Thursday, March 27, 2008

videos: strength training (part 1)

so as part of the post-Ironman recovery, i've been getting back to weights.

not that i ever really went away--i integrate strength training into my endurance sports, and keep some schedule of weight room work throughout the training cycle. this is different from some endurance athletes i know, but it is something that i've seen is increasingly espoused by sports medicine, not only to generate gains in sport-specific power (and hence performance), but also to prevent sport-specific injuries. as a result, i've tried to be diligent about it.

of course, the question is what kind of strength training?

my personal history on this has fluctuated dramatically over the years. in high school and college, when i was largely clueless as to the concepts and principles of sports training, i would trudge along with all the other guys and pound out heavy sets, obsessed with the goal of getting big (or, as we would say "buff" and "huge" and "rocked up" and "shredded"). we had the misconception that strength was strength and size was size and performance was performance and the three were directly correlated with each other.

since that time, i've become a little bit more sophisticated with my training, with the realization that the three are not necessarily correlated, and that there are forms of strength complementary to sports performance and forms of strength that are not. i have adjusted my routines accordingly. there was a period where i focused on a fast-twitch muscle tissue, in hopes of cutting down my 100m and 200m sprint times and increasing my vertical jump for basketball. this, however, eventually fell to the demands of endurance sports, and the focus switched to slow-twitch muscles fibers--but the kind, as so many coaches stress, rich in oxygen-carrying capillaries and low in fat, so as to maximize efficiency in sustained power over distance.

the tricky thing about this, however, is trying to figure out just what strength exercises are conducive to this specific kind of muscle tissue. obviously, it means adjusting the training ratio with less plyometric drills (which generate fast-twitch muscles used for explosive movements) and more of other exercises. various coaches, physical therapists, and sports medicine references prescribe complex, compound, multi-planar movements (reference: endurance sports and kung fu-functional strength & flexibility). they have all, however, cautioned that i have to be careful with these kinds of activities, as they carry a risk of injury if done incorrectly--or if they're just simply wrong, period.

with this in mind, and with the admonition of my coaches and physical therapists to work out the systemic muscular imbalances that seem to persist and throttle my athletic performance, i've been on a hunt for videos demonstrating the exercises that are relevant for endurance sports: complex, compound, multi-planar movements developing a higher ratio of slow-twitch muscle fibers rich in oxygen-carrying capillaries and low in fat.

i've done some of this via kung fu (which, incidentally, has been very rewarding in other ways for a cosmopolitan Eurasian like yours truly). but i've also managed to locate some excellent exercises that i think have started to produce results, and which i found after some time searching on Youtube. here's what i think are the better (or more thought-provoking) ones:

for endurance sports-specific training:
of these, my personal favorite is MarkSandC. not just because he has a plethora of videos and exercises, but also because he seems to cover a good range of movements that address the entire body (i.e., he not only has a triathlon-specific strength training series, but also offers a whole selection of other videos)--which is great for me, since i've so many systemic imbalances that the physical therapist has been having a field day assigning me all kinds of weird funky exercises to do (some of which are, quite frankly, just really embarrassing to do in public).

having said that, i think all of these users offer exercises that are consistent with what most coaches, physical therapists, and sports medicine experts are advising in terms of sport-specific strength training for endurance sports.

as an alternative, for those of you concerned with the tendency of endurance sports to produce athletes a little on the skinny side (don't worry, you're not alone...i, too, am loath to lose well-developed pectoral and shoulder muscles), i have found some Youtube videos that offer more "hybrid" approaches focused on developing overall functional strength that is still appropriate for general athletic performance (as opposed to be endurance sports-focused only). they claim to produce the lean physique of endurance athletes, but with the musculature useful for multiple sports. you can try:
i should note that i haven't tried these (dude, i have enough on my plate between my current strength workouts, my swimming/biking/running workouts, and my kung fu), but i am intrigued. my coaches and physical therapists have told me to be cautious with these exercises, since they very easily can lead to injury if done incorrectly. and i've been advised there is some controversy over some of the exercises demonstrated. but i have to concede they certainly do seem effective.

also, i'd like to point out the gym jones videos. they are not on Youtube, but they have become rather famous for being the trainers for the movie "300"--yeah, you know, all the ripped bodies you saw there. considering some of those bodies were actors in their 40s and 50s, you have to admit the program seems to work.

i don't know. i'll think about these a little more, and hopefully get some more information to make a well-informed decision. i may even experiment with them a little.

i caution that all strength training, just as much as any other form of training, carries a risk of injury if done incorrectly or without supervision or under inappropriate conditions. so be advised, and be careful. and always try to work with a coach or the supervision of an expert.

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