“The best-laid plans of mice and men/often get completely goat-f$&#@&” ~ Keith Norris
This is how it goes sometimes: So I come up with a solid game plan on Tuesday night, to perform the exact same workout as the one I’m about to spell out below. So far, so good. However, that plan included a 25 to 30-minute workout window, with added time built in, as well, for a nice, long, contrast bath. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my act even close to together come Wednesday morning. Yeah, it happens to even the most seasoned of schedule jugglers and master planners. I forgot this, misplaced that. Didn’t select my work clothes and have them already hanging neatly in the car. The day’s lunch was not pre-packed and, well, the list goes on and on. Anyway, the ultimate result of all of this was that instead of a solid 30-minute workout window (with time remaining for some contrast bathing), I was left to scratch-out a 15-minute, chop-chop, blow-and-go. I chalked it all up to the Gods of Randomness smiling down upon me though, took it in stride and did what I could with what I’d been given.
And what I was given was this: time enough for a general warm-up (I alternated 3/4 speed 40-yard sprints with pull-ups and push-ups) and about 10 minutes for a specific exercise ramp-up to working weight. I then jumped right in to the body of the day’s workout —
- Regular Grip (over/under grip) Deadlifts + SLDL (Straight Leg Deadlift) Eccentrics x 3’s and 2’s
- Barbell Floor Press x 3’s and 2’s (I elevated my back off the ground just a tad with a step class platform)
As many rounds in 15-minutes as possible.
The modality I chose to work with in this pairing was this: max power output in these particular ranges of motion in a given unit of time (15 minutes). Now, at first glance this might not look like much of a deviation to a normal set/rep setup, and certainly not enough of a deviation to note, much less keep track of. However, the normal set/rep scheme leaves the issue of time — and therefore, overall power — open-ended. Remember the very basic power equation — Power = Work/Time, with Work being a function of Force multiplied by Distance. Now, if we keep Time constant at 15 minutes, and Force is constant (I’m not dabbling with the working weight once I’ve got it set), the only thing left as a variable here is Distance. With the range of motion of each exercise being held constant, the only other factor that can change to affect distance is the number of repetitions performed in each exercise. This is just a long-winded route to explaining what you already intuitively know — that the more reps of the two exercises performed, in a fixed amount of time (and in the chosen rep range, as explained below), will translate into an increased power output for that particular rep range within a 15 minute window. Everyone together? Stick with me, there is a point to all of this, really.
This method of training is, by the way — like virtually every other training method out there (save for some of Jay Schroeder’s stuff) — nothing new. Charles Staley has coined this method Escalating Density Training; when Christian Thibaudeau speaks of Canadian Bear Training, he’s talking about what’s essentially the same thing, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. You’ll also see quite a bit of CrossFit influence here as well. I put my own little twist on it, and call it — well, I haven’t gotten that far yet. I need something catchy from the marketing department. Anyway, here’s my twist: I manipulate the weights used in each exercise to fall within a certain rep scheme (modality) so as to increase the overall power output in that particular modality.
For example, my max power output for this particular exercise pairing, under this particular time constraint, may actually (and most assuredly will) occur under a totally different weight/rep scheme (I know, empirically, that it’s a lighter weight/higher rep combo). And this is one perfectly valid way that I could go about measuring “improvement” — an overall power increase (this, in a nutshell, is Staley’s basic EDT system). But what if I wanted tweak the process even further? What if I wanted to emphasize my fast-twitch fiber contribution in these movements over that same time period, even at a detriment to my overall power out put? And why and the hell would you want to do that, you ask? Well, let me use sprinting repeats as a quick example.
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that I can cover one mile in a 5 minute run, and that equates to a certain overall power output. But let’s say that I can only cover 1/4 of a mile worth of all-out 40-yard sprint repeats in that same 5 minute time period. Now, even though my overall power output during that 5-minute period is higher with the continuous run, is that really going to improve my ability to perform on the soccer field, where I’m obligated to perform a series of all-out sprint repeats? Am I better off to improve the number (and speed) of my 40-yard repeats, or the total distance I can cover in a 5-minute continuous run? I’d say I’d be better off improving the speed of each individual, and number of, repeats. It’s simply more sport-specific.
So this is just another wrinkle, nothing more, in the workout pantheon. It’s neither the best way, nor only way, to measure progress — it’s just another available tool, that, under the right circumstances, just might be the tool you’re looking for. And speaking of improvement, how would I measure improvement in the particular modality and time bracket I performed on Wednesday? Two things, really: (1) I could complete more overall reps (at the same working weight) of this exercise pairing within the 15-minute time frame, or (2) I could increase the weight a tad, assuming I don’t suffer on the total repetition output — because, remember, our power output is, in this case, dependent upon the product of the number reps and the weight used. I logged that product for each exercise on Wednesday — next time I attempt this I can either shoot for increasing the number of overall reps obtained at the same weight, or jack the weight just a bit and see what happens to my end total (reps x weight) within the specified time frame. My rule of thumb is that, as I approach the top end of my rep brackets (I use 1-4, 5-8, and 9-12) consistently throughout the 15-minute ( or whatever time bracket I choose) duration, I’ll bump up the working weight a bit. Do it long enough and you’ll develop a feel for what to tweak to result in a higher subsequent power output.
And why those particular rep brackets? Well, they happen to correspond nicely to my own personal, goal-related, issues — power production in the 0-5 second, and 5-10 second range and overall hypertrophy (9-12 rep range).