Q: I was at a camp that had a visitor come and talk about improving vertical jump by strengthing the core. He said the core was the midsection. He showed some stuff where you sit in a chair then jump out of it and take a layup and some other stuff that I could not possibly see how it would improve one's jump. Then he called out some of his highschool kids one was 5'8 and one was 5'10 and they both dunked pretty easily. I talked to these guys personally after and they said it was the stuff the coach showed them the gave them their hops, what do you think, are there people with the genetics to respond well to crappy training but start out natuarally unathletic.

A: Most likely the guys you saw are just like the majority of athletes you see on inner city courts and would jump regardless if they did anything or not. Kind've like this dog I used to have that could jump up on trees. I didn't teach him to do it he just did it. :)

Anyway, I don't have any problem with core training as part of a solid overall training scheme, I talked about core training in a previous q&a here

Now I do have a problem with all the stuff like you describe that seems to confuse people in the athletic performance industry. There's simply too much crap. I don't know if it's because people don't know what they're doing or if too many people are simply out to make money but it is very annoying.

Here's how I would determine if something is crap or not. Next time you see a gimmick training method like this, (that claims to be some kind've cutting edge new invention and never mentions or references any established training principles), ask the coach to se the research on it and ask him if olympic high jumpers, long jumpers, and sprinters are using and if they aren't why not? I mean surely with multiple government programs spending millions of dollars on research they'd be using gimmicks like this if they worked don't you think?

Let's run through some of them right quick.

Platform shoes - Research shows they are ineffective and cause injuries. No olympic athletes are using them.

Verdict: bullcrap

Isometric band tension - Research demonstrates isometric contractions cause a loss of muscle contration speed. No olympic athletes are using this gimmick either.

Verdict: bullcrap

Weighted vests- Research demonstrates they can effective. Olympic programs are or have used them experimentally.

Verdict: possible training aid

Calf raises: No research (that I'm aware of) has demonstrated calf raises are effective by themselves. No olympic athletes base their programs around them.

Verdict: bullcrap

1,000,000 jumps per week program: Research demonstrates they cause chronic knee tendonitis and fail to yield positive results. Are olympic programs using it? nope

Verdict: bullcrap

Michael Jordans workout: Research on the complex method indicates it is effective for short periods of time yet less effective then other training means. Are olympic programs using it? rarely (Was Michael Jordan himself even using it?) No

Verdict: mostly bullcrap

Elastic tubing for sprints: Research is inconclusive but positive results have been demonstrated. Olympic programs do use it.

verdict: possible positive training aid

Leg press, leaper machines, and other machine based routines are superior to basic free weight movements: Are olympic programs basing programs around it? Nope

verdict: bullcrap

Ankle weights: Research indicates a greater likelihood of injury, inducement of faulty mechanics and lack of positive results.

verdict: bullcrap

HIT training: Research has been positive in sedentary athletes. Olympic athletes aren't using it but professional sports teams are.

verdict: legit training scheme at least under certain circumstances

"Cutting Edge" core based programs:

verdict: bullcrap

Weighted sled: Research indicates positive results. Olympic programs do use them.

verdict: good training aid

vibration training Research has demonstrated positive results.

verdict: good training aid

EMS Research has demonstrated positive results. Olympic programs do use it extensively.

verdict: good training aids

Olympic Lifts Research demonstrates positive results providing proper coaching is provided.

verdict: positive

Squat based programs Research demonstrates strength per lb of bodyweight in the squat to be a positive predictor of lower body explosiveness.

verdict: positive

There are many more but that oughta give you an idea. Some things like elastic tubing for running speed are controversial but at least demonstrate some positive results yet other things are just plain stupid.

Q: when concentrating on perfecting the technical patterns in a particular skill that requires maximizing force output do you have to practice the skill with maximum effort or can you just work on isolating the form and coordination aspect with minimum effort level such as doing low intensity drills for jumping and sprinting or practicing a power clean with just the bar?

If this is the case, can a person reach their maximum potential in a skill that involves maximum power and force production just by perfecting the technique with low intensity technical skill practice drills and also gaining muscle size from heavy strength training while never even having to practice the particular skill with maximum effort? For instance, can a sprinter just perfect his sprinting technique with low intensity form sprinting drills and increase his relative strength in the weight room to maximize his potential while never even having to practice sprinting at max effort?

What you propose is good thinking yet the proper technique must be developed at the full level of effort for an athlete to reach their full potential in that particular movement. Due to neurological and muscular differences, perfection of a movement at slow speed may not necessarily result in high speed improvement. Having said that, anyone can get faster without sprinting or increase their power clean without cleaning simply by getting stronger like you said. Yet they do so more because they improve the horsepower behind their movements not the efficiency of those movements. If someone wanted to improve the proficiency of their technique to the maximum performing the movements or drills at slow speed may not be enough.

That's not to say that a lot of people wouldnt be better off following your proposed approach because once gross technical skills (like sprinting, jumping, and lifting technique) are built, they are fairly easy to maintain with limited volume. The same is not as true of more complex motor patterns such as dancing, gymnastics, or even olympic lifting, as these events are more "skill" based.

One illustration of what you describe is with short sprint work. After about 5 or 6 every other day sessions of 40 yard dash work the avg. intermediate level athlete will have already made all the improvements they're going to make from improved technique. They won't make further gains until they improve the motor qualities behind the techniqe which means improving the strength and power. We could put them on the track 2-3 times a week for a few weeks then take them away for a month or 2 while we build up their motor skills. After this period of time we could then throw them back out on the track and within a week they'd be running faster then they were the first time so yeah you're on the right track with your thinking but you gotta work the skill at full effort periodically to get the complete crossover.

Q: What is your opinion on H.I.T. training for building muscle and strength? Have you ever used it?

Well first consider what builds muscle. Microtrauma (muscular damage). How do you induce microtrauma? By lifting a heavy enough load enough times to damage a muscle. Can one set induce microtrauma? Yes it can. Is that likely? No, not unless you're either deconditioned or you're able to recruit and exhaust a lot of muscle fibers with that limited volume. Can most trained people recruit and exhaust all their available muscle fibers with one unmotivated set? Probably not. Are there some that can? yes. What are their characteristics? They tend to be naturally pretty strong and get psychologically aroused when they train. They will have a humongous gap between an unmotivated performance and a motivated performance and often burn out easily.

Ok, now how about strength? Is HIT effective for strength? First lets define what is responsible for strength:

strength= size of muscle fibers + neural factors (muscular recruitment and movement efficiency)

What does all that mean?

size of muscle fibers= self explanatory

muscular recruitment= ability of the nervous system to recruit muscle

movement efficiency= efficiency of a particular movement - improved by practice.

Does HIT increase size of muscle fibers? Not really, not for most people anyway

Does HIT increase movement efficiency? No not much at all. The volume is too low and the frequency is far too infrequent to be of any benefit here.

Does hit improve muscular recruitment? It can because it calls for a person to get completely fired up and zero in on one all out effort.

So for the purposes of strength, HIT can improve the recruitment aspect and it can also improve hypertrophy in some people, mainly those who are naturally strong and tend to exhaust themselves easily with any sort've volume training.