Q: What do you think of training according to the dropoff method? Do you think it's effective?

For those unaware of dropoff training it's simply a way to monitor training volume by performance instead of training to get a set volume in. If I were doing squats, for example, I might determine that I want to do sets of 5 reps with the heaviest weight possible. I'd go in the gym and do as many sets of 5 with as much weight as possible. When I could no longer get 5 reps I'd call it a day. Then I'd rest a certain number of days between sessions (pre-established) and come back and do it again.

If I were running sprints I'd establish my distance beforehand. Say I wanted to run 40 yard sprints. I'd go out and run timed 40 yard sprints. As soon as my times declined by a certain predetermined percentage (usually around 3%), I'd call it a day. I'd rest a predetermined amount of days and come back and repeat the workout trying to beat my previous performance.

Now what do I think about training according to dropoffs? Well there are advantages, disadvantages, and misunderstanding. First let's talk about the advantages. The main advantage of dropoff training is it allows one to focus on improving performance each and every workout instead of just accumulating a certain amount of volume. In this respect training via dropoffs works largely due to the same reason that HIT training initially works for those who use it, or why people notice results when they've been training for a long period of time and cut back on volume. The emphasis is on setting PRs each and every workout and recovering fully between workouts.

Since most people do have a tendency to do too much and are rarely fully recovered, they will usually notice quick performance improvements when switching to a lower volume routine where the focus is on making progress each and every workout and recovering fully in between.

Now for the disadvantages. First of all, when training via dropoffs, a training session normally is supposed to be performed in circuit fashion one exercise after another. This isn't possible for a lot of people and this makes it impossible for a sprinter for example to go out on the track and get some work and come in the weight room and get some work. Some would say that scenario would be ineffective because it would be impossible to determine the amount of fatigue induced by the sprinting session. The same goes for combining conditioning and sport specific work, or energy specific and strength work, or any combination of training.

Secondarily, when using the dropoff method everything has to be done 100% or it makes volume about impossible to monitor. This makes it difficult properly gauge volumes of supplemental work.

Next, since the focus is usually on making progress each and every workout, this requires 100% recovery of the nervous system and requires enough downtime between session that deconditioning of the muscular and cardiovascular systems can often occur. Proponents of dropoff training often tend to be too high-intensity and low volume in their approach and this has limitations. Yes, most people would be better off if they focused on making progress workout to workout yet one should realize a lack of workout to workout results is not always negative. In fact the best results often occur when a fatiguing "period" or "cycle" is followed by a "recovery" period or "cycle". See this article for more. Planned Overtraining

Now for the misunderstanding. First of all people overcomplicate dropoff training trying to measure and calculate every single variable when it's something that occurs naturally. Years ago I did a sprint phase where once every 3 or 4 days I'd go out and run 40 yard timed sprints until my times had fallen off by a couple of tenths of a second. I see powerlifters go in the gym and work up to a 1rm max every other workout followed by singles at 90% until bar speed slows down. Either one of those approaches could be considered dropoff training and neither is complicated.

People need to realize that the reason dropoff training works is often not because any of the training methods used, but because the lower volume of total training, full recovery between sessions, and the focus on setting PRS and making progress. However, the ability to make consistent gains workout to workout is limited to weeks or months for most people.

Now personally if one is gonna use dropoff training I prefer to alternate it with more "normal" phases of training.

Therefore, one might go from sprinting and lifting 3 times a week and performing lots of supplemental work to sprinting once every 4 days trying to set PRs each workout. A lifter might go from lifting more often with more overall volume for a 3-5 week period to lifting less often with less overall volume and an emphasis on setting PRs for 3-5 weeks as shown in the above link to the article Planned Overtraining. Just keep in mind nothing has to be complicated and the body doesn't know the nuances type of training you're throwing at it. It only knows when it's being stimulated and when it's recovering.

Q: One of the athletes I train continues to strain his quads and I can not figure out why. It only happens when he runs the 60 at the various showcase tournaments he attends. I have him dynamic stretching, foam rolling, massage, ART, and kill his posterior chain. And I have improved his quads to the point that the only time he seems to strain them is when he runs an all out 60, as opposed to all the time like before. This last strain happened after a period of doing a lot of reactive work with very little pure strength work. It seems like his quads hold onto tension too long or maybe he tightens up during the 60. Any suggestions you can give would be great.

I think the answer to the problem can be summed up with the words "he only seems to strain them when he runs an all out 60". What happens in an all out 60 under race conditions that doesn't happen at any other time? Well, most likely he's getting a lot of adrenaline production. What does excessive adrenaline production do? Well one of the things it does is increase muscular recruitment. Therefore, I imagine the reason the strains occur is because he's powerful and he's recruiting dormant motor units in the quadriceps. I once did the same thing performing a vertical jump. You don't see little kids suffer muscle strains and pulls simply because they're not powerful enough.

Now, he's most likely also relying on his quads more then he should. It's a combination of him having very good muscular recruitment capacities and lack of posterior chain function. In other words, his quads are contributing more to the sprint then they should and he's very good at recruiting them. The main problem is the motor units he recruits during a race aren't the same as he recruits in training.

What I would do first of all is improve his posterior chain "function". You can do all the exercises for the posterior chain you want but they're useless unless you can get him to incorporate the movements into a sprint. Get him running top speed work like flying 30's and 60's and don't neglect the supplemental posterior chain work in the weight room. You said he'd been doing a lot of reactive work and one disadvantage of that is that most reactive movements other then unilateral variations and bounding drills tend to be extremely quadriceps dominant. Next, have him work on his acceleration mechanics. He's probably lowering his center of gravity and pushing vs keeping his hips high and skipping.

Next, you need to make sure you can recruit the same quality of motor units in training that he recruits in races, so that he doesn't strain them in a race. How do you do that?? Use an EMS unit on the quads a couple of days per week so that you can fire the same high threshold motor units he keeps straining. EMS preferentially recruits the high threshold motor units something that doesn't occur with normal training.

Q: Here's my problem (if it is a problem), I have no body type! I've read numerous articles about body types and even taken tests and I just don't seem to fit in to ONE category (ecto, meso or endo). My father comes from a family full of ecto-meso people, all of them skinny or skinny-athletic. My mother on the other hand comes from a very endomorph dominated family, all of them are... well, fat. I myself am tall with very long legs and arms and I possess no real muscle gaining abilities (so far ecto). But I also have a "natural" BF% of 16 and I have a wide bone structure (especially my knees and hips) to go along with pretty broad shoulders which actually are dressed up with some muscle. By natural I mean that's what I've got from eating semi bad like everyone else of kids my age for 16 years.

So to sum it all up, I'm a bird legged skinny-fat guy with a little muscle but not much. Am I a mix of all three of them? What do you make out of this and do you think training according to your body type is important?

As I've said before you can have multiple combinations with regard to somatotype. You can have the structural characteristics of an ectomorph, the cellular characteristics of an endomorph, and the endocrine characteristics of a mesomorph or any combination thereof. In your case it sounds like you have scrawny white boy syndrome. I'll explain what that is in a minute but let me talk about body typing for a minute. Instead of thinking in terms of "somatotype", think of classifying your body in 3 different categories.

structural- fairly static factors - length of bones,sizes of muscle bellies, length of tendons, number of muscle cells, number of fat cells, muscle-tendon attachments etc.

endocrine- signaling mechanisms - levels of various hormones and neurotransmitters. Anabolic vs catabolic hormones. Appetite reducing hormones vs appetite increasing. Insulin sensitivity.

Neural- What kind've battery runs the machine? Neurotransmitter levels, Stress tolerance, psychological factors etc.

When you look at it like this you can have all kinds of multiple combinations. In your case it sounds like you have poor structural characteristics. You have a lack of muscle cells, a good number of fat cells, short muscle bellies, long tendons, and long bones. Those structural characteristics aren't exactly optimal if muscle gain is your goal. You most likely also have poor endocrine characteristics with catabolic hormones that outweigh anabolic hormones. The main catabolic hormone is cortisol. The main anabolic hormone is testosterone. If your ratio here were favorable then you would be "naturally" lean but you already said you aren't. Let me mention that endocrine characteristics are by far more important then the other 2 categories. In fact they're so important they determine the difference between men and women.

As far as the last "neural characteristic" category goes it's hard to tell.

Now, there's a big difference between "lean" and "skinny" and you're more of the latter. yet take someone who has your exact same bone and muscle structure but with less total fat cells and good endocrine characteristics and you just described a lot of lean pro athletes. Take someone who has an abundance of natural muscle cells with good endocrine and neural characteristics and you just described a lot of bodybuilders.

So how would you determine all of this and what is the relevance?

I put together a questionnaire that allows me to analyze and rate the 3 qualities according to the responses on the questionaire. It's main purpose was for me to use to evaluate someone to figure out a starting point for how they should optimally be training and dieting for a particular goal. You can find the full version in an upcoming book called No BullCrap Bodybuilding but I'll give you some examples.

Questions used to determine structural characteristics would include questions such as: I have long bones and long tendons? Short bones and short tendons? My arms grow without training them? I have naturally muscular forearms and calves? I tend to gain proportionally more size then strength? I tend to gain much more strength then size? I can grow from doing nothing but a low volume of low rep sets like a powerlifter? I can't grow from heavy weights alone - I seem to need the volume and need a pump?

Questions used to determine endocrine characteristics would include questions such as: I can eat a lot of calories and junk food in the absence of exercise and I don't get fat? I've always been lean and find I often have to eat excessively to keep from losing weight? I can build a fairly significant amount of muscle without gaining fat? I can train 6 days per week and sleep 4-5 hours per night and still make strength gains? I fail to gain strength if I train more then 3 days per week?

Now what's the relevance to all of this? It allows the process to be completely individualized. Is your case hopeless? Hardly, but you would need a vastly different training and dietary approach then someone with natural ecto-meso qualities. Two people can appear similar outside yet with vastly different internal functioning. Let me give you an idea using myself as an example.

If you look at me right now you wouldn't think there's any difference between me and a lot of the college athletes I work with. I'm around 170 lbs 7-8% bodyfat fairly strong and can run and jump with anybody so externally there's not much difference between me and some of the defensive backs and track and field athletes. But internally there are humongous differences. Our bodyfat is roughly the same but I have to watch my diet like a hawk and condition constantly whereas most of them are intentionally pounding down 4000 + calories of cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes just to avoid losing weight from the same amount of activity I do.

A lot of that is related to age as endocrine factors change with age. Strengthwise, a lot of these athletes barely touch a weight for a year and still gain enough to have the same strength levels that it took me 5 + years to develop. They stop training for extended periods and still maintain muscle easily where if I don't I start to shrink up within weeks since my bodyweight is naturally around 120 lbs. Even with a fairly retarded diet and the most basic training scheme they could easily go up to 190 lbs in a snap with hardly an ounce of a gain in bodyfat whereas that would take all of my knowledge and dedication and then some to do. So on the outside things look the same but what's going on inside is entirely different. Now does this mean I can't compete or beat these guys?? Hardly, it just means I gotta work smarter. Tendencies can be overcome and it helps if you can determine and manipulate what's going on inside so that the outside things will take care of themselves.