“Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.”

Albert Einstein

A while back, I wrote about Todd Marinovich – Marv Marinovich’s son (and a psychological case-study in sports parenting); I certainly wouldn’t nominate Marv for Father of the Year, but good parenting is not what this post is about.  If you want an astute child-rearing role model, look into the genius of Mr. Rogers; coaching someone to become a better athlete, however, requires an entirely different skill set.

My good friend Dragos, from Bucharest, Romania, alerted me to this short clip of Marv Marinovich working with Troy Polamalu (strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers).  Wow, small world, huh?  Anyway, I’ve long been a big fan of Troy Polamalu – I appreciate not only his intense drive and athleticism, but his humble character as well – and I’ve always known that Marv was “on to something” in his contention that the body’s central nervous system ought to be the focus of athletic training.  I don’t believe that any aspect of training should be pursued at the exclusion of – or, more precisely, to the detriment of – any other aspect of training – but I think that trainers (and trainees) have not given central nervous system training its due.  And remember, class, what does an efficient central nervous system translate to?   That’s right kiddos, maximal power output for the given movement and over the specified duration.  And combined with proper skills, this makes for a better athlete.

Here’s another short clip; Troy discussing Marv’s methods –
 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqKysjhHopA&feature=youtube_gdata]
Troy Polamalu Sportslab Video

Is RFD training the “magic bullet”?  Well, I don’t know about that.  One thing that I am sure of, though, is that training any single modality at the exclusion of all others is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.  But to be sure, an efficient central nervous system is of paramount importance to power production and, ultimately, enhanced athleticism.   Let’s backtrack for just a moment to recall, from this post, just where on the speed-to-raw strength continuum RFD-type training is located.
The ability to rapidly develop force in a particular movement’s agonist muscle(s), combined with both the ability of that movement’s antagonists to relax, and the frequency at which this occurs is, of course, very high in the best of athletes.  Some would call this “fluidity”, and I think it’s a pretty good approximation of what’s going on.  Check out this old training clip of British (by way of Jamaica) sprinter Linford Christie, one of the most fluid sprinters I can recall.  The clip is of poor quality because it’s a digitization of old analog film, but still – the grace and power exhibited here is amazing:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q33pqu-zRas&feature=youtube_gdata]

Linford Christie, Plyometric Training – from speedendurance.com

By the way, take notice of where (on the foot) LC lands and initiates push-off in the hurdle hops.  This heel-centric positioning engages the posterior chain, vice utilizing a toe/ball of the foot initial push-off, which is quad-centric in nature.  A subtle, but important point.  The efficient transition from heel initiation to toe-off is an often overlooked aspect to ultimate power production in this (and related) movement pattern(s).  And by the way, let me know how those single-leg hurdle-hops work out for you 🙂  Amazing, to say the least. 

Bruce Lee, of course, is a fine example of cns efficiency and RFD mastery.  Remember the power equation, and the speed/time variable:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJGndrjP0i8&feature=youtube_gdata]

Enter The Dragon – Fight With O’Hara

Yeah, it’s Hollywood – but there is no denying the power and athleticism here.  The interesting question one might ask is, could Bruce Lee have weight trained, without suffering a reduction in RFD/speed production, and ultimately enhanced his power production?  This is the flip side of what Marv and his group are attempting to prove – take a power athlete (for example, Troy), and by improving that athlete’s cns efficiency and RFD efficiency, increase that athlete’s ultimate power production.  My gut feeling is, yes, absolutely.

The problem is identifying the most efficient training method (exercises, duration, work/rest ratio, recovery, etc.) by which to do so.  Have Marv and his group identified that method?  Maybe so.  I’d say they’re at least barking up the right tree; and light years ahead of pure strength oriented methods.

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.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Do you think there is any simple way for an ordinary person that doesn’t have access to all that machinery to take advantage of these advances?

    • Aside from various forms of “quick feet” and “quick hands” drills, I’m not so sure. Rebound plyometrics, possibly.

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