“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” George Bernard Shaw

I decided yesterday morning to perform the “‘indoors version” of one of my favorite outdoor workouts, The Paleo Sprint, Heave and Haul Workout.  The entire workout clocked in at 35 minutes, and whereas a metcon centered workout shades a little more toward the endurance end of things (I would consider the majority of CrossFit WODs to be in this category), this combination of exercises is more of a prolonged, high-intensity, power bout.  This is the “sweet spot” of where I like to train.  All my other workout modalities (speed-strength, strength-speed, raw strength, RFI work, etc.) are designed to support —  and ultimately, to improve — my performance on this type of workout, which is, I believe, indicative of what a well-trained, sprint athlete, ought to be able to excel at (in a GPP sense, technical aspects of the particular sport not withstanding).  Let’s take a look at how it shaped-up (6:30 AM, prior to work, empty stomach):

  1. 3 x 40 yard (approximately), rapid succession,  sprints.  Sprint 40 yards,   1/2 speed for 40 (recovery), sprint 40…
  2. Power Snatch x 3’s
  3. Weighted Split-Squat Scissor Jump x 8’s (4 each leg)

4 rounds of that,  followed by:

  • Snatch-Grip High Pull x 7 singles (rest-pause fashion)

Now, I have the luxury of access to an indoor track (short as it is) that is right off the weight room, and this makes the transition between exercises practicable. Burpees or mountain climbers could be substituted for the sprints, however — or, if you have a basketball court in the vicinity, you could incorporate horses.  Also, notice my workout construction here, especially the High Pull finisher.  This really drives home the posterior chain triple-extension (hip, knee, ankle) power aspect of the workout.  Sprinting, too (if in proper form), is a posterior chain dominant exercise.  And the Split-Squat Scissor Jumps put quite a bit of stress on the glute/ham complex, if the landing is “stuck” and the subsequent blast-off is initiated, from a position of the hip being below the lead knee.  If you get in the said position you’ll feel the stress migrate (as your hip passes down below the lead knee) from your lead quadriceps to the lead ham/glute.  Of course, the hip flexor of the rear leg is worked in this exercise as well.  By the way, the landing (or “stick”) position of this exercise mirrors what you’d want to hold in the split-squat QEI or LDI.

I even had some time remaining to squeeze in a little steam bath/cold shower contrast therapy.  What a fantastic way to kick-off the week.

My thoughts on a certain find

There is an entire world of exercise-related information out there, so much so that one could easily drift-off into severe analysis paralysis when designing, or altering, a workout plan.  Please keep this in mind, though — whether you mirror my workouts, or craft your own — focus on your own unique goal and design an effective strategy to support the acquisition of that goal.  This strategy does not have to be complicated — in fact, if you cannot defend, in one simple sentence why you are doing a particular exercise at a particular time, and in the particular method (sets, reps scheme, etc.) in which you are performing it, you might need to rethink your strategy.  Remember, the body requires much less in the way of novelty than the mind.  Now, I’m certainly not advocating that you never alter your routine, or experiment with new exercises.  far from it.  What I’m referring to is repeatedly dipping into the grab-bag of novelty exercises at the exclusion of perfecting and bettering your performance on the basics.

Here’s a quirky clip to illustrate my point.  Let’s imagine that a certain someone’s fitness “goal” is increased IPod sales (stick with me here; this will make sense, in a metaphorical way).  How would we construct a workout plan supportive of the acquisition of that goal?  Hopefully, not the Microsoft way, as in this clever example.  Keep it simple, uncluttered, short and, above all, intense.  Hat tip to Daniel Meissler for this find.

In Health,

Keith

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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.

17 COMMENTS

    • Ah yes, horses. On a basketball court, sprint from the baseline to the foul-shot line, then with an immediate redirection, back to the baseline, followed by another immediate redirection and a sprint to the top of the key…back to the baseline…top of the three-point arch…baseline…to midcourt….baseline, and, well, you get the idea. You can do half court, full court or any combination. I have no idea how they became known as “horses” though. The sprint/redirection aspect of this makes them a fantastic conditioning tool.

  1. Keith,

    “focus on your own unique goal and design an effective strategy to support the acquisition of that goal.”
    Great statement!

    Somewhat off topic; I normally work out on an empty stomach, eating around 9:00-30 am at my desk. An hour or more after the work out to stimulate GH.
    This morning (as an experiment) I ate one egg and 2 strawberries before the work out. I found that I was much more “explosive” and “stronger”. Any thoughts on that?
    Thank you Keith.

    Marc

    • Marc,

      The added explosiveness and strength may have been just coincidence, or a placebo effect. On the other hand, it may be that you’re not totally efficient yet at burning fat, and the slight amount of added glucose in your system was all you needed to ramp-up your strength a noticeable amount. I find that my performance is more affected by when I workout (I’m much stronger in the afternoon/evening) rather that if I’ve ingested anything before hand or not. I guess if you do this experiment a few more times (randomly), and you get the same results, you’ll have to ask yourself whether you believe the added post-meal boost in strength/explosiveness is worth the lessened fat-loss and GH spike. I may be that the total effects/realized benefits of each way nullify one another so as to make the question moot.

  2. Keith,

    Do you have any good online resources I can read that discuss the benefits (such as increased growth hormone production) of exercising in a fasted state, and of delaying eating after a workout? (or do you have a particular post about this that I misse?). I know you hit on this frequently, and I’m interested to see the source material on that. Up until reading your blog, I had been operating under the idea that quality protein right after a meal (I take a half serving of muscle milk) was good for lean muscle growth and recovery.

    I always try to workout before a meal, but I rarely have the energy early in the morning for a hard session, and thus I feel like I won’t get as much out of it because I can’t lift as heavy, or produce as much work (in a metcon) as I can later in the day. I have historically gotten lightheaded when I try to push too hard in a fasted state, but 2-3 hours after lunch, I am much more capable in comparison.

    Any thoughts? If I only worked out early once or twice a week, what sort of workout would be best for this . . . metcon, power circuit, or strength session? I’m thinking power circuit . . .

    Thanks always for your advice Keith!

    -Bryce

    • Chris,
      No problem.

      Bryce,
      Art DeVany has written quite a bit about GH release post-exercise, if you have access to his paid site (a good resource, btw). Also, you can check out the podcast with Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale (I posted a link here: http://theorytopractice.wordpress.com/?s=pasquale). Dr. Pasquale delves into the issue, along with the notion of ingesting a high carb meal after exercise (he’s against it) during the interview. Personally, I wait approximately 1 hour, post-exercise, before I eat. I’d rather wait longer, but that is all that my schedule will allow.

    • Something I meant to add last night, Bryce — I don’t know if you’ve come over the wall, so to speak, in your diet, i.e., unless you’ve shifted to a more Paleo-like diet — and reached the point at which you are an efficient fat-burner — then, yeah, working out in a fasted state will cause you some problems. Once you’ve (if you choose to do so) cleaned up your diet sufficiently, then I believe these symptoms will subside. At that point, it will just become a point of mental adaptability to working out in the AM. I still prefer to work out in the PM, as my body is better primed, but my work schedule won’t allow for that. Also,search for the Dave Palumbo interview that I posted a link to a while back. If I remember correctly, he talks a bit about GH release and post-exercise meal timing — adequate fat ingestion as well (which you may not be getting enough of, btw, and which may be compounding your AM workout fatigue). Just some ideas.

  3. Thanks Keith.
    I thought about placebo also.
    Coincidence again a probability.
    I’m going to experiment and let you know what I come up with.
    One last thing as part of the experiment,I realize in hindsight that I did a longer warm up then usual……
    hmmmmm.

    Marc

  4. Keith,

    As I’m on a ship, my diet is definitely limited, but I do endeavor to get good fat sources, like eggs, fish oil, peanut butter (I know, I know . . . the legume thing is next on my list), but at times it’s difficult to get good fats in my diet, even with supplementation. Also, it’s been hard for me to kick the carbs recently. i was good for a month or two, but recently I’ve relapsed, so that’ll just be a will power thing. When the food on board sucks enough, cookies and crap start to look better and better!

    I will try to be more consistent in order to become more efficient at burning fat, but if I have the option to workout in the afternoon, and I find my workouts are better then, is there any reason to workout earlier?

    Thanks and good health.

    -bryce

  5. Keith,

    As I’m on a ship, my diet is definitely limited, but I do endeavor to get good fat sources, like eggs, fish oil, peanut butter (I know, I know . . . the legume thing is next on my list), but at times it’s difficult to get good fats in my diet, even with supplementation. Also, it’s been hard for me to kick the carbs recently. i was good for a month or two, but recently I’ve relapsed, so that’ll just be a will power thing. When the food on board sucks enough, cookies and crap start to look better and better!

    I will try to be more consistent in order to become more efficient at burning fat, but if I have the option to workout in the afternoon, and I find my workouts are better then, is there any reason to workout earlier?

    Thanks and good health.

    -bryce

    • Bryce,
      In my opinion, there is an enhanced fat-burning potential coupled with an increased post-exercise GH response when the workout occurs in a fasted (>8hours) state, independent of what time of day we’re talking about. That said, however, is it a big enough difference to worry about? I don’t really think so — I’d say it’s more of an added bonus. In other words, if all else was equal, and you had the option of working out in the AM — and you were comfortable doing so (as is my case) — I’d say, well hell yeah, get the added benefit of the AM workout. You’re in the classic 80/20-rule situation here. I’d call the fat-burning/GH AM advantage a “20 percenter” in this case. Keep it in the back of your mind for now; consider it again when the opportunity arises (once your diet is set and once you have more scheduling discretion). It’s a tweak you can implement at that time.

      BTW, I feel your pain with the food — I remember it well. Try to befriend at least one of the cooks. And someone who can cut hair when you’re haze gray and underway 🙂

    • Actually, Jason, that’s where I got the idea for this workout. I didn’t have a sled, so I just thought, well,what else can I do? I would like to try it outdoors, with a sled, though. And, BTW, I like DJ’s take on things.

  6. Keith,
    My current favorite and best workout is a Litvinov variation. I use kettlebells to perform Clean & Presses or Snatch variations, with 4 – 12 reps, then I sprint up the stairs of the Indiana War Memorial in downtown Indy. I usually do about three sets, after which I am totally smoked. I will use this as a stand alone workout or tack it onto the end of one. Totally falls in the 80 / 20 rule.

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