Q: To develop explosive strength and get the most out of the maximal strength that you have, would it be better to do explosive lifting and/or plyometrics and why? I don't understand why plyometrics are needed if you can increase your explosiveness with explosive lifts.
If in doubt or if you really need to economize your training energy, focus on maximal strength, eliminate the explosive lifting, and use the sporting movement itself as the plyometric training.
Explosive lifts increase the ability to exert "muscular" or "voluntary" force at a rapid rate. However, plyometrics improve the stretch shortening cycle, which is the capacity to store and utilize "involuntary" force with the tendons, like a rubber band. A lot of the force put out in a sporting type movement is involuntary (or rubber band-like) in nature. Read the plyometrics article on my site for a better understanding. You can actually get by without the explosive lifts and just use the sporting movements as "plyometric training movements", providing you either have or build a base of strength, as that will serve as the force foundation for either explosive or plyometric strength, and the sporting movements will improve your movement efficiency in whatever movement you're carrying out, so that you can utilize the force you build efficiently.
so, if you were gonna eliminate anything I'd eliminate the explosive lifts.
Say for instance you want to get faster and you want to get the biggest bang for your buck with your training. Well, just focus on getting stronger in the weight room and spend enough time running to take care of your plyometric work.
I hope that makes some sense.
Q: Is it possible to gain strength while burning fat? I know a lot of body builders say that you can't gain strength and lose fat at same time. However, I have done it before. What do you think?
A: Yes it's definitely possible. Strength is a mix of neural factors + muscle cross sectional size. Or simply, how well you can coordinate and use your muscles combined with how much protein they contain (their size).
Neural factors include intramuscular coordination (coordination between different muscles involved in the movement), intermuscular coordination (muscle motor unit recruitment, proprioceptive inhibition, and rate coding within a given muscle).
All of those can be improved without an increase in size or even with a reduction in size. Simply train heavy while reducing calories to lose weight. Muscle cross sectional size is more difficult to increase without an increase in bodyweight (and calories), but is only one aspect of strength.
Also, if you're a newbie to weight training or have quite a bit of fat to lose, your body can actually take the energy that you get from burning the fat and utilize that energy to fuel the process of building more muscle. But that's not gonna happen for everyone.
Q: I play rugby and have a hard time knowing how to balance the speed/strength work while still attempting to improve my conditioning. I find that if I concentrate too much on the conditioning then I feel as though my workouts suffer. Whereas obviously if I don't do enough running then I am too out of shape to display that speed and strength, particularly later in the game. Would this be a situation where I should spend a few weeks emphasising the conditioning and once I have attained a high enough level of conditioning move the emphasis back to lifting and speed traing? Any input would be greatly appreciated.
A: I think your last proposition is spot on. Spend some time building the fitness, conditioning, and GPP and then cut it down to a maintenance level to let the fatigue dissipate. It takes about 2 weeks to lose anything even if you totally eliminate conditioning work and even after that it takes roughly 1/3 the volume to maintain as it does to improve or gain.
Let's say you do conditioniong/gpp 3 times per week in your gpp/conditioning phase. You could cut back to one time per week and maintain pretty much all of that no problems and also wouldn't be so run down that your speed/power/strength work is negatively affected. That's one example of how to approach it anyway.
Q: Kelly in your article "Plyometric Ability - React Like A Cat And Explode Like Lightning!" I found it very interesting. Something I wanted to point out was I hope I haven't distorted my natural movement efficeicy with weight-training. I'm only 16 years old but can put up hefty numbers in the weight room. One thing I have noticed is that I can bench press 270lbs (I'm only 169lbs) but it's kinda hard for me to throw a dodgeball hard. Could this be because the size of the ball is too big (I'm not able to grab the ball) or have I distorted my natural reactive function. Aside from that though I like to box and can pack a pretty powerful punch. If I punch a heavy bag 3 times a week, will I be okay in regards to not screwing up my natural reactive function? I know you gave a list of exercise that we could do..they are simple exercises and I could do them everyday. My question here is..is there anything else I can do instead of doing that..is the shadow-boxing, and heavy bag work..would that be a substitution for the exercises you provided? Also do dynamic warm-ups serve as a good use (i do them before my workouts. How about Jump rope? I'm asking because I haven't done much lower body work other than strength training and hypertrophy work and I still really want to be fluid and graceful in my movements.
A: Try not to overanalyze that too much. As long as you stay active you'll be alright. Even one athletic activity per week is enough to "maintain" what you already have. In the case of throwing the dodge ball, you probably need to spend more time doing and learning that skill since it is a specific skill. Dynamic warm-ups and the like will help you maintain mobility. When people screw up their function and lose motor abilities it's normally people who get totally away from sports, such as bodybuilders who don't do anything but lift, and guys who just sit and watch tv all the time. You'll be fine so I wouldn't worry too much with your activity level.
Q: First let me just say you new speed article is one of the best I've read anywhere and at anytime. I know your busy so I'll keep my questions brief. When you discuss 4-5 sets of 3-5 reps for squats are you talkign about working up to close to max or simply keeping things short of failure? If not to max, same weight on each set?
Also for Bulgarian Split squats I find my grip a bit limiting. Is using a barbell suitable, or should one stick to dumbells?
One final quickie, If one couldn't access a GHR regularly, what movement is the best substitute for this program?
A: Glad you enjoyed that article. How you would go about specifically interpreting those samples is totally up to you. The basic idea is you generally would wanna get some heavy sets in with a compound movement. "Heavy" generally means you're working with a weight between 85-100% of your 1rm which generally means you'll be working in a 1-5 rep range. There isn't really a magical number of sets but 3-5 would be a good general recommendation.
Whether that movement is squats, snatch grip deadlifts, box squats, front squats, or any number of other compound movements is up to you. Whether you take sets to 1 or 2 reps shy of failure, add weight each set, do all the sets with the same weight, etc. is not gonna make all that much difference in the big scheme of thigns so take your pick. There are a lot of specific ways to build general strength which is the idea. If you have another scheme set and rep wise or even exercise wise that you know gives you results then have at it....the basic tenet is during a strength phase just make sure you get stronger whatever it takes you to do that.
Personally I know there are some tried and true things that I like to do that I know will push up people's strength at a good rate. One thing I'll do is pick a movement and a target number of reps. Say it's 3 reps. We'll do sets of 3 and continue adding weight to the bar until a set of 3 becomes fairly difficult. From there, we'll stay with the working weight and knock out another few sets until that last rep becomes very difficult. Then we'll move on to something else. That's one way of approaching it. You might have something different that you like better.
As for split squats, - yeah, you can either use a barbell or just use straps. The main difference between them is the dumbells place less stress on the spine.
Now for glute hams substitutes, - well, natural glute hams are pretty good, pull throughs are good, good mornings are RDLs will work...as a last resort you can use leg curls.
Hope that helps!