Saturday, April 21, 2012

Real Power

Lately I've been reading alot of fitness articles that have changed my mind about strength training and my bmx training. I realized how I may have slowed myself down by training. I may have over complicated many things that didn't matter and put off the things that do. I'm don't think that my training was bad, it just wasn't what I needed. I also think many older riders are making the same mistakes. Let me explain.

Tyler Whitfield is a freak of nature. I spend alot of time thinking about how someone like Tyler is so quick, powerful, and skilled. Genetic freak of nature? Absolutely. But that just isn't all of it. He's probably not what you think of when you think of strong. I'm sure most of the guys that are over 35 years old are much stronger than Tyler, but can't even come close to matching his second and third pedal out of the gate. So what is it?

First thing that got me thinking was a program by the strength coach Dan John. Dan was an athlete throwing discus and weight lifting, but is probably much better known now for his writing. He has an incredible gift for explaining complicated concepts to everyday people. He also has unique ways of training. Instead of making training complex he likes to simplify. Pick stuff up, push stuff overhead, and carry stuff is his motto. Simple, but the concept that really got me thinking was his "Easy Strength" program. The program consists of a few exercises, a lower body pull/push, upper body push/pull and carry something. Do the same workout 5 times a week for 8 weeks in a row and only do 10 reps max of each exercise. You do the same lifts but you will change up the weights and rep counts. On days you feel strong you may do 5 sets of 2 reps with a heavier weight and towards the end of the week when you may not feel as strong you may do 1 set of 10 reps at a light weight. The key to the plan is never lift enough weight that you can't recover for the next days workout. You train your body, mind, and CNS to successfully lift the weight.

I did this program for a total of 6 weeks, and I missed a few workouts. Some weeks I only go 3 sessions in and others I got all 5. My results really amazed me, as I went from struggling to dead lift 265# to doing 305# for 5 easy reps. This was without ever really doing what most people would call a hard workout. I was in and out of the gym in under an hour every time. The best thing I found was that I never felt worn out and could go out and do sprints, ride trails or interval training anytime I wanted.

So what does Tyler Whitfield have to do with this program??? I realized true strength and power doesn't come from just from strength. By doing Dan Johns' program, I learned how to properly dead lift by doing dead lifts. I don't think my muscles got all that much stronger while doing this program, but I do think they learned how to work together in an efficient movement. Tyler's power comes from efficiency in gate technique and riding technique, then adding power on top of all that efficient movement. Below is an example of poor gate start mechanics and really good gate start mechanics (i'll let you determine which is which). I doubt the guys doing bad gates are significantly less strong than Willoughby and Graves.

So how do we develop this? Well that is what I'm pondering now. I think the answer lies in one of Dan Johns' quotes. "If it's important to you, do it everyday". I'm working on doing more speed work now instead of gym work. Lots of sprints, gates, plyos, jump rope, skips, hops, running and anything to develop the power that many older racers seem to be missing. I'm adopting the "easy strength" workout to sprint and gate work. My goal is to do sprints and gates 5 times a week. Even if it's only 1 or 2 sprints one day, at least I'm learning the proper pedal technique and developing the power qualities that older guys lack.

One more thing that has caught my attention was a website called MovNat. Movnat is basically learning how to properly move the way you did when you first started to move. Little kids move much more fluidly then adults. There are ways of caputuring some of those movement patterns and that's what MovNat is. What's the difference between you and you 15 years ago? You were probably quicker than you are now. Why is that? Probably because you played more, worked less, rode your bike more, did less driving, and had more fun. I really liked the example of the guy trying to pull himself up on the logs. The first video he's trying so hard to get up and fails every time. In the second video he effortlessly swings his legs and gets right up. Movement efficiency and the ability to be loose and tighten up his muscles is the difference in successfully climbing and not. This is also the difference between Tyler's riding and mine, not gym strength.

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