Thursday, June 23, 2011

Super Soldier Program Part 3 - Strength Training

The first few segments of the Super Soldier Project have been about recovery and injury prevention. 

I have included my weekly training schedule to show how I incorporate rest and recovery into regular training.  80% of all performance enhancing strength increases come from nutrition and recovery.  This blog will mainly cover the other 20% STRENGTH TRAINING

Notice I didn’t say lifting weights or body building, but rather strength training.  Simply training to increase functional strength.

I have included a couple of paraphrased articles that scientifically make the case for this type of training

By Ori Hofmekler

Human fitness is not a random collection of exercises and it isn't about eating less junk food or popping megadoses of vitamins. Your fitness is created and maintained by a well-defined system. It is rooted in your biology and it's programmed in your genes. Human fitness is based on specific rules, and you need to know how to follow these rules.
Please understand that you possess genes that preserve and develop your muscles, and incredibly, these same genes also extend your life. Your body has an inherent muscle building mechanism that can be activated at any age. And there is no need to force your body to do anything that it isn't programmed for.

When passive, sedentary or "moderately" challenged, your body goes into waste. And the consequences include muscle degradation, excessive fat gain, chronic disease and a shortened life span.  Aging for instance, is a tissue wasting process.  Can you block this process?  You're certainly equipped with the means to counteract aging, but modern lifestyle and fitness systems are not designed for that.

Nowadays, we don't need to hunt, fight or flee to survive, and hardly do we need to endure hunger. Virtually everything your early ancestors had to struggle for is now readily accessible. But this is the core of the problem.
We have been shifting away from our species' original program, and away from the necessity to actively survive. Typically our bodies are inadequately challenged. And the very stressors that had made our species thrive in the first place, don't apply to us today. These days, humans live "safely" like farm animals. And most of us are overfed and overweight.

So, What's the Solution?
Know how to trigger the biological mechanism that preserves and builds your muscles.
Muscle retention is the most critical element of human fitness. Skeletal muscle plays key biological roles in keeping you strong, functional and healthy. Besides force production for physical movements, the muscle participates in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity. And it protects you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Muscle wasting such as due to lack of adequate exercise, disease or aging, leads to the loss of physical capacity, loss of physical shape and increased risk for chronic disease.
New developments in the field of human muscle biology have begun to unravel cellular mechanisms that regulate muscle protein synthesis and breakdown. The key muscle building mechanism in all mammals is a complex protein, part of the insulin pathway, called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin).
When activated, mTOR signals your muscle to increase protein synthesis. And when it's inhibited, your muscle protein synthesis shuts down, and protein breakdown increases. Note that it's the ratio of protein synthesis/protein breakdown that dictates whether you build or waste muscle.

There are three primary activators of mTOR in your muscle:
• Growth factors and insulin
• Amino acids
• Mechano-overload (strength training)

During exercise your mTOR is totally inhibited, but it's reactivated right after exercise and further enhanced by amino acids and insulin. With proper nutrition after exercise, mTOR boosts your muscle protein synthesis to a level that exceeds the rate of protein breakdown, leading to a positive protein balance in the muscle and a net gain of muscle mass.
Researchers have been finding that the main physical trigger for your mTOR is mechano-overload.

Aerobic training affects mainly your mitochondria (the cellular energy facility) but hardly affects your myofibrils. And even though aerobics yields some cardiovascular benefits, it fails to build muscle mass. And quite often, chronic prolonged aerobics drills can actually lead to loss of muscle size and diminished strength.

So is aerobics bad for you?
Researchers in the area of muscle biology and aging have been finding growing evidence that prolonged aerobics training increase the risk of oxidative damage in the muscle. This type of training causes overwhelming accumulation of free radicals in your muscle, which eventually increase the risk of oxidative damage in your tissues (myofibrils and mitochondria). And this risk of oxidative damage becomes increasingly higher as you get older.

On the other hand, intense exercise protocols which are inherently short, have shown to lower this risk. The short intense exercise protocol gives the muscle the time it needs to recuperate and counteract oxidative stress without depleting its antioxidant pool. And again, short intense exercise yield the right impact needed to trigger your mTOR and increase muscle mass.

The mechano-overload impact of intense exercise works directly on your fast muscle fibers, the type IIB and the type IIA. It's the fast muscle fibers that enable you to be strong and fast, and they have the largest capacity to generate force and gain size
For more information check out:

I paraphrased this next article written by Jeff Spencer, MA, DC
One of the most overlooked and powerful ways to get faster and better workout results is to do the workout exercises in a specific order that boosts their individual benefits and workout results as a whole.
You're probably saying to yourself that sounds kind of crazy, and, almost too good, and since exercises are just exercises the order they're done in during a workout doesn't really influence the workouts overall benefit since a workout's just a collection of exercises anyway. 
Fair enough question, but, that's not really the way it works, as the body prefers to progressively ramp up its intensity during a workout so it can do the workout from beginning to end safely and effectively, and feel better at the end than the beginning, while getting the maximum benefit and enjoyment from the workout.
The Variable Intensity Workout Principle
The premise of this article is that exercise selection and exercise placement in a workout determine a significant portion of the workout's success. A workout is more than a collection of exercises; it's a synergy between the exercises and their placement in relationship to each other that creates a holism more favorably impacting the body than the individual impact of the exercises by themselves.  
Purposeful Exercise Placement
Constructing workouts with purposeful synergistic placement of exercises creates the best workout results by enabling your body to safely, effectively and progressively engage greater training intensities throughout the workout to achieve maximum workout benefits.
The following are important benefits of well-organized workouts:
1. Easier on your body as it's not too hard, too fast. Beginning a workout progressively and gradually increasing its intensity is the easiest and most prudent means of reducing the risk of workout injury and conserving energy to complete the entire workout as prescribed.
2. Less risk of injury. Workout injury from random exercise placement most often happens for two reasons. The first is too much effort too soon in a workout from putting an exercise too close to the start of the workout. The second reason is just plain too much effort throughout the entire workout leading to premature fatigue putting the body at risk for needless workout injury. Properly placed workout exercises dramatically reduce that risk.  
3. Less risk of overtraining. Over-training's best friend is the hidden load of haphazardly placed exercises that on paper looks simpler and easier than the load it places on your body when the workout is performed. Well-constructed workouts side-step this common cause of over-training as they take the guess work out of what the impact of the workout will be on your body.
4. Feeling better at end of workout than beginning. Workouts synergistically constructed leave you more vibrant and vital at the end of your workout than the beginning. The classic outcomes of a guess-work constructed workout leave you feeling trashed at workout's end from workout overload or being left feeling that no training benefit occurred if the workout was too easy.
5.  More enthusiasm to workout from positive success. Motivation to workout is intimately tied to the feelings and results your workouts provide. Great workouts and seeing positive results from your efforts inspire you to want to workout more!
6. Will inspire others to start working out. Beneficial workout results are contagious! Many times after a great workout people are inspired to encourage others to start working out to improve their health.  
Organizing Your Workout for Better Results with Less Effort
The most successful workouts always contain specific elements in specific orders that have proven to produce superior and consistent workout results. The following is an approach to workout structure that has proven to consistently provide fitness gains while limiting the risk of over-training and injury.
The workout's six elements are presented in order.
a.  Warm Up Element. The purpose of the warm up is to increase the pliability and temperature of muscles to be able to get the most out of the workout with least risk of injury. A proper warm up is done by doing any cardio activity, such as elliptical, rower, stationary bicycle, treadmill, running or swimming for 10-minutes, with the first 5-minutes at an easy pace and the last 5-minutes at a moderate pace. Your heart rate should gradually increase until a faint sweat is felt at the end of the warm up.
b.  Adaptation Element. The adaptation exercises are those exercises that increase the function of the three major muscle zones of your body to effectively prime them to do the most intense part of the workout safely in the next workout element. Adaptation exercise examples include dumbbell woodchoppers, standing free squats, and sit-ups. These exercises are only examples and any similar exercises will do. The exercises are done one after another in succession for three sets of 10 repetitions.  
I like to combine a and b together into a skill specific training drill that increases the pliability and temperature of muscles, increases the function of the major muscle groups, and develops / refines martial art skills.
  • Working throws against a heavy plyo band
  • Working Joint Locks against a Judo belt

c.  High Intensity Element – This workout element is the most intense of the workout. It's placed 3rd in line after the warm up followed by the Adaptation Element as your body is now fully warmed up and ready to get the most benefit from the high intensity exercise that occurs in this element with least risk of injury from the high intensity. Suggested exercises for this element include the bench press, leg press, squats, dead lift or shoulder press done doing three sets of 10-repetitions.
d.  Relief Element – The Relief Element is where the muscles that were used in the High Intensity Element are given an active rest to recover from their high intensity effort in the previous element. The active part of the Relief Element that speeds muscle recovery back to baseline are exercises that take the strain off joints such as the Dumbbell Incline Fly and Hanging Knee to Chest, done in three sets of 10-repetitions.
e.  Stretch Element – The Stretch Element is the easiest element and designed to stretch out your body's muscles and tissues that have shortened in the previous four workout elements. Suggested exercises for this element include doing the lat pull down, low row, and tricep down, doing three sets of 10-repetitions.
f.  Cool down Element – The final phase of the workout is the cool-down, which sets the body up to begin it's recovery after the workouts finished. This element is achieved by doing 10-minutes of cardio at easy effort that when finished completes the workout.
The world of fitness training is constantly evolving and looking for more innovative ways to get fit faster with less effort and time. A proven way to meet those objectives and achieve best workout results is to organize workouts so the exercises work together to build the body and support recovery by balancing the exercise intensities throughout the workout so the body never becomes excessively over-loaded and gets maximum benefit.
The results from this approach to working out often inspires those who have experienced its benefits and results to encourage others to join the ranks of the physically fit to have a better life through better health. Is there anything better than that? I think not.
About the Author
Dr. Jeff Spencer, Olympian, ICA "Sports Chiropractor of the Year", and author is one of America's top builder of champions.

Those articles are good fundamentals on which to build or modify your own specific strength training program.

Here is the basic structure that I use
Warm Up 10 -12 Min
Strength Training  25-30 min
  • Whole Body Circuit (no rest between exercises)
  • Largest muscles to smallest muscles
  • Alternate between pushing and pulling muscles
Cool Down 15 min
Stretch 5- 10 min
Specific Example
Warm Up 10 -12 Min
            Nage Waza (Throwing techniques)
Strength Training  25-30 min
I like to use body weight exercises (because I can do them anywhere) and I like to use a Whole Body Circuit.  With circuit training I get a great workout in a short amount of time and I keep my heart rate up without having to do separate cardio training.
            Quad – ¾ Squats
            Hams – Leg Curl
            Chest – Push ups
            Back – Wide grip pull ups
            Core – Plank
            Shoulder – Handstand push ups
            Bis – Pullups
            Tris – Diamond pushups
            Grip – Finger Tip pullups
3 sets 4-10 reps (to failure)
If think you can’t get strong without lifting heavy weights, let me ask you how did these guys do it?
Did the Spartans have a Golds Gym membership?

If you have never done body weight exercises for strength here are some videos that illustrate proper form.

Cool Down 15 min
Run 10 Min (if you have a 1.5 mile run time fitness test where you work run at the pace you need to pass the test.  Example 6mph = 10 minute mile = 15 min 1.5 mile run)
Walk 5 min
Stretch 5- 10 min

Train hard, Train Smart, Be safe


  1. I'm afraid I only had time to skim all that, but I have done some exercise physiology units, so I'm fairly familiar with all this.

    The reading I've done disagrees with what you said about Cardio/aerobic training being bad for the ageing process. While Cardio does cause a buildup in oxidative agents, for some reason, it also makes the body more resistant to oxidative damage (which is a bit counter intuitive because it's at the cellular level). I'll double check my notes, cause I hate giving out bad information.

    Personally I don't believe in lifting weights either. Have you seen Parkour conditioning? A lot of it is similar to what you do, but some of the drills also require an element of co-ordination to do properly :)

  2. I think he is referring mostly to long aerobic workout such as marathon training.
    Some people think their entire workout should be running as long as possible.
    And I do have to admit that marathon runner, while they look great, have been some very unhealthy people I have worked with

    The good affects you are talking about are experienced with more short intense aerobic workouts. Good point


  3. 5 Ways to Cut Your Workout Time

    Do you know the 2 biggest reasons men and women stop exercising?

    1) Lack of time
    2) Lack of motivation

    Let's tackle "Lack of Time" today with 5 ways you can get your
    workouts done faster. After all, no one should spend more than 50
    minutes in the gym.

    Here are 5 ways to cut time from your workouts.

    a) Supersets

    I use "non-competing" superset. This means, choose two exercises
    for different muscle groups - and preferably completely opposite
    movements. For example, choose a push and a pull. That way, one
    muscle group rests while the other works...and you cut the rest
    time you need between sets.

    b) Choose a better warm-up strategy

    Don't waste 10 minutes walking on the treadmill. Instead, use a
    total body circuit of bodyweight exercises as a general warm-up, and
    then move directly into specific warm-up sets for your first two

    c) Pair dumbbell and bodyweight exercises together in your

    This saves you time at home (you don't need to change the dumbbell
    weight between exercises) and in the gym (you don't need to fight
    for 2 sets of dumbbells).

    d) Choose Intervals over slow cardio

    The latest research shows more weight loss when people use
    intervals, and intervals take half as long to do.

    e) Limit the use of isolation exercises

    Pick multi-muscle exercises, such as squats, pulls, pushes, and
    rows. If you have time, you can squeeze in some dropsets for arms
    and shoulders if you want. However, if you only have 3 sessions of
    45 minutes per week, isolation exercises must be the first to go.

    In addition, don't spend more than 10 minutes per week on direct ab
    training. It's not efficient and won't give you rock hard abs

    Get your very own copy of Turbulence Training & the Nutrition Guide here: ===> 5 Ways to Cut Your Workout Time <=====

    Workout less, live life more,

    Craig Ballantyne, CTT
    Certified Turbulence Trainer
    Creator of Turbulence Training

    PS - Don't know where to start?

    If you are a beginner, start by reading Dr. Mohr's nutrition
    guidelines...eating properly will be the biggest factor in your
    early success.

    Beginners should also start with the Introductory TT workouts to
    prepare their muscles for the upcoming intense training.

    For others, it's best to start with the Intermediate Level TT
    workouts. If those aren't enough of a challenge, you can move onto
    the Original TT workout and follow the 16-week advanced program
    right through.

    If at any time you need a break, try the TT Bodyweight 4-week plan.

    And then finish off with the TT Fusion Fat Loss program followed by
    the 30-day Maximum Fat Loss program to cap off a full 24 weeks of
    Advanced TT fat loss workouts.

    After that, choose between the TT for Women or TT for Muscle
    programs to help put the finishing touches on your physique. All of
    these are included as bonuses with Turbulence Training.

    Get started on the road to fat loss with your very own copy of
    Turbulence Training, ALL of the bonuses, & the Nutrition Guide here: ===> Fast fat loss workouts... <=====