Explosivelyfit strength training builds powerful bodies!

Danny M. O'Dell, MA. CSCS*D Strength coach

Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

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Strength Basics

Explosivelyfit is focused on the development of pure strength and the various methods used to obtain it. The intent is to help all drug free athletes reach their true strength potential.

Keep training smart, and strong.

Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D


Tips are added on a semi-regular basis. Before you start training always check with your primary health care provider  first.

If you are just beginning your journey toward a stronger body then here are a few tips to start you off on the right track. You will find out how to lift safely and become stronger in the process.

There will be NO drug tips on this page-ever.

I am also not a believer in the supplement of the month club as so many magazines shout with every edition. However, good nutrition is essential to progress, regardless of your sport or activity.

Key words to remember: Read, study, learn, apply and succeed.

Table of Contents
(Topics added as time permits)

BC's of life

A few suggestions

A guide to determining sets, reps and rest periods for the beginner

Attack the weak points of your strength development

Balancing out your exercise program

Beginning fitness and health exercise guidelines

Beginning a strength training program

Between training days

Body proportions

Conjugate training

Five steps to more muscle mass

Heart rate training

Keep a diary

Listen to your body

Mental imagery

Mental and physical conditioning-the basics

Old school vs New School

Picking your weights

Power production from the squat-rest intervals

Rest periods per specific goals

Serious sport participation preparation practices

Setting up your home strength training program and gym

Squat instructions-basic edition

Strength training isometrics revisited

Top ten training tips for athletic conditioning success

The components of physical fitness

The make up of a resistance training program

Train for strength and power

Train smart

Training for strength

Serious sport participation preparation practices

Serious sport participation demands following specific preparation practices. The principles that follow have a well established pedigree that will ensure success if adhered to in the program design.

Athlete involvement in the process

To be the best does not mean blindly following a coach or trainers advice. The absence of ignorance in an athlete regarding their training sessions and the overall protocol indicates increasing motivation to read, study, learn, and practice a collaborative relationship with the coach. By making outside learning materials available to the athlete the coach is fulfilling the part of the teacher.

Taking advantage of these opportunities to increase their knowledge is up to the athlete.

Old school vs new school

Are you still living in the dark ages when it comes to figuring out your maximum heart rate? You are if you're still subtracting your age from 220.

A knowledgeable trainer knows the resulting answer can leave you with a reading that may be ten beats off, high or low, in either direction . And if that is off, then so will be the target heart range percentages.

The most accurate method uses the revised Karvonen formula:

206.9 - (0.67 X your age) = Maximum heart rate (MHR)

Working out within the target ranges of 65-85% of your MHR is the recommendation for enhanced cardiovascular health. Once you determine your MHR then multiply it by any number between 65-85% to find your target heart rate number (THR).

The THR is where you need to exercise for best cardio effect. Keeping your pulse within the range your decide upon for five to six sessions a week for 30-45 minutes will get your aerobic capabilities up to par.


Training for Strength

The only way your muscles will ever develop maximum strength is by training them to be stronger. Training like a bodybuilder is NOT the way to do it.

The muscles need to be over loaded in such a manner that the contractile properties of the muscle fibers are increased.

Bodybuilding will not overload the muscles filaments in the same fashion as strength training. The percentage of the 1RM is lower and thus will not engage the myofibril hypertrophy mechanism of the body.

The conjugate system that is working so well in the strength field is an off shoot of the Russian coupled successive system. In fact this evolved from the multi-lateral skill development approach favored by the eastern block countries of years past.

Beginning with the premise that everyone has specific skills and these skills can be developed with proper training at the appropriate ages of maturity.

This type of selection process is valid only at the low end of the qualifications and not for the advanced athlete as their needs are much more specific in nature. Thus a multifaceted approach to training is necessary for these young athletes.

Power production from the squat

Information gleaned from the NSCA Journal of Strength Conditioning and Research by Zink, A. J., Perry, A. C., Robertson, B, L, Roach, K. E. and Signorile J. F.

Peak power, reaction forces with the ground and velocity are affected by varying the loads used in the squat. All of the squats in the research were performed by experienced lifters and were at parallel with as much explosiveness as their individual technique allowed.

The results were calculated using the barbell velocity and the ground reaction forces that were generated by the force velocity curves arrived at from the peak power, peak ground reaction forces and the peak barbell velocity established during the lift. The differences were not significant for loads used in for peak power. But it is interesting to note that the greatest peak power developed occurred with loads of 40 and 50% 1RM. Higher loads generated the greatest peak ground reaction forces and greater force at the time of peak power production. These figures held true for all loads outside of the 60-50%, 50-40%, and the 40-30% ranges of 1RM for peak ground reaction forces and then again between loads of 70-60% and 60-50% 1RM for the force at the time of peak power. Higher loads showed up in the calculations with a lower peak barbell velocity and velocity at the time of peak power, as would be expected.

The exceptions to these loads were in the 20-30%, 70-80%, and the 80-90% 1RM.


Knowing the loads that have an impact on velocity of movement, peak power or peak ground reaction forces will enable the strength coach to develop appropriate training plans for the athlete, regardless of the `sport.

Men’s muscle measurement guidelines

If you are lifting heavy and are interested in how you stand up to the next guy in relation to body measurements then here is the information you have been waiting for. It is taken from an old chart developed by the long time strong man, weightlifter, bodybuilder and physical culture icon John C. Grimek.

These are figures that he came up with for determining the ideal measurements for the average trainee. They not based on the steroid bloated aberration of physical fitness so often depicted in the magazines sold on the newsstands. Take each listed body part and multiply by the co-efficient as directed to see where your physique compares to his standards.

Note: All of the measurements are taken at the smallest part on the knees and wrist.

The normal trainee measurement figures

Biceps-the co-efficient 2.10 inches is multiplied by your wrist size
Chest- 5.62 multiplied by your wrist size
Waist-equal to at least 64% of girth of your chest
Thighs-the co-efficient is 1.44 multiplied by the measurement taken around the small part of the knee
Calves-67% of the thigh size taken at the largest part
Bodyweight-2.55 is multiplied by your height in inches. This particular one seems really, really low. So take it with a grain of salt as you compare yourself to the figures. You may also want to take a long look at yourself in the mirror especially if you think you’re buff but in fact are carrying an excessive amount of body fat.

The measurements for the serious trainee

Biceps-the co-efficient 2.32 inches is multiplied by your wrist size
Chest- 6.42 multiplied by your wrist size
Waist-equal to at least 71% of girth of your chest
Thighs-the co-efficient is 1.63 multiplied by the measurement taken around the small part of the knee
Calves-72% of the thigh size taken at the largest part
Bodyweight-3.1 is multiplied by your height in inches. Now this is more like it, at least for the body weight.

Rest Intervals Between Training Days

It is a well established fact that training days separated by two non training days is effective at restoring the muscles ability to produce force. The two day split is significantly more effective than the normal one day break so commonly seen in the weight rooms.

Balancing out your exercise program

It is well established that exercise benefits us in many areas such as increased self confidence, improvements in our moods, and longer healthier lives. Simply being able to do what you want to do physically and mentally may be made easier by engaging in a long term pattern of running, weight training, stretching/balance, and recreational sporting exertions.

During spring time the runners start hitting the road, especially those who are getting ready to run Bloomsday here in Spokane, Washington. While running is an admirable endeavor, it is not enough to keep your body in top physical condition. Our body needs physical and mental stimulation which is only achievable through the use of a variety of methods.

Cyclic exercise, similar to running, stresses the cardiovascular abilities thereby increasing the capacity to engage in lengthy activities through enhanced oxygen transfer to the working muscles. However, exercising in this manner will not increase the lean muscle mass composition of our body. In order to do that resistance training is necessary.

Weight training helps build strong bones.

Bone density responds directly to increases in intensities of load and site specifically to the greater pressures required to move the load. Adaptations take place within the structures of the bone that make it more resistant to the imposed loads and thus stronger.

Women in particular need this load bearing weight on their long bones, the spine and hips to stave off and help prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis from occurring. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that progressively decreases the bone density which in time leaves them weakened and vulnerable to fracture.


Getting stronger helps in other ways too. The strength to recover from a slip may prevent a bone damaging fall. Postural muscles that are strengthened through weight training inevitably lead to improved posture and a reduced potential of lower back problems. Even though strength training is high on the list of maintaining a strong fit body other pieces of the equation are important too. For instance being flexible enough to tie your shoes or even scratch your back is an important part of living a full and healthy lifestyle.

Work the joints normal range of motion each day by following a stretching program. But be cautioned that static stretching performed before a strength training session has been found to lower the power output by as much as 8%. If you are a sprinter, thrower or recreational handball or tennis player stay away from these at the start of your activity. The proper place for a static stretch is at the end of the workout when the muscles are warm and receptive to change. Doing so before hand, is an invitation to injury.

Find a good stretching book; read up on the proper way to stretch and start applying these to your exercise program. Brad Walker’s ‘Stretching Handbook’ or Bob Anderson's‘Stretching’ are two of the premier ones on the market and each one has stood the test of time. Even though flexibility is important it is not the end of the line. Maintaining your balance becomes harder as we age.


Beginning around the fourth decade, we start to lose a small percentage of the ability to keep our equilibrium . Losing your balance leads to falls and possible fractures, or other injuries if not prevented.

Prevention begins with daily practice. Standing on one foot or with heel to toe for multiple seconds at a time (60-120) will help stave off this decline in balance. Leaning toward the floor on one leg with arms to the side or rear will change the center of gravity and will change the feel of the exercise. In each instance it is important to have the ability to catch yourself on something solid to prevent a dangerous fall from happening in the event you do lose your balance while doing these.

Balance is critical to our daily living activities. Without balance, we would be constantly reaching and grasping for stable objects to prevent falling, stumbling or injuring ourselves.

Here are several variations of a basic exercise to help develop and maintain your sense of balance. Once you are able to do one exercise example for up to one minute without movement, then progress to the next example.
Make certain you are standing near a sturdy chair, or wall, to help catch your balance, if need be, in the following sequences of movement.

Basic example:

• Stand with your feet touching one another in a side by side or heel to toe fashion.
• Hold your hands at your side and close your eyes.
• Maintain this position, without swaying side to side or backward to front, for several seconds up to one minute.
Novice example:
• Assume the same position with your feet as the basic example above.
• Move your arms to the sides in a random fashion, still maintaining your balance.
• Tip your head back and continue to move your arms.
• Now close your eyes and continue the arm movements.
Intermediate example:
• Maintain the feet in the same pattern, side to side or heel to toe.
• Reach down to the front, side and the rear with one arm then the other.
• See how far you can reach down before losing your balance.
• Remember to keep your feet together and don't sway as you reach, just reach, keep your balance and then reach in another direction.
Advanced example:
• Keep the feet in the same position as the rest of the examples.
• Tip your head back and now close your eyes.
• Move your arms in a random fashion, one arm at a time.
More advanced example:
• Feet are still in the side-by-side or heel to toe position.
• Head tipped back and eyes closed.
• Lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance for 10-15 seconds, gradually build up your ability to remain in one position without moving about to stay upright.
Another advanced example:
• Set up is the same as the more advanced example with the simple change now of adding the reaches as mentioned in the intermediate example.
• Or you can move your head from side to side in a rapid manner while maintaining your balance.

Of course there are many other ways to practice balance training but this article is not being written to list them all. Suffice it to say balance is a critical part of living a healthy life.

Before engaging in any exercise program, check with your primary care provider.

Strength Training Isometrics Revisited

Holding a maximum isometric contraction for longer than six seconds may cause injury to your muscles, ligaments and tendons. A better way to incorporate isometrics into your program is to use the dynamic method. This involves stopping at various points in the movement for several seconds then continuing on with the exercise.

Picking your Weights

Enthusiastic method – finding the weight that is within your capabilities will be found within one to three sets.

Start with a general warm up for one to three minutes: skip rope, ride a bike, or row.

Specific warm up of a light weight that you can do an easy full range of motion for 12 reps.

Pick a weight that you think you can do for 8 repetitions.

Now do 2-3 reps. Does it feel easy, if so add a bit more to it. 5-10 pounds for an upper body exercise and 10-20 for a lower body one. If it felt hard then decrease the load by the same poundage’s as listed in the previous sentence.

Do a set of 8 reps. Did it feel right, if not add or subtract according to the recommendations above.

Repeat for one more try at selecting the right weight load for your next workout.

Write down your weight for the next time you lift.

Slower method – the workout weights will be figured out within two to four workout sessions.

Start with a general warm up for one to three minutes: skip rope, ride a bike, or row.

Specific warm up of a light weight that you can do an easy full range of motion 12 reps.

Pick a weight twenty to thirty percent heavier than the specific warm up work out weight.

Do this weight 10 times. Does it feel easy; if so add a bit more to it. 5-10 pounds for an upper body exercise and 10-20 for a lower body one. If it felt hard then decrease the load by the same poundage’s as listed in the previous sentence.

Write this weight down in your log book for the next exercise session.

Repeat this sequence for the next several exercise days until you have a weight that is difficult but not impossible to do for 8-12 repetitions. This is your weight load until you are able to add two more reps to the last set over two consecutive sessions.

Once arriving at this point you are ready for some serious resistance training. Add weight accordingly by increasing the load 5-10 pounds for an upper body exercise and 10-20 for a lower body one.

The ABC's of Life

Agility, Balance and Coordination

Remember a time in the past when you had to learn the ABC’s. It was something you had to do before you could read. The ABC’s are still important but they take on an added meaning when it comes to what they stand for now-Agility, Balance, and Coordination.

Losing the ability to maintain agility, balance and coordination does not have to be the inevitable outcome of getting older. However, an increase in age brings with it a decline in these three characteristics while at the same time increasing the risk of injury. But, practicing the ABC’s each day will help to stave off the natural loss of these capabilities.

The ABC’s of Living

Agility is the ability to perform movements by making graceful and fluid, well-coordinated changes with the entire body, quickly. Balance is the ability to maintain the center of gravity and still be able to continue with the task at hand. These two are fairly well understood processes.

Coordination, or the blending together of agility, balance, sense of rhythm, spatial orientation, kinesthetic differentiation, and reactivity to sound and visual signs is the most complex and the least researched of these essential functions. This is the component that needs work.

The physiological roots of coordination reside in the neurological synchronization of the muscle fiber motor units excitation sequences. These neurological signals must direct movement in one part of the body and not ‘spill over to other motor units directing other parts of the body.

Try this simple test of coordination and see how you do:

Make big circles with one leg as you simultaneously move each arm in opposite directions.

Squat down as you move your arms up and as you raise up from the squat move your arms down.

By the time you are reading this article, the sensitive times that are the most effective in training coordination will have passed, as these times are from the ages of 7-14 in the majority of us. But, it’s not too late to begin.

Each day do a coordination movement, practice it until it’s easy to do then add in another one. You don’t need to be at the level of a circus performer, you just need to do it each day for one or two minutes.

Notice the use of circle moves, circles tend to disrupt the natural flow of the senses, especially opposing directions limb to limb.

Here are a few more to try; feel free to expand on these with ones of your own.

Get on your hands and knees, now move one leg and the opposite arm in circles

Sit on the floor, raise both of your legs off the floor, now pedal and at the same time move your arms up and down.

Jump up and down as you spin in a circle and move your arms vertically in opposite directions

Jump backward and raise your knees to your chest at the same time

Jump in place and as you are in the air turn 180 degrees before landing again

The Components of Physical Fitness

Every person has a different idea of what constitutes physical fitness. Some believe if you are able to run a mile or lift a heavy weight you are fit. But are you?

There are many aspects to consider when discussing physical fitness and each of these may change with time, place, type of work being done and the presenting situation. However, all of the physical fitness pieces are a result of everyday activity, and the encoding of the genetic potential of the individual. How you make use of what you have been given depends on how dedicated you are to the increasing your personal level.

Physical fitness is the achievement of motor tasks such as speed, strength and endurance and the physiological responses to the imposed stress placed on the body during physical activity. Thus fitness is both dynamic, (motor achievements) and static, i.e. medical fitness. Top performance is a combination of the two and is attainable only through the reaching of peak physical fitness.

Looking at the concept of fitness a bit closer will reveal that it is the ability to perform everyday living tasks willingly and with enough energy left over to then enjoy other physical activities during the remaining free time. And to have enough energy left in reserve to meet unexpected physical and mental demands. Put another way it’s the state of the person’s level of ability for activity.

Fitness enhances the performance of significant agility, dexterity, strength, speed, or other motor qualities or the development of these abilities that are then measurable by testing that requires no proficiency of a particular sport technique.

Another way of looking at the issue is to determine the shape or condition of the organs and their specific level of functioning as expressed via the solving of versatile motor tasks. This helps to determine the developmental degree of the individual’s motor abilities.

In many cases, physical fitness can be seen as the ratio of effectiveness of the total complexion of the body to its predisposition toward success in the sport. Furthermore, it can also be stated as a realization of life style and/or the system of values expressed in how a person lives their life every day.

It has even been equated to the biological value of the human and is the entirety of the person’s ability and skill to perform all movement activities.

As can be seen from the few paragraphs above fitness is defined in many different ways. This fitness ability is not given to a person in one dose nor is it permanent or dispensed in equal amounts to all people. Fitness has to be sought after and relentlessly pursued if it is to be obtained. It is never given out on a silver platter.

Five Steps to More Muscle Mass:

3500 calories equals one pound therefore:

1. EAT
2. EXERCISE the major compound muscle groups
3. EAT
5. EAT

The Make up of a Resistance Training Program

Starting a training program shouldn’t be more complicated than just throwing on a pair of shoes or heading off to the gym for a few sets of squats or bench presses. As long as your body is receiving a positive stimulus it will attempt to overcome the stress that is placed on it. If you are sedentary and have never exercised before then this may work; for a while at least. After a short time though the body adapts to the stimulus and stops making positive health gains as it accommodates to the new level of activity.

Well designed exercise programs contain these nine parts-does yours?

1. Before beginning any new exercise program discuss your plans with your health care provider. After the consult with your doctor get a fitness evaluation by a certified strength and conditioning specialist. If the gym you are joining doesn’t have these nationally certified trainers then perhaps the fees they charge to join aren’t worth the risk of being there in the first place.

2. The choice of exercises will determine the outcome. If all you do is barbell curls then all that will adapt will be the biceps. What about your heart, your flexibility and your strength? Those are important wouldn’t you agree.

3. How often you engage in physical activity will govern your fitness level. If you are an elite athlete then you will be able to exercise more each week and in some cases more times each day. As a recommendation start out slow as you build up your tolerance to exercise.

4. There are many trainers who religiously follow the principle of exercising the largest muscle groups first and then the smaller ones next until the session is completed. However if the smaller ones are holding your back then they need to be first on the list. At the beginning of the session your energy levels are high, so that is the time to do your priority muscles. Which ones you choose is up to you. Just make certain both sides of the joint are worked.

5. The load on the bar for each exercise will be guided by the goals. If massive strength is the desired outcome then heavy weights with low repetitions will be the order of the day. If being able to run miles at a time without stopping is what you want then it will be a vastly different schedule.

6. The total volume of sets and repetitions varies as much as the goals of the individuals who work out. Many sets of many repetitions will cause muscle hypertrophy or an enlargement of the muscles. Heavy weight and low repetitions go hand in hand.

7. Rest periods are an essential part of designing a program, for without the correct rest between each set the proper energy system will not be called upon to react.

8. Staleness sets in with the same sequence performed day after day. The inevitable result is the dreaded plateau where progress stops.

9. Progressive load management, in an undulating periodization fashion, leads the way in modern program design.

Mental Imagery

Mental imagery as used by many athletes of the world, works. This skill often referred to as visualization, mental practice, and mental rehearsal skill development.

The premise asserts there is a connection between the mind and the subsequent neuromuscular reaction. Taking the thought further this process happens without conscious awareness between the conception and the execution of the act. This concept of the mind muscle connection is evident in the Electromyographic (EMG) analysis of muscle engagement and movement.

Four groups of athletes were studied. The first did the task, the second group imagined the task through to completion, the third performed eye movements only while the last passive control subjects received no training at all. After the tests of speed accuracy were completed it was determined that mental training promotes the skill of the visualized physical movement.

The research has demonstrated and produced data that shows the brain can initiate motor movement without actually moving muscles. So clearly the link is there. But just what is mental imagery and how can it help you become stronger?

Simply put it means using your imagination to create powerfully realistic perfect scenarios of future athletic events as a rehearsal for the actual competition. It can also be used to recreate past successful activities to either promote a higher level of emotional engagement or to lessen prestart energy nervousness. Imagery provides the athlete with extra intensely focused training time-in their head.

Your athletes, or maybe even you, probably already use mental imagery. It comes naturally. What doesn’t come naturally is doing it in a systematically purposeful fashion.

Skills develop through practice by perfecting precise movement patterns.

Mental training is much the same. It has to be trained in a systematic and correct manner if it is to become productive. Some athletes shy away from these types of exercises because it’s too hard or they don’t believe in its effectiveness. Either way these individuals are not living up to their physical potential.

Mental imagery training is useful to an athlete in a number of ways:

Seeing success
Managing energy levels
Learning and perfecting the sport skills
Preparing for an event

Seeing success

Perfect visualization of a technique, skill or of achieving goals instills confidence in the person that these are attainable. Expansions of limits and greater expectations of the possibilities that exist are made feasible through the mental pictures. Perceptions of what it feels like to succeed, by executing perfect movements, pre program the brain and neuromuscular apparatus of the organism to then accomplish the tasks.


Long periods of training sometimes induce a lack of motivational intensity within the athlete. Imagining past successes and high level competitive results can be a help in maintaining the persistence to continue the programs present cycle.

Managing energy levels

Use calming images to relax and high energy ones to raise or psych yourself up.

Learning and perfecting the sport skills

Perfecting a sport skill through mental imagining allows an additional form of practice and this practice can be made perfect; in your brain. This training helps correct technique mistakes or errors of skill execution during the competition by going over step by step every movement.

Reducing these patterns and slowing them down into manageable parts allows analysis and corrections to be made of the various segments.


Distractions surround an athlete both in training and competition. Minimizing those that come up allows for a more complete focus on the task at hand. Developing a reference point will often get the trainee back on track by gently reminding them of what is important at the moment.

Preparing for an event

Mental preparation is a vital as the physical conditioning. According to Dariusz Nowicki ‘when two athletes of equal physical skill and ability compete with each other, the one who is better mentally prepared is the winner. It even happens that an athlete perfectly prepared physically loses against a physically weaker but mentally stronger opponent’.

In the case of preparing for a meet visualization allows the athlete to be in the environment, rehearsing the moves, techniques and skills necessary for success and then reinforcing the key elements that will take place during the contest. Even unexpected situations that may appear in the meet can be prepared for by imagining what to do at these moments to successfully deal with them.

Training your visualization skills

Find a quiet place to practice, later on you can go into different situations and continue to develop these skills under varying conditions. To begin with follow these suggestions in order to get the most from your mental training sessions.

Take these training suggestions one at a time until they become second nature to do.

See yourself performing a skill or movement from start to finish in a precise and perfectly clear manner. These images should not be fuzzy or be seen with gaps in the execution of any of the activities.

Control the images so they are performing exactly right each time for the entire length of the skill. Doing so helps to ‘set’ the tone for the visualization to become successful in real time and motion.

Engage all of your senses while imagining. The more sensations you are feeling during this session the greater will be the transfer to real live experiences. Feel the knurling on the bar; acknowledge the weight and how it pushes into your palm or shoulders. Can you hear the announcer calling you to the platform, or are you ‘in the hole’ about ready to lift? How about the smell of the ammonia or the sight of the chalk in the air, on the floor and on the bar when you lift? You can almost taste it if you are in the zone of mental imagining.

Premeet jitters or premeet lack of involvement will affect your performance in a negative way. Deal with them in your mind. Practice seeing success by envisioning yourself as being full of energy and lifting to your full capability. If you are a bit nonplussed then imagine something energetic and bring yourself up.

Continue to mentally practice your craft at practice and during the meet.

Beginning a Strength Program

Often times a person thinks long and hard before beginning a strength program. Along the way these questions invariably arise:

How do I start?
Where do I begin?
What do I do?
What exercises should I be doing?
How do I do them?

Women generally ask how do I flatten my stomach and get rid of the flab on the backs of my arms. Men are asking how to get a six pack and want to know how to bench press more weight.

These questions can be answered by a certified and competent trainer. Notice I did not say just a certified trainer but a competent one as well. A certification from a recognized source such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association implies the trainer has demonstrated superior knowledge, is competent to coach and is well up to the training task. Competency and results are the ‘proof in the pudding’ as the saying goes.

A needs analysis from each participant starts out the process in helping to identify health issues, goals, and previous exercise experience. Next will be the first strength training session. During this phase each individual is shown the exercises in the correct fashion. The trainee will practice the exercises with little to no weight until the technique is correct.

Properly designed exercise protocols start with a dynamic warm up; not static stretching. Static stretching, as seen with many runners standing on one leg while pulling the other up towards the buttocks, is NOT the way to begin an exercise session. Static stretches relax the joints and the nervous system. This is exactly the opposite desired outcome of a strength program. Engaging in static stretching before any explosive sport such as gymnastics, sprinting or wrestling is even worse. It opens these athletes up to injury due to the neuromuscular confusion resulting from the relaxation and opening up of the joints.

Dynamic warm ups, on the other hand, involve moving the body and its limbs around the joints range of motion, getting the pulse up and raising the respiration rates in preparation for the resistance exercises. Skipping rope is an excellent way to start because it helps develop coordination and endurance with the use of minimal equipment.

A beginning routine is made up of large muscle group exercises featuring balanced applications of sets and repetitions for both agonist and antagonist groups. After a movement specific warm up where each exercise is performed ten to twelve times do eight to ten repetitions for two to four sets. A set is one group of eight to ten repetitions. Follow each set with a rest period of sixty to ninety seconds, depending on your present conditioning status and then begin the next set of the same exercise. Move through the list at a steady pace. You should not be in the weight room much longer than forty five to fifty minutes.

Not all exercises will be performed each session but these are the essential ten and form the foundations of any strength program. Consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.

1. Military presses
2. Chin ups or pull downs
3. Bench presses
4. Barbell rows
5. Squats
6. Deadlift's
7. Curl ups or full range sit ups
8. Back extensions
9. Laterals
10. Calf raises

Mental and physical conditioning-the basics

Tips to increase your mental and physical well being

It is good that you have made the decision to get moving again

Develop your brain

Not only do you need to be in excellent physical condition but your mind has to be operating at peak efficiency at all times. Read something everyday that will make you a better person, not just your career information but gather in knowledge of all subjects so you can converse and be on top of what is happening in the world. Subscribe to a weekly news magazine and read them cover to cover each time they arrive in your mail box. Read your daily newspaper. Get a college education. Learn something new every day. Don't be a dumb person.

Developing your physical conditioning:

Get a complete physical examination that includes your eyes, heart and joint conditions

* Find out if you have any correctable conditions that could cause you concern as you exercise.

Begin to exercise slowly and work up from there

* Keep a daily log of your physical activity

* Start out with a program that you will adhere to by gradually easing into it. Don't go whole hog right off the bat as you probably won't follow through. Set a daily goal of ten to twenty minutes of exercise for the first two weeks. Increase this time by ten to fifteen minutes every two weeks until you are at the ideal of around 45-50 minutes work out time per day.

Alternate strength days with cardio days, develop your ability to sustain lengthy outputs of medium to high power by working on your strength, strength endurance, and isometric (holding) strength. Take the week end off by taking it easy on what ever days your week end falls on. Strength Training Secrets is an excellent resource.

Increase your cardiovascular capabilities* Run various distances and at various speeds. Fartlek, sprint and endurance training methods are great ways to improve your endurance and not get totally bored while doing it.

Improve your strength and power production

* Strength train with a purpose which is to stay alive and win the physical battles you encounter in life. Stick with the basic large muscle group exercises: Military presses, pull downs or chin ups, bench presses, barbell rows, squats and more squats, deadlift's, weighted abdominal work to include laterals and back extensions. Work on getting stronger in every one of these.

Stay away from the so called isolation exercises-you want to develop over powering full body useable everyday strength. Do each one for four to five sets of eight to ten repetitions with a work to rest ratio of 1:2 or 3.

If you are not certain how to do these exercises then get a good book or speak to a qualified strength coach and learn how to do them right.

Watch your dietary intake by maintaining good eating habits. I used to pack my own food in a grocery sack because I wanted to know what was going into my body everyday. Eat five to six well balanced meals a day. Don't get screwy with diets; just eat well and consistently.

Good luck, you are starting out on a journey that will reward you throughout the rest of you life.

Setting up your home strength training program and gym

Succinctly as possible, begin your strength training with a solid exercise routine that enhances your strength and stamina for living by exercising the major muscle groups.

It will not be designed to make you sore. The exercises will be ones that build your general physical fitness and get you ready for some intermediate type of work.

Equipment recommendations begin with:

  • A log book to keep track of your progress-$10-13

  • A good 300 pound Olympic set-$170-300

  • Dumb bells from 5-50 pounds depending on your strength level at the time of purchase. These are about $.50-90 a pound

  • A solid bench-$250-300

  • A good power rack-$400-1100

  • Various different types of balancing items such as the individual pads, balls, and platforms-the cost will depend on what you are buying

  • Tubes and jump stretch rubber bands

  • Sources of training information such as found in our Bookstore

When first beginning to weight train it is easy to get caught up in the magazine hype and start doing far too much.

Set realistic goals, learn how to do the exercises in the correct manner. Be sensible and do things right. This will lengthen your training career, help prevent unnecessary injuries and solidly develop your muscles. Work not only on the front of your body but include an equal amount of stress on those you don't see when looking in the mirror, i.e. the posterior chain groups such as the hamstrings and the upper, mid and lower back.

Be cautious in selecting so called isolation exercises like the concentration curls. More useful would be the barbell curl or the chin up. These develop a larger muscle area and in such a manner as to promote useable strength and power.

Motor ability, or the ability to move in a specific and coordinated manner while displaying power is a changing quality over the course of an athletes career. It is both a qualitative and a quantitative interdependent relationship between the different motor connections that are important to the sport.

Resistance training does not interfere with flexibility. A recent study out of Brazil demonstrated that the two are not mutually exclusive. However, it did indicate that greater gains were made with the application of specific training regimens in each area.

Practice coordination drills often, not just a few times when you think of it but schedule it into your program. Place them at the very first, after your warm up, or at the end to see how you do in a fatigued state.

Keep a diary of your training activities, write down the sets, reps, difficulty level of each one. Note the time of day you lift and whether or not it was a good effort day. If not, then consider changing the time you exercise. Some of us like to lift early in the morning around 0500-0600 others may do better in the afternoon or evening.

There are no quick cures to poor physical fitness, but there are clear guidelines to follow that WILL help you become healthier. If you would like an excellent resource to get you started go here and take a look at The Strength Training Secrets manual.

Three of the simplest are to

  1. Exercise everyday

  2. Eat right and get enough

  3. Sleep well and enough each night

  4. Be persistent in following your exercise program.

A few suggestions

• Strengthen the entire body with large muscle group training (squats, deadlift's, bench presses, barbell rows) 
• Increase your center's ability to resist the torque of the legs on the upper body and tire ( Pelvic tilts, hip thrusts, hanging leg raises, crunches, full range sit ups with weight, wood chops with a medicine ball if you don't have access to a heavy sledge hammer, side bends, rainbows, medicine ball sitting twists, bicycle crunches, one handed farmer walks, one arm deadlift's, back ward throws and so on)
• Develop your hip and knee flexors and extensors to a high degree
• Work on improving your ankles and calves capacity for high cyclic work loads
• Do weighted lunges along with band work on the hip/leg abductors and adductors

Follow these rules of training:
• Train regularly all year long
• Begin at a gradual pace and train in a manner that is easy on your body and mind
• Don't set your schedule in concrete
• Peroidize your training intensities
• Get as much as you can from a minimal amount of training before going to more intense methods, in other words don't run before you know how to walk really well
• Decide what you want to do and then specialize in that area
• Avoid overtraining like the plague
• Find a good strength coach and train with them
• Train your mind
• Get good rest during your training periods
• Rest well in the days preceding and the night before a big contest
• Keep a logbook, a very detailed logbook, its your diary of how your training is going and how it went
• Be holistic in your training approach, read and learn about your sport from the best coaches and athletes-bear in mind some great athletes are not good coaches and their program may not work for you

From Brad Walkers Stretching handbook archives and Alwyn Cosgrove:

Top Ten Training Tips for Athletic Conditioning Success

The IRON-ic rule of strength training for sport: The objective is not to get stronger per se but to improve athletic performance to build better athletes. If your sport is power lifting then that means improving your total. If your sport is mixed martial arts that means you must improve your ability in the ring. It's important for the coach and the trainee to focus on improving sports performance. I've seen several football teams over the years that have the 405 Bench Press Club featured on the wall but are 0-20 for the season!

Here are my top ten tips to ensure athletic success.

1. Bodyweight before external resistance
Since when has the term strength and conditioning coach been confused with weight room coach? I don't know but I'm still surprised at the eagerness of most coaches to get their athletes under the bar. Many coaches and athletes make the mistake of beginning a strength routine and going straight for the heavy weights. This usually ends up causing an injury. An athlete has no business using load if he/she cannot stabilize, control and move efficiently with only their bodyweight. If you can't stabilize your shoulder girdle and core doing push-ups then there is no way I'm going to put you under a bench press bar.

Can you sit in a full squat? What about a full range single leg bodyweight squat? Until you have mastered these exercises you can forget doing dynamic effort work with a box squat.

So your strength program in the beginning stages may actually include no weights whatsoever. And it will work better and faster than a typical program that relies primarily on weights and machines in the beginning stages. In fact in my experience I'd suggest that some athletes cannot even work with their bodyweight so we may need to modify certain exercises. Do not rush to lift heavy loads; muscle recruitment and control are far more important than maximal strength for any athlete. Without control the strength is useless.

2. Train to the 5th Power

I. Train in a standing position - GROUND BASED.
The majority of athletic training should take place ON YOUR FEET (standing) as the majority of sport takes place in that position. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, we always lose something when we go from a standing position to a seated or lying position.

II. Train with free weights.
I almost feel stupid bringing this up. But I still see programs out there that include leg extensions and leg curls. Any machine limits the range of motion and controls the movement. This is fine for beginners, but athletes need to be able to stabilize and control their bodies in all three planes of motion simultaneously.

III. Use Multiple Joints
Single joint strength (e.g. leg extension machine, bicep curls) develops useless strength. A study was undertaken at Ohio State involving a knee extension test. The participants included: 3 World ranked squatters and 1 World Record holder in the squat.

The test results of the above subjects averaged 180lbs of force on the Cybex leg extension machine. However a local power lifter (ranked 15th in the state) broke the machine. He wasn't even number one in his state but he was stronger on this machine than the World ranked lifters. If there is a better example of the inability of single joint machine training to translate to real world strength then I'd like to see it. A guy who was only ranked 15th in the state can apply more single leg strength than a World Record holder. Nice; pretty; but pretty useless. If that strength doesn't transfer to athletic success then what's the point of having it? Basically, despite the strength that individual exhibited on the machine, he was unable to apply it in a real world situation like squatting. And the elite squatters weren't that strong on the leg extension showing it's not even a factor. So leg extension machines are a waste of time. Unless of course you compete in seated ass kicking leg extension contests.

"How can anyone expect to possess co-ordination in active work when his muscles have never worked together in groups?" Earle Liederman, 1924. Nearly 80 years ago and we are still having this argument today. Isolation machines have no place in the preparation of a competitive athlete.

IV. Train with explosiveness.
Explosiveness, as I see it, can be defined as; "as fast as possible with control." Some people seem to feel that explosiveness is somewhat dangerous. Sloppy training, uncontrolled movements? Now that's dangerous. Training explosively more closely mirrors what happens in sport and/or life.

V. Train movements not muscle groups.
Again, isolated muscle group training, outside of rehabilitation has no place in athletic training. An athlete should focus on strengthening specific movements. True muscle isolation is impossible anyway, so let's focus on using that body to work in an integrated fashion.

3. Train unilaterally and multi-planar
The majority of strength training programs take place in the sagittal plane with bilateral movements. However the majority of sport takes place in all 3 planes simultaneously with primarily unilateral movements. EVERY single sports conditioning program should include split squats, step ups and lunge variations. 85% of the gait cycle (walking, running) is spent on one leg. Over 70% of the muscles of the core run in a rotational plane. Does your training program reflect that?

4. Use all primary methods to develop strength
This should be of no surprise to readers of this website so I won't spend a whole lot of time on this. Suffice to say you need to focus on all three. Max Strength method - heavy loads Repeated Efforts Method - multiple sets and reps Dynamic Effort Method - using relatively lighter weights and moving them at max speed (this is STILL the least used method in most strength coaching programs). Traditional strength training programs have focused overwhelmingly on max strength or force development. More important for the competitive athlete is a focus on RATE OF force development. In the world of sport speed is still the king.

5. Variation
Everybody seems to understand that training load should be progressively increased. Few understand that the training stimulus must also be progressively and periodically varied. All programs have positive and negative aspects no matter how well designed or specific - too much time on one program and you'll habituate to the positive aspects and accumulate the negative aspects. Even the most perfectly balanced program has to have one exercise performed first and another performed last. Not being aware of the potential negatives of this (i.e. one exercise is never trained when you are fresh) can create an injury situation.

6. Avoid mimicking skills
This is a big one. Throwing weighted baseballs etc will do little to improve your strength and a lot to screw up your technique. Make sure the roles of strength and conditioning and skill training are separate. I HATE the term sport specific. I much prefer NON-specific training. If I'm working with a freestyle swimmer, sport specificity means that I'll do a ton of loaded internal rotation work. My approach? To do no internal rotation work. In fact I'd spend most of our conditioning time on EXTERNAL rotation as an injury prevention mechanism. The role of conditioning training is NOT skill training. Loading a technique tends to affect the mechanics of the technique negatively.

7. Train with Balance
Make sure you address pushing and pulling on both horizontal and vertical planes and attempt to balance the loading. If you are bench pressing 400lbs but can only do a chest supported row with 50lbs your shoulder girdle is going to suffer. If you can't handle the same loads for two opposing movements then increase the volume of the weaker movement (e.g. by doing an extra exercise or an extra set or two) to compensate. Trust me this might not seem that important now but I'm not just interested in athletic performance, I'm interested in the long term health of my athletes.

8. Get out of the Weight Room
Try some strongman training: sled dragging, uphill sprints, stadium stairs. I'm sick of hearing coaches telling me that they think outside of the box, yet they never leave the confines of their own little box - the weight room.

9. Train the antagonists
This ties in with the swimming example above. The speed of a throw or a kick or punch is determined largely by the ability of the antagonist to eccentrically decelerate the joint action efficiently and prevent joint injury. If your body cannot safely and effectively brake the motion, then it will not allow you to achieve full acceleration. If you are not training the antagonists eccentrically - you are not training deceleration. And if you are not training deceleration you cannot be training acceleration.

10. Full Front Squats
This exercise may be the single most athletic exercise. You'll get core strength, wrist, knee, hip, shoulder, and ankle flexibility in a single exercise.

Ok- as usual I can't shut up so I'll add one more.

10.5 Extension!
I'm not going to get into an article on the pros and cons of Olympic lifting, suffice to say that explosive triple extension (ankle, knee and hip) is a valuable component when training athletes. Remember though - we are training ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. We are not training weightlifters. It is not necessary to do the complete lifts; the power and hang variations are fine. If you're not comfortable with the Olympic lifts then add jump training or medicine ball overhead throws or at the very least deadlift's (double extension) as a core lift.

Do not get caught up in the numbers game and do not confuse gym improvements with real world or sports world improvements. The greatest athletes in the world do not necessarily have the greatest bench presses in the world. The greatest athletes in the world have an ability to produce useable force on their field of play. Usable force is force that propels athletes towards the ball, knocks another athlete back or down, helps you move at full speed, or throws the winning touchdown pass. Usable force is force properly directed in an unstable real world, unpredictable environment. The weight room, in general, is a stable environment whereas a field of play or the competition ring is a constantly changing place. A good strength and conditioning coach looks to improve athletic performances, not just gym lift numbers.

About the author: For the past sixteen years Alwyn Cosgrove has been committed to achieving excellence in the field of fitness training and athletic preparation. Specializing in performance enhancement, Alwyn has helped countless individuals and athletes reach their goals through sound scientific training.

Alwyn is also recognized and certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the American College of Sports Medicine, the British Association of Sports And Exercise Sciences, Kingsports International Australia, the Society for Weight Training Injury Specialists, USA Weightlifting and the Chek Institute of Corrective High Performance Exercise Kinesiology.

Visit Alwyns site at: http://results-fitness.com/

Train smart, and hard when it calls for it in your mesocycles and microcycles.

Switch your repetitions and exercises around on an irregular basis. The body becomes accustomed to the repetitions faster than to the exercises, so the reps need to be altered more often than the movements.

Protein requirements are NOT what the RagMags say they are; not by a long shot! Protein is burned for energy when fewer calories are taken in than are expended in either daily living or training activities. Therefore, when calorie intake is low then protein intake must rise. A person who is dieting needs more protein calories than one who is at normal weight and is being adequately supplied with the correct nutrients. 

Protein requirements are based on reference proteins such as those found in the meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products. All of which are considered to be high quality proteins readily assimilated into the body.

Recommendations for protein intake are based on the activity levels and can range from as high as 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight for those who are endurance training at high levels. Resistance training may reach 1.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight while in an intense meso cycle.

Since most athletes do not fall neatly into either category the range of protein required is from 1.5-2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Any more than what your body needs is simply going down the toilet.

Strength on demand is what explosiveness is all about. In order to have this kind of explosive power a few training concepts must be understood and followed.

Goals and measurements on the way.

As it was so aptly put by Jim Sterne 'without clear goals, there's no need to measure anything; without measuring, there's no way to know if the work you're doing is helping to achieve your goals'. Establish your goals and set up measuring points so you know where you're at during the journey.

Squat instructions-basic edition

Stand upright as you approach the bar. Place your hands in a fibers position, at an equal distance from the ends of the bar. Center your body in the middle of the bar and slip underneath.

Place the bar in either the high or the low position on your shoulders, lifting with your legs move the weight up and clear of the hooks. Take two to three ‘small’ steps backwards to the final set up position.

Stand upright. Begin to execute the movement by unhinging first at your hips. Your buttocks should go backwards as you begin to settle down into the full squat. Maintain an erect upper body stance and keep a solid arch in your back. Keep the lower legs as vertical as possible with the knees tracking over the feet in a path that goes between the big toe and the toe next to it.

Continue to lower down in a fully controlled manner. This is not a ballistic drop to the bottom. At the bottom of the lift, begin coming back up by pushing upward on the bar with your hands and arms. Follow this move at the same time by pushing upwards with your upper back, shoulders and chest. The last move is with your legs as they begin to extend back to the upright position.

At the end of the repetitions, step forward and rack the bar.

Do not just sit down but keep moving about as you regain your breath.

Muscle fatigue

Most anyone who exercises experiences muscle fatigue at one time or another, if not then they are not working out nearly hard enough. In the latest edition of Serious Strength Training this condition is defined as “a decrease in peak tension and power output, resulting in reduced work capacity”. Fatigue is dependent upon many factors including the type of fibers and the activity engaged in for the sport.

Muscle fatigue itself can be divided up into two main areas of discussion:

The exact mechanisms of fatigue are not presently known for sure but it is thought that a combination of the central and peripheral components play a significant part in the process. Certainly the cellular aspects of cell damage may very well be a big contributor.

Listen up in the gym, talk to the other lifters, learn form and proper technique from a qualified strength coach, learn strategy, be involved with your partners progress, be a courteous lifter and wipe the gear off when you finish a set; don't leave it stinking and dripping with your sweat. Keep a log book of all that you do, drink water and eat nutritious food, spread your calories out over the space of five to six balanced meals a day, save your money on the 'supplement of the month' and buy wholesome foods.

Maintain your flexibility as any motor action is based upon the demonstration of this mobility and flexibility. It is through these two qualities that makes it possible to perfect the movements necessary to be successful in sport. Additional benefits of flexibility are increased amplitude of movement or range of motion surrounding the joints tasked with producing the power needed to overcome an external resistance either on the field, platform or in the gym.

Stay strong mentally and physically, and remain passionately committed to your hearts chosen path. Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Providing medical advice is not the intent or purpose of this site. We assume no liability for the information contained in these pages if it is taken as medical advice. Always consult with your primary health care provider before beginning any new exercise program.

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