Announcements: For those who missed it the 1 month vertical jump and speed programs are ready. Go to the announcements section for more info.
Starting next week there will be a new addition to the Q&A designed to stimulate some entertainment. In addition to the regular Q&A I will be adding a "most entertaining question of the week" so feel free to write in! Don't worry, if you ask something stupid I might post it for entertainment value but I won't give out your name!
This Weeks Questions
Q: How should working out affect my performance the next day?
This is simple. If you can get out of bed then you haven't worked out hard or long enough. Ok just kidding! It really depends on the workout. A moderate volume of weight training will often have a tonic effect on the nervous sytem and you might find you feel fresh and perform better the following day. A high intensity weight training workout will cause a lot of muscular and neural fatigue and your performance will usually decline the following day. The same thing can be said for a high intensity speed session. Generally it takes at least 48 hours between bouts of high intensity work to maintain performance so don't expect to be at your best immediately following a hard training session. Also, anytime you set a personal best you can expect your recovery time to be lengthened considerably. One thing that shoots a lot of people in the foot is they set a big time personal best and get all fired up about training and go out and try to train again too soon. What they don't realize is the personal best often takes their abilities to the limit and requires longer recovery.
Q: What sort've warm-up do you recommend?
It seems there are 2 extremes when it comes to recommendations for warm ups. The first group likes to do everything under the sun and their warmup will be as complex as an engineering manual and last up to 2 hours itself. Some coaches make a lot of money doing nothing else but selling their warm-up routines. The problem with this approach is that for most athletes the warmups are a total workout and all that volume can really add up.
The 2nd group takes the military attitude to warming up. That is, you should set a loaded barbell next to your bed and when the alarm clock goes off at 5 am you should jump out of bed and lift it. If you can't equal your personal record within 30 seconds of arising then you're just a big panzy. Afterall, if you're a warrior you gotta be prepared to battle anytime. The problem with this approach is most athletes are training to be better athletes, not Navy Seals.
My attitude towards warming up is to do enough to get warmed up. No more, no less. Advanced athletes don't need someone telling the how to warm up because they can "feel" when they're ready. Keep an eye on how you feel. Do what it takes to get you ready to go but no more and no less. Some will require a 1 hour warm-up while others will require a 2 minute warm up. It will vary. The problem with this approach is that most novices have absolutely no clue when they are ready to go. What I recommend is that you use a cookie cutter warmup until you're experienced enough to know when you're ready to go. It should consist of movements designed to increase core body temperature, increase blood flow, and wake up your nervous system. There is a sample of some dynamic warm-up exercises I like to use here:
For a weight training session warm-up using your first exercise of the day. This is specific preparation for the task at hand. Keep the reps low and gradually increase the weight. A weight training warm-up might look something like this:
Planned Work Sets- 4 sets of 6 reps @ 225lbs
Warm up set 1: 50% 6RM =110lbs x 6 reps
Warm up set 2: 70% 6RM =160lbs x 4 reps
Warm up set 3: 90% 6RM =205lbs x 2 reps
Start work sets
Q: I know you don't use a lot of calf exercises in the weight room but do you use many exercises designed to improve sport specific calf strength on the field?
For sports performance the calf muscles have to be stiff enough to absorb the shock and allow the energy from the larger hip and thigh muscles to transfer into the ground through the tendons. The achilles tendon should do the majority of the work while the calf muscle itself acts as a stabilizer. This is in direct contrast to what a bodybuilder needs in the weight room. A bodybuilder should try to take as much tendon out of the movement and use only the muscle. Ever notice how you can bounce a lot more weight on a calf machine then you can when you pause for 3 seconds at the bottom? That's because the achilles tendon is amazing at storing energy and giving it back to you.
This is not good for muscular development in the weight room but increasing this ability is what you should be after as an athlete. The ability of the calves to absorb and transfer force to the tendons is what we're after. Having large muscular calves built up by weight room movements can increase strength and the efficiency of the calves when it comes to absorbing force so I'll include them sometimes, but quite often individuals who do a lot of specific calf training have false functioning calves. They tend to be slow out their transitions because they're used to using the calf muscle itself as a movement generator instead of the tendons.
As far as specific drills, you can do drills with an emphasis on landing on the balls of your feet with your knees nearly locked. These include drop jumps, depth jumps, and one legged hops with the knee locked.
Mark a spot on a wall or any object about knee high. Stand on one leg, jump off that leg, and lift the same foot up and touch the mark. Repeat this rapidly for 10 seconds off one leg while trying to bounce off the ground using as little effort as possible. Most will find they don't "bounce" off the ground very efficiently and instead end up spending a lot of time on the ground or have to reset. That's because the moment of impact creates forces equivalent to 7-8 times your bodyweight that you must stabilize and react against nearly instantaneously. This is both high force and high speed training. With a little bit of training you'll get it right as you train your calves to be strong and function in the manner you need them to. Exercises like these will also produce a muscular set of calves.
Q: Is it okay to stay with the same weight for an exercise for 2-3 workouts straight? For example staying with the same weight on dumbell bench?
That is OK as long as you're training for strength and making an attempt to add either repetitions or weight. If you're training for power or speed you can actually decrease the weight session to session and try to move the load faster. However, if you're trying to get stronger you should remember that the name of the game is progressive resistance training. Afterall, out of all the various schools of thought on training the one recommendation you will never hear is that you need to lift progressively lighter weights to make gains in strength! What I recommend is that you choose a rep range and stay within that rep range but add either weight or repetitions whenever you can. Say you're doing 6-8 reps per set. Your first workout you might get 6 reps per set with a given weight, the next workout you might get 7 reps per set and the next workout you might get 8 reps per set. When you can get 8 reps per set it's then time to increase the weight and start over at 6 reps.