Q:Is it possible to get huge and explosive at the same time? How should I train if I want to accomplish this? Yes, it's possible to become huge and explosive at the same time. Look at some of the most explosive athletes around --- shotputters, some football players, or olympic lifters. In order to gain a lot of size while getting faster you have to do a few things. First, obviously you need to make sure you're engaging in enough explosive training to begin with so you can maintain or increase that ability while simultaneously getting bigger. Pay attention to your movement efficiency and speed while you're adding bodyweight. Next, you have to make sure you get proportionately stronger while you're adding size. This means the majority of your weight room work should consist of strength training with enough volume to induce hypertrophy. Notice I didn't say a high volume of bodybuilding training. Bodybuilders are only after muscle growth so they don't concern themselves much with strength. Higher repetition "pump" sets with short rest intervals like a bodybuilder would perform will get you large but won't do much to increase strength or power. If you want to become more explosive while adding significant size you have to make sure that every bit of that extra size comes with an increase in strength. Do this and you shouldn't have anything to worry about. When adding muscle using strength training parameters a 10% increase in size will tend to give you about a 30% increase in strength. If your new to training you'll get a big return on strength no matter what routine you use. So what are "strength training" parameters anyway? To keep it simple hold up your hand and count how many fingers are on that hand. Five! This means that most of the time you don't want to exceed 5 reps per set when training for strength. Doing this will ensure you're creating growth in the high threshold fast twitch motor units which are responsible for strength, power, and speed. To stimulate muscle growth all you have to do is make sure you perform enough volume. The reason bodybuilders have big muscles is because they perform a lot of volume. A typical bodybuilding protocol might call for 4 sets of 10 reps on an exercise with a load around 70% of his 1rm. A strength trainer interested in hypertrophy could reverse the sets and reps and perform 10 sets of 4 reps with a load around 85%. The 2nd approach would actually stimulate more hypertrophy because the volume would be exactly the same (40 reps) but the average load lifted would be greater. Do this over a period of time and you'll likely accomplish your objective.
Q: I read your comments on Michael Jordan and how he seemed to lose his reactive strength as he aged. Why is it that people lose speed and power with age and is there anything we can do about it? Do you have your clients train differently due to their physical age? Can people over 40 train the same as a 25 year old?
When it comes to aging and the effect it has on speed the picture ain't pretty. Some of the effects of aging include: faster onset of fatigue, decreased anabolic hormones, decreased recovery times, increased reaction times, and decreased fast twitch motor neurons - all of which affect anything requiring speed moreso then strength or endurance. Despite these changes that come with age I think in the future we'll see a lot more athletes in speed/power dominant sports being competitive up to their mid 40's and 50's. Look at athletes like 44 year old Merlene Ottey who still competes at a world class level in track and field. Athletes in the upper echelon across the board are staying competitive longer and it's not uncommon for strength to peak at 40 yrs old or older. So what can we do to increase speed into old age or at least keep from losing it? Well for one thing there is evidence to suggest that the loss of fast twitch motor neurons can be avoided by engaging in activities that train them. A lot of gifted athletes never have to work for their speed and since they never train for it specifically - it begins to leave them as they age. In Jordan's case I know he did a lot of strength training but I doubt if he ever did much to train his reactive power. Basketball provided enough training for those qualities - until he got older. An aging athlete must not only pay attention to what he wants to gain, but also must pay attention and train in a fashion that makes up for what he's prone to lose. One's training has to really zero in on what he's after and since recovery ability is limited, his training has to be more focused and planned out in a periodized fashion so he can hit all the qualities he needs and still recover. This usually means more power and speed work with the other qualities rotated in the program in varying volumes throughout the year. Special attention should also be given to nutrition. The natural tendency is to gain weight with age and if we're talking about a speed/power athlete and he's using high volume aerobic exercise as his main method of weight control (as so many do) this is just going to flow right along with the natural tendency of aging - which is to become slower. Diet is a more effective method of weight control and, when coupled with correct training, will enable one to continue sending the body the right adaptive signals. Older athletes tend to require far less dietary carbohydrate then there younger counterparts. Proper supplementation is also a must. Q: What is your favorite upper body speed or power drill?
I wouldn't say I have a favorite but here's one that I really like that I've rarely seen recommended by any other coach. I consider it the plyometric equivalent of sprinting and jumping at the same time - but for the upper body. It's just a simple partner assisted wheelbarrow movement that most of you probably haven't done since you were in elementary school! Find a grassy or padded surface, get on your hands, have a partner lift your feet and have your partner walk/jog forward while you sprint forward on your hands as fast as possible. See how far you can go in 5-10 seconds. Just be careful you don't fall on your face! This drill will develop lots of reactive power and lightning fast hand speed. The goal is to try and move just like you would when sprinting - you want to cycle your hands and kind've bounce along the surface reflexively without a lot of effort. You probably won't be able to do this at first - actually you'll probably cramp up a bit and consider this more of a workout then you imagined. But give it some time and it'll come. I recommend you perform 4-5 sets once or twice per week. When you get the hang of it you might also notice you become stronger in the weight room and more powerful in all your activities. -Kelly