The Science of Strength

The Science of Strength:
This email is going out to all our athletes, both old and new. It’s aim is to be informative and educational.

Ripple Effect specializes in training “mountain” athletes. By mountain athlete I mean someone who moves their body through varied terrain during sport. Running, Climbing, Cycling, Skiing, Boating, Hiking… the list goes on. The nature of these sports demands we ideally be strong relative to our size to be most efficient.

Ultimately we want to be as strong and as light as possible. The science of strength training to create this result is very different than what most people have seen or done in a gym settling before. We do not use machines that stabilize the body, nor mirrors (unless an athlete needs one to overcome a proprioceptive deficit) because stabilization and reflection do not exist in the outdoor world.

First an overview of the set a rep structure. We will discuss “strength” based workouts here, versus muscular endurance or power. Once the athlete has completed a warm up, we want to target a load that feels difficult for a low number of reps typically two to five. This means near failure or near form loss for the last few reps of a set. Once we establish what “load” we are going to use we then complete a total rep count for that particular lift of 12 – 25 reps. This would look like 6 x 2 = 12 reps, 5 x 5 = 25 reps, 6 x 3 = 18 reps. With 1 – 2 min of rest between sets. You’ve all seen this set and rep structure in workouts. This approach leads to muscular strengthening with minimal muscle hypertrophy or growth. Versus a very common set and rep structure derived from body building or mass building techniques of isolating muscle groups and completing multiple groupings of exercises targeted at a specific muscle or group of muscles and completing 3- 4 sets of 10 – 15 reps of a couple of different movements. The classic old “back and bi’s” lifting which is non-functional for a mountain athlete and takes forever.

Now this all sounds simple right? Not really, let’s look at the entire process:

1) First step – begin to fix or align our athletes. A while back Carolyn wrote a short post called “aligning the modern athlete” linked here. Learning movements, fixing range of motion limitations, injury proofing our athletes.
2) Second – once you have begun to align the athlete, and then add proper loaded movements you begin to fix weaknesses in the athletes kinetic chain reversing what CP refers to as too much of a good thing syndrome or sport specific imbalances. This can actually take years.
Once the musculoskeletal system is balanced we lay the foundation for injury prevention and performance.
3) Finally, the last step is that of testing and building strength (plus power and muscular endurance) as we just discussed. A singular complex lift or movement, utilizing the entire kinetic chain with no external stabilization.
We want to target a load that feels difficult, meaning near failure or near form loss for a total rep count for that particular lift of 12 – 25 reps, with 1 – 2 min rest between sets. And most importantly:
***Using a load that is relative to: the body weight of the athlete, gender, age, sport application, experience in the gym and any injuries or limitations that may be present.***

Now what initially sounded simple just got complicated.

None of you need to understand all the pieces of this process and truthfully it takes years for most mountain athletes to get through the first and second steps of this process. 1)Alignment and 2) Balancing the Kinetic Chain of your musculoskeletal system. You all have already felt strength gains, decreased pain, and increased performance just from the first parts of the process.

Now that many of you have trained with us at the Ripple Effect for a few years. The foundation has been laid for the possible testing of max loads and truly understanding what “heavy” means. Taking on more responsibility for your training through an increase in knowledge, if you so desire. Reach out to Carolyn if you’d like to set up a time to discuss this in more detail.