I was at Lenoir-Rhyne the other day talking with Dr. Alex Koch – and the subject of fatigue came up.
It’s a subject that has fascinated Dr. Koch, and now I’m fascinated too. Just think of the possibilities to maximize progress (and avoid problems like overtraining and injury) when we can dial in just the right amount of fatigue.
It was such a great conversation that I had to get Alex on the podcast to talk some more.
How much fatigue should an athlete have at each part of their training cycle?
How much fatigue should they have over the course of a training session?
What is the right amount of fatigue?
How do you adjust a program if an athlete is particularly fatigued?
How do you practically manage all of this if you’re coaching a large group of athletes?
Listen in to find out the answers…
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It has been a hot minute since I wrote anything regarding post-activation potentiation, AKA the Mash Method.
That doesn’t mean we have abandoned the theory. Quite the contrary! I based the majority of my personal training on PAP without really understanding why I was using it. I just knew it worked, so I continued. Now I strategically use this theory with my athletes during appropriate times.
Post-activation potentiation (as originally defined by Robbins): Force exerted by a muscle is increased by its previous contractions. It is a theory purporting that the contractile history of a muscle influences the mechanical performance of subsequent muscle contractions. Fatiguing muscle contractions impair muscle performance, but non-fatiguing muscle contractions at high loads with a brief duration may enhance muscle performance. The peak torque of an isometric twitch in skeletal muscle is transiently increased after a brief maximum voluntary contraction. Thus, PAP is the increase in muscle force and rate of force development that occurs as a result of previous activation of the muscle as well as the force and power of evoked high velocity shortening contractions, and the maximum velocity attained by evoked shortening contractions under load. In other words, excitation of the nervous system produces an increase in contractile function due to a heavy load-conditioning stimulus.
In other words: if you lift something heavy, your body “remembers” that lift for a brief time period and your nervous system will recruit more fibers if you try the lift again. I explain in a lot more detail in the Mash Method:
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How do apply PAP?
First, you have to consider one important aspect of PAP. If you perform a true 1RM movement like a max squat, it is going to impair performance due to fatigue. Therefore, you want to either lighten parts of the lift with bands or chains, perform a partial movement (board presses, half squat, etc), use a submaximal movement that is still heavier than the following movement, or simply practice a static hold. No matter what you do, there will be a degree of fatigue, and it will be at its highest right after the performance of a movement. The challenge is that potentiation effect will also be at its highest right after the lift.
The amount of fatigue will depend on the movement. For example, if you do a heavy squat hold and walkout with 110% of your maximum, there won’t be a lot of fatigue because of the lack of range of motion. However, if you perform a full squat with bands and bar weight equal to 110% at the top and 80% at the bottom, there will be more fatigue. A good rule of thumb is to rest 60 seconds after a movement that doesn’t create a lot of fatigue – like a hold or 80% squat. We’ve gone with two minutes for movements that are a bit more taxing on the body – like maximal squats with bands or chains. I recommend tracking the data with your own athletes or with yourself to determine what works best individually.
Here are the applications we have for PAP:
To increase the efficiency of a movement
To breakthrough plateaus
Let’s look at a few way to improve efficiency in your movements. The simplest way that most of you are using PAP without even knowing is with waves. Here are a couple of examples:
Squats: (88% x 1, 78% x 5) x 3 waves – the 88% will recruit the extra fibers necessary for increased efficiency with the 75% for 5. We would perform this type of wave during the transmutation (strength building) phase where our goal is to average around 5 repetitions per set at an average of 78-80% load. The primary focus is the set of five repetitions. Something that we have noticed is that our athletes will be better prepared to hit all-time 5-repetition maximums. For bodybuilders looking to go to near failure, you will be able to maximize the number of repetitions performed during all-out sets.
You can do the same thing for snatches, cleans, jerks, or clean and jerks. Most athletes will notice more efficiency on each successive wave. You will also prepare your athletes for meets where they have to wave down and back up due to the change in order. In meets, sometimes an athlete will make a lift, jump up 3 kilograms, and then find themselves 12 attempts out. At that point, the athlete will basically have to perform four more warm ups to stay warm and primed (12 attempts out divided by 3 attempts per warm up = 4 warm ups).
Lately we experimented with a new way of prescribing PAP with great success. First, I want to make it clear these examples of PAP won’t work the same for everybody. I suggest experimenting when you are 20 weeks out from an important meet. We experimented with Matt Wininger, one of our junior athletes who has been lifting for about a decade. It worked extremely well for him. Here’s what we did with his snatches:
Snatch Pull: 90% x 2, Snatch: 70% x 1, Snatch Pull: 95% x 2, Snatch: 75% x 1, Snatch Pull: 100% x 2, Snatch: 80% x 1. Then we’d repeat that entire progression again. Finally, we would work up to a heavy single with the same format.
As you can see, we used a snatch pull heavier than the snatch, and we used it with waves. The first day that we used this technique, we noticed an improvement in the movement – and miraculously Matt hit a 3-kilogram lifetime PR. I can’t promise this result for everyone, but dang, it’s worth trying out. You can see this lift on Instagram:
PAP is also great for getting lifters through those dreaded plateuas. We’ve used a similar plan for jerks as well:
3 Heavy Jerk Dip Squats: 105%, rest 60 sec, Jerk from Blocks: 90% x 1. Then repeat this for 2 more sets and finally work up with the same format.
This worked really well for one of our athletes, Courtney – because let’s face it, there’s a confidence factor as well. It makes a load that normally feels heavy to an athlete feel light. This is where you have to throw science out of the window just a bit. However, I am sure that PAP is one of the very reasons that athletes experience that sensation.
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There are a few other ways of practicing PAP as well:
1. Bands or Chains: this was my personal favorite one. I would work up to a heavy single, double, or triple with bar weight and bands. Normally it ended up being 30% bands weight + 80% bar weight. At this load, the rep was still easy, but it prepared my body to crush a personal record. It would end up being 110% at the top and about 80% or so at the bottom. I say “about” because bands are so different for each person based on height, set up, and age of bands.
2. Partials: you can use 105% or more with partial squats, presses, or pulls in conjunction with full lifts. The key is to warm up with the full movement, so you are ready for the full movement after the partial.
3. Walkouts or Holds: these are my wife’s personal favorites with the squat. You can work up to 95%, and then perform a walkout and hold with 110% for 5-10 seconds. She waits about 60-seconds, and then hits a personal record.
PAP will not work for everyone. There is no need at all to use PAP for beginners. I consider this an advanced technique for highly trained athletes. Even with highly trained athletes, it won’t work the same for everyone. Some athletes will set amazing lifetime personal records, and some will not notice a difference. Try it for a few weeks at a time, track the data, and then make a determination for each individual. It will definitely work more times than not – and for some, it will be a game-changer.
I was so excited to recently announce the start of a new university weightlifting program at Lenoir Rhyne.
I wanted to give everyone the full story – to take a look at the past few years of weightlifting, what I’ve learned along the way, where the dream started for this university program… and most of all, how it can help all you weightlifters out there!
And as I explain in the podcast, our online team is still in full force! This move to Lenoir Rhyne is just going to make the online team better as I have the chance to learn even more and grow as a coach.
Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2020...
Before I get into my vision for the field of exercise science, I want to first tell all of you how excited I am for the future.
A dream of beginning a new university program is finally coming to fruition after 7 years. In the fall of 2020, I will begin my position as Head Coach of the Lenoir-Rhyne University Weightlifting Team. Recently I took my team to see the facilities and to check out campus. We even had the chance to train in our new home, and I think that I speak for all of us when I say we loved it. It felt like an Olympic Training Center, which is exactly what I am going for.
I want the athletes on my team to have everything they need to succeed. However there is much more that I want for them. I want them to leave Lenoir-Rhyne with a degree and a future. I am also beginning the long process of working toward my PhD. Guys, I haven’t been in school in over 25 years. Luckily, Mash Elite Performance has kept my nose buried in research, learning, and writing of course. I definitely feel more prepared than when I first graced Appalachian State University with my presence. All I cared about back then was football, lifting weights, and girls. Now I want to make a difference in as big a way as possible.
The staff at LR is incredibly progressive and forward thinking. When I am around Dr. Alex Koch and Dr. Keith Leiting, I feel like the possibilities are endless. I’m excited about the research we will be capable of performing with elite weightlifters under our roof. However there is something that intrigues me even more. I want to make sure our exercise science students have futures in their chosen field.
BUSINESS AND BRAND
The buzz around the world lately is that college isn’t as important as we once thought. People are either taking up a trade, starting work right away, or skipping school to start their own business. With my goal of becoming a professor, I want to be a part of the solution. Exercise Science is comprised of students who are intrigued with health and fitness, and most of them simply want to help others. To me this is an admirable major filled with good people, and I want to help the students at Lenoir-Rhyne put their passion to work.
My dream is to integrate major specific business skills within the exercise science curriculum. I want to teach our students:
How to brand themselves with social media
How to create content to help others via podcasts, blogs, or vlogs
Entrepreneurial skills to develop their own businesses online or brick and mortar
The actual job search itself
One thing I have learned listening to Gary Vaynerchuk is that brand is just about everything when it comes to one’s career. I am not just talking about entrepreneurs. I’m also talking about those want a job as a strength and conditioning coach or even as a personal trainer. In a competitive field, you have got to do something that sets you apart, and then you have to let the rest of the world know about it.
If a student begins the process during their freshman year, they will be able to build quite the brand by the time they are seniors. If they want to focus more on their futures than partying, we all know there is plenty of time to grow a brand and a following. I am not talking about four years of posting pics with your friends. I mean four years of sharing all that you are learning or sharing nutrition and exercise tips. The goal is that you graduate being known as that guy – with that guy being whoever you want to become in this noble field.
If you desire to help people with the knowledge you are gaining in your studies, you don’t have to wait until you graduate. You can start creating content on your favorite aspects of exercise science right now. The key is discovering your favorite way to produce content – whether it be podcasting, writing, or vlogging. Of course you don’t want to write about something that you don’t totally understand. Stick to the truths that you are learning along the way. The goal is to focus on the niche you enjoy and the particular aspect of exercise science you know the best (nutrition, speed training, athletic performance, etc.). Remember the goal is to become that guy or that gal in the field.
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Here’s the truth regarding how one gets most jobs in the exercise science world: it’s whom you know. It might not be the right thing, but it’s a harsh reality. But there is an art to networking. Way too many people who are trying to network come across as annoying and desperate. It has to be a natural thing. The best people to network with are people you jive with. Then there is a high probability that your new acquaintance will introduce you to other likeminded people – and the next thing you know you will have a circle of folks that you love. There’s more to it, but you get the idea. We just need to make sure that our talented students get the idea.
And let’s not forget that many students can create their own jobs. Most college students simply don’t understand they aren’t held hostage by the hopes of someone hiring them anymore. This is the age of the young entrepreneur. However, it’s also the age of the broke entrepreneur. These young folks need guidance and someone who can be brutally honest because everyone isn’t cut out for entrepreneurship. If you’re lazy, you’re doomed to fail. If you aren’t self-motivated, you are doomed to fail. If you don’t have thick skin, you’re doomed to fail because everyone is going to tell you that you’re crazy.
The job will be to assess the students and see who is and who isn’t cut out for entrepreneurship. If they are, the next job would be to see what ideas they might have, and then give them direction. The key will be to get this going as soon as possible, so they can use their time in college to brand their future business. For example, maybe they love working with weight loss clients. They should spend their extra time writing and/or creating video of the dangers of obesity and making wise choices at the grocery store. Then they will graduate having created a solid following that they can begin to market to.
The most obvious place that these graduates need help is finding actual jobs. Most of them have no idea about the opportunities that are afforded them. For example, they could look for something in the strength and conditioning field, personal trainer, corporate wellness, physical therapist assistant, chiropractic assistant, personal trainer on a cruise ship (this is a real thing), or in cardiac rehab. The list goes on, but the key is informing the students and helping them map out a path toward their goal job.
The good thing is that Dr. Alex Koch and I have already been throwing around ideas. Since he helped me start this whole new program, I guess we believe anything is possible at this point. If you are looking for a school right now, you might want to consider what kind of job placement record they have as a school. I can promise we are going to make some changes you will all be reading about very soon. I want all of our students leaving Lenoir-Rhyne University ready to attack their chosen field and confident they made the right choice in a university.
If you are interested in our new University Weightlifting Program at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC, message me on here or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will have a Lenoir-Rhyne email within days, which will be Travis.Mash@LR.com.
It’s not really a surprise that Peter Kenn is pursuing a strength coach career.
After all, his father is my friend Coach Joe Kenn of the Carolina Panthers. And Peter joins us today to talk about what it was like growing up as the son of a great strength coach.
But Peter is a skilled athlete in his own right, and he is determined to make his own way in the world as a strength coach. I think he’s going places – and as you’ll hear about in this podcast, he has some strengths that might even make him a better strength coach than his father.
We talk about all of that – and we also get to Peter’s plans for breaking into the strength coach industry… and what has already brought him tremendous benefit.
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Scott Paltos has come highly recommended as a guest for this podcast – apparently we have tons of mutual friends.
And I can see why after this podcast. Scott has seen so much in the strength game, and he has a lot of wisdom to share.
We talk all about his experience in several different sports, owning a gym, training kids, and some advanced thoughts on speed work. I could talk to Scott all day.
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