT was more time efficient and had at least the same health and physiological benefits as longer duration exercise (at least for a while anyhow, fitness gains tapered off pretty quickly), everybody got on board.  Maybe the most misunderstood study was the Tabata study/protocol which you can read about.

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Some Less Well Known Weider Principles

So I know I was originally supposed to finish off the sprinter versus marathoner series today but then it dawned on me that it’s been one year since I wrote perhaps my most inspired training article where I gave away the Ultimate Training Secret of the Illuminatty (for which I am now in constant danger of repercussions).  And that means that I need to do a followup (inasmuch as I can ever follow that bit of brilliance).  So today I present you with some less well known Weider Principles.

For some history, Joe Weider is usually considered to be the father of modern bodybuilding.  Through his magazines (such as Flex and Muscle and Fitness) and Arnold, he truly brought bodybuilding into the mainstream in a way that it simply hadn’t been up to that point.  Previously seen as a niche activity for narcissistic idiots (who’s sexuality was questioned in that they liked to primp around in tights covered in baby oil), bodybuilding became mainstream and fairly well accepted.  He also brought bodybuilding from the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) which had previously had height classes and created the International Federation of Bodybuilding and fitness (IFBB) which had weight classes in a rather futile attempt to eventually get bodybuilding into the Olympics.

The Weider Principles

In his magazines, Weider attempted to more or less claim to have invented everything in bodybuilding by calling it one of the Weider Training Principles (that were assuredly developed in the Weider Training Research Lab).  I mean stuff like the Weider Superset Principle, the Weider Split Routine Principle, the Weider Dropset Principle.    If it could be or had been done in the gym, it had the words Weider and Principle stapled onto it (and it wouldn’t surprise me if he trademarked the thing).

Anyhow, today (please check the date) I want to present some of the less well-known Weider Principles that I observed in the gym on a fairly regular basis.

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The Sprinter Versus Endurance Athlete…Again

Continuing from last week where I tried to make the points that:

a. There is no singular athletic body type in the first place

b. The idea that the training per se is what generates the physiques seen in a given sport (at most the training emphasizes the ideal physique that sports select for in the first place)

I finished by pointing out that usually when you see people argue to “Train like an athlete to look like an athlete” the body type they hold up is that of a track/100m sprinter.  Perhaps more accurately, one of the sillier ideas to come around since high-intensity interval training (HIIT) became THE type of training that everyone should be doing, is to draw a comparison between the physiques of a track sprinter and a marathoner or ask “Which would you rather look like?”   Usually a picture is shown with a BIG African American sprinter (tho I get the impression that the guy typically used is actually a football player since he’s far larger than most sprinters) compared to a scrawny white marathoner.  I won’t even post the picture that is typically used but I imagine most have seen it.

A related argument is that “Have you ever seen a fat sprinter?” or the alternate “You can finish a marathon and be fat.” which I suppose is meant to mean that the sprint/HIIT makes you lean and distance training doesn’t.  Except that it’s a stupid comparison.  No elite marathoner is fat just as no elite endurance athlete of any sort is usually fat.  Sure, recreational runners and cyclists often are but you cannot compare an elite sprinter to a recreational marathoner meaningfully.    Well you can but you’re making a stunning fallacy in doing so.

It’s like the occasionally made argument that “A lot of people who do endless cardio are fat.” to suggest that it doesn’t work for fat loss.  Which is no different than arguing that since there are small, fat weak guys in the weight room weight training doesn’t work to improve physique.

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Train Like an Athlete to Look Like an Athlete

The next several articles I’m going to run are actually related although, going contrary to my normally obsessive approach to naming, they won’t just be Part 1,2,3 with the same name.  Mainly because that would give away the punchline to the article series, a topic that I’ve actually addressed before but want to take another run at since I see people making the same stupid comments and arguments.

In any case, I’m going to start today by addressing one of those trite phrases that gets thrown around from time to time in the fitness arena.  I’ve looked at one of these before, in an admittedly tongue in cheek way (get it?) but this article is actually serious.  Specifically the phrase I want to look at is the one that makes up the title of this piece:

Train Like an Athlete to Look Like an Athlete

This particular trite suggestion shows up once or twice a year, usually on bodybuilding oriented sites by someone looking to challenge the status quo.  If you simply Google “Train like an athlete to look like an athlete” you’ll find all kinds of silliness about what exercises or training you should do to “look athletic”.  There are entire training philosophies and apparently one brain surgeon argues that “sport training will give you the build of that sport” or something equally asinine.

These types of articles usually end up being sort of anti-bodybuilding in nature suggesting that the methods used by bodybuilders to get jacked and lean are inferior to producing a good physique than just “Training like an athlete.”  Which presumably will make you “Look like an athlete”.  Which is apparently good for some reason.

Now, I’m not really going to address the specific issue of what “Training like an athlete” might actually mean here since, for reasons that derive directly from what I will say is a meaningless phase.  Who in the hell thinks that all athletes even train remotely in the same fashion.  Train like an athlete is meaningless at a fundamental level.

Rather, I want to look at the second half of the suggestion/triteness which is to “Look like an athlete”.  Because once again the implication of all of these articles is that somehow training in a specific “athletic” way will give one an “athletic look”.  Of course that even assumes that it’s the training that generates the body type but I’ll come back to that.

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Do Drugs Only Help a Little?

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this piece since I don’t want to start being that guy who just craps all over other people’s stuff.  I have never found that productive although I could make an entire career out of just taking apart other stuff online in this industry.  But in this case, I thought it was worth addressing something which is a *relatively* recent article/analysis to the point that “Drugs only help a little.”  Mind you, this isn’t a new idea, you hear it all the time as a justification by drug users to try and downplay the enormous role that drugs play in overall results.

They want it to be about their intense work ethic and such (and make no mistake, I am NOT saying that drug using athletes don’t train their nuts off) but to dismiss the enormous potential role performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) play in results is just rationalizing nonsense so far as I’m concerned.  Non-using athletes train just as hard if not harder and don’t get the same result.  The drugs are the difference.

For the record, by PED’s here, I’m not just talking about anabolic steroids, by the way but by the entire cornucopia of compounds in use in various sports.  Anabolic steroids have been part of that for decades but to that we can add things like insulin, growth hormone, IGF-1, various peptides and other injectable compounds, thyroid, clenbuterol, EPO (in the endurance events) and probably more.  Different sports use different combinations of each but, at a logical level, if drugs only “helped a little” athletes wouldn’t use them in such an intense and dedicated way.  Why not just train harder, right?

Drugs Only Help a Little

The original analysis did a comparison of strength results in tested vs. non-tested federations (I forget offhand if it was in powerlifting or Olympic lifting but suspect the former) and concluded that drugs only provided a roughly 10% difference in performance.  This was concluded to be “only a little” bit of help since 10% doesn’t seem like that much.

Interestingly, this is fully consistent with an analysis done in Milo in the 90’s about Olympic lifting where it was argued that anabolics provided a 5-10% boost in performance with 2.5-5% of that being maintained when they were discontinued before competition to pass the tests.  Indirectly supporting this, when the IWF was testing, world records were roughly 5%+ off the previous bests.

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