If you’re someone who wants to live a high performance life (which, in my opinion, is the only way to live) then chances are you often find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to your training program. On one hand, you’re always searching for that next understanding or edge that will take you over the top and get you the results you’re demand. On the other, because you’re already kicking ass somewhere in life (business, family, school, etc) you don’t have as much TIME to spend scouring the Internet and going down every rabbit hole looking for incremental returns. You’re too busy doing to waste time casting about on ideas that might not pan out!
If sounds like you, then you and I are people. At Relentless, one of our mantras is that we “make high performance living simplified”. That means that we do the hunting, searching, and testing and gathering of ideas only to boil the info down to the things that actually work and you can actually implement for the best “bang for your buck”.
In light of that, here’s three adjustments you can make to your training programs today to help you increase your performance and build more muscle without making extra trips to the gym that we use with almost all of our clients.
1. Utilize the Contrast Method. At Relentless a lot of our athletes and adults can really only get into the gym for 2-3 great workouts per week. I would love it if they could all train four times or more per week and be active for all seven days, but that shit often doesn’t fly in the really-real world. Since we’re frequently limited to 2-3 sessions per week, we often need to be a little creative in our workouts and combine a few training qualities.
One of the areas we’ve found that we can get great results in less time is combining a lot of our Max Effort and Dynamic Effort work into something called the Contrast Method (an idea I picked up from Jim “Smitty” Smith at Diesel Strength). This is basically a fancy way of saying that we combine our heavy strength work with our explosive speed work.
*Note: If you’re a high level, competitive powerlifter then this probably isn’t the method for you, but if that’s you then chances are you base your life around your training, not the other way around so a lot of this article doesn’t apply.
For those of us who have to squeeze as much as we can out of each training session there are some great benefits to combining these two training qualities. In addition to the time savings, you’re in effect cranking up your nervous system to be faster and more productive within the session. That’ll lead to more long term performance gains.
How’s it work? First we’re going to do our primary strength movement of the day, which is usually in the 1-5 (at most) rep range. This is our Max Effort work. Between each set you’re going to do a power movement (often with bodyweight or light loads) that hits the same basic movement pattern for just a few reps. The goal here is NOT to fatigue your muscles, but instead to teach yourself to be as fast and explosive as possible. Since you just activated all kinds of muscle fibers by hitting that heavy weight they will be ready to explode on your light stuff. In fact, you’ll probably be faster and more explosive than you normally would!
Want an example?
So let’s say you’re squatting to a heavy three reps that day. That’ll be well within the Max Effort zone as you’ll end at about 90% of your single rep max. To employ the Contrast Method you’d do a set of squats and then within about 10-15 seconds of finishing you’d hit 3-5 explosive jump squats. Since the jump squat uses a similar pattern to the squat, you will find a big carry-over and build more explosive power.
Some other examples of how I pair things up in my programming:
-Deadlifts with Broad Jumps, Kettlebell Swings, or Double Kettlebell Cleans (Hinge movements)
-Squats with Squat Jumps, Hurdle Jumps, or Loaded Squat Jumps (Squat movements)
-Bench Press with Plyo Push-ups or Med Ball Chest Passes (Horizontal Push movements)
2. Don’t Forget the Horizontal Row. With the recent rise in popularity of sports and training styles like Crossfit, Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), Adult and Urban Gymnastics/Calisthenics, and “Tactical”-style training, the Pull-up has become the popular exercise of choice for developing the back. That’s awesome, because Pull-ups and Chin-ups are awesome.
That has led a lot of people to stop doing things like Rows and Face Pulls, which pull from a horizontal direction. Of course, this hasn’t stopped people from doing the Bench Press (I mean, c’mon, man). This heavy horizontal pushing with less horizontal pulling can lead to a lot of shoulder imbalances as the rowing movements place the shoulder in a much stronger position and thus can usually use heavier loads to build the rear delts, upper back, and lats. In addition to developing a “thicker”, more muscular physique they will help you maintain shoulder health and build a base from which you’ll be able to press and stabilize loads more effectively, especially at unusual angles like you see in a lot of the fun sports I mentioned above.
3. Start Every Session with Jump Rope. One of the biggest things I see when adults want to start training for performance after being out of the sports world for a while is that they’ve lost the “quick feet” and ankle integrity that they had when they were more active. That makes sense. When you swap out daily sports practices, agility training, and athletic shoes for riding a desk and stiff “real job” shoes it doesn’t do wonders for your feet or ankles or keeping them strong, fast, and mobile.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a performance issue. If you’re not used to moving fast and changing directions it’s super easy to twist an ankle, get shin splints, or create a stress fracture in your feet. I see this all the time, unfortunately, from weekend warriors who have been training “in the gym” and suddenly decide to join a rec basketball league or do an OCR Challenge.
A quick and easy way to start getting that foot speed up, build some tendon and ligament strength, and sneak in a little extra conditioning? Grab a simple jump rope and knock out some reps before you start your workout. We often have people do just 50-200 jumps (depending on how good they are at jumping rope!) before every workout, especially when they start with us, to help bring their athleticism back.
If you’re pressed for time but still want to make progress in performance as opposed to just punching your clock in your training sessions then add these three tweaks today. They work for all of our clients to help maximize their training progress even when they can’t train “optimally”.
If you’re looking for more ways to increase the productivity of your training and nutrition while not adding time to your sessions then simply sign up on the right and I’ll hit your mailbox with them!