Q: In one of your q&a's you said that you thought you could take a kenyan distance runner and turn him into an explosive athlete. I've been told that being explosive is 90% genetics because distance runners like that have 70% slow twitch fibers and sprinters have 70% or more fast twitch fibers and you can't change fiber type. I worry because I want to be like that but I'm naturally very thin and good at endurance but also pretty slow and not very explosive. Am I just wasting my time?
A: Alright, this is the kind've question I really like. First of all let's get one thing out of the way. I don't know for sure that you could make a kenyan distance runner or any other elite distance athlete, such as Lance Armstong, into an explosive athlete because I've never had the opportunity to do such an extreme thing. However, based on theoretical observation and not so extreme experiences, I'd be willing to bet you could. No, I'm not talking about turning a guy like this into a world class sprinter but I certainly think with correct training you could take a person like this and reach a level of explosiveness and speed that would put you well into the 90% bracket. I'm talking ~35 inch Vertical jump and ~4.5 fourty yard dash. First let me describe how and then I'll tell you about some of the advantages this athlete has and then share some of my own personal experiences in this regard.
First of all, many will say the limiting factor is the slow twitch to fast twitch ratio. Now you can't change a slow twitch fiber into a fast twitch but this is of little consequence and here's why:
Let's say this athlete has an 18 inch thigh measurement at a bodyweight of 125 lbs witha 70:30% slow to fast twitch ratio of thigh musculature. I don't know how big the average distance athlete's thigh is, but that's just a guess. Now, let's say we put this guy on a heavy dose of squats, deadlifts, and food and over a 2 year period brought his bodyweight up to 170 lbs and his thigh measurement up to 25 inches. Now, by doing this, not only did we probably triple his strength, but we also doubled the amount of muscle in his thighs.
Remember, that original 18 inch measurement also accounted for the bones, tendons, skin, and connective tissue in his thighs. Now, in bringing his thighs up to 25 inches which of the fiber types grew the slow twitch or fast twitch? That's a no brainer since everyone knows the fast twitch fibers are the ones that hypertrophy in response to weight training right?
So, what we did was double the size of his thighs but that increase came about purely by an increase in size of the type II fibers which now means his thighs probably contain a proportion of about 70% fast twitch fibers. So no, we didn't "change" slow to fast we just increased the size of the fast to such an extent that we smoked out the slow - and now we're looking at an athlete who probably looks and functions more like a sprinter then his old distance running self.
Let me go ahead and state that there are plenty of powerlifters, bodybuilders, and olympic lifters who have done exactly what I've just described, - gone from scrawny 125 lbers into behemoths approaching 200 lbs, and even without ANY sport specific training they often become quite explosive and fast over short distances.
Now, let's say all this time we didn't just train this guy with an emphasis on bodyweight gain and strength, - we fed his entire power development with a steady diet of short sprints, plyos, and other explosive work in addition to all the rest. Let's see what he's capable of after a few years of that!
Next, let's discuss a few BIG TIME advantages this athlete already had before he ever embarked on this training.
1. He was already a 1/2 genetic freak with an amazing nervous system already in place. As I've said before guys I call "1/2 genetic freaks" are guys that are often naturally wiry, quick, and skinny and struggle in the strength department. I'd say the Kenyan runners I've seen give the outward appearance of being in this group. Because they're so weak, they're usually not initially very fast or explosive but when you add some horsepower (muscle and strength) to that natural nervous system look out because they're able to use all of the muscle they do have! Many professional athletes were in this group as adolescents, - skinny and no muscle.
2. He already had an excellent bone and tendon structure in place with long legs and tendons and excellent movement efficiency with good coordination.
3. Due to his running background he already has an excellent work ethic in place.
4. Because of his speedy nervous system he probably also has the metabolism of a horse and because of this he likely won't have any problems with excessive fat gain that could come about due to a reduction in overall activity and an emphasis on increasing his muscular bodyweight.
Put all those things together in addition to the training and that's why I say you could pull it off.
Ok. Now the one disadvantage that this athlete may experience is he will find when he reaches what I myself would call his "optimal state" his mile times will go straight to the shitter. (Keep in mind I don't go anywhere near distance runners with a ten foot pole so what I call "optimal state" is a bit biased!) Building good anaerobic endurance is easy enough and achievable for anyone, yet muscular legs power packed with white type II fiber sure as hell don't like distance running. Running 7 or 8 minute miles is one thing and can also be achieved by anyone, yet take someone trained for explosive power and throw him out and ask him to run 5 minute miles and the only way it's gonna happen is if you burn up the muscle in his thighs.
Now, like I said at the beginning I also have some personal insight into all of this. Before I ever started training seriously at 15 years old I was naturally a pretty good endurance runner. Yeah, I was slow as hell and didn't weigh but a buck 0 five and probably couldn't jump 18 inches, but I could sit on my butt an entire summer, train for a week and go out and run a 5:30 mile and I once ran a 3 mile cross country race in 18:00 with zero training whatsoever. I'd say those things are a pretty good indication of a high "slow-twitch" ratio as well as a dispropensity towards explosive activities.
Alright let's fast forward to the present. A few weeks ago just for the heck of it I decided I was gonna see what kind've times I could put up in a mile run in comparison to my times as a teenager. Now, keep in mind I regularly embark on a pretty grueling training and conditioning program that I've been on consistently for years without missing nary a workout. I don't normally run distance, but I do all sort's of other activities like boxing, interval sprints, swimming etc. that give me a good fitness base to draw from. But even with my "cardiovascular" (heart) fitness better then it was when I was 15, and even with a bodyfat level of 8% or less, and even with about 3 workouts per week i've been dedicating towards improving my aerobic endurance, - I can't even get anywhere close to a 6:30 minute mile without my legs screaming out in agony saying "what the hell are you trying to do to me?!" Just goes to show you the ability of the body to adapt. Yeah my anaerobic endurance is excellent and I can run up and down the field or court all game long and run full speed sprints with short recoveries yet that's different then lactate tolerance which is what a mile run is all about. When you go out to create a mini-monster and have some success you can't turn him back into a little puppy overnight and I have little interest in turning my legs back into bite sized toothpicks anyway.
So, after a few weeks of that I decided to go ahead and pack it in and say to hell with that mile running venture and left it with a big smile on my face - It did go a long ways towards demonstrating the ability of the body to change and adapt which is what all this is about.
Q: I am about to be a freshman in college, but I am kind of indicisive about what I am going to major in. As I was reading the Vertical Jump Bible I kind of got interested CNS manipulation, the training methods, and all the science behind it. I was wondering if you could give me any suggestions on what would be th best thing to go into if I wanted to get into stuff like this.
A: That's a good question. I wish it were as simple as recommending a program or course but you'll probably have trouble learning all this stuff in school regardless of what you go into. If you go into something like kinesiology or sports medicine or really anything in science, you'll take a bunch of courses like anatomy and physiology, gross anatomy etc. and all of that will be helpful and help you grasp the big picture. But in addition to that I would recommend you read books such as Science and practice of strength training by Zatsiorsky and supertraining by Mel Siff. Unfortunately, at this point and time the ones that really get a grasp of things in this industry are the ones that live for it and spend all their extra time and money on self-education. I wish there were a program a person like you could go into for 5-6 years that would send you out as a true performance coach but at this time there's nothing like that available.
Hope that helps!
Q: Please sir how long will your vertical program take for me to jump higher from a 23 to 42 in vertical leap?
Going from 23 to 42 inches is gonna take time unless you're just a genetic freak. I'll be honest with you, not everybody can attain a 40 inch vertical. But if it's gonna happen you're looking at a minimum of 2-3 years consistent dedicated training and lots of learning along the way. Unfortunately, there are no overnight miracles. If there were then olympic high jumpers and long jumpers would be winning gold medals on 1 month training routines - that doesn't happen. Training has to be consistent over a period of time. Those who have success never look at training as something they have to do for "x" amount of time. People who get results from anything are those who make it part of their lifestyle and could never fathom going without it.
Q: First of all, I just wanted to know if a person doesn't have any
delayed onset muscle soreness during the days following an intense weight
workout, does that mean that they didn't cause any muscle damage from the
workout? I know that growth can occur without feeling soreness, but if you
don't feel any soreness does that mean that you didn't actually cause any
microtears in the fibers or could it just be a sign of good recovery? In other
words, can there be muscle fiber damage without the presence of soreness?
Also, is it true that insulin sensitivity and muscle sensitivity to neural
stimulation is decreased when a muscle is damaged? If so, does this mean that
you shouldn't eat too many carbs during periods of DOMS and that your cns can
be fresh but your power and speed may suffer because the muscle isn't
responding to the impulse like it should?
A: Yes there can be muscle damage (eccentric induced muscular microtrauma) following a workout even in the absence of soreness, yet the extent of that damage probably won't be very much. Additionally, you could take NSAIDs or a high dose fish oil and may have plenty of microtrauma but the anti-inflammatories mask the soreness. I'm a believer that soreness is pretty indicative of the extent that a muscle experiences microtrauma.
However, a muscle can be stimulated to grow in the absence of microtrauma since a lot of growth is related to anabolic hormones and nutrient excess (caloric surplus), and either of these can act to increase growth systemically all over - even in the absence of microtrauma. That's why you can train your legs hard and your arms and whole body will grow - and probably why people make good mass gains towards the latter end of a mass training cycle when they're no longer getting sore - it's simply due to the fact that by then there overall bodyweight will have come up and they're eating like horses. All that nutrition and excess calories stimulates anabolic hormones and people start putting on good muscle size despite not getting sore.
As for your 2nd question, microtrauma, insulin sensitivity and strength, it actually has 2 answers. The first one is entirely metabolic. What happens is the inflammatory response caused by the microtrauma does make the muscle less sensitive to insulin so a given bodypart may not store carbohydrates as glycogen particularly well after a real demanding workout. However, I don't think this is worth intentionally avoiding carbohydrate to try and work around.
The 2nd part of the question when you stated "your cns can be fresh but your power and speed may suffer because the muscle isn't responding to the impulse like it should", requires a different answer. After an intense training session muscular recovery will almost always outrun nervous system recovery. The local nerves that fire a given muscle are joined to the muscle via neuromuscular junctions (NMJ). What happens is these junctions need recovery time and when they're in a state of fatigue the muscle doesn't respond to the neural stimulus as well. That's why you can do a real heavy workout on Monday and by Wednesday your muscles might feel ready to go, yet you try and lift the same weight and aren't as strong - but if you wait until Thursday or Friday you are.
I hope that makes sense.