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Pole Vaulting for a Hot Body

Dear frustrated trainee,

Haven’t you ever wanted to have a body like the one to the left?

Lean, muscular, fit, and, of course, just painfully hot.

Well, one of the secrets that none of the other GURUS ™ want to let you in on is that pole vaulters, as the picture to the left shows, are all of these things: muscular, fit, lean and just painfully hot.

How do they get that way? Why…by training for pole vaulting of course. I mean, it’s eminently logical: if you want to look like a pole vaulter, you should train like a pole vaulter. Quite in fact, I’m a little bit shocked that nobody else has really realized this but I’ve always been a bit ahead of the curve.

So how do pole vaulters train? Frankly, I’m glad you asked. Here’s a sample week of pole vaulter training below, stolen without remorse from the following webpage:

  • Monday: Core stability work, 3 x 30m sprint drills, Pole vault drills, 3 x 300m, weights
  • Tuesday : Core stability work, 3 x 30m sprint drills, 3 x 3 x (100m, 50m, 100m) tempo runs
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday : Core stability work, 3 x 30m sprint drills, Pole vault drills, 6 x 50m, weights
  • Friday: Core stability work, 3 x 30m sprint drills, Pole vault drills, 6 x 200m
  • Saturday: Core stability work, 10 x 150m, weight training
  • Sunday: Rest

A quick note on the above: tempo runs refer to a low intensity nearly aerobic type of training done by a lot of sprinters. It’s a way of getting in low intensity conditioning and aerobic work, it’s just done segmented instead of continuous The 3X3X(100m,50m,100m) on Tuesday, 6X50m on Thu and 10X15m on Saturday are all low intensity tempo work.

Now, I can’t give you all the secrets in this one blog post, in terms of the actual pole vaulting drills or weight training, you’ll have to wait for the book to read that. But what do you notice up above. Core training, weights, short sprints, tempo running and weights. Of course, what I’m sure most of you noticed is the TOTAL LACK OF STEADY STATE CARDIO.

That’s right folks, pole vaulters don’t do steady state cardio. They probably knew years before anybody else that all it did was make them fatter. Well, except for the tempo work which is basically steady state work (see further below).

Or maybe it just wasn’t relevant to their sport. Since they don’t have to run more than 30 or so meters before poleing, or vaulting, or whatever they call what they do.

Anyhow, you can see that if you want to be lean, muscular, fit and painfully hot, you should train like a pole vaulter.


Coming next week from Lyle McDonald Publishing:

“Shotput your way to Massive Muscles” (You won’t believe how these guys really train!!!!!)

“High jumping for Long, Lean Legs” (Pilates has nothing on this one!!!)

“Basketball to increase your Height”. (You’ll make Manute Bol eat your shorts after you read this one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)


Ok, for the slow kids in the room, I want to make it clear that the above is meant as comedy and satire, or something approximating that. If you think I’m being serious, well…I’m not. And you’re an idiot if you thought I was.

You might be wondering how this even relates to the topic I said I’d be blogging about: to whit, the current issue over interval training versus steady state cardio for fat loss. I’m going to tell you.

Among many other gems of “logic”, the pro-interval crowd has recently been contending something along the lines of

“Look at 400m runners, they are lean and muscular; therefore you should train like a 400m runner to get lean and muscular”. Which usually goes into selling an interval training program for fat loss.

Or some variation on that theme. Now, that’s not the entire crux of the argument but I’ll save the next bit of stupidity they use as argument for another blog post.

So, as the argument goes, 400m guys run lots of intervals, 400m guys are lean and muscular. Therefore you should run intervals to get lean (and/or muscular). It’s usually pseudo-implied that, somehow, this is the only kind of training that 400m guys are doing.

But is this even true? Do 400m guys actually run intervals in the fashion that is being advocated (typically multiple repeats of 30-90 seconds work with similar rest intervals)? Is it true that 400m guys only do interval training and no low-intensity steady state work? No…no it’s not.

Now I’m no sprint coach, nor do I claim to be. But I know a lot of people and some of them know a thing or three about sprinting. I asked one of them and this is what he told me:

“There isn’t a single elite 400m program that doesn’t use at least 3 days of low intensity, high volume tempo work (some even opt for things like a 20minute run on grass). Their volumes are higher than [100m] sprinters, but generally similar intensities for the majority of the time. Their fast stuff comes with long rests and couldn’t really be considered interval stuff, IMO, anyway (3x350m with 10-15mins rest for the coaches who like LOW rest periods).”

Read that last bit carefully. 400m guys are doing sprint work to be sure. But it’s nothing like the intervals being described for fat loss. This is top speed stuff with massively long rest intervals (the 15 minutes is not a typo and his implication with the bolded word ‘LOW’ is that some coaches give even longer rest periods). Sprinters always appear to be the laziest athletes ever because of this. They run a bit at top speed and then sit around for 15+ minutes before doing it again.

As a followup question I asked him if 400m guys ever go longer than twenty minutes. He replied

“Some programs will go up to about 30minutes or so continuous very easy (not super often, usually early in the year), but I’d remember that some of these tempo exercises are essentially continuous. If you’re going 30 seconds on / 30 seconds off and stuff like that @ 50% or so, you’re talking really low intensity, but quite continuous. One of MJ’s famous workouts was 10×200 with 200m jog between reps, so it was continuous, but basically like a pseudo-fartlek.”

Let me translate what he wrote for everyone.

  • A large proportion (3 or more days per week and a majority of the total weekly volume) of a 400m runner’s training is done at low aerobic level intensities.
  • The sprint training that is done by most 400m guys is high intensity but the rest intervals are enormous. They have to be for the work to be of any quality at all.

If that’s not sufficient, I’d add a comment from Charlie Francis in his book Speed Trap. I can’t find the exact quote I want this second but it basically amounts to him saying that it was the high volume of low intensity tempo work that kept his sprinters lean. Not the short sprint work they were doing (which was short sprints with massive rest) but the high-volume, low-intensity work that kept them lean.

Now, you might counter, but 400m guys are muscular. Yes, because of the time they spend in the weight room. It has nothing to do with the sprint work they’re doing.

Summing up: Training like a pole vaulter won’t make you look like the girl above and the idea that 400m guys are lean because they interval train is simply, completely, utterly wrong anyhow. Most of the training for the 400m is low intensity aerobic work, the speed work that is done has nothing in common with the types of interval training being advocated by the folks claiming that 400m runners are lean because of intervals.

If 400m runners are lean due to anything, it’s genetics combined with the overall training load which, I’d note again, is predominantly made up of low-intensity work with fairly low volumes of (non-interval) speed work tacked on.

It sure as shit isn’t because they are doing “interval” training as is being advocated by the people drawing the comparison.

Frankly, you’d expect the high-performance coaches making the argument to know this.

Wouldn’t you?

The Steady State vs. Interval Training series continues in Sprinters vs. Marathoners.

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