This is the discussion that emerged on my Facebook wall after my post on Stephen Seiler presentation for INSEP regarding the MENAGEMENT OF THE DISTRIBUTION OF TRAINING INTENSITY: THE POLARIZED MODEL and my suggestion for similar observation and experiment to Mike Tuchscherer involving powerlifters instead of endurance runners.
The discussion evolved into much more and Craig Liebenson described it in following words:
Craig Liebenson: …it’s epic. To hear/learn from great coaches is inspiring. None knows better what actually works than those whose true measurement is performance. Our ego makes us “slaves of our methods” (K Lewit). Håkan Andersson’s comment "There are virtually hundreds of questions that we need to know to maximize performance...I have a feeling that we are still in the dark ages in terms of sports science..” reveals a deep humility. I am in awe.
Here is the copy of the discussion, because I think it needs to be saved. I also wanted to thank everyone who participated.
Enjoy and don’t hesitate to leave comments.
Mladen Jovanović: [Stephen Seiler] Just watching your presentation on Polarized model (after reading most of your papers) and I wonder could similar model be applied to strength training. I would love to see distribution of sets based on set RPE (or Exertion level ~ proximity to failure) regardless of the %1RM used. Maybe Mike Tuchscherer can provide some insight into the distribution?
Stephen Seiler: Yes, that would be an interesting distribution to quantify for sure!
Keijo Wilkinson: the intensity black hole was interesting
Keir Wenham-Flatt: I’ve wondered before if that is perhaps the reason the west side lifters are actually deriving benefits from their dynamic effort work. Maybe because it occupies a different region of the force velocity curve to their event
Mladen Jovanović: [Stephen Seiler] Here is the slides on “Black Hole” (medium intensity) approach by late Charlie Francis (coach of elite sprinters from CAN). Very similar to your insights.
Stephen Seiler: Interesting! Espen Tønnessen and my sprint specialist PhD student Thomas Haugen would find this slide interesting
Sergei Iljukov: [Mladen Jovanovic] another interesting point is application of “polarisation principles” in strength training, where you first lift heavy weights 90-95% and then do sprint exercises, so called contrast training.
Mladen Jovanović: Thanks for chiming in Sergei. That might be viable strategy, but the only problem with it is that effects of that approach and ‘normal’ one (speed before strength) is that effects are very similar (damn, I need to find the study to prove this). It might be great strategy in-season, but also problematic to implement in team sports (e.g. soccer guys wearing cleats and squatting)
Alex Pett: Mladen, if you could find that study I would really like to see it.
Keijo Wilkinson: I get the feeling that the medium intensity range is too broad. 76-94 is quite a stretch
Mike Tuchscherer: Sorry I’m just getting around to this. Very interesting presentation! Thanks for that and for tagging me. I actually don’t have much to add at this point in terms of data. Maybe in the future though. But as I think about what strength athletes actually do, I can’t think of any that use a polarized model in terms of intensity. Perhaps you could argue that Boris Sheiko’s programs use that model (lots of sets at 7-8 RPE or below, one session per 8 weeks of high RPE work). I get the impression that Dietmar Wolf’s programs might be similar. And seeing as he’s Norwegian, perhaps he has been inspired by some of this line of thinking? But this seems like it is more polarization of RPE and not so much polarization of intensity. Regardless, now my curiosity is piqued. I’m going to look for some guinea pigs.
Mladen Jovanović: Exactly Mike – I think RPE distribution might be polarized. Thanks for chiming in
Mike Tuchscherer: Something else we’d need to start to define is what the categories are for maximal strength development. If we were to use the general categories that CF used in the graphic you posted, you’d have to define the categories. I think it would be erroneous to say 85% intensity in strength training fits the definition of the middle category, so some decisions would have to be made on category. And then defining by RPE would be different still. My tendency is to think 9 or 10 RPE would fit the high intensity category. 8 RPE’s might be in the middle? 7 RPE might be low? But then reverse-defining in this way comes with a batch of biases.
Mladen Jovanović: The only ‘problem’ might be subjective indication. Maybe using (my) velocity convertor might help. Or calculate the distribution of velocity loss per set – that might be more reliable/valid? Might be very interesting research
Mike Tuchscherer: Yeah, velocity is the only way to go for research. I’ve also been converting velocity to RPE for several years now. But subjective is still going to get the job done in a practical setting. How would you define the categories of effort or velocity?
Mladen Jovanović: It is tricky… We need to have two variables: starting and ending velocity of the set. Starting is related to %1RM used (load-velocity relationship) and end-velocity is related to proximity of failure (load-exertion relationship). I would like to see distribution of start speed, end speed and speed drop per sets over a training block. That might give us some insight. Plus, distribution of %1RM, reps done, etc. Thoughts?
Mladen Jovanović: I need to do research to confirm by hypothesis on end-velocity and reps-in-the set. There is some proof of this (I referenced in upcoming article for JASC), but it needs to be confirmed with more research. The unfortunate story is that Serbian Custom fu*ked me pretty bad – so I needed to return just sent GymAware unit.
Håkan Andersson: Bosco came up with that concept some 20 years ago and it is integrated in the feedback system of Musclelab.
Mladen Jovanović: Damn… it is very hard to be innovative in our field
Håkan Andersson: Doesn’t mean that it is not room and great need for further research, go for it Mladen!
Landon Evans: Hakan, as a coach that has seen a lot over the years, what types of questions do you still have that the (good) research groups still haven’t investigated yet?
Mladen Jovanović: That’s a great question Landon.
Håkan Andersson: In not so distance future a man is stepping on the planet of Mars but we still don’t know why there is a speed reduction in 100m dash or why we can’t lift a weight equivalent to 1RM twice. In terms of high performance sprinting we don’t know the difference between a 9.7 sprinter and a 10.7 sprinter except for some externally measurable parameters. There are still many questions regarding acceleration technique and force application from 0-60m (acceleration phase) since most studies has been focusing on either just the start or the maximal velocity phase. What exactly happens on the way up to 12m/s is in my view unsolved. There are virtually hundreds of questions that we need to know to maximize performance for the individual. I have a feeling that we are still in the dark ages in terms of sport science and that is probably one of the reasons doping has been an easy option for many in our game…
Ryan Banta: I have had the chance to coach the former American high school record holder in the 5k. She loved lactic threshold runs. I do think the idea of polarized training makes some sense for distance runners because over extremely long distances the intensity is VERY low. Then on the other hand when it’s time to kick you need to be fast but rarely in championship races does anyone go to the wall in term of intensity. Until the kick phase. Another interesting note is he stated how the longer interval set high intensity show better results. I have found this to be true with the kids I have trained. Now as you shorten the race distance that middle zone becomes more important. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is done by the training effect from the middle zone which creates enzymes/buffers to help you tolerate that load. Charlie had the most success with short sprints and I believe the bipolar model works for the 110h, 60, 100 dash. as you move toward the 400 and 800 this type of middle tolerance is more important.
Mike Tuchscherer: I have Tendo velocities on nearly every rep I’ve done for the past 3 years. I can send that to you if you like. I’ve found as reps increase, velocity isn’t correlated quite as much to RPE. I also favor the velocity of the slowest rep rather than the last rep. They are usually the same but not always. I haven’t looked into the first rep being correlated to intensity. That’s interesting.
Mladen Jovanović: Maybe we can analyze it and publish it . Have you done all the reps with CAT or full effort?
Pierre-Jean Vazel: I’m not sure that the “Running velocity” graph fits for weight lifting. A lot of concern was about contact times at the various velocities, and possible nuisance caused by middle intensity range on CT. Charlie used to rank high intensity lifting at + 80 %. However, he produced an other graph “Motor unit involvement, approximate %age of an athlete’s total motor units involved in different activities (when performed at max effort)” based on EMG during various exercises (see Bompa, 2003).
Mike Tuchscherer: No, not full on show-off CAT. But not intentionally slow either. Full effort, but not “afterburners” if that makes sense. Regarding the zones — intensity is a spectrum, so categorizing some as high/medium/low is going to depend on the context through which it’s seen. I can’t imagine 80% of 1RM being in the same category for widely divergent athletic demands.
Keir Wenham-Flatt: God damn this a good thread!
Håkan Andersson: Charlie Francis is without doubts one of the most influential sprint coaches in the last couple of decades and the intensity model for running that Mladen has uploaded is classic by now. The question that comes to mind is how many has been able to fully apply his model with drug free sprinters? I’m a strong believer in specificity but to start the mesocycle with “speed work with CNS focus”* at >95% effort and a weekly volume of 2000-3000m as CF is suggesting in his book Charlie Francis Training System and Key Concept booklet has none of my sprinters ever been close to in 30 years of coaching. I couple of male sprinters that I firmly believe was drug free did an attempt but they all had very short term effect and their development seemed to gradually level of or even decline after only one season. In terms of speed work my empirical experience tells me that the mesocycle is better of starting around 90% in terms of alactic speed work and from then both the intensity and volume can gradually increase. Shorter accelerations and hill running’s can start at a slightly higher intensity but even that might proof difficult in case you are introducing heavy weight training in the same period. Some speed endurance 80-90% even for 100/200m sprinters at the beginning of the meso cycle will as Ryan Banta is saying will enhance enzymes/buffers and help you to tolerate the load of larger volumes of >95% speed endurance in the specific preparatory phase. I feel this by no means will hamper the development of speed if property periodized. I’m also slight intrigued by CF suggested 2000-3000m of tempo running at <75% 3-4 times a week. In my book way too much and to frequent to able the systems to adapt to high intensity stimuli especially in the latter stages of the meso cycle. This despite the rather wild statement by CF that tempo running <75% is speed enhancement through the effect of increased capillary density (ie. heating of motor neurons, lowering electrical resistance) therefore the motor neurons take on characteristics of white fibers! Any one that knows where that comes from? All type of low intensity endurance training and even resistance training for that matter are known to reduce MHC-IIX distribution of the muscles and probably making the muscle slower. It is possible but perhaps not fully proven that certain steroid might have a reducing effect on this mechanism.I’m not ready to totally disregarding tempo running. I also have a feeling that it in moderation can enhance recovery despite the fact at least I don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind. Sorry for high jacking your tread Mladen Jovanović and the long post but I could help it:-) It is so sad that Charlie Francis is not around, he would have liked to discuss this I’m sure. *Charlie Francis
Pierre-Jean Vazel: Training plan ≠ training done ≠ training report.As for tempo, you might find the answer in Bompa’s training theory book.
Mladen Jovanović: Håkan, all great thoughts and questions. Do you have an example of mesocycle you did with your sprinters willing to share? It would be interesting to see distribution and intensities
Håkan Andersson: [Mladen Jovanović] Not in a presentable format I’m afraid. Might work on it when I have some time…
Ryan Banta: Hakan did a great job and wrote a ton for my book I have been working on. Actually thanks to all of you guys that have helped sooo much.
Carl Valle: I am not against what Charlie has promoted but I have said many times you have to know exactly what is done not what is recalled or revised historically. The core outline is spot on for me but the devil is the details, and 60k of speed work without drugs or world class physios giving rub downs three times a day. Tempo running doesn’t do any of the mechanisms Charlie suggested a decade or more, but his athletes did run high volumes and I think it helped develop lower limb stiffness. Capillary density discussions are true as Henk Kraaijenhof explained that this was not changing motor neurons at the old Super Training list but I believe that if an athlete is crazy fit and on drugs it may help with ANS changes and keeping athletes fit and lean. For a drug free and athlete without full time rubs or access to grass surfaces this doesn’t work without injury. I think the High low program is more lower and less and the highs are peaking because one is fresher, but not 95-100%. I think the Flo Jo workout has ruined a fleet of athletes because one workout in isolation is now looking like a common approach. Charlie’s stuff is valuable but you have to ensure that the numbers are not replicated. When I followed a similar model life was great, when I approached his specific suggestions on volumes I could not keep up without flying people down to get massage.
Carl Valle: Wow the above post is messed up from autocorrect so I will clean it up later.
Carl Valle: Craig Liebenson are you reading this thread? This isn’t a stupid pain science or foam rolling debate!
Ryan Banta: My next question is “what about long lasting adaptations?” Recently a research study had compelling data showing steroid usage actually creates muscle memory. This was done on rats. Giving a steroid user after a ban still with some physiological advantages. Sean Burris always discussed how he believe that once you lay down capillary beds they stay with tempo/aerobic training? The improved capillary beds would then allow the coach to focus their training in other areas. training in other areas. Does myelin also have long lasting adaptation?
Carl Valle: Drugs do have long lasting adaptations but capillaries are not targets Ryan but muscle fiber changes are a question Hakan will Answer better than me
Ryan Banta: Sorry I meant that as a separate question. Edited please see my post above.
Håkan Andersson: It is most likely that increased capillary density of FT fibers to some extent would be sign of change of muscle fiber characteristics in for sprinters a unwanted direction don’t you think?
Regarding long lasting effects of steroid usage:
The Journal of Physiology, 591, 6221-6230.Ingrid M. Egner, Jo C. Bruusgaard, Einar Eftestøl, and Kristian Gundersen. A cellular memory mechanism aids overload hypertrophy in muscle long after an episodic exposure to anabolic steroids.
A animal study in witch the authors concluded that when mice were treated with steroids the muscle mass and number of nuclei increased. When the drug was subsequently withdrawn the muscle mass returned to normal, but the excess cell nuclei persisted. Therefore a brief exposure to anabolic steroids might have long lasting performance enhancing effects.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Nov;31 (11):1528-34. Effects of anabolic steroids on the muscle cells of strength-trained athletes. Kadi F, Eriksson A, Holmner S, Thornell LE.
A study on steroid and no using power lifters Authors conclusion that intake of anabolic steroids and strength training induce an increase in muscle size by both hypertrophy and the formation of new muscle fibers. They proposed that activation of satellite cells is a key process and is enhanced by the steroid use and the incorporation of the satellite cells into preexisting fibers to maintain a constant nuclear to cytoplasmic ratio seems to be a fundamental mechanism for muscle fiber growth.
Both studies indicating that steroids has a long lasting effect and in my view there is no other fair punishment for steroid users than life time ban..
Mladen Jovanović: Here are some of my thoughts on ‘block’ design for ‘intermediate’ (might be considered long-to-short?)
Off-season (GPP) [Build up volume, adapt to running and strength training, technique]
Speed: Technique work, sleds, hills, bounds. Everything more ‘extensive’ than intensive (sub-max intensity)
Strength: Higher-freq, high number of sets, low reps, medium-intensity. Add couple of extensive sets if hypertrophy needed. Overall body – strength
Conditioning: Build up volume of tempo runs, anatomic adaptation circuits, jump circuits, core & MB circuits, etc
Power: Non-specific jumps and throws (extensive)
Speed: Slowly move to more intensive work, decrease volume, work on blocks, acc, VMax or SE/SpE depending on the need
Strength: Reduce number of sets and frequency. Decrease number of exercises
Conditioning: Maintain/decrease volume to support main work on track
Power: Intensive jumps and throws. Support the main track work
Speed: Continue with specific work – participate in meets. Race simulations.
Strength: Reduce volume even more. Combine with explosive work / (compex/contrast method)
Conditioning: Aimed at recovery, non-contact based/pool
Power: Combined with strength
Couple of days off, two-three weeks of high rep work, extensive tempo, MB circuits and prehab.
Håkan Andersson: You are hired:-)